The call centre is central to many business operations. Resulting from this increased importance, the challenges facing the Call Centre Manager are changing. Traditional call centre metrics still apply and most operations are targeted to meet one or more of the following indicators:
But increasingly operational metrics are becoming only one element of the performance mix; business outcomes – the quantity, quality and value of contacts - have become a key indicator of how successfully a call centre is operating. Balancing the drive for improved business outcomes with the needs to maximise efficiency and minimise expenditure represents the classic Workforce Optimisation problem.
All parts of the call centre – inbound & outbound telephone call handling, fax & email responses and back office administration – need to be effectively managed and staffed. This means having sufficient people to maintain a high quality of service whilst taking measures to ensure tasks are productively focussed upon meeting business objectives.
Call Centres Aren't Fair!
In the perfect call centre all callers would be answered quickly and staff would be productive all the time. Unfortunately the fundamental characteristics of 'real world' call centres do not permit perfection to happen!
If calls are to be answered quickly then there must be call centre agents available, apparently unproductively, waiting to take the call. Conversely if all agents are busy on calls then it is inevitable that any calls that arrive will queue waiting for an agent to be available.
A number of techniques and technologies are available to increase productivity. One of the most effective techniques to optimise your workforce is task blending.
What Is Task Blending?
Many organisations use their call centres for multiple functions, simultaneously running a range of different inbound, outbound and administrative activities. One method of reducing unproductive time is to introduce task blending; if there are no calls for an agent's primary task, then assign some other work to that agent. For example it is possible to provide sales agents with outbound marketing campaign work to undertake during quiet periods for inbound calls.
Some call centres take steps to move key multi-skilled agents between tasks at certain times of the day in order to try and smooth out some of the peaks and troughs that occur. Many operations apply skills based routing technologies to the problem. The majority blend tasks manually; team leaders react to call traffic conditions as they happen, asking agents to log in and out of campaigns as operational conditions change.
However procedures for managing valuable call centre resources based upon forecasts and/or intervention by people are labour intensive and – in the case of complex skills based routing – do not give team leaders a clear, instinctive view of what is happening; who is dealing with which contact type and why.
Software control of task blending, reduces costs and optimises productivity. At the same time this application gives team leaders a very clear view of what is happening and why.
Here's An Example
For the purposes of this article let's consider the hypothetical case of a call centre handling inbound sales calls and outbound telemarketing campaigns.
The centre's primary aim is to achieve maximum revenue and must answer the High Value sales calls quickly. Secondarily the centre is aiming to increase agent productivity by undertaking more telemarketing calls.
The business outcomes of different task blending techniques illustrate the differing implications of balancing potentially conflicting targets.
Reactive call blending is the simplest technique for blending calls for different campaigns together, and is used to direct calls to call centre agents on a call-by-call basis. Extending the case study, we will consider the advantages and disadvantages of using call-by-call reactive blending to provide outbound calls to agents when there are no higher-priority, inbound calls waiting to be handled.
Business Rules blending
Business Rules blending is a more sophisticated method of deciding which tasks each person in the call centre should be focused upon at any given time.
Business Rules blending does not simply consider call activity; business rules blending considers operational conditions and business outcomes. Using our case study again we could extend the reactive blending described above by applying a business rule: outbound calls will not be made unless there is at least 1 agent available to accept any high value call.
It is clear that Business Rules blending delivers increased productivity with support for business outcomes.
A resource broker allows a range of different performance criteria to be monitored for each of the activities in the call centre. These criteria are calculated in real-time allowing resource broker to respond to changing call centre and business conditions as soon as they occur. Criteria that can be used in building blending rules include:
About Ken Reid:
Ken Reid is Rostrvm Solutions’ Marketing Director. Before joining Rostrvm he was a founder and director of Optium, the UK call centre consultancy.
rostrvm software systems support inbound, outbound and blended management of live and automated telephone calls and multimedia contacts. rostrvm’s innovative desktop presence drives efficient process and best practice by making awkward IT systems easy to use – in the back-office as well as in your contact centre. Our unified administration and management information environment gives you control and makes business performance visible. With customers spanning businesses and industries in both public and private sectors we work hard to understand your requirements and aspirations – technical, functional and commercial – and rostrvm enhances your existing technology. So, no big infrastructure changes – just add rostrvm.
Published: Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Co-Browsing is the practice of web-browsing where two or more people are navigating through a website on the internet. Software designed to allow Co-Browsing focuses on providing a smooth experience as two or more users use their devices to browse your website. In other words, your customer can permit the agent to have partial access to his/ her screen in real-time.