As well as continuing my coverage of CTI techniques, this week I thought I would discuss one of the ways in which agents try and mislead or otherwise pervert the MIS system of the call centre to make it appear that they are performing work to a higher standard than they actually are.
"The short calls trick"
This is the classic situation where the agent's average call duration is a target in itself: for example, where agents are targeted at an average call duration of three minutes. The agent who realises that their average is too high answers the call and then immediately hangs up. Result - average call duration restored! If the ACD has a special "short calls report" to try and track this abuse then clever agents may find out the minimum duration which does not flag the call as "short" and terminate the call at that point.
It is possible to find individuals who perform this trick by producing a scatter diagram showing all call durations and seeing where the clusters lie. In addition you can require agents to hang up after the customer, and on some voice recorders (and maybe some ACDs) you can track agents who do not do this.
The real answer though is not to regard call duration as an end in itself. You need to build a call structure, a process, which handles the calls well. Terminating a call early and rushing a client off the phone is likely just to produce another phone call, rather than sorting the problem out by taking a bit longer. Changing the structure of a phone call is a complex task, and involves thinking about some of the following:
- The nature of the data that is collected
- The training of the agents, especially the key words they use
- The use of alternative channels including the Web, email, and SMS
- The use of CTI to automate part of the call
- Changing or redesigning the nature of the interface or front end system
For one company, I helped in a process of reducing an 8 minute- long telephone call (much of which was silence) to 2 minutes by designing a new front end which avoided unnecessary host system navigation and the pressing of numerous function keys.
Companies that have taken a process designed for another medium and transposed that process onto the call centre are especially prone to unnecessarily long calls. Thinking about the very data itself - valuing every field based on the time taken to fill it can produce interesting results. For example: do I need to use a title such as Mr, Mrs or Ms, or is that just an irrelevance? Do I really need the number (and even names!) of dependent children to be mentioned on forms?
I will cover more agent tricks in the future but for now, back to CTI...
By way of a reminder, we are covering 6 different CTI techniques. Namely:
1) "Pure" CTI engine. A bought-in application devoted to CTI.
2) CTI from Front End. Here the application that lives on the agent desktop provided the CTI functions that we require.
3) Using CTI messages from our own application. Hand crafted CTI using 3rd Party Links.
4) Using 1st Party CTI through voice modem or direct link to agent telephone or "soft" agent instrument on the desktop.
5) Use of the PTT network to deliver the CTI functionality.
6) Use of functionality built into a telecommunications device, such as specific functions of an ACD, Predictive Dialler or "PC" ACD.
5) Use of the PTT network to deliver the CTI functionality
- Market position
This approach is relatively new, but there is a surprising amount which it can deliver. The networks are constantly searching for added value that will result in companies using their technology to deliver calls, so they are vigorously pursuing approaches that will make them more attractive
One of the great joys of this type of approach is that it may require minimal technology within the client premises. Indeed there may be none at all!
Two applications spring to mind immediately:
a) Use of an Intelligent Network to divide calls between many different call centres (with different ACDs) and route the calls using "if" conditions that ensure that individual call centres are only given as many calls as they can reasonably deal with. This application also produces integrated reports and real time network monitoring positions that truly shows the whole network performance.
b) Using network-based Call Me buttons. Here the PTT provides a few lines of code to be inserted into your website. When a button is pressed on the site a telephone number is collected and a message is sent across the internet to a PTT network switch.
This launches a call in two ways:
(i) First to the customer, then, when they answer, connecting the call to the ACD queue of the organisation receiving the call.
(ii) First to the organisation receiving the call (event to a Plain Old Telephone - POT), then, when an agent is connected, launching a call to the customer.
The great advantage of both of these approaches is that the organisation can get the solution and pay for it over time, rather than needing to pay large amounts of money before the calls start arriving...
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