Contact centers are complex places, and achieving success in these areas is consequently a complicated matter. Decision-makers need to weigh a lot of different considerations in order to get the formula right.
With that in mind, here are three of the most important factors when it comes to achieving contact center success.
A contact center is ultimately only as good as the agents who staff it - it's really as simple as that. As a result, hiring the right agents will inevitably have a huge impact on how well or poorly the contact center performs as a whole.
Obviously, this is easier said than done. Decision-makers need to know what to look for when evaluating applicants. There are a lot of important traits here, but a few stand out:
- Knowledge retention: When customers call for help, agents need to have a well of knowledge regarding the company's products and services that they can call upon to offer advice and guidance.
- Calm under pressure: Working in a contact center means that you'll have to handle upset, potentially even irate, customer calls. An excellent agent will remain calm in the face of such duress.
- Communication skills: Agents need to not only understand customers and the company's offerings, but also have the ability to convey that information in an effective manner.
- Efficiency: Contact centers are fast-moving places, and agents can only thrive if they are efficient in their customer interactions.
Contact center leaders should strive to test candidates in these areas during the interview phase, as well as look for job experience that highlights these strengths. What's more, predictive analytics solutions are now appearing on the market which can help to identify agent potential, further improving contact center decision-makers' ability to find the right hires.
Recruiting and hiring the agents is only half the battle. The second half is all about retention. High turnover rates are a problem for contact centers across the board, but those organizations that can excel in agent retention will enjoy much more knowledgeable, experienced contact center staffs.
To this end, company leaders need to develop policies focused on encouraging agents to stay on board longer. Straightforward compensation will obviously play a major role here, but that's only part of the story. They also need to develop employee recognition programs and bonuses that can make agents more motivated. Just as importantly, leaders need to work to develop positive, enjoyable work environments in the contact center. If agents' work lives feel isolating and there's no sense of team spirit or unity, they'll be much more likely to leave.
That's why industry expert Francis Cyriac, writing for Ameyo, recently argued that an open culture is key for agent retention success. He asserted that contact center leaders should embrace business scorecards, forums and other features that encourage agents to feel comfortable sharing their views and concerns.
"The whole process will help to create a workplace where people feel valued," Cyriac wrote. "This will result in job satisfaction."
Another key factor here is training. Training doesn't just make agents better at their jobs - it also demonstrates the organization's investment in its personnel, employees who feel valued are much more likely to stick around.
However, this training needs to take the right form to be effective. Writing for Spoken, Heidi Miller emphasized that agent training needs to incorporate a wide range of learning styles. She pointed out that the best contact centers allow agents to learn in whatever way is best suited to them as individuals. If you can deliver that level of flexibility and accommodation, your agents will stay with the company longer.
It's also important to recognize the potential benefits that tools such as interaction analytics can offer in this area. As this white paper makes clear, interaction analytics solutions can help to screen out at-risk employees by monitoring their behavior in real-time, identifying those agents - particularly new hires - who are not on pace to achieve acceptable performance levels. Interaction analytics also offers fair, unbiased agent evaluations, which in turn can enable targeted coaching. By removing the risk of subjective judgment, agents will be more accepting of criticism and guidance, leading to improved performance and, consequently, greater job satisfaction.
This leads to the next point: the importance of contact center technology.
Even the best contact center agents need to have the right tools and resources to effectively execute their job responsibilities. That makes technology investment a key factor in achieving contact center success.
For starters, there are the basics - headsets and computers that empower agents to comfortably and effectively handle not just calls, but also customer concerns via email, SMS, live chat, video conferencing and more.
Just as importantly, contact center leaders need to embrace analytics solutions that can lead the way toward more strategic approaches and policies. Advanced analytics can help businesses to better understand who their customers are, what they want and how best to deliver. These findings can guide decisions regarding areas to focus on, optimized agent schedules and other keys to maximizing effectiveness and efficiency.
Additionally, contact centers need to increasingly embrace real-time capabilities. Talkdesk contributor Shauna Geraghty emphasized the value of real-time tools for both agents and managers. In the former case, agents should be able to view their key performance indicators at any time, so that they can make immediate adjustments in their approaches as needed. Even more significantly, real-time metrics dashboards for managers enable these leaders to step in and make reassignments or other changes based on the most current data.
Automation technology is another key area to focus on for contact center success going forward. As industry expert Gerald Stevenson Chettiar explained in a post on LinkedIn, "automating processes wisely can eliminate extended wait times, optimize and enhance agent utilization, reduce the training time for new agents and provide opportunities for up-selling."
What do you see as the key factors for achieving contact center success?