Gauteng Business News

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CONTACT CENTRES: Contact Centres and Workforce Productivity


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Contact centres need to go beyond cost savings and become revenue contributors for companies to remain competitive. The contact centre also needs to stop being managed solely for efficiency, convince the business that it has the potential to build customer loyalty, win new customers and increase revenue.

This is according to Pommie Lutchman, CEO at contact centre solutions provider, Ocular Technologies, who says that in addition to the traditional goal of keeping costs down, companies are setting new goals, putting new practices in place and investing in new technology.
“All of this takes companies beyond workforce management and into workforce productivity,” he says.

He explains the term “workforce productivity” as being a concept whose core techniques include: applying technologies that go beyond traditional forecasting and scheduling applications, empowering contact centre staff to take responsibility for their own contributions and tying contact centre metrics to business goals such as growth and profit.

“The way the contact centre used to be managed, and is still is for some, was by measuring seconds and counting beans. Managers who take this approach use workforce management software primarily for forecasting call volumes and devising schedules that get the most work out of the fewest agents. They use simple metrics, like talk time or number of calls handled, to assess agent performance. Reporting is primarily a process of proving to management that the centre has met its cost-reduction goals, not a process of using information to affect positive change. It is an inward-looking philosophy, with the ultimate objective being to please a tight-fisted CFO.

“Most centres are successful in accomplishing this – meeting and even exceeding their savings goals – but ‘bigger picture’ corporate objectives, such as winning customer loyalty and increasing revenue, often suffer as a result,” he says.
In order for the cost centre investment to yield the biggest return, workforce management practices and technologies should be aimed at empowering staff to make the largest possible contribution to achieving the company goals.

“With multichannel contact centres, consumers are more informed than ever and the competition is fierce. The only way to keep customers happy and acquire new ones is to differentiate on something other than price and this means changing the way the workforce is managed,” says Lutchman.
He lists nine things every contact centre needs to know about workforce productivity. These are:

1. Reset goals to achieve greater productivity
“The highly evolved capability of a workforce management solution to control costs is valuable, but not the only game in town. Workforce managers must also establish goals and metrics for reaching corporate expectations for business success and ensure new staff understands the importance of these productivity goals,” he says.

2 – Institute best practices for productivity
“Create a work environment that is conducive to productivity by automating clerical changes and empowering agents to, for example, view their own work schedules, easily request shift changes, arrange vacation time and schedule adjustments. Also institute real-time views of staff members’ performance for self-monitoring, and clarify and help them understand corporate objectives by tying contact centre metrics and processes to their performance goals,” he explains.

3 – Implement the right technology
“Having the right technology makes it easier to manage the workforce and allows for the shift from cost-efficiency to workforce productivity. Importantly, workforce management solutions must be implemented and utilised with corporate/ business goals in mind,” he adds.

4 – Understand the importance of analytics
“The most valuable technology available today is analytics. In fact, workforce productivity equals workforce management plus analytics. It creates a structured process, through which a company can manage and improve its overall performance,” says Lutchman.

5 – Focus on relevant statistics
These should be based on the strategic objectives of the company coupled with the overall objectives of the contact centre.

6 – Draw information from business applications
The essence of workforce productivity is to enable contact centre managers to administer agent performance based on business goals. Says Lutchman: “Pull information from multiple contact centre systems, sites, channels and data sources, such as business applications, payroll, HR and more, and combine these to provide true KPI tracking and management. “

7 – Match the data to the task
According to Lutchman each staff member should see the particular KPIs related to his/ her function and, therefore, different views should be available for agents, supervisors, managers, executives or business owners and support staff.

8 – Analyse for root causes
“An analytical tool that dumps statistics is no more useful than traditional call centre reports. The tool must include navigational mechanisms that allow a user to drill down into the data and identify root causes of performance challenges and shortfalls,” he says.

9 – Manage the infrastructure for optimal productivity Lastly, says Lutchman, analytical applications should be applied to more than just the contact centre and customer-facing business processes. “Use them to analyse the management of the infrastructure to gain insight into trunk usage, glean data around website traffic and track and measure IP bandwidth. This way you will improve the productivity of both the infrastructure and workforce.”

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