99 ways to change your contact centre

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It’s a new year and a great chance to make a difference to the contact centre.

We start with a complete look at all of the different ways that you can get off to a kick start and change your contact centre.

1.    ‘Stay calm and carry on’

Customers are going to be irate if they have been waiting on the line to speak to someone for a long period of time during unexpected peaks.  Advisors are going to get stressed and become impatient. The best thing an advisor can do is apologise, stay calm and try to deal with the customer’s enquiry. By doing so, the customer will calm down and you may even end up making them smile.

Thanks to Sarah O’Mahoney, 2Touch.

2.    Improve agent performance with clear goals

Agent performance can be improved by defining clear and concise goals and reviewing them frequently. You can use Classic Quartile management and banding of associates into groupings of top, neutral and bottom performers.  You can then reward top performers and train neutral and bottom performers via focus groups with extra support and attention.

Thanks to Vinod

3.    Use front-line staff to create the training packs

Allow existing staff to put together training packs.  They know best about how to make the processes easier to follow.

Thanks to Linda

4.    Educate each agent on the big picture

Educate each agent on the big picture and how they contribute to the success or failure of the contact centre.  Tie compensation to the profitability or key performance indicators (KPI) of the centre.

Thanks to Paul

5.    Make it one big family

Get agents to relate to clients as if they were family members.

6.    Self-score your own calls

Allow agents to score their own calls on call monitoring.

7.    Buddy-up agents

Have agents listen to each other’s calls in group sessions and discuss good and improvement areas.  This helps agents to pick up tips on dealing with awkward situations.

Thanks to Sarah

8.    Involve agents on changes to the company

Have agents involved in changes within the company as they are the first line of contact with all customers. Do not have the focus so much on numbers but on first call resolutions.

Thanks to Karina

9.    Embrace homeworking

homeworking-I believe that homeworking is the way of the future. By putting more trust in your agents to work from home you will automatically increase agent productivity. Homeworking has so many benefits, including morale, cost and productivity.  It also allows the business to have additional support when special circumstances happen (e.g. bad weather).

The business will also get more free agent hours as the agents’ morale is much higher and they don’t mind working additional hours from home to work towards their targets.

Thanks to David

10.    Agree adherence thresholds

When considering schedule adherence in your workforce management plan, it is worthwhile rolling it out to a pilot team initially so any tweaks and fine tuning can be made before deploying it to the wider operation. The proposed targets should be discussed and agreed with the Operations team.

Ensure the agents are aware of why schedule adherence is being used and take time to demonstrate how it promotes fairness amongst the staff.

11.    Reporting on workforce management metrics

When it comes to reporting on workforce management (WFM) metrics, know your audience. Pitch your reporting at the correct level, so as to ensure that your senior executives receive the strategic reports, while for team leaders a mix of agent level and departmental performance will help to foster engagement with the planning team.

A successful reporting strategy is dynamic and able to change to meet different business needs.

12.    Agent empowerment – include the Operation team in the process

If you are creating a new set of schedules consider including the agents in the process.  There are a number of different ways that shifts can be arranged that will all produce the same service levels.  You could provide the Operation team and agents with a number of options that they could provide feedback or vote on.

Take time to discuss how the shifts were created and what the advantages and disadvantages of each are.  If you produce a number of rotating patterns, show how the patterns have been used to ensure fairness. Your WFM application may contain fairness parameters so ensure these are used if available.

Thanks to David Evans, Business Systems

13.    Small team competitions

Hold competitions between small teams.  The winning team could go to play bowling.

Thanks to Svetlana

14.    Make agents aware

Make agents aware that they are a team and working together to improve the company experience for customers: better company = more customers = more money!

Thanks to Michelle

15.    Offer products and services instead of compensation

Our agents can offer products or services as compensation rather than money or refunds.

Thanks to Nicola

16.    Become a manager for a day

Rather than lead yourself as the manager, get a different agent to do your job or role each day.

This gains more engagement in targets and lets agents see what you do as a contact centre manager.

Thanks to Darren

17.    When internal emails don’t get read

We have built an ‘intranet’ kind of website used only by the customer service team where we share all the information (even small changes) with everyone.  Information is categorised and processes/procedures are updated.  Everything is in there now and agents just receive an email telling them to check the updates.

This ‘intranet’ ended up being the first ‘application’ that agents open as soon as they get to their desks.

Thanks to Kypros

18.    Fortnightly sales meetings

Fortnightly sales meeting for my call centre are imperative.  This gives agents the chance to get any ‘troubleshooting’ experiences off their chest.  It keeps managers and supervisors in the loop of what will help improve sales or customer service (recognising trends fed back from agents).

Then when changes are implemented, agents become more productive, creating a better environment, more with sales and happy customers.  Overall, it lets staff know you take their opinions seriously. The key is communication and action.  You are only as good as your front-line staff.

Thanks to Samantha

19.    Ensure agents are engaged

I think the number one way to have more productive agents is to ensure that they are engaged.

Communication and strong relationships must be built in order for agents to see they are part of the bigger picture.

It is critical agents feel valued, and management can do this by knowing what motivates each individual and taking steps to motivate them.  Build an environment of recognition.

All this boils down to ensuring the agents are engaged and they believe their manager is looking out for their best interests.

20.    An open-door policy

open-doorIt is critical that management have an open-door policy, and not just in theory.  Truly practise this concept.   The agents are the ones doing the job and sometimes the best ideas come from them.

If agents feel they have a voice in decisions, they will be more loyal to their manager as well as the company and will demonstrate this by supporting the decision.  Foster an environment where agents have the opportunity to meet with management at all levels to express thoughts and concerns.

21.    Initiate an Associate Engagement Committee

Initiate an Associate Engagement Committee.  Regular feedback on strengths and areas of opportunity is crucial to improving performance.  Agents need to know what they are doing right as well as what they need to improve upon.  Agents should always be aware of their current level of performance.

Thanks to Annette

22.    Focus on quality, not numbers

We changed all key measures to look at quality only.  This was to get away from the focus on numbers.  We found that productivity increased anyway.

Thanks to Victoria

23.    Make the working day more pleasant

I also like to do the little things to make agents’ working day more pleasant.  When there are busy sale periods the managers make the teams a cup of tea or coffee.  We also go on the phones at times.

Thanks to Anita

24.    Spend some time working on the business case

The challenge that businesses face is the cost versus upgrade business case. Currently there is not a lot of support for investment; this is compounded across contact centres in general.

The business loses sight of customer value when money is in the bank – this view is telling the decision makers that nothing needs to be improved.

25.    R – E – S – P – E – C – T

RESPECT your agents and they will work for you.  I have engaged with my new team of over 120 agents through a personal letter and asked for their feedback.  Performance improved overnight.

As you rise to higher levels in the business,  it seems in some ways to stop you mixing with agents on the floor.  I talk to them every day.

Thanks to Dave

26.    Allow agents to listen to their own calls

Let them listen to their own calls and identify negatives and positives.

Thanks to Kirsty

27.    Act upon the feedback given by your staff

feedback-speech bubbles-Here’s a tip to improve agent performance – act upon the feedback given by your staff, whether it’s from your customers or staff themselves – this is a golden opportunity to improve customer and staff experience and should never be ignored.

Thanks to Sally

28.    Make your KPI into a game

Use online statistics, or at least a daily statistic, about your main KPI and put it on the wallboard.  Even better, make it into a game with personal and team results. Prizes should be more team oriented, with something for the best agent.

Make it possible for the agent to see their own results online and see how their hard work can influence them.

Thanks to Maksym

29.    Involve me

Use the philosophy of ‘Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I’ll remember; involve me and I’ll implement”. So the latter is key to moving forward.

Rather than telling an agent what they could do better on a call afterwards, ask them ‘what do you think you could do better on that call?’  It really helps the agents to think and develop for themselves.

Thanks to Antony

30.    Speed dial/ hot key transfers

When advisors are measured on hold, wrap and average handle times, every minute counts. A great way to save valuable seconds is to ensure that when calls are transferred to other departments (such as Sales, Upgrades or Accounts) that this can be done by pressing just a single button on the telephone handset or screenphone rather than having to enter long numbers manually.

A hot key transfer facility can also drive up efficiency and improve resource utilisation when used in outbound calling operations to pre-qualify leads before passing them through to specialist sales/collection personnel – and in all cases, more rapid transfers will improve customer experience.

Thanks to Laura Campos, Ultra Communications

31.    Discuss forecasts across the organisation

Regular meetings should be organised between Finance, Marketing and  Operations to discuss the latest forecast versus actuals and the overall strategy/goal.  For continuous learning to take place, lessons must be learnt and applied to future forecasts.

Also, these regular meetings provide a great opportunity to check accuracy of data and to ensure that all information is up to date.

32.    Future-proof your schedules

Make your schedule fit for today and flexible enough for tomorrow.  Measure your schedule fit and aim for work-life balance – providing choices for different lifestyles.  Service level provides one measure, along with employee satisfaction.  However, it is important to also have a separate scheduling measure to understand the fit of shifts to workload.  There are different ways of measure scheduling fit, so try different methods and establish the one that suits your organisation.

33.    Know your shrinkages

It’s not your fault if absence, training or adherence is different from forecast, but it is your responsibility to highlight this before it becomes an issue.  You need to track these ‘shrinkages’ on the day and talk about them, so everyone understands the importance of these measures.  Assist the scheduling team by updating any known long-term absences and ensure the plan is up to date before the start of each day.

34.    Regularly review you on-hold messages

There are a number of pitfalls to avoid for a successful IVR on-hold message implementation. For instance, avoid constant reminders of the same statement.  How often do your customers want to hear ‘your call is important to us’?

Review your messages regularly to ensure that they are all still relevant; marketing messages should be removed if they are out of date.   Overall, keep it simple with not too many options and not too many levels.

Thanks to Phil Anderson, Contact Centre Specialist, Professional Planning Forum

35.    Customer service is everyone’s job – not a specific department

Ensure everyone in your organisation understands that customer service is their job – not just one specific department. That way everyone within the company is invested, engaged and actively working toward making happy customers part of what they do, on a daily and consistent basis.

Thanks to Molly Fast, Associate Director, National Sales & Service, Event 360, Inc.

36.    Reduce noise pollution

woman-with-hands-over-earsInvesting in noise cancellation tools has to be a priority this year. With contact centres reducing space, prioritising security compliance is crucial, and as most centres are still using acoustically unsuitable buildings, the ability to cut noise pollution is going to be key to customer care and staff satisfaction.

Contact centres should look to adapting their buildings to help them reduce echo and background interference, but they should also invest in technologies such as noise-cancelling headsets and acoustic environmental controls, including background noise generators, sound-absorbing ceiling tiles, and sound-blocking panels, that help maintain clear sound for their contact centre staff.

37.    Allow agents to move around during phone calls

Contact centres should invest in wireless technologies to allow agents to move around and speak with each other, helping to solve problems faster and more efficiently. Wireless solutions can also help agents handle calls more effectively by giving them the freedom to communicate in a more natural way while on a call.

If an agent has to sit scrunched up at their desk, then the chances are that their voice will mirror this. We naturally move and gesticulate while we talk, and wireless headsets and tools can help agents speak more clearly, improve their sales technique, and ultimately boost business.

38.    Increase staff motivation

Employee engagement is vital for any contact centre.  Look at ways of improving your working environment, such as enabling flexible working, helping staff achieve a better work–life balance and allowing staff to work remotely.  This will improve work satisfaction and the ability to handle customer calls.

Thanks to Richard Kenny, E&A Contact Centre Marketing Manager at Plantronics

39.    Motivational rewards have more resonance if they can be shared with friends and family

When it comes to motivational rewards, many employees want more than just a one-off gift that is enjoyed and then quickly forgotten. In the current economic climate, they are keen to have the opportunity to choose a reward that offers a more practical solution and delivers long-lasting appeal.

With workers putting in longer hours at the office, a reward has additional resonance if it’s one that can be shared with friends and family. Time outside of the workplace is increasingly precious, and rewards that allow employees to make the most of this with their loved ones increases the ‘feel good’ factor towards both the reward and employer.

These types of rewards also show that the business is investing in its employees and their life outside of work, and that’s a powerful message to communicate to staff.

Thanks to Martin Alden, B2B and partnership controller at Wickes

40.    Exceeding customer expectations drives customer loyalty

Customer loyalty is not driven simply by customer satisfaction.  A huge part of making customers stay truly loyal is not just meeting expectations nicely (although that does help!), but exceeding those expectations.

Empower your agents at the front line to make quick decisions, especially in relation to resolving problems and complaints.  By turning a negative experience into a good one, customer loyalty will be achieved.

41.    Help with recovering from change

Lots of companies have experienced change in the past year.  If you have had to cut jobs, scale back hours or limit resources and investments you are not alone.  However, it is vital not to take the attention off the ‘survivors’.  Those that are left in your organisation can often fare worse than those that have gone on to pastures new.

The anxiety, fear and even resentment can build if not addressed clearly with positive and consistent leadership from the top down.  Getting your teams together for focus group sessions that explore positives and challenges in a structured way allows them to air any negatives and gives you insight in to how to improve things.  Sticking heads in the sand doesn’t work. If left, the negatives won’t blow over or ‘go away’ – at least not for a couple of years!

42.    ‘Listen to the river’

The front line know better than anyone what is going on with customer experience.  Give plenty of praise and encouragement both to individual agents and the collective teams.  Share the big picture and let them know how they make a difference to your customers every single day.

Thanks to Carolyn Blunt, MD Real Results Training

43.    Get web chat right

web-chat-conversationCustomer acceptance of web chat is accelerating, with over 30% of customers now expressing a preference for web chat – that’s up from 10% just two years ago. However, even with this kind of growth, web chat still only accounts for 2% of total interactions – so there’s a huge opportunity here.

Web chat frees customers from being stuck on a call, but – unlike email or web self-service – it can also provide them with instant resolution of their inquiry. Web chat also lets agents deal with more than one customer at a time, writing answers to one while others read their responses.

Agents can use hotkeys to provide templated answers, they can escalate queries as and when needed, and they can also instigate three-way chats with supervisors or field workers to resolve issues immediately.

44.    Make sure that your web chat is operational at all times

Make sure that your web chat option is operational at all times. If customers are told when they click for web chat that ‘this service is not available at the moment’, then they’ll quickly give up on it as a way of contacting your organisation.

45.    Provide mobile apps as an alternative to IVR

No organisation wants to keep their customers on hold for too long and, for many, IVR provides an answer. It gives customers something to do other than listen to Coldplay medleys, but more than that it also allows you to collect customer information so that when they finally get through to an agent they don’t need to go through lengthy identification and security checks.

Done right, IVR can turn time spent on hold into a useful part of the call – except that it so rarely works well, so instead of adding value you end up with frustrated customers unhappy with having to navigate a six-stage IVR before getting to speak to an agent. Mobile apps have the potential to solve this challenge. Customers can input their contact details, as well as any verification and security details needed, into a dedicated customer service app, then simply click a call back button and wait for the service provider to get in touch. No waiting on hold. No pointless submitting details into clunky IVR systems – it’s such a simple and elegant solution to what is acknowledged as a major problem for the contact centre industry.

46.     Outsource your spikes!

When faced with a sudden spike in demand, many organisations take the easy route and simply turn to expensive agency staff on a short-term basis.

It makes more sense to anticipate demand levels, and choose instead to work with a more flexible outsourced partner that can handle your ‘spike’ traffic – leaving your own staff to focus on core activity.  This can reduce both your staffing and training costs, as your skilled teams continue to work at full capacity while your outsourced partner provides a scalable resource of customer service trained ‘bureau’ agents capable of dealing with peaks.

When the busy season is over, turn that solution on its head by having the outsourcer manage the bulk of the core, run-of-the-mill activity – leaving your skilled staff to take care of more technical customer queries.

Thanks to Paul White, CEO at mplsystems

47.    Keep up to date away from the contact centre

If you need to be away from the office, set up your mobile devices so that you keep up to date with what’s happening in your contact centre.  Whenever and wherever you choose, you can keep on top of KPIs like call queues, email queues, agent activity and predictive dialler campaigns … and make informed decisions.

Thanks to Ken Reid from Rostrvm Solutions

48.    Cascade training through the contact centre

trainer-stood-in-crowd-Cascade training and train the trainer are an excellent way to ensure the relevant skills are filtered through the entire contact centre.  Live call handling in a classroom environment, supported by supervisors, is another way to ensure uniformity in responses. It also ensures that all agents are using the technology provided to its fullest.

Thanks to Kathryn Penn, Portfolio Manager – Contact Centre Solutions, Siemens Enterprise Communications

49.    Future-proof your call centre – be social media ready

Whatever technology you choose to support your contact centre, make sure it is ready for the future.  Let’s take social media.  Love it or hate it, Facebook and Twitter are here to stay and have huge power over consumer choice and purchasing decisions.

More and more customers are using the latest social networking sites to find out about new products and services and they expect an immediate response to their enquiries.  This puts new pressures on the call centre.

Giving your staff the ability to receive and respond to voice calls, web chat, email, SMS, fax and social media enquiries all within the same queue and application will reap dividends: time saved and increased customer satisfaction rolled into one – now and in the future.

Thanks to Adrian Sparks, sales director at Intelecom UK

50.    Don’t rely on Excel spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling.

Low-cost cloud-based tools are now available, making powerful WFM functionality available to every call centre. Even in a small centre, Excel soon starts to run out of steam. Multi-channel and multi-skill planning defeat even complex formulas and once a plan is published it is difficult to reschedule at short notice.

Thanks to Chris Dealy, Sales Director, injixo Ltd.

51.    Take away the complexity

With so many different, and often conflicting, demands on the call centre, it strikes me that there is often a bias towards complexity in call centre companies. Take time out now and then to group your problems around common themes or root causes. Ask yourself ‘how can we address a significant part of the problem without new investment?’

52.    Delegate to grow

flowers-growingGreat managers make it look easy because they delegate ‘effortlessly’. They listen, they probe, they test and then they trust. Often they will trust in you before you really trust in yourself.

And then you grow. Delegating isn’t about getting rid of lower value tasks; it’s about growing the people around you so that they want more work from you.

53.    Fail, fail again, fail better

Samuel Beckett gave the world this line many years ago in one of his final works. The mantra has at its core the belief that to be better, to do something worthwhile, means failing, learning from that, and saying that, next time you will have an even better fail.

How can you fail better? One way is by developing a culture of experiment and then by running these experiments under better and better empirical conditions. Do you have a plan on how you are going to learn to fail better?

54.    Punches in bunches

It may seem like an odd metaphor, but in boxing you knock the opponent down with a combination of punches, not one ‘big one’. A lot of executives are looking for one big punch in terms of great customer experience, but, actually, you have to get all the little experiences in place to even put you in a position to make the final one count.

Take a customer-journey perspective on your customer interactions and make sure that all the small steps are optimised.  This means that when you go the extra mile it will make a difference.  Stop, reflect: are there combinations of actions that, together, could move the customer satisfaction score?

Thanks to Paul Sweeney, Director of Innovation, VoiceSage.

55.    Cut the paper trail

Too many contact centres still rely on paper-based tools to carry out a wide range of tasks, from scripting to QA.  This year, why not audit and review the number of activities that could be automated with technology.

For instance, by dumping antiquated paper methods and time-consuming Excel spreadsheets you could see a 50% jump in improvement for QA management alone. Eliminating paper-based procedures will also help you to meet compliance such as PCI, and screen-based dynamic scripting will result in better service and greater productivity. Demolish the paper mountain and you will see bottom-line improvements across the operation… and you’ll be doing your bit for the environment.

Thanks to Carl Adkins, Founder of contact centre software specialist, Infinity CCS

56.    Assign a ‘super’ user to a project

super-user-Before a new project or campaign begins it is advisable to assign a ‘super’ user to support the project co-ordinator. This gives an added dimension to what the agents needs to know prior to going live and it also gives them first-hand experience in hearing their challenges in setting up a new business/product.

57.    Vary the role to include email and social media

During the induction period, it is beneficial for team leaders to quickly establish individual talents in order to allocate other non-telephony workload.  Taking call after call can create high attrition or a tired work force, so it is advisable to keep the team motivated with a variety of communication workload channels.  Some team members thrive on email handling, others are a dab hand at social media communication and others have fantastic, accurate data-entry skills.

It’s a good idea to try and find something for everyone in the daily workload requirements. This in turn keeps the role varied and interesting and at the same time it creates a multi-skilled community.

58.    Design the best seating plans

There’s often so much an agent needs to be aware of when they join a new centre, and with everyone learning at different speeds, the training process can become overwhelming for new starters if it’s not taken in a step by step and flexible approach.

Seating the call centre team leaders amongst the team to naturally listen in to calls and be on hand to take over if necessary is one way of dealing with the training process.  Adjusting the computers to be able to swap people around to sit next to relevant project buddies also helps and encourages on-the-job listening and learning.

Reviewing seating plans every six weeks or so can ensure both training and business needs for each client is met and it also makes sure the teams mix.

Thanks to Joanne Varey, Managing Director of handling & fulfilment specialist, Granby Marketing Services

59.    Embrace customer complaints and feedback – positive and negative!

Customer complaints provide business intelligence money can’t buy!  Log all complaints (however trivial they may seem at the time) from all contact channels.  Analyse these to spot trends and to establish the root cause of customer feedback.  Understanding why a customer has had a negative experience means changes can be made before the same problem affects another customer.

60.    Rapid response to complaints is essential

Respond. React. Resolve.  Irrespective of the magnitude of the complaint, customer relationships can be repaired, simply as the result of a well-managed complaints process.  Often a customer is oblivious to initial good service, but they can’t fail to recognise good service if they feel they have been listened to and their issue resolved.

61.    Close the loop on customer feedback

Automate your end-to-end complaints and feedback management programme to efficiently capture, process and resolve, as well as report on and analyse every piece of customer feedback, whether negative or positive, from all channels.

62.    Always establish the root cause of complaints!

negative-feedbackThis will identify customer satisfaction issues and act as a business barometer to expose early signs of inherent problems.  The value of root cause analysis is its ability to identify the deep-rooted causes of dissatisfaction and deliver an insight into customers’ attitudes and behavioural trends, therefore providing the intelligence needed to make positive changes at all related points.

Root cause analysis (RCA) also provides an audit trail essential to meet regulatory requirements for complaint and feedback management.

63.    If someone complains it is usually because they want to be satisfied

The point at which a customer complains is often the greatest test of the relationship between your customer and you.  Therefore you must view customer complaints as an asset, not as a costly, time-consuming inconvenience.

If someone bothers to complain it is usually because they actually want to be satisfied.  If they didn’t they would cut their losses and run. By opening the dialogue, complaints provide you with the great opportunity to develop more profitable and sustainable relationships with customers.

Thanks to Mark Chambers, Director of Solution Consulting, UK, Ireland & Benelux at Aptean.

64.    Pre-empt phone calls

Increase your agent productivity and aid customer satisfaction by managing the production of the ‘happy call’.  Especially at this time of year we see a lot of ‘Where is my stuff ?’ types of call from anxious customers taking up significant agent time. Pre-empt these calls by communicating with the customer in advance and keeping them updated – offer them the option of dealing with an agent should they wish – i.e. manage by exception.

Thanks to Graham Brierton, CTO of VoiceSage

65.    Reduce chaser calls

Every time a customer makes a call to a company they are making an effort and spending time that they would rather spend on other things. A substantial proportion of the calls made to contact centres are ‘chaser’ calls from customers who simply want to know what is happening with their application, enquiry, request or complaint.

This places immense pressure on call centre staff, not just in fielding incoming calls but in accessing the information that the frustrated caller requires with sufficient speed.

There’s growing support for strategies that significantly reduce the need for customers to make chaser calls. The most obvious solution is for companies to be more proactive in providing customers with regular updates on the status of their particular case.

Thanks to Martin Scovell, founder and CEO of MatsSoft Ltd

66.    Make sure your audio messages are right

Be involved with the design of the service and have it managed internally by someone that takes an interest.  What your clients hear and the questions they are asked has a direct effect on their perception of your brand.  Pay attention to the style of script and voice talent you use and ask yourself, ‘is this in keeping with the rest of my brand?’  Imagine how it would sound if you rang a holiday company for the over 50s and the welcome message was aimed at a much younger holiday maker.

Do you think you’d know the difference between ringing the BBC or Disney simply by the introduction of the phone system?  The audio is very important.

Thanks to Rob Crutchington, Sales Director, Encoded Ltd

67.    Know your customers

Understanding your customers better will improve your contact centre operations ten-fold. A better understanding of your customers not only equips your agents better, but also improves the customer experience. For example, for agents making outbound contact, information on a customer and how they prefer to be contacted, through which channel and at what time, is invaluable. Rather than waste time calling every day, at the same time, the agent knows when best to get in touch. This in turn will also make the customer far more satisfied, as they will appreciate that you have taken the time to understand them. This is enabled through technologies which gather and analyse customer data.

Thanks to Mark King, VP, Europe & Africa, Aspect Software

68.    Build up a pool of goodwill

Involve your employees in the running of the company, and take their feedback on board; help them do their jobs better when you see the opportunity; back them up in the face of unreasonable customers; root out the work-shy amongst their number – this will enable you to build up a stock of goodwill that will stand you in good stead whenever you need to ask for that ‘extra mile’.

69.    Track the quality of schedules

Tracking the quality of the schedules is really important to your workforce optimisation initiative. Monitor the peak times and the volume of calls received to help you accurately forecast resource requirements and to ensure you meet service level agreements.

Thanks to Steve Rosier, Director of Analytics, EMEA, at Verint

70.    Add a self-service tab on your Facebook page

facebook-button-185Many contact centres are already active on social media, with agents responding to the growing number of people looking for information or expressing opinions and concerns about their products and services.  But an effective way to enhance social media customer service and reduce the load on contact centre agents is to introduce a self-service facility on your social media pages.

Give social media users direct access to your self-service knowledgebase via a tab on your Facebook pages to let them easily find answers to routine questions.  In the same way, the dramatic increase in people using the mobile web means you should seriously consider creating an app to provide easy access to self-service information for smartphone users.

Thanks to Dee Roche, Vice President Global Marketing at Eptica

71.    Don’t say ‘Your call is important to us’

The number one reason customers become irate is being on hold. And NEVER play a recording that says ‘Your call is important to us. Please hold for the next available representative.’

If it was important, it would have been answered. Customers care little for the economics of the contact centre and average hold times or call volumes.

Thanks to Wally Brill, Senior VP Customer Experience at VoxGen

72.    Make your contact centre an innovation centre

If you are a call centre manager, it is important to get more ‘social’: to engage your front-line customer service, listen to them, talk to them, and give them a voice.

It is important to remember, either as a call centre manager or an employee, that ‘social’ goes beyond Facebook and Twitter.  It is also talking on phone, texting, sending letters and emails, chatting and gathering in person as well as in a virtual, peer-to-peer community. Limiting yourself to one form of contact is minimising productivity and in many ways the effectiveness of your work. Different people respond to different forms of contact.

A valuable tip is to use enterprise social to support the social customer and their needs and to use it to empower contact centre employees to answer customers’ questions more rapidly and accurately.

Thanks to Moxie Software

73.    Correlate Voice of the Customer and Voice of the Employee feedback

Correlate Voice of the Customer and Voice of the Employee feedback. By correlating the two, you can build up a picture of which teams and individuals are performing at their peak and learn lessons from them to replicate those skills across your call centre.

Thanks to Claire Sporton, VP Customer Experience Management, Confirmit

74.    Position the headset correctly

To ensure optimal sound quality and clarity, position your headset microphone 2 fingers-width away from your mouth. This will allow you to be heard clearly.

75.    Stretch out!

stretchAgents wearing headsets should stand up regularly when on calls to stretch leg muscles. The person on the end of the call will never know!

76.    Use a supervisor cord

If you want to monitor call quality and therefore wish to listen in on agent calls to help with training, invest in a supervisor cord if you use corded headsets. If you are moving to wireless devices, select a model that offers a conference pairing mode to allow two people to be on the same call.

77.    Relieve neck tension

To relieve tension that builds up in your neck and shoulders do some quick and easy shoulder-shrug exercises and neck stretches. Also, remember to never ‘crunch’ a telephone handset between your ear and shoulder whilst on a call – even if very briefly. A headset will help relieve the neck strain this causes and frees up the hands to do other things such as type or write.

Thanks to Jabra

78.    Triage your calls

Consider using triage methods in the contact centre. Skills-based routing and priority assignment for all contacts can ensure effective queue management.

79.   Use whisper prompts

If you are using multi-skilling, or call overflows, prepare your advisors for every call with a whisper prompt. This can also be combined with a screen-pop on the CRM system providing history on the caller.

This can allow advisors to start any conversation knowing who is calling and provide a single view of relevant data from multiple systems about that customer.

Thanks to Netcall

80.  Give agents the right knowledge tools

When it comes to customer service, person-to-person interaction remains incredibly powerful and extremely effective. However, the nature of customer service enquiries handled by the call centre has changed. Agents must deal with more difficult and complex enquiries – scenarios that represent crucial as opposed to casual interactions.

It is essential that agents, who represent a critical lifeline to customers, are given the tools and information they need.  As the agent role changes, the need for a consistent and unified knowledge base is absolutely essential to enable agents to serve customers.

For the past few years now, we’ve seen companies leverage the power of online user communities to develop extensive customer service and support resources. Today these organisations are recognising the need to curate this knowledge – investing resources to actively manage this resource – as opposed to simply collecting it.

Thanks to Steven Thurlow, Worldwide Head of Product Strategy, KANA Software

81.    Ask the customer satisfaction question everyone should be asking, but no one does

Have you ever been in a restaurant and heard yourself saying everything was fine when it wasn’t?

Now imagine if the waiter asks, ‘Was there anything we could have done just a little bit better?’
We must proactively try to get negative feedback from our customers. The extremely dissatisfied ones will be in touch anyway, don’t you worry.

However, the far bigger percentage of customers are those that are not happy but won’t get in touch. These are the ones we need to get better at capturing. Once you have a robust system for this in place (e.g. post-contact surveys asking the question above) you can then data-mine the feedback and pass this on to the relevant department, becoming a real-time information hub for the company (and significantly improving customer retention and spend)!

Thanks to Mats Rennstam, Bright UK

82.    Never stop learning

pile-of-booksThe contact centre and customer services market is a constantly evolving and changing industry; what worked last year is likely to have been improved or developed significantly.  No matter what level or position you are employed at, there are a wealth of ideas, events and opinions across the market place and all relatively easy to access.

83.    Practice makes perfect

Don’t be afraid to try and keep trying.  To become great at anything takes a lot of practice.

Thanks to Douglas Jackson

84.    Employ agents who are like your customers

The way that different age groups choose to interact with their business varies. For example, generation Y will often search online for a resolution before contacting the organisation directly, whereas older generations will make the contact centre their first point of call. This presents a significant opportunity for contact centres to improve the customer experience they deliver.

Contact centres need to recruit candidates who can effectively engage with and serve unique customer requirements. For example, recruiting agents of a similar age to the majority of consumers can lead to better engagement, improving customer service.

85.    Generate online communities

Contact centres can improve customer experience by fostering online communities in which consumers can ask their queries in a public forum where other members can offer advice on how to resolve them. In doing so, they will enhance the customer experience, as not only will issues will be resolved quickly but consumers will be empowered to help one another, while allowing contact centre agents to focus on queries not answered online.

Thanks to Danny Rippon, EMEA CRM Applications Director, Oracle.

86.    Don’t over-measure your staff

ruler-measuringThere is a tendency to over-measure staff in the contact centre. Instead, start to listen to your staff and what they have to say.  Support/Develop/Empower.

87.    Be careful of creating a compensation culture

Customers do not want compensation, they want their problem resolved.

88.    Get technology aligned

Sometimes, I am not sure what was first, the objective that we want to achieve or the system around which we have to tailor the objective?

Thanks to Jurgen

89.    Optimise your website for mobile

With web access now widely available, and with an increasing proportion of customers now engaging with organisations via their smartphones and tablets, customer service providers need to ensure that their customer-facing processes are web-enabled at every stage of the customer journey.

This demands not only that e-commerce and customer service operations work effectively in partnership, but also that the right web technologies are in place to support customers before, during and after voice interactions.

Thanks to Stuart Dorman, Head of Consultancy Practice, Sabio

90.     Virtualise your workforce

The benefits of a hosted contact centre solution can go far beyond cost savings and ease of management. The next generation of workers is shaping up to be a flexible, virtual entity, with a ‘human cloud’ workforce replacing the traditional office-based set-up, and the rewards for businesses and workers alike could be huge.

Remote agents can work anywhere, which can increase job satisfaction, and significantly broadens the talent pool beyond a business’s region, making it easier to recruit higher calibre staff.

Adapting to fit this model is especially important for contact centres since customer satisfaction is correlated to agent performance, and staff turnover can be so high.

Thanks to Steve Powell, Contact Centre Specialist, Mitel

91.    Reduce customer effort to increase loyalty

customer-effort-through-mazeCustomer satisfaction is no longer the ultimate indicator to measure effective customer service.

More and more people are expecting their queries to be answered quickly and efficiently, with minimal effort. As a result we’re starting to see Customer Effort Scores (CES) replacing traditional tools to predict brand loyalty. Contact centres should look at where customers are using the most effort to reach a resolution – whether that be the amount of time taken to solve an issue, repeat calls or having to switch service channels.

Examine feedback from customers, look at where there may be service failures and remove any obstacles to a smooth customer experience.

92.    Allow agents to monitor their own calls

To make the most of quality monitoring you need to get staff on side. Employees can sometimes feel that these exercises are set up simply to catch them out, so reassure them that the monitoring is being used to improve the service by highlighting good behaviour as well as areas for improvement. Actively involve agents by getting them to analyse their own calls and teach them to recognise what makes a quality performance.

Empowering them to contribute to the quality monitoring process will ultimately make them more motivated to implement it.

93.    Facilitate flexible working for agents

Churn doesn’t have to be a natural partner in the agent life-cycle. Allowing staff to work around their commitments in flexible shift patterns, or even work from home, can help aid retention.

Cloud-based call centres are becoming increasingly common. These allow employees to work remotely while being fully integrated into the company’s existing infrastructure. Recruiting and training new starters is one of the biggest costs to contact centres and increasing employee satisfaction through flexible working can ultimately reduce long-term churn and maintain skills in-house.

Thanks to Mark Brown, managing director, Contact Centres & Loyalty, arvato UK & Ireland

94.    Provide solutions to enable customers to self-serve

Different types of customers prefer different engagement methods. The older generation are often happier speaking to an agent. The younger generation in the 16-24 age category will typically want to make contact via a smartphone or mobile device and will often be looking for voiceless interaction.

Therefore, offering these customers a one-time URL, enabling them to navigate their way into the system and solve their problem themselves through a self-service approach, is likely to resonate well and save the organisation money.

95.    Minimise obstacles that get in the way of customers

tightrope-walkingTo achieve effortless customer service processes, companies should picture a typical customer service journey and then map this to the customer profile they hold.

There are typically fewer than ten basic objectives customers have when they contact a service provider – and, in some cases, fewer than five. In answering such enquiries, you should focus on understanding the profile of the customer you are dealing with and the type of problem they are likely to have.

96.    Focus on problem solving not speed

In the past, businesses have focused on ensuring a rapid resolution to the customer’s enquiry – sometimes at the expense of the quality of the response. To address this, organisations need to make sure they have systems in place to identify customers and likely enquiry types and to prioritise interactions appropriately.

Thanks to Jeremy Payne, International VP Marketing – Enghouse Interactive

97.    Create your own customer-service videos

Proactively address your customers’ needs by generating digital and social content in the form of videos, blogs and forums. Videos allow for real-time product demonstration, they enable customers to troubleshoot issues at their own leisure, and are practical as they can be paused and restarted as and when needed.

98.    Create a YouTube channel

Create your own branded video channel on your corporate site or a portal such as YouTube – these are a great way to engage with customers and reach new younger and tech-savvy audiences.

99.    Map where customers fail in self-service

A properly constructed self-service approach starts with the customer in mind and positions itself in front of the customer’s desired channels of choice.

Map the service experience to get a good idea of all probable scenarios where a customer may fail while attempting to self-serve.  It may be through intelligent deployments of social response monitoring, escalation to proactive live chat, email support or other text-based methods of support interaction focused on enhancing the experience of customers attempting to self-serve.

Thanks to Joe Doyle, Vice President, Global Marketing at Sitel.

Do you have any tips for changing your contact centre?  Please leave your comments in the question box below.

2 Jan 2013 - Filed under Hints and Tips , , , , , , , , , , ,

Views - 119,506

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Comments on: 99 ways to change your contact centre

Is number 84 encouraging age discrimination in recruitment?

Posted by Nick — 3 Jan @ 3:17 pm

Organisations should encourage their agents to share the cusotmer testimonials/appreciations with their teams. With substantial customer interactions at the Contact Centre, best way to keep the agent motivated and engaged is to share and appreciate the good work done by each agent. Why is it important? In an service environment where customers have options to visit stores and interact with their service providers the service providers have the opportunity to interact and modulate their response, this is not the case for CC. When good interactions are publicied, it acts as a motivator and prompts the officer to improve/sustain the positive “outcome” from every interaction.

Posted by Manepalli Vinay Babu — 16 Jun @ 2:54 am

thank you for your information on that topic.

Posted by kombat samuel — 11 Apr @ 3:06 pm

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