Is Your Contact Center Up to the Latest Standards?

Article written by Bob Furniss, Vice President of our Global Service Cloud Practice

For many service professionals, taking a step back to analyze ‘wins, learns, and changes’ will better prepare you for success. In order to do so, start by breaking your efforts into three categories of improvement: people, process, and technology. Within each of these categories, we will dive deeper into the criteria for success. 

People
We all know that people drive this industry. Technology vendors have been saying for years that they can decrease the need for more people, however, the need for “live” people for customers just keeps growing year after year. Yes, technology does drive the contact center and the internet is adding a whole new dimension to customer service, but people are still the lifeblood of the organization. So, with that in mind, we know that getting the right people in the right seats at the right time with the right amount of training is the number one need in most contact centers. What are your plans to accomplish this in 2020?  Here are some areas to consider:

  • Forecasting – Do you have a month-by-month forecast in place? Have you validated marketing and sales plans for 2020 to ensure adjustments have been made to cover increased business? Do you understand how proposed changes in digital channels will affect your center? Have you considered investing in a forecasting tool for your center? Are you using the forecasting tool to its fullest potential?
  • Hiring – Based on the forecasts, what are your hiring plans for 2020? Do we have the budget in place to meet the needs of the center? How long has it been since you redefined your hiring plans to ensure that you are hiring the right people for the job? Are you prepared to handle agents who excel with digital channels? Have you upgraded you hiring specifications based on these industry changes?
  • Training – Schedule a meeting with two teams in your center to analyze the success of your current training. Team One should be the front-line supervisors. Ask them to critique the content based on what they believe is needed on the floor. What are the gaps? Team Two should be a group of new employees. Ask them to discuss how the training could be changed to make it better for new employees. What is missing? What needs to be added to prepare them for their first week on the job?

Process
Consultants spend a lot of time with clients helping them analyze and improve their processes. It’s time to get with a group of your agents and ask them what needs to be changed and you will be surprised at the detailed list of “unimportant” tasks they are doing daily.  I have found there are three main areas to consider:

  • Workflows – While there are hundreds of reasons customers engage the contact center every day, there are probably approximately 20 contact-types that make up 80% of the agent’s work. These interactions are the best place to look to find ways to streamline processes and improve efficiencies. Create diagrams of each call – considering all possibilities for transfers, system issues and the need for second contacts, based on lack of information. You will find many gaps in processes that can be fixed to reduce contact-time and improve the overall customer experience.
  • Communications – The contact center is one of the toughest places to communicate because agents usually work a variety of shifts and may be in and out on different days each week. Conduct a survey of your agents asking them where they get their knowledge (answers to questions). Is it the knowledge system, intranet, email, weekly meeting, etc.? Ask them how leadership can communicate better.
  • Silos – The contact center has become the center-of-the-universe for many companies when it comes to customer contact. It deals with issues across almost every department in the company. It is paramount that the contact center has a good relationship with management running the key parts of the organization (marketing, sales, distribution, operations, financial, etc.). Schedule a lunch-date with the manager of each of these business units in the next 30 days. Use the meeting to update executives on the value the contact center provides. Remember to ask the executive how the center can provide more support to their employees and customers.

Technology
Technology is the engine that drives the contact center. While we have discussed that people drive the customer experience, technology drives the employee experience and allows them to be more efficient. Based on the feedback that you receive in your process planning, define how technology can be improved to provide a better level of service to your agents and customers.

  • CRM/Desktop/KMS – An entire article could be devoted to Salesforce and the opportunities that CRM systems provide to the contact center but for this article let’s focus on the following questions: Do agents have access to up-to-date information that allows them to do their job? Do we have some form of knowledge management system (KMS) that agents use to find answers to questions? Do we need to make changes to desktop systems to ensure that workflows are in sync with the technology?
  • IVR – When was the last time that you called your center and experienced the current IVR script? Request a hard-copy of the current script and analyze it from a customer point of view. Attempt to shorten menus and ensure they are tied to effective queues within your call routing system. Review the IVR reports to understand where callers are “zeroing-out” to determine if changes to the menu may assist in keeping callers in the IVR for their answers.
  • Website/Internet – Review your website to ensure that it aligns with the services you provide in your center. Create a quiz for your agents which asks them basic questions about the website. You will be surprised what they do and do not know. Schedule an in-person class to train all agents on the website and ensure they can answer basic customer questions.

 2020 is providing us a whole new set of opportunities and challenges. In the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote, “If you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own.”

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