Over the last decade in my research into contact center operations has revolved around the four operational challenges faced by center managers: to reduce average call-handling time, increase agent utilization, increase customer satisfaction and one recently gaining in importance, to increase first-contact-resolution rates. The first two clearly relate to the core issue of reducing operational costs; the latter two focus on customer retention. At the center of meeting all these challenges are the contact center agents. Those of us who follow relevant LinkedIn discussions see that many experts and center managers agree on his point, but most also point out that even skilled agents need technology to help them.
About a month ago, I published the results of research I did on vendors that support agent performance management (APM), which we call the APM Value Index. KnoahSoft was one of the vendors I included in the report. Its product suite called KnoahSoft Harmony includes most of the core components of APM: call recording, quality monitoring, agent training and coaching, and performance management and analytics. KnoahSoft doesn’t have its own workforce management product but works in close cooperation with partners to support these requirements. Recently it has added customer feedback management (that is, surveys) and speech analytics to provide further insights into how well agents are performing.
So how do these capabilities help in meeting those four challenges? First and foremost the old adage applies – “if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Through the use of surveys, quality monitoring, structured data analytics and speech analytics, KnoahSoft users can produce dashboards, reports and analysis that show agent-related key performance indicators. These can include variations against targets and trend analysis. They can point out areas where interaction processes need to be improved and suggest training and coaching for individual agents based on the analysis. The latter is particularly important, as my benchmark research into agent performance management showed, because although agents often receive training and coaching, much of it is delivered on an ad-hoc basis and in “one size fits all” form that doesn’t address the particular agent’s needs. The deeper insights that the KnoahSoft products can deliver allow companies to focus these efforts more sharply and help specific agents, for example, improve customer satisfaction and first-contact resolution. The agent training and coaching application can then help manage these efforts more effectively.
KnoahSoft is one of the newer vendors in this space, but it comes with a good pedigree because most of the software has been tested in its parent companies’ outsourcing contact center in India and proven in a demanding operational environment. Its in-house developments are relatively new and so are based on an up-to-date platform, using modern techniques. They are also highly integrated with each other, which simplifies overall system administration and sharing of information across different applications. As one of the newer entrants, KnoahSoft did well to make our “Warm” category in the APM Value Index. We advise companies looking to improve the performance of their agents to include the company on their list of vendors to evaluate.
Do you pay enough attention to your agents’ performance? Just focusing on average handling times is not enough in today’s highly competitive markets, and we strongly recommend that companies examine the benefits that a suite of agent performance management applications can deliver, not only in terms of operational efficiency but on customer and agent satisfaction levels, and on business outcomes. All of this means that you will deliver more customer performance which is exactly what my research practice focuses on in leveraging your contact center for a competitive customer advantage and deliver the business value that I have outlined as a requirement for success in 2010.
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Richard Snow - Global VP & Research Director