As the main or only point of contact with many customers, contact centre performance fundamentally drives the business bottom line.
So how do you make sure yours is working as effectively as it can? MaxContact’s Product Owner, Sean McIver – who has worked on the contact centre front line – says it’s a mix of engaged agents and technology that helps teams to work smarter.
Here are his top tips for all contact centre leaders:
The importance of good agents can hardly be overstressed. During Covid, their worth became even more apparent, with agents in some sectors taking on frontline worker status. That hasn’t gone away and isn’t likely to long after the pandemic ends. Your customers are more accustomed than ever to judging organisations on the quality and efficiency of their customer service interactions. All efforts at contact centre performance management should start with your agents.
Give agents the skills they need
As agents have become more important, their knowledge of your products and services – and their ability to interact with customers in an empathetic way – is a huge differentiator for your business. Remember that customers will share a negative interaction far more readily than a positive one.
So continuous training strategies are crucial. Technical skills are essential but focus on softer skills too. How do you talk to an angry customer? How do you empathise with someone in distress? Give your agents the human skills they need to turn customers into ambassadors for your brand.
Consider their mind-set and wellbeing
The pandemic caused a shift in awareness relating to mental health. Workforce wellbeing is seen as a crucial part of business success. Internal empathy translates down the line to your frontline agents, so wellbeing should be part of any contact centre performance management strategy.
Engaging with staff, and making sure they’re doing the right things for their health and wellness, makes a world of difference.
Recognise and reward
Skilling up your team has the added advantage of showing employees that you care about their careers, and are keen for them to progress. Settled teams with low churn levels are more productive because they know your organisation and its products and services inside out. Retaining an experienced employee is always more economical and productive than recruiting an inexperienced one.
The better your call centre environment, the better your customer service. Incentives and rewards for good work are an essential part of call centre performance management. But don’t make it all about hitting targets. An employee who solved a customer’s complex problem deserves recognition, even if it gnawed away at the time they could spend on other calls.
My advice would be to ensure that you’re carefully considering the targets you’re setting for your agents. For example, you could find that if you focus on reducing average handling times, you could impact the quality of the service your team is providing. Be mindful that one target can introduce other behaviours that you need to look out for and understand.
Finally, it’s essential to look at productivity at an operational level and understand the actual business value (reputation, CSAT and financial) of first call resolution versus metrics like average handling time.
Alongside rewards, giving feedback to your teams is crucial for call centre efficiency. According to PwC, nearly 60% of survey respondents said they’d like feedback daily or weekly. That number increased to 72% for employees under age 30. More than 75% of employees across roles believe feedback is valuable, and 69% say they would work harder if their efforts were acknowledged. Good agents want to know what they’re doing well and how they can be better, and they want recognition for going the extra mile.
Feedback is more important than ever right now, when remote or hybrid workers might be feeling isolated and out of the loop. Check-in with them often, and with empathy.
With MaxContact, it’s possible to talk directly to your agents while they are on the phone to customers. Ensure your managers are watching the wallboards and helping out your teams with live coaching and monitoring where they can. The sooner the feedback, the more impactful it is. Productive feedback can help the agent feel more supported too.
But you shouldn’t just look to give feedback. Ask for it, too.
Your teams are speaking to customers all day, every day and have to follow the process your business dictates. Feedback from agents on both customer sentiment and how easy or hard it is to do their job using the systems they have is truly invaluable. As an example, if you have a self-serve option in your IVR but your agents are still fielding these requests, ask why. Perhaps there is a common failure point. Dynamic trial-and-error is one of the cornerstones of ongoing success.
Don’t assume your teams are proactively avoiding work if a stat doesn’t make sense. Understand it first and course-correct, whether that’s the process, messaging, feedback into product and propositions or even looking at investing in better software. Whatever it is, you need to keep as close with your agents as possible.
When your technology helps good agents work more efficiently, you have the perfect recipe for an effective contact centre. Your technical solution is the middle ground between your customers and your staff, so it has to be robust and flexible.
Integrate and simplify
Perhaps most importantly, your contact centre software needs to simplify your agents’ lives, not complicate them. Agents flipping between tabs and tools to find customer information or answer queries is a recipe for errors, unhappy clients and increased call handling times. Integration is the answer. Use software that pulls data from numerous sources (CRM, billing systems, etc.) into one simplified platform. I firmly believe that agents need a ‘single source of truth’ – one place where they can get data and, ideally, input data as well.
Agents armed with easy access to all relevant customer information will deliver more ‘one call’ solutions, the holy grail of contact centre management. Effective scripting can ensure that your agents lead the customer on the most effective journey throughout the conversation, while reinforcing a sense of expertise from the agent, because they have the information they need in the moment at their fingertips – fewer ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ and unnecessarily placing the customer on hold to check things.
Intelligent routing will help here. Your software should help callers get to the right people first time, so feature-rich IVR (Intelligent Voice Response) is crucial. IVR also allows 24/7 operation for many routine requests and services – the average customer doesn’t want to speak to an agent, they simply want the ability to self-serve. Balancing this with ensuring that customers can still talk to someone if they need to is critical – we’ve all experienced the frustration of endless IVR options! Within MaxContact, customers’ ability to self-serve through payment IVRs, checking balances and setting reminders, and getting out of hours voice messages, are all examples of giving customers both choice and control.
One MaxContact customer who introduced our intelligent automated IVR saw a 22% reduction in call handling times and a 36% reduction in calls requiring agent involvement. Good IVR gives your agents more time to create memorable customer experiences and solve more complex customer issues.
Predict and succeed
There are lots of other ways in which good technology improves call centre efficiency. Predictive algorithms optimise outbound dialling. Omnichannel communications cut down on call times, impress customers, and permit the serving of multiple customers in parallel. Real-time analytics and sophisticated reporting help managers ensure contact centre teams work productively, which is especially important when agents work remotely. Technology is evolving at a breakneck speed within the contact centre industry, with mechanisms such as speech analytics and automation becoming the norm.
Another highly effective feature of high-end solutions like MaxContact is predictive workforce management. Our unique algorithm sifts all interactions with your contact centre and uses statistical analysis to ensure you have the right staff with the right skills in place for optimum, cost-effective cover.
We could go on, but the message is clear. In 2022 and beyond, the highest performing contact centres will be those where remote and office-based staff are valued and rewarded, and where technology is optimised to give your agents the tools and time they need to create better, more satisfying customer experiences.
Get in touch to find out how MaxContact can help you with this.