Witness Systems has identified ten key issues that it believes will help drive contact centre workforce optimisation in 2005.According to the company, 2005 will see contact centre operators focus increasingly on the quality of agent performance and service provision, as organisations look to optimise their existing investment in contact centre technology infrastructures.
‘During the last year, Witness Systems has conducted over 100 high-level consultancy engagements, and we’ve worked closely with some of the UK’s leading organisations to help drive performance improvement in their contact centre operations,’ commented Rich Ray, a Senior Business Consultant at Witness Systems Europe. ‘Our prediction of what we believe will be the key challenges organisations face this year reflect an important shift toward developing and offering a higher quality of service through the contact centre. In previous years, we’ve always found that global issues, such as offshore outsourcing, have driven contact centre thinking. This year, however, we’re seeing that more and more organisations have decided on their offshore strategy and are now focusing instead on delivering a higher quality of service, whether their contact centres are in Manchester, Glasgow or Bangalore.’
According to Witness Systems, the key issues and focus areas facing contact centre operators in 2005 will be:
· Evolving from quantitative to qualitative measurement within the contact centre
· Moving toward improved first call resolution
· Implementing focused coaching for agents evolving from service positions to more sales-oriented roles
· Enabling a shift towards greater agent retention
· Building a structured coaching culture
· Addressing the root cause of calls coming into the contact centre
· Improving the overall customer experience
· Supporting key compliance challenges
· Providing management with greater visibility of real time customer issues
· Maximising the performance of offshore operations
‘From the organisations that we’ve worked with, we’re sensing a growing awareness that you can only take contact centre technology so far without addressing the key challenge of agent performance,’ added Rich Ray. ‘It’s always been too easy to just measure metrics, such as average handle time or the time taken to answer calls. Some contact centre agents are probably now being evaluated more during a typically day than most sales executives are over a three-month period, and this over emphasis is plainly impacting performance. Instead, we must evolve toward providing more meaningful business information, whether we’re delivering a quality service for our customers, encouraging loyalty or determining how much value we’re actually generating in terms of up-selling or cross-selling. This is an area that will see significant change in 2005 .’
At a time when improved contact centre performance is being driven by key factors, such as compliance and more stringent service level agreements, many organisations will focus on delivering significant performance improvements, rather than the incremental advances offered by point technology solutions.
For Rich Ray and the Witness Systems consultancy team, part of the focus is on helping customers get the basics right. ‘Instead of just answering calls, many organisations are now looking at why people are calling into their contact centres in the first place. With a new focus on optimising performance in ‘back office’ environments that support the contact centre and impact the overall customer experience, we’re now finding, through root cause analysis, that many customer calls are actually being driven by process errors and inefficiencies caused by the organisation’s own back office operations. Similarly, while first call resolution is clearly a positive quality for callers, we need to recognise that one industry’s ability to resolve calls the first time might be very different from the efforts needed to resolve issues in another sector. There’s no point setting up aggressive service level agreements, if they’re not going to be deliverable” .
‘With the contact centre now so much a part of the overall brand experience, it’s interesting that a lot of the issues we’ve identified for 2005 are being driven by the calibre and consistency of agent performance. The focus is now moving quickly toward delivering a quality customer experience, rather that simply handling calls quickly,’ continued Rich Ray . ‘At a time when we’re increasingly asking agents to switch from answering service enquiries to a more active sales role, it’s essential that we provide them with the support and skills they need to make what is often a difficult transition.
‘Perhaps, more importantly, we also need to refocus our efforts on retaining the agents we already have on staff, ‘ concluded Rich Ray. ‘As an industry, turnover of new-hire agents within the first 90 days continues to be high, and that’s costing real money in terms of unfulfilled performance and the continual need for agent replenishment. Encouragingly, some organisations are starting to view the contact centre floor as a stepping stone to further roles within the business, while others are introducing formal qualifications to recognise fully-trained agents. We believe this will be a trend that will gain more momentum during 2005 .’
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