Lessons from 2021
Automation is Key to Managing
the Contact Center Agent Lifecycle
Contact centers have never been more important to the customer journey. Once seen as a cost center, the enterprise contact center today is a hub for new revenue generation and a core driver of customer success. From initial inquiries to customer support, live agent interactions are key customer touchpoints that impact business relationships—and the bottom line. Customers consistently indicate they want excellent customer service from real people they can talk to, whether they want custom quotes or answers to complex questions. That’s why the “Great Resignation” made 2021 a challenging year for contact center administrators.
The latest numbers indicate more than 4.5 million voluntarily left their US jobs last November, and a recent report confirms contact center industry leaders saw higher levels of attrition last year than in the prior year. Now, just to yield the trained workforce they need, administrators are trying to hire ever more people. The ratio of agents hired to those who go “on the floor” has soared almost 3:1 in some industries. Half of those hired aren’t completing training, and another 20% are leaving within weeks. While contact centers are known for high attrition, last year’s additional churn creates greater ripple effects across lines of business.
Higher Attrition Puts Extra Pressure on Contact Center OPEX
When there’s higher attrition, there’s also more work managing the life cycle of those employees. After managers hire agents, the communications team provisions them with a complex set of communications resources—from phone numbers and extensions to voice mail, call recording applications, and hardware. Each agent in the system also has an associated set of attributes (such as languages spoken) that an administrator configures to route callers to the next available agent who can help them. Manually configuring this total set of complex call center resources can take 30 minutes or more, per agent.
Then, when agents leave, administrators must tear down the resources they just configured. Otherwise, software licenses and hardware won’t readily be available for the next employee. Indeed, too often with manual processes those “leftover” licenses aren’t clearly tracked at all. More important, deprovisioning upon employee termination is critical for maintaining security. Without quick action, former employees could have access to active agent communication systems.
Communication Management is Ripe for Automation
Constant employee churn requires significant labor hours to manage, but there’s a more efficient option for provisioning contact center agents. Because the work is predictable and repetitive, automation makes sense for large-scale contact centers. By transforming manual provisioning processes into automated workflows, administrators immediately streamline and simplify contact center communication management.
Automation allows administrators to get agents up and running more quickly and without the keystroke errors that can cause delays and cost time and money. Complex workflows can even be triggered by other business processes, such as service ticket submission or a hiring action in the HR management system. Then, the automation solution provisions multiple agents in a fraction of the time it would take the communications team to complete. In the process and in real time, the solution maintains an accurate and complete inventory and audit trail; and it can also automatically update service tickets according to the rules of the business.
Automation Can Improve EX and CX, too
The operational benefits of automation are clear: automating onboarding and offboarding can significantly reduce the cost of ownership for contact center software. In addition, automation technology can improve both employee and customer experiences. With automated provisioning, agents won’t be frustrated waiting for communication resources they need to start their day. Add automated self-service options, and they can also reset their own passwords or configure their environment in a way that works best for them.
Another way automation improves the employee experience is by empowering administrators to easily manage agent attributes or skills according to the needs of the business. For example, automation can help administrators allocate more agents when a surge of customer interest in an offering means there are more callers than agents assigned to that type of call. Facilitating dynamic changes to the call center environment improves customer experiences and boosts employee productivity at the same time.
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