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How To Optimize Your Team To Provide An Excellent Customer Experience While Controlling Cost

Chuck Ciarlo

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Now more than ever, CEOs are focused on customer experience and controlling costs—and making sure their contact centers are fully optimized goes a long way in accomplishing goals around both.

The reason, of course, being that it’s expensive to employ people full-time to handle these types of tasks, and even more expensive (and difficult) to make sure people aren’t overworked or under-utilized. So then, to master this balance, business leaders must understand proper workforce optimization.

After 30 years of operating in the contact center space, here are three things I’ve learned to keep in mind when it comes to getting the most from your team.

1. It’s all about having the right number of people in the right place, at the right time—and making sure they have the right blend of skills.

If you are running a bilingual contact center, and you have French agents who speak both French and Spanish, you need to make sure those bilingual agents are staffed in a way where they can make full use of their diverse skill set. Because if you have them there when they’re not needed, your costs are going to be higher and your service level is going to be lower. So workforce management and optimization is all about looking closely at who is capable of doing what, where, when, and how.

You can do this through proper forecasting and optimal scheduling.

Looking at things like how many customer interactions a given agent can manage in a day, week, and month, and also recording one to evaluate quality can give you a tremendous amount of insight into how efficiently the contact center is running. 

2. When building optimal schedules, you want to make sure you are factoring in all the actual work.

One of the big mistakes people make, and this goes for nearly all types of companies, is trying to optimize employee time without first understanding everything that the employee is responsible for.

In short: you can’t measure or improve what you don’t track. 

So within contact centers, on the simplest level, this means knowing the average handle time between an agent and customer. From there, given your expectation of how many calls are going to come in and the average handle time per customer, you could figure how many agents you’re going to need on staff in order to meet the demands of the business.

However, if in that math you don’t factor in the emails each agent receives per day, or you’re not factoring in chats or some other type of omnichannel or back-office workload, then your forecast is going to be incredibly inaccurate. And no matter how you try to schedule your staff, your thesis is going to be flawed—which is going to lead to bloated costs and poor service quality. So when you’re doing your forecasting, it’s exceedingly important that you include all the work someone will be responsible for, including exceptions such as breaks, time off, etc.

Automated workforce management applications can handle all of these things.

3. You have to be actively measuring the quality of each customer interaction and setting goals properly.

Whether you’re outsourcing to a contact center or building a staff in-house, you need to be able to measure the effectiveness of your staff.

One way to do this would be having an automated performance management solution that’s looking at each transaction and the interactions the agent has handled, and comparing the key metrics to their peers or other teams within the company. For example, you may have a goal for an agent to handle as many calls as possible, but what if those calls are not resolving the issues for the customers? An agent can very easily answer a call and then hang up and not resolve the issue. On paper, this agent is handling more calls than anyone else. But behind the scenes, they are giving customers a terrible experience.

This is why it’s so important to set goals properly, and understanding what you’re really trying to accomplish. This usually means giving agents a range and letting them know that while speed is a metric, so is service level—and showing them how both will be measured.

Now, the last thing I’ll share here is that contact centers are constantly evolving.

That’s why they’re called “contact centers” and not just “call centers.” Especially today, older generations may still prefer to call businesses directly and talk through an issue over the phone, but younger generations are looking to get in touch using other channels such as text messaging or social media. They don’t want to call. So being flexible enough to interact and track all different types of communication channels is becoming increasingly important for businesses.

This way, no matter what channel the request comes in, your business can either handle it in-house or outsource it to the proper contact center.

For the past 40 years, I have been starting and building service and technology based businesses—two of which were successfully acquired. My first venture was a full-service direct marketing company called U.S. Business Services. This business ultimately inspired my second venture, 800 Direct, which was a BPO that provided 24/7 contact center and customer relationship management services for Fortune 1000 companies—including Sprint, Hallmark, Bose, Barnes & Noble, Hasbro, and many others. After learning the ins and outs of the BPO world, I saw an opportunity to bring a workforce optimization solution to the market to make contact centers more efficient. So, in 2002, I founded Monet Software to do just that. For the first 10 years operating Monet, I identified partners and outsourced software development to companies located in India and Bulgaria, where I traveled frequently. I then decided to launch my own engineering and development center in south eastern Europe. Over the next two decades, Monet became a global provider for contact centers of all sizes and, with Monet WFO Live, delivered a complete cloud-based suite to automate workforce management, call recording, quality assurance, agent analytics, and more. In 2019, Monet was acquired by enterprise leader Verint Systems, where I continue to run the day-to-day operations of Monet. I am a passionate entrepreneur, senior executive, and investor.

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