Quality Live Agents Are Still Required: Workforce Optimization Can Help

By JaNae Forshee

In today’s hyper-modern and seemingly automated world, self-service is not enough. Customers want and expect personalized service and interaction with live customer service agents. New consumer research from Harris Poll, conducted on behalf of inContact, puts a renewed emphasis on the importance of having quality live agents. Continuous improvement of agents’ performance is a constant for most contact centers. Workforce optimization (WFO) software can help.

WFO solutions may include audio and screen recording, quality management, desktop and speech analytics, workforce management, performance management scorecards, eLearning, performance dashboards, and customer surveys. Comprehensive WFO solutions provide unprecedented visibility into agent performance, operations, and customer intelligence by extracting and analyzing critical information. When integrated with ACD/IVR, WFO helps optimize operational efficiencies and deliver proactive agent training, all while empowering agents to deliver personalized customer service experiences.

Research Highlights: Live Agents Are Key

The new Harris research, conducted just after the 2014 holiday shopping season, polled 2,028 U.S. adults and found:

  • Consumers are still frequently interacting with live agents. For example, when making purchases via phone, 84 percent of buyers had interacted directly with a company representative an average of five times during the last six months. Additionally, when making purchases online, 43 percent of buyers had interacted directly with a company representative an average of two times during the last six months
  • When feeling dissatisfied with an order, the vast majority (81 percent) of U.S. adults prefer assistance from a live representative via phone or online chat rather than using email or online self-service.
  • The majority think it is important to have at least six ways to communicate when making purchases online. Four of these channels (email, live reps, online chat, and mobile apps) are agent-assisted. The percentage of respondents who said the channel was very or somewhat important are: email (93 percent), online self-service for order tracking (87 percent), 1-800 to live reps (81 percent), online chat (67 percent), 1-800 to self-service (53 percent), and apps for mobile devices (50 percent).
  • Nearly nine in ten (86 percent) reported they would be very likely to switch to another company in the future after a bad customer service experience.

Live agents play a vital role in the development of loyal, profitable customer relationships. The agent’s influence, along with the workforce generally being 70 to 75 percent of a contact center’s cost, emphasizes the need for making real-time improvements with WFO.

How WFO Can Improve the Quality of Live Agent Service

Prevent Bad Customer Service Experiences: Let’s start with preventing bad customer service experiences, which lead to brand switching. In addition to receiving data from the ACD/IVR, WFO software that is intelligently integrated with an ACD/IVR system can actively send agent performance data back to the ACD/IVR in order to drive logical actions and outcomes.

For example, to prevent future poor performance from an agent with poor customer survey scores, the agent can be automatically removed from specific queue types. Call routing changes happen immediately. The WFO system also can automatically schedule targeted follow-up coaching. This eliminates delays due to manual intervention.

Create More Great Customer Experiences; Increase First-Call Resolutions: A WFO solution that’s part of a closed-loop system also enables contact centers to immediately take advantage of outstanding agent performance. For example, if a customer gives an agent a high-performance score in a customer survey, the system can automatically increase that agent’s proficiency in a particular category or skill type. As a result, the agent will then receive more of those types of calls. This all happens on the fly, so there’s no delay in call-matching optimization. Better customer experiences are created in real time.

This automated sharing of agent performance data with the ACD/IVR means that future calls are immediately routed to the most qualified agent available. Using WFO software optimizes the efficiency of a call center through schedule optimization and intelligent call routing, which in turn helps increase first-call resolutions.

In addition, WFO desktop analytics can automatically monitor, capture, and analyze agent desktop activity to identify opportunities for improvement in processes, experiences, and performance. The use of WFO speech analytics also can quantify customers’ top concerns so managers are able to prioritize efforts in coaching, development, and quality management.

Develop Engaged and Empowered Agents: The performance dashboard is another important WFO tool for agents, management, and executives to monitor and improve real-time performance. Customizable dashboards that aggregate data from multiple sources – such as CRM and ACD/IVR – provide appropriate visibility for all levels of the organization.

Agents are more engaged and empowered when allowed to monitor their own performance. Seeing where they stand on different KPIs (key performance indicators) helps them focus their efforts. With custom dashboards, agents can quickly check a summary of their personal performance, track trends, and even see how they rank compared to other agents. Plus, being able to see how close they are to earning performance bonuses is a sure motivator.

Conclusion: Intelligently integrated and comprehensive WFO software provides the data needed to automatically match the best and most qualified agents with specific customer call types. It also quickly responds to bad customer experiences by realigning agent resources and scheduling coaching. In addition, WFO tools such as customer surveys, desktop and speech analytics, and customizable dashboards help motivate and empower agents through personalized feedback.

Customers want to interact with live agents, especially at one of the most critical points in the relationship – when they are feeling dissatisfied. Customer service agents are not just order takers; they are problem solvers who need to be empowered with just-in-time training and motivational tools. They need to be backed by intelligent, integrated WFO solutions that enable them to succeed. Today customers expect more than ever, and skilled and qualified agents are needed to meet those expectations.

JaNae Forshee joined the inContact team in Sept 2004 and is currently the senior manager of workforce optimization. JaNae has fifteen years of contact center experience ranging from management, operations, collections, and sales to content development, eLearning, and eight years of training and development. Prior positions held at inContact include call center manager and client relationship manager.

[From Connection Magazine May/June 2015]

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