National Association of Call Centers

Paul Stockford

Paul Stockford

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No Health Care for Obamacare Contact Center Agents

During a recent phone conversation with Kevin Hegebarth, who is the VP of marketing at HireIQ, Inc., he brought to my attention a contact center story that would be hard to believe if it wasn’t so well documented and there wasn’t a government agency behind it. The story involves the recent establishment of a contact center in Contra Costa County, California. It is one of three contact centers to be established in the state of California for the purpose of fielding Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, calls beginning October 1st.

 

In July the county advertised the availability of 152 new, full-time Obamacare contact center agent jobs. They received 7,457 applications. 1,947 of the applicants passed the civil service exam and moved on to the next phase. 600 applicants went through the interview process before the final 152 agents were hired. Some of the successful applicants were people emerging from a long period of unemployment, some were people coming from small home-based businesses that they started to try to weather the recession and many were people who left other full-time positions in the hope of finding greater stability in a county government contact center job.

 

Once hired, many employees were surprised to discover that the full-time jobs they applied for and were hired to fill were actually part-time jobs. On top of that they were informed that as part-time employees they would not be eligible to receive health benefits in their new Obamacare support jobs. These new part-timers were given the opportunity to contribute to their health care benefits as a part-time employee at a cost of $600 per month. The cost for an individual to enroll in Obamacare through a health insurance exchange is $243 per month. After doing the math all but 42 part-timers left.

 

Anna Bakalis, a spokeswoman for Service Employees International Union Local 1021 said the situation at the new call center follows a government employment trend of “part-timeization,” where formerly full-time jobs are now part-time so agencies don’t have to offer health benefits. Does anyone else see the irony here?

 

As it stands now the contact center is trying to come up with a 50-50 split of full-time and part-time positions. In the meantime they are dealing with the fallout that has come from hiring people with no health care benefits whose job it will be to help people get health care benefits.

Aspect’s Mobility for the Contact Center Workforce

On June 27, 2013 Aspect Software announced the availability of Aspect Workforce Mobile. This new software solution provides contact center agents mobile access to Aspect’s workforce management solution. This makes it possible for agents to view and request changes to their own schedule using their smartphone or tablet computer. Agents can also view their own performance metrics and productivity statistics on their mobile device from any location. For those agents who are motivated to get ahead and/or are working toward a career in customer care, this capability will prove to be an invaluable asset.

 

For supervisors, Aspect Workforce Mobile offers the ability to look at workforce schedules and make or approve changes as necessary from their mobile device. Supervisors with a mobile device can also view intraday statistics, forecasts, performance metrics and nearly every statistic provided by Aspect’s workforce management software.

 

What I found so extraordinary about this announcement is how stunningly practical this Aspect solution is. With the proliferation of mobile devices in the U.S. today, which currently stands at approximately 1.1 mobile communications devices for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and all of its territories, it only makes sense to extend the usage of these communications tools to those in the customer service profession. The next generation of workers has been raised with a mobile phone in hand and it is typically this generation’s resource of choice for nearly all information. Contact center executives should welcome the ability to access work information on a personal mobile device with open arms.

 

I was particularly interested in the proactive broadcast capabilities of Aspect Workforce Mobile. Any piece of information that can impact the workforce schedule in any way can be quickly automated and broadcast to a mobile device. For example, if a contact center finds itself with overtime hours available this opportunity can be promptly broadcast to its agent population. Agents can log on to the workforce management system with their mobile device and quickly check their schedule against the available overtime hours. Again using a mobile device from any location, agents can apply for the overtime hours as appropriate.

 

Credit for Aspect Workforce Mobile belongs to an Aspect customer and Aspect’s Innovation Group, which developed the solution at the request of this specific customer. The customer has been using Aspect Workforce Mobile with its nearly 3,000 agents and estimates it will save about $500,000 per year. I’d call that an acceptable return on investment (ROI).

 

As previously mentioned, this is a practical solution that I expect to find immediate and widespread acceptance in the worldwide contact center industry. Beyond that, I’m happy to see that there are still contact center solutions providers that are creating solutions that directly address and impact the actual, existing productivity challenges faced by contact centers today.   With so many vendors that seem to have their head in the cloud, so to speak, it is reassuring to see that Aspect still has its feet firmly planted on the ground.

Interactive Intelligence Interactions 2013 Impresses

The InformationWeek 500, published annually by Information Week magazine, is a list of the nation’s 500 most innovative users of business technology as determined by the editors of the magazine. As a provider of business technology for the contact center, it appears that Plantronics (www.plantronics.com) practices what it preaches because it has earned a spot on the InformationWeek 500 list for 2012. Plantronics has been recognized for its adoption of a cutting edge workplace strategy called “smarter working.”

Smarter working is a relatively new approach that places people over place and delivers flexible solutions that allow people to cooperate and collaborate across work environments. For a global company like Plantronics the ability to work with customers, partners and employees across time zones and geographies is critical to success. Employees can now effectively communicate with each other regardless of where they are located or which type of communications device is being used.

I had the opportunity to visit Plantronics’ headquarters in Santa Cruz, CA this past June and saw the construction of their new work environment in progress. Although not technically in Silicon Valley, the Plantronics work environment should, and probably will, put to shame the work environments in what most of us think of as progressive high tech companies. The physical environment in the workplace is as important as the work process for those who adhere to the principles of smarter working.

At Plantronics, the workspaces are flexible and open, encouraging collaboration and communication. The cube farm has been replaced by a friendly collection of work areas where it is apparent that employees share energy as well as ideas. The beneficiaries of the smarter working initiative are not only the employees – Plantronics’ customers will benefit as well. Here’s how.

Plantronics makes headsets for the contact center industry. Contact centers are noisy, busy places. With the new Plantronics open work environment, part of the “buzz” is due to the fact that employees are talking to each other more frequently, creating a workplace environment that is very similar to the typical contact center. As a result, Plantronics has just become a test bed for its own headsets.

Despite its industry leadership position, Plantronics continues to innovate in more ways than one. With the new smarter working strategy in place the employees win, the customers win and, for the icing on the cake, Plantronics gets an award. Plantronics continues to prove that its industry vision extends well beyond the world of audio communications.

"Smarter Working" Nets Multiple Wins for Plantronics

The InformationWeek 500, published annually by Information Week magazine, is a list of the nation’s 500 most innovative users of business technology as determined by the editors of the magazine. As a provider of business technology for the contact center, it appears that Plantronics (www.plantronics.com) practices what it preaches because it has earned a spot on the InformationWeek 500 list for 2012. Plantronics has been recognized for its adoption of a cutting edge workplace strategy called “smarter working.”

 

Smarter working is a relatively new approach that places people over place and delivers flexible solutions that allow people to cooperate and collaborate across work environments. For a global company like Plantronics the ability to work with customers, partners and employees across time zones and geographies is critical to success. Employees can now effectively communicate with each other regardless of where they are located or which type of communications device is being used.

 

I had the opportunity to visit Plantronics’ headquarters in Santa Cruz, CA this past June and saw the construction of their new work environment in progress. Although not technically in Silicon Valley, the Plantronics work environment should, and probably will, put to shame the work environments in what most of us think of as progressive high tech companies. The physical environment in the workplace is as important as the work process for those who adhere to the principles of smarter working.

 

At Plantronics, the workspaces are flexible and open, encouraging collaboration and communication. The cube farm has been replaced by a friendly collection of work areas where it is apparent that employees share energy as well as ideas. The beneficiaries of the smarter working initiative are not only the employees – Plantronics’ customers will benefit as well. Here’s how.

 

Plantronics makes headsets for the contact center industry. Contact centers are noisy, busy places. With the new Plantronics open work environment, part of the “buzz” is due to the fact that employees are talking to each other more frequently, creating a workplace environment that is very similar to the typical contact center. As a result, Plantronics has just become a test bed for its own headsets.

 

Despite its industry leadership position, Plantronics continues to innovate in more ways than one. With the new smarter working strategy in place the employees win, the customers win and, for the icing on the cake, Plantronics gets an award. Plantronics continues to prove that its industry vision extends well beyond the world of audio communications.

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