SupportWorld, Jan/Feb 2013

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customer loyalty. When employees fail to perform, this has an effect on loyalty, and all of this has an effect on the service desk's ability to achieve its overall goals. So, knowing that staffing to peaks, overstaffing the valleys, and bringing in a personal trainer to address each individual agent's weaknesses just isn't realistic, how do we overcome this challenge? The Old Paradigm: The Service Desk as a Baseball Team In order to give customers what they really want, service desks must be willing to challenge some of the paradigms of our time and think differently about the service desk and its role in the customer experience strategy. For example, most service desks today are run like a baseball team. Agents spend about 60 percent of their time handling calls, another 11 percent idle (logged into the ACD and waiting for calls), and 29 percent completing various shrinkage activities (logged out of the ACD and completing off-phone work).3 Like baseball players waiting on and off the field, agents spend a lot of time standing around, waiting for something to happen. Agents are logged in for some of the time (on-field) and logged off some of the time (off-field), but even when they are on the field and logged in, 15 percent of this "on-field" time is spent sitting idle, waiting for the next call. This adds up to 17 hours of idle time per month per agent! Idle time is extremely inefficient, but there's a myth in the service desk industry that agents need this idle time because it is restorative and it keeps them from burning out. But most of these breaks come in two-minute intervals, which don't allow agents enough time to complete any meaningful activity. This is the way the service desk has traditionally operated. It doesn't allow the service desk to give customers what they want, yet we have stuck with it for thirty years. But what if we thought about the service desk differently? What if we could deliver a higher level of service, improve efficiency, and reduce agent attrition—all without increasing costs? The New Paradigm: The Service Desk as a Basketball Team Instead of a baseball team, we should think about the service desk like a basketball team, with players dynamically switching between defense and offense and constantly moving up and down the court. By allowing agents to switch between on-phone and off-phone activities, we can make them more efficient and productive. ____________________ The data on idle time and shrinkage was collected by surveys conducted and sponsored by Knowlagent. The following reports are both available online at "2010 Contact Center Shrinkage Survey" and "2011 Knowlagent Contact Center Productivity Survey." 3 | To do this, we'd need to take better advantage of idle time. For example, when call volume drops, idle time can be redistributed in fifteen-minute blocks and agents can choose from a personalized queue of non-call-related activities designed to make them better at their jobs and more equipped to provide accurate responses to customer queries. These activities can include anything from coaching, training, or reading the knowledge base to processing email and completing other back-office activities. Under this model, agents no longer need "off-field" time (shrinkage) because they can complete these activities while they wait for their next calls. When call volume spikes, they can quickly and smoothly transition to answering calls. This is what's known as an "intraday" time management methodology, and the service desks that have implemented this methodology have seen profound results. And while intraday time management has long been a manual process, there are new automated technologies that are taking this process to a whole new level. The result? Customers get what they want: speed (service level) and accuracy (expertise). Agents get what they want: variety and personalized development. Management gets what it wants: customer loyalty, low attrition, and efficiency. Everybody wins. About the Author Matt McConnell is the chairman and CEO of Knowlagent, the Atlanta-based company he cofounded in 1995. Matt's passion is helping his clients improve their customer service by improving the performance of their service desk agents. He is the author of Customer Service at a Crossroads (Anton Press, 2003), he holds eleven software patents, and he's a regular speaker at industry events. To learn more about Matt, visit A Professional Journal for the Technical Service and Support Community 15

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