Friday, July 21, 2006

Excellent Article On Fast Fixes For Your Call Center

From ICMI/Call Center Magazine Network

Call Center Mag's Keith Dawson wrote:

1. Use the exit interview to capture short-cuts. There's no way around turnover, but just because people leave doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the enhanced knowledge agents have collected over time. Put in place a formal system for asking them what short-cuts they've created to deal with thorny or repetitive issues, then document them so others can share.

2. Extend benefits to part-time reps. Many call centers treat part-timers as less valuable than full-time reps. In many ways this does not make sense. Part-timers are the glue that allows a call center to handle peaks and valleys in volume at odd hours and during critical seasons. Along the same lines as paying fair wages goes extending things like flextime, health insurance, and vacations to part-timers. One call center highlighted at the show mentioned that they were able to offer part-timers a 401k plan - without a company match. Low cost, but it still creates a sense of ownership that ties a rep to the company.

3. Create an advancement system, whereby reps know that if they succeed and add value to the company, they will be rewarded with more responsibility and better pay. You might pay them, for example, to help in training others. You might reward them with specialty training in other areas of the company, or even with trips to industry trade shows and seminars. But most of all there must be some provision made for people to advance in the company. Reps can advance to become supervisors, perhaps to become managers themselves in time. But the progression must be obvious to the reps.

4. Train reps not just in the art of articulate customer service. Train them in how the call center works. That is, explain to them exactly what's involved in call routing, screen pop, and how that call was chosen to arrive at their desktop. The more they know of queuing, hold times, and how decisions are made, the more reasonable the demands you make on them seem. Of course some may see the downside here: if you do this you are going to have a lot of call center managers in training running around. And of course, if they know all this, they are certainly not going to be satisfied making $10 an hour.

5. Measure something different than your traditional metrics. Just for fun, concoct some crazy value/outcome/profit based metric and see if it makes your center look good.

6. Have lunch with a marketing person. Get to know the things the marketing department measures. Tell them about the impact marketing programs have on call volumes. Tell them about what your reps know about customers and their desires. Can it be anything other than enlightening?

7. Take calls yourself - visibly, in front of the staff. And critique your own performance mercilessly. You will instantly show your reps that mistakes are okay as long as you learn from them, and that you understand the kinds of things they cope with every day.

8. Simulate a disaster scenario and take stock of the results. If Katrina has taught us anything, it's that the unthinkable happens, and not just to some other guy. It happens to everyone. Somewhere on a shelf lies your business continuity plan. Read it, update it, drill on it, and hope you never have to implement it.

9. Ask agents specifically what kinds of rewards motivate them. And what they don't care about. You may be spending money on an incentive program that means nothing to people. Pizza parties versus catalog shopping; gift cards versus shift trading. Different people want different rewards and the only way to find out what will work is to ask. Ask them what they don't care about.

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