Every day you and your agents tackle the biggest problems your customers face. It can feel overwhelming to hear problem after problem. On top of this, you’re confronted with KPIs and metrics your team has to meet. And, the finance team tells you “There’s no room in the budget for that” whenever you mention getting more resources for call center improvements.
Through all of it, you’re tasked with managing the most overwhelming metric — customer satisfaction. How do you even begin to make your customers happier when it feels like they’re always bringing you questions and complaints? Where do you start to improve your call center team? Can you boost morale, improve your service level, and retain customers without the extra cash?
Believe it or not, the answer is yes.
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Let’s take a look at some budget-friendly ways to improve your call center internally, all while making your customers happier.
Improving your Team Without Hurting your Wallet
1. Engage Employees and Boost Agent Morale
Attitude is everything. It only takes one bad interaction or one agent with a bad attitude, for your customers to choose someone else. Harris Interactive found that 89% of consumers have switched to a competitor after a poor customer experience. And some 68% of customers believe the key to great customer service is a polite customer service representative.
Agents are the front line in your customer experience. Your call center can improve with small changes in your agent’s training, attitude,or behavior. Think of the impact on customer satisfaction when your agents aren’t prepared. Frost & Sullivan found that 60% of all repeated calls occur due to inadequate training or processes.
Boosting attitude doesn’t have to be costly. Start by stepping into the shoes of your agents. Try working the phones with them for a day, taking note of the pain points or processes that feel clunky. Sit down with each agent for 1:1’s to open the door for feedback. Maybe they need a weekly meeting together to vent and encourage one another. Or, more communication from leadership about review processes.
Are you giving your agents room to grow? Do they feel empowered to solve problems themselves without escalation? Do your training materials need to be upgraded? Observe and ask your agents where they need more support. When your agents are more supported, and happier, your customers will leave more satisfied with every interaction.
2. Work Across Departments to Manage Customer Expectations
When you’re part of a tight team, working the grind, it’s easy to forget how important cross-departmental work is. When considering customer satisfaction, think about how you’re meeting customer expectations. Think through what industries are known for delivering subpar service. Internet and cable providers and airlines top my list.
We set our expectations low any time we have to interact with these brands. When I go to the airport, I prepare myself for long wait times, inefficiencies, crowded planes. And guess what? I’m generally not dissatisfied because the experience was expected. Would I like to get better service from these companies I have to hand over tons of cash to? Of course. The only reason I don’t leave outraged is because at least I know what to expect when it comes to service from these companies.
Customers will meet you in the expectations you set for your brand, product, and service. And you set them through dialogue and strategy around the customer journey.
(Pro tip: Aim for higher expectations than the companies I previously mentioned.)
Who sets expectations for your product and service to meet? Trick question. Every team in the company bears this responsibility. But, what happens when your marketing team or sales team sells your customers an expectation that you just can’t meet? Maybe they claim you provide 24/7 service, when in reality it’s more like 12/5. When your team falls below this expectation, it’s hard to retain customers. Or, think about if your agents promise a solution your product just can’t provide while on the phone with a customer. Your development team and your marketing team will scramble to adjust messaging or build a new feature set.
Esteban Kolsky, founder and principal of consulting group thinkJar, found in research that it costs a company 6-7 times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing customer. Retaining customers is easier on your company wallet. But to retain, you must keep satisfaction levels high. And one of the biggest sources of customer dissatisfaction occurs when a service or product doesn’t meet expectations.
What’s a simple way to improve your call center? Work cross-departmentally to stay consistent in how you manage customer expectations through marketing messaging, product development, and service level. Then, you’ll retain customers and satisfaction ratings.
3. Amp up your Proactive Customer Service
One of the simplest improvements you can make to your call center is increasing the amount of proactive work your agents do. Think of how important it is to get ahead of a problem and help a customer before they’re angry about it. Some 68% of consumers say it increases their perception of a brand when companies send them proactive customer service notifications.
When your customer service moves from being simply reactive to proactive, you have space to get ahead and build customer satisfaction and retention. Contact your customers before they need to pick up the phone and contact you.
Of course, proactive service requires timeliness, organization, and personalization for every customer. Create a cadence of how frequently you contact customers and vary how and why you’re reaching out. You want to make regular contact with your customers throughout their journey.
For example, work with your finance team to send payment reminders to your customers. Or, prior to your customer’s most busy seasons, take it upon yourselves to check in with some helpful tips on how to best use the product or send over some FAQs and help tools. Set a schedule to have agents email check-ins. Or, set aside a few weeks to perform a calling blitz to speak directly with your most loyal customers.
Proactive strategies show your customers you care about them and have business benefits. Proactivity reduces inbound calls by 20-30% and therefore improves agent efficiency. Customer outreach can improve customer retention by about 3-5%, too. And, it leaves 87% of your customers with a more positive image of your company. Proactivity helps you track your customer relationships, build loyalty, and increase customer satisfaction.
4. Update, Organize and Document your Call Center Processes
How frequently do you step back and reflect on how effective your processes are? Guaranteed, reorganizing and evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of your call center processes will have a direct impact on your customer satisfaction.
Your customers notice when things are inefficient. They get the brunt of your slowness, disorganization, or gaps in agent training more than anyone else. Well-defined processes have the power to reduce wait times and help solve issues quicker — which leads to happier customers.
Breaking down processes will help you target the root problems, so you can act with the right remedy. This might all sound too vague, so let’s think of some specific call center processes that may need improvements.
Let’s think of some questions that your processes should answer. Here are a few:
- When the phone is ringing, what will happen? And, when an agent answers it, what will they say? Will you use a script?
- What information does your agent need to get at the start of each interaction?
- How long does an agent handle a single issue before escalating to a manager?
- What will happen if a representative can’t answer a question? Who or what will they turn to?
- How will representatives track each customer inquiry and whether or not it was answered?
- What will happen after a call is complete? What will get documented about the interaction and where?
These are just some of the questions your processes need to answer. And, don’t evaluate them alone. Involving your agents and your customers in how you build out process will be integral to success. Through customer surveys, make use of your customer’s feedback and focus on the areas that need help. Maybe customers complain about hold time. Or, maybe they say they often have to call back to get a single issue resolved.
Work with your team to establish what might cause these pain points for your customers. Do your agents feel overwhelmed by the number of calls coming in? Or, are there certain questions they need guidance from leadership to answer, so customers are left on hold for too long?
Outline how agents should escalate issues. Work with them and your marketing team to have language for tough answers to customers. Make sure it’s both on brand, and relevant to your product and service. Write out steps for what information needs to be recorded and where. Do your agents always write the date they spoke to a customer? Who do they assign certain tasks to when a problem arises?
Consistency and documentation will ease the pain for customers, agents, and your future management. It guides you in understanding the impact of your service on the business, empowers your agents, and gives you a sense of how your call center can improve.
Use your documentation to ID projects to tackle in 2020. Here are 4 call center projects that benefit both your customers and your agents.
Taking Control of your Call Center’s Future
It can be a real bummer to leave a budget meeting feeling like you got your legs cut off from beneath you. Sometimes it can feel like, “well of course our customer satisfaction is low. We don’t have the fancy new tech or the money to send our agents to conferences.”
Don’t get stuck here.
Feel the freedom to get creative to find the areas your call center can grow and change without a large budget backing it.
As the manager, you have power over the direction of your call center improvements. And thus, have the power to control the satisfaction of your customers. Ok, maybe you can’t make all their dreams come true. But, with a team that’s grounded, eager, and engaged, you can start supporting your team with strong processes and help them to be more proactive instead of reactive. In working cross-functionally, your overall business will grow and become more unified in your mission.
Your customers will notice when your team is thriving, with or without a big budget.
Ready to dive in on some of these key call center improvements? Get 29 tactics to implement in your contact center for better coaching and training to improve customer satisfaction.