Here are some of the key behaviours of the best-performing contact centres in the world.
1. Constructing a skills matrix to understand staff competencies
Businesses sometimes forget the mix of knowledge and experience their staff bring from previous roles. As a result, they make large investments in outsourced consultancy to drive business change or reduce costs.
This is a major missed opportunity to develop careers internally while also saving very large sums of money. Some of the best companies take the time to aggregate information about staff’s key skills in a ‘skills matrix’.
This is most often reserved for management-level employees, but there is a growing trend among supervisors to create similar resources for their own agent sub-groups.
Creating a skills matrix contributes to keeping projects in-house, run by staff who not only possess the core competencies but who know the business inside out.
2. Taking the effort out of customer service
The best contact centres are not necessarily seeking to amaze customers every time – they simply aim to make interactions as easy as possible.
Contact centre staff are often hindered by an inability to solve problems themselves, instead needing to pass issues to another colleague or department. Making service easy for the customer means hunting down clunky processes and finding ways to give autonomy to frontline agents.
It also means measuring Customer Effort Score (CES) as a key metric. This is one area where AHT is still highly relevant, because call length can be a useful indicator of customer investment.
Other factors to look at include the length of time spent queueing, the ease of locating contact details online or in correspondence, and the number of representatives a customer has to speak to. Effort is increasingly a major focus of customer surveys.
3. Integrating the contact centre with the wider business
Contact centre leaders must take the initiative when it comes to reaching out to other departments. After all, there is no excuse for a contact centre that does not communicate well.
Areas of contact centre expertise such as database management and customer relations mean that contact planners can potentially set the tone for their entire business. This begins with sharing information and avoiding data silos. These knowledge areas demonstrate how the contact centre is pre-emptive and not just reactive.
Interdepartmental strategising can be a huge boost, enabling better coordination for all stakeholders. Customer service and sales teams can benefit hugely from a greater understanding of current marketing messages and events that will increase contact volumes.
Integration is also important in website design. The changing environment of multichannel communications means that the contact centre must contribute to how vital services, FAQs and contact details are presented online.
4. Treating staff engagement as make-or-break
The very best contact centres know how to support their staff. This includes making an effort to offer genuinely flexible working hours, mentoring, and other perks. It also means tracking staff engagement as seriously as customer satisfaction.
The data is already available in abundance; attrition, absenteeism and the results of exit interviews are all useful in determining how staff relate to their roles. Speech analytics can help determine how much agents suffer from ‘end of the day slumps’, and scheduling practices can be modified around this information.
Another good marker of engagement is interest in extra training and e-learning. Measuring engagement as a key metric marks out the great contact centres from the adequate, as staff are both more willing and more able to commit to excellence.
“I do believe that if you do what is right for your staff, they will want to do what’s right for your customers. Making employee engagement the highest priority is the difference between an average centre and an inspiring one.” With thanks to Jacqueline Turner, Leadership Development at Tesco PLC.
5. Tracking Net Promoter Score to measure advocacy
Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures the likelihood of an average customer either recommending or criticising a business’s service. This will usually require collecting scored customer feedback, but the insights it yields are well worth the effort.
One of the most important things a business can know about its customers is what they tell their friends. The message forward-thinking managers are taking to their teams is “advocacy is better than advertising.”
High-performing contact centres go beyond simply collecting this data, though; they study how it can impact their operation. Trends in customer dissatisfaction can be acted upon, while customer preferences are brought into focus.
The single biggest mistake made by average contact centres is collecting data which they fail to act on. NPS is a good example of this because, while it is increasingly being put to use, many institutions are not sure how to use the results.
NPS is only useful when a company knows what motivates its detractors and its advocates.
6. Offering a fully integrated multichannel service
The multichannel era has arrived, and while many contact centres are providing numerous contact options, few have created an integrated service.
Integration means, first and foremost, operating all channels to the same quality standards as the primary channel. This is achieved not just by resourcing but by understanding what each channel is actually for.
The purpose of channels is determined partly by customer intent and partly by practical limitations. For example, social media channels are unsuitable for making sales but can be an option for taking complaints.
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each channel helps contact centres to direct traffic to the resource that is best able to provide assistance.
Businesses need cross-trained agents and a firm understanding of the kinds of interactions that can be supported by each channel. When customers move from one to another, it should be as simple as transferring a call.
7. Adopting a culture of continuous improvement
Broken processes plague many organisations and become a source of frustration for agents.
It has been estimated that up to 40% of contacts are making contact due to failure demand.
World-class organisations adopt a culture of continuous improvement where frontline staff are encouraged, or even required, to get involved in fixing avoidable contacts.
Do you have any other ideas? Please leave them
With thanks to Jack Barton, a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper