Text: Christian Pijnenborgh

The question which many contact centre managers frequently ask themselves is in which way an efficient contact centre operation can be organized by making use of the knowledge and experience of the employees in a right way, in order to handle client contacts as effective as possible. The benefits of working with skill-groups are formed by a higher efficiency of the contact centre and a lower agent churn, combined with lower training costs and clients who get a better service.

Single-skilled versus Multi-skilled
Broadly speaking working with specialities at agent level in a contact centre is preferred. Particularly in medium-sized contact centre environments (>50 seats) the deployment of single-skilled agents is often applied. When the volume is smaller, it can be advisable to work partially with multi-skilled agents. These agents have the skills to deal with different conversation topics.

Agent Life Cycle
As far as the agent life cycle – also called career planning – is concerned it is preferred to train the agents in phases, which means they are trained via modules. Because of this working with modules it’s possible to link a pay plan to it with pay levels based on experience. By initially training agents with regards to basic skills, the first period can be seen as a probationary period in order to determine whether or not the agent is suitable for the job. During his career, the agent can be trained with regards to specialized skills so that he can excel in his field. The latter is a very important issue for the satisfaction an agent can get when doing his job. Considering the repetitive character of a job at the contact centre, this is something of unknown value!

Client perception
Client perception is characterized by the image that the client has of the agent’s ability to understand, analyse and solve his problem. The fact that this answer is sometimes given after a transfer to a specialist is generally not perceived as negative. Clients also don’t see it as a negative thing that they have to identify themselves via an automated system if this benefits the eventual service provision.

Skill Based Routing
In order to make sure that the contact is handled by the right agents, the traffic gets routed through the ACD by means of SBR (Skill Based Routing). SBR is a principle that has been a known and applied concept for years in the contact centre field. By combining these routings with client profiles it is possible to form interesting combinations. Apart from telephony, also contacts like letters/text messages/e-mail can be routed as a call to the most suitable candidate.
Clients can be identified via IVR, or in the future by speech recognition, and be routed on the basis of a routing mechanism.

Applications Skill Based Routing
Think about a procedure where a client contacts the contact centre again within a period of x days and gets routed to an expert on the basis of this observation, in order to be sure that the possible problem will now be analysed by an expert.
Or the gold-customers who are routed to their very own specialist via speech recognition with whom after a period of time a 1:1 relationship develops, in the form of a personal adviser in the field of booking vacations and hotels.

Workforce Management
Working with different skill sets and client profiles creates an extra dimension in the field of planning different traffic streams, where the right tool in the form of Workforce Management can offer the right solution. This discipline knows a growing role qua importance by realizing that combining the right employee with the right client/client case increasingly forms the key to success. This trend will continue in the years to come and an extra dimension will be added to the routing principles; the historic results of the employee on the basis of C-Sat results (Customer Satisfaction).

Christian Pijnenborgh is Managing Director at Teleperformance Netherlands