How Technology Impacts Agent Efficiency in the Call Center
Businesses adopt call center technology—any technology, really—to accomplish two goals: lower costs and grow profits. Sometimes referred to as the double-sided coin of efficiency and productivity, managers and executives are constantly seeking new ways to drive more value from it. In particular, they wonder how their “coin” of a solution can drive individual call center agent efficiency.
It’s a great question to ask and think through. And, it does have answers. Technology can play a huge role in personal efficiency, effectiveness and productivity. Here are eight ways it plays out in the call center environment.
It turns out that few people multi-task well. They may “feel” like they’re getting more done, but performance analytics often say the contrary.
Faced with the reality, call center agents can be convinced to change their workplace habits or, at the very least, to test out a different methodology. Once they see the results of “single-tasking,” agents are unlikely to ever go back to their old ways of working. Why would they? It has no benefits for them or the customers they serve.
With more call center agents “single-tasking,” they’re likely to discover they’re better suited to certain tasks than others. Managers can step in with schedules and assignments, but it can be helpful to give agents opportunities for self-improvement so that agents don’t become fatigued from performing a single job function.
Managers, for example, might build a team of a few call agents and give them the task of improving their call wait times. As the teammates work together and assess their metrics within the call center solution, they’ll find that one person is better at handling a certain type of call than another and assign a larger portion of that responsibility to him or her. Now everybody can get more things done – better and more quickly.
Call center technology can also improve communication practices. Modern solutions often feature internal chat options for agent-to-manager communication, decreasing the reliance on email and things like print memos. This helps agents access expertise from fellow team members when they need it in real time, which, in turn, results in a better customer experience for end users.
And with cloud-based call center technology, there’s the added bonus of an always-on solution that can easily be scaled up or down as the contact center’s needs evolve. This is critical for growing organizations faced with increasing customer bases (and call volumes). Customers who know they can always reach someone when they dial in to get issues resolved, whether that’s because the lines are always functioning due to cloud technology redundancy or proper staffing, help ensure those all-important customer satisfaction and communication levels remain high.
One of the primary ways businesses achieve higher efficiency is by automating tasks and streamlining workflows. But doing so does little good if automation and streamlining don’t result in a set of established procedures and processes.
When that does occur, call center agents are empowered to make better use of their time and resources. They don’t reinvent the wheel every time they come to work because they have an existing standard they’re expected to meet. Following this process doesn’t turn them into robots; rather, it gives them an opportunity to work with excellence, minimize operational issues and take ownership in the company’s success.
Everything in Its Place
Employees spend more time searching for a file or other documentation than actually using the items in question. Cloud-based call center technology can help by organizing information and making it easy to access.
When an agent has a question they don’t know the answer to, they can quickly and easily find the information. This not only reduces hold times but also the employee’s frustration. Having everything in its place is beneficial for everyone involved.
Shared and Understood Goals
Personal efficiency also increases when goals are shared and understood by all relevant parties. Klaus Lemke, managing principal of Minneapolis-based Lean Project Consulting puts it this way: “When lean (efficiency) is working correctly, it focuses on the value stream.”
That is, when people are aligned toward a common goal and understand their role in accomplishing it, business value results. Efficiency may increase, but profits are likely rising, too.
Rewarding employees for increasing their efficiency ensures they will continue the good habits. It’s a positive reinforcement at its best, and it’s crucial to continuous efficiency gains.
Rewards can occur on the call center floor, but it’s not always possible. For instance, the call center may be too large for daily one-on-one interactions. In other instances, a manager might oversee geographically dispersed call centers, making physical interactions impossible.
Technology is the perfect way to solve for the challenge. It can be integrated with a rewards system and can potentially send alerts to the manager. When a call center agent achieves a goal, he or she receives some sort of perk or credit, which can be followed up by a virtual “well done!” from the supervisor. The employee is simultaneously applauded for and encouraged to continue their good behavior and, perhaps more importantly, made to feel that they are valued members of the team, no matter how big or small, local or global.
Finally, technology drives agent efficiency by measuring for success. This is the question of, “It may be efficient, but is it effective?” Efficiency is all well and good, but it needs to tie to other key performance indicators (KPIs) for it to be effective and, ultimately, productive. If workflows are streamlined but first call resolution (FCR) rates remain high, the efficiency gains have not been successful. As efficiency improves for metrics like FCR that it becomes truly effective.
Call center technology can improve agent efficiency, but it can do so much more than that. By integrating efficiency metrics with KPIs, individual work performance that improves won’t be the only thing that improves. The overall business performance will rise, and that’s good news for both people and profits.