Part 2: Tips and considerations for call center management and operations
Understanding and implementing call center best practices can help your call center go above and beyond. We kicked off this three-part series with definitions of common call center and contact center terminology. In today’s post we’ll cover how to improve call center operations by providing knowledgeable, friendly, and personalized experiences that turn customer concerns into positive customer stories.
Investing in your call center starts with investing in your people, as they play a critical role in the success of your call center. Training, resources, regular support and more, can better position your people and your call center for success.
1. Quality hiring practices
Given the difficulties and stress associated with customer service and support, it can be hard to find dedicated, long-term employees who are willing to take call center positions.
Call center agents need the right skills (such as communication ability, enthusiasm, and creativity) to effectively build positive customer relationships while identifying solutions to customer problems. And although training can help bolster these traits, it can’t do much with employees who don’t already have the aptitude for customer service.
2. Thorough onboarding
Even the best talent is likely to fail if they don’t have a clear idea of their duties and expectations. Your employee onboarding programs provide the necessary training in terms of processes, tools, and company structure to bridge the gap between an employee’s potential value, and what they are actually able to contribute. At the same time, effective onboarding may even help mitigate possible mistakes in the hiring process, giving less capable or less engaged hires an opportunity to establish good work habits and a confident outlook.
Be sure to focus a large portion of your employee training on how to properly handle customer complaints. Help your employees understand that complaints are a natural part of working with customers and are good opportunities to resolve issues, surpass customer expectations, and provide noteworthy service and support. When employees understand how to repair relationships with unhappy customers, it makes their jobs much easier and much more rewarding.
3. Provide incentives
Hiring the right people is a great start, but unless you properly incentivize them, they may lose interest and fall into the rut of ‘good enough.’ Part of incentivizing your employees involves reviews to help establish accountability and address possible issues early on. But to promote superior performance, consider implementing employee recognition programs. Call center employee recognition programs are designed to reward agents for work that goes beyond their basic duties.
Recognizing and rewarding good work—through employee appreciation parties, awards, increased privileges, etc.—can go a long way towards motivating your call center workforce to go the extra mile in serving your customers. Even something as simple as giving your employees a stronger voice in decision-making may help them become more invested in the department’s success.
4. Extensive employee training
Training your agents on how to address concerns and complaints is a vital step. Teach them not to dwell on what the customer may or may not have done, but to instead focus on what the agent can do to fix the situation. Agent accountability and responsibility can quickly diffuse tense customer situations. It also promotes faster issue resolution, getting directly to the problem at hand instead of wasting time worrying about who is at fault.
5. Schedule intentionally
Unless your agents can get proper downtime, the stress of handling customer complaints or making cold calls can quickly add up and start to take its toll on your agents’ performance. On the other hand, you need to have enough call center agents on hand to meet your customers’ expectations without overscheduling, particularly during peak call hours or other times of increased call volume. This means creating schedules that take into account your agents’ availability as well as the expected call volume for any given shift.
Knowing what days, weeks, or months experience the highest number of calls will allow you to schedule intentionally to meet demand, while also ensuring that you don’t have more agents on hand than you need.
6. Delegate where possible
A call center is an extremely complex entity that depends on an almost never-ending number of small tasks to function effectively. But while these tasks are important, they can quickly become a liability. If you or your call center supervisors dedicate too much time to low-level call center activities, you may inadvertently neglect your high-level strategic responsibilities. Build a team that you can rely on, and delegate smaller tasks and responsibilities wherever possible. This will allow you to focus the majority of your time on bigger-picture concerns and initiatives.
Set up a process for delegating tasks and create a clear set of steps in assigning responsibilities to those who work underneath you. Just make sure that those employees that you delegate have access to the resources they need and the system rights they will require to get the job done. With proper delegation, you can dedicate more of yourself to the growth of your business, confident that the smaller tasks are being handled correctly.
7. Utilize technology
Workforce scheduling is only one small aspect of the call center operation that can be improved upon with technology. The right tools can make it possible for a single agent to do the work of several, without experiencing additional strain or stress. Software solutions that simplify tracking, call routing, and task automation may be essential to help your call center remain competitive.
Having the right technology to support your agents means investing in advanced customer experiences technology, such as IVR, virtual queues, automatic callback features, and customer satisfaction surveys. It also means outfitting your agents with high-quality equipment; fast internet and reliable computers will allow them to find answers and other information quickly. With the right call center solutions, even smaller teams can operate effectively while managing a large volume of calls.
The success of your call center is tied to the success of your call center team. By hiring the right people for these roles, providing the right training, scheduling, incentives and more, you can help ensure their success - and as a result improve the experience of your end customers.
Stay tuned for part three, where we’ll explore the final considerations and best practices for improving your call-center management.