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Achieving the Right Balance Between Automation and Call Center Quality

June 01, 2012
By Tracey E. Schelmetic - Telemarketing Software Contributor

As most call centers – and the businesses they support – have grown over the years, many companies have found themselves facing a dilemma: the need to find the right balance of high-quality customer service while keeping expenses down. The latter requirement has often seen companies attempting to find the most effective automation technologies, such as telemarketing software, e-mail auto-response solutions, interactive voice response (IVR) and other call-routing technologies, Web-based self-service and FAQ lists.

But how do you know you're getting it right?

Knowlagent's CEO, Matt McConnell recently wrote an article for Business Review USA that can help call centers to know how to automate a quality customer experience, keeping costs under control while at the same time keeping the standards of customer service high.

While early efforts to automate call centers weren't always a success – customers disliked the technologies – great strides have been made in call center automation as of late. Unfortunately, the number of truly “complex” customer calls that can't be handled by anything but a live agent have also escalated, meaning that a robust automated solution is more critical than ever.

Automation doesn't necessarily mean 100 percent automated. It might mean a call that begins through an IVR to collect pertinent information before transfer to a live agent. It might mean that at the end of a live call, a customer is transferred back onto a self-service platform to complete the call, cutting precious seconds off the time a live agent needs to be on the phone. But getting agents ready to make the best use of automation technology requires an important step: training to make the most of the automation solutions. But training takes time that many call centers don't have.

“Where can customer service leaders find the time to train and coach agents without negatively impacting service levels?” asks McConnell. “The truth is, agents are already spending quite a bit of their day sitting idle at their desks, so that there are enough agents to take your call within pre-determined thresholds. The key is utilizing that time to ultimately make them better at their jobs since much of it occurs in tiny fragments previously thought too small to be productive,” he adds.

Making use of these small blocks of idle time can make all the difference in the world, but a call center needs a robust training solution that can cope with these small blocks of time without affecting productivity.

“By managing the call center’s collective idle time more efficiently, call centers can improve agent productivity by turning downtime into “active wait time” so agents can improve their skills, become more knowledgeable about your company’s products and services, and better serve your customers,” according to McConnell.

The results can be impressive; the operational impact can be huge. According to McConnell, based on industry average calculations, reducing the cost of off-phone work by just two percent could equate to a $600,000 savings for a 1,000 agent organization.

Imagine what your organization could do with a spare $600,000 each year.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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