Don’t tell me you believe everything you read on the internet. Especially when it comes to Contact Center best practices and how to make sure you’re optimizing your budget and making strategic decisions about the best option for your peak seasonal needs.
There’s a ton of information out there on how to best optimize your team, select a vendor or otherwise measure success, but there are also a few pitfalls you are hopefully already ignoring. Let’s take a few minutes to review five myths you should ignore in your quest to improve performance and execution for your customers.
Myth #1 – You’re Answering the Phone Fast Enough
Ouch. I know that stings, but the truth does sometimes. The Jay Group is in the business of delivering stellar Contact Center Services so trust me when I say I know how hard it is to make every customer happy, but that’s exactly what’s needed to succeed. Don’t misunderstand. You’re probably doing a really good job today. But customers increasingly want more. Don’t believe me? (This is a post about not believing what you read on the internet, right?). Listen to your customers. In a Harris Interactive poll, 69% of customers said they were on hold for too long when seeking help from a company. That means 69% of customers had an opportunity to hang up and call a competitor for the product or service about which they needed assistance. It sets the stage for a poor customer experience, which in turn makes the job of the representative who eventually answers their call even more challenging. In addition, with social media all it takes is one poor customer experience to influence the masses. There was a time when customers probably expected to wait in queue before speaking to someone when they called a toll free number, but the landscape has changed. As the marketplace has become more competitive, customers are expecting more, and won’t hesitate to find a solution that provides it. Take a look at our article on how to win customers for a bit more on this topic.
Myth #2 – Liars Figure and Figures Lie
Don’t just accept the stats you’re seeing without asking for some business intelligence behind them.
Once you’ve set the KPIs you’ll use to measure your vendor’s performance, don’t let the quantitative story be the only yardstick you use to measure success.
I highly recommend listening to calls, conducting client surveys and building feedback loops that empower team members to surface issues for management review. These qualitative measurements can help to paint the full picture and confirm what’s going right, or point to areas for improvement that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Successfully blending proactive training techniques with reactive monitoring techniques provides a successful recipe for continuous process improvement.
Myth #3 – Anything billed as Disaster-Proof
Disaster Proof simply doesn’t exist. Focus instead on Disaster Recovery. When Eisenhower said “Plans are nothing; planning is everything” he nailed it. A plan can’t account for every contingency. But, when well executed, it can provide the nimble framework and overarching vision and business strategy required to overcome even the most daunting of challenges.
Because of the complexities of recovering a telecommunications network, it is important to have a robust plan with process, software and infrastructure redundancies in place that provides a way to mitigate risk and quickly and gracefully recover in the event of a catastrophe.
Start your planning process by documenting critical systems, outlining recovery and triage activities and identifying business owners and communication and escalation protocols. Make sure your key stakeholders are kept informed and proactively made aware of the plans, budgets, timelines, and communication strategies so that – in the chaos of recovery- everyone can stay focused on problem-solving, and not contribute noise and confusion to an already stressful time.
Traditionally, call centers have looked at several types of recovery options to re-establish communications with their customer base. Organizations with distributed workforces can have re-distributed the calls, allocating them across the organization. Hotsite services also provided an answer, generally offering the capability to re-route the calls to a fixed facility where the agents could reside and begin taking calls. At a Hotsite facility, a customer could utilize the services of either their own agents or “hire” the resource of the Hotsite vendor. Increasingly, more companies are taking advantage of their remote workforce (Work at Home Agents – WAHAs) to play an important role in their disaster recovery planning. Significantly contributing to this increase in distributed workforces is the convergence of cloud based technologies which are empowering Contact Centers to become more nimble, resilient, and providing redundancy.
However, changes in both the importance and scope of Call Center operations have mandated a change in views. Consider the following:
- Contact centers are often in operation 24 hours a day, handling far more calls and utilizing several shifts of personnel.
- Specialization of agent expertise (i.e. Dial 1 for Sales, Dial 2 for Technical Support) has resulted in agents not being able to “cover” for each other as before. Fewer people have the required skill sets to answer all calls.
- Regardless of hours of operation, the economy and business climate has dictated that many organizations streamline their operations; as such, many companies have centralized call centers into one facility. This situation has resulted in less opportunity to farm out the calls. Having more than one location with agents cross trained to handle your various call types can be the key to a successful Recovery Plan.
A recent poll of over 100 Fortune 1000 companies conducted by Agility Recovery Solutions indicates that 76% of respondents felt Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) recovery was critical, and 64% felt that on-site, local recovery was preferable.
Development of any recovery plan should include these critical components:
- Key internal and external contacts
- Established SLAs with critical-path vendors
- Recovery processes – Documented clearly in Standard Operating Procedures
- Emergency call list
- Escalation procedures
- Call Center recovery teams (supervisors/agents)
- Immediate and interim call handling processes, including call forwarding, routing and emergency messaging
- Recovery strategy (Hotsite, internal site, WAHAs)
- Functionality required (i.e. call forwarding, hold, conferencing)
It is important to note that regardless of your recovery plans and parameters, your local phone service will likely play a role in your recovery. An understanding of the call forwarding and messaging capabilities that they provide is important; as well as an understanding of possible time frames and costs associated with each service.
It is critical in the planning process that once organizations identify the personnel involved in the recovery, routing tables are properly built, saved and accessible. Routing tables ensure that a call coming into the queue is routed to the correct agent when in recovery mode. In addition to routing tables, emergency messages should be recorded.
Lastly, for any plan to be viable it must be properly tested. Testing is vital, especially for a call center recovery plan. Because of the volume and complexities of incoming calls, and their importance to the survival of the business, call center recovery testing should be an integral part of the overall planning process.
Myth #4 – High Performing CSRs Save Sales
Ok, this one’s half true. Highly trained agents can absolutely save sales, but before you go into resolution mode, take a minute and consider if you have identified the proper issues. Why did the customer contact occur in the first place? Could it have been prevented? What can you learn from this customer to prevent future contacts?
Borrowing an idiom from the HR world – don’t let marketing, sales, creative, IT, or whoever leave their monkeys on your desk. If there’s a problem, take the time to address the root cause. Fixing the effect but not the cause will sap your energy, resources and morale.
Let’s take this one step further. If one customer initiated a contact, how many others didn’t make the same call? How many of those customers went elsewhere to make their purchase or otherwise have their need fulfilled?
#4 on Colin Shaw’s list of the top 15 statistics that should have changed the business world, but haven’t is:
“For every one customer who complains, 26 others can’t be troubled to help you solve this issue.”
Fixing this silent problem can pay huge dividends, and although most escalated calls aren’t very pleasant, it’s important to view each one as an opportunity to gain valuable insight from your customers, and make changes in your business that positively impact the customer experience. Embrace the opportunity to learn from your customers and look for trends that point to correctable root-causes. Root cause analysis of an issue will allow you to make changes that positively impact your business and overall customer experiences!
Myth #5 – You’ll save money with an offshore option
While the potential is definitely there to stretch your budget by turning to an offshore vendor, the Total Cost of Ownership is often affected as greatly by unexpected or intangible costs as it is by known tangible costs on a quote for professional service
- Integration and Startup – Anytime you start or transition a relationship you’ll be making a significant investment. While these costs can be amortized against the term of an agreement, they can easily be overlooked, misunderstood or not considered at all, when you compare transactional service fees for minutes, contacts, call and these hidden costs erode the planned savings.
- Picking the right solution – More often than not an offshore vendor is awarded a part of the customer service experience – typically the less technical, simpler contacts. That segmentation means a customer with more demanding needs still needs to manage a secondary option, one that is better equipped to field more detailed questions. Needing to manage multiple vendors comes at a price and adds complexity.
- Customer Experience – In addition to the unplanned internal costs you may experience by using an offshore contact center, there is less easily quantified, but no less critical business risk. Customer defection. Review any study and you’ll find data demonstrating how a good customer experience improves brand affinity and positively impacts sales while failing to deliver risks customer loyalty, sales and unwanted attention in the Social Media spotlight. These lost sales, the time and effort spent on damage control, and the opportunity cost of having one more task to manage all add up.
Not sure how to make sense of all of this or need help figuring out how to choose the right customer service vendor? Contact us and we’d be happy to discuss your needs and how we might be able to help you.