JOIN US AND HEAR BEST PRACTICES
At the 2019 NEXT GENERATION Contact Center & Customer Engagement events - Click here to book now
Genesys - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
Organizations across all industries around the world are facing the reality that it has never been more important and more challenging to meet customer expectations. The contact center should no longer be considered a profit-draining cost center. Rather, it’s ground zero for where the commitment to the customer is continuously tested and proven. When every interaction matters, risking service quality could be a very costly decision.
For three industry leaders, the writing was on the wall. Challenges caused by outdated, legacy contact center solutions were impacting their ability to provide the service required to stay competitive. Considering what the future held if they continued to struggle with disconnected communication channels, routing difficulties, and reliability issues, they each came to the conclusion that deploying a single, integrated customer experience platform was the right choice.
Read the full blog post on the Genesys blog.
Publish Date: March 23, 2017 5:00 AM
Nothing lasts forever. It’s a familiar saying and a simple concept in theory. Yet, in practice, it can be a difficult and costly lesson to learn. It’s only human nature to be comfortable with the status quo and resistant to change – even when making a change is the best decision.
Many businesses are struggling with legacy contact center infrastructure that doesn’t support today’s customer expectations of seamless, personalized omnichannel service. They battle daily with the limitations of an outdated system and waste valuable IT resources managing time-consuming, difficult upgrades and never-ending migrations. Meanwhile, as the old, familiar system gets pushed beyond its limits, stability falters, and service is compromised. As new communication channels are added, the situation becomes more precarious. If this isn’t reason enough to consider a new contact center solution, many have the added uncertainty that their vendor for contact center solutions is facing an unclear financial future. With customer expectations continuing to rise and evolve, the importance of having future-proof investments from a vendor continuing to invest in innovation is not just a good idea. It’s essential to your long-term success.
Publish Date: February 22, 2017 5:00 AM
Whether you are in the dating phase with a customer or a long-term relationship, great communication is key to a successful customer relationship. The same can be said with the relationships with your contact center employees. They need training, coaching, and the gift of great tools to make them love their job. Make your employees love you, and your customers will love you too!
We have compiled a Valentine’s Day list for you: webinars, blogs, videos and eBooks all focused on how to make the relationship with your customers and workforce a success. Think of this list like a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates of CX knowledge.
Click here to read the full blog post from Genesys.
Publish Date: February 14, 2017 5:00 AM
Did you know that contact center fraud loss is expected to double from $393M to $775M by 2020? Contact centers agents often fall victim to the social engineering methods that enable fraud attacks. According to Aite Group, the top fraud trends include: transactional fraud, mobile wallet fraud, ordering access devices, social engineering, and account takeover fraud.
What do enterprises need in a contact center fraud solution?
Click here to read the entire blog post from Genesys Director of Innovations Group Juergen Tolksdorf.
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 5:00 AM
Today’s consumers are using an increasing number of channels and touchpoints to interact with your company when they try to gather information or resolve a problem. Meeting their expectations for a consistent, seamless experience while running your business more efficiently in the omnichannel era is no small feat—it places even greater importance on your employee engagement. How can you keep your employees engaged to yield better results for your customers and your business?
Countless studies prove the direct correlation between an engaged workforce and positive business results. The study Trends in Global Employee Engagement, from research firm Aon, states that “a 5% increase in employee engagement is linked to a 3% increase in revenue growth the subsequent year.” Investing in your employee’s happiness makes good business sense and drives tangible results.
Click here to read entire blog from Genesys Senior Director of Product Marketing Stefan Captijn.
Publish Date: January 17, 2017 5:00 AM
In Part 1, we discussed why you should deploy a multichannel strategy. While in Part 2, we explored how to approach the evaluation of customer engagement channels for your business type. In this final installment, we will outline strategies for an effective roll-out of a new channel.
5 Steps to a Successful Launch of a New Customer Contact Channel
- Define what you’re setting out to achieve—choose a mission statement. You’re probably not going to get too far if your mission statement is: “To be the first in the industry to be multichannel,” or “To keep up with our competitors—everyone’s talking about multichannel nowadays.” More likely to breed success is a mission statement like: “To invest in people, technology and infrastructure that enable us to put our customers at the heart of our communications strategy by evolving with their ever-growing needs and letting them tell us how they want to speak to us now and in the future.”
- Analyze and plan. Research current and emerging trends in your industry. This includes finding out what your competitors are doing—there’s nothing to stop you trying out their service firsthand to see what they are doing successfully or badly. Use your own support services and make a comparison. Analyze the demographics and behaviors of your customer base, and ask your customers what they want!
- Align your technology. Analyze your current technology’s ability to provide seamless customer experience, and assess what investment might be necessary to ensure that you’re using the right tools. Is your database ready for you to give your customers a consistent message and service across the different channels? Are you ready for the impacts to your processes surrounding staff resourcing (hiring, training, WFM), reporting (SLAs, KPIs) and quality monitoring?
- Define a pilot process. To begin with, consider launching the channel only internally to help road-test the new setup. This enables you to roll back without disappointing your customers. Once you’re offering this to customers, it’s difficult to shut it down and redesign it without losing credibility. You will also need to understand the dynamics and metrics of small resource pools—a small number of interactions will have a small team saturated, so SLA will be erratic. Assess your technology’s ability to throttle volumes during peaks (e.g., only offer the new channel to a reduced number of customers, don’t publicize it on your home page from day 1, remove the chat button from the website when no agents are available, set in-queue expectations with options to convert to a call, etc.).
- Roll out progressively. Only roll out when you’re confident you can be successful at doing so—this is not the time for a Big Bang approach. Maybe only offer it to Platinum customers in the beginning to help them feel special about taking part in the evolution. Open it up to the wider audience gradually, and obsessively request feedback and customer assessments to be fed back into the design cycle for version 2.0.
Some Considerations to Bear in Mind
- Ensure that you always know why you’re doing what you’re doing and let this guide your decision making during the design process. What are we trying to achieve with this new channel and does it achieve that the way we’re designing it?
- Don’t underestimate the impact new channels will have on your business, including changes to:
- Agent profile and recruitment process. Are there new skills or experiences that you need to be looking for (e.g., computer literacy, technical profile, age group, etc.)?
- Training and quality monitoring. Are the process and tools the same for recording and scoring calls, chats, emails and social media?
- Workforce management. While we can take pressure off the inbound phone lines by adding in automated response options (SMS, some chat, potentially web- forms) or deferrable workload for customer channels with less immediate need for response (e.g., email, white mail), we also need to consider whether phone teams and deferrable work teams are interchangeable resources or two separate teams. Understand occupancy, the value of accurate forecasts, and beware of the temptation to multitask to gain efficiency.
- You may need to redefine your reporting tools and processes as well as your SLAs and KPIs.
- Be sure that you’ve planned what the pilot process looks like and who your audience is during the different phases. This includes understanding the dynamics of small pockets of agent resources—smaller groups require more idle time.
- Establish a clear communications strategy, including publicity and advertising, for when you’re ready. How you can use gamification to encourage customers to use new channels and to take part in feedback to help you further improve?
- Promise very little to stakeholders. Whatever happens, you don’t want to be in a position where you’re under pressure to drive against the clock toward launch with something that isn’t ready.
While companies using this approach also use multiple channels to engage their customers they distinguish themselves through two additional factors; consistency and focus on devices involved within client interactions. These businesses are diligent to ensure that their customers receive the same experience and message through different channels and devices involved within their interactions with the firm. For example, a company that provides customers with the ability to engage it through a mobile app, social media portal and website would be focused to ensure that the look and feel as well as the messages they receive across each touch-point are seamless.
Interested in learning how to ensure your multichannel strategy provides customers with a consistent experience across channels? Download our free ebook: Omnichannel is No Longer Optional.
Publish Date: January 13, 2017 5:00 AM
In Part 1, we discussed why you should deploy a multichannel strategy. In Part 2 we’ll evaluate the various channels available.
Phone lines represent, by far, the lion’s share of customer contact with email steadily increasing (although still low), webchat coming in third, and SMS/social media/smartphone apps becoming important additions in recent years. In certain industries, there’s no getting away from paper documents, although typically scans of these are acceptable and volumes are a small fraction of the total customer contact. Typically, customer interactions requiring agent resource are more costly for a contact center to provide than interactions customers can carry out with a system. Technology is usually high investment and low running costs, whereas the opposite is true for an agent team. The short duration of an automated transaction often satisfies customers, although the impersonal nature is inappropriate for some interaction types. If you really want to diversify your customer experience it would be a good idea to add channels that really do have a different look and feel, rather than adding channels that don’t differ very much from what you’re already offering. To help choose which channel may be best, I’ve defined two main groups that channels can fall into:
Agent: Unstructured Communication
- Need for a human touch
- Seeking assistance
- Seeking explanations
- Complicated, multifaceted interactions
Non-Agent: Structured Communication
- Transactional interactions
- Balance inquiry
- Request a copy
- Structured requests
If you’re already offering a channel that relies on real-time live-agent input, what value are you really providing by adding another channel that also relies on real-time live-agent resources? If the answer is that one is voice and one is written, that may be a valid response, depending on what your customers are telling you. It may be more appropriate for you to add a channel with automated self-service, which opens a whole different realm to your customers (typically 24/7, customers are in no rush and can take their time, sit around a computer with a partner, etc.).
I recently applied for a mortgage with my bank and did it all online on their website. I chose my amount, my deal and I entered all of my details, then loaded all of my supporting documentation. Over the following days, I used the website to monitor the status of my application as my documents were revised and accepted. I only got a phone call quite near the end of the process to finalize a couple of details and arrange a date for signature. For me, this was the perfect blend—for filling in forms and checklists, I did it myself with no rush; and for the softer touch part, I dealt with a human being. The human being I dealt with was fully aware of everything I had done myself on the website, and I wasn’t asked to repeat information that I had already given through the other channel.
As it happens, I can also communicate with my bank via SMS, smartphone app and by going into the office. I do like the fact I have a choice and, at different times, I think I’ve used all of the various options, but I don’t notice a massive difference between going in to the bank and calling the phone line. Likewise using the app, the website or SMS are all pretty similar to each other. In an ideal world, all contact centers would provide all channels and would be all things to all customers. If, for the moment, you are only going to do phone plus one other, consider what you’re aiming to achieve with the new one. Are you going to stick with live-agent support but add a written channel (web chat, SMS, email, web-forms) alongside your voice channel? Are you going to stick with just voice for the live-agent support and add an automated channel alongside (website, IVR, app, SMS)?
Now that we’ve assessed the the various channels, get ready for Part 3 where we’ll cover the 5 Steps to Successful Launch New Customer Contact Channel.
Interested in learning how to make sure your multi-channel strategy provides customers with a consistent experience across channels? Download our free ebook: Omnichannel is No Longer Optional.
Publish Date: January 9, 2017 5:00 AM
IF YOU’RE READING THIS IT’S PROBABLY BECAUSE YOU’VE ALREADY REALIZED, OR AT LEAST STARTED TO SUSPECT, THAT THERE IS MORE TO MULTICHANNEL THAN JUST CONFIGURING SOME SOFTWARE AND UPDATING YOUR WEBSITE.
For those of you who like sneak previews, the main takeaway from this piece is that, while listening to our customers leaves us in no doubt that multichannel is here to stay and needs to be embraced, it’s equally important to understand that it must be approached with caution, as failing to do so leaves us at risk of just giving ourselves more ways to disappoint our customers. While multichannel can help us to meet customers’ desires for easy access, one of the easiest ways to frustrate our customers is forcing them to repeat themselves.
When we’re launching new channels, we should ensure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing: If I’ve told my life story this morning on the phone, then I am going to be very disappointed when I chat later if I’m asked for the information again. Before you launch a new channel, answer this question honestly: Are you delivering consistent service on the channels that you’re already managing? If you give your team leaders a scenario and ask them each to call the contact center at different times and go through the same role-play and then compare their scorecards, are they in the same ballpark?
In theory, multichannel is merely supporting more than one customer communication channel, but it’s very different from just publishing an additional 800-number and having the calls arrive at your existing inbound team. Some of these differences include:
- There are different customer profiles that will tend to prefer different channels, but none of them want poor service. Each channel should be treated with the same expectations of service quality.
- You must ensure that adding the new channels results in a net benefit, and that existing channels will not suffer due to the addition of new channels; e.g., strained resources, increased volumes in existing channels caused by disappointment in the new ones.
- Potential to mis-set customer expectations in terms of what service is or is not available on the new channels. It’s not good if you offer chat and then end up responding to customers that they should probably just call. Typically, the transactions handled via chat are different from those tackled over the phone, but if the chat is there for a limited function this should be clear before the customers start the interaction.
- You must monitor customer behavior across different channels to assess their global experience. Most customers use more than one channel, sometimes in parallel, and this shouldn’t necessarily negatively impact your FCR scores. You could define success in terms of each interaction’s ability to successfully deliver its part, combined with the customer’s overall ability to easily achieve what they set out to achieve.
- Effective or poor management of your social media presence can massively impact your brand image. This is still very much a new customer contact channel with many creative ways of making it work for you, but let’s not forget the science—customer who ask questions want useful answers in a timely fashion. Only approach social media if you’re going to take it seriously and are confident you’ll get it right.
5 Reasons to Approach Multichannel
- Email, chat, SMS and social media can be cheaper per interaction than calls.
- Agent workload is varied, reducing turnover and ultimately leading to a more experienced workforce, which results in bet- ter customer experience, driving loyalty and repeat business.
- Customers may feel better-suited to communicating in the new ways you’re offering, and therefore, more likely to actually get in touch with you. That’s an opportunity for you to impress and strengthen your relationship.
- Staffing appropriately for each channel enables resources to be moved real-time to a channel experiencing a spike in volume. If you’re only offering one channel, you have limited ability to juggle resources to match needs. Often, the quality assurance program is the first to suffer to free up resources to handle the peaks.
- Virtual agents can refer to FAQs to answer chat without using live-agent resources, but be sure to use this option appropriately. Customers who have read the FAQs already and who are using chat for a human touch will be disappointed if they get the same responses from chat. Clearly differentiate the experience when a customer is interfacing with a website avatar (virtual agent) and when they have chosen to communicate with a human being over chat.
5 Reasons to Approach Multichannel—WITH CAUTION
- Different metrics/agent profiles/processes may be appropriate. This may result in a cultural change with new philosophies driving focus on different behaviors than before, new hiring strategy or different look and feel to the frontline teams.
- Technology may be a limiting factor here, prohibiting you from getting it right. You need to consider what happens to your agent desktop when you add these new channels—if an agent can handle calls, chat and email, this should not mean juggling three different tools with potential risk of receiving a contact from each channel all at the same time! Getting technology right also includes the ability to report, forecast and plan resources, quality monitor, remain compliant with appropriate legislation and maintain visibility of activity across channels to achieve consistency in customer experience—there is a need for a common database for all channels to access/ deliver uniform information.
- You risk distancing yourselves from your customers, as your customers may not feel better-suited to communicating in the new ways you’re offering. Know your customers, understand their demographic and what is likely to please them or add value. ASK THEM!
- Multiple channels may mean multiple small pockets of agent resources, which is costly compared to larger groups. There is a tendency to fall to multitasking to regain some efficiency, but this can lead to a dip in quality and FCR, which will result in driving up overall interaction volumes.
- Multichannel is complicated. You’re may find that your customers prefer to have easy access to good service over the phone over mediocre service across a diverse range of channels.
Now that we’ve discussed why you should deploy a multichannel strategy, stay tuned for Part 2 where we evaluate what channels are right for your business.
Interested in learning how to make sure your multi-channel strategy provides customers with a consistent experience across channels? Download our free ebook: Omnichannel is No Longer Optional.
Publish Date: January 5, 2017 5:00 AM
Way back in 1962, a visionary TV program lit up the airwaves with its colorful, optimistic view of technology and the future. Of course, I’m talking about The Jetsons, with all the wondrous inventions that defined modern life in 2062. I’m also happy to point out that a lot of the “gee-whiz” technology that made The Jetsons so fun to watch has actually come to fruition today.
Sure, our cars don’t fly—yet. But we do have robot vacuums, personal computer assistants, and video calls. And they’re an integral and ubiquitous part of modern life. You could even argue that the show predicted the prominence of the cloud as a “platform.” After all, George and his family did live in the Skypad apartments—among the clouds. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not!
Click here to read entire blog from Genesys Senior Manager of Product Marketing Ron Stevenson.
Publish Date: January 3, 2017 5:00 AM
Last week, we discussed the first five common contact center planning mistakes in Part 1:
- Flat-lining shrinkage is always a bad assumption.
- Manual hiring/OT/UT plans are too hard to do right.
- Treating all centers as though they are the same is dangerous.
- Stretch goals are evil.
- Always hitting your service goals may not be optimal.
Let’s dive into the next five.
6. Presenting one plan is a disservice.
A concept that we all can buy into is this: more analyses is always better. Given the variable nature of planning, it is always better to do several analyses up front in order to try to capture the risk associated with each one of our planning assumptions.
For example, given all of the business variability over the last few years, it makes more sense to run the following simple scenarios:
- What is the staff plan associated with the current most expected forecast?
- What is the risk associated with this plan (meaning what service will we see, and what costs will we incur?) if:
- Calls come in higher than we thought?
- Calls come in lower than we thought?
These several plans are much more beneficial to senior management- and may lead to a different resource decision– than the linear “one plan” approach.
But, to be honest, because we are using time consuming and error prone spreadsheets to develop plans, we often don’t have time to develop these cost saving risk analyses. This is a reason to either automate your planning process or to purchase a strategic planning system. You need this process to be quick enough to allow for quick and accurate analyses.
7. Weekly versus monthly plans: weekly wins.
Many plans, usually those generated by finance, are developed with the finest level of hiring, volume and shrinkage detail as monthly. But we all know that these decisions are best developed knowing the intra-month patterns.
Blending an average month together will lead to shortages some weeks and overages other weeks, simply because of the assumption in our spreadsheets.
What is the best compromise if finance likes to see their plans reflecting monthly costs? It is to develop weekly capacity plans and roll them up (with detail on subsequent sheets) so finance gets your plan in the form they like, but your operational plan includes the detail that it needs.
8. Long-term questions deserve long term analyses.
Every so often we see a spreadsheet process that only determines staff plans for ninety days or so. While real-world activities, like outsourcer locks, mean that these timeframes are important, they do not preclude the importance of using long-term analyses for long-term business problems.
Many of the decisions our operations make are long-term decisions. For example, hiring is not a short-term decision or even a ninety day decision. Because of this, we need to understand the implications of our hiring decisions with a seasonal view.
Coming into a seasonal peak is a lousy time to look at hiring a few months out. We might decide to hire to the peak, even if the peak is short-lived and a valley immediately follows. However, it may be optimal for the business to either 1) miss service levels at peak (see mistake number five, above) or to 2) use overtime to staff to peak staffing requirements.
9. No variance analyses, means you don’t know what to do next.
This is a hard one. Many businesses don’t have time to look backwards, and many operations do not provide meaningful variance analyses. But the process of determining changes to the operation or variance in the business environment is critical to running a smooth operation and to avoiding service catastrophes.
While many businesses will have forecast review meetings, usually the point is to reevaluate the forecast (usually only volume forecasts get reviewed), put pressure on the forecast team, and possibly change the plan. For many other organizations, variance analyses are a luxury, rarely consumed.
The best contact center organizations look at the variance differently. They view variance as a core piece to their planning process and an item that is dutifully performed. These same organizations view variance not as a forecast error, but as a change in their environment. Variance analysis is the canary in the operational coal mine.
Their variance analysis meetings serve a specific set of purposes. They look to:
- Track what is changing in the operation’s performance drivers.
- Determine if these changes require business decisions.
- Fix variance items that are controllable.
- Make resource decisions about items that are not controllable.
These variance meetings are management decision-making meetings (and not beat-up-the-forecaster meetings). They track variance to all of the main center performance drivers, certainly volumes, but also handle times, attrition, sick time, sales per call, etc…
Central to variance analysis is also what-if analysis. It is not good enough to know that an item (like attrition) is changing; it is also important to know what will happen to the operation if it continues to change, or what the resource cost will be to react to this change if it is determined the change is not temporary.
It is arguable, that this piece of the planning process is the most important, and it is enabled by an automated and optimized planning process.
10. Validation breeds confidence.
One step we rarely see in planning spreadsheets is a validation step. Meaning, if you know the number of people available, the handle time achieved, and the number of calls offered last week, it should be an easy exercise to plug those real world values into the spreadsheet to determine whether the spreadsheet predicts the actual service achieved. If it does, the model is accurate. If it doesn’t (over a reasonable timeframe), then it is not accurate.
Validating your spreadsheet is not as easy as I make it out, only because most analysts build their spreadsheet to determine agent requirements and not to provide service analysis (given agents staffed). My suspicion is that most of the methods employed in spreadsheets (usually Erlang, or an assumed occupancy based workload equation) are not really all that accurate (I’ve tested several and my suspicion always bears this out).
Validation of the model that determines your requirement is very important. If you know that your method is accurate under different service standards, and this is something you can show your management team, then they will have confidence in your plans, your analyses, and you.
How about I make you an offer?, and I will offer to take a peek at your spreadsheet. Perhaps together we can find sources of hidden value that you never knew were there.
Publish Date: December 29, 2016 5:00 AM
There are few things that customers dislike more than having to wait on hold for service. Besides being subjected to the irritating music and repetitive messages, it’s wasted time that is never regained. How much time? One study found that U.S. consumers spend on average 13 hours each year on hold. This explains why, in a 2015 Accenture survey of over 12,000 consumers, long hold times was ranked one of the two biggest customer service gripes.
With the customer experience more important than ever, underestimating the impact of hold times can be a very costly mistake. In that same Accenture survey, more than half of the consumers reported taking their business elsewhere because of poor customer service. With the cost of customer acquisition continuing to climb, can any business afford to risk losing customers because of the correctable problem of long hold times?
Click here to read entire blog from Genesys Senior Director of Product and Solution Marketing Lisa Abbott.
Publish Date: December 27, 2016 5:00 AM
The contact center planning problem—developing long-term forecasts, requirements, hiring plans, shrinkage plans, extra time plans, under time plans, and budgets—is a very complex and difficult endeavor. Despite the difficulties, if your long-term plan is developed and managed well, and if it is efficient and accurate, our experience is that it will absolutely save your company money, and it will lead to a much smoother operation.
The technology available to most companies to manage this process (an Excel spreadsheet) is inadequate for the task. The limitations of Excel require analysts to take shortcuts in order to mechanically put together their plans. The complex contact center environment has outgrown the spreadsheet technology, as spreadsheets cannot accurately model multi-skill, multi-channel contact centers. The shortcuts that planners often take with their spreadsheets can be costly to the business.
The following is personally a little depressing: I am an expert on other people’s contact center planning spreadsheets. But it will allow me to say this with 99.9 percent certainty: I can look at a contact center planning spreadsheet and quickly find ways to save your company tons of cash. I’d like to share some tips that can save your company a lot of money.
- Flat-lining shrinkage is always a bad assumption
One of the easiest things to spot in a planning spreadsheet is a flat shrinkage assumption. If shrinkage is flat across all weeks of the planning spreadsheet, it means that the business expects no variation; shrinkage is assumed to be the same every week, be it mid-February or mid-July. We know this is simply not true. For instance, people call in sick in very predictable seasonal patterns.
Shrinkage is very important to get right- our experience has shown us that the shrinkage forecast is as important to correct staffing as are volume forecasts. If I miss my shrinkage assumption for one week, it will mean I am understaffed or overstaffed and it will cost us either in poor customer service, overtime dollars, or idle time.
To demonstrate this, let me ask you a silly question: Would you ever “flat line” your contact volume assumption? Of course, you wouldn’t, yet seasonal variation in shrinkage is as much as ten percent of the workforce and many of us still assume it is flat.
Examine the following graph. In this graph, we are plotting actual center shrinkage against a “flat line” assumption. It is easy to see that this assumption will cause your spreadsheet to miss plan.
Simply tracking the seasonality of each shrinkage item (e.g. by center and staff group) and forecasting these shrinkage items using the tools you currently use to determine volume forecasts is a good way to get started. One company that we work with saved 4 percent in agent time and ran a smoother operation in the process, simply by developing realistic planned shrinkage forecasts.
- Manual hiring/OT/UT plans are too hard to do well by hand
This tip is near and dear to my heart because I have a painful experience associated with developing hiring plans. Years ago, I was working at a large credit card company and was asked by our exec to do several what-ifs under different volume and handle time assumptions.
Our planning process at the time was spreadsheet-based, and our hiring plan, like most spreadsheet-based tools, involved many manual processes. In effect, we developed a weekly staffing requirement, and had to manually determine where and when to hire agents. We had seven centers, and many staff types per center.
When you think about it, this is a very complex task. We must consider- by each center and each staff type– learning curves, attrition, sick time, handle times, volumes, training plans and much more. Determining the best hiring plan, the best overtime plan, and the best controllable shrinkage plan is very difficult to do by hand looking at over/under charts.
It took a fair amount of time- maybe a week to walk through all the staff plans and my results were somewhat counterintuitive. In a nutshell, I had lower costs for a scenario that had more calls, which we all know is wrong. As an analyst, there is nothing much worse than having to tell the big boss that you need more time because your numbers are wrong. What is worse is bringing an analysis to a meeting and having the boss show you that your numbers are wrong!
Manual processes are prone to manual mistakes. Worse yet, processes that are highly complex and mathematically combinatoric like scheduling agents or determining hiring plans are difficult to do well by hand. You will always do better by developing an automatic hiring algorithm to work through all the combinations of possible plans.
This, by the way, will save your company a lot of money.
- Treating all centers as though they are the same is dangerous
One thing we contact center managers know is that all centers are not the same. While they are all similar, they each have their own behaviors and seasonality. A buddy of mine told me a great and simple example about how his company made a major mistake by moving agents and workload from one expensive center to a cheaper one by measuring cost per agent.
The company failed to take into consideration that the expensive center was much more efficient than the cheap center. This move almost doubled their cost per sale.
The lesson here is that there are all sorts of differences (such as when people call in sick, or their handle times, or their ability to sell, etcetera) across geographic centers that must be incorporated into your staff plan.
- Stretch goals are evil
One easy mistake to spot but much harder to cure, is the planner’s bane: the stretch goal.
The budget plan is, by its nature, a political document. Many managers have their hands in the assumptions and forecasts that go into the plans, but few have much responsibility for these same assumptions.
A common stretch goal scenario goes something like this:
- The planners produce a series of forecasts, including many of the major cost drivers (AHT, volumes, shrinkage, sales per call, customer satisfaction, etc…).
- At the same time, all the managers are vying to get their pet projects into the budget for the next year. As part of that process, projects are ranked by measure of benefit to the operation.
- The projects selected for funding are paid for by the improvement in one of those cost drivers, and those cost drivers in the strategic plan are altered by the amount promised by the manager.
- The benefits are not realized.
- The project timeline is extended past what is assumed in the budget.
- The benefits were not really there or were less than expected.
- The benefits may become apparent, but only much later.
- The project crashed and burned.
- Forecasters are blamed when the plan gets out of whack (note, the project sponsoring manager usually is held blameless).
- Depending on the benefit envisioned (e.g. AHT reduction), the center network may be under serious staffing pressure. Service levels are erratic.
I’d offer this advice: Don’t plan for the benefits until they are actually being realized.
- Always hitting your service goals may not be optimal
This one may sound counter-intuitive. Of course, we want to hit our service goals!
However, unless you are contractually obligated to maintain a service standard, following a service standard blindly is bound to weigh your organization down with too much cost.
As analysts, one of the simplest and most valuable exercises we can perform for our senior management is a cost versus service trade-off. Almost every decision we make has, at its core, a service and a cost repercussion. It is best for the company that we often draw out this trade-off.
Given our contact center’s seasonality, our cost structure changes as our economies of scale change and as the levers we must pull in order to reduce costs change. For instance, it is much more expensive- per call- to hire to our seasonal peak than it is to hire at other times of the year.
Many years ago, I was working for an airline who wanted to know how many people to hire, given that there was a major fare sale planned. If I drew a graph of staff versus service, my answer would be simple: it’s a lot.
However, given that the sale was so deep that our customers would be willing to wait longer to receive such a great deal, the problem became much more interesting. If we looked solely at profit only, the benefit of the marginal sale to the company wouldn’t be worth the extra time it would take to possibly secure it. Instead, the real answer was to hire only that number of agents that paid for themselves. In short, the optimal solution was to miss the standard service level, and to hire much fewer than “a lot”.
Next week, we will provide you five additional common mistakes. Stay tuned for part 2.
Publish Date: December 23, 2016 5:00 AM
Loyalty. It’s a word often used in a customer experience context. To stay competitive, companies must strive to create a loyal customer base. Employee loyalty is an essential ingredient for providing a competitive level of service. And, remaining loyal over time to reliable vendors builds consistency and is regarded as a smart business decision.
Yet, there are times when remaining loyal to an aging contact center solution may prove to have a far-reaching, negative impact on your customer experience, competitive positioning, and business results.
Known for his humor, baseball legend Yogi Berra, once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” This clever one-liner comes to mind when I’m facing a complex decision. However, decision-making is no joke for companies at the crossroads of meeting soaring customer expectations and maintaining an outdated contact center. The dilemma is whether to continue to invest in technology from an existing vendor with an uncertain future or make a forward-thinking decision to choose a future-proof contact center solution from a provider that shows a track record for success, innovation, and financial stability.
Click here to read entire blog from Genesys President Tom Eggemeier.
Publish Date: December 21, 2016 5:00 AM
Today, I had to call a government agency to help me solve an issue. Past experiences had me realistically concerned that I would be stuck on hold for an eternity. To my pleasant surprise, my call was immediately put into the queue, and I was asked instead of holding if I would like a call back in 30 to 45 minutes. The chat bot also assured me that I would not lose my place in the queue if I chose a call back. I responded with a simple, “yes”.
The system recognized my phone number and requested a confirmation from me that this was the best number for a return call—to which I said yes and then hung up. Precisely, 35 minutes later I received a call back with an automated message alerting me that a representative would assist me in less than six minutes.
Three minutes later, Betsy joined the line, providing me with her name and employee number and then proceeded to provide me exceptional service.
Now let me tell you, if I had sat on the phone for 30-45 minutes, I would have been pulling my hair out. I am pretty sure most people would have too if they even lasted half that long. The fact the agency realized that their callers are busy and might want a call back option demonstrates that they understand that people have better things to do than wait on the line for service.
However, the real outcome of this in my opinion is that when I was connected to the agent, she was very attentive. I never had the impression that she was in a hurry or knew that because of the time she spent with me there was another caller on the line who would be frustrated with the wait times. Rather, she focused on resolving my needs.
In my opinion, the agency handled this right from start to finish by:
- Giving me a control and a choice.
- Setting accurate and clear expectations.
- Providing great customer services
This is truly the experience that any customer needs and deserves. And, technology was an enabler for this experience to meet my needs.
Now that we understand the experience, let’s talk about some of the operational considerations that any contact center manager should ask themselves before deploying this option:
- Do you have the staff to handle call back capability? Start by analyzing your workforce management reports and historical data. It will show when there are gaps in handling the interaction activity. You will want to ensure that your staff is in compliance in taking the interactions when assigned. If you have compliance than review your interaction volume trends and compare to staffing. You may need to move staff around in order to facilitate the peeks. There can be many factors that drive the root cause. Reviewing your data and speaking to your leaders and front line staff are all key to solving these.
- Are you meeting service levels consistently? If not, this may not be the best approach as it could just compound the problem of responsiveness. Again, review your reports to determine if you are meeting your services level targets for calls, callback, chats, emails or other interaction methods that your center may provide. If there is an area where you are missing, determine why and address that first. You may also want to review trends throughout the day which will provide you a clearer picture of the root cause for missing the service level. Many times your issue with staffing levels may also be driving your service levels problem.
- What’s your forecasting and scheduling plan? The contact center will want to be careful how they forecast and schedule with callbacks in order not to double count. If this is the approach the contact center will want to forecast for that “media type”.
- Are your agents trained and knowledgeable and in a position to resolve your customer’s needs? The key remains that the representative focuses on understanding the questions from the caller and answers them fully, preventing future calls.
Interested in hearing about seven game changers that can help you transform your business into a customer engagement powerhouse?
Download my free eBook Succeeding at Customer Engagement! Learn best practices, technology strategies, and intimate anecdotal moments from companies that are successfully navigating this new world of digital disruption.
Publish Date: November 22, 2016 5:00 AM
Partner Guest Blog:
Is it time for a new generation of technology in Contact Center infrastructure?
We all know that cloud services have been a topic for years. And most of us know that there is great variety in how to produce a cloud service. In this article, I’ll try to sort things out a bit.
All of you who have worked in the contact center industry is aware there are a lot of different technical solutions out there from many different vendors, and it can be hard to get a good understanding of all the alternatives available.
Old cloud solution is much of the same
Historically most of today’s solutions have their origin in a technology where servers are used for various functions and user clients. Different solutions require different amount of servers, but the architecture is basically the same.
This kind of solution is built for the customer’s own IT environment. It is possible to convert to a “cloud service”, but the technology is still the same. The only thing different you’re doing is placing all the servers in the supplier’s data center and establishing a connection in between. This in turn creates better possibilities for the vendor to provide more non-functional services like system- and application management.
That gives the customer a more complete service, but it is just a way to create it with old technology and the characteristics it has. This type of technology is normally not created for handling several customers in the same solution, so called multi-tenant. Regardless if a solution like this is customer placed or managed by a vendor, the basic characteristics is the same. Servers and operating systems have a life span after which they must be replaced. Servers and operating systems must also be maintained with regularly patches. The applications itself must also be upgraded regularly, and if your solution consist of several applications, there is of course more work to it.
Over an investment lifecycle of five years you normally need at least one more significant software upgrade with conversion of customizations and integrations. You also have a moment of risk when the upgraded solution should be deployed. If you want to add new functionality, you have the same situation and costs. Simply put, these kind of solutions are rather cost driving!
A contact center solution built for the cloud offers several differences.
For starters most modern cloud services offer a multi-tenant architecture from the beginning. This means they are built for handling several customers in the same technical environment and can therefore take advantage of the economies of scale that occurs. In all the areas causing more work and additional cost for management and maintenance in a traditional solution, there are economies of scale in a modern cloud service that could benefit you as an end-customer.
If you choose to produce the service in a technical environment managed by a global supplier with datacenters all over the world, it is also possible to buy the “data power” you need at a variable cost. This is the basis for letting the customer have a variable business model and only pay for what they use (pay-as-you-go). Since most customer service or support functions have a variation in work load over time, this is often very appreciated.
A modern cloud contact center solution offers advantages.
But there are also other advantages with a modern cloud service. One area is redundancy and reliability. With a modern cloud service architecture used in Netflix and similar, really strong redundancy and reliability is already built in the solution from start. It is nothing you need to purchase separately. Your technical solution is placed in several geographically spread datacenters with surveillance 24/7, offering a level of reliability that very few customers invest in on their own. It’s the same with the security issues. In professionally managed, global datacenters like this, the security processes and technology is normally higher than what the ordinary customer has on their own premises.
Furthermore, many organizations today are global with a presence in several countries. A modern cloud service exists per definition in each country and can be accessed through an internet connection. A global contact center solution in the cloud is therefore very much easier and cheaper to deploy than with traditional technology.
To summarize the advantages of a modern cloud based contact center solution:
- Lower all over lifetime cost
- “Pay as you go”
- Easier to implement
- Minimal IT overhead cost
- Works like a smartphone app – upgrades, maintenance and new functions is added automatically
Customer service or support functions are often really challenged in the daily operative tasks. Issues should be solved, service levels kept. And most of all, both customers and employees should be satisfied. Choosing between a contact center solution based on traditional technology or a modern cloud service is in my view a very easy decision. As you now have solutions like PureCloud Engage from Interactive Intelligence, I cannot see any reason to choose something else if you don’t have really extreme requirements. In my opinion, it’s a bad idea to choose an old technology to support future needs.
If you want to have a closer look on a really nice and modern cloud solution, check out PureCloud Engage.
Publish Date: October 17, 2016 5:00 AM