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June 2009 | Volume 28 / Number 1
CALL CENTER Technology

Displays Go Beyond the Readerboard

Electronic displays in contact centers have been about bringing agents’ attention to vital information such as average handle times and calls in queue. Now it is about bringing the data and more of it, to the agents, team leaders, supervisors, managers, and senior management and the business wherever they are.

Electronic displays are no longer on LED and newer LCD and plasma readerboards or wallboards on call floors. They are on screens in break rooms and lobbies. They are also on agents’ and supervisors’ desktops in bricks-and-mortar contact centers and in home offices. They are just beginning to appear on 3G/4G+ smartphones.

The datasets have exponentially expanded to customizable employee performance information, HR policy changes, product updates, traffic and weather to help staff plan their commutes, and feeds from senior executives as well as emergency alerts. The material is becoming presented also with graphics and video rather straight text.

This evolution has been driven by contact center customers and by suppliers. More centers have been changing their thinking from purchasing a product i.e. ‘I need a wallboard’ to ‘what are my staff information needs?’ And the vendors have responded with robust, flexible, feature-rich solutions.

“In the past our customers got anything they wanted as long it was a wallboard,” explains Dan Boehm, vice president sales and marketing, Spectrum. “But today they are saying ‘I don’t want that, it doesn't work for me' for all kinds of reasons. So instead firms like ours have asked them ‘what do you want to accomplish with this kind of solution?’ and with their answers firms like ours have designed and created the tools they sought.”

The LCD/Desktop Revolution
Display suppliers continue to add capabilities to and refine their solutions. Inova Solutions has for example made several improvements such as enhanced messaging capabilities to its digital signage solution, Inova Broadcaster™.

Spectrum’s neXorce product now has an historical reporting module which captures and stores real-time data for historical analysis, trending, and reporting. Users can drill down and across on the data and see how they are doing against goals and what the trends are for the last week, month or year. The XorceView desktop application now allows users to display KPIs and metrics in a handy grid format. Some of its customers have found that grids are easier to see than raw text, and Spectrum has responded in kind.

Symon has launched new software architecture in Symon Enterprise Software (SES) Release 10. Based on Microsoft’s.NET, WPF, WCF, and Silverlight SES 10 permits software plugins for easier development of customer-requested features and functions.

“This new suite of products is a revolutionary advancement in visual communications technologies that will allow us to quickly react to market needs, customer requests and emerging trends,” says Symon president and CEO Charles Ansley.

Beneath these upgrades is a two-step revolution underway in display delivery. The first is that digital LCD and plasma wallboards are displacing the traditional LED readerboards. LCDs/plasma screens can display more information, and in multiple formats including graphics and video whereas LEDs are strictly text. LCDs and plasma boards have longer life cycles, and are lighter, easier to locate, and look ultramodern.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a place for LED boards. Bob Brittan, Senior Product and Marketing Manager, Symon reports that they are unexcelled at and remain popular for displaying basic contact center data, financial information, and trouble tickets open/closed. LEDs also have several advantages over LCDs and plasma screens. They are brighter, can be seen farther away, are more noticeable, and lack the visibility angle and line of sight issues with the newer technologies; to see them you have to face them head on.

Both LEDs and LCDs/plasmas are, however, being rolled over in the second step by desktop displays. Suppliers report that desktops are less expensive by hundreds of dollars because they avoid having to buy and install and maintain separate screens. They also do away with the design challenges of where to locate them to ensure agents’ line of sight and readability especially on large floorplates, and to minimize glare.

Equally if not more importantly desktop delivery now displays new capabilities: principally the ability to provide customized information, such as individual agents’ performance or alerts that the ‘public’ reader/wallboards by definition cannot. Supervisors who see these displays can IM or walk over to agents to congratulate them for excellent performance or suggest ways or even send a link to an eLearning application to bring up their results.

“Desktop displays bridge the gap between quality monitoring and the agents,” says Brittan. “They can help agents self-supervise and managers and supervisors stay on top of their teams and their centers.”

Desktops also enable the same information and messages to be displayed in the growing numbers of home offices as in the bricks-and-mortar sites. That feature makes home working even more viable by integrating both operations.

“With desktop displays home agents can feel that they are right in the offices, seeing what everyone is seeing, getting alerts, and in the process having more common touchpoints with their colleagues,” says Brittan. “That data and connectivity boosts morale and increases teamwork which helps make contact centers successful.”

Desktop displays have a few and resolvable issues. They consume screen real estate and the information can be distracting as it is in the same visual field as contact center and CRM apps that the agents are using. Therefore they have to be carefully set up to avoid productivity-inhibiting annoyances such as frequent pop-ups and appearing in the wrong place on the screen.

To maximize the benefits and to minimize issues, agents should be consulted when installing or changing them. This provides buy-in and helpful insight and advice from the users’ perspectives.

“Desktops approach a personal work space and having a new solution suddenly appear on the agents’ desktops can make them feel that the company does not care about them,” Boehm points out.

The Blended Environment
To get the best of all worlds many contact centers are now creating or looking at blended display environments with LED and/or LCD/plasma signage integrated with desktops, with each method highlighting each others’ benefits while covering for their shortfalls. This technique also leverages existing investments in wallboards. The right mix of media outputs will depend on the contact centers’ needs and goals.

“When LEDs and LCDs are used together contact centers can take advantage of various multimedia tools to engage and inform agents and give supervisors a quick view of changing conditions from anywhere on the floor,” explains Larry Moulis, Engineering Manager, Inova Solutions. “In environments where the physical layout makes signage use impractical, like in home offices, a desktop reporting application can deliver the same critical ACD statistics and event-driven messaging directly onto the agent screens. This kind of desktop solution is now in higher demand as the at-home agent becomes commonplace in many organizations.”

More contact centers are discovering the benefits of expanding displays to additional locations in their buildings, such as break rooms, elevator access areas, and lobbies: wherever employees congregate to deliver vital information. Inova Solutions has been working with a customer to design a system that incorporates emergency messaging and mass notification throughout their corporate campus, using the core contact center solution as the foundation for message delivery.

“Once the initial investment has been made to provide the center with the advantage of visibility to real-time information, it makes sense to extend that coverage to as many areas as possible,” says Moulis.

Mobile displays
With more workers going mobile, including higher level agents, supervisors and managers, electronic displays are gradually following suit. By being alerted of and seeing key information and data, staff can respond faster, seizing opportunities or resolving issues quicker without having to access their desktops or if they are in building, returning to their workfloor.

There are key and tricky issues with mobile displays. The screens are small, which limits the detailed data that can be shown. Suppliers are now addressing it with applications that transmit key information. Some users are reluctant to use these tools because of the costs associated with receiving the message / information. Those two factors preclude using mobile displays for large, generic, and frequent messaging.

For example Spectrum uses multitiered information delivery that minimizes mobile real estate. Its E-View application can send subject line alerts with links to web-based reporting, generic e-mails, raw information and detailed spreadsheet to customers. These can be triggered if individual, team, or center performance exceeds given thresholds.

“To make mobile displays work effectively you have to ensure that the information being transmitted is short, sweet, value-rich and targeted to those users,” explains Boehm.

The following companies participated in the preparation of this article

Inova Solutions

Spectrum (News - Alert)


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