How to run an efficient inbound call center

How to Run an Efficient Inbound Call Center to Keep Your Customers Happy Long-Term (Without All the Crazy Costs)

I worked the same customer support job for a year when my manager threw new (complicated) software into the mix. My boss brought it on to improve our customer experience, but in reality, it just made my job harder. 

While my peers and I could still handle most of our calls on our original system, some customer interactions now required both. 

The original system was intuitive and easy. The second system was antiquated and sloooow. Plus, we never really got the training we needed to use it. So naturally, I dreaded whenever a customer called and I had to use both systems.

The customer and I would sit on the phone, waiting for the “new” system to load. The silence on the line was maddening. Every second felt like ten. I’d try to carry on a conversation to kill time. But because I wasn’t confident about my ability to navigate the system, I’d usually resort to silence while I fumbled through my workflows. 

Customers grew antsy. I’d hear long sighs on the other end as we both waited. And sometimes, I’d even put the customer on hold so I could take a breath.

Turns out, many call center agents experience similar problems. They’re stuck toggling back-and-forth between systems. They waste time with slow systems and poor routing. They feel like they have to apologize over and over again to frustrated customers. Today, many call center agents manage up to 10 different channels, so it’s no wonder agents feel overworked and customer experience suffers.

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The call center experience we’re used to can be counterproductive. Leaders purchase systems to make their customer and agent experience better and faster, but sometimes adding more tools to the mix clutters workflows and slows your agents down. 

And we all know time is money in an inbound call center. Every agent or customer minute wasted is another cost to your company. So, it’s important to face your company’s weaknesses and run an efficient inbound call center, for the sake of sanity and your bottom line.

To help you achieve this, check out these detailed solutions to keep your call center teams efficient and customers loyal (without breaking the bank).

1. Set goals and track your metrics

The best way to improve efficiency in your call center is to start with the big picture. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day without ever stepping back to look at your company’s long-term goals and the role your inbound call center plays in reaching those goals. 

Review and set goals with your business leaders and your agents so everyone is on the same page. Then, take time to review past metrics so you can spot your weaknesses and make plans to improve. You can’t know where you’re inefficient until you go over your metrics with a fine-toothed comb.

How to do it:

Revisit your KPIs. Don’t just focus on your Average Handle Time. Look into your First Contact Resolution rate, call outcomes, and CSAT scores. Speedy service and low handle times are important, but if your agents are too rushed to resolve customer issues, your quality metrics suffer.

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Measure inbound call center metrics and display them to your entire company. Setting and measuring goals with everyone in your company builds unity. So does working toward shared KPIs. Everyone on your team needs to understand why your metrics matter and how they impact customers (after all, every employee is working to help customers). 

Plus, when you share metrics with employees, your agents see where they’re knocking it out of the park and where they need to improve. Understanding your goals and progress toward those goals unites everyone around reaching milestones together.

Reward your agents when they hit certain goals on agent controllable metrics, like lowering the transfer rate by 5%. Incentives keep agents focused and driven to improve. If you celebrate your agents when they do well, they stay more motivated and connected to your company. They feel noticed and valued. And, your customers will feel a difference in their interactions.

2. Emphasize consistent coaching and training methods

Your agents are the key to your customers. Unfortunately, agents often don’t get the training they need. Too many call centers focus on onboarding but don’t check in with their agents after, leaving them underdeveloped and lacking confidence. Coach your agents consistently and efficiently so they keep growing and learning. Customers recognize a skilled and confident agent. And when they have good agent interactions, they’ll stay loyal to your company.

How to do it:

Give your agents one-on-one time with you or your supervisors. Focused attention and coaching shows your agents they matter as individuals. It also cuts down on agent turnover rates. Carve out time in your schedule (or your supervisors’) to meet individually with each agent – weekly, if you can.

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Use skills tests to better understand your agents, like the DISC Assessment or StrengthsFinder Test. Tests like these help you identify your agents’ strengths and weaknesses, so you can tailor their roles to their strengths and fill in skill gaps on your team. They also show your agents that you care about them on a personal level. 

Implement in-line training to keep your agents fresh. Create lessons on common issues and send frequent updates on any business changes. Use micro-learning methods to deliver coaching modules to your agents’ queues, so they can digest new concepts and learn from contextual interactions daily. 

Your inbound interactions are more efficient when your call center agents continue to grow their knowledge. And, the more your agents learn, the better your resolutions, increasing FCR and leaving customers satisfied and loyal.

3. Free up your agents’ time so they’re more effective

Agents get stuck struggling with old systems, toggling back-and-forth between portals, and watching their queues grow longer and longer. When agents feel overworked, customers feel it, too. Poor routing, disconnected systems and outdated technology make your agents underperform and burn out faster. Consider ways to eliminate wasted agent time.

How to do it:

Implement cloud-based systems that unify your business. Cloud technology that connects your inbound, outbound, and internal messages increases efficiency for everyone. And, platform integrations make sharing customer data easier, building efficiencies into every interaction. Connecting your systems gives agents access to customer data and history from any computer, anywhere. So they don’t waste time clicking through 20 tabs or flipping between portals. Cloud technology also allows your agents to work from anywhere. So if agents need to clock in hours from home, they can, without disrupting your customers’ service.

Use call scripts to speed up common customer conversations, too. Agents answer the same 15 questions many times every day. To cut down on time during live chat convos, use scripts to guide your agents through common customer issues. (But, be sure agents turn to these scripts for ideas, not to copy and paste them during conversations).

Reroute your phone system using skills-based routing. If you’ve spent time with each of your agents, you know their strengths and weaknesses. Take advantage of this and give each agent the interactions they’re most confident handling. And, always have backup routes. That way if call queues get too long, you can reroute calls to teams with smaller queues so customers don’t have to wait too long.

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4. Build out your omnichannel customer experience

There’s nothing people dislike more than an automated voice announcing, “Your wait time is approximately 40 minutes.” To keep your customers satisfied with speedy service, give them self-service options and faster ways to communicate. The best way to do so is to implement strong omnichannel strategies.

How to do it:

Use chatbots available around-the-clock to answer common customer questions. Customers no longer have to wait for open office hours and navigate time zones. With chatbots and automated triggers you set, your customers can get help whenever they need it. And, if their question gets too complicated, they’ll get directed to another channel, like email or SMS to talk to a live human.

Automate tasks in your workflows so customers can help themselves and you can free up time in your inbound call center. 

Here are some tasks you can automate: 

  • Refine your interaction routing to send customers to a helpful bot when they have simple questions, like “how do I reset my password?” 
  • Consolidate customer information and serve it up to your agents in a screen pop at the start of every interaction. 
  • Send customers to the agent with the right skillset to solve their problem the first time around.
  • Set conditions and monitor customer conversations for trigger words like “cancel,” so managers and supervisors can jump in and coach contextually in-the-moment.

Open up and connect your channels. Research the channels your customers prefer to use – then use them! Bulk up the most common channels so they’re pain-free for customers. Then connect those channels to one another so your customers can switch channels without having to start a new conversation. Though they like self-service, they also need to know they can talk to a live agent when they need help for complicated issues.

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