Call Center Management Feature Article
May 27, 2009
Another Tip to Improve Call Center Management
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet
Call centers have always had time clocks – it’s the obvious way to ensure agents are showing up for their shifts on time, that they aren’t taking long lunches and that they aren’t leaving early. Even in the early days of call centers, agents were expected to “punch in” and “punch out,” sometimes using an old mechanical time-card clock such as might be found in a factory or warehouse.
But using a time clock to keep track of agents’ comings and goings is only half the battle. Just because an agent is clocked in doesn’t mean he or she is on the phone, serving customers. There are always those agents who are agonizingly slow to get to their desks – they have to get a cup of water, a coffee, go to the bathroom or chit-chat with colleagues as they go down the aisle toward their cube. Getting these agents on the phones sooner can be critical to improving customer service and, what’s more, to maximizing agent productivity.
So what’s the best way to ensure agent time is being used efficiently? Simple: You compare ACD logon time to time-clock entries.
In two previous articles in this series we talked about the importance of reducing shrinkage and improving schedule adherence. Related to these two important aspects of call center management is the topic of ACD logon time. To ensure agent time is being properly utilized, you need to make sure agents are logged on and ready for calls coordinating with the clock time. You may even consider using the ACD agent log-on and log-out times for payroll – dependant on the culture and procedures you have established.
Today’s workforce management solutions, such as Monet Software’s Monet WFM Live, an on-demand, fully Web-based offering, allow call center managers to quickly and easily compare clock time to log-on time. This is achieved through integration with the call center’s ACD. Call center managers who are still using spreadsheets to schedule agents have a more difficult time accomplishing this, as clock time and ACD reports need to be run separately and one imported into the other in order for agent issues to be quickly and effectively uncovered (and then reconciled).
Of course, you should let your agents know that this will become a new part of your management practices, so that they know what to expect. You might want to explain that this is necessary to ensure that everyone is doing the same amount of work – you’re doing it to motivate those agents who aren’t as productive to step it up a notch. You might also tell them that it’s essential in order to meet project goals. Then you can build parameters – for example, you might allow five minutes between clock-in time and ACD log-on time, in order to give the agent a reasonable amount of time to get into their seat and log on. You might also decide not to take disciplinary action until an agent’s fifth “violation” – whatever rules you decide to establish, it is essential that you share them with the agents ahead of time, before implementing them, and hold an open dialogue about the policies you are about to enforce.
Many companies have reduced their agent workforces in their call centers, which has made it all the more important for call center managers to ensure that agent time is being maximized. Using a workforce management solution to compare clock time to ACD time is one of numerous strategies for improving call center management and customer service, as well as holding down operational costs.
Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard