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Dear Contact Centre – please stop tai chi’ing your Customers

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I warn against tai chi’ing your Contact Centre Customers when they need your help.

There are many odd approaches to achieving productivity in the Contact Centre industry

There’s a long list of odd approaches to achieving productivity in the Contact Centre.

One of my least favorites is what I call tai chi’ing the Customer.

If you’re familiar with the formal practice of Tai Chi it originated in ancient China and is one of the most effective exercises for health of mind and body.

When I lived in Los Angeles I practiced tai chi to manage my own personal stress and reduce blood pressure.

But in the Contact Centre it’s not a good thing and here’s what it sounds like –

Good morning this is Andrew, how may I help you?

Hi Andrew, Siti here. Can I ask how to apply for the scholarship?

Sure Siti.   It’s all on the website.  Just visit abc.com and you’ll find everything there.

 Short, sweet , unhelpful.

But it kept the call short!

It’s tai chi’ing when you push someone to self-help without offering to help first.

Designed journeys have exception handling too

Sure – perhaps a particular Customer journey was designed in such a way that the Customer would have ideally gone to the website first.

But when you offer multiple channels, you’ve made an implicit promise to honor the Customer regardless of which channel(s) they decide to use.

When I work with students in Customer Experience courses I explain it this way –

“When your Customer wakes up in the morning they have a choice.  A choice in how they interact with you.

They could call, email, text, or drop in on your Service Centre as they’ll be in town running errands anyway.

No matter what choice they make, we honor them and help get the job done.”

Journey mapping practitioners recognize that some percentage of voice calls come in after Customers tried self-service first.

And that happens when the self-service option failed to deliver the desired information or required too much effort.

Referred to as containment this is a measure of the percentage of enquiries  fully resolved within a particular channel.

And it’s never 100%.

So for a Customer to be tai chi’ed on a voice call – right back to the self-service channel that had failed in the first place – is clearly not an award winning strategy.

The danger of measuring service through compliance measures

We worked with a large educational institution on their Contact Centre Mystery Shopper program.

To allow for trending,  the compliance standards used for measurement had not been refreshed or updated for years.

And sure enough, all the greetings, closings and using the Customer’s name ‘two times’ were achieved and generated high percentage scores for the program.

They were all happy.

But during our analysis of the conversations, we picked up on the extensive use of Tai Chi by the Agents.

Though we reported it in our findings the management wasn’t that interested.

Later on when we checked, we learned that the Tai Chi approach was a directive from Contact Centre management to keep the calls short.

Ah ok.  We had simply picked up on what the Agents had been asked to do.

Another weird way that productivity rears its head in the industry while damaging the Customer Experience.

How about a version like this?

Good morning this is Andrew, how may I help you?

Hi Andrew, Siti here. Can I ask how to apply for the scholarship?

Sure Siti. Happy to help with that!

(A bit of to and fro to address Siti’s needs)

Ok Siti – have you viewed our website before? 

Ah ok – no worries – let me show you where, in future, you can easily reference what we’ve been taking about on this call.

What if Customers fed back that the website did not provide an easy reference?

No problem.

Because this becomes business intelligence to be funneled to the CX Team for action so the website can better meet its purpose.

Thank you for reading (and please – no more Tai Chi!),

Daniel

How to help your Contact Centre Agents improve their Performance

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this post I share how to help improve your Contact Centre Agent performance.

What is the job of a Contact Centre Agent?

When we hire a Contact Centre Agent, we’re responsible for helping them succeed in their job.

To help improve Contact Centre Agent performance.

So a fundamental understanding of the job is the right place to start.

For the Contact Centre Agent job, this definition helps:

The job of a Contact Centre Agent is to do the right things at the right time.

 Doing the right things corresponds to Quality, while at the right times corresponds to Productivity.

So let’s look at some choices you can make to improve performance in Quality and in Productivity.

At the end of the article we’ll close out with a look at the role of Attitude(s).

Doing the right things = Quality

Here are some choices you can make to help your Contact Centre Agent performance in Quality.

1.  Develop a compelling Service Delivery Vision  

When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

That’s a powerful statement and important when you’re looking to deliver Customer-pleasing quality.

Every organisation has its own purpose, its own set of Customers and its own style and brand.  So by design, it should have its own kind of service too.

A well-crafted Service Delivery Vision helps everyone understand what kind of service we deliver around here.

Even better, ask Agents their opinion of what kind of Service we deliver around here and incorporate their voice into the Service Delivery Vision.

Wouldn’t be great if every Agent could say –

I know exactly what kind of Service we deliver around here, how to explain it to others and how to bring it to life in my job role.

2.  Select the right Performance Standards by channel and train them well 

Every channel –  Live Chat, Email, Voice – has its own set of behavioural practices that separate a great interaction from an average one.

upside down pyramidFor example, in Email it’s important to write the way you speak and to use inverted pyramid writing when sharing content.

First – understand those behavioural practices by channel.  If your internal Trainers don’t have this know-how then go to the outside word and get help.

Second – filter those practices through your Service Delivery Vision.

The behaviours you choose should reflect the kind of Service you deliver ‘around here’.

Agents shouldn’t have to learn how to deliver a ‘different kind of service’ across different channels. That’s not only confusing – it’s a mess.  Align to the Service Delivery Vision and then bring out those behavioural practices inherent in each channel that supporst the Vision.

Third – choose and document meaningful Performance Standards for your Agents to learn and practice – for each channel they’re asked to handle.

And be sure that anyone involved in coaching understands these Performance Standards inside and out.

3.  Don’t ask Agents to practice on Customers

I regularly come across Centres that ask their Agents to practice on Customers.

For example:

  • Email Agents who have never been formally trained in email writing practices.
  • Live Chat Agents who are told to start handling Live Chats without a background or understanding of what separates an average chat from a great chat.
  • Voice Agents who may have received orientation training or product knowledge training – but that’s about it.

It’s hard to be an Agent who is asked to practice on Customers.

And don’t buy-in to the idea that Agents who have good ‘hearts’ know how to give good service.

That’s not just untrue, it’s unfair.

There’s a lot to human communication.

If you have any doubts about that just google ‘human communication’ and see what I mean.

No one goes to work to be mediocre.  So when our Agents struggle to deliver on Quality it can be demotivating.

Quality Assurance (QA) should be an enabler – not a barrier.  And yet so many QA folks spend most of their time marking people down for things.

Wouldn’t be great if each Agent could say –

I know the ‘why’ behind the Performance Standards my organization chose to measure quality and I appreciate that there are mechanisms in place to continuously equip me to do well in quality – across every channel I handle.

4.  Implement proper Interaction Coaching practices

Talking to someone about a ‘bottom box’ satisfaction rating from a Customer is not coaching.

Telling someone they failed a critical error is not coaching.

You should call it what it really is.  A poor performance conversation.

The goal of a poor performance conversation is to help the Employee understand what was poorly done and the consequences.

But a poor performance conversation is not the same as a transaction coaching conversation.

It’s not enough to just help Agents avoid ‘being bad’.  Learning & growth don’t live here.

Whoever came up with the term ‘fatal error’ should resign from the industry because that term – and the approach that goes along with it – promotes fear-based interactions between Agents and their leadership.

Interaction coaching is developmental in nature.  And it’s always about both sides of the interaction.transaction coach

What went well and what can be improved.

Agents who only hear what they did wrong, understandably disengage, dislike ‘coaching sessions’.  They become mistake-avoiders.

Effective interaction coaching is at the heart of Contact Centre Agent performance in Quality.

For some lucky Agents it happens nearly every day – not now and then or crammed in at the end of the month like a quota system.

Wouldn’t it be great if each Agent could say –

My boss has high standards and believes in my potential. I receive regular and helpful feedback about my quality performance which helps me understand where I do well and where I can improve. 

At the right time = Productivity

Let’s look at some choices you can make to help your Agents improve their Productivity.

1.  Stop measuring the wrong things

More than anything else, the key to Agent productivity is to understand what Agent productivity is – and what it isn’t.

Let’s start with what it isn’t:

2.  It isn’t Average Handling Time (AHT)

The significant drivers of AHT don’t lie in the control of Agents.

They lie in processes, technologues and the rational & emotional complexity of the enquiries posed by Customers.

Leading Centres measure individual AHT to identify outliers for root cause analysis and correction.  But they don’t consider AHT to be a major productivity metric at the Agent level.

AHT is important for forecasting & staff planning.  It’s not a matter of ignoring it at all.  It’s simply a matter of where it is best applied as a measure of success.

For Centres that still want some aspect of AHT in their Agent performance scorecard, they simply assign it a low weightage in the overall basket of productivity KPIs.

That approach is perfectly acceptable as long as the weightage placed on AHT is not too high.

https://www.omnitouchinternational.com/why-are-you-still-talking-about-average-handling-time

3.  It isn’t Number of Calls Handled

The mathematical realities of Service Level based contacts like calls and live chats mean that Agents don’t control the number of interactions handled.

factoryOnly Response Time contacts, such as Correspondence & Email, can have appropriate volume-based targets.

If you still think that Agents should be measured on quantity for Service Level based contacts you need to urgently sign up for some solid Operations training.

This mistake in thinking # of calls is a valid productivity metric is among the most damaging in the industry.

4.  It isn’t Occupancy

Agents don’t control how ‘busy’ they are when they are signed in handling Service Level based contacts.

Management is the ultimate driver of Occupancy through activities that include setting Service Level objectives, Forecasting & Staffing and Managing Service Level in Real Time.

If you believe Agents somehow control their Occupancy rate, you need to urgently sign up for some solid Operations training.

We’re talking here about how to help your Agents improve their performance – and Occupancy isn’t in their control.

Mathematical realities such as the Pooling Principle further highlight how wrong it is to target Agents on personal Occupancy rates.

What you need to know about the Pooling Principle in Contact Centers

5.  Setting the wrong productivity KPIs will earn you Agent confusion and a host of unwanted outcomes

It’s not so great when your Agent says –

I work in a Centre that asks me to achieve both productivity & quality but then sets KPIs that compete with each other. 

I never know if they want me to be fast or if they want me to be good. They can’t really explain it to me either.

Something feels wrong here.

6.  Start measuring the right things

We turn back to our definition of the job of a Contact Centre Agent.

The job of a Contact Centre Agent is to do the right things at the right time.

At the right time is best expressed through ‘Adherence to Schedule’.

Simply put, when your Agent adheres to the schedule they’re given –  at an interval basis – your Centre Service Level improves and stabilises.

That’s a great thing.

Adherence to Schedule is at the heart of Contact Centre Agent performance for Productivity.  And it makes intuitive sense.

When you’re short by even a small number of Agents, your Service Level goes down and all sorts of important KPIs go awry.

When you’re overstaffed by any number of Agents, your Service Level barely improves.

That means you’re wasting organisational resources.

Putting the right people, in the right place at the right time is not just a mantra.  It’s a way to manage your Frontline resources efficiently.

At a management level, you need to marry effective interval-based forecasting, staffing & scheduling with great Adherence to Schedule behaviour across all individual Agents.

You can’t wing this part.

And don’t think that Agent performance cannot make up for weak forecasting practices.

You need both.

When it comes to Agents, choose the right measures for productivity – with a heavy emphasis on Adherence to Schedule – and combine them in an appropriate basket of KPIs to measure their performance.

The weight of each item in that basket depends on the degree of control the Agent has over that item.

Wouldn’t it be great if your Agent could say –

I work in a Centre that has defined Productivity very clearly for me. 

And they’ve explained the rationale behind it. 

I understand how my individual contribution has a big impact on our Centre’s overall performance and why I need to be in the right place at the right time. 

Best of all – the Productivity standards set do not compete with Quality.  I’m in a position to deliver both.

Summing up Productivity & Quality (P & Q)

One of the powerful aspects of this Productivity (P) and Quality (Q) approach is that P & Q don’t contradict each other.

You can ask for both and you can help your Agent achieve both. They should never be in contradiction.

see saw balanceAnd there’s no such thing as ‘balance’ here.

Seeking a balance that doesn’t exist is the wrong question – and trying to achieve it is a dangerous myth that costs many Centres either their Quality or their Productivity – sometimes both.

There’s one more dimension I’d like to look at before closing this article.

That’s the power of attitude.

Nobody has an attitude problem

It’s quite normal to hear a Manager say, “I think my Contact Centre Agent has an attitude problem.”

But is this a fair assessment?  I don’t think so.

There’s really no such thing as an ‘attitude problem’ because there are so many different attitudes at play to succeed in a job role.

In my former VP Operations days, if a Manager came into my office and said their Agent had an attitude problem, I’d ask them to tell me specifically which attitude was the problem.

If they couldn’t, I’d recommend that they figure it out and then come back and see me.

Was I being overly strict?  I don’t think so.

Every job, from the top on down, requires a certain set of specific attitudes to succeed.

And it’s our job to know the attitude requirements for any job role we manage – in this case the Contact Centre Agent.

Some common attitudes I come across for Contact Centre Agents include –

  • Adaptability
  • Ownership
  • Positive Attitude

But I’d recommend you work through the selection and definition of the attitudes that make the most sense for your Centre and for your Agents.

Then be ready to explain what those attitudes really ‘look like’ at work.

What it helps to know about Attitude(s)

Nobody is a superstar at every attitude.

Some attitudes were inculcated in us through how we were raised, some we learned from trusted teachers and mentors.

Attitudes evolve and develop over time , especially with the right guidance.

For me, I’ve found the following two thoughts about attitude to be helpful-

  1. An attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about something
  2. Attitudes are choices – people can choose and/or change their attitudes over time

When helping someone develop a specific attitude, my goal is that they end up making a conscious and personal choice to adopt the attitude for their success.

So that means that in addition to talking about Quality and Productivity, I need to also talk about Attitudes with my Agents as well.

Frequently!

When you’re able to help your Agent improve their quality, productivity & attitudes, their P, Q & A, life is good – for everyone.

Thank you for reading!

I appreciate the time you took to read this today!

If you’d like to keep up with our articles and other information just leave your email address in the contact form on our website or just send it to me by email and we will add you to our mailing list!

Daniel Ord

[email protected]

www.omnitouchinternational.com

 

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article we talk about Contact Centre Average Handling Time.

So put your feet up on the couch and tell the Dr. – for heaven’s sake, why are we all still talking about Average Handling Time?

The more you talk about AHT, the less you talk about Quality

A psychologist with a patient

I have a theory that’s been proven out over the years.

A see-saw going up and down

Contact Centre Average Handling Time & Quality

The more a Centre and its inhabitants talk (or fret) about Contact Centre AHT – the less they talk (or fret) about Quality.

Sure – Quality gets lip service (who’s going to bash Quality?) – but it’s AHT that reigns supreme.

And for some inexplicable reason, it’s almost always about the Agents.

Yeah – you know – those Agents who brush their teeth in the bathroom mirror every morning and plot how to sabotage AHT.

A young man brushing his teeth“Hmmmm (they say to themselves) – how could I drag the calls today?”

“A few more holds and a bit of nonsensical small talk and I’m sure I can knock AHT out of whack.”

Really?

Any Quality Assurance professional will tell you a simple truth

AHT flows from Quality.

Exhaust coming from an automobile tailpipe

Average Handling Time is an outcome

It’s an output…a byproduct…an emission.

You know those Monitoring Forms with the checklists and standards that QA likes to hand out to let you know how you’re doing with regard to Quality?

Those Forms dictate your Contact Centre Average Handling Time.

Want Agents to use the Customer’s name 3x? Ok – that’ll be about 15 seconds.

Want Agents to say “Is there anything else I can do to help you today (and mean it)?” – that easily adds 7 more seconds.

Need Agents to conduct 2 levels of verification – yup – takes time.

Are you fearless enough to put First Contact Resolution on your Form? Well that’s gonna cost you too (in time that is).

If your Agent scores 100% quality on their call and you still have to talk to them about their AHT something’s wrong with the Form or something’s wrong with your Quality process.

A guru floating in the air As I like to say when I transition into ‘guru’ mode – when your Agent achieves Quality – and it just feels right – then AHT will be what it will be.

Contact Centre Average Handling Time flows from Quality.

But most assuredly Quality does not flow from Contact Centre Average Handling Time!

A delicious piece of chocolate lava cakeDid you ever order chocolate lava cake for dessert in a restaurant? It’s delicious.

But the menu often says “please order early, or just be aware it will take about 20 minutes for us to make you this delicious chocolate lava cake”.

I’ve never seen it happen that a Diner bangs the table and says – “Hey, Chef baby – make me one of those delicious chocolate lava cakes in 10 minutes – you hear? ”

So what’s the best way to correct Contact Centre AHT at the Agent level?

The best way has always been – and it will continue to be – conducting root cause analysis at the Agent level.

Watch the Agent at work, listen to calls, correct what needs to be corrected (sometimes it’s a piece of equipment, sometimes it’s knowledge or skill).

When you fix Agent Quality – you automatically fix AHT. It’s an outcome – not a driver.

Of course having a guideline helps.

Contact Centre AHT lends itself beautifully to measurement as an ‘acceptable range’.

A graph showing acceptable range

Contact Centre Average Handling Time Acceptable Range

For example an ‘acceptable’ range for your Centre AHT in the mornings might range from a low of 3 minutes to a high of 6 minutes.

I’d set my ‘acceptable’ range based on my high performers in quality – if your call is great quality-wise – then by default the AHT is acceptable. (if it isn’t something is broken in how you measure quality).

Armed with a range, you can track performance across your Team Members and identify outliers – for example those who are consistently above or below the acceptable range for that time period.

This approach allows you to focus in on folks who may have some barrier in their way.

Do remember though –

Acceptable ranges are not consistent throughout the day – most Centres see longer AHT in the night hours as compared to the morning hours (for example).

You have to adjust your ranges based on your call mix, Customer mix and the like.

If you’re in WFM or Process AHT matters

Of course – if you are in WFM (Workforce Management)or you are in Process improvement and/or Customer journey mapping, AHT is super important.

And WFM folks tend to understand that the biggest improvements in AHT come from technology and process improvement.

When you look at all the factors that ‘drive’ AHT, Agents themselves have only minor control over AHT – namely applying their knowledge, skills & abilities as trained and coached.

Industry-wide AHT for voice calls is going up

Children in front of a fun-house mirrorAs the world increasingly becomes digital, Customers reach out to voice channels when their issue is complex or they are confused or unhappy with something.

Coupled with the digitization of ‘simple’ inquiries the outcome is clear – while voice volumes may be ‘stabilizing’ in volume for some Centres, AHT continues to climb.

Feel better? I do

In an era of Customer experience, it won’t do you or your Team Members any good to have an artificial clock ticking in their ear while trying to listen, empathize and resolve a Customer call.

If you’re a Manager or Team Leader who still harps on individual Agent AHT it’s time to rethink your value.

It’s not 1973 anymore.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / https://www.omnitouchinternational.com

A picture of Daniel Ord

Daniel Ord

 

What Tom Cruise taught me about productivity

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

I learned a very powerful lesson about productivity when I used to manage Distribution Centers.

In the 1990s I worked as a VP Operations of Call Center & Distribution operations.

Customers would phone in or mail in their orders to us and we’d package them up and ship them out.

All in the days before e-commerce was even a term.

We’d fulfill everything from compact discs through to gardening tools and children’s toys.

One company I worked for in Los Angeles had a big Client base across the movie studios.

Before any big new movie was released, the studios would send promotional materials to movie theaters around the country.

That was our job.

We’d package and ship off things like posters, standees (those life sized cut-outs and backdrops) and even one of a kind promotional items for VIP receptions and giveaways.

I remember for one particular movie about kids who became spies, we had a complete ‘spy briefcase’ with binoculars, a fingerprint dusting kit and a play along game that matched the plot of the movie.

As you’d imagine, we had a very interesting warehouse!

But I remember Tom Cruise the best

In the 1990s Tom Cruise was everywhere.

And we handled his Fan Club mailings.

So when fans would write or call in and ask for Tom Cruise memorabilia, our warehouse crew would ‘pick and pack’ all the necessary items for the Fan Club kit and mail them out.

They all had to wear white gloves.

No fan ever wanted to receive an autographed Tom Cruise photo with a big oily smudge on it.

If that happened, believe me our Customer Care Centre would hear about it.

Distribution operations teach you a lot about productivity

I didn’t have a formal background in running Distribution Centers.

I credit some key mentors who guided me and taught me lessons about productivity.

And thanks to Tom Cruise I got better and better at it.

Let me explain.

One of the first Fan Club projects I ever worked on was Tom Cruise.

So my mentor – another VP – showed me how to set up an efficient ‘pick and pack’ operation.

How to layout the items so that the right amount of time was invested in staging, packing and shipping each Fan Club kit.

We used stopwatches to track times and calculate staffing requirements.

A Distribution Center version of Average Handling Time if you will.

We would always package the first kits ourselves so that we could try out what worked (or didn’t).

There was no point bringing in our Team to do it – and charge them to be productive – if we hadn’t tried it ourselves.

That’s when my mentor said to me –

“Dan – it might seem obvious.  But one of the keys to success here is to avoid touching the same thing twice. That’s a waste of time.  So let’s arrange it this way…or that way…and make sure we remain as efficient as possible.”

Sometimes the most powerful lessons are the simplest.

And this one has stuck with me ever since.

Multi-tasking is kind of dumb

Today when I visit a Corporate office and I see someone’s mobile phone sitting out and open on the desk I shake my head.

There’s absolutely no way that person is going to be as productive as they could be.

The moment that phone buzzes they will move their hands away from what it was they were doing (reading email lets’ say) and touch the phone.

Then they’ll take their hands back to the keyboard.

Buzz buzz.

Then back to the phone.

Buzz buzz.

Back to the email.

The opposite of productivity.

If you can do it at one go – do it at one go

What I learned in Distribution Centres applies to my work today.

If I can do it in one go – I do it in one go.

Tick.

Then on to the next thing.

Of course some things have to be touched twice.

I have to talk to a Client or ask a Colleague.  No problem – set these things over here.

But I don’t touch the same thing twice if I don’t have to.

And that’s allowed me to be wonderfully productive.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected]

https://www.omnitouchinternational.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The risks of channel blending in a Contact Centre

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

This article is about the risks inherent in channel blending in Contact Centres.

Channel blending is defined as having Agents work on different types of contacts coming in – simultaneously.

This is a different scenario than having multi-skilled Agents handle different types of contacts coming in – but at different time intervals.

These days with more channels of communication – channel blending seems like a logical approach to improve productivity.

But there are risks inherent in channel blending that Contact Centre management need to factor into planning decisions.

 

If you don’t know already – please learn your Erlang C

Yup – your Contact Centre Agents have Available time.

Available time results from the dynamic of random contact arrival – with the outcome that at some times your Agent is ‘occupied’ while at other times they are ‘available’.

The following formula applies:

Occupancy Rate + Available Rate = 100% for any given period of time

So if your Agent is 85% occupied that means they are experiencing a 15% availability  rate over the same period.

Let’s do some math using an hour as time basis:

  • 85% Occupancy x 60 minutes = 51 minutes of being occupied
  • 5% Available x 60 minutes = 9 minutes of being available

But those 9 minutes – spread over the course of an hour – come in bits and bursts.

5 seconds here…42 seconds there…1 minute here and so on.

So the question is – does it really work to ask your Agents to handle other contacts at the same time during these bits & bursts of Available Time?

Obviously, when Occupancy rates are very low, it makes sense to switch attention to other work.

But in Contact Centres which aim to achieve Service Level interval after interval, Occupancy rates don’t fluctuate wildly.

 

Channel blending – handling multiple channels of contact at the same time 

Can Agents viably handle channels such as Live Chat or Emails while logged in to handle Voice calls at the same time (or over the same time period)?

Smart practitioners and organizations that pursue Customer Experience say no.

It all sounds so good on paper so why not?

It’s simple.

Quality and the Customer Experience (and all that goes with it like First Contact Resolution) will suffer in this scenario.

Try writing a clear and well presented reply to a Customer email while being interrupted any number of times by Voice calls.

Try jumping back and forth between a Live Chat (or three) and a Voice call and ensure you handle them all well.

Now try doing this hour after hour, day after day, month after month.

I watch a lot of industry recruitment videos and in these videos you hear about the need for a Contact Centre/Customer Service professional to listen well and give their undivided attention to the Customer. To create a memorable and positive experience to build loyalty and trust.

All noble stuff.

But the implementation of channel blending (as defined in this article) flies directly in the face of great Customer Service and is a bit hypocritical at the end of the day.

 

Wikipedia gives us this gem for multi-tasking

Human multi-tasking is an apparent human ability to perform more than one task, or activity, over a short period of time.

An example of multi-tasking is taking phone calls while typing an email and reading a book.

Multi-tasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching and apparently causing more errors due to insufficient attention.

Jeff Toister, a Customer Service expert, writes –

Multi-tasking and Customer Service don’t mix.

  • We can only process one conscious thought at a time
  • Multi-tasking slows us down
  • We make more errors when we multi-task

I recommend reading Jeff’s full article on the topic at the link below – it’s a winner.

http://www.toistersolutions.com/blog/2014/5/19/one-thing-that-makes-multitasking-five-times-more-dangerous

Wikipedia carries on with the origin of the term ‘multi-tasking’:

The first published use of the word “multi-task” appeared in an IBM paper describing the capabilities of the IBM System 360 in 1965.

In this context, “multi-tasking” refers to the ability of a computer to apparently process several tasks, or computer jobs, concurrently.

The term has since been applied to human tasks.

 

It’s not about the attitude of your Frontline Team Members

Recently I met a Contact Centre Agent at a workshop and she said that yes – it had been hard to handle multiple channels at the same time – but she seemed to chalk it up to attitude.

‘Dan – it was hard – especially at the beginning. But I have a correct attitude so I really tried and got used to it over time…’

But let’s take that argument a bit further.

For those who struggle with handling multiple channels at the same time does this mean that they don’t have the right attitude?

Her statement made me sad because I had to wonder – how many others out there in the industry are blaming attitude on their failure to achieve ‘success’ in channel blending.

 

The world has changed

Most Contact Centres recognize that their call mix has changed radically over the past years.

Nowadays the voice channel is not the ‘first choice’ for most and tends to be utilized for only the more complex or challenging situations.

This means the Agent job role has become even more difficult than it was before (just ask an Agent).

 

Organizations that focus on Customer experience allow their Agents to deliver on the Customer experience – especially when faced with increasing complexity.

 

Channel blending is not about being Omni-channel

Omni-channel is about the Customer experience.

Being able to maintain a seamless, ‘single’ conversation with a Customer across multiple channels of communication.

But being ‘Omni-channel’ – a Customer experience strategy – is not the same as Channel blending which damages the Customer experience (as well as the Agent experience).

Does it make sense to train Team Members across different channels of communication?

Absolutely!

This is where the work can get really interesting for the Agent and the planning gets much easier for the Centre.

Handling different channels, at different scheduled intervals, is a sign of healthy forecasting & scheduling.

Channel blending, though beautiful on paper, is a misguided attempt to achieve productivity.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com