Contact centre operators don’t have an easy life. They’re constantly having to juggle a variety of requirements that don’t naturally gel together well. For instance, while everyone wants to provide a great customer experience and retain a motivated workforce, the need to increase agent productivity, reduce costs, and maintain industry compliance can get in the way.

Then on top of that, the holiday season brings its own set of pressures. Staff numbers may be down due to vacation and depending on the business or industry, seasonal fluctuations suddenly become hard to predict.

While no-one should ever pretend that technology has all the answers, it can certainly help contact centres manage staff productivity, even in the dog days of summer. Here are a few techniques we’ve seen some of the UK’s contact centres use:

They focus on better use of time, not just making sure staff are busy

Maintaining a productive contact centre with a high volume of outbound calls, as well as a fast response to inbound calls, is everyone’s aim. However, focusing on the amount of time agents spend on the phone does not necessarily equate to greater productivity. What’s more important is to have as many ‘successful’ call outcomes as possible and less wasted time.

They’ve got smarter about tackling the answering machine problem.

Lots of contact centres abandoned answering machine detection (AMD) technology a while back, but an increasing number are now adopting the latest evolution in AMD technology, which makes sure that fewer answering machines are reached.

So, less time is spent making calls that don’t get through to a ‘live’ recipient (tests have shown a productivity uplift of between 10 and 40 per cent is achievable), with the added bonus that contact centres find it easier to stay within Ofcom’s specified 3% ‘nuisance call’ threshold. If staff numbers are down due to people taking leave to be with their children during the summer holidays, then this development in AMD makes better use of remaining staff’s time.

They match agents and callers

Whether a contact centre is busy or slower than usual in the summer and regardless of staffing levels, matching the right caller to the right agent makes perfect sense. This can help to ensure a more productive call (again, getting away from the focus on minutes) by routing calls to agents according to either pre-defined skill sets, or caller history. Should a customer have a designated account handler for example, they can be connected to that agent in preference to anyone else to ensure a consistent experience. This approach also helps ensure new agents aren’t exposed to calls they do not yet have the required experience to handle.

They monitor the ‘sentiment’ of a call

A good call, one that takes a length of time acceptable to both parties and which has the right outcome clearly depends on good communications between the customer and the agent. Of course, any good contact centre set-up will already have team leaders monitoring agent performance and ideally, that should be happening in real-time.

In addition, the latest advances in speech analytics technology make it possible to identify key words and phrases that should be used and ensure that agents are keeping to pre-defined scripts. It also means that analysis of the best performing agents calls can be used to set benchmarks for improving the call outcomes of others.

Another really useful feature is the ability to measure the amount of silence during a call, for example where an agent has to switch systems to check a customer record. Clearly, silence during a call is unproductive time, so monitoring and addressing this can have a significant benefit when it comes to increasing overall call productivity.

They sort out problems in real-time

Live wallboarding is another technique where the progress of a campaign can be remotely monitored and any issues detected and reported before they escalate, for example to unacceptable waiting times. These could include a sudden surge in incoming calls (where call blending really comes into its own), or if calls are taking an unusually long time to complete. So, as a result, problems can be nipped in the bud, rather than being examined at a later time or date, when it is too late to do anything about them.

The holiday season can be a challenge for contact centres in all kinds of ways, but technology can certainly contribute towards making it more manageable. So now might be the ideal time to have a re-think about making the most of those technology features that tick all the boxes: compliance, cost efficiencies, staff motivation, a great customer experience and agent productivity.

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