Many centers have charged a person or a group of people with essential planning responsibilities, i.e., forecasting, staffing and scheduling. As a part of their job, they are given the task of collecting information required for these activities. But if they don’t get the cross-functional input they need, they are set up for failure. The organizations that do the best job of planning have developed cross-functional teams that are an integral part of the planning and management process.
Cross-functional planning groups can take many forms. For example:
• Georgia Power set up an agent liaison team to facilitate information exchange between the contact center and other departments; typical tasks for an agent liaison include participating in meetings in other areas, reporting contact center activities and exploring ways to achieve overall goals.
• Mountain America Credit Union’s contact center implemented a similar initiative with their public relations team — made up entirely of contact center agents who communicate the center’s activities to other areas of the business and stay abreast of those divisions’ objectives to ensure that cross-functional projects and processes are successful.
• Capital One’s “war room” enables customer service agents and representatives from other areas to share customer input and then identify operational improvements. It is part of a comprehensive voice of the customer initiative that has improved customer satisfaction scores by 46 percent — and earned the company
awards from J.D. Power, ICMI and others.
• Retailer and catalog company Eddie Bauer pioneered an interdepartmental forecasting team some years ago that directly involves representatives from marketing and other business units in the forecasting process; many organizations have since established similar integrated planning initiatives.
Customer “listening posts” — which often consist of a regular (typically, weekly) meeting with representatives from departments throughout the organization who review customer input and implications for projects and processes — have become popular. And given the many diverse aspects of good planning, some organizations have established a dedicated planning manager position whose primary function is to enhance cross-functional communication within the organization, and to use the shared information to drive better forecasts and plans. Whatever the specific approach, better cross-functional communication depends on a commitment from the contact center management team to reach out and better understand other areas.
Excerpt from Call Center Management on Fast Forward (3rd Edition), Copyright Brad Cleveland, 2012 (p89-91).