10 Simple Steps You Can Take Today to Improve Your Inbound Contact Center
December 21, 2016 Jim Iyoob
Although businesses go to great lengths to provide customers with self-service options that make it easy for them to find solutions to common questions and problems, there will always be a need for a quality inbound customer service department. In fact, data published by Forrester reveals that voice is still the most commonly-used customer service channel and has an impressive 73% utilization rate. The way your team handles calls will largely determine whether you retain or lose customers.
The quality of your audio and the ability of your team to problem-solve efficiently will help determine how your customers feel about your company after calling in to resolve an issue. Remember, customers typically don’t call contact centers unless they feel like they have exhausted all other avenues. It is up to you to ensure that the experience is a positive one by providing adequate training and by holding your call center representatives to high standards. If your contact center customer service department could use a little boost, here are 10 simple steps you can take today to improve it.
- Improve Self-Service
Your call center can easily become overwhelmed if too many calls come in on a regular basis. Too many calls can also lead to increased wait time and can cause your customers to become frustrated. To help make things more manageable for both your team and your customers, improve your self-service options and make them as user-friendly and versatile as possible. You can do this by utilizing the following:
- Call-back options
- Interactive voice response
- Online chat services
- Email communication
- Other self-service options
It is not necessary to make all of these services available, but try to choose at least two. Make sure all self-service options are easy to find and equally easy to use. By making it possible for customers to find answers without calling in, you can help keep call center staff from becoming overwhelmed and make it easier for them to improve their productivity. Additionally, you will likely see customer satisfaction soar as customers are able to find answers to their questions without waiting on the phone for extended periods of time.
As convenient as self-service options are, it is imperative to maintain high-quality voice channels in contact centers. Don’t forget that voice is still the most frequently used contact channel, so don’t make the mistake of neglecting it as you focus on self-service selections.
- Focus on the Customer Experience
The whole point of a contact center is to take care of customer concerns and improve rapport between businesses and their clients. This can be easy to forget if call center agents get caught up in the everyday challenges they face while doing their jobs.
Whether they’re working on outbound sales or handling incoming calls, call center agents should be constantly reminded that their primary responsibility is to provide a positive experience to their customers. This can be especially challenging when angry customers call in and demand answers to particularly difficult or unique problems. To help equip agents to remain focused on an improved customer experience, consider incorporating the following suggestions:
- Rewarding agents based on the outcome of a customer call
- Providing ongoing training so agents are better equipped to deal with complicated issues
- Encouraging agents to go “off the script” as needed to ensure customer satisfaction
When agents are rewarded for providing a positive customer service outcome and are given the training and empowerment they need to resolve challenging situations, your employee and customer satisfaction rates will inevitably go up.
- Make Training an On-Going Process
Can you imagine trying to create a complicated dish without first being given a recipe? What if someone gave you the recipe and instructed you to make the dish, but didn’t provide you with all of the ingredients? When you provide your call center agents with only one training session when they are newly-hired, you are essentially asking them to do the same thing – achieve perfection without having the necessary tools to do so.
On-going training can not only help cement core customer service principles in your agents’ minds, but it also gives you the opportunity to address and correct specific questions or issues plaguing your contact center. Additionally, establishing a pattern of ongoing training will give you the opportunity to keep your contact center agents up-to-date on recent trends and technology. Whether you utilize a lecture-only structure or you allow for more interaction, do what works best for your team. The important thing is to put proper emphasis on ongoing learning so that your agents are better prepared to deal with a variety of situations and uphold your brand image.
- Utilize Call Quality Monitoring Systems
It can be difficult or even impossible to measure the success of your call center without utilizing a call quality monitoring system. Depending on the size of your department, one or two qualified supervisors should be responsible for monitoring call quality at all times. Their goal should be to assess both incoming and outgoing calls to ensure that minimum customer service standards are being met or exceeded.
One important component of every call quality monitoring system should be the ability for qualified agents/supervisors to promptly correct errors. When supervisors are empowered to rectify mistakes and improve the customer interaction process right away, it will free up more time for the managers by minimizing the need for them to monitor their employees.
- Exemplify Good Performance
Exemplifying good performance from your agents is one of the best ways to encourage adherence to high customer service standards. When agents are publicly recognized for consistently meeting or exceeding expectations, it can inspire their coworkers to perform in a similar manner. Additionally, with the help of call monitoring, supervisors have the ability to break down and analyze every component of an exemplary call so that the call center team can learn from it and jot down ideas for improvement.
Exemplifying good performance will have the added benefit of improving employee morale and inspiring a greater sense of ownership among your call center agents. These benefits will in turn increase overall productivity.
- Improve Call Center Productivity
Improving productivity is one of the biggest challenges call centers face. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools and strategies available to make greater efficiency a reality for your team. A few options include:
- Utilize a queue management system: Routing technology can help direct customers to the correct party automatically, without requiring call center agents to spend valuable time assessing the nature of the call and then forwarding it to the appropriate person manually.
- Provide agents with computer-based training opportunities: We have already talked about how regular training can help empower your call center agents, but if you don’t have the time or resources to provide in-person training, computer-based training is another great option. Any training that can happen directly at the desktop can potentially double agents’ productivity by making it easier for them to utilize downtime for training purposes. Computer-based training further encourages productivity by minimizing the time agents spend away from their computers and phones.
- Build better answer-finding systems: Implementing knowledge base software so that all pertinent information is at your employees’ fingertips is another great way to enhance the customer experience because it will allow employees to quickly find solutions to common problems. It is estimated that knowledge base software such as CRM can potentially cut call time down by 30% or more, which will improve productivity and customer satisfaction.
- Increase Employee Comfort: Your agents’ productivity can be significantly affected by the design and comfort of their surroundings. Boosting productivity may be as easy as providing employees with large work spaces and comfortable seating. Providing a well-lit space and visually-stimulating décor can further help elevate the mood, improve comfort levels and encourage maximum productivity.
Implementing one or more of these solutions is certain to yield dramatic increases in employee productivity.
- Improve the Work Environment
Happy employees are more productive than disgruntled employees, so it is important to improve the work environment whenever possible. Here are a few easy ways to provide your agents with a great work environment:
- Listen to all employees: When employees know they have a voice and are respected, they are more apt to feel like an integral part of the team, and act accordingly.
- Allow agents to work from home: This may not be a viable solution for every call center, but if you allow your agents to spend at least some time working from home, it shows that you trust them and care about providing them with greater flexibility. Utilizing a cloud-based system can make it fairly easy to allow at-home work while maintaining productivity levels.
- Offer incentives and reward for exemplary behavior: We have already mentioned how publicly exemplifying good behavior can be very motivating to employees, but sometimes a little extra incentive is required to maintain good morale. Consider rewarding employees who consistently go above and beyond with monetary rewards or gifts.
- Allow Agents to Take Frequent Breaks: Frequent, short breaks can help employees recuperate and prepare to tackle the next set of calls with vigor. Denying breaks may at first seem like a great way to increase productivity, but it can actually have the opposite effect by leading to discouragement and fatigue. An overly-tired employee is not able to perform as well as an employee who is well-rested.
When employees know you genuinely care about them and want to make the work environment as positive as possible, they will respond by improving their own performance.
- Provide a Multi-Channel Platform
A multi-channel platform makes it possible for agents to effectively multi-task without jumping around from screen to screen. With a multi-channel system, agents can easily juggle multiple channels and improve their efficiency. This type of system makes it possible for agents to provide customers with telephone support while utilizing IM chat to respond to queries from other customers. Keep in mind that not all agents will have the same capacity to handle multiple channels at once.
- Invite Healthy Competition
Encouraging healthy competition between agents is a great way to improve your call center and foster greater productivity. Competition is a powerful natural motivator and encourages agents to take ownership of their actions. Agents can compete on an individual basis, or you can create agent teams that work together to outperform other teams. With proper rewards and recognition, competition can be a surprisingly effective performance motivator and can improve morale as well.
- Ensure Managers Are Easily Accessible
For the good of employee morale, managers should always be easily accessible and should exemplify productivity. The best managers are those that are willing to climb right into the foxhole with their fellow workers and actively help teams reach their goals. This means that managers should be available and willing to help manage call volume surges if necessary, and they should never be too busy to respond to legitimate concerns or questions from agents.
Managers who sit back and relax while their team does all the work do not help to encourage greater productivity. Rather, they cause employees to feel discouraged, alone and unmotivated. When managers lead by example and take a hands-on approach to leadership, they inspire confidence in their team and help to improve morale and productivity.
Improving your call center can’t be done by forcing your agents to work grueling hours or by punishing them when they don’t know the answer to every question. Rewarding good behavior, promptly and gently correcting errors and focusing on employee morale are far more effective approaches. Providing your employees with the training and tools necessary to succeed should be just as important to you as ensuring that each customer who calls has a positive experience.
Not all of these solutions may be conceivable for every call center, and it is important to analyze the unique needs of your agents and your business when choosing which solutions to implement. Once you have identified which options are the best fit for your call center, take steps to implement them and watch how client satisfaction and employee morale, motivation and efficiency improve.