Here’s a dirty little secret. Despite the industry’s focus on the customer experience (CX), contacts still take too long and don’t reach closure often enough. Generally speaking, it’s not the agents’ fault. They really want to help customers. They also want to achieve the center’s targets for Service Level (SL), Average Handle Time (AHT), and First Contact Resolution (FCR), among others. What holds them back? Too often, technology, or the lack thereof.
Here are some steps you can take to satisfy your agents’ and customers’ need for speed:
FIRST: Pinpoint the source of technology-driven time-wasters. In particular:
- Look at what’s really going on when agents say, “Our system is slow today” or “I’m sorry, can I have your account number again…” Something is putting a drag on performance or disrupting the flow of information from one application to another. All those wasted seconds add up to frustration on both sides and thousands of dollars on the bottom line. Identify the root cause and fix it.
- Count the open applications, or how many times agents log in and out of various programs throughout the day. When agents act as the integration point for messy desktops with many unintegrated tools, handle times and error rates escalate. Make sure that your IVR, Unified Communication (UC) solution, CRM, and other desktop tools integrate well with your core contact center technology routing and reporting.
- Identify where agents are performing manual tasks. Every time they type into a notepad (or heaven forbid, write something down!), copy/paste, or compose unstructured notes, they are adding time to that call and introducing risk of errors or non-compliance.
SECOND: Check on the fundamentals and ponder newer capabilities that are known to shorten handle times and improve CX.
- Confirm you have screen pops of customer information. If “No match” occurs frequently, start digging into why and how you can boost it through database updates or better integration.
- Ensure you are leveraging IVR data, especially in the era when authentication has become more important and complex for many verticals. Make sure customers enter information once, and only once. Extend that mantra to the website and mobile app as well.
- Provide Knowledge Management (KM) for easily accessible, accurate, up-to-date, trusted answers.
- Consider Scripting/Workflows/Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to assist with routine tasks, guide through complex tasks, and trigger follow up tasks.
- Design a Unified Agent Desktop (UAD) for an agent “cockpit” that is well suited to the processes, information resources, and tasks they handle.
THIRD: Explore where your agents find answers, and how fast they find them. If they can’t access the answers to resolve an inquiry, handle time and FCR suffer.
- Look for ready-access at the desktop with search into useful, quickly consumable knowledge. Better yet, if you are on that workflow or RPA path, answers could be presented based on the conversation or desktop activities! At a minimum, KM can be integrated into your other desktop tools.
- Confirm there is a “Plan B” when documented knowledge falls short. Instant Messaging, collaboration tools, and consult/transfer all seamlessly enable agents to communication and collaborate with peers, leaders, and SMEs in other departments (again, enabled by integration between contact center and enterprise systems).
FOURTH: Manage the center as a cohesive set of channels (omnichannel!) rather than a collective of discreet access points. Then agents can move faster and serve customers more effectively regardless of channel.
- Take note of common problems such as when agents in one channel are idle when others are swamped, or where agents act as an integration point between routing tools. While you may not opt to pursue “universal agents,” technology can deliver great benefits in routing and reporting, WFO, and agility in how you get all channels handled well.
- Provide customer information and context to agents when customers switch from one channel another. Give them the ability to jump right into the “conversation” (regardless of channel) without missing (or repeating) a step.
The business case for these types of technology investments is compelling because the benefits go straight to efficiency of the biggest slice of your contact center budget, frontline staff. Watch your agents work with natural speed, reaching faster resolution. Shorten training time (finally!) and improve time to proficiency.
Deliver consistency as agents work within the guard rails of your compliance/regulatory requirements. Maybe the improved agent experience created by a better, more integrated desktop and omnichannel opportunities will bump retention up, too! Customers will also reap the benefits. After all, they want fast and assured resolution, no matter what channel they select.