Walk into a modern contact center and you’re likely to see screens prominently placed in a couple of different places. Your eyes are first drawn to agent workstations where the typical agent uses not one, but two monitors to interact with customers. On the walls you see gigantic television screens, also known as wallboards, displaying key metrics and likely the current status, or pause state, of agents and customers waiting in the queue.
Both wallboards and dual monitors can be useful tools in contact centers. When used properly, they offer the potential to help boost productivity by making it easier for agents to support customers. But problems can occur when they aren’t used with appropriate thought and intention. In this article, I’ll discuss the right and wrong use of these screens and offer some recommendations to ensure that they enhance, not detract from, contact center agent productivity.
Having a second monitor can be handy for contact center agents when they are required to switch between multiple windows and applications while supporting customers. But I’ve also witnessed some poor usage of a dual monitor set up. Let’s look at one such example and then I’ll share some recommendations for correct use.
The wrong use of dual monitors
Imagine my dismay when I walked into my contact center and observed an agent interacting with customers over chat or email on one monitor and alternating between Facebook and YouTube on the other. This is an extreme example, but regardless of what the agent had going on the second monitor, the fact is that they were multitasking and not giving their complete attention to the customer on their first monitor.
I had serious doubts about the level of attention and quality of support the customer was receiving and the pace at which the agent was completing their tasks. And the fact of the matter is, anything on the second monitor that isn’t directly related to what’s on the first monitor is likely detracting from it. If you need proof that attempts at multitasking are bad for customer service, read this article by Jeff Toister.
The right use of dual monitors
Everyone organizes their desktop a bit differently when using multiple monitors for supporting customers. One possible method for a contact center agent might be to have a web browser open in one window with tabs for the customer control panel, knowledgebase, ticketing system, among other things.
The other monitor might contain the collaboration tool for getting help from colleagues and supervisors and the contact center application for interacting with customers. This setup will vary based on several factors. But ultimately, where multiple windows and applications are required to support customers, multiple monitors make sense.
Recommendations for dual monitor use
I have a few recommendations for the use of dual monitors in your contact center:
- Allow agents the option to use dual monitors. They can seriously enhance efficiency.
Create a policy on the acceptable use of dual monitors. The second monitor should never be used as a television to distract from the first monitor.
- Train agents on how to use the second monitor, offering tips from highly productive colleagues on how best to organize it so they can more efficiently navigate an interaction with a customer.
- Practice turning the second monitor off at times to laser focus on a task where it’s not required. Perhaps it’s online training they need to complete. Messaging colleagues in another window will only be a distraction.
- Dual monitors aren’t the be-all, end-all. On average, contact center agents have to navigate a lot of windows to support one customer. Focus on integrations that reduce the number of windows to help your agents better focus and simplify the task of connecting with customers.
Let’s turn to wallboards which are simply large televisions mounted to walls in contact centers to communicate important information to the team. Let’s first look at what can happen when wallboards are used incorrectly and then I’ll share my recommendations.
The wrong use of wallboards
As a contact center manager, I used a wallboard to display the status of customers waiting in the queue. It also helped us monitor adherence to make sure agents were staying on task and taking their scheduled breaks and lunches.
Challenges arose when we were understaffed or there was an incident causing an unexpected spike in call volume. The vibe in the center shifted and the visibility into the out-of-control queue only served to elevate the stress level of the team. Here are some of the behaviors this led to:
- Agents rushing through customer interactions to get to the next one.
- Agents complaining about other agents for taking too long or not answering their phone.
- Agents taking matters into their own hands, policing each other for perceived infractions.
- Agents feeling compelled to sacrifice their breaks and personal wellbeing to “take one for the team.”
Sound familiar? This approach wasn’t great for team cohesion or customer experience. And if you think that posting individual agents stats on the wallboard instead is a good move, trust me when I say that the consequences will be similar.
The right use of wallboards
In response to some of these negative consequences of my wallboard use, I found myself repeating to my team, “Your only concern right now should be to focus on the customer you’re currently interacting with. Continue to do your best and leave the rest to me.”
Or I would vary it by saying, “I don’t need you to be a hero and try to conquer the entire call queue on your own. Give the current customer your best effort and then do the same with the next one you interact with. That’s the sort of hero I hired you to be.”
Overall, the goal of wallboards should always be to make visible the important information that needs to be visible. This requires that we are intentional about the information we share and also intentional about the information we don’t share.
Recommendations for wallboard use
Here are my recommendations for those big TV screens on your contact center walls.
- Monitoring call queues and agent statuses is the job of supervisors or real-time adherence (RTA) on larger teams. Furthermore, large queues mean that leadership needs to do a better job of planning, forecasting, hiring, and scheduling to ensure that they hit service level targets. Agents should not be burdened by this.
- Eliminate any metrics down to the agent level and be thoughtful about metrics that might in any way compromise the quality of work. For example, publishing average handle time stats could lead to agents taking short cuts to the detriment of customers. Save individual metrics for coaching sessions.
- Share progress on important metrics at the team level. Perhaps you’ve challenged the team to focus more on improving customer experience and it makes sense to give visibility to customer satisfaction, first contact resolution, or a similar metric. Make sure agents understand their role in positively impacting those metrics.
- Consider displaying other information on wallboards like fun GIFs and memes to lighten the mood, quick tips to reinforce a recent training or statements and images that speak to your mission and values as a team.
I have two final thoughts on this topic. First, I’ve spoken largely to the brick and mortar contact center but work-from-home agents are also likely to use secondary monitors. And if you give them access, they will likely monitor a wallboard (or dashboard). My same recommendations from above apply in this case.
Second, my contact center experience is almost solely in environments where customer experience was primary and speed and competition were secondary. I recognize that in collections and sales environments, wallboards especially may get used to foster a sense of competition to achieve individual and team goals. Leave a comment below and share your perspective on how the use or misuse of screens impacts agent productivity in these environments.
Finally, regardless of your business and goals, additional “screen time” in the form of dual monitors and wallboards can help your contact center agents be more productive. That is if you train them on how to use that second monitor to more effectively interact with customers and you are mindful of the information you publish on wallboards.