Call Center Workforce

4 Essential Components of Your Workforce Optimization Software

Delivering a positive customer experience is no small feat ­– there are a lot of moving parts that have to work together, with workforce optimization (WFO) being a major component. When considering which WFO suite to go with, keep the following four must-haves in mind.

  1. Integration with Existing Systems

The WFO system you use should be compatible with the rest of your contact center. Cloud WFO solutions are typically the easiest to integrate ­– they can be custom-fitted to your contact center, prepped and tested before going live, and even run along with your current WFO solution as you make the switch so there’s no downtime.

  1. Creation of Reliable and Adaptive Schedules

With the right WFO solution, scheduling becomes much easier. Your WFO software should generate schedules with enough agents to cover daily shifts, accounting for agent requests like certain days or times off, flex shifts, or work-from-home shifts. At the same time, your software should review shift data to accommodate for high and low patterns, which will affect things like breaks and training sessions. Your WFO solution should also be flexible enough to adapt when something unforeseen occurs that requires a quick change in the workforce.

  1. Real-Time Schedule Adherence

In order for management to know if an agent’s daily activity is in line with contact center objectives, you’ll need to see reports about schedule adherence. Your WFO solution should monitor and record real-time adherence, tracking log in and log out times, plus lunch breaks and other types of breaks. For contact centers that have out-of-the-box needs, like after-hours coverage, your WFO solution should let you create custom guidelines.

  1. Accurate and Robust Reporting

WFO (and just about everything else at your contact center) revolves around reports ­– otherwise, it’s very difficult to know what’s going on in your business. Even the best managers can’t be everywhere all the time, which is why they rely on reporting. The data that’s gathered will help you figure out where changes need to be made and what type of training needs to occur moving forward. Comprehensive reports will help you make the right workforce decisions.

The philosophy of WFO ­– shifting the workforce for the sake of optimal productivity ­– has been around for a long time, but actually embracing this philosophy by seeking out the tools to achieve it is still new for many contact centers.

Why Your Contact Center Needs Remote Agents

When agents are twiddling their thumbs because calls aren’t coming in, it costs the contact center money. When a barrage of calls come in and wait times skyrocket, the customer experience drops. Having the correct capacity of agents without over-staffing is a tug-of-war that every contact center has had to play.

Even with insightful analytics, you can’t perfectly predict how much activity your contact center is going to have. There will be unexpected lulls and spikes in activity regardless of what the numbers prepare you for.

The goal of flexible WFM is to increase the contact center’s agility while maintaining a high level of customer service.

Traditional vs. Flexible Workforces

One way to increase workforce flexibility is to have a number of remote agents who are able to work from home. Here’s how that can help:

Hold Times

Agents in a traditional contact center can easily get overloaded with calls, leaving a lot of customers on hold. Call abandon rates increase while service quality decreases. Remote agents are often able to deliver quicker call resolution.

Ramp-Up Time

Ramp-up time in a traditional contact center can take weeks, but on-demand remote agents are able to ramp up in just a few hours.

Scalability

If there’s an unexpected rush of communication or a shift has to be covered in an emergency, the resources at a traditional contact center can’t always scale as quickly as needed. With the support of a remote workforce, though, agents can cover gaps in even a non-standard schedule at the last minute.

Encourage Customers to Use Other Channels

Unexpected spikes are going to happen. As you continue managing spikes, particularly the ones you can predict, create a contingency plan for the spikes you don’t see coming. One way to do this is to encourage customers to use other channels, like chat, email, SMS and social media.

This can limit the number of incoming calls and may also lower the number of times a customer reaches out to customer service before being helped. For example, if you have a team of agents providing social media support, they can connect with a customer after the first complaint and possibly solve the issue before is escalates.

Even contact centers that have always had rigid staffing measures can see the benefits of a flexible model, which saves resources during downtime and allows for adjustments on-the-fly.

What’s on Your Supervisor Screen? Agent KPIs to Watch

In your day-to-day contact center operations, everything under the sun can be measured, reported on, and popped to your screen. When you’re bombarded by data, only the most-used KPIs deserve a spot on your agent desktop. How do you know which KPIs are the most valuable to your team, contact center, and business?

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI), also called a metric, is a value that you can measure, one that shows just how effective your business is at achieving its goals. If your top business goal is to boost customer satisfaction, for example, you’ll probably want to keep an eye on KPIs such as call abandonment rates, survey responses, average handle time, and so forth. Contact centers use metrics to collect specific data from every interaction, service, queue, agent, survey, and more.

In any contact center, the real-time metrics that supervisors use on a daily basis generally fall into common categories, such as these:

  • Agent metrics
  • Campaign-specific metrics
  • List metrics
  • Service metrics
  • Skill metrics
  • Team metrics

Nestled in each category, there can be dozens, if not hundreds, of metrics, and the ones that matter really depend on your company’s goals.

Your Agents, At-a-Glance

Do you know what your agents are doing, right now? Supervisors need dashboards and wallboards with real-time KPIs that signal which agents and teams need to be monitored. And when there are 50+ KPIs to choose from, how do you know which ones are the most important? The more metrics you add to a dashboard, the less useful a dashboard becomes. In this blog, we will focus on some of the most-useful real-time agent metrics for contact center supervisors to watch.

Agent State

An agent’s state indicates whether or not the agent can handle an interaction. It may seem basic, but this information is very useful to the supervisor monitoring a team of agents working both in-house and remotely. Agent State provides an at-a-glance look at whether agents are ready, not ready, busy, idle, or doing after-call work. For agents in the Not Ready state, this metric also provides the reason (e.g., lunch, break, meeting, etc.).

Agent State shows what every logged in agent on your team is doing right now. If all your agents are busy, you know why the queue is filling up with calls, or why callers are still on hold. Likewise, if all your agents are ready yet the queue is backed up and customers are not being helped, you have reason to suspect your services are not running.

Time in State

Time in State is how long (in minutes and seconds) an agent has been ready, not ready, and so forth. Generally, supervisors will know what duration is acceptable for service calls, chats, breaks, and after-call work, and the Time in State metric will give them a cursory view of who’s working as expected, who’s slacking, and who needs help. For example, the supervisor may want to check in on an agent who’s been in the Not Ready state for 24 minutes, with no reason given.

ACW Time

After-call work (ACW) consists of all the tasks that agents must do before they can complete the interaction, tasks such as setting a disposition, creating contacts, writing notes, setting follow-ups, and more. These tasks are important but tedious. Agents in the ACW state cannot handle a new interaction until this work is done.

ACW Time can show you which agents and teams are not accepting new interactions because they’re still working on the old. High ACW time can indicate it’s time to relieve your agents of this type of work and automate the tasks instead.

Sentiment

Displayed as faces that are happy, neutral, or angry, sentiment provides a quick glimpse at the general mood and satisfaction level of your customers, in real time. It’s not the sentiment of your agents. Happy faces mean happy customers, and angry ones spell low customer satisfaction and poor reviews.

When agents chat with a customer, for example, the system is utilizing Natural Language Understanding and other cognitive technologies to assess the customer’s satisfaction level. Positive keywords, statements, and expressions become happy faces in the supervisor’s monitoring screen and in the agent’s active interaction. Sentiment is also saved in interaction records and chat transcripts such as this.

The sentiment of an unhelpful chat session would immediately appear on the agent’s screen within the chat as well as on the supervisor’s screen. A slew of angry faces in the supervisor’s list view of active agent interactions means the supervisor should monitor those agents and step in to help.

Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is the average result of surveys where the customer satisfaction question has been answered. The best way to know how your customers feel about your service, agents, products, or anything else, is to ask them.

Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the percentage of points for all surveys where a response was given for the contact satisfaction question. The percentage is calculated out of the number of interactions, where surveys exist, by subtracting the percentage of promoters (values 9 and 10) by the percentage of detractors (values 0 to 6).

You want to have a high NPS at all times. Customers are more likely to respond positively to a contact satisfaction question if they had a good experience with a knowledgeable, helpful agent. For contact centers, NPS is key way to measure success

Contact Center Driven by Insights

Agent metrics provide detailed information about agent performance and customer satisfaction. These KPIs provide the insights you need for improving agent engagement and elevating the customer experience.

After all, customer experience hinges on empowering agents with the right training, tools, and service model. Bright Pattern’s omnichannel contact center software helps empower agents with unique tools that facilitate better conversations, boost agent performance, and deliver higher returns in customer satisfaction and agent engagement. Having a unified and powerful agent desktop that displays important KPIs helps to keep supervisors focused on teams and agents focused on customers.

You can learn more about how monitoring agent metrics can help improve agent engagement and customer service by downloading the Bright Pattern e-book.

3 Ways to Prioritize Your Agents for a Better Customer Experience

A great customer experience isn’t coincidental. It’s carefully crafted, highly intentional and, most importantly, it’s hard.

A mere 8 percent of customers think they’re receiving an awesome customer experience, according to a study from Bain & Company. And of those who have a really great experience, 68 percent of them attribute it to a pleasant agent, according to another study from American Express. Furthermore, 62 percent said the agents’ knowledge and resourcefulness was key to their positive experience.

You know knowledgeable and empowered agents provide a better customer experience, yet you’re still plagued by insane turnover rates, frustrated workers, inefficient workflows and misaligned processes in the contact center. Why?! And what can you do to fix it?

Start prioritizing your agent experience.

Think about it, when your agents feel they’re working well – when they’re efficient, effective and aligned – they work harder. They know what your expectations are and how they’re impacting the greater vision of your company. Agents that are motivated, engaged, and empowered are happier and more satisfied with their jobs. And, they’ll provide better customer care.  They can see how their actions impact a real, live human by creating a better customer experience.

But if they’re stuck in a broken process, fumbling through outdated technology paired with a manager that has too much on their plate, their ability to drive positive experiences flounders into a sea of nothingness. And if they’re frustrated, the results on your team morale are toxic.

You’re searching high and low for coachable moments, without any time to actually coach, amplifying the negativity. And to top it off, the outdated tech stack your center’s using is mismatched with what your customers are using. For instance, your customers (and your agents, for that matter) are used to texting, sending pictures or videos, chatting on a live chat or using social media to communicate, switching from one place to another without losing context.

But your business is not.

It’s time for contact centers to put agents’ success at the top of the priority list. Start building your agents’ confidence and empowerment. But what exactly does agent success look like? Here are five ways to prioritize your agents and improve their (and your) success.

Three Ways to Prioritize Your Agents

  1. Start (and continue) coaching

The single most important thing you can do as a contact center manager is coach your team. But managers are struggling to train their people well. On average, managers are spending 53 percent of their week looking for coachable moments rather than actually coaching. Yet, studies show frequent touchpoints, with specific examples increase employee satisfaction, engagement and performance. And, it creates a culture of trust company-wide.

  1. Use the right tools

Efficient tools and processes increase agent productivity and satisfaction. Think about it: If your agents have to fumble through a messy process, touch eight different tools in under three minutes, just to find a clue to answer the customer’s problem, they’re going to get a little flustered. But offering up the right tools (with coachable moments built in), with processes meant to enhance the workflow, not stifle it, creates more effective and efficient agents – and happier customers.

  1. Empower them

Empowered agents work with more autonomy. They see more first contact resolutions and have clarity in where they’re impacting your company’s vision. Workers place a high value on employee empowerment, whether they’re in a contact center or somewhere else in the company. It’s simple, they want to feel supported and respected. They’re hungry to perform at or above your customers’ expectations, but they need the right tools to be successful and effective.

Sharpen has created a solution designed to remove the inefficiencies that are plaguing your agents, their quality of life and their ability to provide a positive customer experience every time. Join their webcast as they talk about key trends driving new opportunities for agent empowerment and how contact centers can take advantage ASAP to improve their agents’ experience.

Trends in Agent Empowerment

Although businesses highlight the importance of customer service and retention, customer service managers continue to report an overwhelming amount of issues. Alarming turnover rates, frustrated workers, inefficiency and inadequacy are some of the issues plaguing contact centers today. The root of the problem? Agent success, or lack thereof.

Think about it – when employees feel they are working efficiently, effectively, and with constant support from supervisors, they work harder. In contact centers today, agents feel frustrated. Too often, contact centers will use outdated software, leading agents to become frustrated and be less efficient with their time. The lack of support from supervisors is apparent, while agents rarely have any means to track their progress, leaving the agent confused and directionless. To top it off, outdated technology used by most contact centers is mismatched with the technology used by the general public today including SMS & MMS text, live chat (not with a robot), social media, and way more.

It is time for contact centers to put their agents’ success first in their line of priorities. In order to do this, they must focus on empowering their agents. What exactly does agent empowerment look like? Empowered agents have access to the tools they need to do an excellent job, are fully supported by their supervisors, are capable of making decisions for themselves, and are well respected by their colleagues.

Millennials entering the workforce place a high value on employee empowerment whether in the contact center, or in another industry. It’s simple – they want to feel supported, respected, and feel as though they have the tools they need to be successful and effective. These tools include a way to track progress, up-to-date technology, effective training programs and constant feedback.

Sharpen has developed a holistic solution designed to eliminate common inefficiencies that ultimately impact the agent, their quality of life, and their ability to provide a perfect customer experience. Check out their webcast on August 2 as they discuss key trends driving new opportunities for agent empowerment, and how contact centers can take advantage ASAP to improve their agents’ experience.

Why Happy Agents Make Happy Customers

Guest Blog From Bright Pattern

Customer service agents are often the primary point of contact with your customers. It makes sense that you want your customer-facing employees to be helpful, enthusiastic, and happy to be doing their jobs. After all, your company’s reputation, satisfaction ratings, and profitability are at stake.

So how do you create a contact center environment that motivates agents?

Live by the Agent Empowerment Model

Through a recent survey of contact center decision makers, Bright Pattern identified the top three strategies for creating engaged agents.

Of our survey respondents,

  • 70% said to improve agent training
  • 64% said to provide agents with better tools
  • 49% said to offer better self-service

At Bright Pattern, we believe in the agent empowerment model, which means providing agents with the tools and technology they need to succeed. This model aligns with our survey results, and it’s been driving our roadmap since the beginning.

Here’s what the agent empowerment model looks like in practice:

  • Declutter the agent desktop with an innovative UI.
  • Give agents easy-to-use technology for automatic customer recognition.
  • Eliminate mundane transactions with AI and provide agents with AI Assist.
  • Automate workflows.
  • Limit downtime with active-active technology.

How Everyone Benefits

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits you can expect when your contact center operations revolve around the agent empowerment model.

Higher Customer Ratings and Sales

According to Gallup, highly engaged teams achieve, on average, a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales.

Faster, More Efficient Problem Resolution

Agents who feel more valued by their employers are more motivated to resolve calls satisfactorily, find creative solutions, and improve their own knowledge and customer relationship skills.

 

They have access to a knowledge base and can, at any time, reach out to subject matter experts to resolve customer problems faster and more accurately.

 

Less Employee Turnover

The costs of replacing and retraining agents can be a tremendous drawdown on operational budgets, and the loss of institutional knowledge when an experienced agent walks out the door also impacts customer service center performance.

Using AI to automate frequent requests and routine tasks makes the agents’ work less transactional. This increases agent satisfaction because agents can focus on helping people.

Higher Customer Experience

Empowered agents also have the right tools to provide a consistent customer experience and resolve issues fast, on any channel, any time. They depend on a single, integrated application combining unified communication tools, access to information, knowledge bases, and customer data in context of the moment, all of which ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

Get Started

By making some smart investments, you can vastly improve agents’ attitude, abilities, job commitment, and engagement levels—all of which have proven positive impacts on how they serve your customers.

3 Tips for Creating a Captivating Employee Culture

Employee culture has an enormous impact on the success of your company. When you’re able to create a stellar employee culture, your agents aren’t the only ones who will notice ­– your customers will love what they see, too, which will drive sales and business success.

Startups have it a bit easier because they can create their employee culture from the very beginning. If you have an established brand, it may be trickier to shake things up. It is possible, though. Here’s how:

Create a culture that reflects you.

You are your brand, and your brand is you. The elements that drove you to create your company are the same ones you should mark as most important for your company culture. Are you incredibly creative and innovative? Do you appreciate people who work hard and then play hard? Do you think that a relaxed workspace, where people are calm and centered, is the best way to accomplish tasks? Do you believe that collaboration is the best way to advance your company? Think about those questions when you’re hiring employees.

Take the lessons from the past and apply them now.

No matter where you are in your corporate journey ­– a first-time founder of a brand new startup or a seasoned entrepreneur in the middle of her tenth venture ­– you’ve learned something in the past that you can apply here. If you’ve only ever been an employee, think about what did and did not work for you at your previous jobs. If you’ve managed others in the past, think about the reactions you got when you launched new programs or instated certain rules.

Get everyone on board.

In order for an employee culture to truly permeate the entire company, everyone needs to be on board. Take a tip from JetBlue for getting everyone off on the right foot. When they hire new team members, they’re invited, along with their spouses, to orientation. Yes, they watch brand videos during orientation, but they also get to fly simulators and indulge in delicious meals. JetBlue introduces everyone to a specific, brand-centric culture, which sets the tone for their entire work experience.

Employee culture is the base for how everything functions in your company, from interactions between employees to customer service. No matter how long you’ve been in business, you can create and evolve your company culture starting now.

Is Gamification Right for Your Contact Center?

Gamification might be a contact center buzzword right now, but the fact that it’s trendy doesn’t make it right for your agents. In order for gamification to be successful, you have to have analytics, agents and management all on the same page, and your team members’ personalities have to be more cohesive than contrasting. Here are five factors to determine whether or not gamification is a good choice for you.

First Things First: What is Gamification?

Gamification refers to game mechanics in the contact center that are used to motivate employees. Agents compete to finish objectives before others. Competition can be based on practically anything, but should focus on the areas that need the most improvement. These could include hours worked, average speed to answer, first call resolution, total talk time, after-call work time, or percentage of calls segmented by type. Rewards are doled out, ranging from leaderboard ranking to badges, trophies and other physical prizes.

5 Gamification Considerations

  1. Everyone will have to see each other’s scores in order to benchmark their own score and spur on the competition. Agents will then know that the winner was fairly chosen, which instills confidence and trust in management. To do this, though, you’ll need a robust, reliable reporting system that includes the metrics you want to track.
  2. Several agents must participate, not just a select few, and they have to be agents who are able to engage in healthy rivalry. You may want to create a team building program before deciding if gamification is right for your contact center.
  3. You’ll need a system setup to detect and report cheating. Some agents may try to make it look like they’re doing more just for the sake of winning.
  4. New hires do well with gamification because it can help them learn faster and retain information better. However, they might be at the bottom of the scoreboard when learning because they’re competing against seasoned agents, and that could inhibit their confidence. Carefully choose the competitions that new hires are included in, and consider having them only compete against other new hires, which will level the playing field.
  5. Gamification usually requires some amount of supervision. Consider how realistic it is for management to get involved based on their availability.

Have you setup gamification in your contact center? We want to hear about your experience!

 

How Can Your Business Relate to the Millennial Community?

Millennials are arguably the most rapidly-evolving and flippant consumer base in the industry. It is a challenge in itself to understand what they desire in a product, and even moreso how to please them in the aspect of customer service.

In reality, millennials just want what everyone wants. All people generally tend to want to do the right thing, belong to a group, and avoid conflict. The difference between this generation and others is not their access to a plethora of information, but their reliance on that access of information. They rely on their online community just as much as we rely on our immediate neighborhood community.

Think of the neighborhood community you grew up in. Not so long ago, neighbors relied on each other for borrowing spices, taking care of pets, and generally looking after one another. Millennials look to devices, which many of them have grown up using, as their own community. Just as your neighbors would, these devices recommend bars & restaurants, barbers, dog walkers, carpools, and most importantly, connect them with like-minded people.

What a successful business looks like in the millennial community:

Then: Strong values. Now: Progressive values, and being able to exemplify each one.

Gusto, a payroll software company based out of San Francisco and Denver, is an excellent example of a company that makes their progressive values clear, and leads by example to see them through. Co-founder Tomer London took a two-month paternity leave after his daughter was born. In writing, any business can value a “work-life balance”, yet pressure their employees to work 12-hour work days. London takes it upon himself to set the example in his company, and follow through with the values he sets in place.

These types of stories circulate in the millennial community. In the click of a button, millennials can find exactly what people are saying about your business, whether these people are customers or employees. They rely very heavily on these reviews and take them very seriously: they will not be your customer if they don’t like what they see.

Then: Strong, ethical leaders. Now: Strong ethical leaders, and being able to connect with them.

Speaking of leading by example, executives of businesses can be reviewed just as much, if not more, than the business itself. Glassdoor is one of the most prominent resources when it comes to researching businesses and jobs. In the snapshot below, you can see how employees review Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and actually read through each review.

To millennials, the ability to connect with the leaders of a business is crucial. For the millennial employees in a company, feeling ethically and morally aligned with the person they are working for drives productivity and purpose. The same goes for consumers. With business leaders under a constant spotlight, it is easier for consumers to decide with whom they’d like to do business. After Uber’s many PR disasters, and CEO Travis Kalanick’s inability to mend them, the hashtag #DeleteUber went viral, causing about 500,000 users to reportedly delete their accounts.

The force of the online millennial community is strong. Your business is under a spotlight, but that doesn’t have to be frightening. There is no secret code to learning what millennials like and what they don’t like. Your business does not have to look like Hillary Clinton trying to appeal to young voters through cringe-worthy and outdated slang. In fact, a majority of the Democratic millennials who did not vote for Hillary simply felt that she was untrustworthy.

The millennial generation holds businesses to a higher, more personal standard. If they feel comfortable doing business with you and trust you, chances are they will let their online “neighbors” know. On the other hand, if you’re deemed untrustworthy or unpleasant to do business with, they will certainly make sure their online “neighbors” know to never do business with you.

Fortifying the Career Path of the Contact Center Agent

Employers are experiencing a serious talent shortage, according to a 2016-2017 report from ManpowerGroup. Part of this could be because more and more employees want to work for an employer who will help them advance their career, and they’re happy to leave an employer who prevents them from doing so.

At the same time, contact centers are harnessing the power of AI and chatbots, eliminating the need for agents to perform repetitious, monotonous tasks. As a result, the agent’s role is becoming elevated. Customers want more adept service, too – when they have a complex issue, they want customized service from a knowledgeable, human agent who can creatively problem-solve and who is empowered to make important decisions. This circles right back to benefiting the contact center, because the way to stand out from the competition is to offer top-notch customer service.

Due to the changing workforce, smart contact centers are giving agents the opportunity to advance in their role as well as their career. As management puts trust and faith in their employees, agents feel that their long-term success is important to the company, which improves their performance and loyalty. Even if customer service agents move out of their current job and into a higher position, they bring with them in-depth customer knowledge that they gleaned during their time as an agent.

Even if an agent isn’t yet ready to move up and out of their position, they can become more essential to the contact center and more helpful to the customer by become an SME, or a subject matter expert. SMEs are the go-to agents who have deep understanding of a specific process or product. The SME can help train agents in the same field, deal with escalating calls, and enrich the self-service knowledge base. They may also be asked to work closely with other departments at the contact center, like marketing or product design.

If you’re unsure of where to start when it comes to elevating your workforce, start by asking agents what they’re most interested in. Let your employees shadow parts of the business that they want to know more about, then hold a meeting with the employee to learn about their experience. If your employee shows a strong interest in a different or more advanced area, speak with management to find out how to best accommodate the agent.