Call Center Management Best Practices
Over the past few years call center managers have seen the goalposts move significantly with regard to what is considered to be best practice.
Perhaps one of the best definitions of what best practice within a call center now entails was offered by the Professional Planning Forum when it announced its shortlist for Contact Center Innovation Awards.
"Customer contact is no longer just about answering calls and the shortlist reflects that," the forum explained.
"Best practice is about understanding why customers call, how to avoid them making unnecessary calls, about integrating channels such as web and social media, about planning for the back office and outbound, and about planning ahead for how we handle the calls themselves, in a way that engages and develops our colleagues."
Dealing With Different Customer Needs
One factor which the definition from the Professional Planning Forum doesn't mention is providing an inclusive call center that deals with the needs of a wide variety of customers.
While it describes the imperative for integrating channels like the Internet, it does not mention the need for consistency across these platforms, ensuring the same standard of service is always delivered.
This was just one of the factors featured recently in new best practice guidelines released by the Employers’ Forum on Disability (EFD), supported by BT and Cisco, which seek to address how call center managers can provide an inclusive service.
Key best practice recommendations made included ensuring callers do not have to repeat information to more than one agent and that all charges and policies relating to the call center are displayed clearly.
Relating specifically to disabled and elderly customers, a particular issue as many countries begin to deal with aging populations, it explained the need for agents to be trained to deal with their unique needs.
In addition, the guidance deals with the increasingly complex issue of customer data, stating best practice should dictate information provided regarding a person's disability should not be used for sales purposes, unless permission is specifically given.
Although the guidance relates specifically to the elderly and the disabled, it provides a model for enhancing customer satisfaction and improving operations across the entire contact center – in particular with relation to call routing procedures.
New technology and expanding departments mean customers who ring a contact center no longer find themselves speaking to an agent straight away. While these measures are intended to ensure people talk to the right agent the first time and are not left on hold for long periods, in practice this is not always the case.
A good call routing system has the benefit of fewer dropped calls, more efficient use of agents and fewer future calls. Just a few issues presented to those who are disabled or elderly from poor call routing, as identified by the EFD, include customers with dexterity issues not being able to respond to some prompts and those with speech impairments having problems with voice recognition systems.
Common issues experienced with call routing also include too many choices being made available, the options being listed too fast, not being able to speak to an operator with the correct information, being stuck in a queue and a lack of information as to whether the call has been completed.
All are problems which are magnified for disabled and elderly customers, but should be applied as best practice within call centers.
If these issues are addressed, there should be an increase in first call resolution, customer satisfaction, agent performance and a drop in abandonment rates, all top key performance indicators in the industry.
In short what the EFD guidance recommends, and indeed all best practice should recommend, is seeking to offer the simplest service possible, which combines the benefits of both automated technology and agent interaction for a wide range of customers.