How to manage sudden absence in an Australian contact centre

Absenteeism costs Australian businesses approximately $578 per employee, per day of absence. This statistic comes from the Australian Industry Group's Absenteeism & Presenteeism Survey Report 2015, which highlights the fact that you absolutely cannot ignore absenteeism within your contact centre business.

However, Australian office leaders aren't stuck dealing with the costs if they know how to prevent absenteeism, and have an action plan to minimise it. So how is a contact centre manager supposed to prevent and manage sudden staff absences?

Make sure staff schedules are updated with sick or annual leave as soon as you become aware of it.

1. Update schedules immediately

Make sure staff schedules are updated with sick or annual leave as soon as you become aware of it. This will help provide everyone with a better insight into the impact that the absence is likely to have, enabling you to optimise breaks, meetings or other activities during the day so that your customers' experience is impacted as little as possible.

If the absence isn't entered until later, other activities might be approved that shouldn't be.

2. Try to understand and empathise

If sudden absence is due to a negative event like illness or bereavement, HR firm KGA recommends that office managers begin all conversations about the required time off with "I'm sorry you're going through this." Managers should then offer their assistance or, at the very least, their ear.

While this won't necessarily help on the day of a sudden absence, it could prevent absenteeism in the future. Forbes explains that a lack of staff motivation can cause absenteeism. And motivation is linked to job satisfaction, which in turn is linked to empathy. The Center for Creative Leadership found in a study that there's a positive relationship between manager empathy and staff job satisfaction levels.

3. Deploy smarter, faster tools

Intelligent workforce management solutions can make a huge difference when office managers are trying to cope with sudden staff losses. Call Center Helper - the worlds's leading contact centre magazine - says that a major cause of agent call avoidance, which often leads to staff absence and attrition, is getting routed calls at the wrong times. For example, a 30-minute troubleshooting call five minutes before the end of a shift.

However, integrating an effective scheduling system like Aspect WFM into your centre will give you greater oversight on staff workloads so you can better manage long-duration call types in the future. Additionally, schedules that can be viewed and modified in real time can help you balance the workload between agents should someone suddenly become absent.

Australian call centre leaders can prevent absenteeism with better scheduling.

4. Offer easier shift-swapping

Call Center Helper also recommends allowing shift swapping between agents to reduce absenteeism. Managers might feel like they need to intricately control shifts and schedules, but in actual fact, most agents will be more than willing - and capable - of swapping between themselves in order to meet the needs of both their personal and work lives.

This is another area where contact centre management software is important. A tool like Aspect WFM or the Call Design ME app allows agents to quickly and easily request leave or swap shifts, without the need for the often slow process of manager intervention

5. Education

Ensure you educate staff on the "The Power of One". The purpose of these sessions is to help staff understand why their attendance and adherence is important.

If you're interested in optimising your workforce with better software or training, contact Call Design today to see what our consultants can do for you.


How to manage sudden absence in the contact center

According to a study by Circadian, unscheduled absenteeism costs $3,600 a year for each hourly worker and $2,650 for each salaried employee, which highlights the fact that you absolutely cannot ignore absenteeism within your contact center business.

However, managers aren't stuck dealing with the costs if they know how to prevent absenteeism, and have an action plan to minimize it. So how is a contact center manager supposed to prevent and manage sudden staff absences?

Make sure staff schedules are updated with sick or annual leave as soon as you become aware of it.

1. Update schedules immediately

Make sure staff schedules are updated with sick leave and vacation as soon as you become aware of it. This will help provide everyone with a better insight into the impact that the absence is likely to have, enabling you to optimize breaks, meetings or other activities during the day so that your customers' experience is impacted as little as possible.

If the absence isn't entered until later, other activities might be approved that shouldn't be.

2. Try to understand and empathize

If sudden absence is due to a negative event like illness or bereavement, HR firm KGA recommends that office managers begin all conversations about the required time off with "I'm sorry you're going through this." Managers should then offer their assistance or, at the very least, their ear.

While this won't necessarily help on the day of a sudden absence, it could prevent absenteeism in the future. Forbes explains that a lack of staff motivation can cause absenteeism. And motivation is linked to job satisfaction, which in turn is linked to empathy. The Center for Creative Leadership found in a study that there's a positive relationship between manager empathy and staff job satisfaction levels.

3. Deploy smarter, faster tools

Intelligent workforce management solutions can make a huge difference when office managers are trying to cope with sudden staff losses. Call Center Helper - the world's leading contact center magazine - says that a major cause of agent call avoidance, which often leads to staff absence and attrition, is getting routed calls at the wrong times. For example, a 30-minute troubleshooting call five minutes before the end of a shift.

However, integrating an effective scheduling system like Aspect WFM into your center will give you greater oversight on staff workloads so you can better manage long-duration call types in the future. Additionally, schedules that can be viewed and modified in real time can help you balance the workload between agents should someone suddenly become absent.

Australian call centre leaders can prevent absenteeism with better scheduling.

4. Offer easier shift-swapping

Call Center Helper also recommends allowing shift swapping between agents to reduce absenteeism. Managers might feel like they need to intricately control shifts and schedules, but in actual fact, most agents will be more than willing - and capable - of swapping between themselves in order to meet the needs of both their personal and work lives.

This is another area where contact center management software is important. A tool like Aspect WFM or the Call Design ME app allows agents to quickly and easily request leave or swap shifts, without the need for the often slow process of manager intervention

5. Education

Ensure you educate staff on the "The Power of One". The purpose of these sessions is to help staff understand why their attendance and adherence is important.

If you're interested in optimizing your workforce with better software or training, contact Call Design today to see what our consultants can do for you.


6 technology trends coming to future Australian contact centres

 

The future is coming, if it's not here already. Artificial intelligence is everywhere, EY says Generation Z is proving unforgiving of service or technical failures, and Australian contact centres are left scrambling to keep up.

Technology is changing in the local contact centre industry, and we predict that these will be the tech trends to face our industry in 2018 and beyond:

1. Bots supplanting human interaction

Already bots are taking over contact centres, and will likely continue to do so. One example of this is banking group Swedbank's Nuance Nina, an AI-driven virtual assistant that delivers human-like conversational customer service. The bank says Nuance Nina has helped it improve the customer experience, including a 78 per cent first-contact resolution within the initial three months and a hit rate of eight out of ten questions answered.

In the future, if a customer were to contact a call centre with a known problem, an intelligent bot would automatically search through its database for resolutions. In this scenario, the call would only escalate to a human agent if the bot could not resolve the issue alone.

Although it might seem that bots are taking human jobs, it presents an opportunity for contact centre agents to upskill - to become specialists in their field. Common questions will no longer clog the chat lines, meaning agent-customer interactions are faster and more pleasant for everyone involved.

Artificial intelligence is expected to continue improving the call routing process.

2. Improved call routing

On a similar note, artificial intelligence is expected to continue improving the call routing process. IVR menuing has had its day - in the future, we can expect the classic dial tone interaction to be further replaced by voice recognition, as can be found in some Australian contact centres already.

But voice recognition is not the only routing area being improved by AI. Increasingly, contact centres will be able to use text analytics to scan email and chat enquiries for certain keywords or phrases, and automatically direct that customer to the appropriate answer. This AI could also assist chat-bots designed to replace low-level interactions as discussed above.

However it's unlikely that AI will entirely replace humans. Studies have shown that Australians still prefer speaking with a human over a robot.

3. More remote staff

More and more Australians are choosing to work from home, or calling for the option. Currently, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that about a third of employed persons regularly work from home. Additionally, PwC recommends that Australian employers set their millennials free - offering flexible working arrangements to suit the younger generation's varied, connected lifestyles.

Thus, workforce management software that can handle remote workers will be essential in the coming years. This software will need to connect all the data a contact centre needs in real time, as well as offer mobile app options for agents on the move.

4. Biometrics overtaking security questions

Security questions have been a useful tool so far, but it's still too easy for some fraudsters to learn the answers and steal customers' identities. In the coming years, most contact centres in Australia will replace security questions with biometric analysis.

One such technology is voice printing, where a customer's voice pattern is stored in a data base to be used like a security question's answer. Every time that customer interacts with a contact centre, special software checks their voice against the stored version to automatically match the two and verify the customer's ID.

Generation Z has a low tolerance for technical failures and agents not knowing the answer to their questions.

5. Advanced WFO software streamlining business

Considering the low tolerance Generation Z will have for technical failures and, according to EY, agents not having the answers to their questions, Australian contact centres will need to optimise their processes with better software.

With the right tools, contact centre agents will be able to access real-time data relevant to their customers, and office managers could have advanced demand forecasting and workforce scheduling available to ensure the right number of staff are available, any time of year. Advanced WFO tools, such those offered by Call Design, also come built-in with mobile app and cloud support, helping connect workers no matter where they are.

6. Internet of Things talking to contact centres

As we can see with products like Google Home and Nest, the Internet of Things (IoT) is connecting customer's devices, and these devices may soon connect to you as well. IoT-enabled devices are capable of monitoring and storing information about themselves and their user, and can be programmed to detect when there's an issue. Should that issue require support from a contact centre, devices could reach out by themselves to troubleshoot.

This directly links with the idea of chat-bots taking low-level enquiries. If, say, a faulty thermostat reached out to a centre for assistance, an AI could find an appropriate resolution, automatically send that to the thermostat and fix the issue - humans need not be involved.

If you'd like to learn more about optimising your workforce with advanced software, get in touch with Australia's leading WFO consultants at Call Design today.


6 technology trends coming to contact centers

 

The future is coming, if it's not here already. Artificial intelligence is everywhere, EY says Generation Z is proving unforgiving of service or technical failures, and contact centers are left scrambling to keep up.

Technology is changing in the local contact center industry, and we predict that these will be the tech trends to face our industry in 2018 and beyond:

1. Bots supplanting human interaction

Already bots are taking over contact centers, and will likely continue to do so. One example of this is banking group Swedbank's Nuance Nina, an AI-driven virtual assistant that delivers human-like conversational customer service. The bank says Nuance Nina has helped it improve the customer experience, including a 78 percent first-contact resolution within the initial three months and a hit rate of eight out of ten questions answered.

In the future, if a customer were to contact a call center with a known problem, an intelligent bot would automatically search through its database for resolutions. In this scenario, the call would only escalate to a human agent if the bot could not resolve the issue alone.

Although it might seem that bots are taking human jobs, it presents an opportunity for contact center agents to upskill - to become specialists in their field. Common questions will no longer clog the chat lines, meaning agent-customer interactions are faster and more pleasant for everyone involved.

Artificial intelligence is expected to continue improving the call routing process.

2. Improved call routing

On a similar note, artificial intelligence is expected to continue improving the call routing process. IVR menuing has had its day - in the future, we can expect the classic dial tone interaction to be further replaced by voice recognition, as can be found in some contact centers already.

But voice recognition is not the only routing area being improved by AI. Increasingly, contact centers will be able to use text analytics to scan email and chat enquiries for certain keywords or phrases, and automatically direct that customer to the appropriate answer. This AI could also assist chatbots designed to replace low-level interactions as discussed above.

However, it's unlikely that AI will entirely replace humans. Studies have shown that many callers still prefer speaking with a human over a robot.

3. More remote staff

More and more people are choosing to work from home, or calling for the option. According to Gallup, last year, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely. Additionally, PwC recommends that employers set their millennials free - offering flexible working arrangements to suit the younger generation's varied, connected lifestyles.

Thus, workforce management software that can handle remote workers will be essential in the coming years. This software will need to connect all the data a contact center needs in real time, as well as offer mobile app options for agents on the move.

4. Biometrics overtaking security questions

Security questions have been a useful tool so far, but it's still too easy for some fraudsters to learn the answers and steal customers' identities. In the coming years, most contact centers will replace security questions with biometric analysis.

One such technology is voice printing, where a customer's voice pattern is stored in a database to be used like a security question's answer. Every time that customer interacts with a contact center, special software checks their voice against the stored version to automatically match the two and verify the customer's ID.

Generation Z has a low tolerance for technical failures and agents not knowing the answer to their questions.

5. Advanced WFO software streamlining business

Considering the low tolerance Generation Z will have for technical failures and, according to EY, agents not having the answers to their questions, contact centers will need to optimize their processes with better software.

With the right tools, contact center agents will be able to access real-time data relevant to their customers, and office managers could have advanced demand forecasting and workforce scheduling available to ensure the right number of staff are available, any time of year. Advanced WFO tools, such those offered by Call Design, also come built-in with mobile app support and cloud support, helping connect workers no matter where they are.

6. Internet of Things talking to contact centers

As we can see with products like Google Home and Nest, the Internet of Things (IoT) is connecting customer's devices, and these devices may soon connect to you as well. IoT-enabled devices are capable of monitoring and storing information about themselves and their user, and can be programmed to detect when there's an issue. Should that issue require support from a contact center, devices could reach out by themselves to troubleshoot.

This directly links with the idea of chatbots taking low-level enquiries. If, say, a faulty thermostat reached out to a center for assistance, an AI could find an appropriate resolution, automatically send that to the thermostat and fix the issue - humans need not be involved.

If you'd like to learn more about optimizing your workforce with advanced software, get in touch with the expert WFO consultants at Call Design today.


3 contact centre strategies to adopt for Generation Z customers

Not concerned with Generation Z customers? You should be. Born between 1998 and 2016 (note that sources differ somewhat on the range,) they make up 26% of the US population, says Neilsen, and now that many of them are entering adulthood, the chances of your agents encountering Gen Z customers is high.

So how should a contact centre improve itself to accommodate this 21st century generation? These strategies will help:

1. Focus on immediacy

Gen Z is famously known for its short attention span, so immediacy should be a component of your new contact centre strategy. Agents must be able to deliver fast results if they are to keep these young people engaged, focusing on efficiency and trying to avoid elongated chit-chat, transferring between departments or anything that might delay the conversation.

Immediacy also extends beyond your agents and how they handle customers. Omnichannel communication is more important than ever for tech-savvy young people. McCrindle explains that Gen Z are the most technologically saturated generation ever. To keep up, your centre must embrace social media channels, live chat and other instant avenues of communication.

Young people are not as forgiving of ignorance as older generations.

2. Invest in agent-facing information

Young people are not as forgiving of ignorance as older generations. This is from a study commissioned by eGain that found key pain points of Gen Z to be contact centre agents not knowing the answer to a question, or providing a different answer to another agent.

"The only viable solution to this challenge is smarter knowledge that can guide [agents] quickly and accurately to answers and through processes," said eGain's CEO, Ashu Roy.

Consider investing in workforce optimisation in the new year. By streamlining your processes with the right call centre management software, you'll be providing your agents with the real-time information they need, quickly and efficiently.

Young people value immediacy and efficiency, and tolerate delays less than older generations.Young people value immediacy and efficiency, and tolerate delays less than older generations.

3. Build loyalty, don't ask for it

It's proving much harder to gain the loyalty of Generation Z than generations that came before. EY studied Gen Z and reported that they appreciate relationships built on mutual respect - where agents develop trust, rather than ask for it. Young people also want to be a part of the solution, making it important that each contact centre agent focuses on giving their customers a personalised experience over a scripted one.

If all of this sounds hard, it's because it is. But you're not alone. Call Design is a leading contact centre WFO consultancies, and can help shape your business for Generation Z and whatever else the future holds. To learn more, get in touch with us today.


3 contact center strategies to adopt for Generation Z customers

Not concerned with Generation Z customers? You should be. Born between 1998 and 2016 (note that sources differ somewhat on the range,) they make up 26% of the US population, says Neilsen, and now that many of them are entering adulthood, the chances of your agents encountering Gen Z customers is high.

So how should a contact center improve itself to accommodate this 21st century generation? These strategies will help:

1. Focus on immediacy

Gen Z is famously known for its short attention span, so immediacy should be a component of your new contact center strategy. Agents must be able to deliver fast results if they are to keep these young people engaged, focusing on efficiency and trying to avoid elongated chit-chat, transferring between departments or anything that might delay the conversation.

Immediacy also extends beyond your agents and how they handle customers. Omnichannel communication is more important than ever for tech-savvy young people. McCrindle explains that Gen Z are the most technologically saturated generation ever. To keep up, your center must embrace social media channels, live chat and other instant avenues of communication.

Young people are not as forgiving of ignorance as older generations.

2. Invest in agent-facing information

Young people are not as forgiving of ignorance as older generations. This is from a study commissioned by eGain that found key pain points of Gen Z to be contact center agents not knowing the answer to a question, or providing a different answer to another agent.

"The only viable solution to this challenge is smarter knowledge that can guide [agents] quickly and accurately to answers and through processes," said eGain's CEO, Ashu Roy.

Consider investing in workforce optimization in the new year. By streamlining your processes with the right call center management software, you'll be providing your agents with the real-time information they need, quickly and efficiently.

Young people value immediacy and efficiency, and tolerate delays less than older generations.Young people value immediacy and efficiency, and tolerate delays less than older generations.

3. Build loyalty, don't ask for it

It's proving much harder to gain the loyalty of Generation Z than generations that came before. EY studied Gen Z and reported that they appreciate relationships built on mutual respect - where agents develop trust, rather than ask for it. Young people also want to be a part of the solution, making it important that each contact center agent focuses on giving their customers a personalized experience over a scripted one.

If all of this sounds hard, it's because it is. But you're not alone. Call Design is a leading contact center WFO consultancies, and can help shape your business for Generation Z and whatever else the future holds. To learn more, get in touch with us today.


What are the benefits of taking a workforce management course?

 

Regardless of what industry you work in, one of the most important steps in furthering your career and ensuring operational success is to always be on the lookout for learning opportunities. By grabbing these with both hands, it's possible to stay on top of the latest trends within your industry, and ensure you and your team are operating as productively as possible.

Within the contact center industry and beyond, one of the most commonly misunderstood and neglected aspects of improving productivity is workforce management. Fortunately, learning about this part of contact center operations doesn't have to be a challenge, with a range of different workforce planning courses available.

Investing in the right tool is only the start of improving your contact center's efficiency.

The benefits of workforce planning courses

In an industry where personnel play a vital role in both service and cost, the importance of workforce planning in contact centers is plain and simple. By improving your business' staffing and scheduling processes, you'll be able to rest easy knowing that people are always in the right place at the right time, providing the best customer experience possible.

In addition, the right workforce management tools can provide a wealth of other benefits. For example, monitoring staff performance and predicting future business needs to ensure your organization is never caught short.

Of course, simply investing in the right workforce management solution is only the start of improving your contact center's efficiency. You need to ensure that everyone understands workforce planning basics regardless of the tool. You'll also need team leaders who understand the impact of some of their decisions, and attending a workforce planning course specifically designed for them will help ensure you get the best results possible.

Without the right knowledge, even the best workforce management tools won't be able to perform at their best. A Team Leader Essentials Workforce Management course will help team leaders get the very best out of WFM tools.

Learning the contact center workforce management fundamentals

Call Design's three-day Workforce Management Essentials course is part of our workforce optimization program, and is suitable for everybody from forecasters and schedulers through to real time analysts and contact center managers. Most importantly, the course focuses on industry best practices, rather than a specific product. This means anybody can learn the essentials of workforce management, regardless of existing business processes or experience with certain WFM tools. We also offer a one day Team Leader Essentials course, which teaches the workforce planning principles that will help team leaders be more effective.

Attendees will learn about the whats, whys and hows of workforce management, providing a firm foundation for the more practical elements later on in the course, such as scheduling and performance analysis. This ensures that graduates of the program will be equipped with an understanding of not just how to use WFM tools, but why they are so important in contact centers and other businesses.

To learn more about the Workforce Management Essentials course, get in touch with the Call Design team today, or read about or course offerings for more information.


Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities - Call Design's Position

On the 3rd of January 2018, three new vulnerabilities were released that have been grouped together and called Spectre and Meltdown. These are not traditional software based vulnerabilities but are inherent in the very fabric of modern Intel and ARM processor chips.

Because these vulnerabilities are within the processors, operating systems and applications that run on top of these processors are vulnerable and the only real way to resolve hardware issues like these is to replace those processors or update their firmware which is not very practical. We recognize as do our partners that the only way to tackle these latest hardware based vulnerabilities is to make the physical-layer vulnerabilities inaccessible and this needs to be accomplished at an operating System and potentially application layer.

Call Design’s current position is first to ensure that our systems continue to be appropriately patched with updated anti-virus and malware protection from leading vendors. We note that some operating system patches have been released that have caused existing systems and applications to fail and we are therefore cautious in the application of any of these Spectre and Meltdown patches without comprehensive testing.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely seeking advice from various trusted vendors including Microsoft and Aspect as well as our firewall and network providers to ensure that all advice is followed and that recommended patches are tested to ensure that they do not introduce new problems before being applied.

Peter Salmon
Director
Call Design