In Part One we saw that that there were three areas that the contact center operations team (Mission Control) could manage to address “problems” by matching work and resources.

  1. The number of available skilled associates
  2. The number of calls needing to be routed to skilled associates
  3. The amount of time spent by associates dealing with calls

We explored the first of these in more detail, so here are tactics for addressing the other two.

2. The number of calls needing to be routed to skilled associates

We’ve looked at the supply side so now let’s look at the demand. On the face of it demand is much harder to manage but again there are tactics that can make the Contact Center operations more flexible:

  1. ‘In-queue’ messaging is often generic and inflexible. For example “All of our associates are busy, please hold on the line or you can go to our website at www…” This is not a personalized experience, it’s not based on the value of the customer or on any knowledge that the organization has about them.  Messages should be flexible and tailored to the customer as these are more likely to deflect and reduce calls needing to be answered.
  2. Offer to call the customer back, either by holding their place in the queue or at a later time that better suits both them and you.
  3. Look at ways to improve the call completion rates in self service and call steering. Often a review of the scripting in the IVR can lead to significant improvements in call completion for self-service and in accuracy of routing in from call steering.

3. The amount of time spent by associates dealing with calls

Getting the balance between delivering a great customer experience, first time resolution and at the same time delivering an efficient operation has been a major topic of debate for some years.
In Uncommon Service by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss there is the following example “In most call centers, employees are pressed to limit their customer interactions to three minutes. At Zappos call center employees are encouraged to improvise. Zappos call center employees can even recite their personal record…In early 2011; the highest personal record…was about 8 hours long”.
Whatever your customer service strategy, the amount of time spent on calls needs to be monitored and controlled; where the strategy will allow.  Here are some strategies that can assist in this area:

  1. Manage when up-sell/cross-sell initiatives are operated. Although there will be a temptation to have them running all of the time when it is busy it is better to deal with more service calls, deliver a great service experience and so improve the likelihood of a customer to stay and possibly increase spend than it is to try to increase share of wallet.
  2. Better manage the workload balance between calls and non-call work.  Many contact centers operate a ‘blended model’ where associates are taken off of the phone to do non-call work. Those could be emails, correspondence or tasks that take too long to do while the customer is on the call.  This ‘manual blending’ often means that associates are not available to take calls when it gets busy and it takes too long to get them back on the phone. This can be thirty minutes or more and this lag leads to customers queuing.  Reducing this delay requires better resource management, preferably by having all work distributed through a single ‘routing engine’. This saves calls queuing and delivers a better customer experience.
  3. In the longer-term, process redesign can reduce the amount of time it takes to handle a call and route cause analysis can ultimately drive call avoidance.

See if these tactics might be of help to your operations, let us know the in the comments below your thoughts!