By Simon Black, CEO, Awaken Intelligence
We all know how having a great contact centre manager can make the world of difference to managing your team of agents and delivering outstanding campaigns. However, with the news that Oracle, alone, sent more than 100,000 customer service agents home to work, how can you ensure that you’re still delivering the best call centre management even with the majority of your agents working remotely?
As a recent FT article highlighted, “the image of a seamless, 24-hour global work ethic (from the contact centre industry), relies to a great extent on humans in large offices – ‘butts on seats’, as one industry locution has it.”
Covid-19 is dramatically changing the contact centre landscape as we know it. So, what critical disciplines and tools are the very foundation of great management of your business? And how can you evolve to ensure you’re getting the best performance and customer satisfaction possible, wherever you can? Below you’ll find a few gems that will support your agents in this rapidly evolving sector.
Onboarding and Culture
According to Glassdoor organisations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70% yet a study by Gallup found that only 12% of employees strongly agree their organisation does a great job of onboarding new employees! The challenge to introduce new joiners effectively is greater than ever and while we know that the job market is going to be flooded at a time like this it is important you get it right. Finding self-motivated individuals that fit within your contact centre and that aren’t just ‘butts on seats’ is really important. You may be looking for completely different people compared to your traditional hires. You’re going to need self-starters that are motivated and that aren’t afraid to shout as they settle into their new role. Managing the existing team is hard enough at the moment but you need to ensure your new agents aren’t just thrown in the deep-end! Make sure you have a robust onboarding process where they get the following:
- To meet their team and key managers in the business. Give them a feel for your company culture even if it’s only via video calls.
- Make sure you cover all the HR aspects and get the admin out of the way as quickly as possible.
- Ease them into the role by showing them the systems and procedures by using video training. The technology exists to do this so there’s really no excuse!
- Appoint a mentor – a key person your new hire can go to when they’re feeling anxious or have any questions as they settle into the role, and encourage them to schedule regular, virtual coffee meetings. According to HCI, 87% of organisations that assign an ambassador or buddy program during the onboarding process say that it’s an effective way to speed up new hire proficiency.
You’ll see we also mentioned company culture. We know it’s difficult to keep this going while everyone is working remotely but it’s vital as BreatheHR’s Culture Economy Report 2020 highlighted, estimating that toxic workplaces cost the UK economy £15.7 bn every year. Encouraging existing employees as well as new agents to contribute to conversations, turn up on team calls and join in online quizzes or cocktail hours will help to keep people motivated even in this disjointed world.
Best Tools for the Job
AI and voice analytics are changing the way in which many businesses operate and contact centres are no different. Our conversational analytics will not only help you to analyse the vocabulary and sentiment in your most established performers but will also help you to pick up on where new starters are struggling too. This is so important when you’re unable to stroll around your call centre and listen into conversations taking place. Plus, it’s actually a far more practical and informative way of keeping your finger on the pulse.
Not only will scripting and analytics help to guide even the newest recruits through their first calls but, also with this informative data they’ll soon be able to understand what makes a seamless journey for the customer and a better day at work for them! Here’s a reminder of why conversational analytics (CA) is so important for your agents:
- The intuitive way CA works means your agents require less training or can move on to different campaigns without spending hours reading reams of training manuals.
- Ability to handle calls and resolve them faster than before, which means your agent’s experience and job satisfaction will be higher and your cost per call is kept in control.
- Your agents have the ability to focus on the conversation, rather than the process which means both agent and customer have a better experience. That means your staff retention improves dramatically.
- By providing you with actionable insights formed into one report, it will allow you to motivate your agents in the right directions and stimulate continuous improvement.
Automating the intensive process of monitoring agent-customer interactions at scale can help to highlight which agents might need further training and on what in particular. Also, there are repetitive call centre tasks such as listening to agents calls and manually evaluating agent’s performance or screening the calls for quality assurance (QA), that can be automated to make the role more enjoyable. Given automation is a proven way to reduce attrition investing in automation makes even more sense when you look at the numbers. According to Response Design Corporation call centres replace approximately 26% of their agents each year and a report from CIPD claims that the average cost for replacing call centre staff is £6,125. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realise that re-hiring and training 26% of your workforce on an annual basis is pretty expensive! So, doing anything to retain the great performers is more than worthwhile.
It sounds simple but measurements should be in place to monitor individual, team and campaign performance. How can you reward and praise if you have nothing to benchmark people’s efforts by? And similarly, how can you report success on a particular campaign if there are no KPIs.
Any decent call centre technology will provide you with a reporting dashboard where you can gather critical data at every level. You need to measure from the individual call, agent, team, campaign and across the entire contact centre. Generating these reports shouldn’t mean that your contact centre manager spends hours stuck in Excel, these should be generated by a powerful web-based tool providing managers with all necessary information to make strategical decisions for your contact centre.
The Customer is Always King
You’ve heard it before, but your agents should never forget that delivering frictionless customer experience is critical to your organisation’s success. Help them to really understand what makes your customers tick, the variety of different requirements and to share experiences with their peers to help better the experience for all. It’s also important to remind your team, no matter how difficult the client interaction is, that being polite and positive will pay dividends. Smiling on a camera during your virtual meetings will make the conversation instantly warmer in 9 out of 10 cases. And sometimes we all have to accept that if people have a bad day and not to take it too personally either.
Going Full Circle Time and Again
While it’s been tricky with agents working remotely during this time finding ways to offer feedback and being accessible to your team is key to maintaining morale and motivation. We’ve discussed the importance several times of being a good listener and how to run a team efficiently to encourage two-way conversations across the team so they can support one another and share learnings.
As we’ve already said it takes a certain type of person to work in a contact centre and an incredibly motivated one to work from home on their own, amongst a virtual team. That is not going to change any time soon. They need to be confident, efficient and a good listener as well as a team player. However, to help them be successful you need to deploy the right tools and pay attention to the data you garner to ensure that your managers, your agents and campaigns run as efficiently as possible.
Covid-19 has been a catalyst for digital transformation this year, pushing businesses from all industries to embrace smarter technology to support their people and allow their operations to thrive. Solutions that you once viewed as a ‘nice to have’ or planned to introduce over the next five years are now a necessity. Equipping your team with the best will not only enhance their working lives but dramatically improve your customer experience (CX) too.