Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Intraday Automation: Modernizing the Contact Center

By Kyle Antcliff

Contact center directors and the analysts who cover issues and trends relevant to the contact center and customer service are aware of the need to modernize and make contact center operations more efficient. So why does it seem that too often business unit leaders, including in marketing, IT and up to the c-Suite and board of directors, do not make the connection between the level of customer service the contact center provides and revenue growth? The answer can be as simple as the traditional role of the contact center has been to only field customer questions after marketing has launched its campaign and generated leads. However, not only have customer interactions become more complex, the contact center now collects volumes of information that can be invaluable to the marketing department during the planning stages of a campaign. Implementing the approach of intraday automation into contact center operations automates monitoring and uses the data to trigger a host of real-time workforce adjustments in response to changing conditions. The result is a real-time workforce that is more productive and delivers a better customer experience vis-a-vis competitors.

Customers expect to be able to interact with the frontline in a store, on the phone, in an online chat window, via email, and across social media platforms expecting immediate help with their questions. Trying to manually oversee interactions across all these channels and raise or lower staffing levels to meet customer demand wastes time, money and is prone to errors. In other words, the frontline has fallen behind the times. The entire operation of contact centers remain reactive and understaffed with undertrained operators. Not surprisingly, according to the Temkin Group, only six percent of companies rate themselves as customer service leaders.

In addition to preventing the frontline from providing excellent customer service, these taxing pressures breed unsatisfied employees, which raises attrition and increases the operating costs as new employees are constantly vetted and trained to replace the steady stream of employees who leave. The contact center needs a new normal that optimizes operations and frontline responders.

Forrester reports that 77 percent of US online adults say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service (Forrester), so it is critical to focus on improving an agent’s performance, service delivery and efficiency.

Intraday automation technology delivers a means of turning the mountains of data that come in at high-speeds into real-time workforce adjustments.  

Forward-thinking companies once trying to outrun challenges in the contact center can now overcome them and observe the following upsides via intraday automation: 

·         Optimization: Today’s manual monitoring and reactive process impacts costs, agent morale and engagement, and the customer experience. With Intraday Automation, frontline workforces respond in real-time to optimization opportunities. For instance, periods of lower or higher call volume, imbalance across interaction channels, overstaffing, understaffing, and individual adherence issues.  A more agile frontline workforce can adjust throughout the day to deliver a more consistent customer experience.

·         Training: In most contact centers, training and coaching are the first things pulled from an agent’s schedule.  With intraday automation, training is accomplished in response to a dip in customer volume.  In this new mode, a portion of unproductive idle time gets converted into usable time for training, coaching or even back office work.  Agents are prompted to work on assignments but redirected back to customers should demand come back to forecasted levels.  Insurance provider The General used intraday automation and turned what was unproductive idle time into two and a half hours of training time per agent per month without adding headcount or having to manually schedule it.

·         Reduced costs: Overall, businesses face the risk of losing staff and lowered profits in the long-term. A more agile frontline workforce can adjust throughout the day to deliver a dramatically better and more consistent customer experience, at a lower cost. By acting smarter they can allot their financial resources more efficiently through staffing, training, and decreasing agent turnover.

Before intraday automation, contact centers were incapable of responding to the influx of data. As contact centers begin to manage multiple interaction channels, including chat and social, the proliferation of data only increases. For the first time, Intraday Automation enables contact centers to take advantage of the many optimization opportunities that exist throughout the day.
For businesses, the results directly affect business success by creating a sustained, improved level of customer experience, while saving time and money.  

Kyle is a thought leader on how a real-time workforce delivers a better customer experience. Before joining Intradiem, Kyle was Chief Operating Officer at TALENThire (workforce management) where he led the company’s growth and recognition as a Georgia Top 40 Technology Company. Prior to TALENThire, Kyle served as Vice-President International for Marketworks (eCommerce) where he played a key role in the Company's 65% annual growth and acquisition. Kyle graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and holds an MBA from Northwestern's Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

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