Strategies to Optimize Call Center Performance

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1 Strategies to Optimize Call Center Performance

2 Financial services customers demand superior service and support as the price of their ongoing loyalty and patronage. In today s experience-driven economy, organizations are ramping up their multichannel customer service initiatives. In a recent survey, 86 percent of customer service decision-makers told Forrester Research that a good service experience is critical to their company s success. In today s competitive environment, more call centers are outsourced to providers who specialize in sales and customer support. The success of any call center is directly related to developing and motivating the people they employ. Call center agents are the frontline. They require a unique set of skills to perform their job effectively; they need to provide personalized services without having the opportunity to interact with the customer in a face-toface context. Contact center staff represent a bank s brand, while being managed to stringent productivity standards. To maintain operational efficiency and high customer satisfaction, it is imperative that agents have the right mix of knowledge, skills, and professionalism to achieve high levels of performance. 2

3 This ebook offers four key strategies that call centers should follow in order to deliver optimal value. These strategies reflect an investment in human assets employees who must provide superior customer service, while maintaining high productivity levels. The four people-oriented strategies are: Invest in the hiring process Train in phases and continuously Recognize and reward Monitor performance thoroughly 3

4 Effective staffing practices in a contact center should not be perceived as an overhead expense. Rather, it is an investment that yields benefits over time. Malcolm McCulloch, PhD., Industry Consultant 4

5 Invest in the hiring process Employee referrals generate the best source of new call center employees. Employees currently on the job can best explain expectations, pros and cons of contact center employment. A best practice for call center hiring is paying referral bonuses to current employees who bring new associates (who stay with the organization for a given time) into the fold. It stands to reason, larger call centers will have an inherent advantage due to the reach of a greater number of employees. Other useful sources of new employees include: Open houses Online job sites and LinkedIn Temporary agencies The company website Job fairs There is no short cutting an effective hiring process. In a survey of financial services call centers the average elapsed time to hire call center representatives was 38 days for full-time employees and 30 days for parttime personnel. Hire time for reps Type of rep Median Minimum Maximum Full-time 38 days 5 days 225 days Part-time 30 days 1 day 225 days Source: Staffing Practices in Financial Services Contact Centers, 2010 Technical aptitude testing, human resource screening and relevant skills tests should be included in the hiring process. The general testing should cover areas such as: Basic computer navigation Business reasoning Data entry and typing Audio typing 5

6 Invest in the hiring process Critical to the hiring process is a Call Center Simulation. This activity provides an audition before hiring. Prospective call center applicants should engage in various customer service call scenarios to evaluate their ability to satisfy difficult customers and make quick decisions in a short period of time. Traits to look for during the simulation and interview process include: Consistency Assertiveness People skills Organization Teamwork Empathy General reasoning that process goes well, senior management should interview the candidate next. Attributes to look for in candidates include: Verbal communication skills Active listening abilities Customer orientation Teamwork capabilities Motivation Potential call center employees should initially be interviewed on the phone by the Human Resources department. Passing that screen, the immediate supervisor should conduct a one-on-one interview. If 6

7 Invest in the hiring process One last word on the hiring process don t be afraid to cut people loose if they are not a good fit. As one blogger from a recruiting forum for call center employees explains it: One thing I believe is very important before any training is that you have to be sure everybody understands why they are there. You have to understand that the call center environment is NOT for everybody, before you provide training and then have recruits leave two months later when they realize it is not for them. When recruiting, don t just talk about how good it is to work with you, but get the candidate to listen to a good call, an average call and a really bad call. Talk about the bad days and what it is like to spend 6 or 8 hours on the phone, and when you are on your 120th call while it is your customer s first contact with your company. After they understand this, you can train them in whatever you want. From the blog: When recruiting, be clear about expectations by Miguel Barcena. 7

8 Train in phases and continuously Once hired, call center employees need comprehensive basic training in order to thrive. Call agents require education in phone etiquette and knowledge of a bank s products and services. They need familiarity with your organization s computer system and the technology bank customers can access. After training, test your staff to ensure they ve committed product knowledge to memory. Provide them with resources, such as a handbook or cheat sheet for reference in case they forget how to perform new tasks. Let call center associates understand the desired outcome of every phone call, whether it is to make a sale or to answer a question to the customer s satisfaction. Communication skills also need continuous development in call center employees. The skill of customer communication can turn quality call center representatives into a pure competitive advantage. The following suggestions are from the article Banks diligently train their call center employees on scripts and rules, but what about tone, emotion and style? by Edward G. Brown and Johanna Lubahn, in BAI Banking Strategies. Focus on emotions The great advantage of the call center over digital channels is the opportunity to create a positive emotional connection with customers. Anticipate objections This involves not just preparation but exquisite sensitivity because customers often express their objections in emotional ways. Make smiles heard A smile changes your attitude and your voice. Even over the phone, a smile can be detected and affect customers. 8

9 Train in phases and continuously Specify purpose Call center reps using scripts should have room for ambiguity. When training on the scripts make sure it includes how to say a phrase or request. Stress sincerity Coach call center reps to not to just read the words but to convey the sincere belief that the words. Honor etiquette Etiquette begets etiquette. It lifts the quality of the interaction between call center agent and the customer. into each call is important. Make one aspect of training about finding their own personal style. Training should be provided for both new hires and continuing employee development. New hire training should include: Company/client orientation Systems navigation training Practice off duty Don t ask your reps to go straight from the classroom to the big stage. Provide them with time to practice and perfect the newly learned arts and skills by role playing with other colleagues. Insist on personal style Getting call center employees to project themselves 9

10 Train in phases and continuously Procedural/process training Back-office process training to ensure one-call resolution Compliance training Phone skills training Soft skills training Classroom practice sessions More in-depth training sessions for experienced call center agents should cover the following subjects: Call handling on the floor in a controlled environment Focused coaching Introduction to quality and performance metrics Weekly goals for productivity and quality Quality calibration with peer group Identified quality gaps New products or services Response to client feedback Beyond formal training sessions, call center management should leverage other means to convey key messages and improvements. Regular team meetings, scheduled employee one-on-ones and small group huddles are important ways to introduce new concepts and reinforce important messages. 10

11 Recognize and reward Today s workplace can be difficult to navigate when trying to get the most from each employee. Call center managers must strive for each member of their teams working to their full potential and engaged in the results of their efforts. In order to motivate others, a great leader must be vulnerable enough to have an authentic connection to their team members, charismatic enough to engage them, and humble enough to realize that true leadership often involves helping team members reach individual goals. The cost of unsatisfied employees can be high. According to research from Dale Carnegie Training if an employee felt very dissatisfied with an immediate supervisor, there was an 80% chance that they were disengaged from their work. And these disengaged employees would even quit for just a 5% pay increase. Consistent recognition creates loyal and motivated call center employees. Sometimes it is the combined effect of small actions that create a positive work environment. Employees who were very dissatisfied with a supervisor 80% 20% Disengaged from their work Such simple tactics as the following are examples of these types of action: Hold individual coaching sessions, monthly team meetings and conduct quarterly focus groups of random employees. Create a Team Lead Certification Program for individuals to aspire to reach a higher level of competency and responsibility. Survey of disengaged employees 69% 31% Quit for even 5% pay increase 11

12 Recognize and reward Recognize superior efforts by publicizing individual performance in call center and inter-company communication vehicles. Always recognize service anniversaries in meetings with peers. Offering multiple paths for advancement helps to retain high-performing call center representatives. Just knowing the potential exists for jobs with greater responsibility and better pay keeps motivation up in high performers. Some call centers offer flexible internship programs in which call center agents can try out jobs that require a higher skillset. There is no obligation to remain in the position if the employee wants to return to his/her current role. support jobs such as the following support functions: Quality analyst Line Trainer Business Process Manager Implementation role (process owner) Beyond career development, schedule flexibility is also important to call center staff. Many quality call center employees attend college classes. Creative scheduling can go a long way to retaining valuable employees looking to advance their careers through education. Well organized call centers provide clear job classifications and assignments that employees can aspire to. Besides lead supervisor and management career alternatives, some call centers offer important 12

13 Recognize and reward Innovative call centers create incentive programs that offer monetary rewards for reaching certain quality levels matched with call volumes. The most effective incentive plans pay relatively small amounts, but on a frequent (monthly) basis. The metrics of these plans are clear and obtainable with reasonable effort. Assessing the attitudes of call center employees plays an important role in determining proper recognition and reward. Acting on the findings of employee surveys quickly can help limit call center attrition. FIS has found it most effective to survey twice a year with the following guidelines: Anonymous surveys only Demographic information for data analysis Tenure Shift Department Limit length to 20 questions on Management Customer service Communication Career development Associate Care Team (ACT) formed to determine responses to survey issues Often employee recognition comes down to the impact the manager has on the individual. Thus supervisor development is critical to employee development efforts. Call center managers should seek formal feedback from employees and peers on a regular basis. Mentoring programs should assist newer supervisors in developing action plans to address specific issues surfaced in the feedback process. Good management skills must be practiced and refined on a continuous basis. 13

14 Monitor performance thoroughly Banks rely heavily on call center resources. The need for optimally performing contact centers in our industry is extremely high especially for an organization looking to compete on customer service. Call center performance requires management attention and subsequent adjustment for maximum results. FIS measures service levels down to the targets for a particular skill. All call centers measure call volume, speed-to-answer and call duration. It s the ability to isolate call type and specific function in your metrics that drives toward better performance. Beyond measuring what has happened in the past along with real time measures of what is happening on the call center floor, forecasting becomes a key management activity. Matching the appropriate resource levels to call volume drives productivity and customer services. An example of one report that tracks numbers of calls on loan accounts against forecast volumes is below. The consistent match of the blue and green lines is what management strives for Workforce - Shift Effectiveness Volumes (Teal): Predictable Service Levels (Green): Volatile Quick Findings - Better than deposits but far from optional Loan Monthly Volume Patterns M T W R F S Su M T W R F S Su M T W R F S Su M T W R F S Su Days of the week

15 Monitor performance thoroughly Forecasting must be done on a daily basis on intervals that make sense for the particular business line. Seasonality and special bank circumstances need to be accounted for. Productivity metrics can also measure call center supervisors on actions such as hiring quality. Reviewing the results of call center staff by hiring supervisor can help improve interviewing techniques and hiring decisions. It is often said you get what you measure, and that statement rings true in the call center environment. 15

16 Summary The people or soft side of any business operation is critical to success. Call center management in the financial services industry is no exception. 16

17 FIS and/or its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.

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