Darwin would have felt at home in a modern contact center. He would have been able to study its constantly evolving nature and observed his theories in practice. Call centers have always been in a state of evolution; however, technology (including workforce management or WFM technology) has accelerated the process. With the advent of at-home agents and cloud-based WFM solutions, the old concept of call centers now has a new face. Sometimes the rapid pace of technology seems overwhelming to organizations that try to keep up with the latest solutions that promise efficiency and improved service that lead to increased bottom line revenue. Centers have become more flexible and previous constraints such as high turnover due to low agent morale, burdensome oversight of agent adherence by supervisors, and large capital expenditures for hardware installation have been mitigated or removed by technological advances designed to streamline operations and enhance profitability.
There are five breakthrough areas which benefit agents, supervisors, and organizations as a whole:
- Web Access
Cloud-based WFM solutions and their online productivity tools empower agents to manage day-to-day activities as well as personal performance. Agents in both the front and back office are able to: view schedules and changes in real time; submit change requests and trade shifts; view KPI’s through a notification system; manage vacation time via automated requests; and, communicate through a bulletin board system. The result is streamlined communications and process automation critical for organizations to enhance employee morale by providing the necessary tools to perform day-to-day tasks.
- Mobile Access
Mobile access gives supervisors flexibility to stay abreast of agent activity while out of the office. Users equipped with smartphones or tablets can check agent status at a glance, modify schedules with a click while in meetings or off-site, send messages and notifications and view reports from hundreds of miles away. Supervisors can log changes such as sick days or early releases, view agent schedules, and send popup and email messages with a click from the same grid without navigating to different screens.
- Real-Time Adherence
Real-Time Adherence (RTA) untethers supervisors from their desk and expands oversight to a new level. Bottom line revenue is decreased from time lost when agents are out of adherence. RTA is a key ingredient in improving the overall productivity of workforce management and delivering industry standard KPI’s.
With RTA monitoring tools in cloud-based WFM solutions, management now has the ability to effectively oversee agents by:
- Proactively monitoring adherence on a real-time basis by comparing scheduled activity to their actual state information
- Eliminating the need to “babysit” an RTA screen by automating alerts to agents and supervisors when adherence thresholds are broken
- Distributing industry standard adherence KPI’s real-time to agents as well as management dashboards
- Providing mobile adherence views as managers can view reporting and real-time adherence through web and smartphone access
In the multi-site world, management can quickly drill down to any center at any given time. Global functionality allows views to be configured any way needed by looking at a roll up of adherence metrics. Drill down capabilities can then be set by individual site to find the root cause of adherence issues. Notifications and alerts are set up to provide quick and actionable adherence changes to meet organizational objectives.
- At-Home Agents
There are three primary reasons companies implement remote agents:
- Lower center costs
- Improved customer service
- Improved employee satisfaction and retention
Operating costs associated with At-Home agents include lower starting wages and reduced benefits, less need for brick and mortar facilities and support staff, increased labor pool with flexible scheduling options, and reduced training costs associated with increased agent retention.
At-Home agents have demonstrated their ability to create a better customer experience resulting in increased customer loyalty. Customer loyalty due to improved service translates to increased revenue. Remote agents are able to take customer service to the next level and increase customer loyalty.
In-house agents encounter interruptions throughout the day that affect productivity. At-Home agents are proven to be more productive than in-house agents with reported increased productivity of up to one-hour daily. Working in an environment without disruptions allows agents to focus on meeting service level objectives and customer service.
Agent turnover is an inherent problem for contact centers and replacing agents is a major cost consideration. Recruiting and training costs can significantly impact a company’s bottom line profit margin. Retention rate for at-home agents is 80% versus 25% for in-house.
Almost 70% of organizations are currently using, or considering, hosted solutions for contact centers, including cloud-based WFM solutions. As the trend moves toward the Cloud, the argument for spending money and resources on premise-based workforce management solutions may be diminishing, especially in a challenging economy.
There are seven compelling reasons for choosing a cloud-based WFM solution:
- No hardware or software to install. All hardware and software is installed and maintained by the vendor.
- Flexible subscription costs. Billing is based on the number of agents scheduled.
- Operating expense only as opposed to a large capital expenditure.
- Access anytime, anywhere with no “VPN” requirement. Cloud-based WFM solutions eliminate the need for a virtual private network (VPN) which is designed to allow employees to securely access their company’s intranet while traveling outside the office.
- Flexible contracts. Part of the cost savings of cloud-based WFM solutions is the ability to pay as you grow, not as you go. Most vendors provide month-to-month subscription options and the cost increases only when you decide to expand services.
- IT requirements managed by the vendor. One major advantage of a hosted solution is that it allows you to focus on managing your business and leave the IT infrastructure to your vendor.
- Enterprise software capabilities at a much lower cost. With hosted WFM solutions, most vendors offer a full suite of enterprise software capabilities without the associated cost. Upgrades are offered as part of the package. You only pay for what you need, but the full enterprise capability is available when and if you need it.
The evolution from call centers to modernized contact centers incorporates a range of solutions for both the front and back office, enhancing KPI’s and enabling service objectives to be met more efficiently. Technology is constantly challenging organizations to be more profitable through implementation and utilization of solutions of the future. Darwin would undoubtedly approve!
Pipkins, Inc. is an American company and a leading supplier of workforce management software and services to the call center industry. For more than 16 years, Pipkins has created and delivered superior workforce management products for contact centers of all sizes with thirteen industry-first applications. Pipkins’ premier product Vantage Point is the most accurate forecasting and scheduling tool on the market. Pipkins’ systems forecast and schedule more than 300,000 agents in over 500 locations across all industries worldwide. For more information, visit www.pipkins.com.
by: Dennis Cox, Managing Director of Pipkins UK