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What Senior Managers Need to Know About Contact Centers

If you’re like many across the contact center profession, you’re about to enter the budgeting cycle for 2015. So what better time to take stock of the understanding your organization’s senior level leadership team has of your contact center’s environment, value, and direction? There’s no way around it: To succeed, your contact center needs commitment and involvement from the top. ICMI has gathered the “must knows” to boost your leadership team’s awareness and understanding in the article summary below:

1. Contact Centers are becoming more complex.

Traditional transaction centers have evolved into more dynamic and holistic operations that contribute to and require the support of departments across the organization. Social media, multimedia, multi-generational customers, economic pressures and other trends and upping the ante.

2. Contact Centers are increasingly important to the organization’s success.

They have become increasingly vital to the organization’s ability to understand and serve diverse customers across many access channels, capture marketplace intelligence and work across departments to improve products and services.

3. Contacts “bunch up”

In any center that handles at least some inbound services, the workflow dynamics are unique. Customers decide when and how they will contact the organization, and the resulting work will not arrive in a nice, even flow. Staffing and productivity issues must be considered in that context.

4. There’s generally no industry standard for accessibility.

No single service level or response time objective makes sense for every contact center. Different organizations will have different costs, customers and brand objectives. However, there are objectives that will make sense for your organization, ones that fit your customers’ needs and your organization’s brand.

5. There’s a direct link between resources and results.

You may need 42 people handling contacts to achieve a service level of 90 percent answer in 20 seconds, given your customer workload. If you have only 35 people and are told to hit 90/20, that’s not going to work. And “staffing on the cheap” is expensive, leading to high agent occupancy, burnout and turnover, unhappy customers, poor word of mouth, channel hopping, and other direct and indirect costs.

6. When service level improves, “productivity” declines.

Productivity is often measured as occupancy (time spent handling calls versus waiting for calls), and when service level goes up, occupancy goes down, as do the average number of contacts handled per agent. Translation: In any center that is achieving a good service level, some agents will be waiting idle some of the time, given random call arrival.

7. You will need to schedule more staff than base staff required.

Schedules should realistically reflect the many things that can keep agents from handling contacts, e.g., training, breaks, holidays, collateral work and others. In many organizations, these factors are becoming more prevalent as the increasingly complex environment requires more training and research/development time.

8. Summary reports don’t give an accurate picture of what’s really happening.

Reports that average activity may suggest that performance is just fine, and yet concealing serious problem areas. Those producing and interpreting data must know what they’re really looking at.

9. Quality and service level work together.

Though they are often presented as tradeoffs, service level is a prerequisite to getting contacts in and done. And better quality is the key to a better service level, by upping first call resolution, reducing repeat contacts and picking up intelligence that helps improve processes, products and services across the organization.

10. To fulfill their potential, contact centers need support from across the organization.

First and foremost, they need commitment and involvement from senior management—to ensure that they get the support and resources they need from across the rest of the organization, and, in turn, that they deliver the strategic value they can and must.

The best way to understand the unique customer contact environment is to spend some time in it. These are issues you’ll need to continually reinforce—but they tend to come to life when experienced first hand. Senior-level executives who have made the effort to understand contact center issues and processes invariably come away with better insight into evolving customer requirements and interdependencies across the larger organization.


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