Monday, August 30, 2010

Real-time schedule adherence in call centers

If you were to poll a number of contact center managers about their biggest challenges, chances are good that agent adherence will show up near the top of their lists. It’s impossible to overstate how critical adherence is in a contact center. A contact center may have the best schedule in the world, but it’s not going to do a lot of good if agents are always out of adherence and, as a result, service levels begin to slide.

Real-time adherence monitoring, accompanied by customized reporting, will tell you WHY you are out of adherence. It might be certain agents or certain work groups, or it may not be agents’ fault at all: a poorly designed schedule might be the cause of low service levels. It may be a certain time of day that causes the most trouble spots, which narrows down your list of probable causes.

Also, it’s important that agents understand what their adherence goals are. A contact center is a sum of many moving parts, and agents need to realize that taking 10 minutes to check their social networking page may not seem like much, but put together in aggregate among all agents, 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there can throw the entire contact center far off the mark for service levels. Real-time adherence monitoring can help agents better understand how their behavior can directly affect service-level goals, and help them feel like contributors to the success of the contact center.

If you are interested in this topic, please make sure to read this whitepaper "Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence".

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How to schedule call and non-call activities

In a recent survey by a research firm, over half of the respondents said that scheduling of call and non-call activities is their biggest challenge. Here is some advice on how to overcome this challenge. First, you need to categorize all activities based on the impact on your service level, and then in a second step, you need to build a schedule based on these categories. Let's get started with the categories.

Priority 1 activities - all activities that directly impact service levels need to get scheduled first:
  • Work related to incoming “call” load such as calls and after work related to calls, outbound if triggered by inbound calls and chat (if important to your business)
  • Other activities that can be directly related to inbound calls such as breaks, lunch, training, absenteeism, etc.
Flexible activities: The following activities are more flexible in nature and are not directly impacting your service level. They can be scheduled based on agent availability (“pockets of time”):
  • Measurable activities, not part of core staffing such as meetings, admin or research work, correspondence, email, outbound calls, etc.
“Unproductive” activities: These are all activities that a not related to productive work. They get added to the schedule as a buffer at a certain percentage.
  • Unproductive time such as smoking, bathroom, getting supplies, etc.
In our next blog post we will illustrate in more detail how we will build a schedule based on those categories – stay tuned.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Misconceptions about hosted call center solutions

A recent paper by the research firm DMG Consulting discusses five top misconceptions about hosted call center solutions. We would like to add to this from the “cloud computing” perspective. So, here are the misconceptions and our comments:

It's only for small contact centers: Actually, with the cloud based approach it is easy to scale and address the needs of larger centers and/or larger organizations. The required computing power can easily grow (and shrink) based on the customer needs – this is called “elastic computing”. There are many cloud computing companies (e.g. salesforce.com) that successfully provide cloud solutions to very large enterprises.

Limited functionality: Since many cloud based solution are already in the 2nd or 3rd version, they offer very rich functionality. Often, they are easier to use and provide an fast way to add new features through automated upgrades.

Not flexible and customizable: Cloud computing solution were designed with lots of users and different customer needs in mind. Therefore, they have a more flexible architecture and often allow customization and configuration without programming.

Implementations and integrations are more difficult than premise-based initiatives. Cloud based solution have a more flexible architecture and they were designed with “inter-connectivity” in mind, knowing that “island” solutions won’t be successful.

Hosting has a higher total cost of ownership than premise-based solutions: If you do a "total cost of ownership" comparison, the cloud based solutions have a clear advantage. In addition to avoiding the overall investment risk of a large upfront capital expenditure, there are costs that are often hidden, sich as: upgrades, hardware, ongoing operation, additional software (database, etc.), backup solutions, and IT staffing.