How to Improve Call-Center Long-Term Productivity
Operating a contact center is no easy task. Employee churn for workers in this environment tends to be high. Customers are more demanding than ever and may be frustrated by the time they reach a human contact. And delivering quality customer experiences while containing costs can be a real challenge.
The good news is that there are a wide array of ways organizations can make their contact centers and the people working for them more efficient and effective. Here is a sampling of some of those approaches and processes.
Be proactive not just reactive.
When people think of a contact center, they typically think of an environment that accepts and attempts to address customer service requests, or one that is doing outreach in an effort to sell stuff or get donations. But organizations can also do proactive outreach to get a jump on customer service issues before they flood the contact center.
“For instance, a service supervisor at an appliance manufacturer gets an alert telling her there’s an increase in calls coming from owners of a specific dishwasher model,” Salesforce explains. “Drilling into the data, she discovers all the cases involve dishwashers made during a three-month period at one factory. The supervisor alerts management, who then proactively alerts other impacted customers and begins deploying mobile employees to fix all of the potentially impacted dishwashers – heading off what could have become a larger service issue.”
Employ virtual assistants.
People are the biggest cost in a contact center. So many businesses are now exploring, and some are implementing, chatbots and virtual assistants to provide an assist with simple and repetitive customer service tasks.
“Their responses are preprogrammed to communicate in a culturally relevant style,” Larry Brown of Telax says of chatbots in a recent CUSTOMER article. “They’re able to communicate with knowledgebases that contain vast amounts of data to draw upon for solutions and answers. And lastly they (or their AI knowledgebase behind the scenes) have the ability to learn and adapt, and with every interaction comes more data the machine learning algorithms may exploit to formulate more accurate and helpful responses and solutions to customer service inquiries.”
Some companies suggest using these technologies can also increase contact center agent engagement because it offloads repetitive tasks and allows them to instead focus on more interesting customer requests and other value-added pursuits.
We’ve been hearing a lot lately about personalization related to customer service. Of course, that has to do with understanding customers and their preferences, delivering solutions via the channels of their choice, reaching out when it’s most convenient for them, and using information about them to suggest additional products and services. But personalization can also be very effective when applied to contact center agents, suggests Frank Sherlock of CallMiner (News - Alert).
As Call Center Helper, which sources Sherlock, recently wrote: “For example, before a shift starts, an advisor may decide to focus on improving empathy and then measure their own improvement by reviewing their scorecard at the end of the shift. This is a good example of self-evaluation and sustainable improvement in action. An improved scorecard can also be developed through interaction analytics, using insight provided by the personal dashboard and daily discussions with the supervisor or coach, to reinforce the improvements that have been made.”
Provide self-service options.
We’re all by now aware that lots of people prefer to find answers themselves rather than working with a contact center agent. And this is a positive development both for businesses and their customers. It creates the potential for lower human resources costs related to customer service.
But, it requires businesses to define which kind of things customers need help with most often, and then to create answers to those inquiries. Those answers can come in the form of a FAQs list on the organization’s website, an IVR programmed with commonly asked questions and answers, or via other methods.
As Chris Hall (News - Alert) of Traversal noted in a recent byline for CUSTOMER magazine: “According to Gartner (News - Alert), knowledgebase projects can allow for fast retrieval of the right information, increasing customer satisfaction by 12 percent, a 40 percent reduction in inbound emails due to easy access to information, a 25 percent head count shift away from low-value calls due to self-service, agent time-to-answer reduction of 40 percent, and a 35 percent reduction in the time that it takes to train a new CSR (News - Alert).”
Set goals, measure & monitor.
As a recent Call Centre Helper article notes, measuring call durations by advisor, team, and procedure can help an organization to identify quality or service issues.
“Peaks and troughs in performance could be due to long holds, periods of silence, lengthy troubleshooting, slow transfer procedures, faulty IVR/ACD routings, sluggish connections, insufficient knowledge bases, inadequate training or excessive after-call work,” the article says. “All of these impact an advisor’s Average Handle Time and, as a result, reduce the time spent on more productive activities, such as making more calls. Understanding where breakdowns occur is therefore critical to reducing AHT. However, these times should be measured behind the scenes and should not be set as an advisor target, as quality service should be prioritized.”
Scorebuddy Co-founder Dick Bourke urges contact centers to identify which agent actions make the biggest impact on the bottom line and then to implement a quality assurance program that makes clear to what degree agents are performing those behaviors. “For many call centers, that’s best accomplished by monitoring calls and using a scorecard to evaluate performance,” he says.
What gets measured gets done, notes Bourke. That’s both because it provides hard data to allow you to know what’s happening and act on it, and because it sends a message to the team that these are the metrics that matter, he adds.
“Monitoring carefully selected KPIs encourages employee behavior that supports your objectives and discourages behavior that works against those objectives,” writes Bourke.
Train agents immediately, regularly & reliably.
Contact center agents won’t be able to provide your organization with the value it expects and the service customers seek if you don’t tell them how to do that. Of course, that training should happen upfront after the agent is hired. But, delivering quality customer service in an efficient way is a journey – and procedures, products, and services of the organization may change over time – so ongoing training is important.
That said, be sure to schedule training at convenient times, meaning off peak times. And some sources believe that committing blocks of time training, rather than having agents train on an ad hoc basis, delivers better results and drives home the importance of these efforts.
Use your data.
In the famous business book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie talks about the importance of remembering and using a person’s name. That’s because it makes people feel important and conveys the sense that you care about them and what they have to say.
The same idea applies to customers in the contact center and customer service realms. They want businesses to remember them and show they care. This, of course, should extend far past just knowing their names.
Leveraging customer information from CRM and other data sources can go a long way in enabling contact center employees to know who they’re interacting with and providing them with the best service based on that information and the new details the customer provides. That said, it’s important to link the contact center to the CRM to provide agents with a single, easy-to-use view of the customer.
“Seventy-nine percent of service teams agree that a shared, single view of the customer empowers agents to provide consistency and continuity in every customer interaction,” according to the Salesforce report.
And Forrester Research (News - Alert) notes that “to get a full view of customer behavior, sentiment, emotion, and intentions, AD&D professionals must help enterprises leverage all the data at their disposal, structure and unstructured.”
Edited by Mandi Nowitz