Interested in call centers operations?
Efficient call center services are vital for building a loyal and satisfied customer base. This is important because happy customers lead to an enhanced company image and brand loyalty.
However, call center operations are complex and time-sensitive.
It requires strategic planning to keep your contact center running smoothly and profitably.
In this article, we explain what call centers are. We’ll also highlight the ten best methods to help you successfully manage your call center operations.
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Let’s get started.
What Are Call Center Operations?
Call center operations is a collective term for all the activities, systems, and processes necessary for the functioning of a call center.
Let’s check out some of the most critical elements of call center operations:
1. Telephonic Communication
Call center operations mostly have one main goal – effective customer care services through telephonic communication.
A call center (also known as a contact center) primarily uses two types of customer calls:
A. Inbound Calls
These are the incoming calls from customers who need assistance with the company’s products or services.
Trained frontline customer service representatives usually handle these phone calls.
For example, agents may assist with inquiries related to healthcare insurance or offer technical support for a telecommunications service provider.
B. Outbound Calls
Some contact centers are outbound call centers. Here, call center agents predominantly make outgoing calls.
Agents make outbound calls to:
- Sell a product or service (also known as telemarketing.)
- Conduct customer surveys.
- Collect money on behalf of a company, etc.
2. Quality Assurance (QA)
A contact center needs to ensure that it offers consistent services that comply with a predefined service level agreement (SLA).
Quality assurance management is a set of processes geared towards meeting that standard.
Here are two main processes that a call center management team may use to implement QA:
A. Call Quality Monitoring
Numerous QA tools can monitor and analyze live calls to give real-time insights on:
- The quality of communication.
- Agent’s performance on various benchmarks.
- Agent’s adherence to guidelines and regulations.
- Any common customer issue and grievance, etc.
A contact center manager or supervisor can use these insights to evaluate service levels and make the necessary changes.
B. Call Calibration
Call calibration is a way to standardize the customer service process.
It’s generally a meeting between the agents, supervisors, managers, and the QA team to review, rate, and discuss customer service calls.
These sessions ensure the team is on the same page about what is acceptable on a call.
Good agent training programs are vital to call center operations because it lays the foundation for long-term success.
The training process usually begins during agent onboarding, under the guidance of a manager, team leader, or supervisor.
Call center companies may employ different learning channels to ensure agents receive well-rounded training. These may include in-person and online courses, mentoring from a senior call center agent, etc.
D. Analytics And Reporting
Call center operations need constant analysis and course correction to keep them running smoothly.
In other words, managers must identify and address any inefficiencies as quickly as possible.
The call center analytics team processes large volumes of call center data to identify any operational issues. They use this data to generate reports which managers can use to make strategic decisions.
10 Best Practices To Manage Call Center Operations
Today, most businesses depend on client interactions more than ever. But it takes more than just friendly customer service to deliver a great customer experience.
These practices that have proven effective in the management of call center operations:
1. Hire The Right People
Call center recruitment is a time-consuming and resource-heavy process. That’s why you should only hire the right agents for your business.
When a contact center hires unsuitable candidates, they can run into a few problems:
- Excessively long training periods.
- Underperforming agents.
- An unhappy or unmotivated workforce.
- High agent turnover rate.
These concerns can hamper the daily functioning of the call center and affect your bottom line.
Thankfully, there are ways to ensure that you hire agents who are the right fit from the start.
Let’s take a look at a few of them:
A. Defining The Ideal Candidate
Create a profile for your call center’s ideal agent. You can take cues from top-performing customer service representatives (CSR).
Here are some of the skills and qualities that you must look out for in the candidates:
- Emotional intelligence
- Interpersonal skills
- Multi-tasking ability
This will help you screen candidates more quickly and efficiently.
B. Create An Assessment Plan
An assessment plan will help ensure continuous improvement.
Based on the agent profile – managers, supervisors, and the hiring team should design an assessment plan to evaluate candidates.
This may include written tests, interview questions, and live mock-calls to gauge their customer service aptitude.
C. Build A Robust Attraction Strategy
Just as contact centers look for the right talent to hire, candidates seek a perfect company to work with.
Building a candidate attraction strategy will help you reach out to a wide pool of talent.
Here are some pointers that can help:
- Work on your employer branding to become an employer of choice.
- Create a compelling job description that details not just responsibilities but also the career benefits of working with your company.
- Utilize the appropriate recruitment channels to engage with your preferred demographic.
2. Prioritize Customer Research
Modern-day contact centers should constantly fine-tune their processes to align with changing customer trends.
Getting feedback from your customers will help managers understand their needs and concerns better. Then, they can adjust their operations to offer a more targeted customer service experience.
Taking customer feedback also helps keep your team members fulfill customer expectations.
You can also build a customer focus group for your contact center to gather timely feedback.
Here are a few practical ways to engage with your customers:
- Send short questionnaires and surveys through various digital channels like email, mobile app, etc.
- Ask targeted questions to gain more in-depth information on a live call.
- Keep track of feedback on social media.
- Monitor customer experience performance indicators like CSAT (customer satisfaction.)
A contact center can either build an in-house market research team or consider outsourcing to a third-party market research agency.
3. Take Agent Feedback
Call center agents usually have the maximum number of interactions with the customers.
That’s why call center managers should take their feedback to improve customer service operations.
Here are few customer experience aspects that your agents can give you crucial insights on:
- How do customers prefer to engage with your brand?
- What are the most common customer questions and grievances?
- How does the customer feel when calling for a specific issue?
- What makes a customer request a call escalation?
Besides the customer-centric feedback, your agents can also help you uncover any flaws or inefficiencies in their workflow.
For example, an agent might tell you that they need to put the call on hold to access the relevant resources. This dramatically increases the average hold time for the customer and impacts agent performance as well.
In this case, taking agent feedback could help you identify this fundamental flaw. You can look for software that allows you to integrate necessary resources with your calling system.
4. Empower Your Agents
Your agents must deliver a high-quality service experience.
Here’s how you can empower your agents to do this:
- Empower and equip agents to resolve customer complaints quickly.
- Encourage them to follow-up with clients and handle callbacks.
Once your team can engage customers in a meaningful way, it will increase customer satisfaction and benefit your business.
Here are few tips to empower your agents:
- Develop a thorough training program and update it regularly for continuous process improvement.
- Develop a knowledge base that agents can refer to at any time.
- Create call scripts that agents can use during interactions.
- Avoid micromanaging your agents and encourage a culture of accountability.
5. Invest In Technology
Call center technology has the functionality to transform your contact center operation. This way, your agents can provide a faster and better customer experience.
Here’s how technology can help improve your call center:
- Monitor and analyze call quality with a call monitoring software
- Measure agent performance and operational efficiency with dedicated call center software.
- Streamline call management using advanced routing technology like IVR (Interactive Voice Response) and ACD (Automatic Call Distributor).
- Boost agent training process through cutting-edge learning tools.
- Implement cloud-based operations to run a virtual contact center with remote agents.
- Create a unified workflow that integrates customer data from CRM (Customer relationship management) with all your communication channels.
- Empower customers through self-service channels for common inquiries.
- Boost agent productivity through performance management tools like Time Doctor.
6. Monitor Metrics And KPI (Key Performance Indicators)
With the right management approach, your contact center can achieve high customer service standards. However, maintaining those standards is an equally challenging and important task.
How can you ensure that your call center keeps operating at the highest levels?
Managers and leaders can choose from multiple call center metrics that help monitor a call center’s different aspects.
When the KPI value does not meet a minimum benchmark, managers and leaders can quickly address the underlying issue.
A. Customer Experience Metrics
You can gauge a customer’s experience with your brand by tracking metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT), net promoter score (NES), and customer effort score (CES.)
B. Operational Efficiency Metrics
By tracking operational KPIs, a manager gets valuable insights into work and resource management. These metrics also help maximize the contact center’s profitability.
They include call arrival rate, peak hour traffic, and call abandonment rate.
C. Agent Performance Metrics
These KPIs help measure individual and team performance on different parameters.
Here are some key performance metrics that managers can choose to track – average handle time, adherence rate, and average answer speed.
7. Make Informed Decisions
Contact center managers need to make many critical decisions to ensure that call center operations run efficiently.
Innovative technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics can help them make informed decisions.
These technologies run huge volumes of call center data to reveal key patterns related to:
- Customer preferences
- Call volumes and callbacks
- Call quality
- Agent productivity, etc.
- Compliance adherence
For example, let’s assume an agent in your team takes a longer time than usual to complete a call.
Speech analytics tools can process a live or recorded call to identify if the contact center agent takes several long pauses during the call. These unintentional pauses add to the overall call duration and impact the agent’s performance and the customer experience.
A supervisor can then work with the agent to fix the issue.
Without the use of analytics, it’s hard to find the real causes behind these inefficiencies.
8. Implement Omni-Channel Contact Center Support
An omnichannel contact center provides customer support through various synced channels.
What does it mean for a customer?
For example, a customer could raise a service ticket through the website and continue with the resolution process on call, webchat, etc., without having to begin all over again.
Every time a customer interaction occurs, the CSR (customer service representative) will have access to that customer’s info and the progress made up till that point.
How is it better than a traditional contact center?
Omni-channel support can help you manage a large number of calls.
Here are a few more benefits:
- Provides a better customer experience – customers can choose a convenient way (e.g., telephone, email, webchat, etc.) and time to engage with agents.
- Improves customer loyalty and trust.
- Reduces agent workload as it’s easier to manage customer interactions through several distribution channels rather than just relying on one.
9. Prioritize Employee Engagement
There is a strong correlation between agent satisfaction and customer satisfaction.
Only a happy and motivated agent can consistently drive a great customer service experience. This will also ensure agent retention so that you can avoid continuously recruiting and training new agents.
Additionally, every unhappy agent that leaves your company might impact your brand image as an employer. There are several social media platforms where employees can rate their working experience with a company.
With a negative employer image, it would be harder to attract great talent in the future.
How can you keep your team happy and motivated?
For successful workforce management, you’ll need to prioritize employee well-being and satisfaction consistently.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Don’t obsess over benchmark performance, such as first call resolution or a limit on wait times. Instead, focus on continuous development.
- Monitor only those metrics and KPIs that matter to take some pressure off agents.
- Trust your agents and give them some degree of call handling freedom.
- Ask for their preferences when allocating shifts.
- Organize employee engagement activities when they can take the headsets off. For example, informal team outings and game nights, etc. These activities foster a sense of belonging and help prevent burnout among agents.
10. Stay Updated On Regulatory Laws
Call center operations must abide by the regulations set by The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), etc.
An operations manager should make it a priority to stay updated on these rules, especially regarding the safety of sensitive customer data.
Staying compliant can help:
- Prevent data fraud and breaches.
- Build transparency and trust with the customers.
- Lead to more transparent audits and minimizes the risk of lawsuits and fines.
Managing call center operations effectively is a challenging endeavor.
Fortunately, a manager can use the tried and trusted strategies we’ve provided to ensure successful call center management.
The ten best practices shared in this article should also help you maintain the high-performance standards you desire for your call center operations.
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor—a time tracking and productivity monitoring software designed for tracking hours and productivity of remote teams.