Time Is Money

Buying a new mobile phone is a chore: You get the call from your operator saying you've been with the service 12 months and you're now eligible for a free upgrade to the latest phone with a built-in camera, a Swiss Army Knife, and a rubber dingy. On the off chance that you do want to upgrade, you're faced with the task of providing the agent with your details. Inevitably things go wrong and you're left hanging on ad infinitum while she searches for your account. The truth is, it's rarely the agent's fault. Call centers often have multiple IT systems (CRM, billing, credit check), installed over the years to "improve" service, and navigating them is a formidable task. Agents have to alt-tab their way through a dozen applications and rekey data time and again. A typical mobile operator's call center provides support throughout the customer life cycle. A large U.K. call center recently found that fulfilling the first part of this process (ordering a phone) can require an agent to rekey data 14 times across seven screens and three applications, taking 155 seconds. By removing the need to rekey data, and cutting the navigation to three screens, this process is reduced to a mere 10 seconds. In real terms this inefficiency costs the U.K. call center industry up to L550 million a year. Furthermore, harangued agents, repeatedly entering the same data, are likely to make mistakes. Customers get fed up with waiting, and either cancel transactions or defect to competitors. A recent study commissioned by Contact Babel indicated that more than 7 percent of customers dissatisfied with their vendors' call centers defected. The same report estimates the cost of this loss at L210 million a year. The solution Vendors could invest in another CRM system, one that will attempt to tie together all the customer interaction data. This takes time and more money, and despite having the core CRM functions in a single system, agents still have to access additional applications for functions like billing or credit checks, sending agents back to square one. A second approach would be a middleware implementation. Here the problems lie both in the technical complexity of the software and the fact that this type of data-centric approach doesn't give agents a joined-up desktop experience. The third way, user process management, focuses on helping agents to manage their time. By "composing" a single user-interface (UI), agents are presented with one application. Relative to the alternatives, UI composition technology doesn't require much development and is extremely flexible. An end-user-oriented philosophy shouldn't be surprising in the call center world. It is in the interest of call centers to keep their staff frustration-free and, consequently, keep their customers happy by providing them with short queue times and efficient call handling. Time is money--millions of pounds a year in customer defection, and further millions in related call center inefficiencies, from training to advisor retention. The best way to value your customers' time is by placing concomitant value on the time of your agents. About the Author
David Davies, vice president of products for Corizon (www.corizon.com), is responsible for driving the company's products activities, including strategy, marketing, and development. Prior to joining Corizon David worked for British Telecom on a range of eBusiness initiatives, including launching Digital Certification and eProcurement partnerships and products. David has an MBA from London Business School, a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, has had 40 papers published, and has been cited as coinventor of four patents in optical and communications technology.
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