Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Social Networking's Impact on the Contact Center Focus of Upcoming Webinar

August 06, 2009

It is predicted that in the near future, social networking sites such as Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter will play an even larger role in facilitating communications among consumers and businesses.

For example, a Facebook user might stumble upon an ad on another user’s page that allows them to click on the ad to launch a chat session or VoIP call with a live agent. Or, one user might direct another user to a company’s Facebook page, whereupon they will discover that they can place orders for items by way of email.

The point is, contact centers have to be prepared to handle these new modes of contact as more people become comfortable using them. That means agents need to be trained to handle these new channels (after all, conversing by way of email or Web chat is much different, in terms of the “soft skills” that come into play, compared to the phone). It also means contact center managers need to ensure that they have the proper “mix” of agents with each appropriate skill set in order to meet service goals and deliver good customer service.

Balancing the number of agents needed against the number of contacts flowing in during any given shift is one of the biggest challenges contact center managers face. This is where workforce management solutions are playing an increasingly important role. Most of today’s WFM systems include analytics capabilities that allow managers to forecast, with surprising accuracy, how many contacts will be coming in on any given day, thus enabling them to schedule the proper number of agents. This capability -- a key advantage over spreadsheet systems -- is critical for achieving call center efficiency, as labor is the single biggest cost facing any call center. Agent time must be used efficiently: Put too many agents on a shift with not enough contacts coming in and you’ll have a bunch of agents sitting idly at their desks while on the clock. Fail to have enough agents on a shift and you’ll jeopardize service levels.
 
Beyond the ability to forecast the overall number of agents needed, today’s WFM systems also improve call center efficiency by enabling managers to schedule agents based on their skill sets. For example, a certain group of agents might be trained to handle emails, while another group might be trained to handle Web chats. Some might be experts at using legacy applications, while other might be more adept at using newer applications.

Even if you are taking the route of “universal agents” – which is where all agents are cross-trained to be proficient on all forms of contact – you will still have some agents that are better at certain modes of communication – just as you will still have some agents that are more adept at using certain technologies and systems. As such it is critical that managers schedule agents properly, based on their individual strengths.

The beauty of today’s WFM solutions is that they enable managers to schedule agents based on skill set. For example, using the system’s forecasting capabilities, a manager of a multi-channel contact center can determine not only how many phone calls will be coming in, but also how many emails or Web chats, based on historical data gleaned from the ACD or integrated IP contact center platform. The system can then forecast how many agents from each group are needed to handle the forecasted number of emails and Web chats.

This allows for extremely granular scheduling of agents – in essence, it enables the manager to schedule the appropriate number of agents for each mode of contact, and build a team that is more precisely tailored for each shift. As such, labor efficiencies are realized, yet service levels remain unaffected.

This topic will be explored in detail in the upcoming free webinar, “Building a Multi-Channel Contact Center in the Era of Social Networking,” sponsored by InVision Software and TMCnet.

The event, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009, at 2 p.m. Eastern, will focus on benefits and challenges of contact centers in the Web 2.0 era and will present best practices for forecasting and scheduling in a multi-channel contact center.

InVision is a leading international provider of contact center workforce management solutions.

The event is being co-hosted by leading industry analyst Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, and Craig Shambaugh, vice president of sales at InVision Software (News - Alert) North America. Together they will discuss the importance of these new emerging channels and the year they are expected to become essential to leading verticals such as financial services, retailing, telecommunications, high-tech, travel, government and education.

The Webinar will also cover the impact of social networking on contact center operations -- as well as best practices for forecasting and scheduling in a multi-channel contact center. Attendees will learn how to do multi-activity scheduling in a multi-channel environment and how to involve and empower agents improving their work/life balance in the era of social networking.
 
To learn more, or to register for this free Webinar, click here.

Follow ITEXPO (News - Alert) on Twitter: twitter.com/itexpo

Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.


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