Small improvements can make a big difference in the contact centre. Our panel of experts give their tips on how to make a better contact centre.
1. Get to know employees
Within any organisation it is crucial that there are open lines of communication. Some employers implement an open-door policy or try to maintain strong visibility on the floor. It is important to take the time to get to know your employees and take a personal interest in them. Being professional, consistent, fair, open and honest is key when communicating with your staff. Make sure you reflect the company’s policies and use appropriate language and tone at all times.
Geoff Sims, Managing Director, Hays Contact Centres
2. Enable your agent to stand in your customer’s shoes
Every contact centre will endeavour to build rapport with the customers of the brand it serves. In order to achieve this, managers must ensure they carry out training that positions agents in the customer’s shoes. This will ensure they understand the process and advantages associated with the conversations they have with customers. Such training can build a team’s understanding of customers’ decisions.
This enables agents to exude confidence, competence and better support for the customers they liaise with. In turn, this will mean dialogue between the employee and customer is conversational, relevant and intelligently positioned.
Chris Hancock, GasboxDMG
3. Avoid a blame culture
Blame can kill a call centre and the associated KPIs. It results in a negative attitude from agents, managers and anyone involved. The key is to be grown-up. If you need to defend yourself for an issue caused by someone else then be open and, if needed, discuss the situation with everyone involved to find a resolution and put in place an action plan to prevent the same thing happening again.
Sending back-handed emails, especially avoiding the person you are passing the blame to, will do more harm than good. Remember, this is more important when handling team managers, as if you upset a manager their negative attitude will cascade to their team. You can quite simply shoot yourself in the foot.
Nathan Winstanley, Compliance Manager, Clearanswer Call Centres
4. Consider adjusting the mix of part-time and full-time employees
Many call centre agents, if presented with the option, would prefer to work part-time. Whether they are going to school or caring for children, working part time is an attractive option, which improves their work-life balance. Employees, however, aren’t the only ones to benefit from such a strategy. By implementing such a programme, call centres can experience lower agent attrition and potentially lower call centre labour costs.
5. Hire and promote from within
Unfortunately, many call centre agents feel that their job is a “dead end”, and they only go through the motions before they find their next call centre job. Like every other employee, call centre agents need to feel that they are valued. Pay, rewards and incentives are only one way.
Another way is to show agents that there is a career path, not only in the call centre, but also elsewhere in the company. Many effective companies have a rotational scheme that enables each employee to spend time in another department so they can see how the whole company operates. This gives agents the sense that there is life after the call centre, and may help recruit other current employees into the call centre.
6. Calibrate customer feedback with internal quality assurance metrics
Many customers really don’t care if your agent used their name three times during the call. Customers are more interested in getting their call handled professionally and with an outcome that is reasonable for the customer. Some internal-facing metrics – technical skills, job knowledge, etc. – are important, but ensure that these are structured in such a manner as to support the overall mission of the call centre, which should be to create and retain satisfied customers.
Simon Angove, CEO, GMT Corporation
7. Tricky question? Get an instant answer
It’s possible to anticipate most customer questions, but not every one. So what do you do when a customer asks a question your team can’t answer or that’s not covered by your knowledge base?
Rather than arrange to call or email the customer back, set up an internal Instant Messaging (IM) system for agents.
When an agent encounters difficulties, they simply IM their questions to fellow agents, managers and specialists and, if someone can help, they get a response within seconds.
The impact of internal IM systems on first-contact resolution is obvious – but their impact on customer satisfaction, agent productivity and quality is often equally dramatic.
Carl Adkins, CEO, Infinity CCS (www.infinityccs.com)
8. Allow flexibility
Independent studies show that allowing staff to plan their own shift times is one of the key factors when it comes to satisfaction, loyalty and performance. By using a fair and transparent self-service process, it is possible to fulfil both individual work scheduling and optimal workforce deployment.
If too many agents apply for the same shift, work must be distributed fairly and equally. To achieve this, business rules can be predefined to determine how this distribution is handled, e.g. by considering factors like agents’ seniority or skills. This way, up to 90% of the agents’ requests can be met — while optimally covering the staffing requirements of the contact centre.
Chris Dealy– Sales Director, injixo (https://www.injixo.com/uk)
9. Consolidate information systems
Agents spend a significant part of their time updating and retrieving customer information from various technology sources. Using technology that consolidates all data into one application allows agents to input and extract relevant information all at once, without having to check each system individually.
Moreover, during a call the system can be set up to prompt agents with questions and best offers tailored to the customer, turning a mundane service call into a sales opportunity.
David Mason, Major Accounts Manager, Business Systems UK Ltd (bslgroup.com)
10. Go back to basics
Quite often, going back to basics will put your strategy back on the right path. It may be that most of your customers are less worried about having the ability to contact you in seven different ways and are more concerned with finding the right person to answer their question as quickly as possible. It may be that they are not getting those answers quickly because the medium is not manned correctly.
For example, it is all very well having social media, but are staff trained and able to communicate and respond to it as effectively as they would over the phone? And if your business relies mostly on telephone contact, is it using technology such as skills-based routing to ensure each enquiry is routed to the person most able to help without delay?
Ken Reid, Marketing Director, Rostrvm Solutions (www.rostrvm.com)
11. Introduce a balanced score card
We currently employ 10 team leaders to cover shifts for our 24/7 operation to suit the needs of our clients. We needed to ensure that all team leaders were consistently managing their team’s performance and increasing productivity across the helpdesk. In order to benchmark each team leader we devised and implemented a balanced score card that reported on each individual’s productivity against all of their objectives. This gave the management team a “balanced” view of their performance and in its simplest form provided an overall score for each team leader on a monthly basis.
This allowed the operations managers to focus on the improvement areas which were clearly visible; it also stipulated a healthy competitive culture across the team leader group.
The components of the score card include:
- 121 completion
- Team adherence
- Call quality
- Absence management
- Client reports produced and delivered
- Internal reports produced and delivered
- Personal 121 targets achieved
- Client SLA achievement
- PMS achieved
- Account and Operations Manager satisfaction
Within 3 months of the balanced score card being introduced, each team leader had increased productivity by 15%. The learning outcome for the management team is that by having clear visibility of all performance indicators and empowering the team leaders to produce their own balanced score card statistics, everyone’s awareness of the overall productivity of the helpdesk increased. As a result of its success we have now introduced balanced score cards for all operators.
Tracey Rangeley, Operations Manager, Atkins Asset Management
12. Segment customers by channel preference
Customer segmentation techniques are commonly used to ensure customers get the best possible service. On outbound campaigns, for example, companies frequently sell different products to customers based on their perceived needs and spending power; or use agents with particular regional accents to call customers from the same region. Likewise on inbound campaigns, companies often route customers to specific agents based on their perceived value.
But what about segmenting customers by channel preference as well? As a typical Consumer 2.0, I prefer to self-serve and troubleshoot problems myself. However, faced with the same set of issues, my father would prefer to pick up the phone to talk them through with a live person; and my teenage daughter would prefer to use Facebook or another social tool.
If channel choice is key to an individual’s service experience then, to ensure loyalty, it should be considered as a key input in your customer service ‘rules engine’ alongside value, buying power, accent and other factors.
Mark King, Senior VP, Europe and Africa, Aspect (www.aspect.com)
Do you have any other ideas for improving the contact centre? Please share them