Virtual contact center agents - and the processes, management style and technology that support them - should not be seen as cost-cutting measures per se. Instead, they are a tool to improve business reaction times and access on-demand capabilities that can, and should, improve service quality. This ebook will tell you more about Virtual Contact Center Agents.
Making virtual contact Kim SOKOL Six lessons for building a scalable customer contact model
As service once again becomes a key differentiator for brands, the c-suite and operational staff are finally on the same pageboth are looking longer and harder at the prospect of virtual service delivery that is both scalable and of high quality. /02 But how does an organization achieve this in a contact center environment? With so many fixed costs and the very real prospect of high staff turnover, contact centers are rarely seen as hubs of innovation. Yet the rise of the virtual agent workforce is changing all that, fast.
Virtual contact center agentsand the processes, management style and technology that support themshould not be seen as cost-cutting measures per se. Instead, they are a tool to improve business reaction times and access on-demand capabilities that can, and should, improve service quality. For some businesses, which are accustomed to the peaks and troughs of seasonal demand, the issue of scalability has been a long-running concern. For other businesses, the productivity and cost-efficiencies of virtual environments are taking on new relevance as economic imperatives apply continued pressure. The benefits of virtual agent models are clear: 1. Businesses are not required to carry large, extra headcount volumes at the enterprise level. 2. The utilization of each agent is maximized and agents are given the right amount of work. 3. Delivery of quick response times to call volume fluctuations to avert service level crises. In fact, virtual agents in a well-managed technical environment can reduce costs, lower enterprise risk and raise the bar on service quality. Introduction /03 Herearesixkey recommendations forensuringyour virtualcontactcenter workforcecandeliver thesebenefits.
Invest in your intellectual capital and robust partnerships /04 01
Repeatable service outcomes require planning and structure, but not necessarily permanency. Every contact center is ultimately seeking to deliver great, repeatable service outcomes to its customers. This is how loyalty, trust and sustainable business propositions are built. So, even though many contact centers will use highly competent and efficient temporary labor for some aspects of their work some of the time, relying on this approach without considering the strategic value of your contact center workforce is rarely advisable. This is not to say you shouldnt hire temporary labor for your center, but that you simply must have a strategic approach to doing so. This is primarily because, without some level of continuity or holistic planning, a temporary workforce will find it difficult to provide the consistency of quality that your business strategy demands. Any good outsourcing model should provide the opportunity for your outsourcer to build deep knowledge about your business, and to continuously work with you (as your partner) to enhance and refine the model in response to changing business conditions. Invest in your intellectual capital and robust partnerships /05
If quality and efficiency are your goals, you need a scalable approach that delivers these three things: The right model for business thats well managed and is supported by good technology (your own or your outsourcing providers); Access to training and recruitment processes that support quality service outcomes, even during demand fluctuations; An outsourcing relationship that is based on shared operational understanding and continuous improvement. If you want to improve your service outcomes and innovate your business model at the same time, theres plenty of evidence that the right virtualization partner can enable your contact center to lead that charge instead of just following it. Invest in your intellectual capital and robust partnerships /06
/07 Seek to lower all kinds of service and scale risk 02
Its not just during emergencies that the value of a virtual contact center should be recognised. We all know about the business continuity benefits of virtual workforce modelsthis is nothing new. But, what about the incremental, less visible continuity issues that arise in contact center environments on a daily basis? We would argue that a virtual agent workforce model is perhaps most valuable in addressing the everyday issues of scale, not just those that arise during emergencies. Seek to lower all kinds of service and scale risk /08 Our experience of running a virtual agent contact center during Hurricane Ike proved its business continuity benefits under extreme circumstances. Leading up to and during Ikes impact, our team achieved the following: Hired 60 contact center agents by the customers target date. These agents were recruited outside the customers region, which meant they were not affected by the hurricane and could provide the assistance needed. Addressed the customers space constraints and lack of training resources by successfully training those agents in an existing Kelly facility, which was converted into a classroom and on-the-job training environment. Hurricane Ike: Virtual agent contact center Answered more than 30,000 calls over a 10-day period during the hurricane catastrophe periodin addition to its core responsibilities day-to-day. Managed agent performance to established customer service levels using our own KellyConnect call center technology.
Operational scale demands can be generated by any number of internal or external forces, including: Seasonal demand: The floristry industry has extreme peak needs during Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. A virtual solution ensures proper training plus easy management of the required peaks, without expanding training facilities or adding full-time employees. E-commerce activities: In some cases, service agents need to verify and validate customer requests and posts through their global e-commerce sites. Given the difficulty in predicting traffic in peer-to-peer commerce, a virtual model is ideal to support this low-cost business model because it is easily and quickly scalable in response to variability in web traffic. Marketing activities and sales: A virtual solution manages the demand peaks generated by time-sensitive special offers that can be the result of specific marketing activities. The virtual agent network maintains service quality at all hours of the day and night. Seek to lower all kinds of service and scale risk /09
/10 Turn training processes into strategic assets 03
Competitive advantage requires focus, repetition and training scalability at the right cost. A repeatable, high-quality training capability is the beginning of a serious competitive advantage for any contact center. As long as the learning curve associated with each new hire can be accurately predicted, managed and facilitated through a highly supportive virtual environment, with real-time feedback and collaboration tools, virtual agents will do as well as in- house agents. And, the faster they can be trained and deployed, the more attractive the training investment is for both parties. In our experience, a best-practice training approach that scales well without sacrificing quality requires the following: Flexibility in the ratio of full-time/part-time agents. A minimum number of part-time hours should be provided to retain part-time workers and ensure they do not seek additional employment elsewhere.. A 70% FTE utilization ratethis provides the appropriate level of engagement without risk of burn-out. Turn training processes into strategic assets /11
A strong training program that enables agents to enter your workforce quickly and competently will also assist in talent retention, providing the flexible work that many good employees want. Those who simply cannot access a physical work location for any number of reasons can be attracted and retained by virtual models. Typically, the larger the footprint of a virtual workforce, the easier it is to leverage the benefits of a scalable training program that can flex up or down across a virtual network, all the while building intelligence about your customers and your processes. Tailored approaches for small organizations can also realize the same benefits over time. /12Turn training processes into strategic assets
/13 Consider each model in light of budgets and talentsupply issues 04
Getting the right mix of in-house and outsourced labor means something different for every business, so choose your virtual model wisely. In a virtual contact center model, your ability to attract and retain talent will depend almost entirely on the quality of the employment and service experience that your specific model enables. Your ability to alter the mix of in-house and outsourced labor fits squarely into budget and headcount constraints allocated by leadershipand both of these issues must be considered carefully before choosing which virtual model will work for your business. Simplified, there are three basic outsourcing approaches that provide flexible access to labor in a virtual model: