Call centres are a vital and growing part of the UK economy. According to statistics from ContactBabel, there are now 6,200 contact centres across the country with employees making up over 4 per cent of the UK workforce. The call centre industry can be a tough environment to work in with a unique set of pressures. Despite the growing significance of the industry, mistakes made by firms are hitting headlines more than ever. In order to minimise the risk of reputational damage and maximise quality output, organisations should prioritise rising productivity by focusing on positive workforce management. Sharon James, operations director at charity helpline provider, Connect Assist, has compiled five ways to improve workforce management.
Maintain workforce motivation
Agents making outbound calls might have challenging sales targets to meet, while those taking inbound calls are often left to deal with difficult customers or service users.
Therefore, one of the main concerns should be keeping your workforce as happy and motivated as possible. There are several methods for achieving this, but essentially your goal should be to create a supporting culture from the top down; with a primary focus on wellbeing at all levels of the business.
Providing regular feedback, encouraging an open dialogue and celebrating when a member of staff or a team does well is all important.
Training and access to knowledge base
Be sure to train agents regularly. In order to give the best support to customers, agents must obtain a substantial amount of information, and have this on hand at all times. Agents need to fully understand and communicate everything that is relevant to your organisation’s key messages including products, services or brand philosophy.
It is also a good idea to train agents in communication and how to handle different types of customers, in addition to time management and system training.
Call centre agents are often encouraged to stick to a written script for efficiency, but this isn’t necessarily the most appropriate way to communicate with customers and service users. At Connect Assist, our call centre agents deal with vulnerable callers on a daily basis, and their ability to be flexible and human in their approach is crucial to providing the right level of support.
Make it a career
Call centres are great places to gain temporary or stopgap employment, but the industry is often overlooked as a long-term career option. Much of this has to do with the recruitment philosophies of call centre managers rather than the reality of the work.
When possible, promote all opportunities for career development within the contact centre, and make sure staff members understand there is a journey to progression. This is a great way for an organisation to demonstrate that the expertise of its workforce is valued, and will help to boost motivation and better results on a longer-term basis.
Make sure all job descriptions have clearly defined experience and skill requirements, and establish career development plans to help staff climb the ladder.
Maintain quality of staff with flexible working hours
The out-of-hours nature of a contact centre makes it the ideal environment for offering flexible working hours.
Although call centre work is considered as a challenging and emotionally-charged career path, more flexibility around working hours can encourage staff members to take more ownership over their working lives and help them to manage daily pressures more effectively.
Develop a clear data policy and ensure staff members are properly trained
Paying attention to data security is incredibly important for a call centre company. An increasing number fail to acknowledge this, which can have devastating consequences on both reputation and credibility.
For organisations handling service user information in-house, a clear policy must be created and implemented at all levels. This should always state exactly how information is collected and how it will be used, and provide a clear strategy for protecting it. Staff members handling data of any sort must be fully trained on the importance of keeping that information secure.
As an organisation, this needs to be communicated from the top down, because if a data breach does occur, the responsibility will always fall on those at the top.
With a background in service delivery and team management, Sharon has worked at Connect Assist since the company was founded in 2006. In her role as operations director, she is responsible for ensuring quality of output for all the organisation’s multi-channel contact centre contracts.