Ask The Experts – October 08

Distributed Call Centers

Question: “I currently manage a Wireless Voice support team for a Telecom company. Under a recent re-org I will now also manage a Wireless Data support team as well. Both are call center environments. My challenge is the Voice team is in eastern US, and the Data team is in Central US. No possibility of consolidating in one state.

I’d like to cross train the two teams to create two regional teams proficient in both Data and Voice support. This includes using a centralized knowledge base tool, cross training forum, and issue tracking tool for statistical trending and analysis.

Any suggestions on “best practices”, different approaches, and/or tools to help in my new charge? I’m open to almost anything except off the shelf products (budget constraints). All tool development would have to be in house.

Expert Response:
This is a big task you have before you. My thoughts are as follows;
1-First you will need to map the skills/competencies, required for both of these functions,
2-Then map the transactional processes that are completed by each group,
3-Map the education/knowledge required for each group,
4-Develop assessment and testing tools to identify proficiency of each group in each of the above areas,
5-Identify agent ‘gaps’ and develop up-training curriculum to bring the agents up to speed over a relevant period of time.
6-Test again to confirm the training has ‘taken’
7-Start swapping calls.

A few other points to think about;
1-You will need to invest resource time to develop the systems (knowledgebase etc.), training and mapping. Remember to budget it appropriately over your year,
2- factor in the lost handling time for training/testing in your forecasts and schedules,
3- Remember that this type of cross-training or universality can reduce you overall labor expenses (through queue efficiency), but you won’t see this for 60-90 days after you have completed the implementation.
4-Once you are directing calls to the ‘non-native’ centers you must continue to deliver these. Skills and training that is not kept current will atrophy and die…losing this capability to handle these calls.
5-The agents will expect additional compensation based upon additional skills. I would recommend that you assess not only the ‘if they can do it’ in the assessments but also the ‘how well they can do it’ and use an “Adequacy, Competency, Mastery’ model to determine compensation or performance pay.

Let us know what you think of this response.
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