With persistent economic headwinds to contend with, contact centre leaders are now looking for more effective and efficient strategies that can support them to tackle the macro – and often difficult to quantify – inefficiencies that persistently hinder agent performance and impact the bottom line.

Increasing customer expectations – and the need to continually develop an agile, engaged, connected and responsive workforce in a hybrid environment – means that it has never been more vital for contact centres to explore more effective training models to align EX with CX to improve outcomes for customers and business productivity.

Contact centres in particular – by virtue of their scale and headcount – find themselves under increased pressure to find efficiencies and reduce costs-to-serve whilst maintaining – or even improving – critical KPIs, CSAT and ESAT levels.

Optimising agent efficiency and productivity

Inoria recently penned an insightful piece titled ‘5 valuable things you need to know about workforce management (WFM)’ and – in the interest of sharing best-practice – Elephants Don’t Forget, a UK-based leading employee-centric Artificial Intelligence (AI) provider to the industry – have expanded the conversation to look deeper into the central question posed in this piece: “how do we best manage people, so they are efficient and productive?”

Adrian Harvey, CEO of Elephants Don’t Forget, explained the critical performance blocker facing the majority of organisations operating in the sector:

“Regardless of the diligence of the employer, we know that agents forget a lot of what they are trained when they join a company or are deployed on a specific campaign.

Most employers fail to close these knowledge gaps and instead rely on agent tenure, peer-to-peer learning and mandated one-size-fits-all refresher training to support their agents to learn the competence required to do their jobs.

However, the reality of this means slow speed-to-competency, sub-optimal agent performance, diminished ESAT and increased risk of attrition.

To give this context, our employee-centric Artificial Intelligence – Clever Nelly – conducted over 100 million individual employee knowledge interventions in global organisations last year, and the diagnostic data point (pre-AI intervention) showed that – on average – employees retained just 54% of what they had been taught.

To compound matters, few employers also have credible and authentic means to measure this datapoint and – if they could – they would know that this knowledge is randomly distributed across their agents, with the impact of this being felt throughout the business and wherever agents touch the customer journey.

It also inevitably means that time-poor supervisors and coaches lack the personalised insights to help their agents translate theory to in-role competence.

Employers desire competent agents. Knowledge, per se, isn’t necessarily indicative of in-role competence and most employer training programs are knowledge heavy. Translating knowledge (theory) to competence, therefore, adds considerable value to the employer.

Fundamentally – without an effective training reinforcement strategy in place – the simple and uncomfortable truth remains for most contact centres: gaps in agent knowledge – combined with knowledge fade over time – serves to impact KPI performance and individual agent efficiency; especially when related to key metrics such as First Contact Resolution, Average Hold Time, Average Handling Time, and after call work.”

Employee knowledge fade is an economic disaster for employers

Ironically, most employers know that employee knowledge fade is a critical problem eroding significant value from their operations but struggle to find effective ways to mitigate it.

In the UK, for example, official UK Government reports show that 79% of employee knowledge and skill gaps are caused entirely by transient training factors, with 66% of employers stating they know that transient training problems are directly impacting their establishment’s performance.

Most organisations strive to do their best whilst acknowledging that agent knowledge fade and competency shortfall is an “operational fact of life”, which – when combined with typical agent tenure – is often filed in the “too-hard-to-fix” box.

Yet we know that knowledge and competency fade erodes quantifiable value from onboarding and training interventions, manifests repeat agent errors, increases operational/regulatory risk and impacts KPIs relating to CX and ESAT; all serving to continually fuel macro-operational inefficiencies that are actually completely preventable.

Training to genuinely move the performance dial

Increasingly, we are now seeing more contact centres turning to agent-enhancing (not agent-displacing) technology to help solve the macro issues continually impacting agent performance.

Elephants Don’t Forget have a number of use cases that reinforce what over 100 million employee knowledge interventions conducted across other business verticals prove: engagement, reinforcement and training modalities are the greatest factors driving agent performance – not necessarily tenure, experience, intellect or age.

MicrosoftTo give this context in a real-world scenario, we conducted a controlled test with Microsoft’s outsourced delivery partner with a cohort of 2,500 agents working within their Xbox and Devices teams. Deployed in parallel with their usual training provisions, half of the agents were given additional training reinforcement support through our AI.

Operating in the flow of work, the AI would ask personalised, scenario-based questions to assess individual agent competence and automatically repair any subsequent gaps found within specific support areas through spaced learning, repetition and self-testing, taking no more than 1.5 minutes of an agent’s working day – with no disruption to BAU or campaign activity.

In under eight months, agent competence increased by an average of 19% within the supported cohort of agents using the AI. There was also a 29% competence difference between the most engaged and least engaged users.

The improvements made in agent competence across specific lines of business resulted in a 12.5% reduction in Average Handling Time, a 9% improvement in First Contact Resolution, and a 5% improvement in CSAT. The discussion paper examining the collaboration and implementation process is available to access here.

Crucially though, 94% of employees said they preferred a continual assessment approach to learning and development when compared to the traditional training methods, as it helped them to increase confidence and capability in-role whilst enabling them to balance their specific training needs with the demands of their job function.

Elephants Don’t Forget & Inoria: partners in contact centre excellence

Elephants Don’t Forget is delighted to announce its official partnership with Inoria. The partnership – which sees Inoria strengthening their solution and consultancy offering through the use and distribution of Elephants Don’t Forget’s multi-award-winning AI software – Clever Nelly – is being positioned as a game-changing solution for contact centre leaders to target macro-operational inefficiencies, improve agent performance and make significant cost savings through – previously – unquantifiable datapoints.

To learn more about the partnership, please click here.

To learn more about Inoria, please click here.

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