Managing a contact center is complex. Executives in charge of customer service have to wear many hats: , ,
, , , and
. No one can do it all. The contact center executive can, however, understand the issues associated with each area and ask the right questions. These knowledge assets define key issues in contact center management and describe best practices and typical design and operational alternatives available.
It’s the telephone. Those twelve buttons and a hand set have remarkable capabilities. Simple to use, almost everyone has one. The planner has to understand each step a caller goes through and ensure there are no obstacles or confusion in the way of satisfying consumer need.
· Local or toll free service – Are you utilizing an all toll free network (800,888,877), all local, or a mixture? Could an all toll-free service increase revenue?
· Access capacities – Whether toll-free or local, do you have the right number of lines to ensure customers can get in? Your not returning busies to improve service levels are you? What percent of your customers have touch tone phones?
· ACD capabilities – What can the Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) do? How does it do it? Do you know about and utilize all of the standard features of the ACD?
· Customer information signaling – Do you take full advantage of the information the telephone network tells you about who your callers are and what they want?
· Queue processing – Are you taking full advantage of any hold time with appropriate messages on hold? Do you tell your callers how long the delay will be or that you monitor for quality control?
· Voice processing – Is the way you have your IVRs connected to other telephony systems limiting customer access to available capacity? Can customers clearly navigate to get the information they need?
· Networking – Do you utilize free network services to ensure callers get answered even if all lines are busy or the center experiences a disaster? Can advanced networking ensure maximum agent productivity across multiple centers?
The customer support website is an extension of your contact center. Work flow processes have to be impeccably consistent across support channels. Customers won’t use your self service platforms (web page, IVR) if they can get favorable treatment through an agent.
· Look & Feel – Does your web site accurately reflect the look and feel of other corporate communications?
· Transactions – What transactions can be completed on the website?
· Transaction Flow – Do the transactions flow exactly the same way on the web site as the same transaction on the IVR or with the human agent?
· Value Proposition – Is there some added value to motivate customers to use your web site, such as special pricing or quicker delivery?
· Self Help – Do you have your support knowledge base available online on your website?
· Agent Support – Can your agents facilitate customer’s use of the website? Do you train agents on how to use the website? Is there technology available for the agent to “co-browse” with the customer?
Now that the caller has reached you, you have to have information to satisfy him/er. The performance of customer information systems has direct impact on the performance of the center as a whole. In many centers it is the desktop information system that is the critical path in establishing how long it takes to satisfy customer needs.
· Response time – Have you timed how long it takes to retrieve data? If excessive, is it because of the network, host processing power, client limitations?
· Human interface– Is the user interface into customer information easy to use? Can agents intuitively navigate to reach the information they need?
· Manual/paper tools – Do you have any processes that utilize paper? Do agents have to stand up and move away from their desk to complete a task? Can either be automated?
· Architecture – Is the hardware architecture compatible with the software architecture? Can either be easily modified to support changing business requirements?
· Support of business processes – Does the presentation of information to the agent follow the processes required to complete a task?
· Knowledge bases – Do you have all of your documentation in electronic format? Can agent easily sort through and find what they need?
· Case Management – Do you have case management capability? Can agents get caller contact histories or does the same agent who initially talked to the customer have to take follow on calls?
Mapping processes is one of the most time consuming and painful activities in a call center. It is also one of the most useful. Working through each step required to service all customer needs identifies weak points and point to all other management areas for action.
· Process maps – Have you mapped out all of the processes required to complete a transaction? Are they in electronic form easily understood by an agent?
· Workflow – Do your processes match the workflow? Does the workflow minimize the time required to satisfy customer requests?
After it is all said and done, putting the right number of people, in their chairs, at the right time to answer an accurately forecasted number of calls is the essence of managing a call center.
· Forecasting process and accuracy – How accurate is your forecast? How often are forecasts revised? Does your process include input from marketing and public relations?
· Service levels – What is your service level goal? How was it determined? Do all of your calls justify this level of service? Over what time period are service level goals measured?
· Shrinkage – You pay agents to do three things: wait for a call, talk on a call and wrap up a call. Can you fully document the amount of time you pay for that agents aren’t doing these three things?
· Call arrival rates – Do you know when your calls arrive? What underlying business processes drive call arrivals? Do you change schedules when arrival rates change?
· Work force management tools – How are schedules created? How often are schedules created? Are you utilizing all of the features of your workforce management tool?
· Hours of operation – Do your hours of operation match customer requirement? How were the center’s hours determined? Do you look at after hours arrival rates?
· Performance management – How do you manage and maximize agent performance without lowering the quality of service callers receive? What happens when agents do not meet performance goals?
· Part time agents – What percentage of your total workforce is part time? Do you provide benefits to part timers?
· Agent to supervisor ratio – How was this ratio determined. Is this an organizational chart ratio or can this ratio be observed on the floor?
· Management roles and responsibilities – Do managers spend most of their time outside of the center? Do supervisors regularly coach agents? Does the management team really understand what their jobs are?
This is a key management area. What you know about your center and how you present it both internally to the center and externally to senior management can make or destroy a career. Although there are many management styles and levels of command and control, there are some basic issues that have to be addressed and managed.
· Cost per X – Do you know what your cost per call is? Your cost of credit? Cost per sale? Understand your costs (and revenues) in as many lights as possible.
· Agent and center performance reporting – Do you understand how the statistics you report are calculated and what they mean? Do they present performance that is worse than it really is?
· Senior management reporting – Do you know what senior management really needs to know? Do you know what call center metrics impact senior management’s bonus?
· Service level management – Over what time period are service level goals measured? How do you actively manage service level over each day?
· Agent and center incentives – Do your performance goals and incentives lower the quality of service your customers receive?
· Quality monitoring – Do you have objective monitoring forms? Are the people performing the monitoring trained to distinguish between a problem with an individual and a process problem?
· Shrinkage reporting – Can you clearly explain and justify the difference between paid for time and agent available time to senior management?
· Progressive discipline – Do you have a process to document performance problems and work with an agent to improve? Do you have formal follow up procedures?
· Disaster recovery – Can you recover from a variety of disasters? Is your process documented and does every one understand their responsibilities in a disaster?
· Outbound calling – Can agents make outbound calls at will? Can you distinguish a good outbound call from abuse?