11 Call Center Innovations You Need Right Now
Businesses are always looking for the competitive edge. After all, in order to keep your customer base it is important to keep your product or service updated. As rapidly as technology can change, it’s imperative to also stay on top of industry trends, pushing your business to the forefront.
Why Is Innovation Important to Call Centers?
While innovations in technology have transformed the call center industry over the last decade, innovations in other human resources and call center process can take you even further. Implementing these call center innovations will help your center improve the service and experience you provide while also helping to drive down costs. For that reason we’ve come up with a list of eleven innovative things your call center should be doing.
1. Blended Call Center Agents
Traditionally, a blended agent is known to be able to handle both inbound and outbound calls. At GCS, we innovated by giving blended agents more fluidity. Here, they consist of teams of representatives that are cross-trained to handle various duties. This way, agents can be assigned to calls based on skill set and need.
For example, a blended agent at GCS knows how to answer questions about two completely different credit cards. Traditionally, an agent may be able to answer questions about one card or the other. This proves problematic for staff on a day in which 75% of calls are about the first credit card while only 25% are about the second credit card. However, by training agents in multiple areas and helping them to hone multiple skills, GCS enables our team to shift with the demand. It’s an innovative solution that not only empowers employees, but proves beneficial to the call center as well.
Cross training increases productivity and also reduces the likelihood of boredom and burnout among your employees. By ensuring that your agents are educated in multiple departments within your call center, you’re also lowering turnover. You may be able to lower agent count as well.
Customers are handled faster because wait times are down. They have to be transferred less and are more impressed with your service.
2. Multi-Channel Contact Center Agents
When you train your agents to be multi-channel, this ensures that they are capable of communicating across a variety of technologies. It’s not enough for your team to be personable over the phone. Agents should also understand technologies such as email, online chat, texting, video, and even surface mail. Still, don’t expect each agent to be good at serving all channels. If the volume is there, have them focus on one at a time. If they are skilled in more than one, assign them to each at different times.
As we pointed out in our last blog post, it is increasingly important for a business to be available to their clients at hours convenient to the public. This may include early mornings, late nights, weekends, and even holidays. Rather than considering your business a call center, look at it as a contact center. When it’s easier for customers to reach you, no matter the day or time, in their channel of choice, they are far more likely to remain committed to you long term.
Research and discover the types of technology that customers who need to reach you are most likely to use. If you don’t offer all these ways to communicate now, integrate them slowly based upon measurements of what will prove most popular among customers. Test channels as you add them. Once you are comfortable with newly integrated communication channels, add an additional channel. By continuously expanding your offerings based on demand, you’ll keep more customers happier.
3. Daily Call Center Agent Feedback & Education
All call centers should offer agent coaching based upon calls they have had with customers. Even top agents have something to learn. With self-coaching, recorded calls are delivered to the agents themselves for scoring, coaching, and even updating. Coaching sessions are conducted at the representative’s workstation, not the manager’s, and they can be as much as 300% more efficient.
This method, while innovative, is also highly efficient in agent training. When an agent is given the opportunity to evaluate what they did right and wrong before a manager expresses their own evaluation, they are often harder on themselves. In fact, at GCS, we provide daily feedback to all of our agents using audio recordings and self-coaching. It creates a faster and more positive atmosphere for our associates.
It is no longer enough to bring your agents in to meet with their managers or a quality coach on a monthly or quarterly basis for a 30-minute evaluation. In order to breed excellent customer service agents, you have to become more hands-on and timely with their education. It emphasizes the daily importance of what they do and makes them feel more valued.
4. Behavioral Testing and Skill Assessments
When you’re looking to employ new call center innovations to keep your center ahead of the competition, you should start by investing in the hiring process. Employees are the lifeblood of your call center. Even though many positions in a contact center are entry level, it pays to hire smartly. A pre-employment analysis of things like overall attitude, customer service insight, typing and navigational skills can help you find the most qualified candidates.
Once you’ve decided to hire a new agent, additional assessments should be performed identifying their skill set. By placing an agent in an area where they are most likely to thrive, you’re ensuring their success. It’s also more likely they remain happy and engaged in their position.
Many call center agents consider the job to be fluid. They leave for a different call center for something as simple as a change of scenery or a $0.25 increase in their hourly pay. However, if you show your hires interest in both WHAT they can do and WHO they are, you’re one step ahead of your competitor.
It’s important to provide your employees, especially the longer term ones, with consistent career tracks including promotions and even management opportunities. It will help limit turnover if your agents know that you view them as more useful and they see a future.
5. Call Center Workforce Management
As a call center, you should be familiar with the power of KPIs or Key Performance Indicators. They are a measurement used to evaluate crucial factors occurring in your business. Using them uncovers valuable insight into tactical and strategic changes needed to keep performance on track and costs in line. Call volume is an easy one to measure.
Call volume and call arrival times are good input in forming a Workforce Management (WFM) strategy. If your center is large enough, there are sophisticated optimization strategies to do this. A WFM can help with staffing decisions that can save money while increasing performance.
For instance, if you your center has predictable peaks and valleys throughout the day, a mixture of both full time and part time agents may be the most effective way to handle the volume variance. In some centers, it is less profitable to have all employees working from 9 to 5. However, by having agents that can flex from traditional hours, you’re able to better serve customers while reducing cost.
6. Micro Management
Nobody appreciates a micro manager. Thankfully when it comes to call center management, this term takes on a positive meaning. While macro roughly translates to the study of an overall picture, micro suggests managing the small parts of something. For the call center, this includes the many conversations and the supporting day-to-day tasks.
By micro-managing within a call center we mean having the agents deliver individualized customer contact over and over again, while communicating a consistent message with each one. It’s the only way to deliver excellent results for EACH customer. In this case, it’s not about micro-managing your agents; it’s about micro-managing the overall process within your call center. We call it “Majoring in the Minors.”
7. Multi-Channel Software Integration
When the market was less inundated with businesses, it was easier for owners and staff to remember the clients by name. After all, these clients were regulars and would engage monthly, weekly, or even daily. At a call center, it’s far more difficult to remember one customer from the next. This doesn’t mean that the experience of your customers should suffer.
With the invention of reward systems at restaurants and retail outlets, there is also new technology to benefit your call center. Omni-Channel software can help you “remember” customers who call in. In fact, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and desktop integration can help agents further personalize calls by using the phone number, or ANI (Automatic Number Identification), to screen pop information about the customer before the agent answers. Innovative software features such as these can help your call center to reduce call handling times, eliminate switching of screens, and address customer issues more quickly and efficiently. It can even be used to increase repeat sales and customer loyalty.
8. Provide Information with IVR
IVR or Interactive Voice Response is that lovely voice that tells us to Press 1 for hours, Press 2 for sales, or Press 3 to speak with a representative. It’s unfortunate that a lot of call centers don’t realize how useful this technology can be for them. Rather than have an agent answer every single call that comes through, IVR can identify the need of a customer calling in and route them to a person or provide further instructions.
An IVR can do much more to benefit your call center. They can collect information about individuals calling in, prioritize calls, handle transactions, and even call customers back. Effective use of IVRs increases first contact resolution, adds to the customer service experience, and reduces operational costs.
As a very price friendly tool, IVR can help you save money and it will also reduce costs within your call center. The trick is to use it to complement the customer interaction. Poor programming and messaging can kill the customer experience. Take care in the setup of the options and the selection of the language in the scripts.
9. Disaster Preparedness
Try as you might, your call center isn’t equipped to handle everything. This especially rings true in the case of weather. We know! Preparing for weather doesn’t exactly strike you as an innovative solution. We’re inclined to disagree.
As a call center, your very survival depends on where you’re located. If you have only one call center and it is closed down due to a hurricane or suffers irreparable damage from an earthquake or tornado, how will you answer customers who need your help?
For this reason, a disaster preparedness solution can really benefit your call center. If practical, invest in multi-center solutions located in opposite weather patterns such as Arizona and West Virginia. Other solutions include the use of at home agents. Not only will agent hours be more flexible, but you will set your call center up for success when your agents can’t get to the center.
10. Become a Multi-Language Contact Center
A call center can bring together many kinds of people. Everything from their background to their country to their language may be different than what you’d expect. In the United States, bilingual is often listed as a required skill for potential call center hires.
However, in order to properly utilize the best call center innovations, it’s crucial to move beyond your competition. That’s why investing in growth as a multi-language center is not only productive but also creative. Focus on hiring agents with bilingual skills with one of them being English. That allows them to handle all calls and makes managing the agent pool easier. Focus on building up your talent pool, no matter their language skill set, and eventually you will be able to expand your customer options, which may lead to new business.
For those languages, consider an on-demand translation line or software. This allows you to cover all customers at a low cost.
11. Streamline Processes
Streamlining business processes may seem obvious, but it’s a task that many call centers don’t invest in. If you want to get a leg up on your competition, one of the easiest ways to do so is to streamline your process, thereby enhancing the overall productivity in your call center.
By simplifying things like the technology you use and investing in internal communication systems, everyone’s job will be that much simpler and, as a result, your agents will be that much happier.
If you’re looking to make your call center more innovative, you need to invest in these call center innovations. Using these methods and strategies, we were able to take one contact center from worst to first in less than 90 days. You can do it too!