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Welcome to the October 2018 issue of the NACC In Queue newsletter!

The Gig Economy And The Contact Center

Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research,  [email protected]

 

When most people hear the word “gig” they think of musicians or a musical performance, and rightly so. Although hard to determine, the word “gig” was thought to originate as slang among musicians and professional performers to describe a paying engagement they had agreed to do. The word first showed up in print in a London publication called Melody Maker in 1926. According to the Worldwide Words website, the word gig today refers to any short-term, paying job or commission that is not associated with full-time employment.

 

The best example of a gig worker today is the Uber driver. Uber drivers are independent contractors who drive their own car and choose their own hours. They work as much or as little as they want and are essentially self-employed free-lancers working a “gig” for Uber.

 

Is there a place for gig workers in the contact center? That’s one of the things we wanted to explore in our latest survey of end-users. Like Uber drivers, we assumed gig agents or workers in the contact center would work the hours they wanted to after undergoing appropriate training. They would be independent freelance contractors to the contact center and would supply their own equipment for their home office.

 

Given this basic information we put the question of gig agents to our research participants and were surprised to discover that the idea of gig agents is very familiar to some, and not out of the realm of possibility for many others. Figure 1 below illustrates responses to the question of whether or not the respondent contact center would consider gig agents for their business.

Figure 1:  Potential Acceptance of Gig Agents in the Contact Center Industry

Percent Gig Workers















There is a lot more to the idea of gig agents that we originally thought there would be. As a result, we’ll be exploring this topic in a webinar on October 30th at 12 noon Eastern time. We’ll be joined by researchers from Aspect, who will share the results of a recent project they undertook to better understand the gig economy. I hope you’ll join us to learn about what is poised to be a major, disruptive trend in the global contact center industry. Webinar registration can be found here. See you on the 30th!

 


Important Forecasting Considerations For Inbound Contact Solutions

Rich Hamilton, Director of Marketing & Product Development, Quality Contact Solutions, [email protected]

 

richhamilton

It’s said that the heart and soul of most companies is their Inbound Contact Solutions operation (also known as an inbound call center). This vital department with an organization has an opportunity to get key customer insights and the call center interactions often make or break the customer relationship.

Author note: When I refer to inbound contacts, I’m talking about inbound voice contacts plus the other non-voice contacts that contact centers are responsible for handling, including email, text and chat.

Have you ever sat on hold, trying to call a company and finally gave up, never to interact with that company again? Making sure that your Inbound Contact Solutions operation is properly staffed is super important. Whether this is a first impression or an angry customer that is giving the company one last chance, each inbound contact can be vital.

Forecasting your call volumes and appropriate staffing/scheduled of your workforce is extremely important. Keep in mind that there are some very sophisticated algorithms used to forecast call volume and the needed workforce to answer those calls. I’ll focus more on the data that needs to be considered. Here is a list of the key data points used for forecasting and scheduling:
Key Data Points for Inbound Contact Solutions Forecasting and Scheduling
• Call volume
• Average Handle Time
• Absenteeism
• Service Levels
• Occupancy Levels

Now that we have list listed the key data points, let’s break these down and look at a few other considerations for workforce forecasting and planning for any inbound call center operation.

Inbound Contact Solutions Historical Data
Data is King! The best place to start is with data from the past. The more data you can get your hands on, the better. The key metrics to focus on will be call volume and average handle time. Look at these metrics by day, week, month and definitely time of day. If possible, instead of just looking at the last couple of months, look at the same time period over the last several years. This will help especially in industries where there are seasonal call volume changes (think Christmas time for anyone selling consumer products).

Looking at call volume and average handle time will give you a real good picture on the number of FTEs you will need in your inbound contact solution. This will get you about 80% there. There are still a few more factors that we will need to take into consideration in order to get the whole picture, which we will discuss in the following sections.

Don’t forget to look at absenteeism. You will need to know what percentage of your workforce may call out sick on a given day. This can be very hard to forecast but with enough data, at least you can forecast more precisely. For example, let’s say your call center needs to staff 20 FTEs for Monday. Based on your absenteeism, historically 1 person calls out sick on Mondays. Wouldn’t it be prudent to schedule 21 FTEs on Monday, so that when the 1 person calls out sick, you still have the right number of call agents to handle the expected call volume?

Future Events That Impact Inbound Contact Solutions Planning
Not only do you need to look at metrics from the past, but you also need to look at any events happening in the future that are out of the ordinary.

Marketing/Other Company Initiatives – The Marketing Department might plan to send out an email announcing a new product or a new promotion that they predict will increase call volume.

Weather – This one could be tougher, but this could affect you in a couple different ways. One would be if your industry relies on the weather. Maybe there will be extra snow forecasted over the next month and your call center takes ski resort reservations. The other way is how it affects your employees. Maybe increased snow means that your absenteeism will be higher than is normal. So, more employees will need to be scheduled to cover all the inbound calls.

Other Events – These events could be specific to an industry or only affect a specific group of industries and the amount of calls the call center will receive. One example could be a new federal law being passed that will affect a certain industry and the volume of calls they will receive. For example, when HIPAA was first implemented, I’m sure healthcare providers received more calls and the calls were longer than normal.

Management Expectations for your Inbound Contact Solutions Operation
Each call center will have specific metrics from management that need to be adhered to. These metrics will include service levels (percentage of calls to be answered within X amount of time) and occupancy levels (the percentage of time actively working on calls including talk time and after call work time). The higher the service level required, the more call center agents will be needed to answer phone calls. Higher occupancy levels mean you won’t need as many call center agents, but it also means agents will burn out faster and sometimes it is difficult to achieve higher occupancy levels and higher service levels if the call volumes are not consistent.

Other Considerations for Proper Forecasting Methodology in Your Contact Solutions Operation
And here are a few other considerations to keep in mind as you identify the inputs for forecasting and scheduling for your contact solutions operation.

Human Resources Policies: HR policies like required break and lunch times will impact your workforce management and scheduling plan. Obviously, there is a huge difference in scheduling when a call center agent has a 30-minute lunch versus a 60-minute lunch. HR policies which we would include union rules could dictate start and stop times for shifts, and possibly when the breaks would need to occur (after so many hours of work).

Agent Skills: If your call center has multiple departments, this adds another level of complexity. Calculating call volume and average handle time along with the other considerations will have to be done for each department because the skill required will vary most times vary from department to department. Call center agents that are cross trained is good to know when scheduling. Not that I am saying that you can count a call center agent for both departments if they are trained for both, but at times when one department is slow, and another is busy, knowing that a few agents can help with the overflow is helpful for scheduling.

Forecast and Workforce Management Resources: In my career, I have managed inbound contact solutions operations that were very large and very small. Typically, the larger the organization, the larger the budget for workforce management software and systems. Smaller inbound contact solutions operations typically get by with spreadsheets and elbow grease.

Whether you have access to sophisticated forecasting and workforce management software or you’re working with Excel spreadsheets, you’ll find this part of the business is equal parts math and art. In my organization, we often get a little more flexibility by adding some outbound calls into the queue. This helps justify more staffing while getting a higher occupancy rate.

Rich Hamilton is the Director of Marketing & Product Development for Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing organization. Rich works tirelessly to bring new products to the teleservices and call center market. Rich is also the creative powerhouse behind executing on a wide spectrum of marketing initiatives for the organization. In addition, Rich is a telemarketing compliance guru with a Customer Engagement Compliance Professional (CECP) certification to back it up. Rich can be reached at [email protected] or 516-656-5105.


Employee Engagement Will Continue to Reign In 2019

Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research,  [email protected]

When we conducted our year-end interviews with members of the NACC at the end of 2017, we discovered an emerging trend that was poised to be a dominant movement in 2018. That trend was Employee Engagement and results of our most recent research work points to employee engagement continuing to be a driving industry factor as we progress toward 2019.

The 2019 Saddletree Research survey of end-users, conducted in conjunction with the NACC, sought to quantify the importance of employee engagement in the global contact center market. The results of our question regarding the importance of employee engagement relative to their contact centers’ overall operational strategy are illustrated in Figure 3, below.

Figure 3:  Importance of Employee Engagement in 2019

employeeengagement

 














On November 8th at 1 p.m. Eastern time, I will be speaking in a webinar that addresses the evolution of employee engagement in the contact center, and its importance to the future of the industry given generational issues, shifts, and preferences. For more information and to register to join me in this webinar, please click here.

 


Hope to see you there on November 8th!

 


Intraday Management:  Mobilizing The Workforce 

Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research,  [email protected]

 

Another webinar alert! OpenText Qfiniti will be conducting a series of three webinars beginning on October 30th. The topic of these webinars will be the benefits of an intraday management mobile app. Mobile apps will only increase in importance as the most connect generation in history becomes the majority of workers in the contact center and in industry as a whole.

More details about this webinar series and registration to attend can be found here.


Call Center Comics

 callcentercomicsIf you like this comic and would like to see more, write Ozzie at  [email protected] and visit his website at  http://callcentercomics.com or just click on the comic to tak you to his page. The NACC appreciates Ozzie letting us use some of his comics in our newsletter.   

In This Issue...

  • Gig Economy & Contact Center
  • QCS Article
  • Employee Engagement: Important Trend
  • Mobilizing Workforce
  • Call Center Comics!

Pearls Of Wisdom

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."

             ~ Michelangelo

Reports From NACC

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