By John P. Joseph
Virtually every call center in the United States will say that the toughest challenge they face is retaining staff. In multiple studies and surveys conducted over the past decade, data has consistently shown that call center turnover is frequently in excess of 50 percent annually and can reach up to 100 percent. In addition to recruitment costs, training time and investment, and compensation packages, the cost of managing constant turnover is significant. Yet, despite an awareness of the problem and a good deal of effort to solve it, the situation has not improved much in the last decade.
Stress is a major factor contributing to agent turnover. In fact, it is the leading cause of agent turnover; it is the major reason for an agent leaving over 50 percent of the time. Having to deal with unhappy callers on a daily basis is a significant factor in making the agent job stressful. Often, people call a call center to resolve a problem, so they may be agitated to begin with. Then, an agent asks them for information that they’ve likely already provided multiple times in the past. Being forced to provide identification, account information, and routing information that has been thrown away or ignored is a surefire way to elevate that mildly irritated caller to downright frustrated. Their time is being wasted, and they resent it – and they’re not shy in letting the agent know about it. Organizations with solutions in place to reduce customer frustration from the beginning can help alleviate the resulting stress in their agents. Additionally, providing the tools and training needed for agents to be successful is tantamount to higher job satisfaction.
“CTI [Computer Telephony Integration] is essential for organizations looking to design contact centers that reduce customer frustration and empower agents for success,” recommends Walt Tetschner, a market researcher in the call automation industry and project leader for GetHuman, a movement created from the voices of millions of consumers who want to be treated with dignity when they contact an organization for customer support. “Today, organizations need to do everything in their power to quickly handle customer inquiries. Forcing them to repeat information they have already provided – either via menu selection or through an automated system – is extremely annoying. Using this information intelligently will allow agents to be more helpful and achieve faster resolution rates.”
CTI can help reduce caller frustration and agent churn in the following ways:
Intelligent Routing: Uses telephone network information, such as ANI (Automatic Number Identification) and DNIS (Dialed Number Identification Service), and data entered at the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system to route the call to the proper geographical location or to the best-qualified agent, eliminating unnecessary transfers and resulting in increased first call resolution rates. This information should be used to better prepare the agent about the reason for the call.
Screen Pop: Retrieves data from the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system or database and displays it on the agent’s screen when they receive the call. Screen pops shorten call time by 20 seconds or more, enabling agents to up-sell and cross-sell products and services.
Intelligent Desktop: Helps enhance the agent desktop with the information and tools agents need to be more productive and successful, including access to multiple data sources to better handle complex inquiries, scripts and wizards to improve up-sell/cross-sell outcomes, onscreen call control to increase productivity, and workflow automation tools.
Onscreen Call Control: For calls that need to be escalated, contact centers can include onscreen intelligent transfer options to ensure that the person best suited to help receives the call, along with a screen pop that contains a summary of the previous interaction. This further eliminates the frustration customers often experience when forced to repeat themselves if they’ve been transferred to a second agent. It also enables the expert to see what has already transpired so that there is no wasted time – for both the caller and the employee.
Call Monitoring: Records and subsequently analyzes the recorded calls, allowing an organization to track the effectiveness of their operating procedures, evaluate staff members, and identify areas for ongoing training or process improvements.
Click to Call: Optimizes the organization’s workflow by providing outbound dialing applications that enable agents to make calls with a single mouse click on their computer, thus saving time and increasing accuracy. Organizations making a high volume of outbound phone calls can realize significant savings by slashing the time lost to misdialed numbers.
To get started with CTI, the data captured by the switch must be united with information from CRM and other client information sources. Most vendors offer a CTI link for sending data to another place. Alternatively, there are standards-based CTI software solutions that provide out-of-the-box connectivity with leading switches for greater investment protection. Once the integration work is complete, the business rules can be created and associated applications developed to power advanced routing and agent desktop solutions.
“Implementing an agent screen pop solution without training will not accomplish the goal,” commented Tetschner. He recommends teaching agents to use the information to quickly engage in a meaningful discussion. For example, a customer calls in, selects 1 for billing, and asks to speak with a representative. Rather than the generic “How can I help you?” introduction, training the agent to say, “Good morning John, I understand that you have a billing question – how can I help?” sets a completely different tone for the call and can immediately diffuse an irate customer upset about a payment not posted to his account. This is just one example of the many ways organizations can utilize information already at their disposal to proactively arm agents to better assist callers.
From a cost perspective alone, reducing agent turnover is a directive every call center must address, and CTI solutions can help. By lowering caller frustration, agents experience less stress – and therefore, lower burnout rates. Providing agents with the tools and information to be successful enable them to feel more confident and satisfied with their work.
“Even a 5 percent reduction in the churn rate will pay for the investment in CTI technology,” says Tetschner. “However, the impact of CTI goes far beyond that. It creates a contact center that is designed to exceed a caller’s service expectations – a benefit everyone would like to enjoy.”
John P. Joseph is vice president of corporate marketing at Envox Worldwide where he manages worldwide corporate marketing. He has more than fifteen years of experience developing and marketing software, including both consumer and business-to-business products. John may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[From Connection Magazine – November 2008]