Four call centre policies and practices to empower customer service employeesby
9th Sep 2011
Mark Brown explains why you need more than just targets to get the most from your service staff.
Any well-managed contact centre needs to have a central set of guidelines and procedures to ensure a consistent level of service. However, too great a focus on hard, cold numbers and efficient handling of calls can actually be counterproductive in the long-term. A lack of flexibility can limit innovation, creativity and accountability.
Empowering your customer service employees through a more holistic approach isn’t as difficult as it may seem.
1. Encourage staff to 'live' the brand
While efficiency is important, a passion for the brand is a key driver of effectiveness. Proactive, positive employees who enjoy their work and understand their responsibility as ambassadors is the best advertisement for a brand, and this enthusiasm will be clear to any customer that gets in touch.
Allowing call centre employees time out of the office and away from the phones to experience the brand can improve results. For example, automotive companies should consider offering test drives to their call centre employees so they can familiarise themselves with the features and benefits of the car. This experience can bring calls to life with understanding and enthusiasm for how a car handles, leading to better results.
2. Support intelligent call handling
Call centres should consider scripting standard situations to ensure that all employees have the knowledge and expertise to deal effectively with customer enquiries. Employees who consistently use a tried and tested dialogue will often have success. However, call centre managers need to ensure employees don’t become too inflexible and unable to adapt to more complex situations. Customers don’t like to feel they are on a conveyor belt, preferring a personal approach.
Consumers are becoming more demanding, looking for immediate answers to complex enquiries. As a result, more contact centres are integrating inbound and outbound operations with the aim of increasing the efficiency of their operations. Depending on the size of the centre companies may choose to have separate specialist teams of inbound and outbound employees or use a call blending method, where the same employees carry out both functions, to maximise agents’ skills and time. This is often better than hiring temporary agents as the quality standard is maintained.
Allocating calls intelligently can also help improve results as people are more likely to listen to and trust peers – so mums talking to mums or employees with a Scottish accent targeting customers in Edinburgh. We recently carried out a piece of YouGov research which showed that call centre staff with ‘strong regional or foreign accents’ topped the list of customer frustrations when dealing with customer service lines.
3. Support social media
While the phone remains at the heart of customer contact centres, there is an increasing need to effectively manage data from multiple channels thanks to the exponential rise in social networks like Twitter and Facebook. This requires solutions that have both the intelligence and flexibility to adapt to changing market and consumer needs.
Social media has empowered consumers to become broadcasters or journalists, so speedy and flexible customer service is critical; a complaint sent via Twitter that is left unanswered could spread internationally overnight.
Whether a company is operating an in-house or outsourced contact centre, social media training should be put in place to ensure employees are able to provide an immediate, personalised service to customers. The opportunities resulting from this for positive promotion of the brand and increased consumer loyalty are huge.
4. Empower your employees
The most important factor in the success of a call centre is its people. A motivated, upbeat team will be more productive. Create this through rewarding, recognising and reinforcing positive behaviour and achievements.
Use internal communications to ensure everyone has the latest information on targets, deadlines and special offers. Employ regular debriefs and encourage the sharing of information to ensure the whole team learns from successes as well as mistakes.
Enable employees to make their own recommendations on improvements, after all they are much closer to the working procedure than senior management.
A focused call centre can help a brand realise its goal whether that be higher levels of customer satisfaction, more revenue per customer or driving increases in sales. Establishing the right policies and working practices can empower call centre employees to support the brand and the business.
Mark Brown is managing director, contact centres and loyalty at arvato UK.