Peering into Desktop Productivity

19 Dec 2010

There are few areas of the enterprise that receive as much scrutiny as the modern contact center. The old adage goes 'You can't improve what you can't measure,' and since contact centers are both expensive and often represent direct customer interaction, they get prodded and poked in numerous ways.

We have learned considerably from decades of contact center management. Contact centers have very real challenges of forecasting, scheduling, and monitoring to ensure that the right agents are in place at the right time with the right skills at a minimal cost. What's new is applying these disciplines and tools beyond the phones; it is called Workforce Optimization or WFO, and it's changing the way work gets done.

I recently had the opportunity to see WFO in action at an organization with a large customer management operation. It was fascinating because they treated this operation like a manufacturing environment, measuring productivity and defects like an assembly line. The fact is, most "production environments" are not manufacturing anymore, they are process-focused work flows like this, which pose measuring and supervision challenges. WFO requires specialized tools, and it's natural to look to the contact center, which have dramatically evolved over the years. Measures such as calls per agent are not sufficient to get a true glimpse of productivity, broad yet granular measurements are needed to drive ongoing performance gains, and those lessons and methods are surprisingly portable to other environments.

The customer management organization I observed uses Verint's Impact 360 Quality Monitoring solution in a back-office operation responsible for provisioning and order management. The result was improved productivity and customer experience. But what was compelling to me was how productivity metrics were applied to back office functions.

The operation had been relying upon fairly basic and obvious metrics such as total time to process a work order, or how many work orders were processed by each agent. This provided high-level productivity measurements, but overall offered inconclusive, or even misleading reports. If one agent processed more orders, was it because that agent was faster or because those orders were simpler? Where are the bottlenecks, and where should supervisors focus training efforts? These questions move from impossible to easy with the right tools in place.

Impact 360 has a Desktop and Process Analytics tool that passively monitors the workflow, identifies how long agents spend in various screens and applications, and identifies bottlenecks. The tools have delivered a 20% sustainable gain in productivity to the company, based on both process improvements and supervision improvements by identifying improved coaching and training opportunities.

The analytical data can also be combined with voice call data to reveal a bigger WFO picture. This client also uses Verint's UC Analytics solutions, providing impressive process visibility that can uncover performance issues, not just symptoms but causes. What struck me was how simple this was to implement and how obviously the data drives improvements. Simple and obvious, yet most of these tools are still confined to call processing measures.

A software agent that monitors activities and programs was deployed on 5,000 desktops with remarkable speed and simplicity. The agent passively collects information, so no desktop training is required. Information collection immediately began to collect data, and the operation realized a five percent productivity gain within two weeks. That was the proverbial low hanging fruit, identifying applications and specific screens that were sucking productivity. Additionally, agent productivity deviations were identified showing where specific agents slowed down (applications or screens), revealing necessary training gaps. The client determined that a total of 50,000 transactions (not work orders) were taking place each month. A five percent gain offered an immediate capacity increase of 2,500 transactions without any additional staff.

It was also interesting to see how this client used the notion of triggers to map out key processes. For example, when an agent modified a specific on-screen field or application, it initiated a Verint 360 trigger. In one example, the trigger notified staff of additional information that was now required as a result of a recent field change. This solved a huge productivity hole that the process in place was inadvertently creating.

Often, productivity reports will generate more questions than answers. It was impressive to see how these tools enable data-driven answers and increased awareness of the process. Verint's Impact 360 enabled the client to uncover hidden service and quality issues. Productivity improvements usually come with an ROI associated with cost reductions, but what was more important was the impact on customer service - solving problems faster.

Impact 360 Workforce Optimization is designed for larger contact centers - typically some combination of multiple sites, inbound/outbound services, and virtual, outsourced, or offshore centers. For smaller contact centers, Verint offers Impact 360 Express. But don't relegate the tools to call flow management, they can provide a powerful glimpse into all kinds of workflow. The tools allow an organization to capture various activities across different systems, applications, and processes to enhance productivity, compliance, and even data confidentiality requirements.

It takes more than good data to deliver productivity gains. The staff and management need to understand the process and tools as well as be empowered to act. Data driven WFO invariably results in changes, and overcoming resistance is frequently underestimated. These tools are not suitable for all orgizations, but they provide tremendous power to those that are able to use it.

Call centers understand productivity, but how to apply the tools to broader and more complex workflows, is a challenging matter. There are tons of administrative tasks performed every day in most organizations, tasks that just can't be easily diagrammed in a flow chart. Streamlining entire workflows from a traditional optimization perspective is overwhelming or outright impossible. But WFO tools exist to understand workflow in new ways. Increasing visibility into key processes makes sense, and extends beyond the phone to the desktop as well. Tools such as Verint's Impact 360 suite identify time sinks (human and process) and deliver real benefits to the customer and the bottom line.

This paper is sponsored by Verint.


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