Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Call Center Scheduling Tips - Part 1

We have established a list of call center scheduling tips to keep your call center running efficiently, keep service levels increasing, and your customer base and revenues growing.

1. Use a flexible shift model

Fixed start times, lunch breaks, end times, etc. result in
  • Overstaffing = higher costs!
  • Understaffing = lower service levels and revenues!
Gradually implement a flexible shift model by introducing it to some of your agents (existing and/or new hires) first, and over time move the whole center to a flexible shift model.
Increase your service levels by 1 to 2 percent, and result in a similar percentage of savings in personnel costs

2. Track and minimize shrinkage

15 minutes shrinkage per day in a 25 agent center costs you $23,437 per year. How to improve:
  • Better match call volume with agent availability through a flexible shift model
  • Increase forecast and schedule accuracy by including all tasks into forecast and schedule
  • Monitor and improve schedule adherence

3. Track and improve schedule adherence

Inform and educate agents:
  • Agents need to understand the relevance of schedule adherence
  • Explain how a mere 10 minutes impacts the entire center performance.
Measure and manage adherence:
Provide incentives:
  • Reward agents (95% within adherence) – recognition and/or bonus.
  • Agents are aware of the consequences for out-of-adherence behavior

4. Cross train multi-skill agents

Multiple skills and use skill-based routing
  • Reduce # of agents needed to handle your call volume.
  • The productivity gains can be up to 10-15%.
Form overlapping groups
  • One group for call type A and B, and one group for C and D
  • Improve by adding a group that is able to handle B and C

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Apple iCloud surges past 100 million users. Lessons for call center software.

A recent article in Forbes reports about the tremendous growth of Apple's iCloud. Here is a quote from the article: "That’s 100 million iCloud users in four months, or about 25 million per month—and that’s coming awfully close to 1 million new iClouders every single day". Well, that kind of user adoption is only possible through cloud-computing and its unique characteristics:
  • Easy to use (obvious, self-service)
  • Scalability (storage and performance)
  • Instant set up of an account (no software, not hardware to install)
  • Low cost (subscription based or even free)
  • Low risk (if you don't like it you can turn it off without a big upfront investment)
The same principles are true for enterprise software in the cloud. If you are in the process of selecting new call center software or are not getting the value you expected from your current software - think about how the cloud-based model could be the right alternative for your call center.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What is advanced real-time schedule adherence?

One challenge in tracking and monitoring schedule adherence is that agents can have so many different non-call tasks, exceptions and states that it is difficult to plan for and then monitor those states. That's where Advanced Agent Adherence comes into action. It allows the creation of custom states and rules to match the unique needs of your the call center, such as:
  • Create custom states for any number of activities, such as call wrap-up, special after call work, or outbound preparation
  • Set thresholds for each state, indicating how much time is considered “in adherence” so that time in a particular state can automatically be broken down into acceptable and unacceptable time
  • Define which states are included or not included in the agent adherence calculation
Exceptions and non-call activities will be added by default and will be considered “scheduled activities,” along with available, break, lunch, and logged out states. Call center managers can customize which statuses are allowed and not allowed for each scheduled activity.

Since every call center has unique agent activity types, this flexible approach to agent adherence monitoring gives centers a new level of accuracy in managing call center performance and the potential to dramatically reduce non-productive agent time.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Call Center Scheduling in the Cloud: It's No Longer "If", It is "When"

In 2012, "cloud computing" will continue to move full steam ahead. More and more call center software solutions such as CRM, PBX/ACD, and workforce management are delivered through the cloud, and call centers are adopting these solutions. And here are a few compelling reasons why companies move to the cloud:
  • Ease of use: Have you experienced enterprise software that gets hardly used or not used at all, because it is too difficult to learn/use? Think about ROI?! In comparison, cloud-based solutions are designed to be easy to use for fast adoption, without a lot of training.
  • Low investment: Traditional software requires a substantial upfront investment for software licenses, hardware and additional software. The cloud model eliminates or dramatically reduces that investment (and the the associated risk) and is typically based on a monthly subscription (pay-as-you-go model).
  • Fast implementation: Over the years, many companies experienced long and painful software implementation projects. Often, the business requirements have changed before the software was rolled out to the user community. Cloud again, has changed this paradigm. Web- based applications with instant account creation and easy configuration and self-service makes it possible to roll-out and use solutions in weeks.
  • No maintenance: Somebody in your company has to make sure that the software is working, servers are running, do back-ups, etc. - that requires resources and money. Again, with cloud, this is all done by the solution provider.
  • Always latest version: There are probably many companies out there that use an older software version simply because it is too expensive or too painful to upgrade to the latest version. Typically, cloud solutions automatically deploy new features and versions to their customers with minimal or no downtime. Customer can easily take advantage of new functionality.
  • Virtual call centers: Today, many call centers have multiple locations around the world and a higher percentage of flexible home agents. Providing a consistent infrastructure to all agents and centers is a challenge. Cloud computing helps deliver call center software to every agent over the Internet - it's easier to deploy, more consistent and typically easier to use and support.
And there is one more reason for increased interest in cloud-based offerings. Many cloud solutions offer a trial, so you can check out and evaluate the solution before you commit. That's something traditional on-premise software usually cannot provide.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Schedule Adherence for Call Centers - A Strategy Whitepaper

Schedule Adherence still seems one of the top challenges for call centers. This new whitepaper talks about the challenges and how to overcome those, helping call center managers and supervisors better manage adherence. The paper discusses the following topics:
  • How to identify the issues that cause out-of-adherence
  • How to monitor and measure adherence
  • How to work with your team on improving schedule adherence
  • How to establish an "adherence culture"
  • How to use tools to better monitor adherence
If you still struggle with out-of-adherence issues, or can’t reach and maintain your targeted adherence level, then this whitepaper is for you.