9 Ways to Fix Your Call CenterCategory: Call Center Tips, Education & Learning, Employee Engagement, Training
Posted by: George Simons on October 21, 2015
No matter what type of business you’re running, it’s important to give customers the best experience concerning your product or service. This is especially true for call centers. They are often the heart of a company due to their direct contact with the customer.
Global Contact Services (GCS) has been managing call centers for our clients since 2001. Over the years, we’ve learned many meaningful customer service tips, which have helped improve customer experience at dozens of companies.
Here are 9 ways to fix your call center and improve the everyday experience of your most valuable asset – your customers.
Call Centers Need an Employee Focus
Excellent customer service experience begins with investing in your employees. Below are some tips on how to easily implement small changes among your agents. Small changes that will have a valuable ripple effect with your customers.
1. Call Center Agent Selection
Hiring friendly people to talk to your customers regarding feedback or complaints is one of the most basic, yet most easily forgotten, rules of customer service. By bringing the right agents on board with your company, you’re more than halfway to your goal of providing good customer service.
Keep in mind that it’s not enough to simply hire friendly people. Once you’ve determined that an individual has the right personality for customer service, invest both time and money into them as an individual. Perform assessments or interviews, ensuring an agent is placed within a department where they’ll thrive.
Adding a new area of service? Be sure to hire new agents or pull interested parties from your existing pool of employees. If the culture in your call center is positive, transplanting employees can work. If your culture needs changing, bring in new agents to reset the culture expectations.
2. Call Center Agent Education
Even if an agent you’ve hired has worked in a call center before, chances are they have never worked in your particular call center. Before you put an agent in charge of incoming calls for your business, educate them in a way that is both informative and engaging.
Obviously, you’ll want to show agents the basics of what they’ll be using daily, like software or communication programs. You also need to inform them about the company including its products or services so they know what they’re expected to communicate to the customer.
Most importantly, and most easily passed over, is gratifying continual education. Many call centers work with employees on a weekly or monthly basis, providing feedback or offering refreshers on a single topic. Instead of this less than engaging means of informing employees, have a manager work with individual team members daily for just a few minutes. Listen to one of their calls together. Discuss areas where they did well and areas where they can improve. Encourage them to help their teammates. By establishing a firm foundation and incorporating regular steps that can help even your top employees improve, you build a culture of engagement. You’ll establish a more formidable call center.
3. Flexible & Scalable Call Centers
When customer demand is very fluid, success is often determined by the size and flexibility of your employee base. It is important to have a good mix of full-time and part-time employees with the ability to work varying schedules. That’s more cost effective at meeting the varying customer patterns. The number of calls often ebbs and flows with the company. A new product release may increase the number of calls you’re receiving, as could the holidays. However, you may receive fewer calls during the summer months or in the weeks between product launches.
If you haven’t already started, begin measuring call rates as well as average call length. Look at call patterns to determine busy times of day or busy times of the week or year. By staffing the right number of employees at the right time, you will improve issues within your call center such as abandoned call rates or lengthy wait times. Additionally, by employing a flexible, scalable, and well-informed staff, you will be ensuring the overall success of your call center year-round.
Technology in Call Centers
Technology is constantly changing, and as it does it’s important to continuously assess if it would improve your customer experience. What are the technological investments you should make? Start with our insights below:
Many companies use Interactive Voice Response (IVRs) as an initial means of communication when customers call in with feedback or a complaint. This highly effective form of technology can sometimes get customers the answers they need much faster than an agent, as IVRs can guide individuals to the right department or pull information from company databases and present it to the customer. This helps people calling in who don’t necessarily need to speak with someone directly.
The callback feature has also gained popularity. It allows customers to request a callback when they don’t want to wait on hold for an agent to help them. An automated routine will make the call when the agent is free or at the time scheduled by the customer.
The dashboards associated with IVRs aren’t just helpful to your customers. They can also provide information to agents regarding how many customers are in the queue, how long someone has been on hold, or common issues customers are calling in about.
Give your IVR some thought. Does it suit your current needs as well as future needs that may arise? If not, you may want to consider updating your technology. It may be an expensive yet dependable way to fix your call center.
5. Points of Contact
It’s becoming more important for businesses to conveniently be available to their customers. With new technology, this isn’t a difficult step for your call center to make, though it can bring about huge improvements.
Instead of being a call center, transform your division into a contact center. The more channels customers can use to reach out and ask their questions or offer feedback, the happier they’ll be. As digital communication becomes the norm, more and more people reject the traditional 1-800 numbers for the ease of online chat, social media outlets, and email support. Some customers even prefer video chats because it means connecting with an actual person rather than just a voice.
The key is to provide the channels your customers are using. Survey your customers and industry peers to see what is working. Slowly adopt and test new ways for your customers to contact you before building something that does not get used.
Test the channel. You may wish to outsource new channels to validate their use before disrupting your entire contact center.
Once you’re confident in one new method of contact with your customers, begin testing another. Never stop expanding the options your customers have to reach out to you. It will make them more likely to continue working with your company.
6. KPI Measurements for Contact Centers
Your KPIs or Key Performance Indicators are an important piece of the technological puzzle. KPIs are a business metric used to measure and evaluate factors crucial to the success of your company. How well are you performing in certain areas?
KPIs should not only be broken down by department, but they should also be broken down within a department and to agent level. Analysis of the data will point you in the direction of people and processes that need improvement or celebration. Today’s technology provides enormous data that you can tap into to improve all areas of your center. If you are not using it, there’s no better time to begin than right now.
Make a list of all the issues you are having in the center. Then determine the metrics you want to measure to regain control. This might include the average wait time of your customers before they reach an agent or first call resolution. Use the data to drill down to the root causes of the problems and address the biggest ones first.
Keep in mind that KPIs are situational. Those that are helpful for one call center may not be required insight for your own. Pinpointing the right KPIs is key to working toward success. Take time to figure out what the right ones are and it will make a huge difference in your call center success.
7. Optimize the Experience
Unless a company is willing to optimize the experience of their customer, most customers won’t retain their loyalty.
While offering points, coupons, and discounts may seem like it’s just something for retail stores and restaurants, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Even call centers, like yours, can benefit from advances made in marketing technology. By incorporating software that enables you to “remember” your customers, you can improve their overall call center experience.
For instance, a single customer who calls in three times over the span of a month will probably work with three separate agents or self-service channels. Whether they’re calling in about the same issue or a brand new issue, agents should be able to quickly view notes and see activity on the account. Insights into past offerings or solutions are helpful in fully resolving issues and personalizing the customer experience. By ensuring your customers don’t have to start from scratch every time they dial in with a compliment or a complaint, you’re improving their overall experience and, at the same time, fixing your call center.
Customer Service in Call Centers
8. Personal Touch
There are few things more frustrating than calling into a company with an issue and getting the sneaking feeling that the responses you’re receiving are being read from a script or call guide. That’s not to say that call guides are a bad thing (they can prove extremely helpful) and by having agents read from call guides, you’re ensured that customers are getting the same responses to the same issues.
That being said, if you’re interested in fixing your call center by adding a personal touch to calls and other customer service responses, you’re bound to see improvement in customer experience satisfaction.
Does your agent hear a dog barking in the background? It’s perfectly acceptable to break from the script and comment on this. An agent could ask for the name of the dog or the breed. Perhaps your customer reaches out via email and you notice from their signature that they have an online business portfolio. Compliment them on their work. By taking just a few minutes to personalize your customer’s experience, you make their reaching out less of a chore. If your customer is more than just a number to your call center, and they should be, make sure they are treated like it.
9. Customer Service & Setting Expectations
The most basic rule of customer service is meeting the expectations of your customers. This is something that agents should know, but many forget. The majority of calls coming through a call center contain voices hoping for not much more than being heard. Perhaps they are displeased with a product. Maybe they’re thrilled with a service. Oftentimes, they need help. No matter the reason why a customer is reaching out, the requirement for resolution is usually quite reasonable.
Perhaps your customer wants to return an item for a refund. Maybe they need assistance logging into their account. All active agents should be trained rigorously on the types of calls they can expect to receive. One way to achieve this is by having agents listen to pre-recorded calls or practice role play with a coach or trainer.
Properly prepare your agents to meet the expectations of 99% of your customer base, and your call center will flourish. The goal here is that at the end of the call, when an agent asks a customer if they have been completely satisfied with the experience, the answer should be a resounding “Yes!”