Business competitiveness leans on better customer service. And better customer service starts with better contact centre staff management, says Elingo CEO Ian Goss-Ross.
The importance of contact centre schedule adherence is vastly underrated in South Africa. Often, the task of managing shifts and schedules, and planning for peaks and troughs, is handed to a supervisor or agent as an additional duty. Scheduling may even be compiled on a simple spreadsheet.
“Too often, this is the case,” Goss-Ross says. “Workforce management as an afterthought is short sighted. It makes it difficult to assess historic and current performance in real time, and doesn’t allow for proper planning.”
Without effective schedule adherence, a call centre is left with a situation where customers may sit on hold for an unacceptably long period; where insufficient agents are deployed at peak times; and where productivity levels are lower than they should be.
In an industry where staff churn is an ongoing problem, poor agent management can also contribute to employee dissatisfaction – which results in yet more expensive staff turnover.
“Ideally, a call centre should use an agent scheduling system that is fully integrated into all its systems,” says Goss-Ross.
“This allows for automatic scheduling of agents to meet forecasted activity levels at any given time and allows for the adjustment of schedules based on any sudden changes of activity levels.
“When fully integrated into the rest of an enterprise system, a scheduling system will also allow a call centre to allocate tasks according to staff skill sets – so that suitable agents handle particular calls – and to take into account factors like sick leave and annual leave.
“To be effective, a call centre needs to ensure it has the right people in the right place, at the right time,” says Goss-Ross. “This not only improves customer satisfaction, cost control and efficiency – it also results in better working conditions for staff.”
And without productive, enthusiastic agents, a call centre is not likely to respond satisfactorily to customers.
“With resources being expensive, effective scheduling and automation in the call centre maximises investment in these resources, and delivers tangible cost savings.
“To make better scheduling effective, the process needs to be managed by a manager who really understands their call centre. In addition, agents need to be incentivised and rewarded for adherence,” concludes Goss-Ross.