Businesses want to increase revenue (no surprises there). And this desire to maximize profitability is driving a new contact center model: the blended contact center.
Blended contact centers are responsible for both outbound and inbound calls. Outbound operators have the more obvious role in directly transforming the contact center from a cost center to a profit center. Inbound operators, in addition to traditional customer service, can take on a sales function by upselling active calls on the “latest offering,” not to mention influencing customer retention. But for this business model to succeed, operators need to work efficiently, or the scales tip quickly back to losing money.
A Symbiotic Relationship
To facilitate these efficiencies and maximize profitability, contact center leaders must focus on agent engagement. The more engaged agents are, the more likely they will perform beyond the minimum and strive to exceed customer expectations. But to measure agent engagement a new set of metrics is needed.
One of the most obvious metrics — and still vitally important — is customer satisfaction. If customers feel their issue has been resolved, then agents have the potential to upsell. Likewise, the agent that leaves the customer with a good impression will motivate the customer to buy again.
But a critical metric that is related to customer satisfaction is employee satisfaction. The largest expense in the contact center is employee overhead. A center of unhappy agents results in high turnover, causing the loss of productive people and an increase in training expenses. When agents receive adequate training, have a flexible schedule and enjoy variety in their work, they report higher levels of satisfaction and engagement. Engaged agents can be given responsibility for upselling, cross-selling and customer retention versus just providing a rote, impersonal answer. The engaged agent wants to do better and deliver more, which is more profitable to the company. The net-net is this: employee satisfaction at the contact center very often pulls customer satisfaction with it, either up or down.
Traditional metrics — handle time and call resolution chief among them — can be skewed, and lead contact center leaders to chase numbers at the cost of good customer experience. For example, the call time metric can be manipulated by having the agent hang up on the customer, rather than making sure the experience is a good one. Service level is another example — how fast the customer’s call was answered. Just because the call was answered quickly doesn’t mean it was answered correctly. It also doesn't mean that the agent actually helped the customer or led them to grow their loyalty to the product or brand.
To reduce costs in the past managers would take the most direct steps, namely letting people go. Layoffs reduced costs, but at the expense of customer service and burnout among the remaining agents. Contact center leaders who take an alternative route — by focusing on coaching, training and other tactics — keep agents engaged without eroding profits. And by eliminating manual processes where possible, managers have more time to focus on strategic questions, without damaging service levels.
Workforce automation technology can give contact centers an advantage by centralizing the enormous quantity of data that flows into the contact center to standardize and trigger real-time workforce adjustments in response to changing conditions and events throughout the day, leading to better prepared agents and the ability to deliver a higher level of customer service.
It sets up a win-win-win situation: agents are more motivated to provide the best possible service, managers have a more tangible (and less counter-productive) way to control operating costs, and customers are kept satisfied and engaged.