Published on March 4, 2014
November 26, 2008 IDEATIONGROUP British Telcom call center outside London, England Resurrecting the Call Center Past & Future by Paige Brockmyre Call Center- deﬁned- a centralized ofﬁce used for the purpose of receiving and transmitting a large volume of requests by telephone. The Call Center is in a state of change. As technology moves to higher levels of sophistication, information and services are in increased demand, the role and design of the Call Center will transform into a new generation of Contact Centers. Not only will telemarketing, reservations and customer service be performed from this hub, but technical support, email, faxes and live chat. Take for example the Turkey Talk Line by Butterball - this call center provides cooking tips to holiday chefs. The entire mission of the Call Center will have to adapt, as will the operations and work environments. Challenges Every organization sets out to create an environment to foster efﬁciency and productivity. At a Call Center, agents are stationary at a workstation for hours at a time, endlessly glaring at a monitor, responding to repetitive-often negativeissues while maintaining a level of professionalism. This high-pressure environment not only lends itself to high absenteeism and a 50% turnover rate per year, but an increased incidence of musculoskeletal disorders, low morale and negativism towards clients. Common criticisms for the Call Center environment include poor facilities, cramped working conditions, impaired vision and hearing, and lack of privacy. 1 Not all the same Generally, most call centers fall within three basic types—Orchestrated, Traditional and Tactical Response. The model is determined by the nature of the work. Orchestrated call centers are often used for customer service departments, especially in utility companies. In orchestrated call centers, agents are looking to an electronic big board or other type of visual display for information on incoming calls. Agents may be working in anything from basic carrels to high-tech custom stations. Orchestrated call centers typically have the following attributes: Limited interaction between service representatives Group may be queued by electronic means 16-30 sq. ft per person Simple, direct transactions Rows, front-to-back, High density Forward facing Traditional call centers are often found where agents use a scripted message and are not highly reliant on each other for help with problem solving. Traditional call centers typically have the following attributes: Limited interaction between service representatives Direct supervisory control 16-30 sq. ft. per person Simple, direct transactions
IDEATIONGROUP November 26, 2008 Resurrecting the Call Center Past & Future Dual rows, end-to-end High density Representatives face inwards, towards each other Tactical Response call centers are found where the work is specialized and each member of the team has different, but complementary skills and knowledge. These can be found in any type of business. The agents in these types of call centers can be highly trained and/or have professional degrees, such as in 911 or brokerage centers. Tactical Response call centers typically have the following attributes: High degree of interaction between service representatives Moderate to complex transactions involving multiple professional disciplines Team conﬁgurations Many types of activity and collaboration More workspace than the average call center The Path toward Change In Haworth’s co-sponsored survey, The Annual Call Center Trend Survey with The Call Center Network Group, one key ﬁnding was “It takes more than salary to keep good people…call centers that are more sensitive to their workers and the workplace environment have lower rates of turnover.” (Annual Call Center Trend Survey 1999-2000. Workplace Change Enablers, in cooperation with the Call Center Network). There are several design implications that can directly impact the effectiveness of the call center. Today’s design requirements include: Teamwork and Collaboration Branding and Culture Attraction and Retention Proper Adjacencies and Amenities Visual stimulation Adaptable spaces Integrated technology In addition, progressive companies are acknowledging the direct impact call centers have on the entire organizations business strategy. Thus, companies are bringing these centers out from the “back forty” and positioning them as the Face of the Corporation. Now, when the client tour passes through the call center, it will not only be designed 2 well and attractively, it will be populated by professional and satisﬁed agents. A comprehensive design with a holistic approach will examine the three critical organizational factors that will inﬂuence not only the call center but the entire corporate environment. This approach will also address: Turnover and training cost reduction Absenteeism and disability claim reduction Increase in productivity and teamwork Increase in customer satisfaction as a result of increased employee satisfaction Organizational Performance Investing in workplace design is an investment both in the people and the organization. Considering both people and place in the workspace design, allows any organization to become the ideal proﬁt center. Innovative call centers are designed with a 24/7 operations strategy. This approach accomplishes the three main objectives of a call center: Productivity, Retention/Recruitment and Space Utilization. Some design elements that create work/life balance and reduce absenteeism include: Exercise facilities Quiet break areas Food service, snack shops, kitchens Child and Elder care facilities Personal care facilities Common social areas Security In most call centers, a hotelling concept is applied in one way or another. Many centers will use this concept during special promotions or product recalls. Hotelling can be a challenging concept when not planned with the human factor in mind. Human Performance Labor is more than 60% of a call center’s operating cost. The physical, social, and behavioral aspects of work that Call Centers engage in should be supported by the workspace. Improving Ergonomics is one key factor toward worker health and productivity. Proper workstations coupled with the proper training on how to use
IDEATIONGROUP November 26, 2008 Resurrecting the Call Center Past & Future furniture and technology to avoid injury are key to proper design. Ergonomics: adjustable workstations to include seating, storage, surfaces, tools, lighting and technology - reduce awkward twists and reaches for tools therefore improving posture and reducing musculoskeletal disorders and disability claims. Seating: adjustable height, depth, width, back height, arm articulation, comfort. Lighting: provide non-glare, natural, ambient, direct and task. Storage: lockable, varied sizes, stationary and moveable, dedicated personal and work units. Personalization: designed to support individual organizational tools and elements of personality. For example, providing a digital photo frame which allows individual agents to use a ﬂash drive for personal photos. Reversible bulletin boards and white boards also provide personalization. Individual head sets. Adding hands-free headsets can improve productivity by up to 43%.(2) Facility Performance The physical environment should be created to support workplace productivity and promote employee/customer satisfaction. In addition, an “open environment” also offers greater visibility for both team members and managers. Design elements include: Team Areas that display team performance goals and competitive results. Training rooms that offer ample power supplies and mobile equipment. Flexible room conﬁgurations to accommodate smaller groups, seasonal employees, a new product launch or temporary call campaigns. Walls designed to attach ﬂipcharts and whiteboards to encourage teamwork and communication. Technology equipment rooms that will support future intelligent technologies. Integrate cost saving technologies such as VoIP. Quality monitoring and performance feedback suites. Some time reduction/increased proﬁt strategies include positioning amenities, break and collaborative areas adjacent to workers to allow for frequent authorized breaks. An extra two minutes to get to a restroom, copy area or break room can add as much as 25 hours per year lost agent time. 3 The move to “open’ collaborative spaces provides several beneﬁts to the call center agent including satisfying the human need to feel as if they are part of a smaller group. They also eliminate the “boiler room” mentality and promote increased knowledge transfer from veteran to rookie agents. Pairing this move with the growing trend toward zigzag or saw tooth design layouts, 120degree planning models, serpentine plans and clusters support the acknowledgement by corporations and designers that human satisfaction has a direct impact on call center efﬁciency and productivity. Individual workspace design elements that compliment this trend include: Adding elements of visual appeal for branding and talent attraction and retention. Painting interiors soft colors to appeal to emotional levels, improve productivity and reduce stress Installing translucent partitions alone or above acoustical panels to provide noise reduction but allowing natural lightning. Introducing white or pink noise generators to reduce overall noise level, using acoustic ceiling panels or ﬂoor screens and fabric or vinyl walls that absorb sound, hanging art work without noise reﬂecting glass. Self regulated temperature vents from raised access ﬂoors. Adding trees and plants to improve ambiance and air quality. The ability to incorporate all of these design features creates a foundation in which the call center agents and other members of the organization can work in harmony and improve business performance. Future Implications As more companies increase their distributed workforce and as Gen Y becomes integrated into the talent pool, Call Centers will face new challenges. Recently there has been a move to Homeshoring, which is a combination of outsourcing and telecommuting. 5 motivations towards Homeshoring: Increased cost of talent recruitment and retention. In Homeshoring, talent is not restricted by traditional work hours or commuting distance.
IDEATIONGROUP November 26, 2008 Resurrecting the Call Center Past & Future Average talent cost per hour of Traditional Call Center $31 vs. Virtual Call Center $21. (1) Complex interactions require higher educated and professional staff. Talent college – level education at Traditional Call Center less than 20% vs. Virtual Call Center 80%. (1) Decreased cost and increased availability of wiﬁ capabilities at home. Criticism against offshored call centers and increasing wage bills in offshoring areas. Sustainability. The 4 million contact center agents currently working in UK, US and Canada produce in excess of 6 million tons of CO2 each year. (Exony, 2007) The addition of Gen Y to the call center agent population will add challenges in each of the organizational, facility and human performance factors. This is a generation that will use the position of a call center agent as a training opportunity and a stepping stone to future positions. They are tech-savvy and enjoy new innovative technology challenges. They challenge knowledge and demand information on the origin of such knowledge. They expect change and results to happen quickly and at their request. This challenge should not be confused with impatience, but with inquisitiveness and the desire to excel. Gen Y will be a welcome addition to the fast-paced, information intensive and technological complexity of the Call Center. Total Card Services, Sioux Falls, SD University of Phoenix - Phoenix, AZ House Values - Yakima, WA Klutz - Palo Alto, CA SITEL – Kelowna, BC Canada T- Mobil – Portland, ME USAA - Phoenix, AZ Public Safety Tree Centers – Boston, MA Citibank – Florence, KY Fire Dispatch AA Co. - Arundel Co, MD Allstate - Indianapolis, IN Lexmark - Lexington, KY IBM - Dallas, TX Prudential Insurance - Scottsdale, AZ State Of Michigan - Grand Rapids MI State Farm - Tempe, AZ Capital One - Tampa, FL Total Systems - Columbus, GA First Union Mortgage - Raleigh, N.C. 4 Call Center References Blue Cross Blue Shield - Grand Rapids, MI Kelly Service's - Troy MI Fanuc Robotics - Auburn Hill, MI Comerica Bank - Auburn Hills, MI Charter Communication - Simpsonville, SC Blue Cross Blue Shield - Columbia, SC Discover – Riverwoods, IL PHEAA – Philadelphia, PA eBay Inc - Omaha Nebraska Home Depot Supply - San Diego, CA and New Braunfels, TX Computer Sciences Corporation - Dallas, Texas Cendant/Orbitz - Chicago, IL Wells Fargo Home Mortgage – Various Locations Enterprise Rent a Car – St. Louis, MO Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina Columbia DIRECTV - Tulsa, OK and Huntsville, AL LL Bean - Bangor, Waterville and Northport, ME. Convergys India Services Pvt Ltd - Bangalore, India Digi Telecommunication - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Chicago Tribune, 04/11/05; http:// pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/index.html? ts=11211869809 H.B. Maynard The Call Center-Not Just Another Ofﬁce. Judy Voss, David Fik, Jennifer Hohne, 2000 CallCenterMagazine, www.callcentermagazine.com International Customer Management Institute, www.icmi.com The Intelligent Contact Center, Interactive Intelligence 2007 Offshoring Alternatives: Keeping Call Centers Home. CoreNet Global 2006 CenterCore Unveils Nationwide Call Center Survey Results. The Monday Morning Quarterback 1998 Homeshoring predicted to grow. CoreNet Global 2007 Call Centers: In-shore, Near-shore, Off-shore? CoreNet Global 2005 Improve your Call Center with an Ergonomics Makeover. Call Center CRM solutions, 2000
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