10 Steps to Improving Contact Center Operational Efficiencies
If you consider the rapid evolution of contact centers and the customer experience over the last decade, sustaining any level of efficiency is a notable achievement. Shifting from single channel call center to multichannel contact center at such a fast pace, contact centers across every industry are changing dramatically. This has had a tremendous, and not always positive, impact on efficiency levels. If you’re not consistently meeting SLAs or you’re missing the mark in other areas of operational efficiency, the following ten steps can help you jumpstart a new level of success
- Learn from Customers
Your most valuable source of insights for improving operational efficiencies is your customers. Surveys, speech analytics, emails and other sources of direct response can all help you understand what you’re doing right and where you need to make improvements. Of course, you don’t want to just gather this information. It’s only beneficial if you use it to develop decisions which will improve processes and training.
- Gather Agent Feedback
On the frontlines with customers, your agents are your next important resource. They are the first to spot operational inefficiencies. Encourage them to share their thoughts and opinions. This can be in the form of regular meetings, an employee forum on the company intranet or by having an open-door policy.
- Integrate Channels
Because most contact centers have introduced new channels over time, they are typically not integrated. This makes it difficult for customers to switch between them, as well as for agents to see the big picture of customer journeys across them. Increasingly, customers use multiple digital channels to obtain the assistance they need and only shift to a voice channel when they want to escalate an issue. Infrastructure that supports an omnichannel customer experience has become a necessity for meeting today’s customer expectations.
- Take a Closer Look at Routing
With agents fielding work from multiple channels, routing has become far more complex. It’s no long enough to just let customers sit in a single queue and hope they’ll hang on long enough for service. Today’s customers want fast, personalized service. This requires you to be able to route customers based on their specific information and journeys, regardless of what channels they are using.
- Break Down Department Silos
To improve efficiencies, there also must be open communication between the contact center and other business units. With greater collaboration, work can be managed more effectively while also providing new opportunities to improve processes.
- Leverage a Workforce Management Solution
Scheduling is essential for maintaining efficiency. With a large team, multiple shifts, and fluctuations in work volumes, it can be difficult to effectively manage staffing. Not having enough staff or having too much both can lead to operational inefficiencies. With a workforce management solution that helps you forecast demand and optimize schedules, you can maximize your existing team’s efficiency and make data-driven decisions on when it’s right to hire or scale back on staff.
- Plan for the Unexpected
Even with plenty of data, sometimes the unexpected happens. To sustain efficiencies, your contact center needs to be prepared with a plan. When there is a sudden and unexpected influx of calls, having a call back software can help you avoid losing customers due to long wait times. System redundancies are also a vital component of any contact center if and when there is a major disruption to service. To maximize the likelihood that your contact center could manage an outage or other service-halting situation, it’s important to have a disaster recovery strategy which details how you will proceed and how to restart systems.
- Recruit a Diverse Team
With agents now assisting customers on multiple channels and using a range of tools and applications, they require a much broader skill set. Yet, they still need the fundamental service-related skills to be able to effectively help customers. Most agents have preferences in how they like to work with customers. Some prefer talking directly to customers on the phone. Others prefer the speed and efficiency of online chat or instant message. By hiring agents with a broad range of skills, you can better balance the workload and increase each agent’s efficiency.
- Uses A/B Testing
Sometimes a lack of operational efficiency is from not understanding exactly what the customer wants or needs. This is where A/B testing can be particularly beneficial. By contrasting two unique approaches to any aspect of the customer experience, you can refine strategies and processes based on proven data.
- Don’t Relate Cost Reduction with Efficiency
It’s a common mistake to calculate efficiency based solely on how much money is being saved by not upgrading equipment or not hiring sufficient staff. This is a mistake. Often, there is a tremendous long-term cost associated with not investing in present and future needs. For example, outdated contact center infrastructure could be holding you back from providing the omnichannel customer experience that is now needed to stay competitive. Or, continuously being short-staffed is likely creating longer hold times for customers and increasing employee churn.
Providing an exceptional customer experience is a costly and time-consuming endeavor. The key is improving overall efficiency, reducing costs and understanding exactly how customers are interacting with your contact center. With a focus on identifying and correcting processes and technical issues, you can reach the level of efficiency that is aligned with your team, department or executive suite’s performance goals.
Looking for more in depth contact center best practices? Here is a dedicated ebook to help guide your organization: