The keys to success during next year’s contact center call spike can be found in analyzing this year’s deluge.
Contact centers are supposed to drive customer satisfaction, but that can’t happen if contact centers are not well managed.
Measuring customer satisfaction, call quality, and other contact center KPIs can prepare you today before the next peak season begins.
Surviving periods of peak call volume are difficult enough for those working in contact centers, the front lines of customer service. But the keys to success for next year’s spike in calls can actually be figured out this year. That’s because now is not the time to prepare for this year’s rush. Now is the time to prepare to learn from this year, so those lessons can be applied the next time around.
It all revolves around bottom lines. The object of contact centers is to drive up customer satisfaction, which in turn drives up revenues and increases profitability. But that can’t happen if contact centers are not well managed.
The numbers show that contact centers indeed matter. The industry employs almost 3 million people nationwide. The global market is projected to swell to $481 billion by 2024. But other numbers are equally striking: Turnover rates are among the highest in the business world, roughly triple the overall average. That carries with it a string of costs visible and hidden.
Contact Center Costs Are the Starting Point
Cost is critical among the impacts on contact center performance and the areas where performance is monitored.
First on the to-do list is a strategic reassessment. What services and access are being offered to customers? What is the service level? How about response times? What about hours of operation? Before proceeding with a thorough cost analysis, objectives should first be identified and strategies adjusted accordingly.
Once that has happened, it is time to review the myriad factors causing cost spikes. Call volume tops the list. This is driven by peak business times, such as holidays or big sales for retailers. Extended call times are another factor. Labor cost is the largest for contact centers, so as call time extends, the meter runs. Turnover costs money both in training and human resources costs. One study pegs replacement costs at $15,000 per worker. So, getting hires right the first time can be a big cost saver.
Contact Center Performance Matters
Monitoring the quality of calls, emails, chats and other contact channels is essential in assessing an agent’s performance. It also underscores the skills that matter both in evaluating job candidates and training new employees.
Once training is completed, monitoring can help managers identify an agent’s strengths and weaknesses. This allows managers to deploy resources more effectively and helps to shore up performance deficiencies at the onset before they turn into larger problems. Performance should be evaluated against industry benchmarks. Agents should get positive and negative feedback as a result of monitoring so that strengths can be accentuated and weaknesses mitigated.
Key steps for monitoring include:
Naming top criteria for successful calls.
Listing quantifiable attributes to back the criteria.
Weighting the criteria.
Establishing a uniform scoring system.
Explaining how the monitoring and scoring will work.
Training and running practice monitoring sessions complete with results so that agents can both understand the process and see how they can improve.
Mastering Contact Center Measurables
Contact centers are all about customers. So that’s where the measuring needs to focus. The first measure is the most essential: Customer satisfaction. This needs to be constantly tracked. Happy customers are the objective. First-call resolution for live agents is an important barometer of agent performance. Low marks here mean a contact center is not hitting the objective, and managers need to find a way to improve. Training could be a problem. Or it could be technology.
Call quality is next on the list. Among the factors managers should be reviewing are agent responsiveness, professionalism, knowledge, and quality of interaction. Customer surveys can also provide insight, showing the rate of issues resolved and expectations fulfilled. High marks on customer surveys mean centers are fulfilling their mission.
Satisfying Customer Service Pays Dividends
All the marbles in customer service do not sit in the baskets of agents. Service metrics can reveal a system breaking down outside agents’ control.
Average speed of answer, or ASA, could be driven down by an inadequate headcount to meet the demand, a problem that could be fixed or alleviated by interactive voice response, or simply better use of that technology.
Response time, measured by the share of all calls answered promptly by a live agent, is another area where managers can find improvement through better infrastructure. When ASA and response times are poor, that can drive a call abandonment rate spike.
An experienced, knowledgeable managed service provider can help contact centers ensure they are ready for the peak call volume, not only to handle the usual holiday spike but to prepare for the next one to come.