On the surface, call centers haven’t changed much over the last few decades. They still serve essentially the same purpose — to act as a customer service center, a sales department or both.
But that’s just the surface. Dig a little deeper into the workings of a call center and you’ll be surprised just how much they have changed.
- • The way customers access customer support
- • Attitudes towards work
- • Technology in call centers
- • The rise of social media
- • Outsourcing
- • Much, much more
With new technology and new innovation comes increased productivity, but there’s also been a change in the way in which we perceive work.
As millennials enter the workforce, there has been a greater emphasis on job satisfaction and employee morale. How you motivate your call center staff today is probably very different to how you did it ten or fifteen years ago. And if it isn’t, then it’s a good thing you are reading this article.
Social media and instant messaging mean that customers are less likely to pick up the phone than ever before. Online chat adoption, is becoming hugely popular. In 2009 30% of customers adopted the channel. By 2012, it had shot up to 43%.
The last two decades in particular have brought in a raft of innovative technological changes that are having a huge impact into how call centers are run. What works and what doesn’t is changing and it’s important that you stay on top.
How to Effectively Run a Call Center in 2017
Today’s article is all about breaking down how to successfully manage a call center in today’s world. Every section of call center life will be looked at individually and we’ll discuss how it is changing and what to do about it.
By the end of the article you should have a list of actionable steps that you can take immediately to drag your call center kicking and screaming into 2017.
Paper and pen at the ready? Then let’s get started.
Stay Up-To-Date With The Industry
This may seem like an obvious first point, but it’s an important one.
The most successful call center managers and owners are the ones that make their call center their lives. This is extreme, but it is the kind of dedication needed to make it to the very top in an increasingly competitive market. It’s not enough to read the odd article (like this one) about call center life, you need to be on top of new events as and when they happen.
So how can managers stay up-to-date with the industry?
- • By reading blogs like this one
- • Networking to develop contacts in the industry
- • Testing their knowledge with quizzes
- • Researching the latest tools and technologies as soon as they get released
- • Understand what’s happening in your call center, as well as the industry as a whole
- • Collect data from their call center and use it to influence decisions
If you don’t know what’s happening in the industry, how can you make sure your call center remains on top of the industry?
Get on Top of Hiring and Training
Your employees are the lifeblood of your call center. Making sure you hire the right people and provide the best training possible are essential to the ongoing success of your call center.
I. Start with hiring...
Agents come and go in call centers - it’s part of the business. You can’t stop your best agents from leaving, but you can make sure that every new hire you make is the best fit for your business and the industry.
II. How to Hire Agents in 2017
In the past, call center managers could be forgiven for hiring anyone who walks through the door and can speak on the phone. But when training is so important, and call centers only have finite resources, you can’t afford to be giving away training to just any candidate. Besides, if the job is harder to get, the candidate may feel more pride and therefore more obligation to make a success of their employment.
Thankfully, it’s not that hard for HR to separate the wheat from the chaff. When you’re next hiring new agents, follow these steps:
- • Screen every candidate with a phone-based interview before inviting them in. This is a cheap and effective way to see how they handle themselves on the phone under pressure
- • Complete competency-based interviews with the candidates that pass the phone-based interviews. This should test their interpersonal skills and their ability to sell
- • Only hire agents that fit your company culture. A call center is one big family, keep it that way by hiring like-minded staff
III. Invest Heavily in Training
Unfortunately, hiring the right people is only half the battle. You still need to invest in them.
We’ve recently written an in-depth guide on just this topic. Check it out here.
If you haven’t got time, here are the key takeaway points:
- • Start the training before they set foot in the door. An online training portal allows new agents to start training before they officially start
- • Practice with fake calls. Make the most of the mandatory first-day training by practicing calls with experienced agents. Get them on the phone to real people as soon as possible, however
- • Provide mentors to your new staff, but don’t forget to give mentors support, too
- • Make ongoing training a priority, not an afterthought
- • Invest in live on-call monitoring to deliver training tips to agents automatically while they are on the phone
- • Gamify your training system to incentivize agents to learn effectively.
You can’t expect new agents to come in and make sales straight away. As a result, if you don’t invest in training, you don’t provide your agents with the tools to succeed, and the tools to make you money.
It’s yours to lose.
Rethink How You Improve Team Morale
It’s a lot easier for your staff to make sales when they are motivated. You can give them all the training in the world, but if they don’t want to make calls, you won’t make money.
One of the key ways to incentivize agents in 2017 isn’t with juicy commission structures (although that helps) it’s through employee morale.
Here are some employee engagement stats that will shock you:
- • 51% of the US workforce isn’t engaged
• Disengaged employees are costing businesses between $450 and $550 billion each year.
• 95% of HR leaders believe burnout is sabotaging workforce retention
• Highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability
If your workforce isn’t engaged, it won’t just be unprofitable, it will likely leave your company, too. Don’t let this happen by implementing these three solutions:
I. Free Breakfast
Don’t let your employees start the day hungry. According to a Food Council Survey, 93% of Americans believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet only 44% of people actually eat it on a daily basis.
Another study found that employees with a poor diet were 66% more likely to suffer productivity loss.
Providing free or heavily discounted breakfast for your employees has a number of benefits:
- It encourages them to come into work early to take advantage
- When employees are full they are more likely to concentrate
- It makes them appreciate the company more
- It puts them in a good mood, and happy people sell.
Monetary incentives have always been a staple of a call center agent’s remuneration package. Commission is expected, it’s just a matter of how much. But there is a growing belief that non-monetary rewards are just as beneficial for increasing motivation and perhaps more so.
Because unlike cash rewards, which are expected at call centers, non-monetary rewards can deliver real recognition and improved self-worth. Millennials, in particular, notoriously prefer experiences to cash, and it’s also cheaper for call centers, too. So next time you’re calculating agent bonuses, consider offering non-cash rewards, too.
III. Career path clarity
Call center agent isn’t a job role known for its clear career progression. Yes, there are very obviously people in roles above you as an agent, but most of your colleagues tend to leave before promotion happens. This can be incredibly disincentivizing. If there isn’t anything to work towards, what’s the point in working?
Make clear an agent’s career path as soon as you employ them. That way agents know what they are aiming for and will be more willing to work hard to achieve it.
Reevaluate Your Scripts
Are you still using the same old scripts that have served you well since 2006? Even if they still bring in sales now, there’s no excuse not to reevaluate and update your sales scripts.
Because consumer opinions and pain points change over time. If your sales scripts aren’t up to date, you may be missing out on sales—and a lot of them.
A great script will have the following key characteristics:
- It will focus on the impact to your customer
- It will be conversational
- It will be confident
- It will be well practiced
- It won’t be over scripted.
If the impact on your customer has changed over time, the rest of the characteristics become far less powerful. Reevaluate your script now and reap the rewards next month.
Here's a free script template to simplify your evaluation process:
Empower Your Supervisors
Are you letting your supervisors get on with their own thing? Or are you giving them the support they need to do their job properly? If it’s the former, it’s time to start thinking what you can do for your supervisors, not what they can do for you.
Giving Supervisors The Tools They Need
There’s more to being a great supervisor than being a great salesperson. You need to know how to transmit your wisdom to the people you are supervising. For some that comes naturally, but for most people it doesn’t.
Here’s how you can help them:
- • Send supervisors to teaching courses to help them become better mentors
- • Give them a mentor of themselves
- • Create time in the day for supervisors to work one-on-one with agents
- • Provide the necessary incentives (financial or otherwise) to push them to do a great job
- • Clearly define the role you expect them to fill and their future career path.
Know What People Think
After reading this you might be tempted to get your head down and work, work, work. But can we recommend doing some research before you start?
You can’t improve if you don’t know where you currently stand. And no one knows better than your customers.
NewVoiceMedia research shows customers aren't shy about expressing their opinions of customer service: 57% of those surveyed will give a business feedback to let them know they are performing poorly and 37% will take to social media to air their grievances (or praises) on a company's customer service.
To find out how you are doing, create a customer survey with these tips:
- • Be specific. Asking if customers are satisfied is far too broad
- • Send feedback to everyone — even past customers if you can
- • Make it easy to understand
- • Conduct face to face interviews if possible
- • Ask your agents to fill out the form, too. Finding out there feedback is just as important.
Set Business Targets
Targets aren’t just for your agents, you need to set realistic business targets, too.
But not only that, you need to be tracking the right metrics.
Step 1. Set The Business Targets
Plan where you want your call center to be in six months, one year, five years’ and ten years’ time. How many clients do you want to have? What are your target sales figures? Do you want to change office locations? Think about everything that concerns your business.
Step 2. Then set SMART goals:
Implement The Latest Technology
Running a call center in 2017 means taking advantage of all of the new technologies that are currently available. Chief among them is live on-call monitoring systems and next generation cloud-based platforms.
I. Live on-call monitoring
We touched on this topic briefly when talking about training. But we’re going to look at this technology in more detail here.
What is live on-call monitoring?
- • AI-based software that automatically listens to all calls
- • Provides prompts when agents miss parts of their sales script
- • Offers tips and advice (if an agent keeps interrupting for instance)
- • No need to wait for feedback from manager, it happens in real time
Supervisors have long been able to listen into agent calls to see how they are getting on. But they can’t listen to everyone’s calls all at once and they can only offer their advice at the very end of the call.
This is inefficient.
Running a call center in 2017 is all about improving efficiency. And one way to do this is to implement live AI-based call monitoring that automatically offers advice and tips to agents during the phone call.
Agents learn quicker on the job and have the opportunity to close sales on calls that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Next-Generation Cloud-based Platforms
Is your call center still using an offline call center software platform? Stop relying on software that is liable to crashes. Instead, turn to online, cloud-based solutions that let you control everything from a web browser.
As a cloud-based platform, these solutions don’t date in the way that offline software does. When updates are required, they are delivered automatically to the system. This means that the platform itself can constantly remain relevant and useful, no matter how much your call center grows.
And because the software doesn’t have to be compact enough to run on a wide range of computers, it can be much more powerful.
With cloud-based platforms you can:
- • Deliver training to your agents
- • Integrate your CRM system
- • Automate reports and workflows
- • Implement new strategies and ideas such as gamification
- • Use better performing tools
While there might not be much difference between the agents at call centers, the technology used can make all the difference. Make sure your call center is making the most of the technology available.
Take The First Step by Getting Your Trial of Convoso
Want to upgrade your call center for 2017. Start with the most important piece of software: your contact center platform. Convoso offers a next generation all-in-one solution that doesn’t just improve the productivity of your team, but integrates your CRM system, automates reports and helps you train your staff. Take the tour to find out more or get your free demo today: