Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Call Centers Can Be Wasteful

I know, it’s an attention-seeking headline so don't take offense. Although it’s true, it’s not deliberate and if you think about it from a human resource standpoint, there really IS a significant amount of time that your agents are forced into wasting for things like redundant data entry, manual activities, inefficient system navigation and much more.

Ah, but there’s help!

There are new technologies that allow you to eliminate this massive waste in the contact center. Companies are realizing tremendous ROI – close to millions or tens of millions of dollars – so why not see for yourself what I'm talking about – Desktop Automation.

You see, Desktop Automation is the new secret of the world’s top class call centers – and you’ve probably never even heard of it! Yet, Desktop Automation is now the number one way to eliminate the costly waste I am talking about. So what do I really mean by “waste”?

Just one example of waste is perhaps, at the end of every call, your agents are trained to “manually” enter notes about the call and the type of activity that was performed to service the customer.  Sometimes known as “Call wrap-up” or “Disposition Notes,” it can be a pretty time-consuming, yet essential part of the customer interaction. Notes are important but it is wasted time if your agents are having to take the time to enter this data themselves.

To give a bit more clarity on this “wasted” manual effort, perhaps it’s easier to break this down to a more Monty Python like “sketch”:

Johnny (Trainer): “So Billy (Agent), what we want you to do, is type in what you did on the computer after each call, in that little box there.”

Billy: “Why?”

Johnny: “Why? We want to make sure all of the activity is included on the customer account so the next time the customer calls, we know how the interaction with them went”

Billy: “No, I mean, why do *I* have to tell the computer what I did? Doesn't it know?”

Johnny: “Of course it knows! It’s a computer – it knows everything!”

Billy: “Then why do I need to tell it, if it knows everything? Does it forget?”

Johnny ; “No, Billy, the computer doesn't forget, it remembers everything.”

Billy ; “Then why do I need tell the computer if it can remember all this by itself?”

Johnny: “Billy, I don’t know why but it only takes a minute for you to do it”

Billy: “Yes, but you said I was one of 300 people doing this, 40 times a day…so that's what…… 12,000 minutes a day, which comes to 4,200,000 minutes a year  ….. and that's about 70,000 hours that we are all sitting here, typing something into the computer -  that it already knows.”


Whether it would normally takes 20 seconds or two minutes for your agents to take notes during or after your calls, using Desktop Automation, you are effectively training the computer to collect the notes in real time and thus you get this same information, in seconds and error free.

Eliminating the agents’ wasted time in this case means the agents can move to the next call almost immediately, thereby increasing the number of calls they can handle during their shift. Time and money savings from eliminating this type of waste are astounding!

With Desktop Automation there are hundreds of these mini use cases that can be automated in just a few weeks, even if you don't own the applications you want to automate. This is not a massive IT project and this now means you are empowering your contact center with technology that enables agents to do their jobs better and faster since you are removing the time they waste having to do something the computer can do for them.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Workforce Optimization (WFO) and Worker Optimization are NOT the same

For these last few years, as I have watched OpenSpan grow (130% increase in license revenue last year), I have been lucky enough to help educate a number of executives on why "Worker Optimization" is an important differentiator to WFO. WFO is not new and that's obvious but why do people think that WFO is typically the main route to take when you are looking to optimize your workforce?

WFO typically takes a swathe of workers (or call center agents) and attempts to break them down into their refined areas of expertise and efficiency levels. It might even go so far as to help identify processes those workers follow and suggest alternatives or retraining. WFO then starts to match the necessary tasks or calls to the correct workers with the right skills and proficiency. WFO also makes sure you have enough workers around as peaks and troughs in demand occur and helps ensure you don't have people sitting idle for too long. All good. Nothing wrong with WFO.

However, when you break it down to the actual worker, all the worker primarily uses to do their work is a computer, a keyboard, a screen and a mouse. I know I'm pointing out the obvious, but bear with me, this is going somewhere! Through all of the screen navigating, searching, clicking and typing at the desktop, a worker can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 15 minutes to hours or days to complete their tasks or complete a call with a customer. The worker (human) is really only as fast as they are at their keyboard and mouse. Their desktop applications and complexity may contribute to their work taking longer along with their own ability and speed. The desktop is "where People and Technology meet" and represents the place where the real work is done today and thus, the biggest cost to the business.

What then, could we accomplish, if we could make the interaction between the people and the technology better? That's where Worker Optimization is realized, through Desktop Automation - making the worker better and faster and as well as more accurate. If it takes 15 minutes for a worker to complete a task normally, but with Desktop Automation assisting in the task, it only takes 5 or 10 minutes, wouldn't that be where the real value comes from?

So whilst WFO is important, if the workforce is not optimized, you are not getting the biggest part of the value. You are leaving massive amounts of money on the table if the worker needs 15 minutes to do something that could take just 5 minutes. Every second truly counts in the workforce and for some customers, a one second reduction on every call or task can mean millions in savings. Imagine then, reductions of minutes or hours. That's what Desktop Automation delivers. It takes what your workers already do and speeds it up through automation - right there on the desktop - where your people and your technology meet.

WFO should be used around an optimized workforce. Priceless.