Anyone involved in running a contact center is aware of the imperatives my research has highlighted: reduce operating costs, transition to multichannel support, raise customer satisfaction levels and increase up-sales. On a daily basis, these demands spur managers to focus on reducing average handling times, increasing first-call-resolution rates, optimizing agent utilization, delivering more pertinent agent training and personalizing responses in light of the customer’s profile, the context of the call and targeted business outcomes. The foundation of all these efforts is information and systems that support the contact center agent.
Upstream Works is a vendor whose products address many of these challenges. The mainstays of its portfolio are UpStart Agent Desktop, UpTake Customer Care Family and Call Management Automation Server.
My Agent Performance Management benchmark research and visits to contact centers show that agents typically have so many systems on their desktops that navigating through them increases call lengths and dissatisfaction among both agents and customers, reduces first-call-resolution rates and costs the company business opportunities. Upstart Agent Desktop addresses this issue with an array of features: automating access to applications, easing navigation between applications, prompting the agent through interactions, providing access to the customer’s full history, combining processes for phone, e-mail and chat, providing a knowledge base of supporting information and offering supervisory support through chat. These capabilities make the desktop much easier to use, reduce agent training times and allow the agent to focus on the customer rather than the technology.
UpTake Customer Care Family is a set of reporting and analytics tools that provide insight into how well customer interactions are being handled, which customers are interacting with the company and why, and which agents are performing best in handling interactions. Unlike in many other products, its analysis of interaction-handling takes an end-to-end view of customer interactions and is therefore able to tie together interactions about the same issue, providing a full picture of which interactions are being resolved at the first attempt. The analysis also ties each interaction back to whoever handled it and can thus show which agents need training for different types of interaction or even different parts of an interaction. Using analytics allows companies to understand why customers interact with them and this drives not just improved interaction-handling processes but it also identifies product or service issues that produce high volumes of interactions. Customers of UpStream I spoke with found this very exciting as it has enabled them to drive back-office changes which have resulted in much fewer calls to their contact centers.
One of the earliest discoveries I made in my research into the maturity of contact centers was that many are held back from improving their performance because they use many legacy systems, often spread over several sites that have accumulated through mergers and acquisitions or simply rapid geographic growth. Call Management Automation Server is an integration platform that allows companies to unify and simply their center architectures, making them easier to operate. Built-in analytics give an operational view of how interactions are being handled, which can point to areas that need improving.
My research into the use of technology in contact centers was the first piece of research that showed just how cumbersome the agent desktop can be; in it, a high proportion of companies indicating that agents can have 20 or more applications open on their desktop to resolve even simple issues. Is this true in your centers? If so the Upstream Works UpTake Analyst is a product that you should evaluate to see if it can improve your agents’ performance. My benchmark research into customer experience management (CEM) showed that companies want a better view of their customers and of the quality of outcomes agents are delivering. Is this true for you? If so, the customer care products might help. I also know from research and conversations with operational managers that cost reduction is high on most agendas. In the past one solution has been to divert customers to self-service capabilities such as interactive voice response (IVR) or a customer self-service portal. My CEM research shows this has largely been a failure as in both cases over 70 percent of customers end up calling an agent anyway. The insights that can be gained from these customer care products offer companies the opportunity to take a different approach and address the root causes of customer issues before they result in calls.
Richard Snow – VP & Global Research Directo