Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Do You Have the Skills?

All of us have a unique blend of talents, abilities, experiences and interests. It is those things that make each one of us unique. It is those differences that ought to be the cornerstone of every contact center but sadly are not.

Historically, call centers have operated on a nearly-binary evaluation of the agent population. The call center manager had a list of basic “skills” and perhaps a low, medium and high ranking system associated with each skill. Each agent was given a ranking for every one of the basic skills and the process of “skill mapping” was considered complete. Thus we had the basis for queuing calls; there were “electronic” buckets of calls for each category of transaction and each corresponding skill level.

As you can imagine, the idea that something as simple as low, medium and high working as a way to segment agents and customers was deemed useless some time ago. In fact, virtually every vendor selling software into the business world today in which the software is designed to assist in the servicing of customers has some form of rule system for segmenting both agents and customers. How well they work and how useful the rule engine is as compared to the basic 3-bucket system is a matter of opinion but one thing is very certain; without a comprehensive assessment of attributes for every service person who comes in contact with customers, any rule engine is crippled.

This may come as a shock to you but very few companies make the effort to really understand the unique characteristics of every employee. Sure there are efforts within the call center to assess the skills of agents according to a short list of criteria, but what happens to that list when new forms of interaction media are introduced. The call-oriented lists quickly lose their usefulness when non-voice interactions arrive on the scene to say nothing of the massive number of back-office staff for whom even less is known.

Any business looking to truly optimize a customer service function needs to have a system in place that allows for the ongoing assessment of each customer service resource. A system that provides a means for organizing the needed training to enhance the existing skills of the staff. A system that allows for a “career path” to be set in motion whereby the appropriate training modules are delivered, knowledge verified and results recorded. A system in which all of this can be accomplished with a minimum of user intervention.

Do such tools exist today? Absolutely.

Today, it is possible to not only know about all the unique characteristics of each customer service employee, but it is possible to automatically update the employee information to reflect each completed proficiency exam or each completed training course. If the interaction routing system uses this type of information to determine where to deliver a given interaction, the automated updating of the employee’s attributes means the delivery system is also updated – no human intervention necessary.

Imagine being able to include a complete staff training program as a part of a new product rollout and have that staff training program designed so as to have no impact on the current service delivery model. Imagine being able to quickly recognize who among the staff meets specific criteria to undertake supporting a new interaction media type. Imagine each employee having a customized career path that includes training modules and proficiency exams that assure them of new responsibilities and promotions yet without impacting their current work schedule. This is just some of the value an intelligent resource management application will deliver. Some of you would call it “skills management” and you would be correct. Sadly the term “skill” has many different meanings in the call center world so I have chosen to avoid that term and its inherent confusions.

Companies such as Silver Lining have developed tools that address the business challenge brought about by efforts to optimize the service delivery model yet are hindered by a lack of sufficient knowledge about the talents and knowledge of each customer service resource.

As in most business problems, the biggest hurdles are often tied to people. Skills Management software like that from Silver Lining can bring down that barrier so that the business can move forward towards its optimization targets.

If you would like help designing a skills management system into your Customer Service Delivery System, please call me regarding available consulting services: 602-492-1088.

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