By the way, most call center managers ask “How to make a call center successful?” at the early beginning of their call center setup. We have to state that a call center is a multifunctional unit that performs a massive amount of call center operations and processes and the overall call center success depends on numerous factors: effective communication among team members, agent satisfaction, quality of customer service provided, and, as a result, the overall level of customer satisfaction, customer engagement, and quality of customer experience, and, finally, the quality of call center technologies and call center strategies that are used.
So, to ease the challenge, we are going to describe the call center best practices for building and maintaining an advanced call center that provides only positive customer experiences, improves customer retention, and moreover, generates sales and leads. So, here we go.
Call center best practices: twenty tips you must know and follow
Keep an eagle eye on the most vital call center metrics and KPIs
Well, the first thing you need to start improving your call center performance is starting with one of the call center best practices - understanding how to measure the call center performance and how to identify imperfections and improvement areas. You have the best tool for this task - it is call center metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These are the specific formulas to calculate, which allow you to understand the overall performance of a contact center, the productivity of a group of contact center employees or every single agent, and to find out how to improve those rates. Key call center metrics and KPIs include:
First Call Resolution rate - the number of customer requests resolved within one conversation;
Average Resolution Time (Average Handle Time) - the average time period spent resolving a customer issue;
Agent Occupancy and Utilization rates - the percentage of working time agents spend on call-related activities;
Customer retention and Customer churn rates - these rates are interdependent, as customer retention shows how many customers remain with your brand within a pre-chosen period of time (a year or a quarter), and the customer churn rate shows how many customers quit your brand within the same period of time, so with 80% of customer retention you will have 20% of customer churn;
The customer experience (CX) - this metric doesn’t have a specific formula to use, but it consists of many other metrics, such as Customer Satisfaction score (DSAT), Customer Effort Score (CES), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and First Contact Resolution rate (FCR), and some experts include other metrics as the components of customer experience, but nonetheless, above-mentioned four rates are the most essential.
Employee turnover and attrition rates - most call centers suffer from high rates of turnover and attrition, and this causes negative consequences, such as the inability to build a stable team, poor team environment, low levels of agent satisfaction and agent engagement (or all other employee engagement), which also leads to poor quality of customer service.
Also, we have to mention such metrics as: Average Speed of Answer, Average Response Time (yes, these two are different), Call Abandonment Rate, Average Call Duration, Average Waiting (Wait) Time, Idle Times, and so on.
If you don't control those statistical measures, you will face numerous problems that will drain your time and resources and harm call center performance. Moreover, it is obvious that if one aspect of call center work shows poor performance, all others are also harmed. For instance, if you experience high Average Wait Times, the overall level of customer satisfaction decreases, which leads to higher customer churn rates in the near future. In other words, one of the call center best practices is to track and manage all available call center metrics on a regular basis.
Focus on improving the pace of customer service
Customers are waiting for faster service here and now, especially after the implementation and popularization of such tools as chatbots and overall worldwide improvement of customer service quality - and that’s what your call center strategy should cover. Customer demands grow, and the business has the only option to agree with - delight those demands, or the competition will be lost. The overall speed of customer service can be improved in a few ways, including such call center best practices:
- Wise scheduling and hiring the enough number of agents to deal with call volumes;
- Intelligent call routing tools for improving call queue management;
- Elimination of absenteeism and call avoidance in your call center teams;
- Call center agents training and regular quality assurance check-outs;
- Implementation of self-service tools, including chatbots, advanced IVR system, and finally, comprehensive knowledge bases, FAQs, and online community platforms.
Self-service tools are your magic wand for the next 10 years (at least)
Studies show the growing popularity of self-service options and this fact helps to make the following conclusions: first of all, self-service opportunities are going to conquer at least 30% of all customer interactions. Secondly, the wider spread of poor customer service quality and ignorance of the importance of call center agents' training led us to a situation where people prefer non-human interactions. Finally, this is not bad news: using self-service tools and options allows call centers to save operational costs, optimize staff number and labor costs, and improve customer experience - so we must include it in the list of call center best practices.
What makes people love self-service tools that much? Well, let us agree with the obvious fact that no person can provide the speed of answer that is provided by chatbots, as well as numerous negative experiences of waiting for 30 minutes in call queues make people consider call centers a kind of ninth circle of hell. Yes, there are many call centers that provide really great service, but they are still in the minority to those who created this negative image. Anyhow, if something works, why shouldn't we use it?
Avoid call escalation
One of the call center best practices is call escalation elimination. First of all, let’s clarify what is meant by “call escalation”. In short, it is a situation when a customer asks to transfer a call to a higher executive of a call center, manager, or supervisor, because of poor quality of service provided by the agent or the agent’s inability to resolve the issue or satisfy the request. There are also cases when customer service agents become the initiators of call escalation, and to be honest, this is the worst way the call escalation can happen - it means agents don’t have enough skills or they aren’t just prepared to service customers in the way they have to do it.
Call escalation is a negative occurrence in any way: firstly, it is always a conflict situation. Secondly, clients who initiate escalation are already dissatisfied clients and it is a problem you have to deal with. Finally, call escalation means that a customer who experiences such a case is more likely to never call you again.
What are the call center best practices for dealing with call escalation?
- Train agents on the real cases of conflict situations and learn them how to deal with unhappy customers;
- Provide agents with a comprehensive internal knowledge base to ease the resolution of complex issues;
- Use call monitoring technology with hidden mode, where managers can help agents in real-time mode during phone calls, but clients won’t notice it;
- Avoid repetitive customer inquiries because it leads to conflicts.
Implement an intelligent call routing system
You need to deal with inbound calls with the highest possible efficiency, and it is impossible without a wise call center strategy to manage inbound call volumes. To manage incoming calls, you need a call routing system that will automatically route incoming calls to the most appropriate contact center agents based on customizable criteria. It will have a positive impact on such call center KPIs, such as average issue resolution time, first call resolution rate, agent occupancy rate, and surely, customer satisfaction and customer experience, respectively. Intelligent call routing system can work by using different algorithms: skills-based routing - an algorithm that identifies the nature of customer request and routes the call to an agent who is the most experienced in dealing with similar issues, least idle routing - this routing mode makes the longest idling agent the priority one for the next call, and many more routing rules you can choose based on your business requirements and current needs. Nonetheless, skill-based call routing and priority-based routing are considered the best call center practices.
You have to remember that intelligent (smart) call routing is possible only with the use of the following technologies, which are also required for another call center best practices implementation: ACD (Automatic Call Distributor) software tool and IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system. Using them both is one of the best call center practices for managing call queues and dealing with massive inbound call volumes.
Pay attention to call queue management
Call queue management call center best practices are closely linked with inbound call volume optimization described in the previous paragraph, but it does not mean it is not a different aspect of call center work. Intelligent call routing improves the average waiting times, respectively, but it isn’t the most influential factor - it is more about the quality of the conversation itself, not about shortening the waiting time before the conversation. Call queue management is one of the best call center practices as it helps to improve customer satisfaction and reduces the number of abandoned calls, which is one of the biggest problems that is experienced by call centers that process thousands of inbound calls.
First of all, call queue management is not possible without the proper number of active agents and thoughtful scheduling policies. If you have enough agents, let’s move further - you have to find out what are your peak hours - hours when your call center processes the highest volumes of customer calls. Thus, you have to adapt agent schedules based on this info: for peak hours you need more agents, while for idle hours you need fewer agents. This also assists in optimizing labor costs.
The final tip is the wise use of the IVR system call center best practices: IVR software, as a part of call center software, can remind customers about their queue numbers, inform them about estimated wait times, and offer a free callback option for those who can’t wait for long.
Avoid mistakes in IVR designing
IVR design and configuration is extremely vital, and wise use of the IVR system can become one of your call center best practices, or, otherwise, destroy customer satisfaction and make your clients hate your contact center. Why is the IVR software so controversial? First of all, most IVR solutions are designed and used in the wrong way. They include numerous advertisement messages, the IVR menus are tool time-consuming, non-understandable and non-intuitive, the option to reach out to an agent is hidden in one of the dozens of menu sections, and so on. Therefore, the IVR menu becomes not an assistant for clients, but a barrier between them and agents.
Thus, you have to implement the following IVR system call center best practices and tips:
- allow customers to skip the IVR menu and reach out to the agent directly via a single click;
- don’t make menu sections too massive and avoid senseless sections;
- research the most popular customer queries and design the IVR menu based on them;
- use speech recognition technology if possible;
Create a call center continuity plan
Nothing is as harmful to the call center as even one day of breakdown. Thus, if you want your call center to be secure from any emergency situations, you have to create a business continuity plan, as it is maybe one of the call center best practices for establishing business stability and continuity.
So, what do you have to pay attention to:
Backup sources of electricity and Internet connection;
Create clear guidelines for personnel concerning their actions in case of emergency;
Use SLA to push your vendor to resolve any software issues;
Identify all business systems that are under risk and find out ways to reduce or eliminate risk factors;
Choose the key executives who have to be involved in emergency resolution;
Establish SLA and Service Level
One of the call center best practices if you want to avoid negative consequences in the future is establishing an SLA (Service Level Agreement) between you as a call center owner and service provider, and also an SLA between you and call center agents (it is more often called service level). Service Level Agreement between you and the vendor should include all vital aspects of cooperation, including measurable rates to evaluate the quality of services provided and the performance of tools you use, penalties for violating agreement conditions, and aspects of resolving emergency situations regarding breakdowns of software tools. The service level that you use for agents should include such vital things as KPIs agents have to show during work, for instance, many contact centers use old-but-gold rule, which is known as one of the call center best practices in this field, “80/20” which means “80% of customer calls should be answered within 20 first seconds since the call has been initiated by a client”. Service level can also include such vital KPIs, as FCR rate or Average Issue Resolution time.
Train agents regularly
Call center agent training is surely one of the really vital call center best practices, as it is the best way to improve service quality and make clients enjoy the service you provide. You have to evaluate agents' performance on a daily basis to understand what skills they feel a lack, what situations are difficult for them to deal with, what are the improvement areas regarding service level, and what hard skills have to be improved.
Agent training has to be not only collective, but individual too, especially based on real call recordings of each agent to make the training sessions more adapted to real conditions, especially when it comes to dealing with conflicts and difficult customers, or complex issues.
Manage agent experience and reward the best workers
It is vital for a call center to build a stable team, and if agents aren’t satisfied with their work it is almost impossible. Well wait, we have lied - it is absolutely impossible. Building a stable team is truly one of the call center best practices and successful call center strategies, but it is also a difficult task if we take into consideration that turnover rates are the highest exactly in the call center industry. What do you have to do to build a stable team and improve agent experience and satisfaction?
- Create a reward system call center strategy for best-performing workers
- Always ask agents about their feeling and emotions concerning work in your company;
- Implement flexible scheduling rules in your call center strategy;
- Ask for personal needs;
- Praise agents, but only when they deserve it;
- Provide constructive feedback, but let them provide it too;
- Offer accessible career opportunities;
- Invest in training and non-work activities to build trust;
- Ask about work environment improvement options.
There are also many more best practices call centers use for agent experience improvement.
Collect customer feedback and use it for further decisions
Who can tell you more about your imperfections and potential areas of improvement if not your buyers? That’s why one of the call center best practices is collecting customer feedback. But that is not over when you get detailed feedback (via customer surveys) as many companies think - many customer complaints state that business collects feedback, but does nothing with it. How can it be considered by clients? As an example of a careless and negligent attitude to their opinion. Does it harm customer loyalty and customer experience? Sure.
So what do you have to do in such a case and what contact center best practices can help you? First of all, if your clients say something like “The IVR menu design is poor”, then go and change the design, but before it, create a poll about what customers want to see in that menu. That is the way customer care works - and that is the way you will get loyal customers.
We all know that some customer demands and customer expectations are unrealistic, but they are in minority compared to real imperfections in some aspects of customer service. Everything that is possible to improve should be improved, and all that is impossible to improve should be explained why it is impossible to improve.
Use modern technologies
There are plenty of call center best practices, but what is the best call center strategy among other successful call center strategies? Surely, it is the use of advanced software tools, including the best software for call center you can choose on the market.
VoipTime Cloud Contact Center is the all-in-one contact center solution for any business- small, midsize, or large - that offers affordable pricing policy, all features you can imagine, and guarantees that customers will get the best servicing possible!
Some of its features include:
- Call monitoring to avoid call escalation
- Advanced IVR system that will make people love it, not hate
- Intelligent call routing with numerous different algorithms of work
- Blended call center feature to handle bout inbound and outbound calls
- Real-time reporting to keep track of the KPIs and agent productivity
- Self-service tools, including chatbots, knowledge bases, and IVR
- Multichannel communication capabilities with such digital channels support as email, social media, web chat, and chatbots
- Call queue management tools
And many more unique features of the best software for call center that are better not to read about, but to try out!
Contact us to discuss your needs and see Voiptime Contact Center in action!