6 Contact Center Best Practices to Live By
From simplifying interactions to being proactive, Enghouse Interactive exec John Cray shares the steps to boosting the effectiveness of the contact center.
The contact center is there to support customer and user interactions. Whether the caller is a customer, employee, or contractor, the goal is to satisfy the caller on the first interaction. How do you interact with the valuable customers and your in-house users? Are they encountering a simple interaction? Are you successful with first interaction resolution?
Contact center agents are valuable assets. You want to retain them and help them be productive. How well are agents supported? What should be measured when evaluating contact center effectiveness?
I recently spoke with John Cray, VP of Product Management for Enghouse Interactive, which specializes in communications software and services that are designed to enhance customer service, increase efficiency, and improve person-to-person communications across the enterprise. John offered six best practices that will improve contact center operations, productivity, and value.1. Don't Treat all Customers the Same
Different customers are of different value to the enterprise, so it can be useful to map the services you provide to the customer value. This means that the identification of the caller must be connected to the caller's record so that the proper priority is assigned to the caller. The agent can speak to the caller with as much historical knowledge as possible. Addressing the caller by name and mentioning the previous call conversations and actions taken speeds up the interaction and makes the caller feel they are important and remembered. Just like airlines and hotels have special treatment for the returning customers, your contact center should follow the same practices.2. Communicate Proactively
Deliver notifications about operations such as an outage, fixes, and helpful information. Do not wait to be called. Be proactive and reduce the reactive component of the contact center. Contact the customer whenever possible, rather than waiting to be called. Some of the possible techniques are:
- Avoid a universal queue (85% of contact centers support multichannel blending)
- Make CRM changes to support outbound calls, e-mail, or SMS messaging
- Develop multiple notification types such as appointment reminders, known outages, and special offers
- Schedule follow ups to ensure continued interaction with the customer
Don't make the interaction difficult. You have encountered long IVR menus that sometimes take so much time to get through or don't deal with the issue of the call, that you then give up. Here are three methods for reducing interaction complexity:
- Eliminate the hold
- Move customers to the Internet or their mobile device for self-service and live contact
- Proactively track and minimize abandoned calls -- lost callers means lost business
- Offer callbacks while retaining the caller's position in the call queue
- Provide basic self-service such as IVR, Web, and mobile devices for easy or repetitive tasks. Consider the use of audio artificial intelligence for the simpler tasks, thereby avoiding a live agent interaction
- Give customers a choice
- Queue and handle emails (91% of contact centers handle customer email)
- Promote website interactions with chat/IM, callback, or Skype
- Provide device-specific options like mobile apps
- Keep customers notified
- Send regular updates with a predicted time to resolution
- Provide alternatives and workarounds
First interaction resolution is the Holy Grail of the contact center. Resolving the issue on the first call reduces agent costs and improves caller loyalty and their desire to call in again. But don't just treat a short call as an effective call. First interaction resolution should not be able just minimizing the talk time.
Implement skills-based call routing by first identifying the customer and their needs (IVR, website, app). Is a specific individual the best resource to help resolve the call? Is an expert required? Queue callers based on agent skills and availability. Then route the caller to targeted agent with all the applicable data.
There are assets within the enterprise worth leveraging. Utilize a knowledge base and keep it up to date. Employ presence technology to be able to determine the availability of back office experts in real time during the call. Use collaboration tools such as IM, conferencing, screen sharing, etc.5. Treat Agents as Ambassadors
Agents are not just employees; they are assets for the contact center. Satisfied agents translate into satisfied customers. According to Richard Snow, VP and research director at Ventana Research, "...happy agents twice as often meet customer experience expectations and so deliver higher customer satisfaction scores."
Agent attrition is a cost as well as an indicator of agent dissatisfaction and training effectiveness. The US Contact Center Decision-Makers' Guide (2015 – 8th edition) has found five major reasons for agent turnover:
- Wrong type of person for the job
- Excessive pressure or stress
- Repetitive work
- Abusive or unpleasant calls
- Poor working environment and conditions
Most of these issues can be mitigated and reduced with the proper management of agents. Another survey by the Aberdeen Group found that there were three significant elements that agents need:
Compensation was the least of the agent needs, demonstrating that money does not solve the major agent problems.6. Measure and Optimize Customer Value
Don't just maximize basic call center metrics. John Cray provided the graphic below, which shows what is now commonly measured and what should be measured. The left column presents what is typically measured, the center column represents additional but less frequently determined metrics, and the right column is where few contact center metrics are determined. The RED triangle represents the typical metrics measured today:
No matter how much is invested in the contact center agents and the tools provided, success is not guaranteed. Metrics can show where investments have been successful and where the investments have failed. You need to measure in order to manage properly.