Feature Story

Improving Agent Performance for the Multichannel Contact Center

By TMCnet Special Guest
  |  January 01, 2012

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Call centers aren’t what they used to be. Today’s customer inquiries come from every direction – from IVR platforms to e-mail, mobile support, chat, and the latest trend: social media.

Multichannel contact centers increase the complexity of an agent’s job, but there are only so many hours in a day. Where can centers find time to prepare agents to handle these multichannel challenges?

It’s Still All About the Agent

Despite these trends, the agent is still at the center of the customer experience. The introduction of the Internet presented an opportunity to provide customers with the option of self-service support online. Many believed e-mail and chat would replace call center agents.

Today, this question is back with trends like social media. As centers become more multichannel, how will customers respond? Will agents be able to keep up? How will businesses invest in training and developing agents to handle these multichannel interactions?

In a recent Knowlagent webinar with Forrester (News - Alert) Research, Principal Analyst Art Schoeller shared a survey of U.S. online consumers, where 69 percent reported using telephone for customer service support in the past 12 months and the majority being satisfied with their experience. Some 55 percent reported using e-mail for support and 55 percent used online help or FAQs. Keyword searches (29 percent), touchtone IVR (26 percent), chat (19 percent) and online forums (12 percent) were farther down the list of preferred support channels. (To access the webinar visit: http://bit.ly/mNP9Xb.)

The message is clear: Consumers prefer to speak to an agent on the phone over other support channels. Even channels such as e-mail and chat have an agent assist element to them. In order to truly serve their customers, businesses must be available to them.

A New Kind of Agent

As customers choose to engage with businesses in increasingly diverse ways, the agent’s job becomes more complex. With unstructured technologies like social media, agents need problem-solving and analytical skills to proactively make decisions. An online service request can result in a cross-sale opportunity that leads to a conversation over the phone. Agents need training to recognize and effectively respond to these opportunities.

Agent performance impacts a wide range of metrics including first call resolution, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty and retention. As agents are asked to do more, these metrics are put at risk.

Businesses recognize that training and coaching agents still remains their most important investment, but keeping them motivated and engaged continues to be a challenge. A bigger challenge?  Finding time for new training and development in an increasingly complex environment.

Finding the Time

Roughly 60 percent of an agent’s time is spent handling calls. Wait time makes up about 11 percent while shrinkage activities like training and coaching comprise another 12 percent.

Agents spend almost 11 percent of their day waiting for the next call. This wait time typically occurs in two-minute intervals. Believe it or not, these two-minute breaks add up to 5 weeks of the year. This is time that the agent is plugged in, just waiting for the phone to ring.

Thousands of two-minute breaks are not good for the agent, and they are not good for your business. Unproductive wait time costs the industry an estimated $30 billion per year – a cost that is ultimately passed on to your customers!

The good news? Technology can find and aggregate these small increments of time to create larger, more usable segments called active wait time. Agents can use active wait time to complete off-phone activities like training, coaching and team meetings – during wait time.

By turning a fraction of those five weeks of unproductive wait time into active wait time, agents can learn the skills they need to be more efficient and effective in a multichannel environment.

In today’s increasingly complex world, converting idle time into 10-15 minutes of usable active wait time is just another way for you to improve productivity in your center. This is time you are already paying for – why not redirect it to make your agents better?

About Knowlagent

Knowlagent provides the only call center software that increases agent utilization by delivering shrinkage activities during idle time. Knowlagent creates active wait time through dynamically delivered sessions for common shrinkage activities between customer interactions. For more information, visit www.knowlagent.com.

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi