Call centers have a high rate of agent turnover, so there is a frequent need to hire new agents. By screening candidates carefully, manager stand a better chance of finding suitable new employees that will stay in their positions longer, thus reducing the turnover rate.
The job interview is the best means to assess the candidate’s skills, experience and personality. Besides the obvious questions meant to gauge these qualities in an applicant, here are seven additional questions that should be part of the interview process.
Different contact centers use different systems for customer relationship management (CRM), quality assurance, call recording and workforce management. If the applicant is already familiar with the systems in place at your call center, that should expedite their acclimation into their new position.
Call centers work better with teams of agents that get along, and work together when issues pop up regarding scheduling, shift swapping and changes in procedures. Agents should be willing to help each other.
This question assesses the applicant’s skill level, and the manner in which he or she was able to (hopefully) resolve a difficult customer’s issue.
An applicant might be hesitant to respond to this, out of concern over acknowledging a limitation in certain specialties. But the ability to self-assess is important for a call center agent, as they will be called upon to review their calls through call recording software and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their performance. Someone who is already aware of these is ahead of the curve.
While it’s important that agents “stick to the script” and follow company guidelines, there will be times when this is not enough. An agent should be able to think outside the box when necessary, and address a customer’s needs in a way that does not violate call center policy.
If an agent cannot answer this question, he or she may not be the best hire. Employees who find personal fulfillment in their work always perform at a higher level.
Sometimes agents are released through no fault of their own – perhaps the call center had to downsize, or moved to a new location. But if the agent was fired because of a personality conflict or job performance, this will require additional explanation to avoid a similar situation in the future.
5 Basics Every Call Center Must Get Right
Employee engagement is a powerful force. An engaged workforce is associated with better customer retention, lower turnover, greater productivity and among publicly traded companies, even higher stock price.
Enticed by these benefits, some contact center leaders dive into building employee engagement strategy with motivational speeches and recognition programs to fire up the team—only to find the initiatives don’t move the needle. Employees might give lip service to the mission or participate in “fun” events without energy.
Such issues frequently arise when workplace engagement is treated as an “add on” within a call center lacking an employee-centric purpose. The challenge is that engagement is all about meaning, which can only be built from the ground-up.
So what are the prerequisites for robust workforce engagement? Here are five basics you must get right for building employee engagement.
The candidate recruitment process shapes new employees’ first impression of the contact center and the perception can be remarkably enduring. That’s why it’s vital to communicate the organization’s mission and advantages, in actions as well as words.
Consider whether a commitment to people is conveyed throughout screening. Do interviewers put candidates at ease so they can show their personality? Is the process respectful of the time and effort they expend to win the job? Are the hiring criteria fair and clearly explained so prospects know what’s expected?
It’s worth examining all aspects of recruitment, from job postings to onboarding functions, to set the right stage for employee engagement from Day 1.
The next question is whether the contact center is investing adequately in employees. Below-market compensation can harm morale and drive up turnover. A call center may feel like they’re saving money on staffing, when they’re actually spending more to continually refill the seats while losing the sense of community on which employee engagement rests.
Fortunately, it’s not just the hourly rate that matters. For some call centers, wage increases aren’t in the budget, and throwing money at employees is no panacea.
So look at the package holistically. Could an extra personal day lower stress levels with minimal impact on operations? Would online sign-up for schedules enhance agents’ life balance, for the modest cost of some workforce management software?
There are usually many options for offering employees meaningful rewards within any budget.
Imagine being called to a microphone to give a speech. You don’t know the topic and the audience is fidgeting impatiently. Your heart would be beating a mile a minute, right?
This isn’t so different from how an unprepared agent feels when taking their seat. They know they must answer questions, recommend products, resolve problems, operate technology systems and be “on” every moment. If they don’t have the skills and information they need to feel successful, every day can be full of discouragement.
This makes proper training an essential precursor to workforce engagement. When an employee feels like “I’ve got this,” they aren’t losing energy to panic and self-criticism. They’re comfortable, confident and ready for full engagement.
It’s tough for an agent to give their all if they’re sick, run-down, stressed out or slumped over in their chair on the verge of sleep. The contact center industry in general has become increasingly aware of how good physical and mental health contributes to employee performance and engagement and why a company health plan is only the beginning.
As a result, many contact centers are reexamining their sick day policies, building in active breaks to get people moving, offering a little more downtime during the day, ensuring leaders are inclined to provide support after a tough call or champion an agent who needs a boost. It’s called a wellness strategy, and every call center should have one.
Most people are motivated to achieve goals, make progress or enjoy a variety of experience—if not all three! As a final employee engagement point—contact centers can tap these instincts with opportunity.
When a company has a culture of promoting from within, agents sense the potential. And when there is a skills-building structure, they understand how to move forward. Encouraging agents to look toward the future can have a transformational impact on engagement, and call centers have the added advantage of creating the talent they need.
From hiring practices to training and promotion, treating people well is the ticket to engaging them. But if you have a strong foundation, what’s next?
We’ve developed an entire whitepaper on that! Download The Complete Contact Center Guide to Employee Engagement for SMBs to learn how to shape the environment, build community and innovate on workforce engagement.
It’s a short read that’s long on impact.
Many contact center leaders will often feel like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. Inhabiting one persona, managers strive to make employees happy, adapting to their needs and requests. But then operations feel out of control or metrics drop. In comes another persona, the one focused on Just Getting Things Done, Already!
The oscillation can seem endless. One moment you’re obsessing about workforce engagement, an hour later about service levels. Is this a case of “never the twain shall meet”?
It doesn’t have to be! The right tools can help unify the call center’s split personality and foster an environment that is both employee- and customer-centric.
Usually, the real issue in flexible workplace management boils down to scheduling. The employee-friendly manager accepts that agents have lives and, well, stuff happens. A spouse’s job changes. The kids get sick. Or an employee has an opportunity to take a master photography class they’ve always dreamed of, but only if they can switch Saturday with someone.
On the other hand, the metrics-focused manager is trying to do right by the business by maximizing schedule adherence. If this is the right group of agents to have on shift, the manager will try to enforce it. And if breaks are set for 15-minute increments starting at 2 PM, they’ll do their best to make it happen.
We know these two mindsets should reinforce each other. Every contact center wants happy employees who enjoy work/life balance and arrive refreshed each day. Only they can deliver the customer experience that will drive growth and success. A profitable enterprise can then, in turn, reinvest in those employees.
So why do these objectives usually seem to be in competition? Can you say spreadsheet?
Before we get too down on spreadsheets, let’s acknowledge that they are ideal for many purposes, as accountants will attest. But they’re not the best answer for schedules.
For a long time, contact centers didn’t have other scheduling options. They needed somewhere to do their ARIMA and TES forecasts (auto-regressive integrated moving average and triple exponential smoothing, if you want to flashback to the acronyms). And from those forecasts, schedules were built.
It’s just that spreadsheets aren’t particularly flexible. Use all the macros you want, but it’s still tough to change one agent’s shift and have the right adjustments instantly appear.
WFM software, in contrast, can handle the Murphy’s Law of the contact center. If something can happen, it will—an unforeseen training need will come to light, an employee will call off sick or a marketing email will be sent earlier than expected. With WFM software, though, it’s easy to deal with the unexpected.
With a few clicks, the new reality can be reflected in the system, and the WFM solution will then draw on historical data from the ACS and even CRM integrations (e.g., Salesforce) to create the best-fit, optimal response. New agent shifts, break times, etc., are automatically generated, and the harried on-the-floor manager is back in control.
WFM software ratchets down managers’ stress levels, but it can also bring a greater sense of self-determination to agents. The best systems allow for managers to establish schedules and then empower employees to sign up for shifts that work for them. “Opting in,” even for something as simple a Friday on the job, can lead to higher morale.
Even if managers take a determinative role by scheduling individual agents, such systems can still help manage the endless array of adjustments. Agents can use the WFM tools to request shift changes, and managers can approve the swaps and revise the shift with minimal effort. The WFM software will perform detailed analysis to “re-optimize” based on agent skills, targeted metrics, and so on.
Suddenly, the challenging fluidity of the call center environment feels less like losing control and more like, well, the everyday.
High-quality workforce management software brings two competing interests—employees’ preferences and the company’s targets—into better balance. Still, most contact center leaders find that offering more job flexibility works best as part of an overarching employee engagement strategy. When agents feel a sense of commitment to their positions, in addition to their personal interests, they make more considerate use of expanded scheduling options.
For an in-depth look at how to improve workforce engagement, check out our white paper The Complete Contact Center Guide to Employee Engagement for SMBs. It offers pages full of ideas for fostering workforce engagement using flexible workplace management, any one of which is worth the time it takes to download.
We live in a data-driven world and businesses who thrive are the ones who can leverage this data effectively.
This specifically applies to contact centers which are in the frontline of customer service and are gathering heaps of information, insights and data every minute, every hour, every day.
As a call center manager, these waves of data that come from different channels and platforms can be overwhelming. Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should help you monitor and analyze this data but again, there are so many of them.
Don’t panic, we’re here to help! We selected the top call center metrics that will really help your call center succeed.
Want to know the best part?
We’re even giving out a few tips to make them better.
1. Service Level: Service level refers to the percentage of calls being answered within a given time frame and measures the overall performance of how accessible your service is for customers.
Tip: Call center service levels can be disconcerting and need to be measured with the right method. Additionally, service level, in isolation, does not provide the full picture.
You might want to look at Average Speed to Answer (ASA) and Abandonment Rate (AR) along with SLAs.
With today’s software technology, analytics such as speech analytics and text analytics can also provide a clearer picture of the contact center performance.
2. Quality Scores: Quality scores measure agent performance since they assess the overall caller experience and focus on the interactions that agents are having with customers.
Tip: To improve quality scores, you should gather heaps of data from all your different channels and give ongoing feedback to your agent. Furthermore, you should invest in regular coaching sessions with a focus on the low performers.
3. Net Promoter Score (NPS): Your NPS score helps gauge customer loyalty and offers a complete view of customer sentiments regarding their overall experience with your brand.
Tip: Improving your Net Promoter Score is a never-ending task and you should never rest on your laurels. Earning customer loyalty takes time but can be destroyed in seconds. Therefore, you need to make sure you deliver an outstanding customer experience across all channels, ensuring your customers are satisfied and work on converting your detractors into promoters.
4. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): CSAT measures the degree to which a customer is satisfied with an agent interaction. For instance, on a scale of 1 out of 10, 1 being not at all satisfied and 10 being extremely satisfied.
Tip: You can tie your Customer Satisfaction surveys to key moments such as customer onboarding, after a customer support interaction, or a contract renewal. This way you will be able to measure something tangible.
5. First Contact Resolution: First Contact Resolution (FCR) is a KPI that indicates if customers’ problems are being resolved the first time they contact your organization. It is important to keep this number low since it increases customer satisfaction and decreases repeat calls.
Tip: Assessing this critical metric is a challenge but more importantly you need to give your agents the right tools and techniques they need to deliver ongoing FCR improvement. To improve FCR, call recording and speech analytics can provide more insights.
6. Average Speed of Answer: Average Speed of Answer (ASA) is a call center KPI which calculates the average amount of time it takes for calls to be answered in a given time frame. It often goes along with the Average Wait Time (AWT) metric which corresponds to the period of time before you get connected to an agent. ASA is usually a key component of a call center’s Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Tip: If this metric is too high, it means your agents are not moving as fast as they should. Ask what’s keeping them from handling calls faster. Reviewing the tools they are using to make sure they have proper training can make a real difference. Sometimes even after making those improvements, you may find you just don’t have the right staff in place at the right time to make sure calls get answered in a timely fashion. A workforce management tool can get you those numbers and greatly improve your ASA.
7. Abandonment Rate: Abandon rate represents the percentage of calls that are dropped by customers before they speak to an agent.
Tip: Long hold times are usually the root cause of high abandon rates. Make sure breaks, lunches and coaching sessions are scheduled at the right time of day, to ensure agents are available to get that next call.
You might also want to consider offering a call back service to your customers in order to keep them away from waiting.
Keeping an eye on how long customers wait is also key. Some contact centers see a decrease in their abandonment rates, only to see their Customer Satisfaction Scores fall. Customers may be hanging up because they have become accustomed to waiting a long time to reach an agent, which only adds to their frustration with interacting with you contact center.
8. Customer Effort Score: Customer Effort Score (CES) measures how hard it is for a customer to get connected to an agent/advisor
Tip: We recommend using more than one survey type to measure your CES. Also, keep in mind that CES is just the starting point. Once the analysis is done, the real work begins to improve your customer experience.
9. Average Handle Time (AHT): Average Handle Time is a top call center metric that indicates the total average duration of a single customer interaction, including hold time, talk time and the admin tasks related to that call or case.
Tip: Average Handle Time can be measured in different ways. We have written an article to help you understand AHT and How to Reduce it
10. Schedule Adherence: Schedule Adherence is a KPI that measures how well your agents are sticking to their work schedule timings.
Tip: Schedule adherence is a great way to see how your agents manage their schedule. Finding the right goal can promote good work habits, while still making sure agents have time to decompress in a busy, fast paced environment.
11. Wrap Up Time: Wrap Up Time is the after-call work (ACW) spent by an agent after a customer interaction. An agent has to feed the relevant data into the CRM system to keep track of the history.
Tip: You can provide your agents with additional training and show them how to use efficiently your tools and systems and teach them time-saving short cuts. You may want to use peer to peer coaching, which allow agents who have low wrap up times to sit with agents who are struggling to provide them with some time saving tips and tricks.
12. Forecast Accuracy: This top call center metric measures the ability of the call center manager/supervisor to accurately forecast inbound workload volumes for use in staffing mode.
Tip: An accurate forecast is the base of contact center scheduling and the way that will lead to higher profit. Workforce management software is the right tool to generate the most precise forecast in your call center.
13. Agent Attrition/Turnover: Agent attrition is another call center KPI that refers to the number of employees who leave the organization in a specific period of time. Agent attrition in call centers is usually around 30-45% which is much higher than other industries. The ugly truth is that contact centers are losing more money than they ever imagined from employee attrition.
Tip: You might want to give monitoring checklists to your agents since it encourages ongoing communication and one-on-one time between supervisors and agents to talk about their skills, challenges, areas of improvement, etc. Look for other morale boosters that might not take a big hit to the budget like extra lunch time or hour off coupons for agents with great attendance or good performance.
14. Shrinkage/Absenteeism: Shrinkage can be defined as the percentage of time for which agents are paid to work but they are not available to take customer interactions. There are many reasons that can cause shrinkage and can be classified as external or internal shrinkage. You can also break it into two distinct categories: scheduled and unscheduled. Scheduled shrinkage includes the elements that you can control (e.g. trainings, meetings, paid time off, etc.). Unscheduled shrinkage includes what you cannot control (e.g. tardiness, sickness, etc.).
Tip: If you want to learn more about call center shrinkage and how to minimize it, download our call center guide - How to Prevent Call Center Shrinkage.
The dictionary defines efficiency as “effective operation as measured by a comparison of production with cost (as in energy, time and money).”
Sounds like the goal of every contact center manager. But what is the best way to get there?
Here are four unique ways that might help improve contact center efficiency.
A contact center will inevitably become more efficient if it doesn’t have to field as many calls every shift. While striving for call prevention may sound like a way to put one’s self out of work, it’s actually a way to reduce inbound calls in a way that will satisfy customers, while freeing your agents to address more substantive issues. The biggest hurdle here is that achieving this goal may not be possible by simply changing contact center policy. You may need cooperation and support from marketing, IT, product development, sales and other departments. But the end result will be worth it.
No, not the kind that will fix the stop lights so your agents always arrive at work on time. We are referring to a system that makes sure phone, webchat, and traffic from other channels flow efficiently. When calls are distributed properly, and when callers with specific issues or questions are routed to the agents best qualified to handle them, it helps to avoid traffic jams and call backups.
This may sound silly at first, but there is a reason why posters are part of every political campaign and special interest movement to bring about a desired change. Some studies have shown that productivity goes up after hanging a few posters around the contact center with positive messages, words of encouragement and reminders of what’s important.
Who has time? Well, when you see the results perhaps it’s worth it to make the time. When every agent gets a few moments with the manager to receive encouragement or discuss concerns, they are made to feel valued and part of a winning team. Motivated agents are one of the best ways to ensure contact center efficiency.
Do you have any tips you can share on how you made your contact center more efficient? Let us know on our Facebook page
There are countless ways to motivate agents and other employees into improving performance. Most contact centers have tried the obvious ones (role swapping, suggestion boxes, rewards). To keep your performance management efforts always moving forward, perhaps now is the time to think outside of the box.
Have you considered introducing a monthly employee challenge to boost motivation?
The concept is exactly as it sounds – every month, concentrate on one specific goal where improvement can be made. If you can get all of your agents and coaches and trainers focused on the same mission, the odds of success are greatly enhanced.
How to choose the monthly challenges? If you have a performance management solution you should have real-time and historic performance data that demonstrates where the contact center is meeting its service goals, and where additional help is needed.
Perhaps start with a specific KPI – first call resolution, or average speed of answer. For an outbound call center, the goal would be a general increase in sales, or the promotion of one specific product or service.
You can also solicit suggestions from your team. Ask them if they had a magic wand, what change would they like to bring about. If their answers coincide with the goals of the business, schedule them for a monthly challenge.
Keep the lines of communication open when the monthly challenge is introduced. Ask agents and other team members for their thoughts on the best way to achieve each goal.
If you decide to implement this program, don’t wait until the end of the month to tally the results. If you spend 30 days on a goal that isn’t achieved, you may have learned a few things about your contact center but no one would consider that time well spent. A weekly progress meeting during the month will let you know if the team is on the right track.
Monet Performance Management is fully integrated with Monet’s Workforce Optimization suite, delivering agent analytics and scorecard capabilities to improve call center performance. With this data at your fingertips, you’ll always know where your next monthly challenge should be focused.