Call Center Best Practices

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Call cen­ters that han­dle ser­vice and sup­port calls are, unfor­tu­nately, often viewed as cost cen­ters. Although these cen­ters usu­ally don’t bring in rev­enue directly, they do con­tribute to the company’s goals in many valu­able ways, most notably in rein­forc­ing the company’s brand and in increas­ing cus­tomer loyalty.

To raise the vis­i­bil­ity of your call cen­ter as a valu­able con­trib­u­tor to your company’s growth and bot­tom line prof­its, fol­low these six best practices.

  1. Know Where You’re Going

What are you try­ing to achieve? What are the goals of your com­pany? How can your cen­ter sup­port them?

  • Meet with your senior exec­u­tives. How do they want the com­pany to be per­ceived in the mar­ket place? Are they try­ing to grow mar­ket share, reduce attri­tion, cut inter­nal costs?
  • Con­fer with the finance depart­ment. What is the life­time value of a cus­tomer? If it’s small, you can hire less skilled work­ers, have a longer queue length, watch han­dle time closely, and afford to lose a few cus­tomers; if the value of a cus­tomer is large, each one is valu­able. What does an aver­age call cost now? You need to know the answers to ques­tions like these in order to weigh the impact of hir­ing reps at var­i­ous skill lev­els and to deter­mine the appro­pri­ate ser­vice level and aver­age han­dle time for calls.
  • Inter­view the ser­vice man­ager. What is the cost of a main­te­nance con­tract? How many con­tracts are lost because sub­scribers are unhappy with the sup­port they receive?
  • Meet with the mar­ket­ing depart­ment. What cam­paigns are com­ing up? How can the cen­ter help sup­port the department’s goals? It doesn’t reflect well on your com­pany if a cus­tomer calls in about a pro­mo­tion or other infor­ma­tion they received if the agent knows noth­ing about it.

Gath­er­ing and ana­lyz­ing the answers to ques­tions like these is the first call cen­ter best prac­tice. The results of your analy­sis will inform who you hire, which qual­ity and ser­vice stan­dards you set, and whether or not you’ve suc­ceeded in your mission.

  1. Hire the Right People

One of the most dif­fi­cult aspects of call cen­ter man­age­ment is find­ing and keep­ing the right peo­ple for the job. Regard­less of how dif­fi­cult it is to attract and retain qual­ity agents, how­ever, it’s cru­cial that you take great care in hir­ing for your cen­ter. Even though you may be in a rush to fill seats, attend­ing to Best Prac­tice #2 will save you con­sid­er­able pain down the road. Not only is it expen­sive to replace employ­ees who have been mis-hired, but it’s demor­al­iz­ing for the rest of your team to see high turnover. You can learn more about the effects of turnover and the best prac­tices for improv­ing it here.

You’ll deter­mine the most appro­pri­ate peo­ple for the job when you ana­lyze the infor­ma­tion gath­ered in Best Prac­tice #1: Know where you’re going. Can you accom­plish your goals with recent high school grad­u­ates? Do you need not only skilled engi­neers, but out­go­ing ones as well? Can you hire for atti­tude and teach prod­uct knowl­edge and tech­ni­cal skills? Ana­lyze the attrib­utes of your top per­form­ers and make a list. Then work with your human resource team to iden­tify ways to screen for those attrib­utes. Don’t accept sec­ond best if you want to receive the ben­e­fits of this best practice!

  1. Train for Success

Equip­ping your staff with the knowl­edge and behav­iors to meet your company’s busi­ness goals is an invest­ment that pays off many times over. Many call cen­ters have high turnover and don’t want to invest a lot in train­ing. How­ever, if you adhere to Best Prac­tices #1 and #2 so that you know who you’re look­ing for and you hire only those peo­ple who have a good chance of suc­cess, train­ing will be a worth­while invest­ment to make. Keep in mind, research shows that effec­tive learn­ing depends not only on the learn­ing event itself, but even more so on what hap­pens after the learn­ing event is over. This brings us to Best Prac­tice #4.

  1. Coach for Con­tin­u­ous Improvement

Giv­ing feed­back to call cen­ter agents isn’t a lux­ury. It isn’t a maybe. It isn’t a one-of-these-days-I’ll-get-around-to-doing-it aspect of your job. Mak­ing sure your reps get con­sis­tent feed­back and recog­ni­tion for a job well-done is one of the two or three most crit­i­cal things you’ll do as a call cen­ter man­ager. Sev­eral stud­ies have shown the dra­matic results of pair­ing coach­ing with train­ing. One, for exam­ple, as reported in Pub­lic Per­son­nel Man­age­ment found that train­ing alone increased per­for­mance by 22.4 per­cent. But when train­ing was fol­lowed up with coach­ing, the fig­ure soared to 88 percent.

There are other rea­sons why giv­ing feed­back is so impor­tant. It shows your staff that you’re on top of things, that you’re keep­ing your­self informed, and that you’re ded­i­cated to a course of con­tin­ual improve­ment. Call cen­ter employ­ees who receive ongo­ing feed­back are more engaged in their job, and more engaged employ­ees cre­ate more sat­is­fied cus­tomers. What’s more, this call cen­ter best prac­tice shows your staff that you care about them, about their per­for­mance, about the cus­tomer, about ser­vice lev­els, and about run­ning a world-class call cen­ter. You can learn best prac­tices for super­vis­ing call cen­ter employ­ees here.

  1. Man­age the Mood

In call cen­ters where morale is high, agents approach their work with energy, enthu­si­asm, and will­ing­ness. They want to come to work, or at least are enthu­si­as­tic about their work once they get there. Turnover is low. On the other hand, when morale is low in a call cen­ter, employ­ees become bored, dis­cour­aged, and lethar­gic, and turnover is high. Attend­ing to this best prac­tice will reduce costs and improve cus­tomer satisfaction.

How to cre­ate a moti­vat­ing environment?

  • Be sure it’s pos­i­tive. Smile. Be encour­ag­ing. Praise. Don’t tol­er­ate uncivil behavior.
  • Pro­vide the best fur­ni­ture and equip­ment you can. Paint the walls a bright color or put art on them. Keep com­mon rooms clean and tidy. Be sure noise, light­ing, and air qual­ity are con­ducive to employee comfort.
  • Make it fun to suc­ceed. Rec­og­nize great performance—that which goes beyond what’s expected. Rec­og­nize agents for behav­ior or actions or ideas they ini­ti­ate. Cre­ate rel­e­vant con­tests, ones that focus specif­i­cally on job per­for­mance. Avoid overzeal­ous com­pe­ti­tion. Involve man­age­ment in recog­ni­tion programs.
  • Help employ­ees man­age stress. Be clear in what good per­for­mance looks like. Pro­vide as much con­trol over work­ing con­di­tions as pos­si­ble. Be sure employ­ees have the tools, resources, and infor­ma­tion to do their jobs. Pro­vide breaks from repet­i­tive or monot­o­nous tasks. Allow agents to step away for a few moments to calm down after deal­ing with a chal­leng­ing call.
  1. Watch Your Numbers

Best Prac­tice #6 is to focus on call cen­ter met­rics. The goal of your call cen­ter is to help your orga­ni­za­tion meet its busi­ness goals. Met­rics mea­sure how well you’ve done that. Look at met­rics related to qual­ity (call qual­ity, data-entry qual­ity, fix qual­ity, cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and loy­alty, etc.) as well as met­rics related to quan­tity (aver­age speed of answer, num­ber of esca­la­tions or trans­fers, the time it takes to resolve the customer’s issue, etc.). The goal is to cre­ate the high­est cus­tomer loy­alty at the low­est cost.

Fol­low these six best prac­tices and your cen­ter will be well-run, cost-effective, and seen as a valu­able con­trib­u­tor to help­ing your com­pany achieve its goals.

1 COMMENT

  1. This is really good post. I believe your suggestions should be viewed as “To-do List” by every contact center management.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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