New tech means contact centres can operate just as effectively remotely.
One of the major by-products of Covid-19 has been the need for businesses – and even central agencies like contact centres – to work from home.
It sounds like a contradiction in terms: a contact centre and working from home? But what we've seen throughout the pandemic is that cloud-based technology exists which can not only facilitate working from home but also adds new and highly effective abilities to contact centres, providing huge benefits to the business.
Anyone who supports customers through a contact centre knows that data and KPIs are critical in a contact centre to ensure inbound workload is processed within a reasonable time frame and customers don't languish in a queue.
However, it's a delicate balancing act. On one hand, you want to deliver your customers a high level of service – where they don't wait too long to speak to someone, and their query, complaint or support issue is resolved as quickly and painlessly as possible. That's preferably on the first call, without being passed from pillar to post.
On the other hand, from an operational perspective, you need to maximise efficiency. After all, every second an agent engages with a customer costs you money. Every inbound or outbound interaction consists of labour expenses and the dollar value of the call itself.
So it's essential to achieve that perfect equilibrium between customer service and operational costs.
So what's to be done? Well, when setting KPIs, you can run with the flock and accepted industry standards or take a lone wolf stance and focus on what matters to your business alone – what works for your customers; what you can afford and realistically achieve.
Average handling time (AHT) is a key metric. But by telling agents that contacts shouldn't exceed 'X' minutes (because to do so means you need more people and it will cost too much), it encourages negative behaviour, such as rushing the customer, creating a case for another department to handle, missing opportunities to upsell or educate customers on how to self-serve.
Customers experience double handling of their call – when they just want their issue handled smoothly and efficiently, and to have it resolved quickly, by one person, first time. Their initial investment of 'X' minutes with the first agent can be potentially doubled or tripled as they enter a 'pass the parcel' cycle. When they need to explain their issue repeatedly, it's understandable their attitude towards your support service sours.
COPC's 2020 Consumer Experiences and Opinions: A Year Like No Other benchmark series, reports: "Customers who are transferred are less satisfied than those who are not transferred."
The loss of positive customer perception is a high price to pay for rigidly adhering to a set or inadequate AHT.
It may only take an adjustment of a couple of minutes to your AHT to achieve first-time resolution. So, while you may need to trade off a little more time and cost, the investment in improving customer experience will likely compensate you in terms of customer happiness, value and, ultimately, retention.
It's become increasingly apparent that working from home offers benefits for employer and employee – but requires more give and take.
Working remotely, without the benefit of a team leader nearby and ready to provide help, can affect average handling time and occupancy rates. There's a greater requirement for agent self-sufficiency, promoting the need for the right tools and a good knowledge base. It's important to look at the environments your agents are working in, the factors that impact them, and realign your pre-Covid KPIs to reflect those changes.
Interestingly, modern cloud-based contact centre applications support the working-from-home scenario from an employer and agent perspective more perfectly than almost any other technology, due to real time availability of queue and agent status.
For agents, it's business as usual with a change of scenery and no travel. For employers, contact centre technology tools provide complete, real-time visibility of what every agent is doing. You can monitor calls for quality, record every interaction, measure every KPI, giving true accountability.
You could also consider utilising bots coupled with powerful knowledge-based tools to proactively provide your team with the on-the-spot information needed to improve first contact resolution rates. For example, a bot listening in on the customer call can feed instant and accurate information to the agent's screen during the call. As a result, the call is resolved faster and you achieve both your average handling time and call resolution rate KPIs.
While growing in popularity, self-service technology (SST) comes with customer expectations. Usage has increased, however customer satisfaction is still considered too low.
"Although issue resolution via SST was low (at 69 per cent), the rate has shown improvement compared to previous years." The good news, though, is "satisfaction with SST seems to be increasing year-over-year (from 40 per cent top two box satisfaction in 2018 to 60 per cent in 2020).", according to the COPC Consumer report.
If you enable bots to serve customers, there should be a targeted first contact KPI so the customer can self-resolve without necessarily escalating to an agent. If you reduce inbound call volumes, you can afford to increase your average handling time KPIs, so agents can use the time to add more value by cross- or upselling services or products.
In human terms, average handling time can impact agent satisfaction levels. When given too little time to resolve the average call – first time around – agents become frustrated. That can cost you dearly. At a time where skilled resources are in increasingly short supply, retention is ever more critical.
If your technology supports agents working remotely (and if it doesn't in this day and age, then why not?), then you can rapidly bring remote agents, locally and internationally, on board full time or part-time.
More importantly, you can track their individual KPIs as though you were in the same physical office, and identify performance issues as they happen. With every agent equipped with their own dashboard, and the team leader having a real-time view of queue activity status, it's easier for the entire team to understand and achieve goals.
For more information read Digital Island's whitepaper here: info.digitalisland.co.nz/planning-kpi-for-contact-centres-white-paper