For all the strides made in measuring customer satisfaction, the contact center by-and-large remains a metrics-driven organization, constantly striving to improve on key performance indicators, the most common being Average Handle Time (AHT) and First Call Resolution (FCR). To complicate matters, metrics such as AHT can be completely counter to the goal of improved customer service. After all, you’re trying to get the customer off the phone as quickly as possible! While the trend is to improve customer service experience, few contact centers are being compensated on this metric. Part of the reason is that the meaning of “customer service” is vague at best, and often not exclusively within the domain of the call center. For example, poor return policies at the corporate level may hamper the agent’s ability to offer adequate compensation to a customer. Thus, AHT and FCR remain the primary measurement yardsticks within a contact center, with customer service being an overall goal. Of course, a correlation between AHT and customer service does exist. If an agent can effectively and efficiently service a customer support request in the minimal time necessary without sacrificing on quality, then a win-win situation has been reached. So what, then, is the biggest burden to improved AHT? Without a doubt, the sheer number of applications needed to service a customer interaction, and the complexity of the applications themselves, presents the greatest barrier to improving AHT and customer service. Put more simply, contact centers typically fall into two camps: those suffering from Desktop Complexity – a large number of un-integrated applications on the agent desktop, requiring a lot of redundant data entry and navigation, and those suffering from Application Complexity – fewer applications on the desktop but significant complexity with lengthy and cumbersome navigation sequences required to perform seemingly simple tasks. Simplifying Desktop Complexity Desktop complexity is typically solved through unified desktop solutions. In addition to the technology, significant “as-is/to-be” process remodeling of both the customer interaction and the underlying business processes are performed. Unified desktops change the agent interaction to be customer-driven instead of systems-driven. By optimizing the call process and agent tools as well as focusing on the customer, agents are more effective, resulting in a lower AHT and increased FCR, while achieving a better customer service experience overall. The unified desktop allows you to model customer interaction processes that optimally serve the customer, instead of driving the customer experience by forcing the agent to follow the unnatural flow of the CRM application. With the unified desktop, your existing applications are interwoven into new customer-friendly processes and enabled by tools that empower your agents. The unified desktop space is not new. Instead of requiring your agents to “alt-tab” amongst all the applications, rekeying data in multiple screens and generally fighting the systems, the unified desktop provides a veneer over all these applications, giving the agent a single point of entry and interaction with all the underlying systems. It’s not hard to see why these are popular solutions. By streamlining the interaction through removal of redundant key strokes and simplification (and automation!) of keystrokes, AHT is sharply decreased. Not to mention the reduction in agent training time. Overcoming Application Anxiety Application complexity, on the other hand, is solved through newer user interface technology (UI) coming to the market, in essence adopting your complex UI with a more streamlined, contact center-specific UI. One of the better examples of application complexity is CRM systems. Corporations primarily experience increased AHT with the introduction of CRM onto the agent desktop because CRM systems were never designed for a customer service interaction. Rather, CRM was designed for customer management. Not customer service. This becomes readily apparent once you see the navigation sequences necessary to carry out seemingly simple customer support-oriented tasks, usually involving moving through a number of screens, tabs, and drill-downs to reach the required information. The real reason for these awkward processes is in fact quite simple: CRM was never built to talk to the customer. CRM was designed for Sales and Marketing, who do not need to deal with the “real-time” nature of a customer conversation. Yet when call center agents use CRM systems, they need to be able to move quickly through their user interface to get to the heart of the matter for the customer. As a result, when the call center was forced to adopt the CRM system, customer conversations became much more expensive.