Issue# 200: August 18, 2010
Top Five Ways to Improve Customer Service in the Call Center While Controlling Costs
By: Lynn Dick

In today’s competitive environment, call center managers are under more pressure than ever to reduce costs while improving efficiency levels and overall customer satisfaction. And it’s no surprise that exceptional customer service support leads to an increase in customer satisfaction. This article will provide contact center professionals with five tips for improving customer service in the call center while controlling costs.

1. Live Chat Support
In today’s multi-channel world, where online communications are becoming more and more popular, live chat support is an easy and cost-effective way to improve the customer’s overall experience, while enhancing your customer service offering. It’s important to note that live chat support should not replace other methods of client communication but should be added to your existing customer service touch point model (i.e., phone, email, face-to-face and social media).

With live chat software, your contact center agents will be able to engage in multiple chats simultaneously, making your online customer service offering much more cost-effective than the phone. Your customers will also be able to submit their inquires via a Web-based interface, eliminating their need to dial the call center for non-call center related issues, reducing overheard costs on both personnel and phone expenses. Live chat support will put the human touch into a self-service customer care option, while ensuring customers get the help that they need when they need it - in real-time.

2. Incentive-Based Programs for Agents
As every call center manager knows, one of the easiest and most effective ways to motivate call center staff is through the development and implementation of incentive-based programs. It’s no surprise that employees are more motivated to provide exceptional support when they know they will be recognized, and rewarded, for their hard work.

A big misconception, however, is that these programs will cost an organization a tremendous amount of money. That is not necessarily true. There are simple, easy-to-implement contests that will allow for healthy competition in the call center – while still controlling overall costs. For example, you can award Paid Time Off (PTO) to the contact center agent who has the fastest connect time, best answer speed or highest number of calls taken by the end of the shift, day or week. Awarding your employees with time off is a great way to keep costs down, while still enticing your contact center staff to perform to the best of their abilities.

3. Cross-Train Non-Call Center Employees
Cross-training non-call center employees to work in the call center is a great way to ensure client service levels will always be met – no matter what. When you train other employees in the organization to work in the call center, you are broadening your pool of available resources.

So let’s say, for instance, there is a flu outbreak and half of your call center staff is home sick. In that particular situation, you would be able to utilize employees from other departments to work in the call center, ensuring your clients still receive the best service possible and the fastest connect time. Cross-training is often viewed as an effective component of a contact center's business continuity plan.

4. Real-Time Reporting of Performance Metrics
When you implement real-time reporting of agent performance metrics in your call center operations, clients will be able to see in real-time how well your contact center agents are performing – from answer speed to connect time to completed call percentages. Clients will view this reporting feature as a customer service add-on and your call center agents will be motivated to provide the most efficient service possible, knowing their performance metrics will be constantly evaluated and measured.

Real-time reporting is very popular in contact centers as it’s often used as a powerful management instrument. With real-time reporting, call center supervisors can review statistics to track trends, forecast schedules and adjust resources accordingly. If your call center does not have real-time reporting features currently available, this technology is a great way to enhance your customer service offering, while increasing overall contact center efficiency.

5. Total Customization of Services
When you customize every aspect of your call center operations to meet client’s specific needs, you are not only improving your customer service offering but you are also increasing contact center efficiency. Total customization of services leads to a decrease in Average Handle Time (AHT) as the entire call process is focused on the unique needs of that particular client.

Some of the many steps you can take to offer total customization of services in your contact center include:

  • Dedicated toll free numbers

  • Specialized call routing options

  • Client-specific intake scripts

  • Devoted Contact Center Agents per Account

I hope that you have found the information presented in this article useful and informative and that you may be able to use some of these ideas in your contact center to help improve customer service while controlling costs.

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