The operating processes in a contact centre were unmanaged. New agents would arrive at their desks without computers, logins or training. Existing agents didn’t have regular performance reviews and booking time-off often caused gaps in shifts. When staff left, their logins would be left active in systems for weeks or even months.
As it administered credit cards and sensitive financial transactions, the centre was locked down. No new software was allowed without passing a thorough security review. It made introducing new technologies expensive and time consuming.
There was a technology in the business that could support renewed processes. A system used on one campaign turned Microsoft Visio diagrams into workflows. This was chosen as a solution, and I was tasked with designing a management app to sit on top of it.
I started by investing time in understanding how the Visio based platform worked with its developers. This helped me understand the mechanics of the platform so I could guide design work into what was practical with the system as-is. Early on we established a principle that everything would “out of the box” with only the front-end being coded.
A small team of “SMEs” covering agents, team leaders and support staff was assembled. These became the focus group for the project, which had to move quickly and have a low impact on their time because of resource constraints. After an initial 3 hour workshop I limited our show-and-tell sessions to 20 minutes. This was the standard time block used for a coaching session, so wouldn’t disrupt operations excessively.
Over 4 weeks I designed a fully working prototype. A Visio diagram drove the process logic, which meant my effort focused on representing different tasks and stages to users. My focus was on designing how the users would interact with the system from day-to-day and how to represent different phases in the workflow.
I settled on a card-based interface, with each card representing a task in Visio. Filters allowed users to select tasks to work with, and I gave each management layer access to the tasks of their direct reports. The developers copied simple layout and style of the PowerPoint prototype. Observation of how agents spread browser windows across their screens led to a responsive design.
Design Problems to Overcome
With the centre locked down it wasn’t possible to use my normal design tools. I built the prototype on Microsoft PowerPoint and linked slides together to create a working system. I shared this with the user group on OneDrive, which let them play with it in their own time, and show colleagues. Although not ideal, its wide use meant there was a lot of involvement from our user group – and from their colleagues as they showed it around.
I also had problems with process flows as different teams had their own ways of working. While the Visio based workflow system could cope with these variations, the team agreed to merge onto common processes as this would make it easier to move people around the centre.
At the end of the project we had the system deployed into 3 teams, and HR and the capacity planning team. Issues with agents not getting their reviews, absence and moving agents between team were in decline. Management also had greater visibility of where issues in certain processes were, which helped in tackling them with retraining and better process design.
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