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Understanding the Value of the Agent Desktop
Leverage what works and keep it simple.
Posted May 1, 2006
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Increased and streamlined access to knowledge is a critical component of contact center modernization efforts, and it is clear that the distractions and ambiguity created by too many applications on the agent desktop hinder smooth flow of information. As a result, some vendors and consultants see a modernization effort as an invitation to rip and replace functional systems and architecture with a completely new, and in many cases completely untested, platform. The promise is a single-business operating platform. What they sometimes deliver instead is an application that does far less than advertised far later than was promised, and does not even work as well as the systems it purports to replace. In these scenarios single sign-on is not achieved, and knowledge remains just as locked up as it ever was. Even in best-case scenarios the end result is no different from a coordination layer that acts to blend, unify, and synchronize the proven, time-tested systems that run your business today. The universal desktop approach, on the other hand, acknowledges and honors the fact that the systems that run your business today do so for a good reason--they work. Whatever they may lack in front-end integration, at their functional core they are the time-tested, battle-hardened programs that are tightly integrated into your everyday business. Taking them offline for the promise of a new application is a gamble, and more importantly it is a gamble most companies need not take at all. Valuable knowledge transfer can be promoted by building a common, unified front end to these valuable back-end systems using clearly defined Web-services standards. One example is a large cable company that successfully implemented a universal desktop with disparate back-end systems; the company provides several core consumer and business services, including high-speed Internet access, digital cable, and digital telephony services. Each product line had its own separate and unique groups of customer service agents, divided further into subgroups based on interaction channel. Each group used different systems, processes, and channels, and lacked access to customer information outside the group. This structure not only created operating and financial inefficiencies, but inconsistent and time-consuming service led to customer dissatisfaction. So the company set out to reduce costs and increase operational efficiency while enhancing the customer's experience. To do so it wanted to test the feasibility of a universal agent capable of handling customer requests across all product lines and communication channels. To validate and measure the universal agent concept and technology, the company designed a measured trial involving 75 agents across three call centers, including an outsourced group. At the end of six months, the trial revealed the following results:
  • Shorter training: Each class was reduced by three weeks due to the system's transparency, its navigation, and the ability to access multiple systems from a single interface. This resulted in a projected savings of more than $5 million per year. It also eliminated the need for retraining when back-end systems were consolidated. As the universal desktop provided system transparency, agents never knew that the data had moved to a different back-end system.
  • Increased agent satisfaction: Agents experienced a reduction in system and business-process complexity, leading to a projected reduction in attrition.
  • Faster logon: The system eliminated 10 minutes in system logons, which directly resulted in significantly lower handle times.
  • Improved business planning: Once the complete customer view was created, the ability to track trends and make business decisions improved. Even better, the improved knowledge available to agents noticeably increased customer satisfaction. Customers received consistent and relevant help across all three product lines because agents better understood the customers' histories and preferences. Implementing a universal desktop with your existing systems provides the best of both worlds: an agent desktop built on the same key functionality that already powers your business, but delivered with the coordination and ease of use of a modern thin client. Functionality need not be compromised, reinvented, or even taken offline during the transition. Such rapid system integration at the desktop means faster resolution at the customer level, and far less service interruption and migration time for the organization, all without the expense and tension of a rip and replace operation.
    About the Author Randy Saunders is marketing director for Cincom's Customer Experience Management products. He can be contacted at rsaunders@cincom.com. Please visit www.cincom.com
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