It was only by a wing and a prayer that the Christian Broadcasting Network could gather most of its contact center staff for training and strategy meetings.
With viewers calling to discuss spiritual needs at any time of the day, there never seemed to be an ideal moment to pull agents away from their phones.
But that changed recently when CBN started using new software that sends training programs and company messages directly to agents' desktops, according to Tracy Swager, director of the network's contact center. Without having to leave their stations, agents can review the latest training methods and learn about television programming that will shape the nature of viewers' calls, she said.
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"Before, we had just kind of traditional classroom training that you would schedule as best you can," Swager said.
That meant trying one of two approaches: scheduling several meetings with small groups of agents, or holding one larger session with as many agents as possible. But taking too many agents off the contact center floor meant "taking a hit" when an influx of CBN viewers called, Swager said. There seemed to be no way to properly train agents and share the latest in-house news.
But about a year ago, CBN implemented Knowalgent's RightTime contact center software. The platform has improved training and performance, leading to less worries about scheduling and allowing for a renewed focus on operations, Swager said.
Known as the Prayer Center, the CBN contact center never closes. Its 275 agents work various shifts to cover as many as 15,000 daily telephone and email-based interactions with viewers and those referred by religious ministries, Swager said. The 700 Club, which runs three times per day, typically generates more communications than any other CBN show.
Agents offer prayers, spiritual advice and the words of scripture to people who call, email or use CBN's live Web chat. They also provide basic customer services, such as handling credit and debit card issues for customers who make a purchase and offering product support.
RightTime determines which contact center agents are busy. Agents waiting for a viewer's call or message will be asked to take a training session of no more than seven minutes while there is downtime. The software allows the Prayer Center to calibrate training times for periods with the fewest communications, but if customer wait time unexpectedly increases, a message will interrupt the agents' training to get them back on the phones.
The Prayer Center has recovered nearly 8,500 minutes a month that were previously lost to agent downtime, Swager said.
"We're reclaiming those wait minutes," she said. "We're also reducing the minutes an agent would spend before calls checking new information."
Swager's staff can also use RightTime to deliver announcements such as programming content for The 700 Club. The announcements inform agents that the show will focus on a particular topic, preparing them for what viewers will want to talk about. It also updates agents on topics of interest such as the show's latest featured recipe.
For agents, the software has boosted performance, Swager said. It also has improved morale; agents can switch tasks during the day and break monotony, she said.
For Prayer Center managers, RightTime automated the manual process of recording training. Now, managers can see which agents received training and how they fared.
CBN has contact centers at the company's Virginia Beach, Va., headquarters and in Nashville. It hopes that by next year, 25 of its agents can work from home. And that's where RightTime has created another expectation.
Improved contact center operations, thanks to the software, will allow those agents to work from their living or dining rooms, an alternative that wasn't previously possible, Swager said. Knowing when agents are most needed frees up time for split shifts. They could take calls early in the day, pick up their kids from school and make dinner and then return to the phones for another spike of calls in the evening, she said.
"A lot of it is the work-life balance for an agent," Swager said. "But also for us, it helps us handle our three largest audiences."
This was first published in October 2012