Enhancing Call Centre Efficiency

“Always keep in mind the old retail adage: Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.” – Lauren Freedman

We have discussed previously as to how companies are working towards cutting costs and also continually trying to raise the bar on their customer service. We also discussed that customers still prefer calling and interacting with ‘people’ directly via the call centres. This means that companies must continually focus on enhancing call centre efficiency if they wish to support their customers well. While supporting customers is an arduous task that is relentless and requires investment both in terms of time and money, companies can make it a winning effort by streamlining their processes, raising process efficiencies, eliminating extra steps, putting together more viable work schedules and utilizing their available staff is the most productive manner. The fact customer expectations and demands are heading north and unless companies can move in the same direction they would soon meet with failure. Every company must decide how best to enhance call centre efficiency to provide better service to customers via this channel.

– We would like to start by saying that for companies to successfully and fruitfully serve their customers, they must encourage their employees to behave and work in a certain way. The key to encouraging desired behaviour is rewarding it when it does happen. Call centre employees are often a neglected lot and over time learn to display this treatment to customers. It is up to the company to motivate them in the most appropriate manner and create an environment of self-development, inspiration and other techniques that will fuel their desire to serve their customers better and contribute to the success of their company too.

– A hassle free IVR menu will ensure that the customers get connected to the agents that can immediately respond and even resolve their queries. First call resolutions not only reduce the call centre employees time and effort, they also serve to delight customers who then are able to trust and be more confident in the skills of the company. Better resolutions and swifter service also reduces the requirement of time and effort that would otherwise be spent on customer complaints. Happier customers lead to satisfied employees that lead to a work environment congenial to better service. Again, it is a happy cycle that must be maintained.

– Any effort or process cannot be improved if it is not continually monitored. In order to enhance call centre efficiency there must be a constant exchange of views and the sharing of best practices. Most call centres record the calls between customers and the agents and the best interactions must be shared with all on the team. This not only enforces what is expected from the agents, it also reinforces good behaviour and urges the others on the team to emulate it. Making the call available to all also serves as a reward for the agent that demonstrated what a ‘good customer call’ should be – it is public praise, the kind everyone likes.

– To enhance call centre efficiency it is imperative that the agents have all the relevant data, written material and pertinent information they need to do their job well. With all the information on their fingertips and the confidence to accompany it, they would be able to reduce the amount of time they spend with each customer, provide speedier responses and more knowledgeable solutions. Customers in turn are happier since their wait time is negligible and they get the answers required. This kind of service proves to customers that the company is indeed customer focused.

– To enhance call centre efficiency, companies must ‘listen’ attentively to the feedback provided by the agents and also use the information to improve operations and internal strategies. Just gaining the information is of no use if there is no one dedicated to analysing it and putting it to good use. As customers perceive that their feedback passed on to the agents is being put in to practice, they would be able to have more confidence in the working of the call centre and also trust the company a lot more.

– Ensure that this highly stressed group of call centre agents is constantly motivated. Put in flexible working hours, allow the non-call taking agents to work from home when required and provide them with a working environment that reduces stress and raises their happiness quotient. By adding these small changes, a company can greatly improve employee morale which in turn will be reflected in the kind of service that the customers receive. Stress free agents are more efficient, which in turn ensures that each interaction with customers is high on empathy, courtesy and genuine concern for the customer’s issues.

– To enhance call centre efficiency the top leaders must realize and display their understanding of this being a critical function. This function is oft neglected but if leaders were to make a genuine and concerted effort to understanding what drives the agents and what they need to better their performance, you will significantly increase the chances of your company to gaining customer loyalty and profitability through customer service excellence and in turn hugely increasing your revenue and profit margins. If you expect your most basic level employees to build relationships with your customers, you must do the same with them. Valued employees are happy employees who will stay with you for long and deliver the kind of service you expect from them and be motivated to get better as they move along.

– As with all departments, re-evaluation and re-examining the key performance indices are critical to the success of the call centre. To enhance call centre efficiency metrics like call handling time, nature of interaction, customer reaction, NPS and others must be taken into account. This allows a company to strike a balance between the costs incurred and to know whether the results being produced are offsetting the costs. As we said, call centres must move from being only cost centres to being highly efficient profit centres as well.

– When was the last time someone from the senior leadership walked around the call centre to understand whether the agents have everything they need, what they want to see more of and what are the pain areas? If this is not happening, you can be sure that agent frustration would be building and is already probably being diverted to the customers. If customer behaviour is being monitored, it most certainly shows a dip in satisfaction and a rise in complaints – a direct result of frustrated employees with a south bound morale.

– For companies that are struggling to enhance call centre efficiency, it would be prudent to enlist the help of an outside agency that specialize in these activities. Help them to help your agents to work better thereby improving the overall customer service levels.

While all improvement measures take time, building the right skills and attitude is not that difficult. Companies need to match the schedules, timelines, work hours and other aspects of their call centres with those of their customers, rather than the other way round. This in turn allows them to recruit from a wider base of candidates – for example some people can work only at night, while others may be able to work only during certain parts of the day. Being flexible allows a company to recruit beyond the so called ‘candidate base’ and reach out to retired persons, part-time workers and even stay at home dads and mums.

Rooting for efficiency is something that every company seems to be doing, but not everyone gets it right. Most importantly, it should never be at the expense of the customer. Be pro-active and place before the customer a set of employees who not only can deal with a number of queries at once, but are also efficient in providing practical and cost effective solutions. With time, you will not only enhance call centre efficiency your customer base will be bigger with happy customers.

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