Adhering to Higher Quality
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It's hard to improve upon what can't be measured — or at least upon what can't be spelled out to workers. Many argue that metrics, both internal and customer-facing, drive the contact center. The lack thereof was a slowly building problem facing the Tampa, Fla., contact center of insurance provider New York Life (NYL).
"Ideally, we're committed to providing best-in-class service for our clients, and we must make sure we're keeping up with our company's philosophy that ‘We're always there for them,'" says Gian Brackin, NYL's assistant vice president of system and reports. "We're in charge of making sure we do things that make sense for our clients and customers — and that includes our contact center agents."
On top of that, NYL's Tampa contact center happens to be the service provider for the life and annuity product that AARP offers to its 39 million members. "Trying to leverage both brands is challenging because they're so strong," explained Lynn O'Neill, NYL's assistant vice president of customer experience, at the recent Customer Experience Summit in Chicago. (See "On the Scene," for more on the CES.) "Our Tampa center handles 1.6 million customers. It used to be an afterthought, but service now really does differentiate our product."
To continue the differentiation, Brackin says her company recognized it needed to improve the workforce optimization (WFO) practices in place to help agents. "If they could move through calls faster, they could take on others that can be more complex and make it more interesting," she says. "Being able to give agents goals and [to allow them to] manage themselves was also a key focus for us."
To make the shift away from Excel spreadsheets, NYL decided to turn to a longtime partner, Verint Systems, and its Impact 360 WFO solution, for an October 2008 go-live deployment. NYL's relationship with Verint dates back to 2000, so there was little hesitation before extending the scope, and scant concern over the implementation. "We had one system for administration and all the users were in one place — not two different systems," Brackin says. "When you find a provider that works well with you and understands your business, it makes sense to keep going back."
One of the first pieces NYL wanted to fix was adherence to schedule. Basically, a customer service representative (CSR) may be told she has to work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a noon lunch and a break at 10 a.m. CSRs knew the drill, but there wasn't a roving supervisor with a clipboard to ensure compliance. "Agents knew what was expected of them, but there was nothing to hold them accountable," Brackin recalls. "Supervisors can only do so much."
It may not seem like a big deal if a CSR takes her break at 10:15 a.m. instead of 10 a.m., but Brackin says the tweaks pile up and affect the overall level of service. For example, 80 percent of all calls must be answered within 25 seconds. "If an agent doesn't adhere and wants to go on break with [his] friend, that's two people off the phones instead of one," she says. "That doesn't help me meet service-level objectives to customers."
With Verint's system in place, supervisors are now able to clearly show agents what adherence should be and how it affects the contact center overall. As a result, the adherence rate increased from 63 percent to 94 percent in one year. Scheduled variance has plummeted from 10 percent to less than 1 percent. Sticking to the schedule has increased the average agent's number of AARP-related outbound calls by an average of 15 percent. "Seeing the results so quickly was the biggest shocker for us," Brackin says. "If you can produce those reports in real time and train people to use the tool, they'll respond well."
Looking ahead, New York Life plans on incorporating Verint's speech analytics offering to help extend the software's value proposition. "We're in the proof-of-concept stage," Brackin says. "That one's exciting for us, to get an understanding of what's going on in more detail."
Since turning to Verint Systems for a workforce optimization solution, New York Life has realized:
- a jump in adherence rates from 63 percent to 94 percent;
- an increase in outbound calls per agent by approximately 15 percent (for the AARP end of the business);
- a reduction in staff attrition, from 39 percent to 25 percent;
- a sharp reduction in schedule variance, from 10 percent to less than 1 percent; and
- a 9 percent decrease in average handle time.
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