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Doing Less with More in the Call Center

At a recent ICMI Executive Summit several call center directors and executives shared startling news: Their organizations’ executive management teams are signing off on expenditures, but not necessarily the ones identified as most likely to help the call center.

Learn More at ACCE 2011!

Here is just a small sampling of the courses ICMI will be offering at ACCE, held June 13-16 in New Orleans:

Driving Revenue and Developing Agents that Sell!

WFM Design Dilemmas: Optimizing Staffing and Workload Predictions

Tips, Tricks, and Ideas for WFM Challenges

“I can get money for technology, but I know they’d never give me money right now for an additional FTE on the call center floor,” said one executive. Another said that he could secure funding for FTEs on the selling side of his center, but not service.

It’s sometimes hard to make the case for more agents to management teams – especially when, as one contact center director said, “They walk around and say, ‘Why are they [the agents] just sitting there?’” Outside the call center, most people in the organization don’t realize that waiting is part of the agent’s job and is scheduled into the day’s work.

Executive teams focus a lot of attention on per-agent costs, and those can be difficult to predict. They key for contact center leaders is to make that cost as predictable as possible by leveraging data and analysis in a solid workforce management (WFM) process to create the most accurate forecasts and schedules as possible and by increasing the efficiency and scope of tools agents use.

If you’re faced with a higher budget for technology than for people, it’s critical that you evaluate technologies that will help your center stretch its people budget farther. And make sure those technologies are working to do just that.

For example, self-service technologies are designed to save call center costs by eliminating one or more segments of calls to agents. But is your self-service technology doing that? Many centers have reported that self-service technology has not delivered the ROI expected, and we found that there were glaring problems with the processes built (or not built, in some cases) around the technology.

Another good example is WFM, whether you’ve invested in personnel to schedule and forecast or technology to help automate that process, simple people and process issues can diminish the value of the investment. If your agents aren’t adhering to schedule because they can’t watch the time or if you’ve got a process that’s preventing them from adhering (such as not pulling them off calls and giving them wrap up or other work in the few minutes before their break begins), then the time and money you’ve invested in WFM automation technology isn’t going to have the impact your center needs it to have.

The point here is that call center leaders are going to have to take a strategic view when it comes to resources, balancing people, process and technology. You may feel like you’re doing less with more – in the case of money where you don’t think you need it and none where you do – but changing your perspective can help you optimize the resources that are available now.

 Layne Holley is Director of Community Services, ICMI. [email protected]