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Call Centers Need to Live in the Now

Are your customers frustrated by the time they reach a live agent? Are they complaining about your self-service options? When was the last time you asked?

In today's fast-paced, multitasking, and busy world, customers want to get in and get out of your call center. They don't want to spend any of their precious moments listening to a recording saying, "Your call is important to us, please remain on the line and we will be with you momentarily." Think about yourself as customer. You know you don't like this sort of messaging yourself, so why make your customers listen to it?

You need to know what channels your customers like best and offer these channels to them instead of forcing them to call an 800 number. Maybe they want to chat with you, send an instant message, email a request, or go online and just hit a few buttons to complete their order, without talking or chatting to anyone.

We suggest holding a series of focus groups to determine which channels are best suited to your customers. Customers will be more than happy to tell you what they want. Collect the data on your customers. How old are they? What are their income and education levels? What's their average family size? Having this information available in your call center gives your agents the chance to suggest items to callers, and this, in fact, will help increase revenue.

Don't Repeat This Menu
Call centers need to change with the times. We are seeing some call centers go back to live answer, because the CEO of the company can't stand the IVR options that we put them through and complaints are hitting the top. We are seeing call centers everywhere leveraging VoIP. Smaller centers now have features of the larger ones that they couldn't even think about years ago. We are seeing centralized work distribution for economies of scale, which is a good thing.

We are seeing call centers with back-up plans in place. However, in doing research for this article, we have found that 83% of enterprises that have a back-up plan in place for an emergency never truly test it. That's not good. They should think of it kind of like we do with our back-up generator at our offices. In case of complete power outage, our generator automatically kicks in. The system automatically tests itself every Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. sharp. It is gas powered, so it runs each week for 10 minutes then shuts itself off. We can hear it go through its testing phase, so we know it will work should we ever need it.

Don't let your call center get stuck in the '80s, as we've found at some clients during reviews and audits. Sometimes, for example, we find call centers providing callers with nine options, including "Repeat this menu."

Stepping Out of the Maze
Here it is 2015, and lots of companies still have not integrated their IVR and agent systems. The IVR prompts the caller to input an account number, but then the live agent asks for the account number again. Very frustrating. This makes callers want to "Run, Forrest, Run!" and not do business with these companies.

Or, we have seen call centers that let a caller spend time navigating the IVR maze, only to be told, just are they think they're getting close to reaching someone, "Thank you for calling, our offices are now closed." @#$%&! Why didn't that information come at the start, rather than forcing a caller through all the prompts to discover it?

Hot areas of interest right now in call centers are better automation, analytics, workforce optimization, multichannel support, and self- service support. So in conclusion, you need to:

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