How BPOs Can Turn Idle Time into Productive, Billable Time

In the past 40 years of working with contact centers, I’ve seen a lot of change.

The technology in today’s contact centers changes daily, becoming more and more complex. Sophisticated algorithms, forecasting and scheduling programs try to predict call volume and match it with the right number of agents at the right time, but then…the day “happens.”

Despite all of this technology, centers still have people running the business – monitoring data and making real-time decisions such as, “How do I take a fixed asset (number of agents) and match it up with a variable supply issue or volume of calls?”

Compound this with multiple channels and the situation becomes even more complex. And most centers are still managing all of this the same way they were doing it decades ago: manually.

Just a few hours ago, I got off the phone with a large BPO in Europe who needed help with a new customer. The issue was this: the BPO received a bonus if they did very well in certain measurements and a penalty if they didn’t meet those measurements.

So, obviously, the driver was to make the measurement, and the particular metric was service level. The higher the service level above the goal, the more the bonus.

Their initial response was typical: overstaff the business as much as possible to reach service levels. But there was a problem: they couldn’t forecast well enough to accurately schedule that volume.

As a result, they would miss the service level in the beginning of the month, make it up in the middle two weeks, and miss it again at the month’s end.

Multiple Issues at Play

First and foremost, some agents were being offered Voluntary Time Off and Voluntary Overtime in the same day. This negatively affected bill-to-pay ratios because they were paying for agents to sit idle.

Idle time is the most expensive time in a contact center because you have to pay for it whether or not you’re getting anything done. Typically, agents don’t do anything during this time, so the BPO is left with an hour that is not being fully utilized.

Ideally, contact centers can find meaningful amounts of idle time during the day and offer billable work to agents during that time. Intraday automation does just that.

With intraday automation, contact centers can move agents around to different channels to handle billable chat and e-mail work during natural idle times, for example. This way, the BPO can ultimately raise its bill-to-pay ratio because they are adding billable time to an idle hour or minute that they are already paying for.

Using Intraday Automation Technology to Address Agent Development

I run into this all of the time. If you were to ask a contact center executive if their agents are being fully trained and developed, they would likely say, “yes” or “I don’t know.”

The assumption is usually that agents are getting what they need. In fact, in most shrinkage numbers, there is typically some kind of figure included that shows time off the phones for agent training.

At the same time, operational people often think, “Why would I train and coach my agents if I’m not getting paid for it?”

The truth is, agents have to be trained and coached so that they can provide customers with the highest and most consistent level of customer service possible.

I recently read a study that said if you could add just 30 minutes to an hour of training and coaching per agent, per month, you would increase your Net Promoter Score from 10-15%. The same study also said that this extra time would reduce customer complaints by 20-50%!

So, if you could increase your NPS and reduce complaints coming into the center by simply adding a little training and coaching, why wouldn’t you do it?

The answer is because the day “happens,” and once you’re in the middle of that day, you have volumes that weren’t forecasted, agents who didn’t show up, and schedules that are not being followed.

It’s a tough job for your workforce management team to meet all of these measurements and still get all of the coaching and development in that needs to get done.

Intraday automation is the tool that can help them get it done by taking the slivers of idle time that you are already paying for and converting it into time that can be used for billable work.

Reducing shrinkage – instead of needing 5% for training and development, you can do it with 2%, for example – also translates directly to your bottom line.

With most of the BPOs we deal with today, intraday automation technology is finding anywhere from 2-4 hours of “extra” time per agent, per month. Taking this otherwise nonproductive time and converting it into productive or billable time gives you a clear competitive advantage over your competitors.

About the author

Bob Fletcher

Bob leads the sales and solution delivery initiatives for Intradiem’s global business process outsourcing (BPO) clients, helping to transform their business models and drive profitability via Intraday Automation. He brings a wealth of operations, management and consulting acumen to the BPO practice, having delivered guidance to more than 1,000 call centers and trained over 5,000 managers and supervisors worldwide. Bob's experience includes executive management of Arvato's customer service operations and as executive vice president for Deutsche Telekom. Bob has also served in critical management roles in engagements with leading companies such as T-Mobile, Verizon, Pitney Bowes, TeleDenmark, Gateway of Dublin, DecisionOne, Delta Dental, Wells Fargo and Cox Communications.

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