Call centers aim to achieve specific goals, typically reported in Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for inbound customer support programs. Depending on the nature of the program, common KPIs can include ASA (Average Speed of Answer), ATT (Average Talk Time), AHT (Average Handle Time), Sales Conversion Rate, Average Order Value, First Call Resolution, Customer Satisfaction Rate, Net Promoter Score. In addition to tracked KPIs, the quality of the inbound team’s customer interactions must also be evaluated to gain a full perspective of the program’s success.
So how does one achieve the desired results? There are many contributing factors, but first and foremost, you must optimize the call center, providing clear direction on responsibilities and the required tools for success. We break down how to do this below!
What Does Optimization Mean?
In the context of a call center, optimization refers to the process of preparing customer service agents to support customer inquiries effectively and efficiently. The optimization process is largely driven by employee training, workforce management, and the application of technology used.
To simplify, optimization goals are focused on:
- Improving customer experiences
- Inspiring agents to own their responsibilities and do the best job possible
Through effective optimization and agent buy-in in a typical inbound customer support program, you have the best opportunity to serve customers well and in a timely fashion, resulting in positive results of the two most critical metrics, average handle time and customer satisfaction scores.
Considerations When Determining Optimal Staff Size
Central to the success of an inbound customer support program is the calculation of the staff size required to service the anticipated customer demand.
Due to the nature of the unknown actual volume before a program starts, collaboration with an experienced call center is essential. Call centers like Telecom, Inc. offer decades of experience in determining the appropriate staff quantity for a given program.
The most important variables to consider when determining a program’s staff size are:
Call Forecasts: The number of anticipated calls and when they will arrive.
Average Handle Time: The average time for a typical call averaged over a time increment, inclusive of handle time and post-call wrap time.
Attendance Rate: The percentage of agents scheduled who show up for their scheduled shifts.
Whether internally sourced or through the services of a BPO, a program has the best chance of success if these variables are applied to the workforce management process. While these variables can prove to be moving targets, particularly the volume projections and attendance rate, applying your best efforts in projecting these numbers will once again result in the best chance of success. Even with your best efforts, it is important to be flexible when it comes to staff planning, as there’s always a chance the unforeseen may happen.
Understanding Call Forecast Variables
Call forecasting is a critical component of workforce management and scheduling. It is the main ingredient that drives the number of customer service agents needed on a given program at any time.
Most companies forecast their call arrival quantity and timing by considering these two variables:
- Historical trends: Looking at call arrival data broken down by the half-hour for the same day/week/month of the previous year is the best place to start when this data is available. This information is typically generated from the telephone switch previously used to receive these calls. All else being equal, void of the impact of any demand drivers, the past is typically the best indication of the future and should be viewed as such.
- Demand drivers: Several demand drivers must be evaluated and, when present, applied to historical call arrival data to collectively provide the forecast. Some drivers to consider are increases in marketing spend, the introduction of new marketing channels, special promotions, changes in the market among your competition and changes in preferred contact channels among your customer base.
Optimizing Staff Through Agent Buy-In
Agent buy-in is an important part of the optimization process that affects the “will” of the agents who have been specified for the program through the workforce management and forecasting steps. Agents who are set up for success are far more likely to be successful and provide maximum effort for their employers.
Variables to consider when optimizing your staff’s buy-in for their jobs:
Provide Proper Training
Every minute spent in training is a good investment in the results you receive from your agents. Proper, effective, multi-layered training provides the tools required for agents to be successful.
Communicate Often and Clearly
Make sure all staff understands their roles and the tasks they are assigned. In addition, make sure agents understand how much their efforts and attendance are important to the program.
Recognize the results AND efforts of your staff. Sometimes the effort and results don’t align, so it’s important to recognize both. For those who are falling short, provide paths to remediation that will help get them where they need to be.
Offer Productive Feedback
Stemming from your quality assurance efforts, provide feedback related to observations from quality analysts. The tone of the presentation of this feedback is also very important, as you want agents to welcome your feedback, not fear it.
Wherever possible, promote staff from within your company and make sure peers are aware of these promotions and on what criteria they were selected. Consider results, attendance, quality, and character of agents when making promotion decisions.
If you’re able to follow these steps to agent buy-in, you will find you have staff who contribute in a positive way to the culture of your support team. They will make every effort to show up for work and will provide maximum effort when serving customers.
Contact the Experts at Telecom, Inc.
Regardless of where your support staff resides, within your company or a BPO partner, always consider these variables when optimizing your team. Telecom, Inc. has been applying these best practices, among others, since 1993. If you would like to learn how we can apply them to your inbound customer support program, please contact us today!