Archive for June, 2011

Working from Home

All this happened more or less…

Dominic works in the contact center of a large international bank, so naturally he has a high stress level. People who call him with questions and enquiries are not always friendly. Sometimes he doesn’t even have as much as two minutes between impatient customers who want answers to their questions, right now.

Then there is his boss, who everybody calls Little Nick, and depending on his own stress level, he can be fairly unpleasant too. He has the tendency to let it out on his staff.

To reduce the amount of stress, Dominic had the idea of a home working program. He wants to discuss it with Nick. It would allow agents to work in an environment they do not associate with contact center work. Dominic could then work from home or any other place, like a hotel room, for example, the only thing he would need is a computer with internet access.

Thanks to the web-based agent workplace, Dominic already has all the functionalities he needs available. He can receive phone calls, send SMS and e-mails and access the CRM database to view customer information. With the manager module, Nick can see when each agent is logged on and how long, if the agent is busy and get statistics on each agent, regardless of the agent’s location. He likes having everything under control.

The more Nick thinks about it, the more he sees the benefits. His contact center has to deal with high agent churn. If agents could work off-site this would reduce their stress level significantly. It would also reduce their sick time. After all, contact center agents tend to have a disproportionately large number of sick days compared to other professions. Additionally, the quality of customer service would improve and agent retention increase. To Nick, this is a crucial cost factor because recruiting and training new agents is expensive.

He likes Dominic’s idea so much that he decides to implement it. But it wouldn’t be Little Nick if he didn’t tell everybody that the home-working agent project was his idea.

How to Turn Outbound into a Useful Service

I’d like to touch upon a sore subject today. Haven’t we all been annoyed by outbound campaign calls from direct marketers? Their poor employees have to call people at the most unfitting hours and try to sell them something they had never asked for and never wanted.

Positive examples for outbound campaigns may be market research surveys and opinion polls, but still, these calls are inconvenient for many.

From a technical perspective, outbound campaigns are fairly easy. You have a database with names and phone numbers and a dialer dials the numbers in this database, many hundreds at a time. These calls are then distributed to the available agents.

I think, it can be a really useful technology, so why not use it for something that really helps people? Outbound services could be used in medicine in emergency situations. Doctors register and in case of an emergency, the dialer calls all the doctors in the database asking whether they are nearby and available.

Outbound is really useful when it comes to warning people in a certain area when there serious hazards such as an earthquake, a flood or an accident in a chemical plant. The dialer would call the population in the affected area and either a TTS (text-to-speech) prompt or a real agent would warn the people not to leave the house, close all windows and doors, etc.

There are more options in medical care. Somebody awaiting a call from a laboratory would get a call from an outbound system telling them the result of e.g. a blood test via a TTS prompt. You could have an adjacent call flow with the option to connect to an agent who gives more elaborate information on the lab test results. The TTS would save the lab or the hospital time and resources because none of the staff actually need to call patient and retrieve information from a database.

A fairly popular outbound functionality is the callback button on websites. This is an interesting customer service tool. For example, someone calls an airline, a car rental company or something similar and would receive a call from an agent who has been assigned by the dialer.

There are many more ways to use outbound in a useful way. If you know more, please share them here.