Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Guest Post: Tips for Improving Call Centers for Customers & Employees
Shaping a more positive public perception of call centers and call center employees can be a tricky task. Popular television shows and movies often depict the call center customer service environment as being generally apathetic, with customers continuously being put on hold and bounced around between representatives from a variety of different departments. The gentle tones of muzak underscore the angst of waiting for an available employee to pick up the call, and the quality of service provided is often made into the subject of many cheap jokes. So, what can be done to bring about change? Where can call centers begin to improve their images? The answer, it seems, requires some self-reflection.
According to LogMyCalls.com, depending on the type and size of a call center, employee turnover rates can range anywhere from 20%-100% per year. There are even reports of turnover rates approaching 170% in some centers. With such high percentages, it’s not only difficult to establish a standard for performance continuity, but it’s near impossible to achieve performance success with new employees constantly coming and going. Plus, replacing those lost employees is expensive—it costs approximately $8,800 to replace a call center agent. To remedy the situation, there has to be reform in the way a call center’s management team trains and treats its employees. A call center that understands even the basic needs of its employees is one whose performance will drive results.
One efficient tool for ensuring uniform training procedures across the entirety of a call center’s staff is eLearning. Managers and supervisors can use virtual learning systems to assign specific lessons to their staff members in order to provide timely and relevant training without the expensive cost and inconvenience of classroom sessions. eLearning programs, such as the software provided by Impact 360, displays the assigned coursework, the duration and objectives of each lesson, and the completion deadline, all in an employee’s desktop web browser. Proactive employees can go even further by assigning themselves lessons to continue learning on their own time. Implementing high-quality training procedures is excellent for building employee confidence, and as a result, they will produce better work and be more likely to demonstrate loyalty to their jobs.
Providing proper employee training is only the beginning of the battle, though. Call center management is as much about preparing employees to handle their jobs as it is about making the workplace run as efficiently as possible. It’s an extremely difficult task to try and accurately forecast the staffing needs for any given day in a customer service call center. Workforce optimization and management can be extremely complicated, depending on the size of the call center and the number of employees on staff. The immensity of optimization work is such that it is often beneficial to invest in software solutions for assistance, rather than do it manually. There are nuances to scheduling that require special attention: government regulations, mandatory breaks, meeting times, etc. The degree of difficulty with scheduling, just as with training, increases tenfold with larger workplaces. The trick is to not do it all yourself: use helpful tools whenever applicable. Doing so will save time and money in the long run.
Even something as interpersonal as coaching a call center staff can be enhanced with the aid of quality software. Solutions exist which integrate coaching with training and scorecards, thus providing guidance for improving employee work and enhancing performance. A supervisor who takes the time to coach and encourage good performers on his or her team is more likely to build a loyal staff and drive results. Training, scheduling, and continuous coaching are a Holy Trinity for running a good call center: reversing high turnover rates begins with bridging the gap between management and staff. The lines of communication must always be open and clear.
Going beyond the walls of the call center floor, however, it is also important to consider the feedback of the customers who the center’s staff is serving. Well-trained employees are better equipped to provide excellent service, but it is the voice of the customer that can make or break a business’s customer service reputation. Depending on the nature of the business which a call center is supporting, dissatisfied customers may take their frustrations to go write negative reviews on Google and social media sites. There are some preventative quality monitoring solutions to consider for this problem, the most notable of which is call recording. Recording calls is helpful not only for manually monitoring conversations between customer service representatives and customers, but also for eventually collecting data from a large database of recorded phone calls. Speech analytics solutions can help to identify words, phrases, and other verbal cues from collections containing thousands of calls. This information gives managers insight to help decrease costs and enhance products, processes, competitive advantages, etc. Furthermore, speech analytics can help to categorize and analyze call content to reveal why customers are calling in the first place.
When customers do talk about a business’s customer service on the Internet, it’s important that their comments are analyzed and responded to appropriately. Text analytics tools are able to capture feedback from multiple channels, interpret it in terms of business objectives, and use it to immediately affect change. Text-based communications such as Facebook, Twitter, surveys, news and review sites, etc. are rich with data that is useful to businesses who are looking to improve their products and services. Harvesting that information is key to maintaining a good reputation online. As the user base of social media platforms grows, the need for a positive online presence becomes increasingly vital.
Providing excellent customer service in a call center depends on strong relationships between the management, employees, and customers in order to achieve success. When management turns a blind eye to the training and scheduling of its employees, turnover rates skyrocket. If call center agents don’t listen to the needs of the customers, an entire company’s reputation is made to suffer. Communication is crucial and utilizing appropriate software solutions is essential. Without both, the work will be much more difficult than necessary.
Tommaso Mauro is a goal oriented leader adept at identifying opportunities and executing sales strategies to maximize results; Proven ability in consultative sales and business development on a domestic and international scale; Highly effective in organizational and problem solving skills that strengthen a company’s growth-oriented performance; Entrepreneurial spirit and expertise in building business relationships. Tommaso is currently Director of Sales at KOVA Corporation