Contact Center Reps Are People, Too
The contact center is the lifeblood of any business, and often serves as the initial customer interaction point with a company. With more than 65,000 contact centers in America today, consumers rely on nearly 7 million customer service representatives to solve their problems and answer their questions quickly. A recent study by the Radclyffe Group shows that there is a strong link between contact center employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. This link explains why customer satisfaction can falter when executive management and contact center managers don't empower their customer service agents and their centers with the latest technology. Neglecting customer satisfaction introduces larger business problems -- lost revenues, customer abandonment, and severe damage to the corporate brand.
Happy agents mean happy customers, which means better business. As Elizabeth Ahearn, president and CEO of The Radclyffe Group, recently stated, "Contact centers with the most satisfied employees and customers are successful primarily due to the center's focus on speed of issue resolution and effective communication between both parties. The relationships your contact center representatives have with your customers truly impact the company's bottom line."
It's staggering to think that one leading national bank receives 10,000 customer inquiries every day. Imagine the manpower necessary to keep all those customers happy. Yet, even before the calls start coming in, the contact center manager needs to be able to staff the center accordingly. It might sound like a simple proposition, but staffing a contact center can be one of the hardest parts of the job, with the highest cost and risk associated with not doing it properly. Taking into consideration agent scheduling requests, agent skill sets, marketing promotions, time of year, weather, and last-minute changes, contact center managers can find themselves with a surplus of hundreds of idle agents, or not enough agents to handle a deluge of calls.
One simple way to keep agents satisfied is to use new workforce management technologies that give agents innovative ways to schedule their time and match their skills against customer needs. When agents are happy, customers are happy. It's a simple philosophy that leads to top quality customer service. There's an old saying, "A happy customer will tell one person about his experience, but an unhappy customer will tell eight people about it."
Industry analysts estimate that 60 to 80 percent of the costs of running a call center tie directly to personnel costs including hiring, training, and recruiting agents. By using workforce management software, contact center managers and corporate executives can maximize their human resources investments by more easily retain agents through careful attention to their satisfaction levels. Translation: spend your money wisely to keep your agents...and keep them motivated.
There are many variables that workforce management software can monitor and analyze. This technology can proactively analyze scheduling variables to an accuracy level of 99 percent, letting contact center managers deploy their representatives much more effectively. For example, using pre-identified downtimes to schedule agent-training sessions can help keep morale and productivity high. Using new technologies, one contact center outsourcer was able to save $40,000 a month in a single call center by more accurately predicting call volume and staffing accordingly. It pays to investigate and invest in workforce management technology as both the agents and the business reap the benefits.
While customers often become frustrated with agents who aren't equipped to handle their needs, agents also experience frustration when their skill sets don't match. Staffing technologies can play a key role in aligning agent skill sets with customer requirements--making sure the right agent, with the right skills, answers a customer's inquiry at the right time. Companies can now use software to easily and accurately calculate how many agents with specific skills need to be hired and trained for which shifts to be of the most value to the company and its customers. What was once a complex and nearly insurmountable task of skill evaluation and call routing can be achieved with a high level of proficiency through new technology.
By identifying the skill requirements for certain customers and matching skills with corresponding shifts, companies can eliminate unnecessary frustrations for the customer and the agent. For example, if a Spanish-speaking customer requires assistance, he or she can quickly be routed to a Spanish-speaking agent. Even if the right agent isn't available, the software will track the inquiry and queue it up for the next available Spanish-speaking agent to ensure total customer satisfaction.
In addition to language-based routing, high volume calls often fall into a set of categories that can be pre-identified prior to selecting the appropriate agent or agents. Banks, for example, have a wide variety of customer calls coming in and need to make sure the right agent with the right skills is available at the right time. Some customers have simple questions about transferring funds, while others have more complicated queries like how to finance a mortgage. Regardless of the type of customer inquiry, a contact center needs to be flexible and sensitive to individual customers while routing their inquiries in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Forcing customers to spend time climbing a phone tree before finally speaking to the right agent sets the stage for a decrease in customer satisfaction. At the same time, incorrectly assigned agents who do not have the appropriate skill sets waste not only customer's time, but also their own time. Skills-based routing makes sure that agents are utilizing their expertise, feeling satisfied with their work and aren't leaving customers waiting. This in turn saves the company time, increases customer satisfaction and adds stability to workflow through efficiency of agent deployment and increased agent retention.
Every call or inquiry is important, but with an increasing number of customers contacting companies by email or the Web, often requests vary widely in terms of time sensitivity. Those electronic inquiries that are not time-sensitive can be placed in a queue to be handled at a later time, therefore allowing agents to be free for the more urgent electronic messages or voice calls. Better prioritization of customer contacts ensures that issues are resolved as quickly as possible and reduces customer frustration. Not all customers' needs are the same and not all agents can handle every type of need. Contact centers can utilize technology to better understand customer wants and subsequently match that customer with the most appropriate agent. Automatic pre-qualification of customer needs insures the greatest level of success in setting the tone for consistently pleasant and effective customer-agent interaction.
The contact center personifies an organization. It is the public face of a company and becomes the first destination for customers who respond to a direct marketing program, have a question about the status of an order, or need an update on their account. Therefore, smart businesses want to make sure that the agent is able to respond to customer's inquiries quickly, cheerfully and with the right answer. The key to keeping customer service representatives happy, motivated, and productive is to deploy technology that makes their jobs easier. Technology can be used easily to staff appropriately, increase response times, and make sure that the right agent answers the right call at the right time. As a recent study illustrated, "interactions with contact center representatives can often be the first point of contact that a customer has with a company; a positive, enjoyable experience can lead to high customer loyalty and repeat purchases over time." Clearly, the right technology can ensure that agents have the tools they need to help customers, and ultimately help the company.