The Persistence of Memes

January, 2021

As we move into 2021 and the contact center world gets to grip with the realities of a home-based workforce and the changing nature of customer contact, here are a few ideas that should be thought of as belonging to the same era as the cassette tape and the Motorola Carphone/brick...

This month’s blog is again quite long, but we think the subject deserves it!

A ‘meme’, as coined by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, is an idea that

  1. gets reproduced, and
  2. has survival value.

As we see in the world of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, memes don’t have to be good ideas, or have any basis in fact. They just need survival value.

Many Sytel projects involve migrating legacy customers to cloud-based outbound, delivered by our service provider partners. When we engage with discovery exercises with customers through our partners we uncover ideas that survive through reproduction; ideas from a time before agents could work on multiple sessions at once, before inbound/ outbound blending, before VoIP.

These memes are often couched in terms of:

‘What do you mean you don’t do X? X is in the RFP as a mandatory requirement.’

But they don’t make a great deal of sense in terms of what a modern contact center needs to do.

Thankfully our commercial team are skilled at navigating their way through these sorts of issues.

As we move into 2021 and the contact center world gets to grip with the realities of a home-based workforce and the changing nature of customer contact, here are a few ideas that should be thought of as belonging to the same era as the cassette tape and the Motorola Carphone/brick:

Meme #1

Agents have to work in siloed fashion to get productivity or be managed effectively.

Why is this outdated?
With the need to process all types of text media (email, chat, social, etc) as well as voice, a siloed operation (where an email system, for example, is entirely separate from a chat system) will be far less effective and require significantly more people to achieve the same level of service as one that is managed holistically.

What’s the solution?
Many agents have the skills to manage several live text sessions at the same time. With intelligent and automatic distribution of all types of sessions across agents, they can be more fully engaged and productive, spending less time waiting for work, especially if they are able to switch instantly between media channels, instead of logging in and out of different systems. And the increased variety can increase job satisfaction, making them more likely to stay.

Meme #2

You use a WFM solution to manage SLA adherence.

Why is this outdated?
The challenge of multisession and multichannel agents makes SLA adherence a multi-dimensional problem that can only be solved by the ACD in real-time.

What’s the solution?
The ACD can and should consolidate resource and skill requirements and report this in a form that makes it easy to do workforce planning.

Meme #3

For outbound, you dial everything and then recycle. And do the same for chat and email outreach!

Why is this outdated?
This idea is just bad inventory management, as it ends up yielding very low connect rates and poor performance.

What’s the solution?
The only way to overcome this is by mixing recycled numbers with fresh, and educating both the contact center delivering the outbound (which is often outsourced) and the end customer (who will often dictate terms that are counter-productive because they don’t know any better). This becomes even more important for chat and email outreach, where takeup rates are far lower than for voice. Without an effective inventory strategy you can burn huge numbers of chat and email contacts for little return.

Meme #4

Supervisors can manage and motivate remote agents using the same tools and techniques as if they were all together in one place.

Why is this outdated?
Over the past year, we’ve all had to grapple with how to motivate, measure and monitor remote workers. Physical distance brings its challenges.

Homeworking agents don’t have a supervisor walking past them regularly, which leaves opportunities for misbehaviour and underperformance, and can discourage agents from asking for help. Supervisors must be able to monitor all activity and make their (virtual) presence known to agents just as if they were in the same physical space.

What’s the solution?
Apart from getting homeworker technology right, as part of the regular agent dialog the agent environment needs to deliver…

  • real-time feedback – agents and supervisors must be able to communicate effectively both during and after customer conversations, asking for and offering help and advice where required.
  • metrics and peer stats – these can lose their effectiveness as a management/ motivation tool if agents always see the same ones and become blind to them. It helps to rotate through maybe a dozen key metrics from week to week.

And supervisors need the right tools, too. To respond quickly to potential issues, they need alerts sent both in their desktop UI and to mobile, and they need to be able to engage fully with agents in the same way.

Much contact center orthodoxy still makes good sense but some does not. Those who survive and prosper in this changing world will have figured out which rules of the past no longer make sense, and how to evolve and adapt into the future.

Want to know more? Then just talk to us.

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