Six Low-Effort Steps to Contact Center Quality and Efficiency

The advent of interactive voice response, Web, and mobile applications has granted contact centers new efficiencies. The number of agent-handled calls is down. The goal of handling more calls with fewer agents and better margins has seemed within reach. But, there are some unintended side-effects.

The growing number of self-served calls means that customer issues left for actual agents are complex enough that customers don't want to or can't go through IVR or Web-based workflows. That means agents are spending more time on the phone solving complicated problems and you're stuck trying to rein in costs while upping quality and leaving every customer satisfied, all while juggling handle time, staffing, and call avoidance objectives.

But this doesn't have to be the case. There's a path to quality and efficiency that draws on existing processes and data to grow margins and find more hours in the day. You already collect quality and call center data, coach agents, and conduct performance reviews. And with a few tweaks, these quality initiatives can hit the efficiency and return on investment objectives to which you are bound, no matter how complex the calls coming in might be.

Here are six ways to use existing processes to get more out of your contact center:

1. Say goodbye to authentication. Authentication is what they call low-hanging fruit for trimming call times. You have callers' voices recorded, and voice biometric technology can identify the caller without added steps for authentication. Saving up to a minute per call can uncover double-digit percentage improvements to call capacity over a year. You won't see that kind of boost from many other changes. 

2. Sweat the small stuff. Little changes add up. Use call data to spot longer handle times, longer hold times, increased hold volumes, and other signs of agents in need of improvement. The same data will point to faulty workflows, outdated applications, or impractical processes that are hurting call center efficiency. These quick wins can streamline processes and reduce unnecessary call volumes.

3. Refocus coaching efforts Taking a more holistic approach to coaching can boost overall quality better than just going after agents struggling with handle time. Start with data, whether from speech analytics or even anecdotes from call observations. Use that information to pinpoint deficiencies and coach to them. Calibration sessions are one way to compare notes on anecdotal findings, pick out issues, and improve coaching.

4. Ensure evaluators are spending enough time evaluating. Ask team leaders and supervisors how they spend their time. Listen carefully for how much of their day is allotted to actually coaching and developing their teams. If they haven't carved out the time you'd like (or their job description requires), work with them to find opportunities to trim the time they spend on other tasks and rearrange their focus to spend more time improving their agents.

5. Keep up with call part analysis. Breaking down calls into their component parts can reveal the difference between top performers and those who need to better manage their time. If top performers only spend 10 percent of calls in problem definition and document outcomes during the call, why are others spending half the call defining the problem and wasting time documenting after they've hung up? Use top performers as benchmarks to bring the rest of the team in line. Make this a part of observations as well. Do some back-of-the-napkin call part analysis and do time and motion analysis to note any outliers.

6. Invest in guidance. Real-time guidance software does come with a price and requires effort to implement, but the ROI can be worth it. Speed up training, improve accuracy and compliance, and reduce repeat calls by guiding agents through even complex requests.;

While the complexity of calls is growing, that doesn't mean time on the phone has to grow in equal measure. Use your existing quality processes to streamline workflow, maximize agents' time, and ensure every customer is satisfied.

David Johnson is a senior business consultant at NICE Systems.