When Intel Corporation opened up shop in 1968, it quickly became a semiconductor giant. By the early ‘80s, however, its profits were sinking – foreign tech companies were producing competing products at a lower cost. In a dramatic change of direction, the organization rotated its focus from memory to microprocessors. It hasn’t looked back since.
Intel’s leadership demonstrated its agility in its ability to respond and adapt to the tech market, even though it meant a complete redefinition of the company’s offerings. Without that change, the company would surely have gone under, and the technology landscape as we know it today would look vastly different.
The ability to adapt quickly is essential to long-term success well beyond the tech sector. Regardless of industry, stagnant and sluggish operations spell failure. In an agile organization, however, changes to industry, technology and consumer demand don’t instigate a catastrophic breakdown. Management and employees can grow and shape as needed.
Don’t confuse agility with a lack of structure, though. In fact, agility requires a different kind of stability and infrastructure, a kind that can move and shift without losing its foundation.
The origins of Agile
Agile methodology was not created as a management strategy. Purists will direct you to the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, 12 principles of agility developed by IT consultants (and self-proclaimed “organizational anarchists”). Among them are an emphasis on face-to-face communication among team members and on satisfying the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
The agile approach brought significant improvement to IT, but the opportunity for growth, increased efficiency and greater employee empowerment in other parts of the organization is just as substantial. The agile mindset can be applied across the enterprise, and it can be as effective for the contact center as it is for development teams.
A stark contrast to command-and-control-style management, an agile approach helps contact center supervisors enable and empower employees. It leverages the ability of workforce management systems to measure the outcomes and key performance indicators that are so critical to managing the contact center. Agile practices remove siloes between team members and departments and foster the growth of new skills, helping create the next generation of contact center managers. By enabling complex organizations to adapt to customers’ changing priorities, they also improve customer engagement and satisfaction. Done right, agile practices align departments and functions around a common vision.
Just as agile approaches can be applied to the contact center environment, so too can the principles that underpin it – with a few alterations, of course. With the evolution of agile to an approach that can be applied outside of IT, it’s time too for those principles to evolve. Creating a new agile manifesto for the contact center, one that is optimized from the original for centers with 500 to 5000 agents or more, can help guide your organization in empowering and engaging employees.
A New and Improved Agile Manifesto for Today’s Contact Center Professional
- The highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and effective delivery of quality service.
- Welcome change, even if the timing is inconvenient. Agile processes harness change through data to create a competitive advantage.
- Engage and empower employees frequently, providing feedback and opportunity over minutes and months alike.
- Managers and agents must work together and interact frequently.
- Build your operations around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a team is through direct and transparent communication.
- Standard KPIs are the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainability. Managers, supervisors and agents should be able to operate and adapt indefinitely and without disruption.
- Continuous attention to employee engagement and KPIs enhances agility.
- Simplicity – the art of limiting waste and improving average handling time – is essential.
- The best performance and customer satisfaction result emerge from empowered teams.
- At regular intervals, agents and managers should reflect on how to become more effective, then coach and adjust their behavior accordingly.
There is no one perfect way to meet these guidelines, and agility is not easy. Many of these ideas, however, are accessible – the key lies in maintaining a nimble, agile mindset. Responsive dashboards can now report metrics, allow employees to collaborate and create a channel for direct manager-agent communication. Skill-based routing rules can decrease average handle time, and new intra-day scheduling capabilities allow centers to adapt to change easily. Management and employees can grow and shape as needed, and technology allows them to measure and improve continuously. Adopting these new and improved agile manifesto principles can help your contact center satisfy customers, engage employees and leverage key metrics to enable rapid and continuous improvement.
Paul Chance is a senior product marketing manager for NICE Workforce Management (WFM), the leading software solution used by contact centers to digest the complexity of their organizations and produce precise forecasts and clear action. For more information, visit www.nice.com/engage/workforce-optimization/workforce-management.