Three Best Practices to Jumpstart Your Desktop Automation Project

By Anna Convery

The technology revolution has created a business culture where real-time access to information is expected. From mobile applications to Web self-service portals, consumer demands and the thirst for information are increasing, which means customer service organizations are under pressure to work faster and be more accessible. Enterprises seek innovative technology solutions that drive agent efficiency and streamline worker activities while also driving customer engagement and more profitable relationships.

Over the last two decades, companies have explored a number of ways to increase agent efficiency and maximize work throughput in the contact center. Some traveled the road of Six Sigma philosophies and principles. Others experimented with the “flavor of the week” software application or newer metrics. For most contact centers these methods often created additional work and minimal return.

How can organizations dramatically improve speed of service while ensuring interaction quality is not sacrificed? Is there a cost-effective way to create efficiencies without reengineering years of business logic and technology investments?

Contact center leaders are taking an increasingly popular approach that has a significant impact on agent performance: desktop automation. This has become an effective way to optimize worker activities and streamline key processes agents perform on a daily basis. This practice involves optimizing the applications and systems agents use to perform work as the means to create more efficient processes and extend the current environment to tap new systems or data.

If you’re considering a desktop automation project, what steps should you take first? Here are three key tips to consider as you embark on a desktop automation initiative.

1) Create a Wish List: Most organizations perform extensive, formal analysis of their contact center operations as the first step in their process optimization plans. Alternatively, you can get started by simply making a list of every broken, inefficient, or manual process you already know exists in your contact center. Get input from your agents. Where do they spend a lot of time? What do they complain about? What causes customer complaints?

Involving agents from the start helps garner support and increase adoption for the desktop automation project. Gather feedback to uncover where they struggle. What systems are the most difficult to navigate? Why are they stuck in a particular process? Most agents are willing to share their frustrations – especially if they understand that the result is going to make their work easier.

Customer satisfaction (CSAT) data can also be a valuable resource to determine areas for improvement. Are specific products or services receiving lower CSAT scores? Do customers provide verbatim comments on survey forms you can analyze to spot trends? This type of information can help you evaluate contact center processes and technologies to determine what is negatively affecting customers and prompting them to give lower CSAT scores.

2) Prioritize Your List: Estimate the cost-benefit to your organization for improving each of the inefficient processes identified in the previous step, as well as the anticipated costs (in terms of time and effort) to make the improvement. Next, prioritize your list, placing those improvements that will deliver the most impact with the least amount of effort at the top. These are your low-hanging fruit. They are usually the best processes to improve first because they deliver significant impact and a rapid ROI. By showing positive results quickly, you will gain support for your efforts throughout the organization. Your agents will be more likely to embrace future changes when they see results of the initial improvements, and senior management will be more likely to encourage your continuous improvement efforts when they see a demonstrable return on investment.

3) Understand How Your Agents Are Working: Initially, this seems like a relatively simple statement. However, the reality is that many contact centers do not have an accurate understanding of how agents are working, or how systems and technologies affect agent performance. Understanding how agents use their systems, where they go to obtain information, and how long it really takes to perform required activities are key to establishing a baseline for an automation project.

What is the best way to collect this information? Despite collecting vast amounts of data and analyzing countless reports, most companies are not necessarily equipped to measure activity from agents’ desktops. However, analyzing all of the activities and transactions that occur on each agent’s desktop can give you all the data you need to be able to make informed decisions regarding automation projects.

By analyzing this activity intelligence, you can see exactly how much time various processes take and which steps take the longest to perform. Look for repetitive manual tasks that cost your agents valuable time during calls. Then determine the impact that shortening those processes would have on your call center.

Time is money. Saving even a few seconds on a common, repetitive task can result in higher productivity and significant cost savings. Implementing a desktop automation solution might seem like a daunting task. However, with the right technology partner, software solution, planning, and support, it can be a rewarding project that pays a rapid return on investment and provides tangible benefits for years to come.

As EVP of strategy, Anna Convery oversees global market development and strategic initiatives for OpenSpan, a provider of desktop automation and desktop analytics solutions that improve performance, drive revenue, and increase efficiencies in contact center, back-office, and retail storefront environments. An industry expert in customer service technologies and solutions for the enterprise, she has been named a “Woman of the Year in Technology” by WIT and has received numerous awards and recognition for her business leadership and vision.

[From Connection Magazine Sep/Oct 2014]

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