To Blend Or Not To Blend, That Is The Question

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of inbound agents sitting around
Or to take those agents into the outbound world
And by doing so, make better use of their time.
[apologies to Mr. Shakespeare]
 
Even with the benefits of blending inbound and outbound agents, I still hear that dedicating agents to either inbound or outbound is a better solution.  Some of the stated negatives of blending include:
  • Agents were hired for an inbound job.  I can’t expect them to do outbound… it’s a different mindset and personality.  [Reasonable, but why not include blending in the job description up front.]
  • I can’t blend with my technology because agents are either on inbound or on outbound, and switching them over is a pain.  [Bummer for you… get a truly blended contact center solution]
  • My outbound operations are more efficient with dedicated agents.  [This is the most cogent argument to me… and in some cases may make sense, but there are many more cases where true blending is more efficient]
In my experience, the benefits of a truly blended contact center solution outweigh any negatives in most cases.  Some of these benefits include:
  • More efficient use of inbound agent time – For an inbound-focused contact center, why not proactively follow-up on customers and prospects with outbound calls when the inbound volume is low?  For this, you need an inherently blended system where dialing increases and decreases automatically as inbound volume fluctuates and where agent state is managed by one common ACD.
  • Better use of skilled outbound agents – Consider an agent in a collections outbound environment: whether that agent calls a debtor via the predictive dialer, or a debtor calls back in because of a message left on an answering machine, won’t the conversation be very similar after the first few seconds?  If you have skilled collectors, getting those collectors on inbound ‘money calls’ as well as outbound calls will directly impact the bottom line.
  • Increased ability to meet service levels without adding staff – Using blending for overflow traffic – sending inbound calls into a primarily outbound agent pool during high volume periods – can have a very positive impact on service levels and, at the same time, optimize staffing requirements.
  • Positive impact on agent retention – agent turn-over can be a killer for an outbound contact center in terms of cost, time, and effectiveness.  Mixing a handful of inbound calls into the repetitive and sometimes challenging world of an outbound agent can improve outbound agent attitude and retention.
So let’s hear from you – what are your thoughts on and experiences with blending?