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Contact centres need to be effective, not simply efficient

Many contact centres become fixated on shortening the average handling time of interactions between an agent and a customer, in an effort to become more efficient.

Many contact centres become fixated on shortening the average handling time of interactions between an agent and a customer, in an effort to become more efficient.

p>Many contact centres become fixated on shortening the average handling time of interactions between an agent and a customer, in an effort to become more efficient.

However, to most customers efficiency is not their key issue. In fact, it is how well their problems are resolved that matters most to
customers. First call resolution, regardless of the time this takes, is more likely to increase customer satisfaction than getting off the line quickly, especially if that happened without resolving the customer's issue.

This is the difference between simply being efficient and becoming effective at solving customer queries and complaints. For years, the focus has been on reducing costs by driving down call times, to the detriment of customer satisfaction. In fact, according to a recent white paper published by Jacada, "while companies have been focusing on reducing average handling
times, industry customer satisfaction ratings have dipped to an all time low".


First call resolution

Instead of focusing on simply shortening call times, contact centres should also be looking at first call resolution, loyalty scores and customer satisfaction ratings in an effort to improve service levels and retain customers. The cost of acquiring new customers is far higher than that of retaining those who are already yours, and unhappy customers will spread their bad experiences quickly in today's world of social networking and constant connectivity. This means that it serves the bottom line and can actually drive costs down if we keep our existing customers happy.

There needs to be a balance between efficiently handling calls and effectively solving customer issues to ensure that a contact centre is successful and profitable. First call resolution can be considered as a measure of both. If a customer query is resolved the first time around, customers will be happy, meaning that the agent will be effective, and if the customer does not have to call the centre back, then efficiency also goes up.

However, agents cannot sit on a call forever to resolve one issue, even if it is the first call. So evidently something needs to be done to ensure that agents are enabled to resolve queries as quickly as possible while still being able to handle problems the first time around.

Keep it simple

The most practical way to do this is to make the contact centre agents' jobs easier. This means not only simplifying the agents' desktop by reducing the number of applications they need to wade through to resolve queries, but also by introducing tools to make processes more efficient and effective, such as Workforce Optimisation and Performance Management.

Not only do these tools automate processes that make management and assessment of agents easier, but they actively simplify the agents' jobs by providing scheduling of daily activities. They also allow agents the freedom to select or request the shifts they prefer, ensuring that their preferences are taken into account when shifts are allocated.

Performance management and workforce optimisation

For the Contact Centre manager, Performance Management and Workforce Optimisation ensure that all tasks are effectively and efficiently managed and that consistently high levels of service, as well as shorter call times, can be achieved, by enabling them to quickly and accurately measure agent performance, identify inadequacies and problems, and resolve these issues before they become the customer's problem.

Other solutions that can assist the efficiency and effectiveness of Contact Centres include implementing a unified desktop solution, such as Jacada WorkSpace. This award-winning product simplifies and automates tasks for Contact Centre agents by delivering an intelligent view of process and data supporting individual call types and provides an intuitive and powerful interface for enabling the perfect interaction, not only between agents and the systems they use, but also between agents and customers.

Jacada Fusion is another enabling product, one which makes interaction easier for agents, something which is key to simplifying their tasks and improving their performance and improving not only efficiency but also effectiveness. Jacada Fusion can rapidly automate tasks across any number of business systems without requiring that any changes be made to existing applications.

These products from Jacada enable organisations to vastly improve first call resolution, reduce average handling times, improve customer experience, reduce training costs, improve agent satisfaction and reduce agent churn.

In short, in order for contact centre agents to be both more effective and more efficient, it is imperative that managers of contact centres look towards metrics that drive results. This ultimately drives customer retention through improved service - a happy customer is a loyal customer and is therefore less likely to look towards a competitor.


Paul Fick, MD of Spescom DataFusion