For the last decade or so, as contact center technologies flourished, answering customer questions and solving their problems has progressively become simple. This has been primarily led by the growth in key communication access technologies. But that has not directly translated to better efficiencies or cost reductions for the enterprises.
This write-up focuses on the agent pool that completes interactions and transactions with the customer. Empowered agents can address problems for customers efficiently in the same call itself, while agents left struggling for information cannot. Called First Call Resolution (FCR), this is an important parameter for reducing repeated calls by customers for the same issue. Large companies expect repeat calls by customers to be no more than twice a month.
The best-in-class contact centers focus on maximizing agent productivity and engagement, leading to improved customer satisfaction rates. A contact center is truly an interaction hub which allows companies to engage customers through multiple channels, including but not limited to the phone, social media, live chat, web, video, and much more. Workforce optimization refers to the activities contact centers use to hire, train and retrain, and manage (e.g. scheduling and performance management) agents with the goal of meeting and exceeding customer needs and expectations. Needless to add, empowered agents work under reduced stress and enhanced efficiency, thus a win-win for customers, agents, and the enterprise itself.
As communication technologies mature, more and more avenues for customers to reach agents are emerging at an ever faster rate, thus reducing the total call handling time for the same agent customer interaction as before. For instance, with video chats, customers and agents can see each other live on the call, thus following the human way of communication.
Generally speaking, enterprises behind very efficient contact centers take simple steps for ensuring optimal agent performance:
- Agents are provided with an agent desktop software (that can run on tabs and smartphones too) that provides focused information to agents at multiple levels –
- Caller identity, recent transactions, last problem reported by them.
- Information and training on new or newly optimized offering by the enterprise for the customer. For instance, an agent in the energy utility distribution sector may see high energy bills, and choose to assist the customer in reducing them.
- Optimized agent desktops help agents recover information through unified screens rather than struggling through different screens of different information entities like CRM, billing and collection, and customer personalization.
- Integrating agent desktop with enterprise systems connects the dots further, and enables agents in providing relevant information to customers efficiently. At the end of the day, the agents are the voice of the enterprise for the customer. Information can include latest status on tickets raised previously by a customer, status on orders placed in the recent past, and so on.
- Agents are provided with key knowledge-based articles through their agent desktop.
Let us end with a small note on the contact center performance itself. It has been seen that monitoring and acting on key performance parameters lead to increased efficiency in the contact center. Before I get into this, an observation on costs is required. With an installed contact center, the bulk of the recurring cost is agent compensation. The more efficient agents are, the more queries they resolve with the same headcount, thus reducing overall cost for the enterprise.
Measuring contact center performance parameters:
- Increasing First Call Resolution (FCR) reduces agent time to resolve the same problem again. The gains are clear.
- Reducing call routing faults. These cracks in the contact center route calls to wrong language agent or wrong product group. All this requires a call transfer by the agent to the appropriate one, wasting agent time, and increasing call handling time.
- Increasing call completion at self-service. Generally, 60% customer calls should be successfully serviced by self-service options like IVR. Enabling speech recognition at that point assists a customer establish trust with self-service, and thus are comfortable using it as opposed to directly speaking with a customer.
- Higher wait times in your contact center annoy customers to no end. Limiting wait time in queue while calling customers back at the time of their choice also pays off. Perhaps it is time to introduce all of the above, including training and better rostering of agents.
- If your contact center has many day-0 problems, it may be time to introduce Test Automation tools to thoroughly test before release.
Though there has been a fair bit of attention to best practices for improving the agent experience and agent desktop over the last few years, much more is needed for a truly efficient contact center. That is the undeniable path to satisfy customers and contain costs. Enough time, money, and effort have already been spent on customer experience, and more is unlikely to enhance return-on-revenue.
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