If agents are paid based on skill level, then the ideal agent to serve a customer would normally be the agent who is only skilled enough to fully handle a customer’s enquiry ( as defined by the customer’s choices in their individualised IVR routing menu). This might for example be an agent trained only in handling billing enquiries.
If there are no agents with only billing skills, then a second best choice is to route the caller to an agent trained in two skills, where one of those is “billing enquiries”. In fact there will be a hierarchy of agents where the most multi-skilled agents should only be chosen if no other lesser skilled agents are available. Since there is no benefit in keeping the caller queuing unnecessarily, and there is a definite wastage of money in keeping a caller queuing when you have a multi-skilled agent sitting free and available to handle the enquiry, the ACD should normally be set to search across all agent groups, in skills hierarchy order, in zero seconds.
If the company has more than one site, then all agents at all sites should be considered when routing an inbound call. It wastes money to have an agent free at one site, when there is a call waiting to be answered at a second site. The amount of money wasted can be exactly calculated using a mathematics formula which is an extended version of Erlang’s “C” Formula.
Typically a two groups of 10 agents, located at two different sites, will be able to deliver the same service level with 12% less staff, if calls are networked instantly between sites, and the agents are made into a single virtual group of agents.
This means a saving of 12% of 20 agents = 2.4 agents, so reducing each site to 9 agents will give an improved service and a 10% reduction in agent costs.
Sometimes it is best to put some of the single skilled agents towards the back of the search hierarchy, and an example of this would be when trainees are first brought into the call centre. If there is any spare time for agents between calls, then giving that spare time to trainees makes sense, reducing their stress levels and giving them more time to seek answers to questions which arose during their earlier calls.
A second simple action to help trainees is to route repeat callers to fully trained experts rather than trainees. If somebody is calling back a couple of days after they last called in, there is a good chance that the caller was unhappy with the original call outcome, or has a further enquiry about it, which was not addressed in the standard first call. A similar technique can be used where some experts are best kept free if possible, in order to handle enquiries from other agents.
Probably one of the biggest time savers and customer benefits is to route callers through to the agent which last talked to them, so that the agent is aware of the customer’s details and can avoid frustrating the customer by covering old ground previously covered in the preceding call. This technique also helps build relationships between the company and the caller, and is perfect for multi-call sales cycles.In the case of a travel agent, imagine that a sales agent explains the products and recommends a particular week, in a particular hotel, but the caller needs to drop off this call and discuss the holiday decision with their partner. This type of call is normally a “three call” sales cycle and is made much easier if the same agent is used for each call. The call centre can choose to route the caller back to their original agent, and if the agent is busy the call can be queued for the agent, sent to voice mail for that particular agent, or routed to another agent in the sales group, based on information known about the caller.
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About Richard Pickering
Richard co-founded NewVoiceMedia with Ashley in 2000. Previously to that he was part of the Genesys Labs start-up that was sold to Alcatel for $1.5bn. Richard has over 30 years exprience working in call centre technology markets, including 24 years at BT where he designed many of thier internal call centres. Richard has considerable experience applying call centre technology to solve business problems and plans to share his thoughts on these and other issues through his blog.Read more from Richard Pickering