A few universal truths guide contact centers, and one is that everyone seeks “efficiency and effectiveness.” Efficiency includes timely responses and (relatively) short contact handling. Effectiveness means those responses are consistent and correct, and therefore bring closure. Lots of time and money gets spent in pursuit of these fundamentals, and yet the simplicity of these concepts gets betrayed by the complexity in achieving them.
Chances are you have a bounty of communications tools for use within the center as well as reaching out to support personnel in other departments. But you may not have established effective protocols for using those tools and making sure everyone is on board with them. (Yes, that means folks outside the contact center as well!)
Start by building awareness for the issue through education. Show the impact on the customer and impact on the company, including added cost when not providing timely, consistent, accurate answers. Create accountabilities as part of the process definition. And perhaps most importantly, find executive sponsorship from someone who is responsible for and cares about the Customer Experience and the bottom line. This is a prerequisite to get the others to engage in real-time.
Pick the tool (or tools) and train (then reinforce training!) on how they should be used. Ideally, pick one tool for real-time communication, and set up the appropriate workgroups and notification structure (sounds and/or pop-ups). Provide clarity on when to call and when to message, using IM for simpler inquiries and calls for more complex (but still real-time) needs. Don’t get caught in the trap of having too many tools and real-time notifications going off on each desktop.
Enterprise-wide tools are best when you have routine communication needs beyond the CC boundaries. Set up groups and identify the members. If you have separate tools for CC vs UC, define how you will communicate within the center and to other groups. Nobody should have to try multiple people or channels.
Use email to communicate information that doesn’t have real-time needs, is lengthier, or requires some other non-urgent action. Then turn off real-time notification of email arrival in the contact center (I know, gasp!). Better yet, reduce or eliminate the use of email for communicating key information about solving customer needs; implement knowledge management for that purpose (see the sidebar below). Use a ticketing tool or CRM for trackable escalation (NOT email) to add to accountability of those outside the center (I know, more gasps!). Remind them their timeliness and responsiveness impact the customer and the center.
Delegate non-business things (like birthdays and recognition) that are important for culture and teaming to a persistent shared space without notification. Everyone can still get the information and participate in the celebration without it being a distraction to the job at hand.
One good option for real-time communication in the CC is a “Help” queue. Schedule Leads and Supervisors to staff it and ensure timely response. If there are off-hours without coverage, provide clarity for agents on how their process will work when this resource is not available. For example, you may offer a (formalized) help access with a Peer group, or rotating responsibilities among the more senior agents that prepare people for the next level in the center.
When tackling the needs that go outside of the CC, start by understanding what works today for tapping these resources. Much of it may be individual to individual, often based on relationships (e.g., someone who used to work in the center). Look at how those relationships can be extended to the team, creating an equal playing field for delivering an efficient, effective experience. Then work with your counterparts in other groups to define how to provide accessibility in real-time where there is a critical need. You can approach it much like the internal CC help desk concept. Identify which groups are of high enough demand to justify real-time accessibility. Define similar rules of engagement and “plan B” for when nobody is available. Less time critical needs should still have a clear process and definition of how to use the tools.
Self-service is imperfect, and the all-knowing agent is a pipe dream. But we can still make real progress using some straightforward, low-cost desktop tools to enhance efficiency and effectiveness for everyone’s benefit.
You Can Preempt the Need for Communication!
We love communication and collaboration tools that contact centers use to deliver better service. But the reality is, agents struggle because they can’t find answers at their fingertips. They are reaching out because they can’t solve a problem. They don’t have, or can’t get to, information they need or they lack system access.
A good knowledge management tool and processes for keeping it up to date is the first line of defense. Bonus—chat and collaboration can help identify KM needs! While not a trivial undertaking, knowledge management can deliver great benefits in efficiency and effectiveness. If you want to dive into this possibility more, check out our article, “You Can’t Afford Not to Pursue Knowledge Management,” Pipeline, October 2018.
A little license inventory may be in order as well. Ask your agents how often the lack of access holds them back and starts the chase for someone to help. Then maybe you can make the case for more licenses!