The Essential Outbound Call Center Checklist
If you’re like most call center managers, your daily routine is pretty consistent. Most likely you haven’t recently taken the time to evaluate what is working and what needs to be changed.
Typical call center organizations and the employees within those organizations have ways of doing things that are tightly woven in the fabric. It’s difficult to tell why things are done a certain way—they just are! After all, when something is working, why change it? Or why even question it for that matter? Call center operations success requires a delicate balance of many components and it is often best to leave things alone. But with careful evaluation you can tweak your call center practices and set up your team for even more success.
What should be evaluated? A quick audit in 10 basic areas is recommended.
1) Core Components in the Call Center
Thinking about these core components may seem too simplistic; however a careful evaluation often reveals opportunities for improvement.
- Is your call center’s offer compelling?
- Is your scripting/call guide effective?
- Who is the call center’s target market?
- What is the dialing strategy in the call center?
Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to the call center’s core components. It can be a slow death once a core component gets stale.
2) Call Monitoring in the Call Center
Quality Assurance is widely used to monitor the calls and provide quality feedback to the call center agents. Many companies overlook the opportunity for the Quality Assurance function to listen for global elements like: Is the call center’s scripting working? Is the call center’s offer working? Are we reaching the call center’s intended target audience?
The people performing the Quality Assurance function should be encouraged to look at the bigger picture as well as analyzing each call center representative individually. Typical QA monitoring programs use checklists and graded evaluations. This tends to cause global elements to be overlooked.
3) Data Analysis in the Call Center
In the past year, have the call center’s contact rates shifted? On outbound programs, do you know when you’ve reached a diminishing rate of return on calling a list? Do you know the impact of the phone number you display on Caller ID?
Data to consider analyzing for outbound programs:
- How many call center contacts are made on the first attempt? second attempt? third attempt? What is the most profitable attempt management plan? What is the most profitable maximum attempt rule?
- What is the impact of using a different variation on Caller ID? (800 number, Company name, product name?)
- What is the best time of day for the call center to make call contacts? What is the best time of day for the call center to make sales conversions?
4) Call Center Technology
Is your call center maximizing contact while minimizing abandoned calls? Are you maximizing dialer performance by using the right line to call center representative ratio? Do you have the right number of agents assigned to the campaign? If possible it is best to have one person be in charge of the dialer settings. Often, too many hands on the controls can cause duplication of efforts and undoing what someone else has just modified. It is ideal to track the date, time and specific changes that were made so you know what results are tied to the technology settings that were utilized. This allows for better tracking and reporting to find what will work best with a particular program.
5) Call Center Reporting
What gets measured gets done. In the call center, we love reports. However, do a careful inspection in the call center to ensure that reports are being utilized. If reports are not being used in the call center, get rid of them and free up the precious time to work on something of more importance (or to generate a different, more useful report).
6) Call Recording
If your company uses call recording, you’ve already invested a significant amount of resources in establishing the call recording system. Require your call center management team to listen to the recorded calls on a routine basis. However, don’t listen for the typical things like call quality or how a call center representative handled the customer. Instead, listen for ways to cut down on the average call time (to talk with more people more efficiently with the same agent hour), listen for potential training opportunities or listen for potential misinterpretations on your core message. The list is endless.
7) Call Center Training Beyond New Employee Orientation
Listen to 20 calls and evaluate where the call center representatives are experiencing difficulty in their calls. Are they losing opportunities early in the call or late in the call? What responses are the call center representatives not prepared to handle?
Holding focus groups periodically with employees is a great way to gain insight from front-line call center employees. This also keeps the lines of communication open between call center representatives and call center management, and gives your team another opportunity to communicate successes and challenges.
8) Call Center Incentives and Goals
Just as what gets measured gets done, what gets rewarded gets done well. Be sure your compensation plan and incentives are up to date and meaningful for all call center employees.
Setting goals in the call center gives call center representatives a focus, something to strive for. Goals and incentives tie together. In the call center environment it’s easy to run a variety of competitions and games within the call center to create the focus for your team. Call center operations tend to run best when creative contests and incentives are implemented. Another idea to consider is creating teams within the call center or even between other locations if possible. This gives the employees a real drive to make sure "their team" is number one. Use the valuable resources within your staff. For example if someone is an artist have them create a poster to go along with the game or theme for that program.
9) Call Center Leadership
Call center leadership requires focusing on the right things and providing a stimulating environment with creative problem solving. It’s not easy to work in a call center, so the job of leader is that much harder. Do a quick self-check on your leadership. Are you focused on the right things? Are you cultivating a stimulating work environment? Do you empower your employees? Do you provide direction to your call center team? Successful leadership means developing your call center team and allowing them to spread their wings...they will feel a sense of accomplishment and continue to achieve higher goals.
10) Call Center Communication
Are you communicating key information in a clear and consistent manner? Communicate until you think people are sick of hearing your message and then communicate it again and again and again. Just when you’re sick of saying it, they will start getting it. That’s a basic tenet of Marketing 101, and it is also true when communicating with your team.
Using this checklist will help ensure you think in a big-picture way about the best ways to improve call center performance in your call center operation. When you invest in "taking a step back" from the day-to-day operation, you may find that no changes are needed. However, most likely, you’ll find that a tweak will benefit your organization and ensure its long-term success.
Originally published in Connections Magazine