Whether large or small, private or public, contact centers are plagued with common problems: increasing performance, profitability, and client retention. All of them can be solved by four basic strategies: training, supervision, quality control, and motivation.
Posted Jan 5, 2004
It's time for the telemarketing industry to get back to basics, the basics of sales, account management, and good customer service. Also back to a time before antitelemarketing legislation and the bombarding technology that has suffocated this industry. And back to a time when we rolled up our sleeves and opened our minds to what was best for our customers.
Whether large or small, private or public, contact centers are plagued with common problems--increasing performance, profitability, and client retention--all of which can be solved by four basic strategies: training, supervision, quality control, and motivation.
I am continually amazed by call centers that try to cut corners on new hires and project training. These same center executives then sit in conference rooms scratching their heads with the rest of their management peers wondering, "Why is our performance not at our goal?" The answer is, because the basic sales skills that are needed in inbound/outbound call centers (regardless of their focus) are missing.
Instead of active listening, establishing rapport, and effectively overcoming rebuttals, we hard sell and overcall customers. I have seen call centers go from being in the red to being profitable in less than a week, solely by having established a sales training course and investing in retraining the staff in basic sales skills.
It stuns me that supervisors are being promoted off the sales floor without additional job-appropriate training. These supervisors then sit in the same conference room scratching their heads with the rest of their management peers wondering why performance is not at goal.
The floor supervisor is the most influential person related to the performance of a project, yet repeatedly they are untrained, unsupervised, and not held accountable. These are the people managing the agents doing the actual calling. It's senseless to promote and hire floor supervisors without giving them the same amount of focus and training as is given to agents before they are put on the phones.
I am astounded that we have forgotten that the role of a call center agent is the toughest, most stressful position in a call center and wonder why they are not meeting their performance goals. Remember how great it felt to have your name announced as the top sales rep from the day before and receive recognition from your peers? Remember the pride in hearing that your team was the best in the center on last month's project and getting a pizza party? Remember how great it felt when the manager came onto the floor to say good job for consistent performance? It has probably been so long since your call center has done any of this for its agents that you don't remember. That's also why we apparently do not have fun, effective call floors any more.
It shocks me that there are call centers out there without quality control departments and places where management never monitors call activity. Yet in these same centers management is sitting in those conference rooms scratching their heads. The commodity call centers sell is phone hours. How can you not quality control your commodity?
The key to managing a call center comes down to creating a balance between great technology and the numbers game, combined with good old-fashioned human resource management. At the end of the day it's the people who will make or break your business. And people need training, supervision, motivation, and quality control. Take your center back to the basics and you'll reap the rewards.
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