Brad Cleveland opened the conference and shared some demographics of attendees. The highest industry representation was Financial Services, which made up twenty percent of the attendees. Computers and Telecom came in next with twelve percent of attendees. Most of the call centers represented at the conference had twenty agents or fewer. Twenty-three percent of attendees had a role of Services, Supervisor, or Manager. A similar sector at twenty-two percent was comprised of Executive Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Directors. Almost half of all attendees have been in the call center industry ten or more years.
Many in attendance indicated that they had major customer experience initiatives. Currently, top challenges include changes in external and internal environment, meeting customer expectations, as well as direction, planning, operations. Informal conversations often turned to discussions of the challenges of new channels being supported, such as live chat. The skills and training for the channels are challenges as well as reporting, scheduling, monitoring, etc.
John Foley, High Performance Climb
John appeared as a pilot in the movie Top Gun, is a jet pilot, and was a member of the Blue Angels - an elite exhibition team for naval aviation. He is now a performance consultant.
John discussed the critical thinking and processes required to achieve high performance in an environment requiring high precision. With merely three feet between planes in formation - a space that is narrower than your head to your feet when sitting - John knows the importance of performance. As one of only six people in the world at one time to be a demo pilot, John is familiar with behaviors of the top one-tenth of one percent of the performance pyramid.
The Blue Angels program has fifty percent turnover in its top echelon, which is a planned rotation of demo pilots. To support excellence, the group requires consistent processes and procedures. A new member of the Blue Angels undertakes intense training in becoming a fully trained demo pilot as the program sustains 300% improvement in three months.
John asserts that elevating your belief level in turn elevates performance. The first level of belief includes vision and clarity. Is the vision liberating or limiting? Limiting is from without. Liberating is from within. When a new entrant comes to the program they have six weeks to watch, learn and absorb the culture. They are exposed to a liberating vision, and their belief level increases.
Thirdly, in the increasing levels of belief, a team establishes trust, execution, and commitment. The key to execution is trust. There is a contract between members - an agreement with consequences. This contract is not written or formal, but rather verbal between team members. If the wingman is off, he must say he is off. He does not try to correct on his own or hide it. If he is on target, there is no need to say anything. He trusts that his wingman has it.
Finally, the last level includes assessment, discipline, and accountability. During debriefing, rank and experience are put aside. Each team member critiques his own performance and commits to correcting mistakes. High performers celebrate victories as well.
Contact Center Operations 101: Seven Critical Issues
Rose Pulchin, ICMI
Rose Pulchin is a consultant at ICMI, but started her career as an agent, progressing to supervisor and center management. Her introductory session is intended to give a base understanding to those who may not have had formal training is the business but need to get a handle on the economics and undercurrents of the call center.
The contact center is a hub of communication, encompassing phone, email, fax, mail, text chat, and more. The center has touch points with many other areas: corporate strategy, marketing, finance, legal, R&D, production/operations, IS and telecom.
Customers have certain expectations from the contact center. First and foremost, customers expect the contact center to be accessible. Along the same lines, customers want their concerns to be completed promptly, to save them money, and to do it right the first time. Without asking, a customer wants his expectations set, exceeded, and to receive follow-up. Additionally, contact center representatives should be well-trained, informed, ethical, courteous, and showing concern about the customers' needs and wants.
Incoming Contact Center Management is the art of having the correct number of properly skilled people and supporting resources in place at the right times to handle an accurately forecasted workload at service level and with quality.
The first of three driving forces of the call center is the effect of random call arrival. Secondly is the visible or invisible queue. With visible queues, the customer knows how he is progressing. With invisible, the customer is unaware of the length of the wait. Often long wait times create longer handle times as customers complain and agents apologize, adding seconds to each call. Thirdly is the caller's tolerance for waiting. Underlying factors for tolerance include degree of motivation, availability of substitutes, competition's service level, level of expectations, time available, who is paying for the call, and human behavior.
There are two major categories of inbound transactions. The first is those that must be handled when they arrive. Performance objective are stated as a service level expressed as x% answered in y seconds. (commonly 80%/20 sec). The second is those that can be handled at a later time. Performance objectives are stated as a response time expressed as 100% response within n hrs/mins
The data required for forecasting:
Call load equals: Volume x Average Handling Time (talk time + after-call work)
Base staff = agents idle/available, agents in after-call work, agents on a call, which does not include off-phone activity - also called shrinkage. You will always schedule base staff plus shrinkage for off-phone (breaks, absent, training, etc.)
Erlang C Equation helps solve the unknown to determine number of actual agents needed. The calculation will show how many agents are needed to meet a service level with a certain level of occupancy (on phone, after call work). The higher the service level, the more agents are required to be available, causing lower occupancy. Smaller centers have to have lower occupancy in order to hit same service level - higher percentage of agents have to be idle in order to take call in same timeframe.
Relationship of Service Level and Quality
Service level slips > Customers complain about wait > AHT rises, causing longer waits > Agent feels pressured to hurry to empty queue > Customers feel rushed, mistakes are made > Calls increase to correct errors, call volume increases > Cycle repeats
When service level improves, productivity declines. Productivity is measured by occupancy. It compares time spent handling calls with time spent waiting for calls. It doesn't consider time away from phones for breaks, etc. When service is good, there will be time when agents are waiting on calls. You can't increase service level and occupancy at the same time.
Rostered Staff Factor (RSF) = On Schedule divided by Base Staff Req. Shrinkage = # Lost divided by On Schedule.
Example: 8-8:30 Shift:
Base staff required: 28
On Schedule: 35
The relationship between staffing and trunking:
More staff = less telecom load. Costs must be budgeted together. Higher service levels = more staff = less hold time = lower telecom costs. Have to review telecom and staff costs together to understand tradeoff and get total costs.
Contact Center Agent Skill Demands Are Increasing
JD Power Top 25 Call Center Brands: How #1 Ranked USAA Wows Its Members
In this session, Leonard Hambrick, VP, Contact Center Management, USAA, and Mark Miller, Senior Director, J.D. Power and Associates share the top 25 call center brands, the to drivers of customer satisfaction and a behind the scenes look at USAA, which delivers a consistently superior customer experience.
JD Power performs voice of the customer research, open research and consulting in addition to the consumer rankings most people are familiar with in regards to cars, etc. Their research has uncovered the top five call center satisfaction drivers. These have shifted in ranking over time. They are:
JD Power believes customer service is shifting from speed and transactional competence to being a trusted advisor.
Top 25 Call Centers As Ranked by J.D Power
Rankings determined by 875 brands in 20 studies with call centers in insurance, hospitality, healthcare, financial services, utilities and telecommunications.
Len was previously VP of Operations with United and also worked with Hartford. He is responsible for customer care strategy, outsourcing and the control center.
USAA's mission is to facilitate the financial security of its members, associates, and their families through provision of a full range of highly competitive financial products and services; in so doing, USAA seeks to be the provider of choice for the military community.
The company values are service, loyalty, honesty, and integrity. They have 22,000 employees. With new hire training that averages 8 weeks, every employee also gets a one week new employee orientation that teaches the mission and what is expected of them to deliver on it. USAA invests in over a million training hours for their 5,000 reps. All 22,000 employees get the same percentage bonus, based on how the company does.
Each meeting in the company begins with reciting the mission statement.
According to JD Power's satisfaction index, the IVR accounts for 33% and the customer service rep accounts for 67% of caller satisfaction. Len says USAA treats technology as a slave. People come first. The strategy for IVR is "your channel, your choice." Callers can access an agent from very high in the tree. On a monthly average, 7 out of 10 callers go through the IVR.
JD Power Diagnostics
Nature of the Call: Question vs. Problem
For top performing call centers, 89% of calls are questions.
For the average, 53%.
For the bottom, 37%.
For USAA, 96%.
JD Power does not see that hold time is a large contributor to satisfaction. There is only 1% difference in hold time between top and bottom performers.
One Contact Resolution
Top performers 77%
Follow-Up After Call
USAA focuses on call flow, not necessarily AHT. They have low idle times. Currently, they are using internal knowledge management and are expanding it. They have a group that handles outbound, but are moving to having some blended inbound/outbound in special areas.
USAA has a manager candidate school where new leaders spend 6 months. All leaders get 25 hours of education a year.
They motivate agents by getting them buying into and internalizing the mission. Their turnover is often from people who don't get the mission. An example of perks they provide employees is that on their corporate campus in San Antonio, which is almost as big as the Pentagon, every employee has covered parking.
They have about 1000 outsourced agents. They work hard to get them to internalize the USAA message. Their goal is to have quality as good as internal agents.
Disney Reservation Center "Surprises and Delights" Guests with Chat
Cal Almaguer, Disney Reservations Center
Director, Sales and Service
Cal Almaguer shares how Disney went from a small proof of concept with live chat to a dedicated team that is providing high value to the business.
Live Chat was seen as a way to have the personalization of a live call with the efficiency of the internet. Disney first did a proof of concept four years ago. They have a Rapid Cycle Test Team, a non-incented group used to test new policies, processes and technologies before rollout. Cal cautions to make sure agents are not incented if you do a proof of concept, because incentive can interfere with testing.
The first pilot was with seven agents to test the impact to guest satisfaction and revenue per online booking. They varied the number of concurrent chats. In their research, they found out that some centers do as much as 10 chats, but that was the highest they found.
During the test, Disney saw:
As a result, Disney launched a dedicated team to Live Chat. They use a proactive model and invite the chat. When they had a static button, it invited help desk type questions and that was not the intent of the group. They invite based on business rule triggers, and only when an agent is available. Of those invited, 10% accept the chat. In chat, Disney uses pre-populated questions. They do about 50/50 pre-scripted vs. ad-hoc responses. Spelling and grammar are checked in the chat tool, but they tested the agents for those skills before hiring into the group as well. Disney has plans to double their live chat agents. Right now have 24.
Live chat agents have the same coaching interaction goals as phone agents:
Statistics of Disney's Live Chat
Disney has experienced a proven value-add to their business with the addition of live chat. Answering guests online not only reduces calls to the center, but it also optimizes labor, results in higher guest satisfaction as well as higher revenue. Finally, real-time feedback helps optimize the website.
Move Beyond Service to Great Customer Experiences
Sherry Steffen, AVP Customer Service Center, Northwestern Bank
Northwestern is a small bank in northern Michigan that has increased market position against large banks by empowering their agents with an "I can do that!" culture.
As an example of the above and beyond type of service Northwestern enables, an agent withdrew money from her personal savings account to cover a customer request that due to some circumstances she couldn't meet with ordinary operating procedures. Everyone has the ability and authority to do what's best for the customer. Standout performers are asked to be part of the "I Can Do That Guide" program. Hedgehog awards, which are based on Good to Great book, are given to standout above and beyond service.
FDIC market share ratings (against a lot of big name banks)
Keynote: "FASCINATE! The Seven Triggers of Persuasion and Influence"
Sally Hogshead, Speaker, Author, and Brand Innovation Consultant
Sally Hogshead describes the seven triggers of fascination and illustrates how to persuade employees and customers by drawing upon your innate abilities based on these triggers.
Fascination is irrational, instinctive. Examples of things both innate and irresistible:
How do you get attention in this age? Years ago, we had an attention span of 20 minutes. A heavy internet user has a 9 second attention span now, which is about the same as a goldfish.
There are seven triggers to fascination. Sally describes two:
1) Power - to evoke power you can:
2) Trust - to evoke trust you can:
Trust is the most valuable, hardest to gain and easiest to lose
From a pre-conference assessment to attendees, Sally shared that ICMI attendees are predominantly high on Power, pretty high on Lust and Trust. The high number of those with Power dominant is not surprising. If there was ever a group that controls the environment and establishes rules, it's the call center for sure.
Perception is Reality: Repositioning the Value of the Call Center
Tim Montgomery, Principal, The Service Level Group
Tim Montgomery shares his experiences working with some of the world's most celebrated service organizations to illustrate how to create a world-class center.
Value Mindset for World Class Centers
Line of Sight is being connected to every other organization that impacts and is impacted by call center.
Tim gave an example of a prescription company that printed the web site on prescription bottle caps. The tiny type was hard to read, and each agent was receiving 2-3 calls a day at 750 agents, asking what was on the bottle cap. Taking that off the cap equated to about $3 million in call handling savings.
The agent mindset should be:
What makes some organizations world class?
For Your Consideration
It's true that AHT drives staffing, but Tim recommends coaching to the outliers. If you train reps on call center economics, they understand what and why you're asking them to meet certain metrics.
The average turnover rate for contact centers is two times greater than it is across all industries. This leads many to consider high agent attrition normal, but the truth is that you can save a lot of money by working to reduce it. more
Owning and operating a business comes with its fair share of ups and downs. That said, the more disheartening moments almost always seem to negatively influence your company’s bottom line. Though by no means an all-inclusive culprit, much of the time, a downtrending bottom line can be accurately chalked up to poor customer service—the numbers back us up on this one. more
We’ve put together a comparison guide that covers over 40 of the top call center software options, providing details on pricing, features, support, and integrations. If you want to save time and still make a great investment, this guide is a must read. more