Written by Matt McConnell
If you’re like most, when you pick up the phone to call into a contact center, it’s likely you have already exhausted all other self-service options first. You couldn’t find your answer online and the automated attendant wasn’t going to cut it. This paints the picture for most of us calling into centers. What this means for call centers is that their percentage of “problem calls” have doubled, according to some industry leaders. Agents are dealing with more of the challenging issues and potentially frustrated customers. How these issues impact key metrics such as customer satisfaction depends on the center’s ability to develop agents’ skills to deal with issues, increase efficiency and roll with the punches.
Meanwhile, call center executives struggle to achieve higher service levels while maintaining efficiency. Customers want to talk to agents who have the knowledge and skills to effectively handle their inquiries, but keeping agents well-trained and coached to deliver this kind of service requires time, which is the scarcest resource in the call center. Every second counts in this high volume, highly measured environment.
Where can customer service leaders find the time to train and coach agents without negatively impacting service levels? The truth is, agents are already spending quite a bit of their day sitting idle at their desks, so that there are enough agents to take your call within pre-determined thresholds. The key is utilizing that time to ultimately make them better at their jobs since much of it occurs in tiny fragments previously thought too small to be productive.
You Only Get One Shot
Often, the call center may be the only interaction a customer has with your company, so agents have one shot at ensuring a positive customer experience.
According to the recent Knowlagent Contact Center Productivity Survey of over 300 leading call center executives, the majority acknowledged that there is a strong relationship between corporate culture and contact center management and most agree that this has a deep impact on the overall performance and productivity of their centers.
These executives also agreed that well-managed contact centers can positively impact a company’s bottom line. Although most said enhanced customer satisfaction is a direct outcome of training, only half of the respondents said they deliver training with any degree of frequency. Finding time to deliver training without interrupting service levels remains a challenge.
Shrinkage and Down Time
In addition to taking your call or email, agents have other off-phone activities that add to the cost of providing service.
Some of this off-phone activity is required but is outside of the manager’s control, such as vacation, lunch and breaks. The good news is that the majority of this off-phone time is filled with activities that are required for good service. Activities like training, coaching, administrative tasks, and after-call work are much more controllable. It’s known in the industry as shrinkage and it’s a fact of life.
Meanwhile, research shows that call center agents spend an average of 11% of their day – or 49 minutes – in unproductive idle time. This time is often made-up of two-minute increments, which doesn’t afford the agent a meaningful break or enough time to complete any productive activity.
A productivity platform that integrates with the center’s existing technology to deliver off-phone activities during aggregated idle time solves the dilemma executives face when trying to balance service level maintenance with agent improvement initiatives.
Active Wait Time = Big Savings
Increasing the productivity of the entire agent workforce can mean big savings. When agents can complete tasks during idle time, they no longer need to leave the phones for large blocks of time, alleviating the need to schedule additional agents for coverage.
By managing the call center’s collective idle time more efficiently, call centers can improve agent productivity by turning downtime into Active Wait Time so agents can improve their skills, become more knowledgeable about your company’s products and services, and better serve your customers.
The operational impact can be huge. Based on industry average calculations, reducing the cost of off-phone work by just 2% could equate to a $600,000 savings for a 1,000 agent organization.
One Knowlagent client used RightTime to convert idle time to Active Wait Time and avoided the need to hire 60 additional agents. Another was able to “find” the time to deliver over 1,500 hours of additional training.
Finally, time is on your side in the call center. Now, what will you do with it?
About the Author: Matt McConnell is the chairman, president and CEO of Knowlagent. Today, the company is a leader in its market with more than 300,000 call center agents using Knowlagent every day around the world. Matt is the author of the book Customer Service at a Crossroads and holds eleven software patents. Learn more at www.knowlagent.com.