In terms of unpleasant experiences, a trip to the dentist tops the list for most people. But being bounced around from one call center representative to the next is probably a close second. Modern communication methods have undoubtedly altered the way we live, work and play. All while fueling customers’ appetite for instant gratification. If it means an expedited answer, customers aren’t afraid to leave Facebook messages or Yelp reviews or even tweets to the brands they engage with.
Despite the connotation call centers carry today, there is still hope. By deploying a handful of minor strategic shifts, your business can make the call center more customer-friendly and efficient. Here are just a few of our favorite ways to improve call center operations.
Perfect the call traffic flow
Nothing is more likely to irk a customer faster than routing a call to the wrong department or representative. There are two components that determine how accurate call traffic flow will be in a call center. First, the reps answering the phone must understand the business enough to know how to route a customer’s call. One can only achieve that type of knowledge through proper education, so make time for training during onboarding and sporadically throughout the year.
The second piece of the traffic flow puzzle is confirming that automated prompts send customers to the right department. It’s definitely a problem if a customer presses number four to reach the billing department, but the system sends them to sales. In addition to ensuring the prompts work, leave clear and detailed descriptions of outgoing messages.
Related: Customer Engagement Over Customer Service
Consider emotional intelligence when hiring
When you’re hiring a call center representative, emotional intelligence, or “EQ,” should take priority.
For decades, a person’s intelligence quotient, better known as IQ, has been a variable in the hiring process. Historical wisdom has declared that people who performed best in school are the best hires. But when you’re hiring a call center representative, emotional intelligence, or EQ, should take priority.
Related: A Great Customer Experience is the New Standard of Service
Emotional intelligence refers to how someone identifies and manages their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. That includes a keen ability to actively listen to customers’ problems and be empathetic with them. Some companies have even started doing emotional intelligence testing during the recruitment process to narrow in on candidates with a high EQ.
Reduce call times and abandon rates
If you only take one tip from this post, it should be this one. The most impactful way to improve call center operations is by reducing total call times, how long you leave customers on hold, and how quickly the customer abandons the call. The vast majority of customers phoning your call center are doing so because they have a problem and are frustrated. The last thing you want to do is make them wait on hold. According to one popular white paper on improving call center performance, solving the customer’s problem quickly on the first attempt not only pleases the customer but has a significant financial benefit. Using a baseline of 2 million calls per year and a 7% improvement in first call resolution at an average cost-per-call of $5.05, the company would save more than $700,000 annually.
Related: 5 Reasons Utilities Should Embrace Digital
Customers who are tired of waiting typically abandon the call. They’ll either call back later (likely madder than they already are) or try another channel like social media (which is visible to others). In either case, the outcome is not good.
Make use of technology
How silly do the old pictures of switchboard operators literally removing and plugging wires from one outlet to another look today? Most people can’t fathom being in an environment like that because of the way technology has modernized the telephone. At some point in the near future (if not already), we’re going to be looking at some of the legacy call center processes that exist today and considering them just as antiquated.
Related: First-Time Fix Rate Should be a First-Priority KPI
Today’s call centers should embrace the role that technology offers. Whether it’s used for advanced routing, automatic callbacks, speech recognition or cloud-based operations, these tools can make your call center more efficient and more effective. Cloud-based technology can even empower your employees to work remotely, which makes staffing and shift work easier to piece together.
If you’ve found call center operations to be your organization’s pain point, we may be able to help. Contact us today to learn more about what we do and how we partner with utilities and energy co-ops.