My benchmark research into agent performance management (APM) found that the number-one objective of companies trying to improve the handling of customer interactions was to utilize agents more effectively; this also was their top objective in creating agents’ work schedules. In the latter case, the research uncovered a primary reason for difficulties in achieving this objective: Only 36 percent of companies use a dedicated tool to create these schedules; the majority do it manually or with spreadsheets.
Even dedicated tools have limits in optimizing agent utilization. The technique of most tools is to look at historical call patterns and agents’ adherence to their allotted work schedules and from that estimate how many agents will be needed to cover future requirements. The most effective tools use advanced algorithms and by making several passes through the available data often come up with accurate work schedules. Most of these tools also include mechanisms that alert supervisors to take action whenever agents are not adhering to their schedules.
Knowlagent takes a somewhat different approach to these issues. Its RightTime patented engine monitors activities in the contact center, including the volume of calls in the queue, which agents are available and which are working on tasks other than call-handling. It does this through integration to most of the common call-management systems and workforce-management products. Users set up rules that determine what action should happen if defined situations arise; for example, if call volumes are less than expected and more agents than normal are available, a set number of agents will be taken off call-handling and given other tasks. The rules can be defined to recognize periods within the schedules that cannot be changed, such as fixed lunch breaks, and told what to do if the situation changes, such as bringing agents back to call-handling if there is a sudden burst of calls, even if they have not finished the alternative task. Those other tasks can be just about anything: taking an e-learning training course, having a one-on-one coaching session, reading a key document or announcement, handling e-mail or letters or something else. RightTime keeps track of all actions it schedules and alternate tasks that are undertaken (and completed), so managers and supervisors get a full report of what was and wasn’t done.
Knowlagent’s helps call center managers begin the agent management process by helping ensure that new hires closely match the profile for existing agents and therefore are likely to achieve the same level of results. The process begins by using the Knowlagent tools to create an online recruitment test that covers all the key attributes and skills the company is looking for in agents. It can include skills testing, evaluation of personality traits and even speaking tests. Testing of agents already employed creates a baseline against which the product calibrates the desired results. After potential new hires finish the tests, the software can match them to potential roles or rule them out. The whole service runs online as software as a service, which makes it simple and affordable for the company and easy for candidates to take the tests. Because the product tracks all aspects of the process and all candidates, users can see an overview of performance.
Companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of contact center agents to the success of their business as they are largely responsible for delivering excellent customer experiences. Getting hiring right and then making the fullest use of agents will improve business performance. Knowlagent takes a unique approach to both these issues, and I recommend companies look how its products can help them improve effectiveness of their agents.
Richard Snow – VP & Global Research Director