How Call Centres Can Improve Productivity And Efficiency

28th April 20

Retailer brands embraced customer service call centres for many years and then expanded the team functions, as customer journeys have evolved and communication routes have multiplied. The best retailers meet customers where they are, whether that is on live chat, social media messaging, emails, or calls. As a result, retailers’ customer call teams have significantly grown in size and importance.

Analysis has long proved a correlation between customer experience and the likelihood of the customer to recommend a brand to others – the likelihood to rebuy and trust in the brand. Not surprisingly, brands are investing in customer experience to differentiate themselves, drive customer loyalty and business profitability. The role of the call centres in today’s multi-channel customer journeys has never mattered more, bringing their efficiency and effectiveness into sharp relief.

Call centres operate with a dashboard of KPIs that cover customer experience and operational effectiveness. Frequently used measures include Net Promoter Score, First Call Resolution, average customer wait time, and post call agent write-up time. All of these are important indicators of how well a call centre is operating yet don’t provide enough detail to know where to look if an indicator drifts off track. How do you deep dive a call centre performance and identify where there is room for improvement?

Time and motion workstudy is often associated with the old fashioned timing of production lines with stopwatches. However, enlightened retailers have used modern workstudy to calculate the resources they need in each store to ensure that colleague availability matches the workload and customer demand. Increasingly, retailers are applying workstudy techniques to their call centres and learning how to provide a more consistent customer experience while improving their efficiency. Modern workstudy creates a rounded view of call centre performance, highlighting best practice and opportunities to improve.

Right sizing teams for demand across the day and week

A diagnostic efficiency study creates a snapshot by team of how time is spent by agents. Graphing colleague time versus call demand and capturing when downtime happens creates insights into how well resource matches demand, and how efficiency varies by team and site. And adding benchmarking data into the mix helps identify more opportunities to better meet customer needs.

A study in a retail call centre by ReThink showed significant variance in the proportion of downtime between different teams. While one team had almost a third of their time as downtime, another was constantly busy with longer customer wait times. The answer was to multi skill agents and create an agile team that could flex with fluctuating customer needs.

Another retailer call centre study showed they were not matching resources to the call volumes through the day. They had more agents than needed on their evening shifts and not enough in the morning where insufficient agents combined with poor planning of breaks caused a dip in customer experience.

Making call times shorter

Activity time study creates a detailed breakdown of each step of a call so you can identify opportunities to speed it up. One retailer, with call centres across multiple sites and countries, knew how long a call took from their telephone system but didn’t know the detail that underpinned it. Studies showed that their agents coped with significant system delays, especially when they had to switch between systems. The agents had got so used to these delays that they managed their conversations around them, yet it was having a significant impact on how long it took to complete a customer’s request. The brand thought delays only occurred in their outsourced centres because of slower connections into their systems, yet the analysis showed VPN access was not slower. The study provided their technical teams with detailed information on the specific screens and process steps that were subject to most delay, so they could work to remove the commonly occurring issues.

In another study, they were able to quantify the impact of interruptions on a second line support team. Instead of logging issues, front line agents came over to their desks to ask, meaning both teams’ efficiency was affected and the issue logging that enabled root cause analysis was bypassed.

At a call centre with multiple teams, analysts found that a proportion of calls were transferred between teams, creating long calls for the customer, and taking up 10% of overall agent time. The study identified the types of queries involved, so the retailer was able to provide better call routing for the customer and address a training need for teams.

Minimising post-call work

A study showed variance in how agents were creating their end of call notes. The quickest method used a template that notes were added to during the call, yet not all teams had adopted this approach.

Analysts also found that some agents created their own spreadsheets to log their stats as they did not trust the central reporting that was linked to their commission payments. This double recording took incremental time and could be prevented by more transparent, live performance records being available for agents.

Upsell consistently and make it relevant

Detailed process studies provide information on when appropriate upsell offers are made and how often customers take them up. Study at a retail telecom call centre showed significant variance between teams and agents in how often they asked a customer whether other services were relevant to them and whether the upsell was effective. Best results were achieved when team leaders encouraged their teams to offer the services consistently and agents were able to make the services relevant to the customer.

Right size your management team

In a call centre environment, leaders have an important role to play in maintaining the morale of their team and ensuring a consistently good customer experience. Studies which shadow management roles during their shifts quantify how much time is spent on internal emails and admin, and provides insights into whether different management roles are differentiated in what they do. As a result of role analysis, retailers have had an evidence base to remove a layer from their management team. In one example, an assistant team leader role had been added to the structure without clear role objectives and deliverables. Colleagues undertaking that role had tended to slip into taking on project work and filling their time with admin rather than driving value for the agents or the business.

For a retailer with a mix of in-house and outsourced call centres, role study showed that team leaders at their in-house call centres focused on coaching their teams and produced higher customer scores and business KPIs than in the outsourced centres where team leaders spent a chunk of time monitoring the KPIs that formed the basis of the service level agreement between their organisations.

Call centres are people-led places. Modern workstudy can be applied to quantify what is getting in the way of your people doing the best thing for your customers and to understand how leaders are supporting them.

Published in the Call Centre Times – April 2020