Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Best Practices - Agent Desktops

The purpose of Call Center Best Practices is for managers to be able to improve the call center productivity and efficiencies. Productivity and efficiency improvements begin with the agents. By following best practices for each application the call center improvements will happen.  The best practices will help you run an effective inbound, outbound or blended call center.

There are many challenges for the agent in the call center: status of the calls, emails, chats, call backs, other agents, call volume, service level, abandon rates and wait times. They also have product and services awareness and changes as mentioned in the wallboard best practices. As a manager you can be frustrated by the lack of agent performance on the very basics of their job, taking care to reply to a customer.

Agent Desktop best practices explain how to utilize the agent desktop to improve agent performance and not negatively affect the performance of other applications on the agent desktop.

Best Practices for Agent Desktops:
  • Real Estate
  • Critical KPI’s
  • Challenges and Problems with the agent and in the contact center
  • Agent Specific data
  • Agent Skills
  • Messaging
  • Agent Experience and Performance
  • Communications versus Problem Solving
  • Agents Lie?
The agent desktop Real Estate is very important to their daily performance.  Single monitor or dual monitors it does not matter, if the agent cannot see critical applications and data on their desktop their performance will suffer.  Requesting or requiring applications to be reduced in size so that other applications may share desktop space is not a wise call center policy.

Being aware of the status of calls waiting, emails and chats that need a reply, tickets that are open or customers that need a call back is a critical part of agent daily performance success.  By displaying this data on the agents desktop the agent will be able to reduce the wait times and abandon rates that exist today.

The most efficient desktop location to place the desktop wallboard is in a blank space and not covering anything even something useless to the agent.  If blank space is not available the desktop wallboard can be made to almost any size, placed anywhere on the screen and over application space that is not critical.  If the desktop application has a logo, shows the day/month year, or has anything else that is of no value to the agent then it can be covered with the desktop wallboard.

Displaying critical KPI’s in a chart or graph while attractive will take up real estate therefore should only be done if real estate is available or the KPI is extremely critical to the call center success.

The desktop wallboard can also be minimized and run in the systray and still show critical status information. Real estate is critical to agent performance and is the most important topic for agent desktop best practices.

Real estate can determine the KPI’s that are displayed on the desktop wallboard.  Limited desktop space demands that only critical KPI’s be displayed. Each contact center should determine their critical KPI’s at the same time understanding that there is limited space to display this information.

The top KPI’s according to Spectrum customers and in order of importance: Calls/ Emails/ Chats waiting, Wait times (Oldest call/oldest email/oldest chat), call backs waiting, abandon rate or number and service level.  These KPI’s change as the agent job ranking increases.  Supervisors need agent status, status time, calls/emails/chats offered and calls/emails/chats answered. Best practices for data displayed will depend on the call center business goals.  The data mentioned here is based on Spectrum customers for all industries.

Because in English we read from left to right the most important KPI’s should be to the left side of the desktop wallboard.  It may seem like a minor issue where the KPI is located but status changes in the seconds can and do affect abandon rates which can affect the call center business.  If putting calls waiting on the left side is not an option then move it to the far right hand side.  Do not put critical KPI’s in the middle of a desktop wallboard.

The KPI’s do not need to be in charts and graphs, they can be in text especially if that positively affects a real estate issue.  If real estate is not an issue then including additional metrics in a graph or chart can help the agent understand the overall status of the call center and should be taken advantage of.

 Challenges and problems with the agent(s) and with the contact center can determine the content of the desktop wallboard.  The agent challenges, if they are clear to you, should help you decide the content of the desktop wallboard, where it shall be located on the desktop and the rights the agent has with the wallboard settings.
  • The agents cannot see the walls or the ceilings where an LCD screen would be mounted. See below.
  • If the agent lacks competency the desktop content should be the critical KPIs alone. No other data, messages or graphics should be used.  These are items that will distract the agent or give them an excuse for not paying attention to the KPIs.  
  • Agents that complain when they have a heavy workload should not have a lot of content on their desktop.  This is just another reason to complain, so only put calls waiting and longest wait time on the desktop. If they complain about this you have other challenges to deal with.
  • Agent that compare themselves, compete with others or only try to meet the goal for the day and never try to improve when needed should have a limited amount of content on the desktop wallboard.
Best practices say that you should look at the agent’s individual personalities as that will help determine the content and the amount of content that is displayed on their desktop.

Reasons for Agent Desktops over LCD Screens:
  • Are the agents unable to see LCD screens that reside on the wall or hang from the ceiling?  
  • Are the cubicles tall or facing the wrong direction and again the agents are unable to see the LCD screens?
  • Does your call center moves the agents to new desks or changes the format on a regular basis?
  • Is the content for the agents confidential and therefore cannot be on an LCD Screen?
  • Do you need to send messages to individual agents that are confidential and inappropriate to be on an LCD Screen?
  • Compare cost of LCD Screens vs Agent Desktop wallboards.
There are many problems and challenges in the call center that can justify the need for agent desktops rather than LCD screens.  

Do you have a need to provide agent specific data to the agents? If so then providing that data on the desktop is a preferred method instead of on the wallboard.  Agent data can be very positive or negative.  Positive data if you are communicating about a group can be on the LCD screen. Occasional positive data about an agent is welcome on the LCD screen as well.  If the call center requirements are for you to provide all positive information about an agent it is best to keep that with that specific agent.

If one agent is always performing better than the other agents and you complement that agent, this will begin to build a negative attitude towards that agent.  Other agents will begin to think that they are being treated unfairly and that you are giving that other agent easier tasks or their job is much less complex.

Negative content that needs to be shared with agents should also be on the desktop and not on an LCD screen.  Negative content that is shared with everyone will create additional problems for the contact center.  Give the information only to the agent, but be sure to keep track of all positive and negative performance information given to the agents.  This will be needed for agent reviews.

Do not put negative content on graphs or charts comparing the agent with other agents.  Only show the agents performance issues.  If you must compare agents determine the kindest way possible with these comparisons.  However, if the numbers that are being shared have to do with sales there is nothing wrong with showing how all the agents did regarding sales and comparing all agents.  Selling is competitive and it should be shown to help drive sales.

Group level data directly to an agent is appropriate if it will improve productivity and efficiencies in that group.  The idea should be to communicate with the agents so they know how well their group is performing and what needs to be done to meet the goals and targets for that group and for themselves.  Always think of the positive communications with the agents to look for group level improvements.

Skills and experience that the agents have will also help determine the best content for the agents desktop wallboard.  Best practices state that the higher level the agent is at the more productive they can become when they have more information.  The higher skilled agents desire relevant and quality content that will allow them to perform very well on some of the outlying issues for the contact center.

New agents or agents that have not been trained or do not have enough experience with the products and services offered by the business need to focus on a minimum amount of data on the desktop.  Giving too much information to beginner level agents will confuse the agent to the point that the desktop wallboard becomes useless to the agent.  They will ignore the information and some may even hide the content from their view.

With highly skilled and experienced agents ask them what they want to know about the current status within their group(s).  Do not be concerned about pushing the skilled people further as they enjoy the challenge and will show you they can succeed.  Be careful on how far you push the agents because they may come back to you at review time demanding a higher pay scale.  Their rational reasoning will be the performance levels they are at compared to other agents.

Notice the difference between the two desktop wallboards for the highly skilled agent and the new agent.  More content and messages for the highly skilled agent because they are capable and want more information so they can do their job.  The new agent is still learning their roles in the call center and need as little distraction as possible.

Messaging to all levels of agents is appropriate but the content can and should vary based on the level of the agent the messages are going to.  High level agents need assertive messages both positive and negative.  New agents need reinforcements, encouraging messages.  Messages that provide more information in short bursts to remind agents of products and services or of procedures.

Messages are there to help everyone perform and meet their goals.  Learn how the agents react to the messages and focus on the ones that work best with the agents and improve productivity.  Messages can also be personal or just an overall positive message. Some messages are meant to improve the call center morale and not just be a negative interaction with the manager or supervisor.  Message examples:
  • Thank you for calling ###
  • Yes Ma’am/Sir
  • I am sorry or I apologize
  • “Please”
  • Smile
Desktop wallboard settings can be determined by the agent skills, experience and performance.  The settings for the desktops should include:
  • Ability to minimize the desktop wallboard
  • Message replies and history
  • Desktop wallboard size
  • Text vs charts, graphs, gauges
  • Threshold settings
  • Refresh rates
The manager will make the decision about the settings mentioned above. Best practices state that the agents skills, experience and performance level will help determine the settings for the agents.  A highly skilled agent should be able to minimize the desktop wallboard assuming the wallboard will maximize when there is a message or a threshold level has been met or exceeded.

Replying to a message or even creating and sending a message can be a problem waiting to happen.  Be certain you know the agent(s) will not abuse the messaging option.  As a manager you do not want the messaging option to turn into a chat option for the agents.  Best practices say that the messaging should be one way and only from the supervisor and manager to the agents.  Message creation and replying should not be allowed by the agents.  However, your business criteria may be different and this type of communications may be necessary.

The real estate as mentioned at the beginning of this document is very valuable to the agent and affects performance. Selecting the right size desktop wallboard will enhance the agents performance.  Choosing to use graphs, charts, gauges can affect the size of the wallboard and get in the way of other application critical data.

Desktop wallboard setting can be changed as the agents improve.  Take advantage of the features of the wallboard to help agents meet their goals and targets on a daily basis.

What are you trying to do communicate or problem solve?  The LCD Screens as discussed in the Wallboard Best Practices are very good at communicating to the group or any other open audience.  If communications to a single agent is needed then the Desktop Wallboard is the proper way to go.

The problem that you are trying to solve will help you decide if the desktop or the LCD screen is the right application to have.
  • Group performance
  • Agent Specific performance issues
  • Efficiencies change based on the day of the week and time of day
  • Internal frustrations between agents caused performance issues
There are many topics of discussion when it comes to understanding what the problem is with the call center, group or agents.  Group level data should be shared on LCD Screens and agent specific data on the desktop wallboard.

Agents will lie to you to explain that their performance issues are caused by the software applications you have them use daily.  Before you believe the agent double check the applications and make sure they are working properly.  Spectrum has found that up to 10% of the desktop wallboard “failures” is due to the agent lying about software application failing.

Complaints such as:
  • It did not pop up when there were calls in queue;
  • I did not receive a message;
  • I was logged in but it did not give me an update about our current status;
  • The computer speaker is turned on but the desktop wallboard is not alerting me;
  • It does not always maximize when something is in threshold.
These are actual statements made by agents when in fact the software was working it is the agent that is trying to avoid the workload or explain poor performance.

Almost all software will keep an internal log of what the software is doing. Checking the logs should give you an idea of what is really happening with the software.

Best practices vary for every business and even within the business so if some of the above information does not seem to fit your business ignore it and work with the information that helps your contact center. The goal for best practices is to help the business improve productivity and reduce costs.  If you choose not to follow best practices you are not taking advantage of the desktop wallboard software.

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to discuss best practices.  For more examples of reporting visit our website and the products page. http://www.specorp.com/products

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Dan Boehm
VP Sales and Marketing
+1 713 986 8839

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