Wp wah quality_counts

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Wp wah quality_counts

  1. 1. A WEST AT HOME WHITE PAPER Quality Counts Utilizing Home Agents to Improve Customer Satisfaction
  2. 2. U T I L I Z I N G H O M E A G E N T S T O I M P R O V E C U S T O M E R S AT I S FA C T I O N Contents: Executive Summary .....................................................................................................................................................3 Delivering on the Promise of Customer Service Excellence .......................................................................3 Barriers to Achieving Outstanding Customer Service....................................................................................3 Turnover ............................................................................................................................................................................4 Quality ..............................................................................................................................................................................4 Skills..................................................................................................................................................................................4 Scheduling.........................................................................................................................................................................4 The Home Team Advantage .....................................................................................................................................4 The Typical Home Agent – Smart, Skilled, Stable .............................................................................................................4 Home Agents Earn High Marks for Performance and Customer Satisfaction ....................................................................5 West at Home – The Leading Provider of Customer Contact Solutions .................................................5 The West at Home Five – Five Steps to Improve Customer Satisfaction ...............................................6 A Real World Example: ProFlowers .......................................................................................................................7 The Challenge ...................................................................................................................................................................7 The West Solution .............................................................................................................................................................7 The Results........................................................................................................................................................................8 Conclusion .......................................................................................................................................................................8 Proprietary Notice This document is provided “AS IS” and the Authors assume no responsibility for any errors that may appear in the document, nor do they make any commitment to update the information contained herein. Nothing in this document constitutes, or shall otherwise be deemed to constitute, a guaranty, warranty, or license, express or implied, of any kind and the Authors make no representation whatsoever with respect to your use thereof. The Authors expressly disclaim all liability for any and all implied guaranties, warranties, and licenses. Additionally, the Authors retain the right to make changes to this document at any time, without notice. Copyright Notice Copyright © 2008 West Corporation. All rights reserved 2
  3. 3. U T I L I Z I N G H O M E A G E N T S T O I M P R O V E C U S T O M E R S AT I S FA C T I O N Executive Summary While streamlining processes and implementing supporting technology are key components of any customer satisfaction improvement program in the customer contact center, the ability to truly move the needle on customer satisfaction ultimately lies with a company’s agents. To drive a demonstrably positive impact on customer satisfaction and first call resolution rates, companies are embracing the use of home agents in their agent staffing mix. Compared to brick-and-mortar or offshore agents, home agents offer distinct advantages to companies striving to improve customer service. An ICMI study found that home agents are more productive, deliver higher quality (including fewer errors and higher first call resolution rates), and have lower turnover rates than their in-house counterparts.1 Add to this the scheduling flexibility inherent with home-based agents and the result is a boon to customer satisfaction. In fact, according to a recent study by Aberdeen, 62 percent of best-in-class centers report improved customer satisfaction upon implementation of home agents, with 35 percent of these centers experiencing greater than 10 percent improvement.2 This paper delivers key insights into agent impact on customer satisfaction and retention, how and why home agents are a growing trend, and how companies can wield a home agent strategy to ratchet up customer satisfaction. Delivering on the Promise of Customer Service Excellence In today’s increasingly commoditized marketplace, it may seem that price point is the ultimate means of attracting and retaining customers. Yet, in survey after survey, quality customer service emerges as one of the last-remaining unique differentiators available to companies in highly competitive markets. As a result, organizations have a renewed focus on improving the customer experience by delivering exceptional customer service. New customer-centric strategies focus on continually enhancing satisfaction and loyalty to drive long-term growth and profitability. In order for these strategies to succeed, the contact center needs to align its objectives with those of the enterprise as a whole. This begins with maximizing the impact of every customer touch point. Customer expectations are at their peak when interacting with a live customer service agent. As the most frequent and memorable touch point, live agent service needs to set the standard for delivering an excellent customer experience. Barriers to Achieving Outstanding Customer Service Processes and technology are two points on the triangle of successful customer service delivery. Addressing inefficiencies and shortcomings in these areas is vital in giving agents the tools they need to be more responsive and effective in handling customer calls. It’s the third point on the triangle though – the agents themselves – that delivers the lion’s share of impact on customer satisfaction goals. In an ideal world, the contact center would have all the resources and capacity to respond immediately, in the most effective way, to customers’ needs. The reality is that many contact centers face day-to-day constraints and challenges that make delivering consistently high quality service a nearly unattainable goal. Chief among these hurdles is maintaining a dedicated workforce of skilled agent resources. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1 “Staffing and Scheduling for the ‘Free Agent’ Workforce,” Greg Levin, Customer Management Insight 2 Ibid. 3
  4. 4. U T I L I Z I N G H O M E A G E N T S T O I M P R O V E C U S T O M E R S AT I S FA C T I O N Despite all efforts, many traditional brick-and-mortar contact centers face persistent staffing challenges that prevent the organization from meeting its customer satisfaction goals. These issues include: Turnover – Agent attrition is the most consistent problem for contact centers. Factors including agent burnout, scheduling conflicts, motivation, commute times and lack of career opportunities cause brick-and-mortar based agents to switch, with average attrition rates of 33% according to Contact Babel 3. When experienced agents leave, customer satisfaction can take a beating. Quality – With a more inexperienced workforce and typically higher rates of attrition, quality of service is difficult to improve and maintain. Younger workers using the contact center as a launching pad to other forms of employment may not have a strong commitment to delivering a quality customer experience each and every time. Skills – With the average in-house contact center agent being a mere 23 years old according to a Frost & Sullivan study 4, skill and experience levels are likely to be at a more fundamental level than those of more seasoned workers. Inexperienced agents are less likely to be able to resolve customer issues quickly and effectively. The pool of available agents with specialized skills such as insurance agents, pharmacists and travel agents is limited to the area in which the contact center is located and they are typically less likely to work in a call center environment. Scheduling – Even the best-laid workforce management plans can be undermined when an unexpected spike in call volume or higher than usual agent absenteeism occurs. Calling in the reinforcements is an often ineffective, expensive response, while customer wait times and frustration mount in the interim. The Home Team Advantage As an antidote to these staffing challenges, companies are discovering the strategic advantages of deploying home-based agents. In fact, between now and 2012, Datamonitor predicts the number of home-based customer service agents to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 36.4%.5 Originally viewed as a tactic to gain scheduling flexibility and retain valuable employees by allowing them to telecommute, today’s savvy organizations realize that home-based agents offer far more in terms of benefits. Home agents, as a group, possess desirable qualities that can result in significant customer satisfaction gains. The Typical Home Agent – Smart, Skilled, Stable A home agent position appeals to job candidates seeking a better work/life balance. Agents can determine their own hours, freeing them to meet family and community obligations. They often face fewer distractions at home than in the contact center and avoid long and costly commutes. Tapping into the home agent demographic provides access to a labor pool that possesses a depth of experience, knowledge, and dedication to the work ethic. Most home agents are older than typical brick-and-mortar agents, ranging in age from 35 to 45 years old. The average age of a brick-and-mortar agent is 23. Home agents differ significantly from their brick-and-mortar counterparts in education and skill levels, too. The percentage of home-based agents with some college education is more than 75 percent. That compares to 35 percent for agents working in traditional contact centers.6 Further, these agents bring a wealth of maturity and experience to their jobs. Many are professionals who have opted out of the traditional work world to gain flexibility in their personal lives. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 3 “U.S. Contact Center Operational Review,” ContactBabel in association with the American Teleservices Association, 2007 4 “Calling All Contact Center Agents,” Cindy Waxer, VoIP-News, January 14, 2008 5 “Home-Based Contact Center Agents Rapidly Becoming Mainstream,” CRM Today, September 27, 2007 6 “Calling All Contact Center Agents,” Cindy Waxer, VoIP-News, January 14, 2008 4
  5. 5. U T I L I Z I N G H O M E A G E N T S T O I M P R O V E C U S T O M E R S AT I S FA C T I O N Brick-and-Mortar Agents Home-Based Agents Some College Education 35% 75% Average Age 23 35-45 Turnover 33% 10%7 Pool of Applicants Limited to immediate area Unlimited by geography Figure 1. Comparison of Brick-and-Mortar Agents with Home-Based Agents Home Agents Earn High Marks for Performance and Customer Satisfaction The demographics that set home agents apart also contribute to their ability to outperform the typical brick-and-mortar agent, and cultivate greater customer satisfaction. Companies across many industries are reporting that these higher quality agents are significantly outpacing their counterparts in delivering: I Higher Levels of Service – Many home agents have existing customer service skills honed during years of employment in a variety of industries. As a result, they understand the nuances of delivering superior customer service. I Greater Productivity – Fewer distractions, higher skill levels and greater motivation due to a flexible work situation lead to increased productivity for home-based agents. According to an ICMI study, more than half of centers with a telework program reported that home agents are more productive than their in-house colleagues.8 I Higher Incremental Revenue – Home agents often bring expertise in valuable industry niches to their tasks. Their knowledge allows them to provide more informed advice and guidance than their younger counterparts. The upshot is higher rates of cross-selling success and increased revenue per agent. I Greater Job Satisfaction – Many home agents jumped off the career fast track to achieve a greater work/life balance. They enjoy the opportunity to weave their work lives around their personal lives, providing more opportunities to pursue family and personal interests. Happier, more motivated agents mean better customer service and increased levels of customer satisfaction. I Less Turnover – Home agents appreciate the flexibility of their work, and are not at a time of life when they are searching for advancement or status. Less attrition translates into greater consistency and higher quality of service for customers. West at Home – The Leading Provider of Customer Contact Solutions While home-based agents deliver a plethora of benefits, it takes the right planning, infrastructure and staffing best practices to reap maximum gains. For companies with little to no experience incorporating home-based agents, turning to an outsource provider can reduce the risk and effort involved in executing a home-based agent strategy. West at Home, an award-winning subsidiary of West Corporation, utilizes thousands of home-based agents located across the country to deliver superior customer service. While the use of home-based agents is now becoming mainstream, West started successfully incorporating home agents into the agent mix in the 1990s. Today, these highly skilled agents, combined with the industry’s most robust and advanced infrastructure, enable West at Home to serve the customer needs of many of the nation’s leading companies. _________________________________________________________________________________________________ 7 “The Remote Agent Program – Worth the Investment!,” Peter J. McGarahan, SupportIndustry.com 8 “Staffing and Scheduling for the ‘Free Agent’ Workforce,” Greg Levin, Customer Management Insight 5
  6. 6. U T I L I Z I N G H O M E A G E N T S T O I M P R O V E C U S T O M E R S AT I S FA C T I O N Proven Hiring, Training and Staffing Methods Leveraging nearly two decades of contact center management experience, West at Home has developed proven hiring, training and staffing methods that ensure high quality agents and superior customer service results. Staffing is based on a company’s specific requirements, with West at Home selecting only those that match the skills, experience and suitability required for the job. For instance, West at Home matches agents with a custom profile based on specific sales, industry, brand or company experience. Spectrum®, West’s proprietary workforce management system, gives the company’s home agents the ability to self-manage their schedules online. Spectrum helps agents decide when and how much they want to work, which helps to create more satisfied workers – and leads to some of the lowest attrition rates in the industry. Spectrum assures West at Home’s clients that their campaign will be fully staffed and managed, no matter how many or when agents are needed. West at Home utilizes user-friendly computer-based training to thoroughly train home agents on the client company’s culture and programs. This not only improves consistency, but also reduces training times by up to 30% and increases knowledge transfer. To ensure the highest quality, every agent must be certified on a series of training modules and undergo a final one-on-one program review with a West at Home Team Leader before taking live calls. Quantifiable Gains in Quality and Productivity West at Home’s cutting-edge call routing technology, superior agents, extensive experience, security measures, and proven hiring, training and operational processes help separate West at Home from all other home agent providers in the call center world. By partnering with West at Home, companies benefit from: I West’s proven ability to recruit, train, manage and monitor a large pool of dispersed agents. I Higher quality, better-educated agents who can help increase sales conversions by up to 15% and provide a 10% increase in quality. I Up to a 10% increase in agent productivity versus traditional call center agents. I Unmatched, layered security protection including a Locked-Down Desktop Security Environment and compliance with PCI, SOX and HIPAA regulations. The West at Home Five – Five Steps to Improve Customer Satisfaction Drawing from its extensive customer contact experience and operational expertise, West at Home follows an implementation methodology that ensures quality, flexibility, security and cost-effectiveness are maximized for every client. We call this critical path the West at Home Five – and it reflects the superior focus on service, quality and satisfaction West at Home brings to each and every customer solution: 1. Determine the optimal solution – West at Home offers the ability to blend home agents with call center agents and automation to deliver the greatest impact on customer service quality, productivity and value. For instance, West at Home can seamlessly incorporate advanced features such as speech recognition and proactive, automated notifications into the solution. 2. Identify the right agents – West at Home develops a deep understanding of a client’s business and then hires agents based on the skills, education and brand experience required to best serve that client’s customers. 3. Offer high-quality training – The key to excellent customer service is well-trained agents. West at Home works closely with its clients to create a targeted, high quality computer-based training program. These customized, self-paced courses reduce training times while increasing knowledge transfer. 6
  7. 7. U T I L I Z I N G H O M E A G E N T S T O I M P R O V E C U S T O M E R S AT I S FA C T I O N 4. Integration with existing systems – West at Home’s advanced technology enables it to easily integrate into a client’s systems to provide real-time data to agents – maximizing productivity and effectiveness, while ensuring customer satisfaction. 5. Continually monitor & manage – Every customer gains the ability to monitor quality and performance through in-depth reporting capabilities. Based on mutually-identified performance metrics, West at Home will review and tune the program for continuous improvement. A Real World Example: ProFlowers The Challenge ProFlowers, one of the nation’s leading online providers of flowers and gifts, receives over two million phone and emails contacts each year and that number has been steadily growing by over 20%. Approximately 50% of all customer contacts are received during major holidays including, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. These huge, short-interval volume spikes were overwhelming ProFlowers’ internal call center, resulting in service issues and missed “West at Home is a key strategic revenue opportunities. The company did not want to add another partner of ours and has become an internal call center that would be active for roughly six weeks out of extension of our internal call center. the year. What ProFlowers needed was to outsource their seasonal call This relationship has turned me volume to a partner who could quickly ramp up to meet the increased from a skeptic to a believer in the demand without sacrificing quality and service. home-based agent model.” ProFlowers turned to West at Home, based on West’s proven ability to JC Boissy ramp up and down quickly to handle high call spike demands and to Senior Manager Outsourcing provide their customers with high quality service. ProFlowers Provide Commerce The West Solution The West at Home team worked closely with ProFlowers to develop a customized training program that gave their home-based agents the knowledge necessary to handle a wide range of customer requests, including; order placement, upsells, account management and customer service inquiries. Training was done remotely through the use of West at Home’s comprehensive computer- based training methods which allowed the majority of agents to complete the training in fewer hours bringing ProFlowers’ new program online more quickly. All scheduling of agents is handled through Spectrum®, West’s web-based workforce management system. Schedules are created in half-hour increments to ensure that ProFlowers has adequate staffing to properly manage all incoming call volume. At the same time, the flexible scheduling helps agents balance their work/life schedule which creates a more satisfied agent and less agent turnover. When new schedules are posted, communication is immediately sent out to the home agents through various channels to ensure that the need is met. Currently, West at Home has over 1,200 trained agents to handle ProFlowers’ steady-state volume. During the holiday seasons, West can average over 200 simultaneous agents handling ProFlowers’ incoming calls. Due to the nature of the company’s call patterns, staffing can often fluctuate from 8 agents to over 200, down to 50 agents and back up again to 200 in a very short period of time. 7
  8. 8. U T I L I Z I N G H O M E A G E N T S T O I M P R O V E C U S T O M E R S AT I S FA C T I O N The Results West at Home’s flexible staffing and highly skilled home-based agents have helped ProFlowers provide a higher level of care and reliability to their customers. West at Home’s agents have delivered quality scores that are on average 10 points higher than most of their other outsourced vendors. At the same time, West at Home has consistently hit service level objectives and has averaged over 95% in staffing reliability, which is substantially higher than any other ProFlowers vendor. Because West at Home can ramp up and down quickly to meet fluctuating call demand, ProFlowers has been able to answer more calls and capture more revenue than previously possible. This flexibility along with West at Home’s highly qualified agents, has helped ProFlowers achieve a double digit increase in sales compared to the previous year’s results. This increase in sales combined with a reduced cost per call helps provide a significant return on investment for ProFlowers. Not only has West at Home helped ProFlowers better manage their peak season call volume, but also the unexpected events that can happen throughout a year. In the fall of 2007, during one of the most devastating firestorms to ever hit Southern California, West at Home’s management team was notified that ProFlowers’ internal call center had to be evacuated and shut down. Within two hours of the initial contact, West at Home was able to increase staffing by 169%, allowing ProFlowers to reroute 100% of the company’s call volume. West at Home was able to maintain the increased staffing levels for over five days, handling a 127% increase in call volume without effecting service levels. West at Home’s exceptional staffing flexibility, higher quality agents and improved reliability has helped ProFlowers provide a superior level of care and service to their customers. Conclusion As more companies across more industries deploy home-based agents, they’re finding that this model offers significant benefits outside of scheduling convenience and flexibility. Increasingly, reports show that home-based agents deliver a wide variety of benefits that impact the customer experience in a highly positive way. As organizations sharpen their focus on improving customer satisfaction and the customer experience, home-based agents are becoming the weapon of choice. Outsourced home agent solutions, such as West at Home, enable companies to maximize the advantages of using these highly skilled workers without having to invest in the infrastructure, technology and skills required to manage this virtual work force. Companies across nearly all industries have turned to West at Home to help deliver a more effective, higher quality customer experience. For more information about how West at Home can help your contact center improve customer satisfaction, contact West at Home at www.westathome.com or call 1-800-841-9000. 8

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