Inbound Contact Centers - a cost or a profit?
Frequently, inbound contact centers are viewed by your management as a cost center, not as a profit center. And thus an easy target for cost cutting.
How is this possible?
We partially have to blame ourselves. Most of the KPI's that we use to measure our contact center are only focussing on cost: Average Talk Time, Longest Call In Queue, Backlog, Abandonment Rate. All these numbers say something about how much the contact center costs; nothing about how much your organisation profits from it.
I agree that these numbers are important, but these numbers should certainly not be the only numbers that you publish. Also think to publish customer satisfaction as a key performance indicator. This is no luxury item but a very important KPI that will express the importance of your contact center in the success of your business.
Most managers, (partially) responsable for contact centers, are aware of the strategic importance of their contact centers. Other managers however will see the contact center as a mere necessary part of the company.
In reality, the contact center is for many people the only way of interacting with your company. I mean, did YOU ever go to the telephone company? Well I didn't. But I DO have an opinion about them and that opinion is partially formed by the contacts I have had with their contact centers. From which we can conclude that contact centers do play an important role and thus are a critical element of the strategy of the company!
So now what?
We need to convince our coworkers that the contact center is a valuable part of the company. We can do this by being efficient and having a high level of customer satisfaction. Now this looks contradictionary. How can you be more efficient and have a higher customer satisfaction?
Two Main Rules
1. Unified Routing
2. Unified Knowledge Base
A Unified Routing is important because a question, no matter how it is asked (telephone, e-mail) should always arrive at the same (type of) agent. Unified Knowledge Base is important because the client deserves always the same answer. Imagine that you ask for your bank account via the telephone, e-mail, web and face-to-face and and you will get four different answers. Would you ever consider this bank again?
Some Best Practices
Besides these main rules, there are some best practices that I always like to follow. Here they are.
When using IVR and call routing, try to Obtain As Much Information Regarding The Caller As Possible. By this I don't only mean getting their ANI, the DNIS, their social security number et cetera, but also try to link this to your business databases. Did they call before? Do they have open tickets? Are they a VIP customer? Should you prioritize them? In other words: Use Data Driven Routing. Make sure that you are as intelligent as you can about your routing decision!
Are there any services that could be Converted To Self-Service? Do it. Discuss with key-clients, set up a test and go for it. It will alleviate the rest of your contact center giving your room for better service. Just be sure you pick the right service. If in doubt - don't.
Think hard on your IVR design. Avoid IVR Hell. See my other article on that.
Try using IVR after the agents. As a quality control kind-of stuff. So, when the agent clicks on hangup, the caller is transferred to an IVR where a quality control survey is run. Use Your IVR as well for Quality Control Surveys.
If possible, I try to convince the client to use Skills Based Routing. This is much more flexible than only routing to a campaign. In Altitude uCI 7, for instance, you can attribute multiple user defined skills (for instance English, Technical, Commercial) and a weight per skill to a call, and with this combination, find the exact right agent to answer this call. Must better than simply enqueuing a call to a campaign.
Also, try to use Last Agent Based Routing. When someone is calling within a specified timeframe, he will probably call for the same problem. Now, if the same agent is free, it would be nice to connect them again, as the agent already knows the story.
This will all help to Resolve the issue On First Call, which is also very important to increase quality and speed. When two telephone calls are needed to resolve an issue, you spend (more) than twice the cost, so even when the first call is a bit too long, this is much better than a second one.
When appropriate, Overflow To Other Campaigns when the queue is too long. This depends on the value of the caller, of course, and whether you have other agents available. When the value of the call is little, just leave them in the queue; however, when the caller is valuable to you, route them to another campaign. These agents will do nothing else then Schedule a Callback. Tell the caller that the contact center is busy and at which time they would like to be called back. This is better (for valuable clients) then waiting in the queue.
You could also decide this in the IVR. If you know your estimated time in the queue, you can propose to call them back. After all, you probably know already their telephone number. And if not, ask then via DTMF.
Mix Your Media. Try to get to know everything from your client in a non obtrusive way. Get his or her e-mail address and mobile number. Ask them if it is OK to mail and SMS them, telling them they always can opt out (and give them a way to opt out). A quick semi standard e-mail follow-up after a call shouldn't take you more than 20 seconds (at least, not on Altitude uCI 7.1, hint, hint)
When you really need to transfer a call, Transfer Data With Voice, and I mean really everything. Try to give as much context to the next agent as possible. This will help the agent in getting a better understanding of the case, hence resolving it faster.
Have you ever e-mailed a service and received the first reply back in two days? I think that is a lousy job. I'm not talking about the resolution, but the first reply. It should come immediately. Something like "Hi. We received your e-mail and your ticket number is 12345. We expect to be able to answer within XX hours". Then I know it arrived and when I can expect the answer. Use An Auto Acknowledge!
Mix Your Media 2. When you do web collaboration or chat, give your agents the possibility to dail your client. Let your clients fill in their telephone number somewhere and have your agents call them if necessary.