Create breathing space to think clearly and plan ahead by removing contact centre complexity
Contact centres are changing at an unprecedented rate. The pandemic has played its part, forcing operations to adapt their working models and employ emergency fixes. Unfortunately, these quick fixes soon became the norm, with contact centres stuck in a constant state of tweaking operational processes and workflows.
Other trends are also seeping into the foundations of contact centres, requiring significant attention. Digital disruption challenging omnichannel strategies is a prime example. There are equally new remote employee engagement, recruitment and resource planning problems to overcome, driving further complexity into the heart of contact centres.
As a result, it is only logical that leaders – dealing with an influx of new issues – work in a constant state of firefighting. However, now is the time to step back, create breathing space, and consider a strategy to simplify processes in the new-age contact centre.
Controlling customer demand is critical to create breathing space and remove the strain on the contact centre team. Nick Brook, a senior workforce management consultant and project manager at Calabrio, recommends a two-pronged approach. He says:
Run an analytics initiative to spot contact drivers and assess trends that highlight growing customer issues. Features within innovative solutions – such as sentiment analysis – add colour to these results. However, couple this with agent feedback because they know what is happening, what is changing and why particular calls take a lot longer than they used to.
By implementing such a strategy, contact centres can accurately track contact reasons, spot broken processes and assess failure demand.
Of course, disposition data is another way to pinpoint contact drivers. Data disposition relies on the principle that any data collected or stored should be adequate, relevant and not excessive for the task at hand. However, this is historically unreliable. As Brook suggests, speech analytics offers many more capabilities that showcase the true extent of customer issues. These include:
These capabilities drive insights that inspire other departments to address issues that lie outside of the contact centre’s remit. They also enable contact centre leaders to play the role of the customer advocate within the business, bring problems to the fore and prevent downstream issues that plague the contact centre.
Despite large-scale cloud migration, many contact centres still struggle with omnichannel. Gartner research underlines this, revealing that under 50% of brands have not unified their customer engagement channels.
In failing to achieve this aim, many issues arise that drive complexity. For example, contact centres cannot track the conversation history of customers across different channels. Instead, customer data resides in siloes, out of reach of agents. Missing this vital context, it becomes much trickier for agents to resolve queries.
Then, there is the issue of moving customer conversations across channels seamlessly. Whether interactions shift from self-service to live chat, a chatbot to a phone call, omnichannel solutions make it easy for customers to switch between channels. What’s more, the context moves with them so agents can carry on the interaction at the point of escalation. Without this capability, they must reset the conversation and customers repeat their information.
Yet, omnichannel failures also impact contact centre leaders. After all, it becomes much trickier to introduce new AI-powered tools – including speech analytics – to the contact centre ecosystem when there is no centralised pool of data for them to drink from.
As a result of combining data pools, the contact centre simplifies its technology architecture and increases its agility. Making this point, Brook states: “An omnichannel approach is a good way of gaining efficiencies and increasing the ability of the contact centre to react quickly to future disruption.”
Contact centres may then safeguard their operations while facilitating a better service experience for customers across every engagement channel.
The rise of digital is pushing the evolution of workforce management (WFM) forwards at a rate of knots. New channels impact overall demand, concurrency varies across channels, and old Erlang calculations do not cut the mustard.
Combine these challenges with the pandemic, which is wreaking havoc on forecasting models, and it is clear that WFM complexity has never been higher. Many planners are even dislodging the previous two years of contact volumes from their forecasts, as the data interferes with traditional trends and seasonality.
Yet, it is also critical to consider the complexity that low forecast accuracy drives down the line. Drafting in staff, altering agent schedules and managing high occupancy rates are tricky tasks that foster dissatisfaction across the contact centre.
As such, specialist WFM software has transitioned from a “wish list” tool to a “must-have” technology. Containing hundreds of forecasting algorithms, contact centres can test these using historical data to uncover which works best in their environment. Then, they can automate the process across the year, with regular updates based on the latest data.
Of course, planners may make manual adjustments to account for their unique expertise. However, the beauty of the system is that it affords planners the time to perfect intraday management and scheduling strategies, to which a WFM tool also brings many benefits.
Discussing how a WFM system benefits scheduling and, in the process, reduces complexity, Brook says:
Contact centres can create and balance a series of shift sequences – such as split-shifts and micro shifts – within one space to reduce planning effort. Across multiple sites, locations and time zones, the software accommodates the needs of the modern, remote contact centre.
Many systems also automate lengthy processes that clutter the contact centre inbox, such as shift swaps and holiday requests. These work through apps, which employees can download onto their phones and access at their will, driving complexity down further.
Isolating and removing customer pain points, simplifying the omnichannel strategy, and accurately forecasting demand are critical considerations for removing contact centre complexity. Yet, there are many more. From new performance management challenges to data blackholes, further complexity drivers await contact centre leaders in the new normal.
Fortunately, Calabrio has pulled together a helpful guide, entitled: Resolving Complexity in the Contact Center. Full of best practices to remove these additional complexities, this resource aims to help leaders build towards a brighter future.