Independent Contact Center Consultants: Bridging Strategy, Technology and Operations Since 2004

Leaders and Staff Share Insights on CU Contact Center Operations

My last post took an analytical perspective on the state of credit union contact centers based on our proprietary Efficiency and Effectiveness Evolution (E3) Spectrums® tool. We also keep our fingers on the CU pulse through interactions with leaders and assessment project work that delivers direct input from frontline staff through surveys.

In CU contact center surveys and forums, we gathered input about agent location (and work-from-home specifically!) and learned some interesting things:

  • Hybrid (a mix of onsite and remote agents) is the predominant model today (70%) and will be in the future (76%). Roughly one-fifth of centers are (and will continue to be) exclusively onsite.
  • In the most common hybrid approach, some agents work exclusively onsite, some work exclusively from home. Agents who work from home must satisfy defined criteria.
  • Local only is the most common work from home (WFH) model, but centers are increasingly allowing broader geographies for remote agents.
  • Few centers are fully empowered to define staffing location policies; most centers must fit in with credit-union wide policies to some degree.
  • WFH is a strong tool for recruiting and hiring and a strong majority believe WFH staff can perform as well as in-house staff. Nonetheless, training, coaching and development, and engagement of WFH agents pose greater challenges.

Hiring, retention, and attendance remain daunting challenges for most centers. In a discussion forum I hosted, attendees shared their creative tactics:

  • planning sessionThey’ve boosted insights into the requirements and nature of the job by capturing a “day in the life” for prospective recruits.
  • They’ve sped up the timeline from application to offer (often working closely with HR partners!).
  • They’ve leveraged gamification, friendly/fun competition, and an assortment of “carrots” to drive engagement and attendance.
  • They’ve bumped pay and incentives with an eye toward retaining valued employees.

To complement the “top down” perspective, our surveys of frontline staff address a variety of topics including hiring, training, time to proficiency, knowledge sources, FCR, coaching, engagement, and career path. While results vary based on the center’s size, maturity, and culture, some interesting themes emerge:

  • Agents have a clear understanding of their positions. The hiring process works!
  • While training may be informal (e.g., one-to-one, on-the-job training), staff get comfortable quickly when they start handling contacts.
  • While time to proficiency varies, most agents attain competency within 3 months.
  • Most agents lean heavily on peers, emails, and desktop documents (“cheat sheets”) for information; their reliance on knowledge tools is low. Their inability to find the right information represents their biggest hindrance to achieving first contact resolution (FCR).
  • Coaching is too varied and infrequent; few meet the best practices targets consistently.
  • Credit unions achieve above average employee engagement relative to other contact center industry segments. However, like most centers, they hit below the mark in terms of compensation, rewards, and recognition.
  • Agents see greater career opportunities with other departments within the credit union than they do within the contact center.