Best Practices

Turning Agent ‘Best Practices’ into Standard Practice

Best practices are a rarity in the call center environment. And even more so in the work-at-home call center environment. There, I said it. Who’s to blame, the call center leader? What does the at home agent do when they don’t know the answer? There’s no person next to them to ask and training is over. Calling the supervisor is an option, but could eat away at valuable time of two resources that are now unavailable to talk to customers.

Best practices in the call center are difficult to duplicate out-of-the-box between centers because each center is different. There are different agents, different campaigns, different cultures, and different goals. Therefore, every contact center must develop and embed best practices that are unique to them. Later in this post, I will provide tangible proof that best practice agents outperform average agents, with numbers like a 25% increase in FCR and a 50% decrease in AHT.

In my last post, I talked about overcoming agent availability in the work-at-home call center. In the post, I mentioned how insights derived from an agent desktop can serve as a stepping stone to best practices. To help contact center leaders get to an environment that embodies “best practices,” it’s essential to look at the data and insights around customer interactions. The data and insights can be disseminated from the agent’s use of the desktop to agent training programs and knowledge transfer exercises. In the work-at-home center, it’s nearly impossible for agents to “learn by osmosis” and glean insights from other top performing agents while chatting in the lunch room, or at the water cooler.

Identifying Best Practices in the Work-at-Home Call Center

With at-home agents, it is much harder to use observation to identify best practices and without the right technologies, it’s even harder to gain adoption of best practices.  So, how do you identify best practices and gain adoption across a dispersed, work from home agent model?

Defining best practices begins by gaining insight on the full breath of the customer interaction. Many contact centers have data from CTI/IVR, but that only gives you connection data, resolution data, or abandonment rates.

You need to reach beyond the surface level data to capture the back and forth dialog with the customer. You need all the screens viewed, and all the clicks and searches.  This rich body of information will tell you more than the IVR/CTI data and more than a recording can reveal.

Make Best Practice the Average Practice

It’s common for agents to follow a script or manual workflow based on how the customer interaction is unfolding. Oftentimes, this means an agent is following a process from pencil and paper or using their own ‘best practice’ process to bring the call to resolutions. For obvious reasons this is a flawed practice altogether.

The differences between average and best practice agents can be dramatic.  In a recent call center we reviewed and worked with:

  • FCR was 25% higher for best practice agents
  • ACH was 50% lower for best practice agents
  • Close ratios were 25% higher for best practice agents
  • Upsell rates varied by as much as 15% for best practice agents

In the above scenario, agents who followed best practices were following a process designed in our contact center application.

Why do these differences matter? Let’s assume that you can get 15 of 25 agents  to adopt a best practice that would lead to reducing Average Handling Time by up to 50%. Let’s also assume that each agent averages for 30 hours of call handling time each week (or about 1500 hours per year).  By getting 60% of the agents to adopt a best practice, you’d add 11,250 productivity hours to your center without adding a penny to the expense line.

Roll Out Best Practices Using a Unified Agent Desktop

Insights behind the agent desktop will shed light on clicks, time spent on screens, and the outcome of calls. Call center managers can use these insights to find technology barriers that are consistently hampering an optimal customer interaction flow. Data and insights will help call centers ensure productive escalations or “on-hold” consultations.

Along with the insights, call centers need to leverage a unified agent desktop to codify best practices easily for customer dialogs and optimal process for each campaign or use case. An agent desktop provides a mechanism to roll out new best practices. Getting new agents trained in the at home model is a difficult proposition. Set the best practice in the system, minimize training and allow the agent to succeed faster and better.

Interested in learning more about rolling out best practices and optimizing the home agent workforce? Contact us to learn how our unified agent desktop provides end-to-end management insights that lead to best practices.