Techniques for Call Centre Transformation

Dec 8
call centre management

Techniques for Call Centre Transformation

In ye olde days, call centre agents had it pretty easy. It was a simpler time – customers might purchase a product in store, bring it home, look at the instructions, get confused and call the number provided for help (on the land line, we’re talking BC (Before Cellphones). Maybe chat to their neighbour or brother about the product. Write a letter to their grandmother to wish her happy birthday and let her know about the exciting new purchase. Watch a bit of telly and not think about said product again until they saw a commercial for the category in the ad break for Fresh Prince of Bel Air. They weren’t online, simply didn’t have the triggers for a huge volume of questions. Call Centre Management was more straightforward.

Nowadays, information is coming at your customers at a rate that is hard for them to keep up. They get confused much more quickly and require much more support to help them navigate their way. As customer needs and expectations change, so does your customer service. Transformation is what is required here, by changing your call centre management techniques. It’s just a matter of overhauling everything you do, training everyone and doing it quickly so your service isn’t interrupted, k?

Don’t panic. Everything will be ok, it’s not so hard. Here we have some call centre management techniques that will see you on your way to a true transformation.

We keep saying it, it’s about recruitment

Keeping call centre agents is tough. Sometimes it’s all you can do to keep behinds on seats, let alone be choosey when you’re recruiting! There are calls to be taken, customers to be satisfied, targets to be achieved. Churn is expensive, too. The Robert Francis Group Inc. estimated that replacing an agent costs between $10,000 and $15,000, conservatively. Ouch.

We’re in an age of customer service where customers expect so much more than having their query resolved (but that too!). They want personalised, efficient, fast, clear and reliable service. They won’t get what they need with someone who can simply answer a phone and read off a script.  So you need to tweak your call centre management to style when it comes to recruitment.

When you’re recruiting, don’t limit your pool of applicants to those who have call centre experience. If you want to achieve the nirvana of call centre transformation, you need to trust your gut and look for people who can not only talk, but have an actual conversation. Look for people who establish an easy connection with you, seem interested and you feel you have a pretty good sense of at the end of their interview. It’s a leap of faith to be sure, but hiring agents who are naturally able to get to know people will go a long way in changing your customer experience.

Why are your customers calling?

Call centres are about numbers – how many calls, how long are they, what’s the wait time, what’s the first call resolution number. These numbers will definitely tell you how efficient your call centre is, how they’ve improved (relative to where they were) and what needs attention. The struggle is real, being stuck in the mechanics of the operation. Call centre transformation isn’t going to happen just by looking at the numbers though. And call centre management that is in keeping with the new era of customer service doesn’t come through data analysis.

Try having quick, daily meetings with your teams to talk about themes coming through from your customers. Even just pop by for regular chats with your agents about what their conversations have been about. Becoming a bit more agile rather than relying on structured meetings will help you collect useful insights quickly. If you understand what your customers are calling about, you can refine your call centre agent training to ensure queries are resolved in a timely fashion. You can also share any recurring issues to other departments like product development, marketing or sales.

Less calls, more quality

If you want to bring your call centre management style into the brave new world of call centre transformation, you need to increase the quality of your customer interactions. Consider tweaking your metrics to be focused less on call quantity, and more on customer satisfaction. I really don’t mean to drop these bombs on you, so let me say again, it’s not as hard as it first seems.

For instance try training all your staff on all your products and services, if this is possible. This will mean that the very first contact a customer has with your centre is more likely to be high quality, and their query resolved. This will also enable you to have a constant stream of training and development which should keep your agents interested and motivated. We’ve talked about understanding why your customers are calling. If you use this information to inform your training, and work with other departments to improve your product or service then customers should benefit and you can spend more time on quality interactions.

Trust and empower your team

Call centre management, or the role of any manager isn’t about telling employees what to do. It’s about removing roadblocks to that the work can be done. Try allowing your team to input into their own roster, and decide what needs to be done every day. Adopt a philosophy of always learning – from on the fly, quick catch ups on customer issues, to more structured training and development. All training should be relevant to the issues your team are hearing every day, so they can walk away equipped with more knowledge than they had before.

This means simply having yearly, quarterly or even weekly training sessions isn’t really going to cut it. To keep your finger on the pulse of your customers you need to have constant feedback and continuous sharing of information. You also need to have this information recorded, collated and shared throughout the business.  Your Marketing team will love you if you give them customer insights without them having to invest in expensive research. Making the people love your team makes them pretty indispensable. And it also makes your agents feel pretty good about the job they’re doing.

Seamless call routing

We’ve talked about the human side of call centre transformation, but all this hard work can quickly be undone if you don’t have the right system supporting your call centre. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) can be an absolute winner, if it’s used appropriately. Don’t overuse it though – a lot of customers still like talking to real, live people, and many find it frustrating to be asked to diagnose their own issues. Understand your customers and how they like to interact. Keep the options simple, and the layers few. Consider automating simple transactions, to save both your agent and customer time, but make sure they’re straight forward (simple payments, request an extension etc) and make sure you have agents ready to help at any time. 

Transformation is a big word, but like anything, it can be broken down into manageable ways of getting there. That’s what this has been about- not to freak you out by suggesting the impossible, but hopefully helping you understand why there needs to be a shift to meet our newly plugged in, information-overloaded customer’s needs. Call centre transformation is doable, and will help you with your staff retention, your customer satisfaction and ultimately your dollars.

Need a game plan to win on the customer experience battlefield?

 

Flickr cc: featureset1


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