Running a contact center has never been easy, and today it is harder than ever. Customers have become more demanding of good service and less tolerant of errors and are inclined to communicate over multiple channels of communications. Companies not only have to get all the technology together to handle all these forms of interactions but must also ensure that their contact center agents are working as efficiently and effectively as possible. My latest research into the technologies companies use in trying to achieve these objectives shows that three goals dominate most companies’ planning: improving the information they have available to monitor and assess their overall operation, agents’ performance and the outcome of interactions; focusing training and coaching to better target the needs of individual agents; and improving their interaction-handling processes.

Voice Print International (VPI)is a vendor whose suite of products covers the majority of these requirements; it was rated a Hot vendor in our recent Ventana Research Value Index: Agent Performance Management  2010. All the products were developed by VPI and thus are tightly integrated with each other. The latest release, VPI Empower Suite 5.2, has some new capabilities that address companies’ top-of-mind issues. Reporting and analysis have been enhanced to include more metrics, such as end-to-end interaction-handling time, first-call resolution (FCR) times, number of calls resulting in FCR, and multicall resolution times. Standard analyses have been added that focus on key business issues and use the 80/20 rule to find indicators that have the greatest impact on business performance. Improved desktop analytics allow companies to determine which interaction processes are working best, which agents are optimizing the way they handle interactions, and how interaction-handling processes can be improved.

My APM benchmark research shows that the majority of companies have quality monitoring (QM) programs supported by traditional QM systems. These derive information largely from supervisors completing a standard QM form, reviewing it with the agent and signing off on the process; after that, it is often left to chance whether the agreed actions are carried out. The latest release from VPI includes an interesting concept called smart evaluations, which takes QM to the next level. The process is still driven by forms, but they are more dynamic. Parts of the form can be completed automatically: for example, information from a customer survey could be entered automatically on the form. In the same way speech and desktop analytics could be used to create a quality score that could also appear on the form. Second, users can build rules behind the form, which result in information and/or calls to action appearing on the form: for example, a low score for identifying the customer’s issue could trigger instructions to the agent to take a particular e-learning course or to a supervisor to give some one-on-one coaching. Third, rules can be set up to ensure actions are taken: for example, the results from an e-learning course could be registered back on the form, effectively closing the QM loop. Such automation and rule-driven actions can reduce overall effort, make the process more personal to the agent and achieve greater consistency across the whole QM process.

Alongside these functional improvements, VPI has made the applications easier to deploy and administer, improved the user interface, and installed more user control and better compliance. Like several other vendors it now has hosted options for deployment, which include having a secondary backup site hosted remotely. VPI has come a long way since my analysis at end of 2009 and have improved the breadth and depth of its contact center suite of offerings.

There is a lot of talk today about how changing consumer communication habits are in turn changing the way customers interact with companies. While I agree and urge companies to address the changes, I believe that people will still be calling contact centers for quite a few years. Agent performance therefore will remain critical to both business success and delivering exceptional customer experiences. As our APM Value Index shows, VPI is one of the leading vendors in this space, and these enhancements are likely to improve its position. Do you agree that agents are key to your future business success?

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Regards,

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director