By Gideon Hollander, CEO of Jacada Ltd.
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are powerful. And complicated.
CRM Call Center: Average Handle Time
Chances are, your call center agents use a CRM tool as one of the many applications on their desktop today. And it’s likely the CRM system serves as one of the primary “go to” applications utilized during a customer interaction. Which begs the question: Why is my average handle time (AHT) still so high?
One of the primary reasons companies encounter increased AHT with CRM on agent desktops is because CRM was never designed for a customer service interaction. Instead, CRM was created for customer management. This becomes readily apparent when agents attempt to perform seemingly straightforward customer service-oriented tasks in the system.
The steps, for example, may go something like this:
CRM Can Increase Average Handle Time in Your Call Center
1. The agent goes to the search screen to find customer.
2. Then the agent navigates to another tab.
3. Then the agent opens a dialogue box to see the previous call notes.
4. Then the agent moves to another tab to see current services.
5. Then the agent opens each service in turn to see current bill payment status.
6. Then the agent closes these views and backs out of two screens.
7. Then the agent opens the ticketing module.
8. Then the agent keys in the service ID.
Phew! The agent must perform at least eight steps, all within the first few minutes of the call, just to simply “know your customer”, before the actual call even gets underway. It’s no wonder customers and agents alike experience frustration!
The fact is, CRM systems are good for what they were built for – managing customer information. But there are limits to what they can do. For instance, CRM never really became the ”single view of the customer.” It never replaced other applications on an agent’s desktop or streamlined processes. Instead, CRM became just another desktop application that your agent needs to contend with.
In the interest of a fair argument, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that, in the majority of cases, organizations chose CRM to help with sales and marketing – they did not choose CRM to optimize the call center. Rather, the call center was forced to adopt the CRM system, inefficiencies and all.
Recognizing this unsuitability for the call center, CRM vendors started to add functionality to make it more appealing. In our view, the focus was on making the CRM application appealing to the holder of the purse strings in the call center, versus making it more appealing to the agent or customer.
Top CRM Software Vendors
In an attempt to meet call center needs, CRM vendors tried to add more functionality with the introduction of CTI (telephony) integration. Then they introduced dispositioning, or agent notes functionality, in order to annotate customer conversations.
However, time after time, feature after feature, the CRM vendors kept missing the mark with each new product enhancement. Today when you look at the implementation of call center functionality in CRM systems, it appears to be haphazard and an afterthought— as if CRM was never designed for call center functionality in the first place.
The net result is a large, monolithic, often highly-customized CRM application that serves as one of many applications an agent needs to use during a call. Making matters worse, most CRM systems are typically not well integrated into the other desktop applications, resulting in considerable “alt-tabbing.”
Additionally, the user interface(UI) of the CRM system is not designed for efficient customer interactions. Again, agents tab through multiple screens and dialogue boxes in order to perform very cursory functions, begging the question whether a CRM UI designer has ever spent any time in a call center or has any knowledge of AHT.
What are the options available to organization’s? Your call center likely inherited the CRM system downstream from the rest of the organization. This means it can be difficult to force changes upstream. In addition, typical customization of a CRM application can be extremely cost prohibitive. As a result, we see customers either (1) adopting a unified desktop, which incorporates the existing CRM system, or (2) utilizing new adaptive UIs for CRM.
The unified desktop space is not new. Instead of requiring your agents to “alt-tab” amongst all the applications, rekeying in 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 dramatically decreased, as well as agent training time.
New technology has also emerged as of late that recognizes both the facts that your organization may not want to adopt a unified desktop, and you are looking to simplify your existing CRM processes without a costly “rip and replace” cycle. In essence, this technology allows companies to dynamically create new views and processes on top of your existing CRM system.
The power lies in its simplicity and ease of use. This adaptive UI layer allows the business to assemble new CRM interfaces that mirror the optimal customer interaction process, all without requiring changes or customization to the CRM system itself. Best of all, there is no limit to the number of new UIs you can create. And since this new technology is utilizing the underlying CRM system and data, companies are not creating new silos of information.
Quite simply, thanks to access to better technology, organizations are creating new, more efficient processes out of their existing CRM systems. And most importantly, they’re finally starting to realize the benefits of what CRM promised: Reduced AHT!
About the Author
Gideon Hollander is the co-chief executive officer and founder of Jacada. Gideon is highly regarded for his strategic vision and innovation-centered leadership, and is focused on ensuring that Jacada delivers high quality, best-of-breed solutions. Prior to founding Jacada, Gideon was part of the research and development team at Comverse Technology. Prior to Comverse, he served in various technology and management positions in an elite unit of the Israeli Defense Forces, where he specialized in expert systems and user interface design. Two of the projects that Gideon managed won the most prominent Israeli award for technological innovations. Gideon also has a passion for rock and mountain climbing.
Jacada provides solutions that optimize and improve the effectiveness of customer service interactions. Jacada agent desktop and process optimization solutions help companies reduce the cost of their operations, drive customer satisfaction and provide a complete return on investment within the first year after deployment. More information is available at www.Jacada.com.