Contact center agents must deal with many issues on a daily basis, these issues can reduce the quality of customer service that the agents are able to provide, can increase the operational cost of the contact center, can lower workplace satisfaction on the part of agents and can reduce the overall efficiency of the contact center. In this article we will describe some of the issues faced by contact center agents as well as the things that can be done in order to improve contact center efficiency. Here we will discuss the top 10 ways to improve call center and contact center efficiency.
1. Continous training
Proper training is essential for all call center and contact center agents. All new agents should undergo full training when they start, be trained on how to use the software, the knowledge base, as well as on the basic functionalities of the primary products or services. More importantly agents need to have continual training, both to reinforce what they are already doing and to show them the latest features of the products/services that the contact center deals with. An efficient contact center should either use a stand alone e-learning tool or a knowledge base with e-learning functionality in order to accomplish this.
2. Skills Based Routing
Skills based routing refers to the initial automated system that routes the customer to the agent with the right skill set to resolve the issue. If a customer calls the contact center wanting to purchase a product the routing system should transfer the call to the sales department rather than to the billing department or to the general operator. Skills Based Routing can greatly increase first call resolution and can improve customer satisfaction.
3. Inter-Agent Chat
When dealing with a complex issue an agent may find it beneficial to use inter-agent chat. Inter-agent chat lets the agent communicate with another more seasoned agent or with their supervisor in order to find a solution to the issue, all while the agent remains on the phone with the customer. The chat functionality can be set up in one of two ways, either as a one on one chat, where agent “a” can send a question directly to agent “b” or as a group chat function, where the agent can post a question on a group and another agent who knows the answer can quickly post the answer. Inter-agent chat is very useful b/c it allows one agent to resolve the issue instead of having to transfer the customer to another agent causing frustration.
4. Better Knowledge
This is perhaps the most important item on this list. In order to be able to provide exceptional customer service call center and contact center agents must have access to the proper knowledge. Each agent needs to be able to quickly and easily search through knowledge articles in order to find the answer to any question that they may be asked. The best way to achieve this is for all the agents to have access to a professional knowledge base. A well maintained knowledge base that gives agents the ability to search for answers to questions can make all the difference when it comes to customer satisfaction and first call resolution.
5. Good Agent to Supervisor Ratio
Supervisors are often needed to deal with more irate customers or to help resolve complex issues that the agent was unable to handle. If a customer requests to speak with a supervisor and then spends 20 minutes on hold waiting for the supervisor they will not be happy and will be far more likely to hang up and call back on a different day, thus increasing inefficiency. There fore it is suggested that supervisors be readily available. Although an exact agent to supervisor ratio will depend on the specific needs of the contact center one ratio that you may want to start with is 25;1.
6. Agent Autonomy
Contact center agents are experts in their respective fields, they know the product/services well and if given autonomy will be able to resolve most issues in smart and creative ways. By reducing micro management managers are freed up to deal with more complex issues or to train newer agents. Additionally studies have shown that employees who are given more autonomy show greater satisfaction and less employee turnover.
7. Short Frequent Breaks
A contact center can be a very stressful place, agents must often deal with dissatisfied customers or complex issues. Giving agents the freedom to take frequent short breaks, go to the restroom, get a snack, get some air… can greatly reduce the stress level faced by agents. This reduction in stress will act to improve agent productivity, will improve employee satisfaction and will have an overall benefit to the health of the agent.
8. Real Time Metrics
Real time metrics such as, how many callers are in the queue, the status of other agents, longest waiting time, average abandonment time and average waiting time can be very useful to agents and can help to improve productivity. If an agent sees that the system is getting backed up they are more likely to challenge themselves to be more efficient and to help improve overall productivity. Making such data freely available to all agents is an inexpensive way to boost the productivity of your contact center.
9. Implement KCS
KCS is “a set of practices for creating and maintaining knowledge in knowledge-intensive environments. Unlike the traditional add-on process of knowledge engineering, KCS is an integral part of day-to-day operation. KCS becomes the way people solve problems and creates knowledge as a by-product of problem solving.”
10. Improve the Contact Center Environment
It is common knowledge that one’s work environment can have a great impact on one’s productivity. The work area of the agent should be set up in such a way so that they have easy access to everything that they need. Additionally they should have adjustable, comfortable furniture so that they can customize their work environment to their needs. Lastly, the layout of the office as a whole should be designed to maximize workplace productivity, an open office design has been demonstrated to increase productivity in a number of contact centers.