A Structured Approach to Real-Time Management in the Contact Center
What is real-time management in the contact center?
Real-time management in the contact center refers to actions the contact center will take when performance is under or over their forecasted amount. For example, if a company is expecting 200 tickets per day and a sudden product bug brings in 3x the expected amount. Or, a contact center has staffed up for the holiday season, but the number of customer cases is significantly below the forecasted amount. In these cases, the contact center is left with too few or too many agents to align with the customers needs.
A real-time management approach identifies the tactics businesses deploy in these situations where supply and demand are misaligned. To put it simply, real-time management strategies are a contingency plan.
How do companies approach real-time management solutions?
A recent report by COPC surveyed representatives from both in-house contact centers and outsource service providers (OSPs) from across the globe, asking them about their real-time management approaches.
82% of respondents surveyed stated that their customer service organizations have a structured approach for real-time management.
(COPC, Global Benchmarking Series, 2022).
82% of respondents have a contingency plan for unforeseen demand lulls or surges, but their approaches vary. According to research from the same COPC study, here are the top actions included in contact center leader’s real-time management approach.
- 82% offer overtime
- 79% move training
- 79% move coaching
- 77% move meetings
- 77% move staff from one skill to another
- 76% move breaks
- 64% use non-telephony staff
- 62% move one-on-ones
- 51% send staff home early
- 40% use callbacks
- 10% block calls
While these traditional solutions provide temporary, short-term relief, they also cause reason for concern. Are leaders considering the long-term impact these methods may have on their teams and their overall customer experience?
The problem with traditional real-time approaches
These traditional approaches can make sense in emergency situations, but unfortunately many of them also have downsides including hurting agent morale, interrupting or delaying necessary training practices, hindering agent performance, creating a less satisfactory customer experience, and directly and indirectly being more costly for your company.
With employee attrition higher in customer service than almost any other function (30-45% in the US compared to 12-15% for all industries), its critical we look at all sides of how our management choices, even in unexpected situations, affect agents. Let’s break down some of these methods.
Offering to pay employees to work overtime can be extremely effective, and some agents may appreciate the opportunity to make some extra cash. But, is it a smart choice for your business? Overtime can be extremely costly with agents often getting paid time and a half. Not to mention the more time employees are working, the more likely they are to experience burn-out.
Moving Training, Coaching, or Meetings:
Moving training, coaching, and meetings can delay important feedback from getting shared between the agent and the coach or manager. When training and coaching sessions are delayed, not only might the agent feel underprepared but that underprepared-ness may lead them to make mistakes when talking to your customers. This not only will have an impact on the customer experience but can also hurt agent morale and lower their confidence when talking to your customers. While this scenario isn’t representative of all instances, the impact of delaying or removing critical moments of contact with your agents will inevitably cause disruption to your operations.
Moving Staff from One Skill to Another or Using Non-Telephony Staff:
If you’ve been in this situation in the past, you know how challenging it can be to jump into an unfamiliar area and immediately have to perform with very little or sometimes no training. This can feel extremely overwhelming for agents (or staff from outside your customer service function) who aren’t well-practiced in serving customers in the area you need them. This can cause serious stress on employees and can lead to lower morale. Not to mention the negative impact it could have on customer experience by putting untrained staff on direct calls with your customers.
Moving Breaks and Sending Staff Home Early:
Let’s face it – no one likes their plans messed with. When it comes to breaks, these are often used as a time to decompress, stretch one’s legs, grab a bite to eat, or just clear one’s head for a few moments. Taking away or changing agents’ routines can greatly hurt the way they feel about how they’re being respected within your organization.
This applies similarly when you find yourself over-staffed for the amount of work to be done. Your staff relies on their income to support themselves and their families. If agents find themselves being sent home early and not receiving pay, they most certainly will not be happy which is likely to lead to agent attrition and high turnover in your customer service department.
This might be effective to stop the bleeding, but how do your customers feel when they can’t reach you for help? 69% of customers have abandoned a brand because of a negative customer service experience. Imagine how poor of an experience it would be if they could not reach you at all. Blocking calls creates a horrible customer experience and leaves your business vulnerable to increased churn rates.
An alternative real-time management solution
Each of the methods highlighted above can help in solving the solution short-term but each has its own set of operational disruptions and costs. What if you could add another approach to your strategy?
- What if you could have a team of agents on standby, trained up on your business and ready to help when you need them?
- What if you didn’t have to go through a tremendous amount of work to source talented seasonal workers just to lay them off after peak season?
- What if you didn’t have to disrupt your operations when demand exceeded your agents’ performance output?
It’s time to add a new strategy to your list of the most effective ways to manage real-time staffing discrepancies: Sub-contracting.
Sub-contracting is the practice of assigning, or outsourcing, part of the obligations and tasks under a contract to another party, known as a contractor. Within the context of a call center, subcontracting means tapping into a pool of available resources from another company to help meet demand when customer needs spike or to help fill a need that you’re unable to offer internally, like a less common language or skill.
When subcontracting through the ArenaCX BPO Marketplace, we help you find the right team of highly skilled agents to help you fulfill your contractual obligations without having to scramble internally when your forecast and performance outputs are misaligned. This allows you to scale much more quickly and affordably than sourcing, hiring, and training additional in-house staff. It also means you won’t have to lay off staff when demand slows.
Outsourcing or subcontracting is often much less expensive than paying agents overtime and helps to minimize the risk of agent burnout from a poor work-life balance. Through these methods, you can also expand your offering by sourcing talent, languages, certifications, hours, or other criteria that you yourself are unable to provide internally.
ArenaCX is the world’s first outsourcing management platform.
ArenaCX uses data on outsourcing providers and their experiences to vet a network of more than 100 business process outsourcers. Companies can use the data to find outsourcing providers with the type of experience they are looking for, or who match characteristics they are seeking through diversity programs.
ArenaCX is a tech-powered version of a more traditional outsourcing broker. Its use of data to quantify BPO’s experience makes it one of a few companies angling to displace more conventional outsourcing buying practices like using a broker, consultant or going direct.
ArenaCX owners share a vision for transforming how outsourcing services are delivered, leveraging a marketplace model that uses data rather than word-of-mouth reliance to help brands find and engage with the right outsourcing partner for any team, globally.
If you’re interested in learning more about how ArenaCX can help you improve your outsourcing process, get in touch with our team. For more information about how ArenaCX works with BPOs, check out this blog.