Over our 40 years in the industry, the team at Global Response has identified the core concepts for a successful outsourced contact center relationship. These include:
1. Spell Out Your Objectives
Be clear and specific about why you need a call center and what it’s meant to accomplish. Better customer care, social media listening and engagement, business process outsourcing—there are many functions a call center can handle. Work within your organization to write a plan defining success criteria, how you’ll set up systems to measure performance, and how you’ll apply these metrics to optimize operations.
2. Find the Right Operations Manager
The individual managing your call center team needs the following personal qualities to do the job well:
- Organizational skills. The list of tasks an operations manager needs to master is long, including: managing a team of agents; working with the client; monitoring customer cases; staffing the account; solving issues related to technology, workflow and calibration. To fulfill such a wide range of responsibilities, your operations manager needs to be a highly organized, focused and efficient multi-tasker.
- Time management. In the call center world, seconds count. Agents are paid by the hour and calls are measured in seconds. Your manager needs to ensure that individuals adhere to schedules, work efficiently, prioritize tasks, and focus on achieving measurable goals.
- Experience. Your manager must set the tone for the team, serving as both an example and a teacher to your agents. They must have a big picture view of program operations, with the ability to accurately assess team performance, gauge and improve morale, and measure against industry benchmarks. Many of these attributes are developed through years of experience.
3. Build an Effective Team
For a team to run effectively, you need “Brand Care Specialists” who are aligned with the program and the brand. There must also be alignment between these representatives and their supervisors, the operations manager, senior management and stakeholders.
- Seed the account. Never start an account with an entirely new group. Start with a core of experienced agents, as that will form the basis for team culture and chemistry. This group knows the call center, understands the culture, and can help mentor new hires.
- Recruit the right candidates. Before you can hire the right agents, you need to identify candidates with optimal skill sets and attitude. Define the kind of agent you need, build a process that systematically finds such individuals, and bring them on board efficiently.
- Hire the right agents. It may seem like a given, but the qualities of the “right” Brand Care Specialists differ from account to account. The goal is to maximize each agent’s aptitudes. As with any team building venture, chemistry is important. Selecting strong performers, with skill sets that are well-suited to the program and complementary to each other, is essential.
- Train your staff on the products. For your agents to deliver the highest level of brand care, they need to be experts on the brand experience. This requires a training program that imparts product knowledge quickly, efficiently and repeatedly as your business grows. When you have a staff of subject matter experts (SMEs), they can cross-sell and upsell with ease and drive greater value.
4. Install the Right Infrastructure
Call center support is a people business at heart. However, to foster your team, a robust, seamless systems configuration is important.
- Map out clear processes. Start by building a workflow around the ideal customer experience, accounting for call types, call volumes, service levels, and strategic goals. Support your operations with clear procedures around escalation, call handling, IVR configuration, ongoing training, and agent feedback. Systems configuration is key, but it must be underpinned by a set of connected, well-articulated processes.
- Build a complete infrastructure. The quality of your infrastructure is really a matter of compatibility to your needs. For a small business with low call volume, the right infrastructure will be simple; for a large enterprise, it should include systems for telephony, CRM, case management, email, chat, and/or social media. Pay specific attention to the reporting function—be sure your technology enables you to measure performance and gather business intelligence relevant to a wide range of functional areas, from marketing and purchasing to finance and accounting. One more consideration is a business continuity plan to ensure a speedy return to uptime in the face of unforeseen events.
5. Ensure Business Partner Alignment
Stakeholders play a decisive role in your success. They set the goals, secure the resources you need, and set expectations for the contact center.
- Management communication. Communicate clearly with executive sponsors about what you need to accomplish your goals. Be sure key decision-makers are kept in the loop via a steering committee and periodic business review.
- Plan for seasonal training. Make sure everyone understands that training is an ongoing activity. Fashion retailers, for example, need to train agents for each season’s new collections if they expect agents to provide high-quality service. Also, be sure to conduct readiness reviews to ensure there is sufficient operational and technical bandwidth.
- Commit to accurate forecasts. No forecast is perfect. However, by having the systems in place and the history to be able to accurately predict call volumes, especially during peak times, the call center can staff accordingly. Accurate year-over-year data on peak volumes ensure enough agents are on the phones to keep wait times down and customer care quality up. It’s important to consider a full spectrum of scenarios and engage in contingency planning to this end.
6. Most Importantly—Passion!
“For all the technical details,” says Wendy Shooster, Co-CEO of Global Response, “we’ve learned through the years that the most important ingredient in building a call center team is passion!” How do you instill that passion? It’s all about culture and people.
By fostering a strong culture and following these tips, you can truly maximize your investment in the customer experience.