Status Unavailable; The Black Hole of Contact Center Profits Part III

Part III: Implementing your Unavailable code policy

In Part I, we discussed the importance of understanding the proper use of unavailable (often called AUX) codes. In Part II we discussed the necessity of defining them properly. Here in Part III we will discuss how to create a wonderfully successful program that will assist in implementing new and thriving unavailable polices, as well as any other new major policy that might need to be created and implemented in order to groom your working culture into an efficient, enjoyable, and profitable state.

Over the past 15 years, Workforce Management Programs have gained great notoriety and have achieved ever increasing complexity to meet the needs of ensuring that the right people are in the right place at the right time with the right tools. In order to meet and win out against the fierce competition prevalent in all contact center market streams, the efficiency and savings brought on by correct Workforce Management programs cannot be ignored. And no Workforce Management program can be viable without mapping to and recording in great detail, all of the many seconds in each and every interval that agents are unavailable to handle contacts. All of these details add up to great reasons for implementing a viable and more up to date unavailable time tracking process.

Perhaps one of the biggest day-to-day mistakes managers make is to create a necessary policy and then just order all personnel that this policy affects to start performing according to that new policy. Many managers I have interviewed believe that if an employee accepts pay from a company in the form of salary, he or she should be willing and expectant to perform their duties exactly as asked without question, whenever asked. This would be nice and would probably work if humans were less complex than they are. In truth it is not enough to simply order an employee to do work a certain way. If this is the way a particular workforce is managed, in addition to exhibiting other numerous rebellious behaviors, employees will typically react by doing just enough of their duties to get by without being fired, but not enough to actually get the job done right in an efficient and profitable manner.

Most of us have heard of the WIIIFM principle. What Is In It For Me? this principle is used with the idea in mind that if managment groups take the time to show their personnel what is in it for them first before implementing any directive, the employees are more likely to follow the new procedure. Studies have shown that this principle often does improve employee cooperation but in many circumstances it can fail instead. Simply put, quite often there is no valid WIIIFM that can really be detailed out for a given project for the employees that it applies to will beleive in. In these cases it is a failure.

The best methodology for implementing any new policy has WIIIFM as a single part of a larger whole that garners employee support to a much greater degree. It is often straightforwardly called Employee Buy In.

With Buy In, employees are given the facts, the reasons and the underlying necessity of why a new policy must be implemented. They are shown the figures, they are asked to assist in the creation of the new policy and they participate in the assignments for the actual launch of the policy. All efforts to bring employees into the decision making process will garner unprecedented high levels of support percentages.

When any human being has an idea of their own that they want to see put into production, they are diligent, excited and innovative as they implement that special idea. Such a person works hard to overcome every obstacle in making sure that the idea is implemented because they are invested in the idea. They own the idea. This type of ownership can even blind them to everything else but seeing that their idea is successfully put into practice. This is similar to what true buy in really is.

By appearing to bring employees into the policy making and decision making process, it is possible to convey the feeling that they own the policy, that they are invested in the policy, and that they want to see it work out successfully. In such a circumstance they are not only more likely to follow the policy, but they will make attempts to have others follow the process properly in perpetuity as well. It takes more time and effort to gain agent buy in, but the return is worth the effort. In addition, when employees are simply ordered to just follow a process, they are often a little angry and a little more dissatisfied with their job. And dissatisfied employees are much less likely to give the great customer service that any contact center requires in order to stay competitive.

Along with appearing to bring agents into the policy making process, it is always nice to schedule a specific launch of any new major policy. This launch can include a festive ingredient involving small treats, posters, and even a small celebration. A most important portion of this celebration is to give the agents a small time off the phone to learn about the policy; a time in which buy in is fostered. Agents know that being on the phone means profit. When they are taken off the phone for some reason, they know that that reason is important to the company or the loss of profit portion would not have been allowed to occur. Once again, I have had many Managers balk at going so far, exclaiming to me that this is coddling the agents too much. But I have witnessed this procedure utilized properly in many different situations around the world from China to India, Budapest to the United States, and this process has been extremely successful over and over again.

An important step along the way here is that after the unavailable codes have been decided upon and created, the usage statement for each code must be posted where they are easy for each agent to find every existing agent and every new agent that might be hired after implementation. The usage definitions must follows the four C's of learning. Clear, Complete, Concise, and Correct. These postings must be kept up-to-date whenever any new changes are made. Errors in these postings, or neglect of these postings will negate the entire importance created for this this policy. A good rule of thumb here is to charge a diverse group of agents with managing and maintaining these postings so that they will feel a part of the process and keep championing the policy day after day.

After a policy is implemented in the manner outlined above, the training department must be charged with explaining and training the policy exactly as outlined. If most of the floor personnel adhere to a policy because of a successful launch, but the policy ends up being trained incorrectly in the nesting procedure, dissention will arise and the policy will have a difficult time taking root and growing as a comfortable and expected part of every day life at your contact center.

With this valuable information in mind, it is important to:

  1. Have a targeted, thorough training session for the agents and supervisors on the reasons for using the right unavailable codes. 
  2. When they completely understand the reason and necessities, utilize the agents supervisors to assist in defining the proper codes.
  3. When the codes have been defined, utilize the same personnel to choose a launch date and method of launch (party!). 

With all of their involvement directed towards the apparent actual creation and launch of this new policy, those that do not use this policy correctly will be the minority.

When new agents come into play who did not attend this launch, they are also far more likely to utilize the proper procedures because now after all of these efforts, this policy has become part of your successful local contact center culture!

Soon to come: Part IV: Optimized tracking and managing of unavailable codes