797 — The challenges for public sector contact centres. The opinion of Robert Wint, marketing director, EMEA, Verint Systems

Sep 1, 2003 | Conteúdos Em Ingles

Certainly in the UK, some of the issues facing today’s public sector contact centres were highlighted in a recent National Audit Office (NAO) report. As anticipated, the Report was pretty scathing, citing lack of service quality and high costs as major issues. And here is an area alone where recording and analysis technology plays a vital role in enabling public sector offices and departments to sharpen up their act, counter the report’s criticisms and go on to achieve the much yearned for improvements in efficiency and quality.

At Verint, we’ve been providing call centres globally and across both the public and private sector, with call recording and analysis software technology for more than 15 years and, in the public sector alone, our technology is used by more than 5,000 agents. We’ve seen the need for recording evolve dramatically from simply meeting compliance and legislative requirements, to the more innovative and forward thinking uses which have quality at their heart and have evolved simultaneously with the increased sophistication of the technology itself.

The Public Sector advantage

There is still some way to go before public sector contact centres match the (on the whole) increased sophistication of their private sector peers. And, in this, the public sector has an unexploited advantage. Being pretty much in their infancy, they can therefore learn valuable lessons from their private sector counterparts.

More than call recording

But the more forward thinking organisations will realise the additional benefits and applications that call recording, coupled with analytics can bring. And the NAO report supports this, commenting on the potential that using up to date technology for recording calls can bring.

For instance, it’s not unreasonable to assume that much of the population has somewhat negative perceptions and experiences of dealing with public sector offices. And the introduction of contact centres for managing high volumes of often highly detailed enquiries has potentially exacerbated this, a point also raised in the Report.

This is just one area where intelligent analysis of call transactions can make a real difference. Scrutinising and analysing the experience customers receive from agents therefore becomes a training and quality issue where the only way to monitor and evaluate agent behaviour, aptitude and consistency is to record and analyse each and every call. And this is very different from the all too typical scenario whereby agents may have one eye on the wall board and growing line of calls waiting whilst trying to deal with their current call enquiry.

The training challenges

An often cited criticism of contact centres in recent times has been the way in which agents can be treated and the apparent high agent turnover. But even though the more extreme anecdotes that tell of agents being disciplined for taking too long to have ‘comfort’ breaks or being targeted to deal with an unrealistic volume of calls, and many other such examples, are few and far between these days, the memories stick – all making it harder to recruit and keep good agents and putting even more challenges the way of those responsible for training to get it as right as possible.

One thing is for sure. In the public sector, whilst it’s an exciting time for contact centre growth and development, this will certainly bring considerable pressure to create the optimum training, motivation and reward programmes, programmes that will actually attract and retain agents.

Attrition facts

Agent attrition in contact centres currently stands at around 25 percent. And research tells us that this high turnover is generally attributable to many core factors – such as the metrics that agents are measured on, not feeling valued and not being rewarded satisfactorily.

In the past, there’s been little constructive effort done to address this. At least, nothing that’s really made a huge difference. But the industry overall is older and wiser and more technology dependent. And, as the technology itself has become increasingly sophisticated, bringing new applications to bear, the time has come when, with the right software in place, and more importantly the necessary culture shift made, these high figures actually could be a thing of the past.

Big Brother

In the battle to win the attrition war, being able to record and analyse calls becomes incredibly powerful. This may sound rather ‘Big Brother’, but it isn’t. Most of us are used to calls being recorded these days and it’s certainly far less intrusive having calls analysed in a dedicated call monitoring department away from the ‘shop floor’ rather than making agents feel edgy and nervous trying to do their job with a supervisor or trainer sitting next to them with a headset on, listening in to how they’re managing customer calls live.

These people will then often work with training and quality personnel to translate the results into, amongst other things, improved agent coaching, structured remuneration packages and ultimately better agent retention.

The economics

The costs for all this also stack up. The cost of hiring and training a contact centre agent can typically stand at €6,000 – far greater than investing in the necessary resource that will best retain agents. For example, in a 300 seat contact centre with a 40 per cent attrition rate, an improvement of this rate by 10 per cent could save the organisation €180,000 per year.

Only by recording each and every customer call can an organisation discover the true causes for so many of the vital things that go on in the contact centre, of which agent attrition is key. Used proactively, call recording really can underpin agent-training strategies and, evolving from this, ensure that the optimum motivation and reward initiatives are in place.

Only by analysing calls can call centres hope to improve. And having the right technology, combined with a corporate ethos that supports what it’s aiming to achieve, is the means to the end.

Robert Wint

Robert Wint is marketing director, EMEA, Verint Systems, providers of intelligent recording and analytic solutions for contact centres. In this continuation of his series of articles for www.centrodecontacto.com/EuropeContactCenter , he looks at the public sector, an area where contact centres are becoming increasingly commonplace and, as such, face their own unique challenges as they strive to match the same level of sophistication as many of their private sector contact centre sector peers.

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