DSC Tech Library
Customer Call Centers
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to Call Center technology and Best Practices plus software and products.
Since the Company's inception in 1978, DSC has specialized in the development of communications software and systems. Beginning with our CRM and call center applications, DSC has developed computer telephony integration software and PC based phone systems. These products have been developed to run on a wide variety of telecom computer systems and environments.
The following article presents product or service information relating to call centers and customer service help desks.
Agent Development 101
The following is an extract from the article "Agent Development 101" by Keith Dawson from www.CallCenterMagazine.com:
"You are nothing without properly managed agents. Your center doesn't function, and by extension, the rest of your company suffers as well.
This is a cardinal truth, rarely stated, often overlooked, but if you ask anyone who has run a call center it will almost certainly be acknowledged.
Every aspect of call center management comes down to the care and feeding of agents:
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. It's not an exaggeration to say that the agent is the pivot point around which every other call center issue revolves.
- making sure you have the right number of them,
- that they have the right skills for the job,
- that they have the proper tools to do their work,
- that what you spend on them does not balloon out of control,
- that they perform at a consistent level, and
- that you properly measure that performance and relate it to other goals of the company.
Virtually every topic comes back to the agent. Offshoring and site selection is another way of talking about labor cost arbitrage, which is about agents. Quality assurance is about ensuring that every agent handles every similar interaction according to set guidelines designed to enhance a company's image. Even highly technological discussions, like call routing and IP in the call center, are about what applications you put on the agent desktop and what that enables your agents to do during the moment of interaction with a customer.
These things are all plainly obvious to any call center manager when you put them in these terms. But managers, because of their proximity to the action, sometimes don't see all these issues as part of a whole, or see the common thread — the agent — that runs through everything. It's the forest/tree dilemma — they are so busy putting out fires and meeting daily (or hourly) targets that the big picture takes a back seat.
But once you remove the call center from its splendid isolation and start talking about how it interacts with the rest of a company, folks both inside and outside the call center management hierarchy are forced to start talking about the role of the agent.
Some easy back-of-the-envelope calculating will show that in just three years, an agent will interact with 30,000 separate customers. Astonishing, no?
Depending on what you sell, that's either a lot of money saved, or a lot of opportunity squandered. Can the rep on the phone make the most of that opportunity by soothing someone who might bolt to a competitor? Or sell them something that they might not have thought of? Do you even know what they are capable of? If not, then you're looking at the question of value through the wrong end of the telescope.
When we properly identify the agent as the pivot point, as the nexus of the call center universe, we can more effectively run those centers for the benefit of the company as a whole.
What is Agent Development?
For a long time, call centers have been buying and using a broad spectrum of tools that all focus on improving agent productivity. Some of it has been hardware: call monitoring and recording systems, for example. Some is software, like workforce management, training tools, pre-hire assessment.
What we've noticed is that call centers don't care about the tools themselves; instead they are starting to ask the end-result questions that tackle difficult issues like turnover, retention, training costs, morale, and focusing those questions into a strategy for reducing labor costs. Not reducing headcount, necessarily, but reducing the real burdens of hiring, training, and then losing agents who aren't happy or productive, then going through that expensive hiring-training-retaining process all over again. Centers are addressing the structural insanity of losing the entire workforce each year.
And when they tackle these questions, they look at that spectrum of seemingly unrelated tools from unconnected vendors, and they ask: Aren't these all part of the answer to a single complex problem?
We call this problem "agent development," and we see that some of the cleverer and more dedicated vendors in different sectors reaching towards each other, grappling to create coordinated solutions to this bigger question. It's not just monitoring, or training, or scheduling that solves the problem. It's all of the above, and more. The tools are not new, but they are newly used in concert.
Applied intelligently, using coordinated business practices, agent development tools can shave costs off each step of the labor process. Starting at hiring, you can make sure you hire someone who's likely to last through training, rather than someone who will take a month of training and then decide it's not the right job. Training can be more targeted, thanks to computer-based e-learning tools and evaluation systems that tell you what specific skills need bolstering. Farther along the chain, applying workforce management and performance management keeps people in their jobs longer, and it keeps the most qualified people on the job, so you can keep their skills and use them to elevate the performance of everyone else as well.
We believe that when approached from a tactical point of view within a call center, the benefits that arise from a coordinated approach are greater than that gained by using them piecemeal. The whole of agent development is greater than the sum of the separate tools that make up the category......"
To view the entire article, visit www.CallCenterMagazine.com.