We have all had the experience of being placed on hold when calling a company with a large customer base such as a cable company, utility or wireless provider. While the hold message usually begins with something like “your call is important to us, please hold…” it can be difficult to believe such a statement as a valued customer. Even worse is the message “we’re currently experiencing a high volume of calls, so your wait time may be longer than average.”
Once you reach a live agent, it’s still uncertain whether that person will be able to help you. The outcome of your call largely depends on the organization and complexity of your question, but there is a reasonable chance the call center agent will be able to provide the information you’re seeking quickly and efficiently. However, research shows that many organizations consistently provide poor customer service, even for routine matters.
Indicators of Mistakes being made in a Call Center
Ten of the most common reasons issues that some call centers experience fall into the following categories:
Neglect is the biggest single cause of issues in call centers. These factors include complete neglect, poor communication with customers and weak integration with the rest of the company.
1. Complete Neglect
Complete neglect of a call center by its parent organization primarily refers to insufficient funding. This problem is most common in small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) where the call center isn’t a major part of business operations. Call centers in these organizations are often neglected because their budget is rolled up into the budgets of larger departments such as IT or Sales. As a result, executives have no visibility into their call center operations and are unlikely to care. Of course, this attitude is likely to change once the call center becomes large enough to appear as a line item on the company’s monthly profit and loss (P&L) statement.
Call centers that are underfunded due to neglect must make do with less, often resulting in a lack of technologies needed to serve their customers. This issue is most likely to impact younger customers, who are more likely to expect a consistent experience across multiple communication channels. These call centers usually operate in a vacuum as they’re disconnected from the rest of their organization, making them only dimly aware of its overall goals.
2. Poor Communication
Poor communication is another form of neglect that occurs in call centers. The call center is often a business’s primary communications channel with its customers, which many companies fail to recognize. As a result, these organizations often undervalue their call centers’ contribution to their bottom line. Call centers can generate revenue with upsells and cross-sells in addition to resolving problems not caused by the call center. Neglecting to understand the call center’s role in maximizing the customer’s lifetime value (CLV) thus causes these organizations to treat their call centers as an afterthought.
Executives who question the value that a call center provides for the organization will often invest in technologies intended to improve its operational efficiency, regardless of that solution’s impact on its customers. However, attempts to increase a call center’s communication with its customers are doomed to failure unless they recognize the value of customer experience (CX) and service quality. Technology that merely focuses on reducing call times for its own sake doesn’t improve either of these factors.
3. Poor Integration
Poor integration with the rest of the organization is another form of neglect for call centers. In this case, senior executives generally disagree on the call center’s role and the value it delivers to the organization. While they may comment on changes in abandonment rate or service level, they’re generally content with the call center’s performance. Once they make the initial investment in people and technology, they feel they don’t need to worry about the call center anymore.
This form of neglect can be highly frustrating for staff members who work in the call center, especially when the call center enters its maintenance phase. Senior executives often question the need to hire additional staff to replace losses or to accommodate call volume increases. The lack of integration is also likely to provide a poor agent experience that will eventually manifest itself as a reduction in service quality. A call center that’s truly integrated into the rest of the business rarely experiences these problems as executives can readily assess the value it provides for the company.
The communication problems of a poorly performing call center include unclear expectations and unrealistic goals.
4. Unclear Expectations
Agents often prefer to wait for their managers to clarify their expectations, rather than directly asking managers for direction. This tendency results in agents not knowing what they’re supposed to do, but still getting reprimanded for failing to meet business requirements. Such an environment is highly demoralizing for agents, and one of the most common complaints that they have.
Call center managers need to work closely with their agents when setting goals for the call center, which is typically done each quarter. Metrics are essential for ensuring that team members have a clear picture of how their work improves customer outcomes. It’s also important to empower employees with additional information, including training. Scheduling the time needed for training in the fast-paced environment of a typical call center is a highly challenging task, but it’s essential for improving call center performance. Call center managers can often drive agent empowerment by using adaptive leadership techniques.
5. Unrealistic Goals
Call centers play a crucial role in attracting and retaining customers. Call center managers should ensure that the call center’s strategic plan aligns with the organization’s overall goals, mission and values. Managers often find that their agents fail to meet the goals they’ve set. Even worse, agents may meet these goals without improving call center performance.
This outcome is often due to unrealistic or irrelevant goals, which managers should redefine as quickly as they identify them. Goals can and should be ambitious, but not so high that the best agents can’t reach them. Managers should also set goals incrementally, meeting they should slightly increase those goals at frequent intervals. This strategy helps agents remain focused on the present performance, rather than long-term achievements. Long-term goals are fine, but they need to be achieved in increments.
Call center mistakes that relate to reporting include a lack of performance metrics and poor performance metrics.
6. Having no performance metrics
Metrics are essential for setting performance standards in a call center. They set tangible goals that employees can achieve in a specific time period. Transparency is crucial for this process, as are clear metrics that accurately measure agents’ performance. Metrics allow managers to hold agents accountable and take appropriate action based on tangible results, allowing them to coach underachievers and recognize overachievers. Accountability also helps managers maintain the performance levels in their call center to the standard ensure quality service.
7. Setting up wrong performance metrics
Metrics should tell employees how well they’re doing their jobs, but the wrong metrics can actually hurt customer service while still supporting company goals. For example, call completion time (CTT) is still the most valuable metric in many call centers. However, first call resolution (FCR) is often more useful for measuring customer satisfaction. This metric avoids the tendency for agents to rush through a call and can also reduce callbacks. This example shows how important it is to use metrics that will improve customer service.
Staffing mistakes in a call center include insufficient staff and inadequate experience.
8. Insufficient Staff
Call centers often experience insufficient staffing levels in the business’s peak season, requiring more agents to handle the increased load. Agents may not complain about this problem directly, but it can leave them feeling tired and unmotivated. Increasing shift lengths may seem like the best solution for this temporary increase, but it typically leads to a reduction in service quality. Employees are a company’s most valuable asset, so it’s important to keep them as happy as possible.
9. Low level of agent experience
Call centers routinely train agents when onboarding them, but many of them fail to provide the ongoing training that’s also necessary. Call center agents require general training in customer service, such as how to handle a call efficiently. They also need specific training for that particular call center, especially in following its unique scripts. Furthermore, team leaders are crucial for providing agents with the motivation needed to maximize the benefits of that training.
Many tools are currently available to help call centers maximize their performance. Team leads often spend much of their time generating reports and analyzing the results, but the right tools can dramatically reduce his workload. These tools can be far more effective than traditional Excel spreadsheets, which become more cumbersome as the size of a call center grows. Equipping a call center with the appropriate tools often provides immediate benefits.
The Way Forward
Customers who expect poor customer service may seem like a hopeless problem, but it actually creates the opportunity for a call center to improve its service. The motivation behind this process may be a genuine desire to deliver better customer service, or it could simply be a need to keep customers happy and willing to spend money. Regardless of the specific reasons behind improving customer service, the prospect of investing in such a goal can appear to be a risky strategy as it often requires a combination of new processes, services, staff and technology. However, a recent study by American Express shows that 61 percent of Americans now consider customer service to be the most important factor in purchase decisions, even more so than product quality. This study also shows that Americans are willing to spend an average of nine percent more for excellent customer service.
American Express has also implemented processes based on the assumption that customers will pay more for better service. It derives its customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores directly from customers, replacing their previous method of using internally generated quality scores. Shoe manufacturer Zappos also bills itself as a customer service organization and has created a group of exceptionally loyal customers. F&C is widely considered the best call center in the UK as a result of regularly exceeding its service parameters.
The traditional view of call centers is that customers must navigate through lengthy IVR call trees and wait on hold for hours, only to reach an unpleasant, poorly trained agent. However, many call centers are responding to this stereotype by delivering superior service, which today’s customers will favor even if it costs them more. Customers who vote with their pocketbooks provide the strongest encouragement for organizations that neglect customer service. The current expectation of customers makes it easy to visualize a point in the near future when organizations providing poor customer service simply won’t be able to compete with those that do.
Aceyus as a Winning Solution
Aceyus solutions use adaptive technology that improves efficiency in the contact center. These include real-time dashboards that track communications with customers, which provides the context agents need to deliver a more personalized customer experience. These dashboards allow you to view all contact center data from a single interface, eliminating the need to switch between multiple interfaces to view the desired data.
The analysis of data in real time also lets you optimize your operations by routing calls based on current call and queue metrics. This capability means you can reduce staffing levels without sacrificing service quality. The ability to track agent productivity across multiple platforms also improves performance for teams and individual agents. Additional benefits of Aceyus solutions include the elimination of data silos, which helps increase agility in the contact center. Furthermore, our solutions allow you to integrate internal and external data sources, providing a complete visualization of key performance indicators (KPIs). Contact Aceyus today to schedule a free demo of our dashboards. We can also provide a consultation about how it can improve the customer service of your contact center and drive your business forward.