Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Contact Center Management: Motivating Your Employee to Perform Better! by guest blogger Sushma Bendore

Positive reinforcement is a great motivator, whether it is getting your child to complete her homework or driving your team to perform better! When behavior is reinforced positively, we tend to focus more on our strengths and less on our weaknesses. Thus, by regularly praising good work and rewarding targets achieved, you will be able to drive anyone (your child and your team!) into producing exceptional results consistently.

In fact, outsourcing experts recognize the importance of reinforcement in contact center management. They propose that direct, clear communication coupled with encouraging words is crucial for business success. There are two types of reinforcements: external (e.g., monetary rewards, compensation, certificates, gifts, etc.) and internal (e.g., recognition, praise, acknowledgement of a job well done, etc.). Both play an integral part motivating sales and customer service associates to achieve targets and business goals.

We found that that positive reinforcement is an extremely important ingredient in perceptual learning. We conducted a small experiment to understand its effects in contact center deployment. We decided to divide a batch of newly hired advisors into two groups during the training process. Group A was positively reinforced (feedback on performance, areas to concentrate on for further improvement, review of the previous training session, etc.), while Group B did not receive any reinforcement. Testing on the second day showed that Group A performed much better than Group B.

Since it may have been a little early for the second group to show improvements, we moved to the next phase—this time, the new advisors were trained continuously for 10 days and the test was administered on the 11th and 12th days. Once again, Group A was reinforced and Group B was not. The results were the same, group B did not show improvement and in fact indicated a dip in ITS scores (from 75% down to 71%). Group A showed a spike in results from 75% to 85%!

We can see that the performance gap between the two groups is huge taking into account that the only difference among the two was feedback on right/wrong answers. Clearly, just training in perceptual learning even for adults isn’t nearly enough. One of the solutions we came up with to “deliver” positive reinforcement is a sign-in quiz.

This automatically activated application serves a pop-up that presents a question to an advisor who has logged in. She is required to answer the question and gets immediate feedback on it. Her performance reports can be generated at any desired frequency and provide a mix of reporting variables.

The architecture of the quiz application allows us to create multiple question banks for a given program. The question sets are designed and mapped to the skills required by a program. When an advisor logs in, the question that pops up can be randomly generated from any of the pre-determined sets, depending on the desired mix of the questions (low/medium/high complexity). Also, these questions can be regionalized depending on the type and requirement of the program. 

The sign-in quiz app is designed to: 
  • Serve as a skill and knowledge building tool.
  • Serving as a skills re-verification tool on minimum skills and knowledge predefined for the program.
  • Act as a training needs assessment input for identifying key areas that may require training interventions proactively.
  • Provide continuous reinforcement to acquire job-critical knowledge.

We believe that positive reinforcement is not just about encouragement or compensation. It is about inducing continuous learning and ensuring that our employee is motivated to go that extra mile!
Sushma Bendore, Senior Manager-Business Excellence at Aditya Birla Minacs, is responsible for the Design Factory’s training initiatives. This role involves designing, implementing and delivering performance improvement solutions like  eLearning framework, curriculum design and development, trainer certification framework and project management of training application development like BIT (Business Intelligence Tool T&Q) and SIQ (Sign In Quiz).

Monday, October 14, 2013

Everyone has the cloud, but how are you using it? by guest blogger Kristyn Emenecker

Nick Carr’s controversial essay “IT Doesn’t Matter” claimed that IT – just as railroads and electricity – will ultimately become a commodity accessible to all. Consequently, he argued that companies should not overly invest in, or rely on IT as a resource for competitive advantage. Now marking its 10-year anniversary, Nick Carr’s logic certainly panned out with regards to basic technology. Today, this logic still holds as cloud enters the mainstream. Carr predicted that IT capabilities will ultimately be centralized, freeing companies to invest in innovation in places that really matter to their business – in some ways, Carr predicted cloud.

The cloud computing movement pursues this idea of a standardized and efficient IT model, and helps improve overall business performance by providing the ability to upgrade, scale and integrate effortlessly and cost-effectively. But the cloud movement is still, well, a movement, and what Carr did not predict is the emergence of new services we now also have to consider - such as apps, mobile, social media and so on. Outsourced call center services are no exception to the movement. As the transition to the cloud continues to streamline, the importance lies not in simply having the technology. What really matters is how we use it to our advantage.

The Next Step: Truly Multi-channel

Cloud is already here – it’s happened and we’re beginning to embrace it. So where do we go from here? For business process outsourcers, the cloud has certainly proven to be highly cost-effective in addressing their eternal struggle with unpredictability. With ever-changing levels of demand and activity, cloud contact center platforms make it possible for outsourcers to seamlessly scale up or down to fluctuating resources and minimize resource consumption. Frontline Call Center is an example who, located in Ocras Islands, leveraged the efficiency of a cloud platform for their outsourcing needs and saw dramatic cost reductions while agent utilization doubled. But it’s simply not enough to employ the cloud as an engine of cost savings.

According to Forrester’s research on cloud economics, leaders who have mastered the cloud for cutting-costs are now harnessing it as a profit-driver. By leveraging the advantages of the cloud to design new services, or improve existing ones, companies can create new revenue. For outsourcers, an example of such services could be leveraging disruptive social and mobile channels in their call centers as a value add for customers.

Outsourcing companies are the middle man – they are generous providers with an ethos centered on customer satisfaction, but they get very little in return. In an age where social and mobile are the prevailing means of communication, customers are expecting an experience tailored specifically to their needs and preferences, and that includes multichannel services.

While a cloud platform allows for efficiency such as call routing and callback services, it can also facilitate seamless multichannel communication through SMS, chat and social media. By integrating these types of service add-ons, BPOs are able to accommodate service preferences, providing the new services their customers are looking for. What’s more, outsourcers are presented with an advantageous selling point. Beyond the satisfied customer, outsourcers can upsell these additional features to generate more business opportunities, growth and income. Frontline, for instance, implemented a new tool enabling clients’ customers to connect to an agent from their website without picking up the phone. This gave clients and prospects another reason to use their service, and in two years, they saw a 400% spike in business growth.

While cloud-based IT is to become the norm, simply transitioning to the cloud is only the beginning. Beyond leveraging its abilities to cut costs, integrate quickly, or ramp up and down flexibly, new services and offerings such as social and mobile communications can provide BPOs with a strong competitive advantage whilst simultaneously meeting today’s customer expectations.
Kristyn Emenecker, Vice President, Product Marketing for inContact, has 18 years’ experience in the contact center industry, serving in a variety of operational, consultant, and senior leadership roles.  She is active in a number of industry groups, published in multiple trade journals and a regular on the industry speaking circuit. Twitter:  @LIVinEden