What's New in In Queue
Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, [email protected]
MEMBERSHIPS AVAILABLE: We are seeking customer service
professionals who are interested in becoming an NACC member at no
charge in exchange for 30 minutes of time during a 12 month
period. This is a complete membership with full access to the
reports and documents resident on the NACC website. You will also
receive exclusive notification of business opportunities for members as
they are presented to the NACC. The only requirement is that you
have to be currently employed in an active contact center at a level of
supervisor or above.
Our surveys are infrequent and typically short and results are shared
with members. To see an example of an average survey, please go
While you’re there why not complete the survey and get familiar with
the whole volunteer membership experience? Our promise is to not
ask for more than 30 minutes of your time in a 12 month period.
If you would like to join the ranks of our volunteer members please
send me an e-mail with the word “Volunteer” in the subject line.
UPCOMING NACC WEBINAR! On August 21st,
David Butler and I will be co-hosting a webinar covering one of the
industry’s current hot topics – optimizing the customer
experience. As broad as that topic sounds, we’ll be narrowing our
focus to exploring how humans interact with both processes and
technology. We’ll be joined by speakers from OpenSpan, who will
add to the discussion of how to simultaneously improve both the worker
experience and the customer experience. You can sign up for this
webinar now by going to http://www2.openspan.com/l/11522/2012-06-27/73rk2. Please register for this event and mark your calendar to join us.
This month’s issue of In Queue features an article from regular In Queue
contributor Strategic Contact. Author Lori Fraser draws
inspiration from the summer Olympic Games and writes about ramping up
for the peak season that lies ahead, and for improved business
conditions. You can reach Lori at [email protected].
Finally we have David Butler’s contribution from the blogosphere as
well as a look at contact center industry employment during the first
half of 2012. While first quarter numbers took a major plunge due
to shakeups in the wireless telecommunications vertical, second quarter
numbers are very encouraging. Look for my article below.
Peak Season Success Requires Planning
Lori Fraser, Consultant, Strategic Contact, Inc.
do Olympic athletes and your contact center have in common?
Finely-tuned bodies, focused minds, diligent training, the right
support staff for training and competition, and the best equipment the
budget allows. The processes, products, and policies may differ (OK,
and the bodies too!), but the need for peak season planning and
flawless execution is common to both. A winning contact center strategy
sustains or increases revenue, operates cost effectively (regardless of
season), retains staff, and satisfies customers. Failure squanders
opportunity, resources, and customer loyalty. As coaching great John
Wooden said: “If failure isn’t your goal, then it’s time to prepare for
Get the Fundamentals in Order…
Just like Olympic athletes, it all starts with the basics. Focus on the
fundamentals, and you’ve got a good springboard to lift you into peak
season. The fundamentals focus on the most critical asset in your
center – People – and how you manage them to peak performance, without
neglecting other key enablers.
The basics start by knowing what matters to your company and customers.
You need to establish appropriate individual, group, and center Key
Performance Indicators (KPIs). Know what you are going to measure and
how you’ll get the numbers. Top centers don’t deviate too far from
their goals no matter what the volumes; they plan ahead so they reach
their critical targets – in quality and efficiency – even when volumes
are high. That’s what sets them apart from their competition.
Basics include preparation for new front-line staff. Check job
descriptions and process documentation, consider the “easiest” call
types and routing and skills structures to match, and develop clear,
targeted training for new hires. Peak season is not the time to “just
wing it.” Of course, those people need technology and facilities
capacity too, so make sure planning includes IT and others.
Give careful consideration to your contact center support staff. You’ll
need to gear up your workforce management and quality assessment
processes to handle extraordinarily volumes. Does your staff handle
scheduling and real-time management effectively with regular volumes?
Do they have a plan for life in the extremes? Are you checking internal
(Quality Monitoring) and external (Voice of Customer) quality regularly
to ensure that your reps adhere to your processes and policies and deliver the expected customer experience? World class centers keep quality monitoring and coaching at the same level even during peak season.
Let’s not forget reporting. You need to know how the center is doing
and how each individual contributes to the collective. Who’s doing
great? Who needs more coaching or help in order to handle their fair
share during this busy time? Visible reporting, by role, is a
… And Be Ready to Ramp Up
With a two- to ten-fold increase in volume, a lot of “moving parts”
around the organization will experience strain. A good plan relieves
the pressures and ensures that neither your staff nor your customers
feel the pain. Depending on your resources, there are six functional
areas to address to enable greater volume handling or minimize volumes
agents must handle. Centers with limited budgets may only be able to
consider temporary staffing options. However, depending on your budget
and time to prepare, there are additional options to proactively reduce
inbound volume, reduce handle time, add capacity, and optimize
technology use and performance. See the table for options to consider.
Proactively prevent calls or reduce inbound volume
Add proactive automated outbound notifications or alerts - calls, emails, SMS text messages.
Add web chat and collaboration.
Contain calls or reduce agent volume
Limit queues based on conditionals with dynamic messaging and options to help customers find alternatives at busy times.
Boost IVR self-service through status-based messaging, additional self-service functionality, and improved user interface.
Reduce handle time
Reduce transfers (within and between teams).
handle times through system efficiencies, process improvements, screen
pops, or knowledge management tools, content and search functionality.
Add capacity and response agility
Expand hours to minimize daily peak.
Implement estimated wait time and call back options.
Optimize technology use and performance
Add intelligence to routing, using business rules based on customer information and contact type to tap the best skilled staff.
Add screen pops or increase screen pop percentage.
most common option is to add more agents. This may be temporary staff,
outsourcing partners or existing staff within the center and from other
departments through “All Hands on Deck” initiatives to help with peak
volume. More agents also means more coaches and support staff. While
you may get off to a good start with early sourcing and hiring plans,
don’t forget about your training room logistics and staff seating plan.
You need a plan (by week) for how many agents are in classroom
training, nesting training, and then productive on the center floor. [Don’t forget about attrition!]
Map out your seating plan – by week, by day, by shift. Facilities
limitations may force you to consider using home agents or outsourcing.
Coaching, QA, and back office roles frequently get overlooked in the
staffing plan, compromising the customer experience and presenting
bottle-necks to center efficiency and effectiveness. Experienced staff
in the management, supervisory, and agent ranks may need to increase
the amount of time they spend on the floor giving seasonal staff the
support they need. Consider using subject matter experts as floor
walkers to provide technical or process expertise to new staff. Your
redeployed staff will need relief from other responsibilities during
peak season; plan projects around your peak, delay other tasks or
enlist other departments to assist with non-client facing tasks which
must get done.
What’s your plan?
With the fundamentals in place and a solid ramp up plan, you can handle
the peaks. To guide your thinking as you prepare for your upcoming peak
season, check out Peak Season Coverage “Best Practices.”
Free The Agent! How Technology and Process Can Better Serve the Employee and Ultimately, The Customer
Laura Tanner, Vice President Marketing, OpenSpan
face it. All too often, business executives and the IT
organizations that support them focus on the abstract, at the expense
of the personal. At the end of the day, all business activity is
for and about people. It’s about what the customers experience
when they call you, or come into your storefront, or visit your
self-service Website. It’s about your employees’ effectiveness at
meeting customer needs, and how much it costs your organization to do
so in terms of efficiency and errors. All too often, the
technology and business processes put in place can become barriers to
the worker’s ability to execute. At OpenSpan, we believe there’s
a better way to work. By optimizing how human beings interact
with processes and technology, you can improve not only the worker
experience but the customer experience as a result.
Join OpenSpan for a compelling Webinar on August 21 as we introduce a
new way of working for contact centers, hosted by the National
Association of Call Centers’ Executive Director Dr. David Butler and
Research Director Paul Stockford. We’ll explore how worker
experience impacts customer experience, and how to improve interactions
human-to-human and human-to-computer. Find out how to improve,
measure and innovate both productivity and efficiency by starting where
technology and people meet—on the agent desktop. Register for
this important event today at http://www2.openspan.com/l/11522/2012-06-27/73rk2.
Outsource The President!
David L. Butler, PhD, Executive Director, National Association of Call Centers,
(The following is a recent posting from the NACC blog)
not really. But the title is catchy. At the National Association of
Call Centers and through the Call Center Research Laboratory at The
University of Southern Mississippi, we have been collecting data on the
call center industry for over 10 years. This data includes call center
openings, closings, expansions, contractions as well as a host of other
data for the industry both domestically and internationally. Having
data over time allows us to see trends which cannot be seen with data
over just a few days, months or years. One such trend that shows up
every four years is the influence of the US presidential campaign on
the call center industry.
Second Quarter 2012 Industry Employment Numbers Indicate Quick Recovery From First Quarter Bloodbath!
Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, [email protected]
the U.S. economy continues it’s somewhat weak recovery, the contact
center industry took a major hit in employment as the wireless
telecommunications industry undertook what appears to be a major
cost-cutting effort by sending thousands of jobs to overseas contact
center outsourcers. Led by T-Mobile and the export of 3,973 U.S.
contact center jobs to offshore outsourcers in the first quarter alone,
followed closely by Verizon Wireless and the offshoring of over 2,600
U.S. contact center jobs, it appeared that the domestic customer
service profession was about to show its first decline in job growth
Fortunately this reduction in the U.S. contact center labor force was
offset in the first quarter by outsourcers such as Alorica, which added
over 1,000 new contact center jobs to the U.S. market, and Sutherland
Global Services, which ramped up the agent count by 600 jobs during the
quarter. They were joined by a diverse corps of contact centers
in verticals such as roadside assistance and financial services that
were able to maintain a positive job count during the first quarter of
2012. Overall, there was a net gain of 513 jobs during the
quarter. Although this was a far cry from the impressive job gain
numbers that closed out the second half of 2011, it was still positive
and was an encouraging indicator of second quarter hiring results.
Second quarter 2012 U.S. contact center industry growth was led by
gourmet food proprietor Harry and David, which added over 700 jobs to
help U.S. economic growth. Home Depot followed a close second
followed by a number of outsourcers that continue to grow during the
economic recovery. The net gain in contact center
employment during the second quarter of 2012 was 10,914 jobs, putting
the industry back on track as a leader in employment growth.
To put things in perspective I called my longtime industry friend and
colleague, Kevin Hegebarth, Vice President of Marketing at HireIQ
(www.hireiqinc.com), a fast-growing company that provides recruitment,
selection and hiring solutions specifically designed specifically for
the contact center industry. When asked about the hiring spike
that occurred during the second quarter of this year, Kevin responded,
“Over the past few months, we’ve seen a big pick-up in hiring by
mid-sized outsourcers who are responding to the needs of captive
contact centers looking to contain costs and remain competitive in
today’s market. That has translated into a major push to find
alternative resources that can provide their customers with a
cost-effective means of maintaining high levels of customer service at
a manageable cost level.”
When asked about in-house contact centers, Kevin remarked, “Captive
contact centers are recognizing the need to improve the hiring process
in order to remain competitive. We are seeing companies turn to
hiring solutions that eliminate the subjective aspects of the selection
process in order to maximize effectiveness and efficiency. These
objectives are resonating with contact center hiring managers.”
Although the third quarter of 2012 is still young, the NACC has seen a
recent increase in the number of inquiries that we are receiving from
companies looking for contact center partners in order to increase or
manage their growing businesses. We consider this a positive
indicator of industry employment growth for this quarter, and for the
remainder of the year. A historical perspective of contact center
growth by quarter is provided in the graph below.
Figure 1: U.S. Contact Center Employment By Quarter 2010 – 2012
Source: National Association of Call Centers (NACC)
Call Center Comics!
If you like this comic and would like to see more, write Ozzie at [email protected] and visit his website at http://callcentercomics.com/cartoon_categories.htm
or just click on the comic to take you to his page. The NACC
appreciates Ozzie letting us use some of his comics in our newsletter.
To view past issues of In Queue, please click here.
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Copyright 2012 National Association of Call Centers