call centre

How to manage call centre staff effectively

man and woman in call centre office

According to Bizcommunity, an accurate, efficient and effective workforce management in a contact centre is essential to ensure premium customer service levels and minimize staff churn, but it relies on a lot more information than a simple schedule of planned campaigns.

In fact, as any contact centre manager will tell you, the real crises in contact centre workforce management arise when business processes, operations and marketing initiatives across the organisation are not factored in. Hence, input from the whole business – not just the contact centre manager – is vital.

Says Paul Fick, MD of Spescom DataFusion, a provider of integrated communication solutions and platforms for call centres and enterprises: “In today’s contact centres, customer call volumes are moving targets. When you factor in multiple sites, expanded media options, agent proficiencies and preferences and customer expectations, the task of forecasting and scheduling becomes difficult to manage without the right tools and sophisticated analysis. However, even the most sophisticated tools are useless if analysis is not based on relevant input – and that includes not just data of historical activities but information relating to current initiatives across the business.”

Communication is vital

To gain access to this information, managers within all business divisions need to be made aware of how their activities can impact the contact centre, notes Fick. They also need to communicate their strategies such as targeting new markets to grow revenue and initiatives in a timely fashion to ensure accurate contact centre workforce planning and forecasting. To facilitate this, a suitable workforce management application needs to be introduced.

It’s important to select a workforce management solution that will enable maximum flexibility. “Call volumes in a contact centre will vary depending on marketing campaigns, seasons, holidays and other events. A workforce management solution that allows the workforce management team to select, combine and alter current and historical data to predict future call volume and plan accordingly is thus essential. They will also need to be able to set up profiles to model call volume behaviour for different events and circumstances,” says Fick, adding..

“Multi-site management will additionally allow for a single point of control over the entire network, and decision-making at individual sites. Information such as key contact centre metrics like contact volume, average speed to answer or service levels, presents a complete picture of your entire contact centre operation.”

Tracking performance, activity

Other functionality to look out for in workforce management solutions are advanced adherence capabilities that track schedule adherence, including activities that are not phone-related such as front-end and back-office activities. Says Fick: “This function should comprehensively collect and display data on how employees are spending their time throughout the day, and where there are discrepancies between the schedule and reality. Improving visibility into these agent activities will help the business streamline work processes, increase employee productivity, and control operational costs.”

Concludes Fick: “Although there’s no exact formula for predicting the workload of calls, emails, and chat sessions, it is possible to model call behaviour for different types of events and circumstances as well as work out complex “what if” scenarios to help ensure that you have the right staff to support customer service operations. With the right information from the business, you can quickly and easily produce schedules that maximise the efficiency of your contact centre, enabling you to deploy the right number of agents, with the right skill sets, at the right time.”

Article sourced from: http://www.bizcommunity.com/



Decent Work in the BPO sector

Decent Work in the BPO sector

Following the Polokwane conference, decent work for all has become one of the ANC’s key priorities.*1 According to the IOL and WTO, decent work opportunites involve creating freely chosen, productive jobs for women and men; jobs that are in safe, healthy, participatory work environments and that afford them decent and equitable remuneration, social protection and, whenever possible, professional development. *2 All of the above criteria that define decent jobs can be found in contact centres because they offer:

Permanent Jobs with Good Pay

Only 25% of staff are temporary workers compared to the national average of 50% of all workers. More than half of employees stay with the same employer for more than two years.

Contact Centers pay well and provide good advancement opportunities. Average entry level salary for agents with no experience are R6561 per month. Agents with experience earn on average R8339. Salaries for supervisors raise to R12 4573 and go as high as R60 000 for top managers.

In 2008, salaries increased by 20%, a rate significantly exceeding inflation, testimony to the growth of demand in the sector and a shortage in supply of skilled people in the sector. *4

Since good customer service ultimately depends on motivated employees contact centers are typically managed according to best HR practices, in compliance with the labour law.

Basic benefits are also provided for eg, medical aid, provident fund, wellness programmes. All statutory benefits are administered in accordance with the labour relations act and basic conditions of employment.


Professional Development

Contact centers present a well defined career path. Qualifications for agents, supervisor and managers are registered with SAQA as per the National Qualifications Framework.

52% of contact centers have their training materials SETA accredited. 56% of companies train their staff for more than 10 days a year.

Apart from a career in the contact center industry, graduates can also pursue careers in: customer care, sales, marketing, IT and administration. As a matter of fact, contact center employees are sought after because of their understanding of the world of work and their exceptional communication, customer service skills and computer skills. *5


Safe and Equitable Employment

The workforce is largely representative of the population, 85% of agents and 75% of supervisors are historically disadvantaged individuals, equally distributed across both genders.

Contact center work is a white-collar profession. It is therefore safe. Each workstation is equipped with a computer. 74% of contact centers have more than 5m2 meter of space per consultants. 68% have canteens. 43% have acoustic control.

We can speak about the standards which have been developed by the contact center industry and are SABS governed. This also contributes to safety and equitable environment.

Because contact center work is not physically demanding, it is well suited for the physically disabled. 78% of contact centres have access for the disabled and 72% have special toilets. *6


Jobs That Help Reduce Poverty

The industry has created over 100’000 jobs in the last five years and is expected to generate at least that many jobs over the same period in future especially since the BPO sector is one of the key pillars of governments industrial strategy.

Ideally suited for school levers, 48% of contact centers do not require previous experience and 68% require only Matric as entry level qualification

Contact Centers can also make a contribution to rural development. Given the industry’s continuous demand for new people, contact center operators prefer to set up new sites in places where workers are readily available as is the case in rural areas. Leveraging that trend, the DTI has therefore created incentives for companies to move into designated underdeveloped areas, in order to spread the opportunity and shift the focus away from more active regions.


Multiplier Effects

Research by the Business Trust shows that for every new direct job in the BPO sector, three other indirect jobs are created. If one takes into account that the average family has four members, for every job created in the BPO industry 12 people are benefited.


The BPO sector has enjoyed robust growth over the past five years. As customers expect ever more from businesses, contact centers have hired on average 15% more people every year, growing the industry from 70 000 to 170 000 employees *7.

Traditionally, contact centers have employed inexperienced people, particularly large companies which have their own in-house training programmes. Learnerships are therefore common in that sector. Almost half of all contact centers have had learners in their businesses.*8 As companies are forced to do more with less, they are now even more open to alternative means of recruitment and training. A recent request for expression of interest into learnerships by the industry association was oversubscribed by a factor of ten. In short, learners are in demand by the industry.


Despite the current economic downturn, the sector is expected to prosper especially since the South African government has identified the Business Process Outsourcing and Off-shoring (BPO&O) sector as one of the top three priority sectors to stimulate growth within its Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative (ASGI-SA).


“Recent events would only reinforce the need to continue with offshoring. Anything that delivers cost savings will be encouraged.“ The Everest Research Institute expects the growth rate of the offshore BPO market to be tempered in the short-term, i.e., between 0-10% over the next 18 months to pick-up once again in the region of 20-30% by 2011-12, to eventually grow at 50% per annum, which is expected to lead to 100,000 new jobs *9


Given the positive prospects for creating new employment in the sector and the willingness of the sector to employ learners, the proposed project will be sustainable in the long term.


1 ANC Today, Volume 8, No. 2 •18—24 January 2008:http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/anctoday/2008/at02.htm#art1

2 International Labour Organisation: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/afpro/cairo/

3 BPO & Call Centre Report 2007/08, p146

4 Kelly Contact Centre Salary Survey 2008

5 South African Qualifications Authority: http://regqs.saqa.org.za/viewQualification.php?id=67466

6 BPO & Call Centre Report 2007/08

7 BPO & Call Centre Report 2007/08, Multimedia Group, 2008

8 BPO & Call Centre Report 2007/08, Multimedia Group, 2008 p84

9 Ready to Compete, The Everest Group and Letsema Consulting, Department of Trade and Industry


Learnerships pay dividends!

South African government incentives for broad-based black economic empowerment have encouraged companies to invest in skills development training for existing staff as well as new recruits. Companies that have the infrastructure and capital to fund customised skills training can apply for limited upfront cash grants and qualify for tax rebates once training is complete.

The Skills Development Act of 1999 laid the foundation for education and training to occur in a format that could be monitored and controlled by Government.

Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA) were tasked with the responsibility to ensure that all training organisations complied with a set standard dictated by industry leaders. That, in turn, gave rise to learnership programmes comprising theoretical teaching plus practical on-the-job training that would culminate in a formal qualification over 12 to 18 months. This resulted in encouraging existing staff to strive for personal improvement, thereby promoting diligence, loyalty and commitment in the workplace as well as attracting new recruits.

Learnerships can be compared to apprenticeships, except that they are run with tighter controls and more stringent training timetables.

The call centre industry is one sector where learnership programmes have paid dividends. Companies implementing training to develop more efficient call centre staff have attracted highly motivated employees, grateful for the opportunity to study and work and thereby encouraged to deliver better results.

Staff members appreciate interest and investment from management and are motivated to work harder to meet targets, resolve customer complaints, improve service and even reduce company expenses.

Employees are only too happy to sacrifice their spare time when their studies are being financed, their career path is clear, and they are working towards a formal qualification. Studies have shown that one day of training equates to one month of prolonged retention. Staff turnover is therefore reduced, because employees feel that their needs are being met. The prospect of promotion and an accompanying salary increase post-qualification is another motivating factor.

Call centre employees who know their employers are investing in their future automatically engage better with customers. This has the knock-on effect of producing more effective service, pleasing customers and generating repeat business.

Learn more about on our SETA Accredited Programmes.