JP Reis has consulted on call center technology for a $1B Credit Union in Virginia. The project was sponsored by the IT Department who wanted to get an objective overview of their call center technology in order to establish priorities for the coming years. There was a feeling that certain applications were unpopular or not working properly. Our consultants were asked to interview key stakeholders in the call center, and in other relevant departments, before drawing up a detailed report of findings and recommendations.
Call Center Research
Our team started by preparing a Likert Scale questionnaire to run through with call center agents who were asked to respond to various statements with answers varying from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. These responses were used to prepare statistical findings. The question framework was also used as the basis for some less structured discussions that allowed our consultants to obtain a deeper understanding of shared values, working practices, concerns and technical issues. In addition to the interviews, we were invited to observe agents at work. Building on this first phase of discovery our team spoke to a variety of stakeholders, including several users of the call routing system, to obtain different perspectives and gain a more comprehensive understanding.
As with most consulting engagements, the bulk of the information and expertise already existed within the organization but some of it was divided into different departments, and perceptions varied. It became necessary to widen the scope to include important feedback about other operational systems, and about the organization’s strategic context and lines of internal communication.
Our consultants found a professional and dedicated team providing a high-touch service to its members although in some cases this was despite the technology rather than because of it. The call center software is designed to be native on Skype for Business. Our team discovered that it had gone live while still in testing due to a failure of the legacy system. Having survived the hastened launch, further integration and training work hadn’t happened. Call trees that seemed logical at the time were causing issues in some departments. The call center software was being bypassed for direct calls inbound and outbound and this was exacerbating issues with presence settings and missed call statistics.
High Level Recommendations
One of the benefits of consultancy is to assess a situation from multiple perspectives and obtain a clearer picture of the truth. For this credit union, there was a lot of consensus which meant that some fairly quick fixes were available. It turns out that most of the applications were quite good and that staff who were suspected of rejecting them were actually quite positive and wanted to see upgrades, training and greater integration. Below are some of the key, high-level recommendations, they aren’t exclusively technology focused.
- Coordinate better across departments to prepare for events that trigger high call volumes e.g. promotional interest rates or marketing activity;
- Avoid unilateral decision-making and try to align to widely understood strategies<;
- Have an expert engineer audit of the Skype for Business platform;
- Standardize hardware including computers, monitors and headsets;
- Review existing policies on a regular basis to avoid drift from best practice;
- Invest in greater system integration, challenge software providers who won’t provide API access;
- Invest in user training, especially from the call center software supplier, and make sure that application management is proactive for new and existing apps;
- Remove the call tree for incoming calls and triage all calls through the excellent call center staff;
- Embrace Cloud computing more explicitly and remove on-prem servers;
- Exploit internal expertise and move to VDI computing, prioritize single-sign for all apps to drive call center efficiency;
- Promote self-service options more proactively for members that want them.
It must be reiterated that this is a good organization with strong ethics and great people. A lack of operational bandwidth and disjointed communication between departments can easily lead to issues like these in companies of different sizes. Our client had the sense to obtain an unbiased external view and to find out what people were really thinking. Armed with this information, and that fact that it was provided by candid employees across the organization, we advised our client to make sure that lines of internal communication remain open. We expect the IT Department to draw on their considerable VM Ware expertise to roll out VDI. A combination of vendor input and external consultancy will help to address other issues that were identified.