We are experiencing change all the time, and today, more rapidly so than ever. Products, technologies, the business landscape, expectations – they’re all in a constant state of flux. This is nothing new. How companies are developing a competitive advantage has also changed.
Customer care is the new competitive advantage
In the eyes of many business analysts, companies can no longer compete by simply driving manufacturing costs down or gaining detailed data on customer trends. These efforts have long been maximized, if not exhausted. Today, companies are competing for the loyalty of customer directly through the service(s) they offer. Neil Smit, President/Chief Executive Officer of Comcast Cable and Executive Vice-President of Comcast Corporation, says: “Put simply, customer service should be our best product.”
In a similar vein, Gartner estimated that by the end of 2016, 89 percent of companies – in contrast to just 36 percent four years ago – expect to compete largely on the basis of customer experience.
Contact centers are obviously trying to gain ground here by ensuring that agents meet – better yet, surpass – customer demands. So, since this is where the heart of competitive advantage lies today, wouldn’t it make sense to do everything in your power to see to it that extraordinary customer experiences are being delivered by agents and that measures are planned and taken to ensure continual improvement in your contact center?
What have you done to help?
Stop and think for a minute: What concrete measures have you taken and/or are you taking to ensure that this is happening in your contact center, now and in the future? You could, for example, take out the contact-center team (not all of them at once, mind you) for an out-of-the-ordinary lunch on a regular basis. You see, the key here is maintaining – better yet, raising – agent motivation and satisfaction, and rewarding excellent results. Remember, agents, through their front-line contact with customers, also have the power to make or break customer loyalty.
Amidst the development of this competitive differentiator, we’re witnessing a number of powerful trends. Artificial Intelligence systems, for example, are taking over many of the simpler tasks. Technology today can replace a bus driver with an automated, self-steering bus in the middle of a busy city, quickly taking passengers to desired locations.
Robots just don’t make it
However, more complicated tasks, such as delivering the very best customer experiences, can still not be carried out by robots or automation. Neither can a fantastic website or the latest Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system replace human agents. When customer calls, chats or e-mails come in, only well-trained, competent agents, understanding of the customer issue at hand, can provide this.
I’m not talking about needing to deliver WOW experiences; rather, dealing with the issue at hand, quickly, professionally and satisfactorily – with minimum effort required on the part of the customer.
However, agents need to have the right energy and motivation to do so. Automated workforce-management (WFM) solutions can go a long way towards raising the energy and motivation levels of agents, necessary for producing outstanding customer experiences. In fact, today, WFM does far more than just replace clever Excel spreadsheets (even though some may be amazing).
Keep agents focused and motivated
Leaving scheduling, shift swaps, vacation requests and the like to WFM automation keeps agents focused on customers. Imagine the amount of time and effort spent on scheduling, shift swaps and vacation requests through verbal or e-mail exchanges, the answering back and forth, the approvals, the pending approvals, etc., and how that impacts the loss of focus in a +1,000 agent contact center.
Calabrio obviously spends supreme effort working on core WFM functionality, such as schedule optimization. However, equal effort is spent on functions, such as agent preferences, training planning, gamification and mobile interfaces. Why all this effort? Because these make agents more empowered and engaged. Because without energized, competent, informed staff, any contact center will find it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to compete in the modern business climate – even with the very best optimized scheduling.
As the importance of contact centers expands, so does the scope – and importance – of WFM. If you’re still using Excel sheets for forecasting and scheduling or an older WFM system, do take a look at some of the more modern WFM systems, with a scope far broader than you might possibly have imagined.
Make contact-center staff life easier
Using a modern WFM system is as simple as checking off a few boxes on your smartphone on your way to work. Check for any schedule changes? Swap a shift? Request a day off? Send approval? Check, check check – done. How about matching up five suitable staff members with some vital training, ensuring the right trainer will be in place, that a room is available, and, most importantly, that the service level impact is minimized? ? Check, check check – done.