Working in a call center is hectic. If you stop for a moment that you probably don’t have, you will probably think it is just chaos. However, when you understand how contact centers work, you will realize that it is organized chaos, and the people behind it are very talented. That is not to say that the processes that they use could not work a bit better, though. That’s why, in this article, we will look at how you can create more effective call centers. It will probably still look chaotic, but the results will be better, and your staff will feel better, too.
Providing a quality service every time the phone rings is challenging, to say the least. However, a positive customer experience is a primary goal for each and every contact center around the world. That fact is even more true for the companies using the contact centers for their own businesses. Effectiveness is the key, though. But how do we create more effectiveness in a contact center? Here are some of our tips.
If you could start again, would you?
Hiring the right staff has one of the largest impacts on call center operations that you may ever see. That is a challenging task in itself when call centers’ attrition is higher than in most other industries. Commonly, a manager will hire almost any worker they can to fill the teams that need filling.
The most common problem, however, as we have spoken about in the linked article above, is that selecting the right agent is not always as easy as we would like. For example, large contact centers can work for multiple businesses across various sectors. How do you select a candidate who will work well within the finance, medical, and education industries all at the same time?
One tip that I would like to share with you is, even if you have a full contact center, attrition rates show that it is only a matter of time until someone leaves. Therefore, one option is to be on the lookout for great agents, even when you don’t need them. That will relieve some of the stress that you will face when the pressure is on. You can hire them as trainees and onboard them during a transition period.
The most common question here, though, is; is that cost-effective? That depends on various factors within your own contact center. If you only require ten agents, then probably not. But when you need hundreds, being able to replace a leaver with a trained agent who is hopefully a better fit for the job, then yes.
Providing your new starters with the correct training will not only allow them to understand the tasks and goals required, but it will help them gain confidence and practice in the position before they are necessary. Onboarding doesn’t have a set timeframe or routine for every business. However, there certainly are some things that you can do to increase the effectiveness of the process. For example:
Agent performance is a crucial element to great customer service and the overall effectiveness of a contact center. If you measure the service level of your agents and use incentives to improve their customer interaction to be more in line with your quality assurance policies and guidelines, you are likely to experience an overall increase in quality of service.
There are many ways in which you can show that you recognize their performance. We have already written a little article about reward schemes that you can utilize. However, each technique you have available to you will have different impacts, and you have to decide which fits your business and staff best. Recognition is one of the best ways that you can increase performance, thus effectiveness.
It is no secret that call centers are notoriously challenging workplaces by reputation. That doesn’t have to be the case if you have the right staff, training, and environment, though. Having the right agents, training, and incentives help, but if the team has no bond, it can feel like an extremely empty and lonely place to work.
Employee engagement and communication can create great ideas and innovation, making a real difference in working together as a team. People who feel like they have nowhere to turn when they have issues will make mistakes and not look for a way to avoid them in the future. Therefore, giving the agent a poor track record makes them feel bad at the job, thus increasing your attrition rates. Keep engagement up can double the rate of success while increasing productivity by 22%.
There are many benefits that you can use to improve your call center team’s effectiveness. One of the most widely used terms during 2020 and 2021 is employee wellness. That is something that we may touch on in another article. However, the idea of ensuring your team’s wellbeing is an excellent way to do a few things:
The benefits that you offer do not have to be huge, like company cars for everyone. However, there are a lot of benefits that you can provide that will keep your effectiveness high. Furthermore, people can find out a lot about businesses online now, and candidates for job positions will always aim for places offering more than their competitors. Being the company that shows their agent’s appreciation can directly affect the hiring process that we spoke about first in this article.
Call center occupancy has a huge impact on how people feel when they are working. If you get it right, you can see dramatic improvement, but it can be the exact opposite if you get it wrong. In the example we wrote here, we talked about how 100% occupancy overworks staff and expects too much multi-tasking. On the other hand, anything lower than 70% will give even seasoned agents too much time and create boredom.
Individual agents will react to different workloads differently. However, that is something that you will have to manage on an individual basis, but you need a baseline before you can manage those personal workloads.
Maybe one of the biggest points in this article is understanding the business you are working for. That is not the call center specifically, although that helps. The primary goal is to have as much understanding about the specific company the callers are enquiring about.
Whether that is knowing the product’s technicalities or service enough to give an appropriate response through soft skills during inbound calls or the complexity of the financial services industry on outbound calls to prospective customers, knowledge is power.
Understanding the business is often more than customer care, though. Many times there are legal implications or penalties for poor behavior during a call. Following the protocols will provide the customers with a positive experience and keep the business out of any issues. The fewer issues you have with knowledge, the more consistency you will have; thus, your call center employees are more effective.
Administration duties are something that many people find boring; some may even see it as less important than honing in the day to day operations. While the daily operations may be more visually appealing, it is the administrative duties that make it possible in the first place.
Many managers will say that they do not have the hours to carry out reports, analyze, and ensure procedures are in place. If that is the case, it is wise to factor in some time to complete the administrative tasks that you need to do further down the line. It can be difficult to recover quality once you have lost it.
Making decisions in the past was more about writing information down on paper and working out each choice’s pros and cons. Then there was the revolution of spreadsheets, in honesty, that changed how all call centers operated. There is no specific information about when they became the norm, but unfortunately, they still are.
Yes, they had a significant impact on operations and keeping track of information. However, that was then. We live in a different era now; decisions need to be even faster and more effective. While you might make relatively effective decisions based on spreadsheets, it is doubtful that they will be fast.
Scrolling through many pages and forms of data trying to locate the information that you want takes time. That time is a commodity that most contact center team leaders do not have. Nevertheless, any decisions that you make need to be data-driven. It will stop you from making choices based on emotion, which can cause issues in the long run.
Training your frontline agents to a standard will increase many aspects, such as; agent motivation, customer loyalty, scalability, stability, cost savings, etc. All of those things and more lead to a happier customer and business. While we have mentioned onboarding and recognizing agent performance, we haven’t spoken much about the training methods you should employ for a more effective call center.
This section of the article will look at the training methods you can use in your contact center to improve customer service and customer satisfaction, providing you with a more effective call center. Whether you are running one of the smallest or largest call centers in your industry, these tips will help you gain insight into how you can get the most out of your training.
While you may have a well established, functional call center that already provides amazing service, workforce management includes introductions to the team. You probably instantly think about your trainees, but the reality is, many agents do not even know each other because of the distance between them and the business of the workplace.
Introducing all members to each other and explaining each of them’s strengths can help people know who they can turn to when they need specific help. Furthermore, it helps them understand their own requirements, too.
In this case, business education is all about giving your agents an overview of your business goals and aspirations. Transparency is a good thing, providing that you do not go too far. However, with call centers, it is easy to set up weekly, or every few weeks, meetings where you can talk about how the business is doing because of the actions of the call center representatives, how agent engagement is helping or not, and other center performance metrics that show where the business is heading.
The more people understand the business and see how they are helping, the more they feel empowered to help.
We have already spoken about occupancy, and getting it right is one of the most important performance metrics you can measure. However, finding the perfect balance as a manager and your staff adhering to it are two completely different things.
The truth is that working in a contact center can be a stressful job. However, there needs to be a balance between the operatives’ personal and work lives, and scheduling it is not always enough. Explaining your goals and why timing is important will help them see that you are trying to help ease their working conditions and provide them with some downtime. In return, you should ask them to stick to the schedule that you create so that everyone can have the same amount of downtime as each other.
There is a common question revolving around whether contact center leaders should show key metrics during agent feedback or not. In the end, the decision lies with you. However, we have an article discussing the pros and cons of showing call center agents their scores.
We believe that how you tell them their scores is more important than if you should or not. Having the right tools at your disposal, which comes under the investment, will allow you to show them their performance metrics while taking out the element of arguments.
Furthermore, showing agents their scores will set out defined expectations, allow them to see their strong points and weaknesses, and give them the resources they need to improve.
No matter how often you complete training sessions, whether once a week or month, taking your top performers into the coaching sessions can help provide customer service agents with insights about how they should deal with a caller.
You do not need to take the person in specifically. You can show the staff recordings of their calls as examples. However, having the person there will show what is capable and show that they are real people, their peers, and what can be accomplished through dedication. Furthermore, it will allow the new agents to ask questions about how they deal with specific scenarios and the steps and tactics they take to get such a high service level.
Scoring is one of the most dreaded call center metrics for any agent. It can make them feel like they are doing extremely well or extremely poorly at their job. However, if you train them on their specific scorecards, they can see how to get the most points without feeling so under pressure to perform well.
You may need to complete training sessions for every scorecard you have, but it will pay off in dividends in the end. Not only will your agents feel more comfortable with the customer feedback, but they will also know how to get the information that they need, even during difficult calls and frequent customer queries.
The more that you train for specific scorecards, the more the agent’s capabilities will increase. The better their performance, the better the customer service experience will be.
Some call centers have many different scorecards, and that can be a challenge. That is especially true when you are in an omnichannel contact center with service calls, sales calls, follow-ups, etc. Proper customer service relies on the agents understanding what is required on all customer calls and how to reach the target. One of the best ways to increase performance is through proper scorecard training.
If you are in a product care call center, your agents need to have extensive knowledge of that product, including technical aspects and the product’s parameters. There is always the possibility, more a probability, that the people on the incoming calls have used the product in a way that it shouldn’t be used.
Only the experienced call center agents will understand how the product is designed to be used; others will have knowledge gaps and not be able to spot these issues easily. If the production company has a specific product training course, the best way to help your agents understand it would be to get them on a course. However, that is not always viable. The best alternative is to have a list of points, questions, queries, and issues common on calls and train your agent on the most issues you see on the product.
Going back to the data-driven decisions section near the top of the article, this is one point that spreadsheets are not going to help. There is no easy way to keep track of common points on calls. If you would like to know how you can keep track, see the investment section below.
Call service centers revolve around consumers’ core values and principles, customer relationships, and ensuring that everyone who calls becomes a satisfied customer. To gain a higher level of call center efficiency, you need to understand what quality customer service means to potential customers and how they affect the customer journey.
If you are new to the call center industry, understanding the expectations with accuracy can be difficult. However, even when you are experienced in the industry, it can be a challenge. The more you and your agents understand them and how they fit with the brand’s goals, the better.
Ensure that you train your new and existing agents on the expectations to reduce the number of dissatisfied customers you experience. One of the best ways to stay on top of the requirements is to set up a knowledge base that you keep up to date with all of the common issues you receive and how to deal with them.
Once you understand what your customer wants, you can build on it through customer relationship management. This is another huge downfall to the use of spreadsheets and other outdated technology. When you are answering calls all day, every day, there is no way that you can keep track of who those people are, what issues they have had before, and how you have already tried to help them.
Understanding your existing customers is one of the best ways to keep them and entice more new customers. We will cover how you can increase your CRM through more advanced techniques in the investment section.
However, the more data you have available to you for every customer on every call, the better your call center can operate.
Group coaching sessions are great, especially for new starters. They can help the agents understand the procedure of phone calls, company culture, key performance indicators that you use, and any other concerns that revolve around general decision making. However, a training program should not only consist of group training. There are various downfalls that you need to be aware of when you are only carrying out group sessions:
Individual coaching sessions can significantly reduce training costs. But in the world that we are in currently, coaching agents from home is the norm. We have already put together some tips for home coaching, but not having flexible software will dramatically reduce your ability.
No matter what industry your call center is in, it is common for regulations and requirements to change regularly. If you do not have coaching sessions in place for those changes, your agents will fail as soon as they have the chance. That is only going to decrease morale and the growth of even a successful call center.
Refining your training methods over a period of time will help the agents stay up to date with all of the requirements that your business has. Unfortunately, it is easy for agents to remember the newest training sessions and their teaching. That leaves them failing on points that they were passing with ease before.
Constant coaching sessions can increase performance and keep it at a high standard, no matter what productivity metrics you use. Letting your coaching sessions drop for a while can let the staff fall back into the same routines that involve making mistakes.
Investment is, by far, the easiest way to increase call center quality assurance and efficiency. Before we get too deep into the ways investment can help you in other areas, I would like to just run over the two points that I have mentioned investment above:
Although those two points are critical, there are many other ways in which investment into a call center business can help. Around 60% of all in-house QA time is spent reviewing false flags. That can be both positive or negative, and you will not know until you review them. Investment in a system that checks those for you is hugely cost-effective. The best way that we at Call Criteria have found to do it is through a blend of Artificial Intelligence, speech analytics, and human accuracy.
It is all too easy to get stuck in the rut of firefighting issues and muddle through with the equipment you have. On the flip side of that, though, is it is also easy to get comfortable with it feeling like there is no better way to run your call center. However, please take a second to think about how long it will take you to find your top ten performers or your lowest 10. You may already know that through observation. But, do you know the agents in positions 11-20? They are the people you can give real attention to grow your contact center performance.
You can monitor many calls, up to 100%, by investing in outsourcing your Quality assurance process. Furthermore, you have a lot more visibility into how your agents are performing, where they are failing, and you can set up coaching plans to improve the points that require it. Understanding agent performance is only one small part of the changes that you can see from investment. You can also set up call barging, call routing, tagging, and much more.
If you want to look through some of the other things that the right technology can do for your business, here is our platform’s use case. You may think it is expensive to set up a new advanced technology system, and sometimes it is. However, if you find the right provider, they can do it a lot cheaper than your in-house quality control team.
Creating an effective contact center does not have to be difficult. However, there are a lot of things that you need to think about. Most of the time, a call center is ineffective because of the technology that they use. Outdated equipment and processes can hinder a company more than most things.
That is simply because other aspects, such as communication skills, resolution time, average handle time, empathy, etc., cannot be monitored with poor or antiquated monitoring methods. The more you monitor your call center, staff, and the interactions they are involved with, the more you can improve them.
If you would like to find out more about how Call Criteria can help you gain more visibility, control, and effectiveness in your call center, please contact us.