Ventana Research Releases Next Generation Workforce Optimization for Customer Service Benchmark Research
Ventana Research has released its latest Benchmark Research on Next Generation Workforce Optimization. The research evaluated the current methods companies use to manage the workforce handling customer interactions, how applications and technology are used to support agents and best practices for improvements in customer experience.
In the last two decades, contact centers have evolved into the hub for customer interactions and relationships. They now support multi-channel, multi-interaction, multi-stage customer communications. To be able to handle the volume and complexity of these new models, next generation technologies need to be implemented to support efficient and consistent handling of interactions. Our recent research shows that more than 90 percent of customer interactions still are conducted on the telephone. Therefore it is vitally important to manage the contact center workforce - the agents - to ensure it delivers superior customer experiences at reasonable costs.
The research found the vast majority (78 %) of the participants indicated it is very important to improve agent performance with the over-arching goal (86%) to improve customer satisfaction. Almost 80 percent use call recording and quality monitoring tools, more than half use workforce management and agent coaching systems, and more than 40 percent use e-learning and screen capture systems.
The research also revealed conflicting evidence that operational goals may get in the way of efforts to improve the customer experience. Ranked first in importance is to reduce the cost of handling interactions by increasing the use of self-service (by 27%) and to optimize agent utilization (15%). The results show that larger companies more often handle calls by self-service. Three in five organizations have implemented Web-based self-service systems, and nearly half use touch-tone interactive voice response (IVR). Previous research shows that such systems have had limited success with the majority of customers reverting to calling the contact center.
America's IT Decision Makers Far More Attentive to News than General Population
Every profession has its share of stereotypes to contend with, from the image of the dishonest car salesman to that of the corrupt politicians. For those in information technology, like other technological fields, there is sometimes a perception of existing in something of a high-tech echo chamber, cut off from the world at large. However, findings from Harris Interactive's new Harris Poll® ITDMQuery - a national omnibus survey of IT professionals - suggest that IT decision makers may be paying much more attention to what's happening in the world than the general population of U.S. adults.
These are among the findings of a Harris Poll of 299 full-time U.S. IT decision makers interviewed online August 7-13 and 2,286 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, interviewed online August 14-19 Harris Interactive. The IT decision makers portion of the study utilized the ITDMQuery platform.
With over a third (36%) of ITDMs describing themselves as "news junkies," this group is nearly three times as likely as the general population (13%) to display this level of interest in the news. In contrast, general U.S. adults are roughly three times as likely as ITDMs to indicate that they are not really interested in the news (14% and 5%, respectively). The remaining 59% of ITDMs and 73% of U.S. adults say they like to keep up with the news, but it's just one of many ways they spend their leisure time.
Modes of choice
All talk of shattering stereotypes aside, it may not come as a surprise that ITDMs are much more likely than U.S. adults overall to list some sort of online source as their preferred way to get news (65% and 38%, respectively). More specifically, nearly half of ITDMs (45%) prefer to get their news online, on a computer (vs. 27% of U.S. adults), 12% look to a tablet computer (vs. 5% among the general population) and roughly one in ten (9%) reach into their pocket to use their mobile device (vs. 6% of Americans overall).
On the other hand, ITDMs are only half as likely as U.S. adults to identify television as their preferred way of getting news (24% ITDMs, 50% U.S. adults). Roughly one in ten from each group selects print as their preferred news mode (9% ITDMs, 10% U.S. adults).
But before you can expect someone to read any, let alone all, of an article, you need to reel them in. So, how do IT decision makers compare to the general population in terms of factors making them more likely to read an online or print article?
As it turns out, ITDMs are consistently more likely than the general population to indicate that each of a series of potential "draws" makes them more likely to read an online or print article. Majorities of both groups are driven by a catchy headline (59% ITDMs, 53% U.S. adults), but ITDMs are driven much more strongly than their general population counterparts by the inclusion of interesting data or research which supports the article (59% ITDMs, 41% U.S. adults). ITDMs are also more likely to be drawn in by an interesting picture with the article (55% ITDMs, 38% U.S. adults) and an interesting infographic (48% and 26%, respectively).
Response to research in reporting
When presented with a list of statements regarding research in news, ITDMs are slightly to moderately more likely than Americans overall to agree with most of those statements:
I am more likely to trust an online or print article if there is research in it which supports the story (91% ITDMs, 84% U.S. adults).
When reading articles which cite research statistics, the person or company who conducted the research is important to consider (89% ITDMs, 84% U.S. adults).
I prefer to read articles that include research results (88% ITDMs, 78% U.S. adults).
I enjoy seeing news articles which include what people like me think about something (81% ITDMs, 76% U.S. adults).
There are two exceptions to this overall trend, though:
On the one hand, ITDMs show a much stronger likelihood to agree that their purchase decisions are often influenced by research conducted about a product or service (84% ITDMs, 65% U.S. adults).
Looking to the other extreme, the groups are identical in their agreement that research needs to be conducted by a credible organization in order for Americans to trust it, with nine in ten agreeing from each group (89%).
Organizations Must Tap Into Worker Passion to Address Competitive Pressures
To address perpetually mounting competitive pressures, organizations need workers who bring passion to their jobs to navigate challenges and accelerate performance improvement. Yet only 11 percent of U.S. workers surveyed by Deloitte possess the necessary attributes that lead to accelerated learning and performance improvement. These and other insights are highlighted in a new report from Deloitte’s Center for the Edge entitled "Unlocking Passion of the Explorer."
The effect of mounting competitive pressure is visible in the downward trend in Return on Assets (ROA). According to Deloitte, ROA for U.S. organizations has been declining for the past 47 years, despite gains in labor productivity, and it shows no signs of stabilizing. The data suggests that the typical corporate response of reducing costs and squeezing more productivity out of the remaining workers by making them work harder is not a long term solution to competitive pressures. Recruiting wars have typically focused on finding particular skills, but Deloitte uncovered that the typical modern work skill becomes outdated within five years.
Instead of recruiting skillsets, organizations would be better served by recruiting passionate people and fostering passion in existing workers. However, the passion of the explorer – workers who embrace challenges as opportunities to learn new skills and rapidly improve performance – is rare in the U.S. workforce, and outdated practices and structures are to blame. Many organizations squelch rather than cultivate the passion of the explorer. In the fall of 2012, Deloitte Center for the Edge surveyed approximately 3,000 full time U.S. workers (more than 30 hours per week) from 15 industries and across various job levels to measure their levels of passion."
The survey notes that one of the fundamental considerations for any business leader is how to create a passionate employee population. Recruiting employees with passion and creating work environments that foster this elusive characteristic will help enterprises effectively respond to the diverse challenges of a globalized marketplace. Workers who demonstrate passion are more committed to their employers and are more likely to see new opportunities for success. In fact, 79 percent of workers who demonstrate the most robust passion say they already work for their "dream" organization even if they are not currently in their dream work role.
While only a small minority of U.S. employees possess the passion of the explorer, 45 percent of U.S. employees demonstrate at least one or two of the three attributes necessary to build passion – long term commitment to a specific domain (those that maintain long-range goals and perspective, despite short - term disruption), questing disposition (those that embrace challenges as opportunities to learn and get stronger), and connecting disposition (those that seek to build strong, trust-based relationships essential for collaboration and rapid feedback) – just not all three. Individuals with any of these characteristics are important to organizations since these attributes can provide a foundation for cultivating the passion that drives accelerated learning and sustained high performance. Creative approaches to work environment redesign can help to catalyze and amplify the passion of the explorer among employees – executives should not view passion as a given quantity but rather as something that can be nurtured and expanded over time.
Interestingly, these characteristics are not equally distributed across the workforce. The passionate tend to work for smaller organizations, and the prevalence of workers with the passion of the explorer drops, from 13 percent to 9 percent, in organizations with more than 1,000 employees. The research revealed that differences in the level of passion across industries were not statistically significant.
Moreover, the most passionate workers are likely to be in the management and marketing functions (17 percent and 16 percent, respectively) and are least likely to reside within the customer service (5 percent), accounting / finance (7 percent), human resources (7 percent), or manufacturing (7 percent) areas.
Furthermore, the survey notes that passion of the explorer correlates with compensation. Higher pay brackets have a higher concentration of passion; among those making more than $150,000, 44 percent are passionate versus just 15 percent or fewer in lower income brackets.
Survey Finds Significant Opportunity for More IT Support of Mobility at Work
CDW, a provider of technology solutions to business, government, education and healthcare, announced its Mobility at Work Report, a close look at issues of integrating mobile technologies into work environments, based on a survey of 1,200 IT professionals across eight industries and 1,200 workers who use personal smartphones and tablet computers at their jobs. While security around mobile devices is a constant issue, CDW’s survey found that managing mobility in the workplace presents a much broader set of challenges. IT departments and users alike agree that there is a “support gap.” Asked to grade their organization’s IT policies and technical support, only 41 percent of individuals using personal devices at their job give IT an A or a B. IT professionals had a more positive view of the support they offer, with 64 percent giving their own departments an A or a B, yet only 18 percent said they deserved an A.
Looking ahead, 90 percent of IT professionals surveyed expect growing use of personal mobile devices to have major impacts on their organizations’ networks, including:
Increased bandwidth requirements (63 percent)
Increased network latency (39 percent)
Increased server requirements (44 percent) and storage requirements (37 percent)
In fact, many (39 percent) say they have already seen network performance suffer.
“Mobility has edged its way into the workplace, increasing and complicating IT’s workload, and often leading to frustration on all fronts. Securing devices, along with the data and networks they use, will always be a significant concern, but protecting users and employers is only one of five key aspects of mobility management at work,” said Andrea Bradshaw, senior director and general manager, mobility solutions, for CDW. “The network impacts confirm that IT needs a systems strategy to accommodate mobility. Our research also shows that users and IT alike see room for improvement in the level and quality of support that IT provides for mobility today.”
Bradshaw noted that the key aspects of mobility management other than security are: planning a strategy; enabling the strategy efficiently; supporting users and IT alike, and empowering users.
Customer Contact Centers' Criticality During Disasters Necessitate Business Continuity Strategies
Customer contact organizations are at the heart of business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) strategies, as they are the go-to information centers in times of calamities and disasters. Due to the vital role they play in disseminating information, there are wide arrays of BC/DR-enabling methods and solutions available to handle all kinds of events.
Disasters account for more than a thousand deaths and billions of dollars of damages in the United States annually, according to sources such as the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), the National Fire Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Labor. The sources range from natural events, such as storms and fires, to workplace violence.
With the rise in mobility and advent of social media, customers expect real-time updates on delays, disruptions and changes to the products and services they purchase. However, Frost & Sullivan's survey of more than 250 IT managers in 2012 revealed that only 31 percent of the respondents claimed their organizations are prepared to handle outages and disasters.
Customer contact organizations face two challenges when devising and implementing effective BC/DR programs. The first is balancing the potential risks and losses from adversity and the investments needed for putting in place effective BC/DR solutions. The second challenge pertains to enterprises' lack of motivation to deploy these solutions due to the unpredictability of these events.
The BC/DR solutions that will find the highest uptake are those that support customers, employees, and operations and yet minimize capital investments and operational costs. Some of the methods to achieve this include selecting sites away from vulnerable areas, "multishoring," enabling employees to work from home, placing applications and data in the cloud, employing multiple backup and response tools and channels, alerting customers through proactive customer contact, and improving contact center access control.
Effective BC/DR depends on the development and maturity of cloud/hosting to supply and support applications and data. The solution's success also rides on cloud vendors' deployment of redundancy, including active-active server backup, geo-redundancy, and onsite generators.
For BC/DR to be wholly functional, wireless communication should be prevalent. While social media has proven to be a useful alerting and interaction tool, it is effective only if the recipients have Internet access. Nevertheless, even with Internet access, the bandwidth can fluctuate wildly in the aftermath of a disaster. Hence, there is a huge need for a multilayered approach, such as inbound and outbound interactive voice response (IVR) and SMS/text.
Apart from these external threats, contact centers also must prepare for employee violence, especially aggression against women. This is all the more relevant in the light of the fact that women account for more than two-thirds of customer service representatives. Furthermore, contact centers will do well to initiate military veterans into the workforce, as they have proven abilities to assess and respond to sudden and difficult situations.