Transform Your Corporate Call Center from a Money Pit into a Money Machine
For many companies having a call center is a dreaded requirement. No one really wants to operate a call center, but it’s required to serve customers, capture leads, and make sales. Yet too often it’s viewed as a hassle that you can’t avoid. And just as often the corporate call center manager’s primary goal isn’t improvement but to move to a different department.
Corporate call centers face pressure from many directions. Upper management focuses on cost reduction, all the while demanding improved quality. Sales and marketing want more leads. And service demands extended hours of operation, answering quicker, and first call resolution.
Then there are the callers. They expect 24/7 availability, calls answered within a few seconds, and never needing to hold. And don’t even think about transferring them.
Yet when properly addressing all these things, the corporate call center moves from the second-tier department that everyone picks on to becoming a source of pride that produces sought-after outcomes.
These are the results that get management’s attention. But how can you make this happen?
Face a Struggling Corporate Call Center
Joshua Barbieri fumed as he left his boss’s office. He had just received a lateral move to managing their struggling call center, but it felt more like a demotion. Joshua sensed his career had stalled and any further advancement was on hold. He wanted to quit and find a job with another company. But quitting wasn’t in his nature. He decided to make the best of this, to turn around his company’s slumping call center—even though it had chewed up and spit out its last four managers. If Joshua had any hope for more promotions, not to mention raises, he needed to find a solution and do it fast.
Assess the Situation
With an MBA to his credit, Joshua knew exactly what to do—at least from a theoretical standpoint. He needed to analyze what he had and identify the problems. He would do a SWOT (strength-weakness-opportunity-threat) analysis. From there he would form a game plan and move forward.
But he didn’t know where to start. The call center department felt like an anomaly in his company’s otherwise well-run operation. The staff didn’t seem to fit in with the corporate culture. And even the terminology confused him: first call resolution, average time to answer, and abandonment rate. Then there were hold times to deal with, complicated scheduling arrangements to comprehend, and overall low agent morale.
Joshua decided to take a shortcut. He would hire a call center consultant. If he found the right consultancy, they could form his turnaround plan, coach him in implementing it, and make adjustments along the way. Then he could impress his boss, get a nice raise, and earn a promotion into a more valued department.
He didn’t have time to design a formal RFP. Instead he chose an informal approach, seeking an established consultancy with experienced staff who would know exactly what to do. He chose Call Center Sales Pro.
Conduct an Initial Evaluation
Starting the next day, the consultants did some preliminary phone work to begin their assessment. With the initial information in place, the lead consultant arrived on-site the next week to do a thorough SWOT analysis.
Under the area of strengths, they confirmed that the corporate call center had up-to-date software and a robust technology infrastructure. For weaknesses they identified a lack of agent training, poor scheduling practices, and overall low morale. The opportunities were many, including improving quality, driving sales, and raising the level of service. When it came to threats, the obvious one was losing market share to their competitors that boasted well-operated call centers. Another concern was an overall inability for the call center to support the company’s next product launch, which would happen later in the year.
The call center consultants set about with a multi-prong plan to address the weaknesses and avoid the threats identified. This would capitalize on the call center’s strengths and seize the opportunities before it.
Provide Agent Training and Enhancement
The consultancy sent in their leading trainer to work with the call center agents. Initially he focused on two things: enhanced system operations and customer service skills. The agents appreciated the attention and the information. Their attitude quickly changed, and they began to take pride in their work as they saw tangible results immediately.
Once he completed this initial instruction, the trainer then moved into a time of side-by-side coaching. He gave each agent specific tips to help them do their job better, work more efficiently, and delight callers.
Optimize the Schedule
Past managers hadn’t understood the science of scheduling staff in a corporate call center environment. As a result, the call center suffered from overstaffing half of the time and understaffing the rest. That meant that half the day, the agents struggled with boredom. And the other half, they worked at a frenzied pace and couldn’t keep up.
Instead of looking at typical 9 to 5 staffing arrangements, wise call center managers schedule agents according to the projected number of calls that will come in each hour of the day, each day of the week. That meant starting some shifts earlier and ending others later. It meant adjusting break times and lunches. It also required changing the length of some shifts. At first the agents reacted poorly to this. But after the consultants explained the rationale and how it would make the agents’ jobs easier for them, most embraced it with little further grumbling.
After implementing the new schedule, the staff noticed the difference right away. Their slow times and busy times mostly disappeared, replaced with a steady, yet comfortable workflow. This reduced their stress, which refreshed their sagging attitudes.
Expand Hours of Operation
The corporate call center operated from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday. Calls that came in outside these hours went to voicemail, which instructed people to call back when the call center was open or leave a message. However, their customers stretched across the United States, as well as in several foreign countries. Extending the hours the call center was open would serve callers better and reduce the workload during the day. This was a third step that would help make things easier on the agents.
The enhanced schedule had the call center opening at 7 a.m. and staying open till 10 p.m. Two agents, who identified themselves as morning people, jumped at the chance to start early and end early. It was even easier to find people who wanted to work evenings, because they liked to sleep in. These scheduling adjustments were all done without hiring any extra staff. They merely shifted around the employees they already had so they could work when most needed.
The long-term plan was to hire more staff to cover weekends. This would further ease the workload during the week.
However, it didn’t make sense to staff the company’s call center during third shift, as there weren’t enough calls to warrant it staying opened. Yet subjecting these callers to voicemail wasn’t acceptable either. To address this, the consultants recommended an outsourcing call center who could professionally handle these third-shift calls. It was a cost-effective solution that would provide a high level of customer service.
With the initial enhanced training and the optimized schedule in place, agent efficiency and effectiveness increased dramatically. They could answer calls faster, handle needs more effectively, and—most importantly—delight callers. With each step forward, the morale of the call center agents improved.
Now they were ready to move forward and prepare for the upcoming project launch. Working with the engineering and marketing departments, the consultants conducted advanced training with the agents to prepare them for when the company unveiled its new offering. Instead of the agents taking these inquiries blind and figuring it out on their own, this time they would be ready to handle the calls with precision and excellence.
For the first time in the corporate call center’s history, the agents looked forward to helping with the product launch. Now trained, eager, and ready, they were primed to capture leads, take phone orders, and answer questions.
Prepare for the Future
As the final part of the consultant’s initial engagement with Joshua’s call center, they identified agents suitable for promotion. With years of neglect and mismanagement, the call center had little in the way of supervision and agent support. The consultants established new positions, such as trainer, scheduler, system programmer, shift supervisors, and assistant manager. They would phase in these new positions over time, as staff scheduling levels allowed changes to occur. And to make sure this happened in a timely manner, they hired new agents, so they could promote existing ones into leadership roles.
Celebrate the Results
Accomplishing this took the better part of the year, but it paid off handsomely. Joshua’s boss noticed the improvements first, giving Joshua a rare mid-year raise. Although small, he greatly appreciated it. By year end, the call center was no longer the recipient of jokes and disrespect. Instead it elevated their status and received praise for being integral to the company’s most successful product launch ever.
With the expert help of his consultants, Joshua had accomplished what he set out to do. Now was the perfect time for him to move away from the call center and into another department. But he no longer saw this as his career path. Instead he had grown to love the corporate call center and all that it accomplished for his company and their callers.
Instead of trying to escape the call center, he embraced it. He made a bold proposal to his boss to expand the call center into a full-service contact center. This would allow them to handle email, web chat, and text communications, in addition to phone calls. He also included an element for them to take over the monitoring and management of the company’s social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And of course, he added a line item in his budget to include the support of his call center consultants to help him meet his new objectives.
If you want to optimize your corporate call center, you can continue with what you’re already doing or do it faster with the help of a proven, professional call center consultancy. Let Call Center Sales Pro help you turn your corporate call center into a department you can be proud of. Get in touch with them today, and make for a better tomorrow.