Intelligence in Action: Business Benefits of a Smart Agent Desktop

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1 Intelligence in Action: Business Benefits of a Smart Agent Desktop Reducing agent effort and improving productivity An Ovum White Paper sponsored by INTRODUCTION Customers are rapidly adopting SMS, and social media to communicate and share knowledge about products and services. Contact centers need to expand to accommodate these channels by investing in multichannel routing, improving web self-service tools and training agents to handle inquiries from multiple channels. As enterprises adopt these new technologies, the agent desktop becomes increasingly complex. Agents must navigate through numerous applications and manage multiple processes simply to find enough customer information to offer adequate and timely assistance. While one might reasonably expect high dividends from hard-working agents, this is not always the case. Often, despite expending a great deal of effort, complex processes reduce agent productivity, which in turn creates longer call handling times. Multiple communication channels and extensive sets of customer data typically lead agents to spend more effort trying to manage the clutter than actually assisting customers and resolving their issue. Ultimately, much of the effort expended is wasted as agents frequently ask callers to repeat information; they have to sift through multiple datasets to get enough information to help the customers; or they have to transfer callers to other departments, which undermines the ability to offer first contact resolution. Despite all of this work, customers remain dissatisfied--possibly even angry over the quality of service. A recent study showed that enterprises waste time and money by pouring energy into trying to deliver an exceptional customer service experience, rather than simply focusing squarely on meeting basic customer needs. Customers are more loyal to organizations if they can simply and efficiently answer their basic queries. Next generation agent desktops--or smart agent desktops--eliminate these bottlenecks, streamline processes, and provide tools that allow agents to answer queries effectively while reducing the effort they must expend. Agents are able to view composite views of information, and integrated customer data from numerous systems. This white paper discusses the challenges with traditional agent desktops and enables readers to: Understand contact center and agent pain points with existing desktop solutions; Learn how a smart agent desktop can help agents to answer customer queries more effectively; Discover how a large healthcare provider has benefited from a smart agent desktop; Consider best practices when implementing a new desktop solution. Page 1

2 CONTACT CENTER PAIN POINTS AND THE CURRENT AGENT DESKTOP Today s customers have a mass of information at their fingertips, accessible via the web or from smartphones, and yet they are still unable to find answers to customer service queries. At the same time agents struggle to manage multiple systems and find up to date business information, leading to dissatisfactory customer interactions. For example, imagine a customer trying to change an airline reservation due to a family illness. The various processes and frustrations they go through are detailed in Figure 1. First they may search the web or read forums to find the airline s policy on flight changes and whether they are able to change it online. The customer gets frustrated by long wait times, having to repeat information, an unknowledgeable agent and the issue is unresolved. The agent lacks the necessary information to carry handle the query and is also left frustrated at being unable to help. Welcome to another standard day in the contact center. This scenario represents a typical customer service experience; agents are unable to handle calls efficiently with complex legacy desktop solutions. This shows a clear need for a new breed of smart agent desktops; agents need faster access to data from disparate systems, accurate knowledge to present to customers as well as information from the IVR and historical customer interactions. The contact center and customer challenges relating to the above scenario are discussed below in more detail. Figure 1: A customer gets frustrated trying to change an airline booking IVR Customer Search for flight change policies and asks friends if they have had a similar issue Enter flight details and name Agent Wastes time trying to change flight online Enters flight details into IVR and then has to repeat the same information to agent Waits on hold while agent searches for new flight information Agent does not sound confident in response and tries to push more expensive flights After escalation to more senior agent, customer repeats their information yet again Agent does not offer suitable new flight times and customer hangs up Does not have customer flight details and asks customer to repeat information to enter onto the system Searches through numerous applications and cannot find flight policy information Juggles CRM application, billing information, flight change documents, and a flights database to find new flight times Tries to delight customer using parroted phrases rather than personalizing the interaction Unable to answer query and transfers the call to someone in flight bookings department Source: Ovum High effort for agents to find information Assisting a customer often requires multiple open windows and programs: web browsers, CRM applications, billing information, programs, and web chat windows. Managing all of this information for one customer, let alone switching Page 2

3 from one customer to the next, is an extremely unwieldy and inefficient process. Enterprises need a way to consolidate customer data and make it easy for agents to quickly access specific information. Customers are frustrated with long call durations and difficulty gaining answers to queries The harder it is for agents to help customers, the more difficult it is for customers to get the information they need. When agents can't help customers, often customers call the contact center again (reducing satisfaction and increasing call volumes and handling times) or they have to troubleshoot on their own--often by digging through online forums, FAQs, noncompany branded websites, or tedious IVR self-service menus. Figure 2 illustrates some of the unnecessary effort required by customers and customer service agents. Difficult to manage disparate information across channels From a logistical standpoint, handling data over multiple channels is complex and contact centers must provide timely and consistent responses irrespective of the channel. In addition, if agents are handling customer interactions across different channels, they may have even more cluttering on their desktop. Blended customer service agents must be more adept at multitasking than their predecessors that were solely responsible for voice enquiries. It therefore behooves enterprises to provide the tools that simplify this multitasking as much as possible so that agents spend less time figuring out which tasks to perform and more time performing them to the best of their abilities. Figure 2: Customer and agent effort is too high and they spend too long finding information Customer pain points Signs on to different applications Slow and repetitive entry of customer information Limited historical customer data Unaware of queries carried out via different channels Doesn t have relevant information and needs to transfer call Difficulty navigating multiple screens Slow access to new product information or application updates Agent pain points Not able to find useful information online Self-service system is difficult to use and customer is routed to the wrong agent Inconsistency with online information and answers agent provides Needs to be transferred as agent doesn t understand problem Has to wait on hold while agent finds and updates information resulting in long call Source: Ovum Page 3

4 Legacy technology makes altering processes time consuming New products, consumer trends, and government regulations will always affect enterprise policies. Unfortunately, it's difficult for contact centers to address constant change. To change business rules, enterprises cannot simply implement new policies to which agents must adhere; such changes require ongoing training for agents who must learn new rules, follow them consistently and, if necessary, communicate them clearly to callers. In other words, desktops need to be dynamic to implement contact center policy changes uniformly across a large population of agents. Unnecessary focus on customer delight rather than meeting customer needs As the maxim goes: Those who seek to please everybody please nobody. Customers rarely complain if a service engagement didn't "delight" them. However they complain quite readily when a service engagement leaves them unsatisfied and with their issue unresolved. And yet, enterprises often have a misguided focus on delighting customers rather than meeting basic expectations. According to a 2010 study in the Harvard Business Review, customers whose expectations were exceeded were only marginally more loyal than those whose expectations were simply met. It is simply not worth the costly and time-consuming efforts enterprises exert in trying to go above and beyond. Enterprises should instead focus on meeting customer needs and solving their issues. The best way to enable agents to focus on the fundamentals is to invest in tools that tailor agent data to customers reasons for calling and to automate processes to streamline agent tasks and access to important customer data. DEFINING THE SMART AGENT DESKTOP The smart agent desktop aims to solve many of these pain points for contact centers and agents. It brings all relevant information into composite views, reducing the number of screens to make agent customer interactions more seamless. The agent has a single point of reference for all customer information and a single set of login details. This reduces the constant switching between applications to obtain information from disparate sources, making the agent more efficient at dealing with customer queries. The following are some of the features that Ovum believes constitute a smart agent desktop. Composite views of information A smart desktop aggregates important information and presents it in an integrated workspace with composite views that change based on the type and process step in a particular customer interaction. Agents can quickly obtain the data they need without having to sift through numerous windows and programs. By integrating applications and linking data, IT departments are able to make changes and updates swiftly and simultaneously. Contact center managers and IT staff gain one simplified system for maintenance and training. Automated workflow Managers can use process analytics and observation to determine popular workflows that agents go through when speaking to a customer. They can then automate repeated activities, such as data entry or copy and paste between applications, enabling agents to navigate systems faster. Agents gain a simplified desktop, reduced repetition and are able to answer customer queries faster. In addition, enterprises can onboard new agents more quickly as the new staff has fewer operational tasks to learn. Contextual and real-time guidance A smart agent desktop allows enterprises to push contextual information to the agent in real-time during a call. Agents gain rapid access to relevant information and the amount of effort needed to respond to customers is reduced. Figure 3 shows an example of a guided agent script for an airline. The script automatically changes according to the customer needs and actions that the agent takes on the desktop, Page 4

5 ensuring agents answer queries quickly and accurately. By integrating historical customer information with scripts, agents are able to provide customers with a more personalized service that suits their specific needs. Business managers can alter scripts and guidance as products and business needs change. A smart agent desktop provides a centralized and graphical management system that makes such alterations easy. Figure 3: Real-time agent guidance ensures the agent responds quickly and accurately to customers Source: Cicero Reporting and dashboards Smart agent desktops also include a centralized system for reporting, enabling contact center managers to understand how agents perform their tasks. Managers are able to view how and when agents use each application as well as telephony data in order to deliver blended reporting and dashboards. They can use this information to pinpoint agent pain points and optimize the system by automating workflows. BENEFITS OF THE SMART AGENT DESKTOP Implementing a smart agent desktop solution provides benefits for enterprises, agents and customers. Agents gain better access to information and are able to deliver more accurate responses, thereby improving confidence and job satisfaction. Customers have their queries answered faster by more knowledgeable agents, spending less time on hold and satisfaction improves. Importantly, these customers also do not call back into contact centers trying to settle unresolved issues, often taking their frustrations out on the agents, raising agent frustration levels. Contact center managers spend less time training new agents and are able to quickly adapt workflows and agent guidance according to changing requirements. The end Page 5

6 result is that agents and customers expend less effort to find the information they require and the business gains loyal customers and more efficient processes. Figure 4 lists some of the main benefits realized by implementing a smart agent desktop and the impact on the contact center. The most immediate results are a reduction in AHT as agents can find information faster, also leading to a reduction of training time. Over a longer time period, both customer satisfaction and workplace morale improve. Figure 4: Benefits realized from implementing a smart agent desktop Benefit Average handle time Agent training time Customer satisfaction Agent morale and staff retention Source: Ovum Contact center impact Agents are able to find information faster and provide more accurate answers to customers. They are able to answer queries in a timely manner and average call length is reduced. This leads to higher agent productivity, improved first call resolution rates and a more efficient contact center. By delivering an intuitive agent desktop solution that offers relevant guidance for agents, contact center managers spend less time training new agents. New hires only have one simplified desktop to become familiar with and information from different applications is stored in one location, reducing the number of logins agents need to remember. By utilizing a unified desktop with agent guidance, customer queries are answered quickly and accurately. Moreover, because agents have a better understanding of each caller, they can offer more personalized service by leveraging caller information. Customers spend less time on hold or speaking to agents that do not have relevant responses readily available as well as less effort searching for information on online forums, FAQs, and non-company branded websites following an unsatisfactory agent conversation. Equipping agents with better tools ultimately makes interacting with a business more effortless for customers as well. Agents, armed with rich customer data and understanding of company policies, can now confidently assist with complicated service requests without spending time trying to figure out protocol or escalating a call to a more skilled agent. Agents gain confidence because they can answer queries accurately and efficiently, in turn improving morale. Ovum believes that if agents are more satisfied with their work, they will also be less likely to leave the organization. Therefore, truly smart agent desktops can help reduce the financial stress of employee churn. Case study - Fortune 500 Healthcare Insurance Provider Drivers for implementing a new smart agent desktop solution A large international healthcare insurance provider identified an opportunity to improve efficiency in its contact centers. The organization runs four contact centers across the US, employing 2,000 agents. Its agents used 17 different applications, offering plenty of opportunity to improve processes and standardize information. The organization wanted to shorten its new hire training time and improve efficiencies during seasonal ramp up times. As with many similar companies, the healthcare insurance provider found it had issues with agent retention; agents were frustrated at having to navigate several different applications to find information and enter the same repetitive data. They wanted to improve the agents work environment and improve morale; they wanted to implement a more efficient desktop solution to make the agent s job easier. To accomplish this, the company deployed a smart agent desktop that automatically populated redundant data across multiple systems, offered a single login for different applications and provided easier system navigation. In turn, by Page 6

7 improving the agent work environment and access to information, the healthcare insurance provider intended to improve customer satisfaction. Benefits realized after deploying a new desktop system The healthcare insurance provider identified two pilot teams: a seasoned group of agents and an entry-level group of new hires. It implemented Cicero s agent desktop solution and agents gained a streamlined application login and a single integrated toolbar to improve system navigation. Figure 5 indicates the time average handle time (AHT) was reduced for both seasoned agents and new hires. The provider was able to realize its goal to reduce training for new hires and the AHT after implanting the new desktop was less for new hires that it was for seasoned agents initially. Reducing AHT by an average of 20%, allowed the healthcare provider to save $1.5 million in the first year of using the Cicero agent desktop. Figure 5: Reduction in average handle time for seasoned agents and new hires. Seasoned agent New hire Average call time pre implementation of smart desktop 7 minutes 40 seconds 9 minutes 34 seconds Average call time after implementing smart desktop 6 minutes 26 seconds 7 minutes 8 seconds Reduction in average call time 1 minute 14 seconds 2 minutes 26 seconds Perc entage reduction in average call time 16% 25% Source: Ovum Conclusion Following implementation of Cicero's smart agent desktop solution, agent morale improved. Agents reported feeling less like automatons as the new desktop automate routine processes such as entering and re-entering customer's information. This perked up job satisfaction levels as those agents were no longer forced to do tedious and repetitive work. Moreover, agents who weren't naturally proficient with multitasking or computer skills felt more confident as they no longer had to navigate through five different systems at once. Consequently, agents spent less time on data entry, eliminating dead air, and were able to provide better service to callers as well as personalize each interaction. The new agent desktop also meant a reduction in the errors when accessing information, helping improve the quality of information that customers received. Remember that frustrated airline passenger we talked about earlier? Here is what that interaction would look like if the enterprise had adopted a smart agent desktop. Following the IVR interaction, the customer would be routed to an agent that was ready to handle a flight change. The agent would know the customer s background and flight reservation dates, asking only a couple of security questions to confirm the details. The agent explains the company s policy around flight changes and clicks a box to select that the customer would like to change their booking. Real-time guidance helps the agent to use optimal words and a phrase, ensuring the customer feels fairly treated. The speedy and assured response from the agent fills the customer with confidence and they are happy to pay an additional fee to change the booking. The agent s smart agent desktop automatically pulls up the flight schedule and indicates additional pricing so the agent can provide different options to the customer. Once the customer chooses a new flight time, the agent needs only to make one click to populate each field, rather than having to copy and paste data between the flights database, CRM screen, and billing application. The agent is taken straight to an integrated billing system to process the cost difference and a Page 7

8 compliance tool screens the customer credit card information. The interaction between the customer and agent is resolved on the first call, and because of the advantages of the smart agent desktop the call length is shortened, resulting in a satisfied customer and a confident and productive agent. Enterprises need to understand how much time agents waste sifting through a traditional desktop to either provide or discover customer information. In knowing how much effort agents expend and under what circumstances, enterprises can select the customized solution that best serves their needs. They will also have the opportunity to optimize their smart agent desktop such that it will best rectify existing business pain points. And more than simply measuring effort, enterprises will understand particular agent frustrations with certain applications. Contact center managers will have the information to tailor desktops according to agent needs, ultimately making it easier for agents to efficiently perform their tasks and make it easier for them to provide first-contact resolution for incoming callers. First contact resolution is particularly important given the difficulty customers often face when searching for help answering service queries. If customers can t find the information they require during the first call with an agent, they must utilize other means, such as asking peers on forums or social media, or even making a second call into the contact center. Conversely, some customers call to speak with an agent only after they were unable to find information online or via . For this reason, agents need to be better equipped to provide swift and reliable service. Enterprises should tailor scripts and agent guidance according to customer needs. Contact centers should also be prepared to adapt agent guidance as business needs change, such as when a new product or promotion is released. In addition, contact center managers should monitor agents, using tools such as process or desktop analytics, to understand how their desktops currently perform and where improvement needs to occur. Armed with this knowledge, enterprises will have a clear sense of existing business needs and can approach a vendor-partner to help develop and implement a solution that can be continuously and easily updated as agents and customers continue to give feedback on existing applications and processes. Page 8

9 APPENDIX Authors Ryan Joe Analyst, Customer Interaction at Ovum Aphrodite Brinsmead Analyst, Customer Interaction at Ovum Disclaimer All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, Ovum (an Informa company). The facts of this report are believed to be correct at the time of publication but cannot be guaranteed. Please note that the findings, conclusions and recommendations that Ovum delivers will be based on information gathered in good faith from both primary and secondary sources, whose accuracy we are not always in a position to guarantee. As such Ovum can accept no liability whatever for actions taken based on any information that may subsequently prove to be incorrect. Page 9

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