Successful call center management requires much more than scheduling agents to answer customer calls – it involves many different processes, strategies and skills. In fact, call center managers need to stay constantly informed on call center best practices, know how to best leverage call center technology to improve customer service experience, track critical call center metrics and KPIs, ensure effective hiring, onboarding, engagement and retention of call center agents, as well as balance operational costs and revenues. Here are some helpful tips on various aspects of operating and managing a call center to help you optimize its performance.
Since every organization has its unique work culture, systems and requirements for the role that might not be suitable for all employees, it’s important to hire the right people from the start. Create a demo profile of an ideal candidate that encompasses all the needed customer service skills, qualities and behaviors that are required of a successful call center agent for your organization, and look for the candidates that match your ideal profile.
When interviewing, ask potential candidates situational judgement questions to find out how they would handle a hypothetical scenario, and behavioral questions to see how they demonstrated their skills in handling challenging customer situations in their previous jobs. Those will give you valuable insight into their experience, customer-focus, problem-solving skills and dependability, and help in selecting the most appropriate candidates.
Since the turnover rate in call centers is usually high, having a solid onboarding and training program is essential for new hires. Successfully onboarding employees during their first year on the job increases retention by as much as 25%. A thoughtful, holistic onboarding process and ongoing training also result in more knowledgeable, productive and confident agents who are able to make better customer service decisions.
Low levels of happiness and lack of engagement in the workplace are known to lead to high agent attrition rates, poor performance and decreased productivity. Besides sufficient compensation, valuable benefits and a comfortable workspace, create a friendly, engaging, employee-centric environment and help agents achieve a better work-life balance to ensure they feel happy, valued and satisfied.
Set well-defined goals that inform the agents what exactly is expected of them and when. While larger, strategic goals of customer satisfaction may seem nearly unachievable, split them into smaller, attainable action plans for everyone on the team. When expectations are clear, the agents are more engaged and motivated, while managers can easily measure progress toward goal completion.
To prevent agent burnout and increase productivity, have a well thought-out schedule that ensures the team is staffed appropriately, especially during the busiest hours, and preferably without current agents having to constantly work overtime. According to a study from the Aragon Institute of Health Sciences, people who work more than 40 hours a week are six times more likely to suffer from burnout when compared to those who work less than 35 hours per week.
Flexible work models can greatly improve call center performance and benefit both, agents and managers. Consider exploring remote staffing opportunities or allowing current agents to occasionally telecommute. Research proves that many employees who either work flexible hours or have a day or two a week to work from home are more productive than other employees.
Apart from taking agent skills, specialization and type of calls handled into consideration when creating the schedule, encourage agents to share their own preferences, and give them the flexibility to adjust their own schedules, exchange, give away, or take on shifts from one another. You can also provide them with options such an ability to work fewer days but with longer shifts, or have flexible start and end times.
While consistently keeping track of call center metrics and KPIs is an essential part of call center quality management process, avoid measuring too much so you don’t end up drowning in countless metrics and data that doesn’t make sense for your organization. Since there is no one-size-fits-all for call center KPIs, focus only on those metrics that matter. By tracking the right KPIs you can easily figure out where improvements are needed.
Once you’ve defined meaningful metrics and KPIs for your call center, make sure they are shared with everyone on your team. The agents should always be aware of which KPIs to keep in mind in their decision-making when interacting with customers, especially when the goal is to improve performance. However, giving them too many KPIs to focus on might be confusing, which is why it is important to ensure they are understood seamlessly by everyone.
While agent productivity call center KPIs such as Average Speed of Answer (ASA) and Average Handle Time (AHT) are essential to sustain a high-performing call center team, focusing too much on those KPIs can eventually have a negative impact on the quality of interaction with customers and result in deceased customer satisfaction. Try to balance efficiency and productivity KPIs with those that measure success and customer satisfaction.
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