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Contact Centers Stand to Gain Productivity from Empowered Agents

 
June 23, 2006



There is a misconception in the contact center arena that a properly designed contact center with the latest technology and fully staffed with capable agents is the most productive workforce management solution and division of the company. The problem with this line of thinking is that it ignores the human element of the equation and the impact the agent has on the organization.
 
There was a time in history where the main school of thought for workforce management was that individuals who came to work on time and performed at a steady pace throughout the day were happy and productive. If the contact center was performing well, then the basic measures would indicate as such and business would go on as usual.
 
While this sounds like an ideal scenario, anyone who has ever set food into a contact center knows that this utopia does not really exist; not in the long-term. The reality of the call center is that its biggest liability and its biggest asset are its people. And, unless those people, or agents, can be guided and empowered effectively, the contact center will not perform to its potential.
 
Contact center managers today are constantly paying attention to performance measures. Things like service level, abandon rates, contact rates, sales per hour, resolution rates and more are monitored daily. While these measures are important and necessary to report the effectiveness of the contact center, agents are not always aware of how their performance affects those metrics.
 
Often times, the metrics that the contact center uses to measure its performance are out of the control of the agent. This being the case, how can the agent fully understand how their performance contributes to the overall effectiveness of the contact center? Moreover, how can the agent gain job satisfaction from this understanding and thus become even more productive?
 
The first step in improving the agent’s job satisfaction and thus productivity is to ensure that the agent not only understands his or her role in the organization, but how his or her performance contributes to the entire team. This level of understanding can be accomplished through effective interactions between the agent and his or her supervisor.
 
Once this understanding is achieved, the agent must then feel like his or her schedule is organized and efficient. A contact center agent is performing one of the most stressful jobs in the industry. Management should ensure that a hectic and choppy schedule does not interfere with performance. Effective forecasting and scheduling can guarantee that the proper agents are handling the proper amount of calls.
 
One final consideration for contact center management in regards to achieving an efficient and productive contact center is feedback. Encourage agent feedback and act upon suggestions. Supervisors should seek out the opinions of agents as these individuals are they are not only the closest to the customer, but they also tend to have a keen sense of what is working and what is not. When these agents understand that their suggestions are taken seriously and acted upon, they understand the importance of their contribution to the organization as a whole.
 
There are several solutions available that can assist contact center managers with agent interaction and empowerment; once such solution is the Monet suite of workforce management products from Left Bank Solutions. The Monet suite is positioned as automating the process of forecasting call volumes and agent scheduling to improve service levels and reduce costs.
 
An agent that receives great satisfaction from his or her job will be the most productive. This agent is also much more likely to stay in their current position and perform above expected levels. What contact center manager would turn down the ability to have a contact center full of such agents?
 
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC and has also written for eastbiz.com. To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.
 
 

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