7 Top Tips for Improving Call Centre Productivity and Performance
14:28 24 November 2021
In their Customer Experience Trends Report 2020, Zendesk found that 50 percent of customers move onto another brand after one bad experience with customer service. For this reason, the importance of proper call centre workforce management can't be overstated.
However, this shouldn't be daunting for businesses. In fact, there are plenty of ways to improve your call centre's productivity and performance, many of which are quick and easy to implement. In the article below, we consider seven of them.
1. Set clear goals
You can't improve what you're not measuring. Between pinpointing and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and communicating these to your agents, you need to set clear goals so everyone is working toward the same target.
Setting clear KPIs and referring back to them in daily stand-up meetings or weekly one-to-ones will ensure everyone knows what good performance looks like and what’s expected of them. When communicating between agents and other managers, make sure goals and expectations are the same between both groups.
You can start by keeping a very close eye on CSAT metrics, such as the percentage of positive vs. negative feedback from customer surveys or how long the average customer is on hold.
Think about how to systematically improve the performance of individual agents. With these goals in mind, you and every manager in the call centre will be in alignment when creating your weekly task list, making recommendations, and setting targets.
2. Test the user journey
Call Centre Helper found that 65 percent of senior managers had never taken a regular customer call in the centre they worked at.
On the other hand, Jeff Bezos - CEO of Amazon - publicly advertised his email address so customers could contact him directly. Was he looking through these ordinary customer service emails because he had nothing better to do?
No, Bezos understood the value of developing a first-hand understanding of customer needs and problems - the sort of insight that can only be gained by talking to them. That feedback is one of the main reasons customer service is essential for business growth.
Apple CEO Tim Cook also starts his day reading emails from customers and is known to send a thoughtful reply now and then.
As soon as you can, block out time to sit down and answer a few calls alongside your agents. If they really are busier than Jeff Bezos, get managers to sit in weekly so they can get first-hand experience that rarely gets communicated up the chain of command.
It won't be long before you start gaining valuable insights into your customers' problems, how agents can meet them, and how you can make the process better for everyone.
3. Use the right tools
User experience (UX) is often spoken about as something that only affects customers, but it's just as important for employees if they want to meet customer needs effectively.
One of the earliest documents in UX history was written by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician who developed the Hippocratic Oath. This explained how a surgeon's workstation should be set up, where certain things should be positioned, and how he should arrange his tools.
No surprise then that people in medicine still put a premium on the right tools and setup. There's a whole industry of people designing medical working environments. This enables maximum productivity for doctors in a profession where every second counts.
In the same vein, you should thoroughly review every tool your agents are using and every aspect of their working environment. This could mean anything from looking at RingCentral alternatives to figuring out the pros and cons of your agent dashboard compared to others.
Once you've taken some calls yourself and looked at all the latest tools on the market, you might find your phone system has a specific task you could be managing more efficiently and decide to upgrade.
These might seem like small changes, but the larger your call centre, the more profit you'll make from even a one percent productivity boost from every agent.
4. Maintain motivation
There’s also a lot to be said for rewarding - or at least recognizing - those who do well. Agents who are genuinely engaged with their work, have their contributions praised, and feel a sense of purpose will always go the extra mile for customers.
This will improve your CSAT and your call centre's performance. That’s because employee engagement drives customer engagement. More engaged employees will kick off a virtuous cycle where they improve the engagement and morale of people around them, which contributes to a better customer experience and builds a more positive company culture.
One way to encourage employee engagement is to catch agents when they're doing a good job and ensure their efforts are recognised. Make sure they know they're making a difference in customers' lives. A surprise reward now and then wouldn't hurt either.
5. Embrace autonomy/flexibility
Another way to improve employee engagement is by giving them autonomy and flexibility over how they work. Review where you can give your agents control over what they do, when they do it, and how they do it. Offering remote/hybrid working can make workers feel trusted and in control over their day-to-day lives, and the transition needn’t be disruptive.
Measuring annual leave in hours, not days, and using software to make shift-swapping as easy as possible can create a lot more flexibility with little effort on your part. If you can offer work-from-home opportunities and flexible shift patterns as well, even better.
Consider giving agents opportunities to move across departments and develop their skills too. Create positions like "subject matter expert" so they can better help customers and other agents.
6. Review your KPIs regularly
You can't improve everything at once, so ask yourself this question: do all of the KPIs you're measuring have a clear purpose behind them, or are you tracking some of them only for the sake of it?
If you try to focus on too many KPIs, you might find you’re not paying enough attention to the ones that matter most. Some might even conflict with each other, with too much focus on one detracting from another.
If you can't imagine your conversion rate and overall CSAT conflicting, consider how Apple Stores are designed around the majority of customers who come in and don't buy anything. Too much emphasis on sales can not only put people off but distract you and your agents from overall customer satisfaction, for example.
7. Reduce repetitive calls
You can immediately improve call centre productivity by reducing the amount of unnecessary, low-value work your agents do. One big problem you want to tackle is repetitive calls about the same recurrent problems.
You're likely sending out "how did we do?" style surveys to customers after they've been on a call, but you know yourself how many people actually fill those out - very few. If you solicit feedback from agents about the problems customers are regularly experiencing, you'll get a more detailed picture of common issues.
Whether you're running an in-house call centre or working for an external company, you can massively increase your call centre's value by creating detailed reports on what's going wrong. Work out where customers are getting stuck on-site, what they don't understand, and what they keep bringing up in calls.
By eliminating easily avoidable issues and the calls resulting from them, you can improve your call centre's productivity, and by allowing yourself to focus on more important problems, you can speed up resolution and improve your CSAT scores in the process.
Improving your call centre
If you put these seven tips into practice, you should start to see calls that stand out to you as a great example of what agents should be aiming for. Hold a group session and let your staff listen to these calls together. This is an opportunity to reward good performance but also a way to educate the team and align their goals.
Don't start by telling agents what to look for in the call - let them offer their suggestions on what went right and you'll see whether everyone has agreed-on criteria for measuring performance. Call centers play such a huge role in driving customer satisfaction, and by working more closely with agents and including them in certain processes, you'll soon start to see a difference.
Hopefully, you're coming away from reading this article with some useful ideas you can put into practice. Talk about this with your agents either in group or one-to-one meetings. Working together, you should be able to develop even more ideas to improve your call centre's productivity and performance.
Grace Lau - Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication and contact center platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn.