Is Big Brother Watching, or Helping?

Paul StockfordI recently posted a blog that talked a little about desktop analytics. Desktop analytics is relatively new to the family of contact center analytics solutions, but it is finding rapid acceptance. In fact, in the results of the most recent end-user survey my company, Saddletree Research, conducted with the National Association of Call Centers (NACC) at The University of Southern Mississippi, desktop analytics showed up on the list of the top five contact center technology solutions that will be evaluated for purchase in 2013. This is the second year that desktop analytics has appeared in the top five.

The demand for desktop analytics is a good example of one of the great mysteries of our industry—why do the solutions that are in greatest demand seem to command the least amount of attention by the industry media? As best I can tell, people crave information about the sexiest, trendiest solutions but when it comes time to open up the wallet, they look for the practical solutions. Desktop analytics is one of those practical solutions.

Back to my desktop analytics blog post. One of the comments I received questioned whether desktop analytics wasn’t another case of Big Brother micromanaging contact center agents. I can see why someone would think that, but what Big Brother is actually doing is probably more dependent on whether Big Brother is motivated by a desire to catch agents doing something wrong, or by a desire to see performance improvement in the contact center. To be honest, desktop analytics could go either way.

Desktop analytics, in a nutshell, is essentially a study of time and motion on the agent’s desktop workstation. It offers agents, supervisors and managers insight into exactly what is occurring on the agent desktop at any point before, during and after a customer transaction. While performance management and speech analytics do an excellent job of capturing agent performance at the macro level, desktop analytics digs a little deeper and provides insight into agent and technology performance at the micro level.

You may recall a picture that was making the Internet rounds about a year ago. It was a photo of a state government legislative session that was taken looking forward from the back of the room. The photo revealed more than half of the legislators present playing Solitaire on their computers. Desktop analytics would have prevented that situation.

Desktop analytics alerts supervisors and managers to work habits and individual skills that may not be optimal for a customer care center. Besides the obvious advantage of knowing when agents may fall to the temptation of Facebook, eBay or other sites that may be prohibited during work hours and correcting that problem, managers are also alerted to problems that are typically overlooked. For example, poor typing skills could negatively impact the timely resolution of a customer contact but would probably go unnoticed without the aid of solutions like desktop analytics. Desktop analytics can also identify subtle problems such as underuse of desktop navigation tools, poor use of the knowledge base and excessive use of other features that may indicate that the agent is struggling.

In this case, it does sort of appear that Big Brother is looking for an agent “Gotcha.” On the other hand, don’t overlook the benefit that may come from identifying a deficiency and helping an agent who may be struggling simply because he or she needs a bit more training on the under-utilized desktop tools.

Along that same line of thought, desktop analytics provides insight into system issues that, through no fault of the agent, often impede the smooth completion of a customer service transaction. Most of the time, these issues go unnoticed if not reported in each instance, but desktop analytics automatically records and identifies them. Examples of these typically unreported system issues include error messages that slow things down, screens loading slowly or screens that don’t load at all and cause delays in call completion as desktop processes are repeated. It is true that quality monitoring can capture these system problems with its recording capabilities, but quality monitoring recording is random while desktop analytics logs everything that happens on the desktop. The more subtle performance deficiencies often go unnoticed.

Given the obvious benefits of desktop analytics, it is clearly desirable in terms of improving productivity, but is it a case of Big Brother micromanaging the agent workforce? I put that question to Matt Matsui, VP of Product and Marketing at Calabrio ( after their recent introduction of Calabrio Desktop Analytics. According to Matt, “Without complete visibility into what is happening on the agent desktop, best-practice work habits and the effective use of software applications cannot easily be reinforced, replicated or transferred to other agents. With Desktop Analytics, agent activity and the impact of that activity is clear. It’s really the only way to ensure that processes that impede performance are not overlooked and opportunities for improvement are not missed. Correlate that with what customers and agents are saying, and you have a powerful way to discover opportunities to make an impact on revenue, efficiency and customer satisfaction.”

I’m always reluctant to say any technology solution represents the last word or the final piece of the efficiency puzzle, but desktop analytics certainly addresses areas where most contact centers are losing productivity, which translates into lost revenue opportunities and potentially unhappy agents. In the case of desktop analytics, Big Brother is here to help.

Paul Stockford is Chief Analyst at Saddletree Research, which specializes in contact centers & customer service.

– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline,

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