By Tom Cunningham
One of the most common quandaries in call centers is to successfully meet the customer’s expectations while maximizing the efficiency of your staff. While no one likes to admit it, many times call centers allow the reporting demands of their clients to dictate how they set up virtual queues and conduct business. This setup usually means multiple virtual queues that require a greater number of FTEs (Full Time Equivalent). With the global economy demanding that companies do more with less to maintain a competitive edge and efficiency, how can those companies also maximize customer satisfaction?
Most call centers try to maintain as many virtual queues as required with their current FTEs. This leads to a failure to reach benchmark goals while trying to explain the results to their clients. In response, many call centers then begin to slowly expand their FTE expense by offering overtime and hiring additional staff. This has proven to be only a temporary fix, because employees begin to burn out while the company exceeds its budget and loses efficiency. Once the call center is over budget, they cut back on FTE expenses and begin the process all over again. While many call center managers struggle with this dilemma, there is a strategy that can solve this crisis.
The Mega Queue Strategy: When examining this issue, remember that the goal is to do more with less. In simpler terms, how can the center give its clients what they want while maximizing the bottom line for the call center? It’s fundamental that the call center must deliver its clients’ expectations. This only leaves the ability to alter the company’s bottom line. With the first part of the problem working directly against the second, how is it possible to achieve success? How can the call center gain efficiencies by the scales of economics to save money when each virtual queue has to be maintained?
This is accomplished by taking every virtual queue, grouping them by type of call, and then dumping them into a larger mega queue. The mega queue is nothing more then a large bucket that takes calls in order from each virtual queue in its group. The agents are scheduled against the bell curve of the larger mega queue, thus reducing the FTE requirement and allowing the company to gain efficiencies while cutting costs. The clients won’t see any difference in reporting because each virtual queue is maintained with individual statistics; however, by grouping them together the performance of each virtual queue will improve, as it will have a bigger pool of resources to handle the calls.
With the call center industry continuing its growth, the necessity to augment the delivery system to remain competitive and profitable will intensify. Only by thinking outside the box will the company be able to avoid traditional obstacles and exceed clients’ expectations while maintaining the call center’s efficiency. The mega queue helps achieve both goals. In the long run, by having a larger pool of employees versus only having individual virtual queues, it will reduce attrition by lowering teams’ occupancy levels as well as increasing the ability to deliver quality training programs and meeting sessions.
Tom Cunningham is the North American senior workforce operations manager for customer service with Elavon Global Payment Solutions. Tom has over fourteen years of call center operations management experience. His background also includes management positions with ADT and Securitylink from Ameritech. He can be reached at 865-403-8256 or Thomas.Cunningham@elavon.com.
[From Connection Magazine – June 2009]