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.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peggy Carlaw
Peggy Carlaw is the founder of Impact Learning Systems. Impact helps companies develop and implement customer service strategies to improve the customer experience. Their consulting services and training programs help organizations create a customer-focused culture while producing measurable business results. Peggy is also the author of three books published by McGraw-Hill including Managing and Motivating Contact Center Employees.


  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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