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Blended diallers drive efficiencies and improve costs in the contact centre

11 March 2015

By Marco van Biljoen, Executive Head: Gauteng and Central, The Jasco Group

Contact centres, especially outsourced ones that provide services to a multitude of customers, face the challenge of balancing resources and technology between the two main types of service – inbound and outbound. Traditionally, these functions have operated separately from each other within the contact centre environment, each with its own staff, management and technology allocation. The reasons for this segregation include the different skills required for inbound and outbound functions, as well as the technology that has been available. However, this is often an inefficient practice, as agents may be idle for part of their shift, and both productivity and revenue are lost. Blended diallers offer the ideal solution to this challenge, merging the two functions to ensure maximum productivity and optimising costs.

Within the contact centre, the two functions of inbound and outbound form the crux of operations. Inbound is tasked with taking calls from customers that have queries, require a new product or service or simply require information or assistance. Outbound agents usually make calls to a database of customers in order to sell them product or collect monies. Both are essential functions, and have traditionally required vastly different skill sets. However, inefficiencies become clear when examining the pattern of calls within a contact centre. Inbound agents may experience a sudden spike in calls, leading to long hold times for consumers, while outbound agents are still dialling out when their assistance on the inbound queue would improve customer service. Conversely when inbound agents experience a slump in calls, the outbound agents could benefit from the additional manpower.

In addition, such a segregated function requires contact centres to maintain two sets of technology and applications, as well as employ two sets of supervisors and management and up to double the number of agents. Furthermore, segregated reporting fails to provide a complete and accurate view of the contact centre, yet integrating these reports can provide challenging and time consuming. When one considers that labour typically constitutes 65% of the total operating expense of a contact centre, there are many benefits to be derived from merging or blending these two functions. The cost of maintaining a segregated contact centre goes straight to the bottom line.

This legacy approach, traditionally resulting from the need for different skill sets in inbound and outbound functions, is increasingly being replaced by the use of blended diallers. More intelligent systems and functionality enable agents to fulfil a dual role, or even to be assigned to a specific customer set based on their skills profile, improving functionality and efficiencies within the contact centre. Blended diallers can dynamically and seamlessly switch blended agents from one function to the other, depending on call volumes and contact centre requirements. When examining call patterns within a contact centre, it becomes clear that incoming calls experience spikes and troughs – people tend to call in when they have time, which is generally in the morning before work, at lunch, or after work. At other times, inbound agents may be sitting idle. Whilst they experience these non-productive segments, they can be moved to the outbound function seamlessly, and then shifted back to the inbound queue as necessary. For example, when the inbound queue is experiencing low call levels, the blended dialler can initiate outbound calls for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) purposes and courtesy calls. This can assist greatly to improve the customer experience and their perception of the business.

Blended diallers offer an automated solution to ensuring that contact centre agents maintain productivity KPIs, generally around 85%, without them having to continually log out and log back in to separate systems to minimise downtime. This helps to reduce agent costs, as agents can be optimised, and productivity increased. In addition, technology spend can be reduced as one system is used for both inbound and outbound functions. However, when implementing a blended environment, contact centres must pay careful attention to the training of agents. For example, the attitude and tone of an outbound agent that is collecting debt is different to an inbound customer service oriented agent. Poorly trained agents can severely damage customer relations, so this must be adequately addressed before moving outbound agents into an inbound role.

Contact centres have a vital role to play for many businesses, and thus optimising efficiency and customer service are top of mind concerns. Using a blended dialler solution, enterprises can leverage improved productivity, better customer service and reduced costs, creating a win-win scenario for all parties. If sufficient attention is given to the training of agents for a blended role, the benefits realised can be significant.