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Intradiem Executive Interview

Matt McConnell, President and CEO Knowlagent, Intradiem

1. Agents will have varying degrees of idle time, depending on the WFM solution used in the call center, total number of agents, etc. Some might say their agents have almost no downtime, while others find that there are noticeable gaps between calls. Can you suggest some ways organizations can enhance agent performance during idle time? 

People who say that agents don’t have much idle time are likely responding more to the instances of idle time than to the total amount of idle time. Idle time is fragmented, due to the unpredictability of call volume and in its raw form occurs in slivers of time throughout the day. So anywhere from under 60 seconds to two minutes at a time agents sit idle. But do the math and all of those slivers add up to a significant amount of time. We have survey data from multiple sources that show agents experience - on average - 11 percent of idle time every day. That’s 49 minutes.

We work with organizations that make this time productive; they use our intraday management solution to de-fragment unproductive idle time and turn it into usable blocks of time to deliver activities (such as coaching, training, communications, etc.) that help improve agent performance.

2. What do you find are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities workforce managers face today concerning productivity?
Workforce managers have a tough job, because there’s so much to fit into agents’ shifts. According to our recent survey of nearly 400 workforce management professionals, almost 66% identified the balancing act of maintaining service levels while ensuring agents have the necessary time to complete off-phone work as a major challenge.  Additionally, 59% cited the need for better forecasting and staffing processes. The volatile nature of call volume presents ongoing challenges for workforce management teams, especially taking off-phone work into consideration. When call volume differs from the forecast, managers can’t respond quickly enough to take advantage of all the minute changes that occur. There has to be a big swing between forecast and volume for them to respond effectively. When they’re using manual processes for intraday management, there is a lot of unused capacity that they just can’t take advantage of today. In fact, 35% reported that they change forecasted schedules daily or multiple times throughout the day, while 44% revise schedules weekly or multiple times each week.

So workforce managers walk their daily tightrope to maintain service levels while fulfilling requests from multiple departments for agents to complete the training, or urgent communications that make agents successful at their jobs.

3. How would the integration of an intraday management solution, like Knowlagent’s RightTime technology, work with the WFM solution? 

For successful intraday management and appropriate use of idle time, the solution needs to follow business rules to deliver activities only when service levels permit, and allow different delivery rules relating to the priority of those activities. Centers typically use WFM solutions to schedule staff in advance based on historical call volume and other considerations. RightTime can work in conjunction with WFM to provide the ability to dynamically respond to call volume, eliminating the need to “hard-schedule” many off-phone activities. RightTime integrates with WFM to import agent schedules so sessions are delivered only during acceptable time periods. When RightTime delivers a session, an exception code reflecting that change is written back to WFM so there are no adherence issues. 

4. What is the impact on the level of agent performance? Is there a concern about the detriments of multi-tasking on agent performance?

I’ve heard some in the industry question the effectiveness of using idle time, comparing it to multi-tasking. How it impacts agent performance depends on how idle time is used. If you’re asking agents to squeeze in extra activities during idle time as it occurs naturally between calls, 1 or 2 minutes at a time, agents probably will have difficulties digging into a task that is constantly interrupted.
However, aggregated idle time works differently. It’s delivered to the agent as a larger chunk of time that’s carved off for a specified task. When implementing intraday management technology, business rules are used to provide a minimum amount of time for each type of session. The agent doesn’t have to switch back and forth between tasks, because they’ll only have tasks delivered to them when there’s enough time to complete it, and while they are in a session, a few others may have slightly less idle time between calls. The impact on agent performance is quite positive. Not only do they have a solid block of time to concentrate and complete an activity, but they’re also completing activities that make them better at their job. A double win for performance impact.

5. What sort of gains are your clients seeing with RightTime?

Our customers are seeing dramatic improvements in performance and productivity based on increased delivery and completion of training and other off-phone tasks. For example, one customer increased throughput of training delivery by 400 percent, compared to manually scheduled sessions. Another delivered the same amount of training with RightTime in five days that previously took seven weeks. More time on performance-enhancing activities results in lifts in key metrics such as improving first call resolution from 63 to 70 percent, increasing cross-sales 17 percent or boosting quality scores by 8 percent. Productivity extends to other areas as well. One of our customers implemented sessions to proactively reset application passwords and decreased IT help desk tickets by 70 percent.

6. Knowlagent recently participated in three roundtable events where executives shared best practices on a variety of topics. One topic discussed was how to create great agents who hold the frontline responsibility for elevating the customer experience. Can you briefly summarize what was discussed?

Executives joined in a collaborative environment to share their experiences and best practices. Something we heard a lot about was the increasing role and responsibility of the agent. They told us that problem calls are increasing, they’re supporting more channels, and the knowledge that any one agent needs to be successful has increased. The insights they provided on how they manage to keep those agents prepared to preserve customer loyalty without increasing costs was enlightening. For anyone interested in learning more, we have a white paper that provides insights from the roundtable discussions.

7. You recently hosted a webcast with Donna Fluss entitled, “What Makes a Millennial Tick? Maximizing the Potential of the Gen Y Agent.” What advice would you give to managers of these agents?

When managing millennial agents, it’s important to understand them in order to maximize their strengths. This group is very tech-savvy; they want to be kept busy; they easily fit into a virtual workplace, enjoy collaboration and thrive in diverse environments. Donna gave great advice during the webinar and suggested that managers of this group provide timely feedback and respect the values of the millennial generation by offering flexible schedules and other things that give the gen y agent the appropriate work and life balance that they value.

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