“People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete - the things that should have worked but did not, the things that once were productive and no longer are.”
– Peter Drucker, the US Business Hall of Fame
During jittery times, competition between small and mid-sized (SMBs) businesses is continuously growing. In order to compete more successfully, they must change or leave themselves at a competitor’s mercy.
The close-loop of problems most call centers have in their performance management shows the lack of fundamental issues for success. This article is a guidance based on a deep-expertise analysis with proves and charts about successes in a contact center and technology change management.
Apply these principles, and you’ll start to deliver superior customer experiences. These are not empty claims about call center future strategy because these principles once were used by companies from Fortune 100. Plus, they are applied by the most successful call centers today.
Source: Statista Research Department: The primary driver of investment in your contact center
What is a company's culture?
Source: Call Center Helper
First of all, the company's culture is the single most important goal for every organization the project team must be interested in. Every successful call center process management is based on strong and proven principles. No matter how big or small it is. The statement is - the human-oriented culture is the only way to win in changes in your call center. And here’s why.
A company’s culture is the system of values and beliefs in a particular company, where everyone agrees on it. As a matter of fact, culture is a huge part of management. At least it should be that way. The management team should always be culture-conditioned because it represents social functions with human beings and not with robotic-like mechanisms.
Executives of any kind of business are the representatives of their internal beliefs. And all further success of a company stems from the value system and business principles of executives. Moreover, all executives and managers show the way every employee should work, speak, perform and reach goals.
The way executives establish the basic laws of culture will affect every single employee in a company, whether they know it or not. The most promising outcomes from the new management strategy coherently align with it.
The first long-term success principle executives must apply in their culture is that work is money. And everything that empowers money generating and reduces employee resistance must be the principle of the corporate culture. Apply only those actionable insights that guarantee your success. And there are plenty of them.
Some contact center managers may argue about principles, claiming the toughness of their implementation. Yet they forget about historical data from Fortune 100 companies and successful call centers history, started to apply these principles, and grew from small to big companies.
Source: Statista Research Department: Organizations' approach to change worldwide in 2019, by region
Here’s a list of proven contact center culture principles, which generated billion dollars in successful call centers and once at Fortune 100 companies:
- Contact center leaders are passionate about the need for call center process changing;
- A company hires only the most motivated personalities or qualified personalities;
- Professionalism is the most important part of the work of anyone in a company;
- Setting up a call center project plan is the responsibility of a manager;
- The great relationships between agents and executives;
- Start to work on time or agreed schedule, thus improve the company’s discipline and financial growth;
- Reaching goals is critical;
- Respect for each other and aid in a critical moment;
- Deep discussion between each other on obvious and especially most demanding issues in a company;
- A clear vision of contact center supervisors of a company state, timely report to a chief executive officer;
- Constant monitoring of contact center processes;
- Forecast of the future company based on facts, numbers, comprehensive data and not on guessing;
- Meetings are the place for discussing serious business issues. It’s not allowed to abuse each other;
- Careful discussing, with all employees of each proposed contact center decision;
- Quick internal voice or phone call instead of countless messaging or emailing to each other.
Principles are proven to disrupt and out pull work and discipline in call centers:
- Executive contact center staff are not applying principles by themselves but urge personnel to do it.
- Low performance is excused and allowed.
- No adherence to a schedule creates absenteeism and a lazy job.
- Not reaching particular goals.
- National, sexual, or other abusive behavior and wars between agents
- The entire contact center lives in a law of the jungle when the strongest survive and the weakest are die
- Misunderstanding and avoiding two-directional communication on the most valuable actions in a company
- Discussing someone behind the back of a person
- The blurred view about the current and future state of a company
- Meetings are the place for interruptions, arguing, and abuse.
- Pessimistic view on everything that is proposed, without any discussion on their impact
- Emailing inside one office or call center instead of phone or voice conversation.
The main purpose of culture is to create the most comfortable and professional conditions for work. That means combining business relationships with respectable human treatment to each other. And maximizing additional communication activities that weren't previously.
Despite the fact, changing is difficult yet with authority and company leadership it's possible to accomplish. All other ways across or attempts to fast the changes in a company without a groundwork on culture first are pointless.
After achieving a strong culture, you will have full-scale options for further steps and use the body of knowledge for management changes.
The bigger your call center, the more effort you need to put into implementing changes. For instance, changing a call center with 250+ is much more difficult than in call centers with 30 seats.
The other important factor is time. The more time your call center spends working in a certain way, the harder it is to make significant changes.
What is change management in a call center?
Source: Statista Research Department: Which industry segment does your company serve?
Before you start to change the technologies and structure of a company, change your core teams in a group, department, or company. The biggest issues in changing management will always affect people.
To change technologies, you need an active approach to money investing in certain hardware, software, etc. Yet to change your company from the deepest corners and, to sustain these changes, make staff changes first on the agenda.
Change management strategy is the transformation process of a company that affects small or all parts of an organization towards reaching a company's goals. The issues in change management include staff, technologies, culture, resources, and beyond. Yet, there is something you need to know before you arrange any contact center decision whatsoever. For instance, the older a company is on the market, the more established working rules this company has.
For instance, companies from Fortune 500 list are those who have strong corporate cultures you can’t change overnight. In fact, changing those cultures may be the hardest journey you will ever make. It doesn’t mean that everything is lost, yet you must consciously consider the obstacles on the path.
However, small and mid-sized business is just what is manageable to change. And one of the changes companies must make is on the side of culture. Now, let us define the levels of your change, starting from local to global and vice versa.
Depending on the size of your call center you can make a partial change in your call center. It could affect certain departments, groups of people, and technology inside an organization.
For instance, if a company aims to change the sales department to increase contact center performance in sales, it creates a technology improvement such as new responsibilities, training, software, or hardware improvement.
If you need to change a sales team, you may consider better sales rates as your primary outcome. Then you track the roots of low sales contact center performance or declining rates in previous months. You listen to recorded calls, read messages, and identify the reasons why customers are not buying from you. Now, when you define the problem you start to provide solutions to improve the current state.
In the case of improvement a sales team you may consider:
- Improve sales pitches of agents, they appeal to practical or emotional appeal.
- Improving scripts when agents have challenging objections.
- Improving calling patterns – warm leads are first and cold leads are second priority.
- Improving training density at agent’s schedule.
- Figuring out and working out mistakes during sales calls.
If your customer support team has repeated calls on the same issue, you may seriously consider workforce management. Tracking of roots, monitoring calls, and messages give vital data about what the customer support team lacks.
Afterward, you decide that support team agents lack the knowledge for particular solutions and decide to coach them and give them additional homework.
The other reason for such is lazy work or absenteeism, so customers are forced to call back over and over again.
Either way, finding the ground for changing is easy through careful tracking and defining the roots of the problem. Once you manage to change a small group of people in a company, you may decide to change it globally.
The global changes affect all organizations and branches of a company. Changings on a global scale are possible as they are in a small part of your company. It includes the implementation of new technologies, policies, responsibilities, goals, etc. It’s more challenging to make global changes because of the involvement of many resources, people, and time.
In addition to that, make a benchmark of global changes in order to track the results and effectiveness of changes.
Small leap versus big leap
The blueprint for the contact center is to make a small leap instead of a big one. Depending on the size of your company, culture, employee, resources, time, and more, consider the possibility of success small leap versus a big leap.
Practically, it’s better to use small leaps in all organizations unless you have full confidence and practice to make great changes. Thus it’s much easier to track success and resources for reaching a certain goal.
In the case of a big leap, you need much more authority, resources, and people at hand to make changes work. Plus, you need constant monitoring of the progress, and that’s much more challenging to do.
One of the most frequent and critical challenges contact centers meet is a delegation of responsibility. Yet this is one of the more critical skills for a manager of a contact center.
In a small call center, you can implement the function of a manager, and that’s no problem. Yet, the more your call center expands, the more you need to consider delegating responsibility. In large call centers with 250+ seats, it’s inevitable to delegate responsibilities. And here’s how you do it.
In order to establish groundwork changes, you need a responsible manager that will ensure steps in changing. But is this easy to find the right person and to make them responsible for part of your company? Frankly, it’s challenging to delegate responsibilities to a person, especially when you need to make a quick decision. Moreover, most employees aren’t interested in any additional responsibility whatsoever, even if you pay a good wage.
However, you need these people to delegate a certain amount of power to make decisions about staff, quality assurance, and changes. The solution is to look for that person, interview agents, discuss their goals, and observe their performance.
If you define a competitive person with a great performance, try to discuss the promotion options. Of course, you need to entice with a bigger wage and other benefits. If you will seriously make these steps listed above, you’ll finally find this person.
Promoting someone that doesn't want to carry any additional responsibility whatsoever is also a faulty idea because this person will likely fail. And if there is no one around who you can delegate, don’t do that right away.
Practical management changes in a call center that make your staff perform
Your job as an executive or head of a call center is to change relationships between agents and make them cooperate with each other as much as possible. Cooperation increases all types of management changes in your call center and ensures contact center performance. Here’s a list of changes you can make in order to reach your goals.
Newbies training and preparing for a real work
As we discussed above, all newbies must be highly motivated personalities that want to work and perform.
Newbies are the least performing agents you can have in a call center, especially when they have no experience whatsoever.
To make the process of preparation, additional training, and working as smooth as possible, you need to identify their capacities and start to test them.
For example, some successful call centers suggest trying newbies at the live chat. Thus they will understand what the real interaction with customers is all about.
Then when they will feel much more confident about communication with a customer, you need to start classroom training and easy calls.
All newbies must have homework assignments, such as studying scripts, materials about products or services, software, manuals, etc. Apprentices must come to the work with a certain amount of knowledge they worked out at home.
Thus, with the combination of training and practice, your newbies will quickly apply knowledge and practical skills to start work and perform faster.
The first reason why newbies quit their jobs is that they don’t believe they can handle calls and customers. Yet, the benefit of the smooth workload from live chat, homework, and easy live calls is the best way to reduce the turnover of newbies from the beginning.
That's the first contact center decision regarding apprentices you must apply.
Relationships between agents and departments
Despite the fact, the cooperation between departments and agents brings an amazing contact center environment and larger returns to a company, most call centers over the globe have an opposite work pattern.
They’re ruled by the traditional model when departments are soiled or isolated. They report to a director manager, and this is pretty inflexible behavior. Most critical and timely issues could be blocked and put important projects and operations into a stagnant phase.
Instead of this, it’s better to have close communication between contact center staff in departments and cross-communication between each employee in a company.
Thus productivity is skyrocketing, and morale is high. To do it, start to be the middle manager between departments or delegate this function to a highly competitive and trustworthy employee. This person will implement the job of communicator between departments and sometimes use the authority to bring vital processes for implementation.
Games, holidays, events
The stressful work of busy agents is possible to sublimate to the energized mood. And one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and improve overall morale towards changing is to make games, holidays, and events from time to time.
Different kinds of entertainment will drastically reduce strain from agents after a challenging day. This will be one of the most essential benefits to agents that fresh them out and prepare for new challenges.
It's especially important to celebrate big holidays like Christmas, New Year, or other days. Staff will establish a better connection with each other, and work will be smoother and more effective.
Hybrid working conditions
Since the start of the pandemic, and switching to remote work, traditional working schedules have become less effective. While office-based work requires precise time for the start and end of the work, remote work, especially from home is a solution. Thus managers start to consider hybrid solutions as a cure and they are right.
The hybrid working conditions mean switching from office-based work to remote work and vice versa, if necessary, in order to maintain performance.
Changing traditional working conditions to a hybrid is a vital necessity for call centers. It’s a win-win situation, because the company achieves sales rates, reaching their goals, while agents manage their own day-by-day challenges.
And there is no necessity to lay off agents during a pandemic if your call center is deliberately office-based.
Flexible working shifts
Successful organizations start to make changes towards flexible shifts for agents. And they have become a proven cure for absenteeism and lateness. To manage the issue with flexible shifts, some of the successful call centers apply flexible shifts for each agent with a frequency of 12 shifts per year.
Agents will start to work in a time when they can, yet they must work out those hours or minutes they’ve missed. For instance, if the agent’s shift is set from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, yet they can’t start on time and call for a flexible shift. They start at 10:15 and must work until 5:15.
The same issues with a working day. If agents were absent on a certain day, they must work out additional days to fulfill the schedule. Thus changing will decrease absenteeism and is a win-win issue.
This technique will be beneficial for both office-based and remote call centers. When you work in an office-based call center, you leave call center executives or managers’ doors open. Thus encourage agents to come and ask important questions or to achieve advice from a manager.
The other reason is that some of the agents are skeptical about the manager’s activity during the day. And the open-door policy gives them a proof about a busy day of the manager or executive.
In a case of a remote call center, launch a live chat with all agents in a call center, where everyone in a call center can write to discuss an important issue or achieve information. That grants consistent communication between managers and agents while increasing performance.
Lowering of customer effort
Customer effort becomes one of the plagues of companies when customers try to reach out to a relevant agent or issue and are blocked by numerous IVR choices and irrelevant calling routing.
Surveys show that big customer efforts drastically reduce the profits of organizations over the globe.
With a constant feedback loop, every call center head must define customer effort and provide solutions.
Scripts are vital tools for communications with agents. Yet to create and reshape scripts for scenarios and specific contact types in order to make them useful, agents from frontlines with a head of a call center must work them out together.
Additionally reshaping of scripts can go with an improvement of the visual workflow of agents. During a call, agents achieve relevant information about the customer on the screen, the route through the call, current account state, etc.
Messengers versus live chats
Statista Research Department: Most popular global mobile messenger apps as of July 2021, based on the number of monthly active users
Messengers become a really great source of communication and outperform live chats, yet not overnight. During this time your customer will be familiar with your message and start to use it.
Vax is one of the successful call centers that started to use messengers as an additional channel in 2014. And they’ve had 1% of contacts. Yet in 2017 they’ve had 20% through messenger. Moreover, a messenger delivers a reduction in inbound calls from 89% to 48%. These days, messengers tend to become the next big thing for simple requests from customers and outperform live chat. (Statista link and shot)
The other issue is regarding wage bands for agents in your call center. Of course, experienced and less experienced agents must be rewarded accordingly. Annual revenue may range between 42,420 and 38,490 per year. Yet the best indicator of wage is the performance. You can arrange your own wage band for agents or arrange this pattern system:
- Professional performer;
- Professional leader.
The vital indicators for raising wages must be the First Call Resolution Rate (FCR) and Net Performance Score (NPS).
Job title changing
It may look like a small and irrelevant change, yet it proved in raising the morale of agents in call centers. The issue gives an option to agents to choose their job titles. For example, in the Vax contact center, agents decided to change their title from “customer service advisor” to “customer engagement executive”. That arouses the enthusiasm of agents to their role and makes them engaged in changing management.
A phone call to a customer instead of countless emails
One of the important techniques your call center should apply is to eliminate countless emails with a customer on the same issue unless there is no other choice.
If your First Call Resolution rates through emails are good then your second contact rates (SCR) are very high. Still if the third email, on the same issue, instead of emailing, pick up a phone and call a customer.
This drastically improves your resolution rates in a third case, almost ultimately guaranteeing the resolution.
Working schedule announcing in advance
In a dynamic life, it’s always a great idea to know everything in advance. The same with a working schedule in a call center. If you created a schedule, agents must oblige. Don’t forget to present it to them for evaluation and confirmation.
By doing so, you’ll improve overall attendance, morale and prepare them for work. On the other hand, if agents will not be advised about the schedule, you may meet the high attrition, absenteeism, and disappointment among your staff.
The office-based call center must-have changings
Respectable and clean working place
This is the case for office-based agents when a clean working place means a great performance of agents during a week. Thus every agent, once a week or at the end of the day must clean the workplace. Surveys show that a clean working place improves the performance of agents and professional behavior.
Depending on your corporate policy, you must choose either to have a dress code or not. Professional managers suggest having a certain dress code because it provokes professional behavior. You can choose one of the following dress codes for your call center:
- Casual business wear;
- Casual jumpers;
- Religious clothing if necessary
Make food accessible
During a working shift, agents haven’t much time for a food break. Thus it’s better to have a kitchen with free food or at fair prices. If you can’t afford free food, consider negotiating with local food vendors that can furnish you with food at a discount or a common price.
The critical part of changing management and processes
Above we discuss the main changes you need to make in your call center that are proven in generating billions of dollars in the most successful call centers over the globe. Now it’s time to dive into the processes of changing management and there is plenty of them
During this process, you identify the main necessity of changing. Here you are with stakeholders defining the current state of a company - what your business is. Then you need to brainstorm and decide what your business should be.
First of all, accurately define the level of urgency for the changes. Whether it is a question of local change to improve your rates or it’s a question of survival. Depending on your analysis, choose the strategy for smooth or rapid implementation.
Moreover, never forget that employees from all levels can furnish you with ideas about changes as well as your stakeholders. Listening to those employees changing will affect first, and agents from the front line. They have much to say and to give you in terms of changing.
For instance, you decide that you need higher calling volumes or more agents in call centers. Or if you consider changing your culture first in order to implement every critical change in the future, it’s up to you. The purpose for change and urgency are critical issues.
Changings and modifications of your call center must consider the continuity of your current business processes. Changings with a stagnant current work can be dangerous and usually fail.
On the other hand, fast changes are dangerous because of the fast embedding of new processes and skyrocketing pressure on employees. The solution is to forecast changes in advance to make processes as smooth as possible.
All members of a company and involved employees must negotiate, brainstorm and analyze the implications of the change. No matter what kind of change you want to initiate, it will affect your staff first.
The project manager or responsible person must present a complex idea of changing to a team’s evaluation. The team must decide whether the project is real or if it's impossible to implement right away. Are there enough resources, staff, time, and authority to accomplish the project successfully?
Or is it better to wait for some time, gather the necessary resources, and only then initiate the changes?
It is also useful to provide alternative ways to reach this particular goal. Despite the fact of direct reaching of a particular goal, is there a way to reach it in other ways? For instance:
- Negotiations. The next step of analysis is to negotiate about the presented idea after careful evaluation;
- Slack in the schedule. What time do you need to accomplish a particular change? The more precisely you have the date, the better;
- Terms of reduction or extending of particular changes. Despite the fact, changes must have precise dates for implementation, you need to consider the possible extension of the dates. Or if you’re lucky to implement the process faster, consider the time reduction case;
- Partial information is necessary for initiation. Sometimes the necessity for changing is too big, so you need to start them right away, even with the cost of complex information about the project. These are usually the questions of survival. For example, you need to switch your workforce to remote work, so you need call center software to make employees work in two days.
Yet, in all other cases, if you have time for changing, gather as much data as possible about your: resources, employees, technologies, capacities, etc.
The project manager or responsible person presents to the boards or executives the project for approval and initiation. This is when stakeholders and heads of call centers must make a final decision about the project.
Final stage - change implementation
The project manager or responsible person provides complex information and documentation about project implementation to departments. The phase must include the verification process that ensures assurance that the information and resources are ready.
Distribution of resources. When everything is set for the project, you need to initiate a project with precise dates and knowledge about the possible extension of dates.
Perpetual mistakes you need to know about
First. Recognize the cultural impact on your company and the effect it has on success or failure. If you have great relationships in your team and executives are responsive to employees' needs, you have a great culture. And this kind of culture has a great chance for success in any kind of changings endeavors. No matter how big or small your call center is.
On the other hand, the soiled departments and agents with a vague state of mind are likely to fail, even in small changes. As we listed above, first you need to consider changing your culture, making an employee more connected with executives and each other.
Second. Always consciously evaluate the type of endeavor you are beginning. Most of executives are superficial about their capacity to reach specific goals, yet it’s dangerous for business.
Depending on the complexity of change, gather all the data and staff involved in project change and evaluate your capacity for changing. Based on data, plan, discuss and make decisions about changing management.
Plus, to make things work, every meeting or discussion must end with actions towards the project's implementation. Failure to do so could cause endless talks without actions and doom any changes in the beginning.
Third. Achieve a complete agreement between stakeholders and employees. Agents are at the frontline because their agreement and cooperation are greatly impacting the success of your project.
If there are any disagreements or valuable information from agents or stakeholders, discuss them and make decisions. In the end, achieve a precise "Yes" from all involved employees and stakeholders, don't allow a vague answer.
Fourth. The Head of a call center must constantly check the progress, follow up and evaluate the current state of project implementation. Many successful projects were doomed just because of the CEO's poor control.
If you are incapable of controlling all stages, delegate the project to a manager or qualified person. However, this person is also responsible before a CEO and must report on each stage of implementation.
Fifth. The waste of too many resources and time because of wrong predictions and analysis of the project. Most changes tend to fail because of blur views of managers and CEOs on the real state of the company.
As a result, the company wastes too much money and time. Thus bringing timely disruption and interruption of the processes within a company.
Sixth. Try a small leap instead of a big first. If you plan big changes it’s better to try out small steps towards the goal. And if you manage to make small changes, your company has the potential to make big ones. The benefit is that you’ll train to succeed in small ways to eventually succeed in big changings.
Seventh. Always set benchmarks for your success evaluations. Let’s say you check the process each week and evaluate results. Seriously, periods are critical, and most of the projects are successful when they are regularly checked.
During these checks, request a full report from the responsible person and moreover, find out by yourself the accuracy of data.
Technical implications in change management
Believe it or not but changing technologies is much easier than your employees. Both have supreme importance. One sort of company has a great company culture yet a lack of technologies. Other companies have all technologies imaginable for successful work, yet they are not grown.
And the minority is the best of the best. They have a combination of professional culture and the full set of technologies for reaching their goals.
Omnichannel communication and business continuity
The most competitive contact centers operate on a wide range of channels of communication. Those call centers that haven’t an option to interact with customers through email, chat, social media, or SMS, are behind the curve.
In addition, you need to ensure business continuity even at a time of disruptions such as a pandemic or natural outages. Consider precautions for different types of disruptions. They are the must-have features for unexpected interruptions during a pandemic or natural outages.
Investing in an additional or external phone number and website is a great idea. And interruptions in your connection with a customer could be easily fixed by small and cost-effective investing.
Additionally, buy equipment for electricity continuity such as generators or lithium batteries for energy storage. Always choose a proven internet provider to ensure your connection with customers or have an additional provider for quick switching.
One of the ways to eliminate problems in contact centers is to subscribe to a proven software vendor. Once restrictions or the economy hit, you'll quickly switch to remote work, if necessary.
Here’s what it’s all about
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