What’s the Dis-Service Level in your Multi-Channel Contact Center?

Do you have a multi-channel workforce? Is it effective?

When in the business of serving customers, the most important question you can answer is what do your customers really want? In the contact center, it’s simple: speed and accuracy.

Customers aren’t looking for a relationship, they just want to get in and get out. They want the right answer, fast, and they want the process to be easy. In response, we create silos – social media, back office call center, e-mail, website, field service, etc. – to try and service customers in the many different ways they want to contact us.

Even worse, our silos have silos like inbound support and outbound collections, each of which must be staffed and forecasted. As a result, our centers are highly inefficient and agent performance is inconsistent.

And worst of all, when one silo becomes overrun and backed up, the customer experience suffers because, though there may be plenty of available agents, they have not been trained with the skills they need to help out another silo.

So, why isn’t the contact center frontline workforce more agile and efficient?

Think about it: we have real-time manufacturing. No one stores pallets and pallets of raw materials anymore. With social media, we have real-time marketing. Even procurement is real-time now – just think about how spend management and procurement processes have been automated.

All of these parts of a business are nimble and adaptable, yet our frontline – the employees who interact with our customers – are fixed and have trouble adapting to unplanned events.

Take a minute to imagine a different world where nothing can disrupt an amazing customer experience – not even a snow storm. Imagine a world where the frontline can adapt to anything thrown its way. The front and back office are no longer in silos, but one office, working together. Employees complain about too much training and the customer experience dictates the organization chart, rather than the type of interaction a specific agent handles.

Imagine all of your available time is used to develop employees so that an agent gets trained every single day – not just once a month or quarter. Your frontline is always prepared, always productive, and never caught off guard.

Sounds like a fantasy, doesn’t it? But it is possible if you simply start thinking differently. Consider these two questions:

What does service level mean?

Isn’t it really dis-service level? By measuring the percentage of calls answered in a certain amount of time (let’s say 80%), aren’t we essentially acknowledging that we are going to do a disservice to 20%? Why don’t we staff at a 100% service level? We know that’s what customers want (speed and accuracy), so why don’t we do it?

The answer is that if we staff to a 100% service level, the peak of call volume, then we will be that much more overstaffed in the valleys. But what if there were no valleys, or what if the valleys were no longer unproductive?

Why is 100% occupancy a bad thing?

Most would say occupancy that high would burn out employees. But is that really true? Is it possible that 100% occupancy could actually be an agent satisfier? I know it’s hard to believe, but it is possible.

Let’s say you need to get training out for a new product launch. What if you could get it delivered during downtimes in call volume and without adding work hours to the schedule? Or what if your back office work is growing and you need staff, but instead you had a real-time frontline that could handle back office work during downtimes so that you didn’t have to hire additional back office staff?

And as an added bonus, agent satisfaction increases because your agents enjoy the variety. Agent satisfaction and customer satisfaction is up – all without adding a single labor hour.

Imagine a blockbuster product launch creates high call volume, but you have a real-time frontline to automatically balance and adjust, moving agents from low volume channels to high volume channels, all while maintaining service levels.

The truth is, in the contact center, we don’t have a perfect view of the future and there will always be times when we don’t have an accurate forecast. But if you have a real time frontline that can adapt with the changes in your business, you can achieve that 100% service level (or rather 0% disservice level) and 100% occupancy – all while delivering an outstanding customer experience.

Customers want speed and accuracy, but silos and fixed workforces aren’t the way to give it to them. If you want an effective multi-channel workforce, start thinking differently.

Remember: your customers don’t think of you in terms of silos – they think of you as a brand. If they are waiting too long in one channel, it doesn’t matter how efficient the others are. You have to think real-time, online, fully occupied and 100% service level in all channels.

About the author

Matt McConnell

Matt is chairman, president and CEO of Intradiem. Matt co-founded Intradiem in 1995 with a vision of helping companies increase the level of customer service they deliver by improving the performance of their agents. Today, Intradiem is a leader in its market with more than 300,000 call center agents around the world using Intradiem every day. Matt is the author of the book Customer Service at a Crossroads and holds 11 software patents. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in industrial and systems engineering.

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