Originally published on LinkedIn by Bill Pieper, President of EPIC Connections

Contact centers are metrics-driven organizations. Management teams focus on customer journey analysis, customer retention rates, average handle time and myriad other metrics, because contact centers and call centers are often viewed as cost centers. Company leaders focus on delivering service in the most efficient and cost-effective way, while demanding continuously improving customer experience. The key to success is getting the most “bang for your buck” by optimizing and improving call center performance. Here are five proven optimization strategies that have helped companies save millions while still improving the customer experience.

Five strategies for improving call center performance:

1.) Use benchmarking reports to understand your current performance and compare it to industry standards. When was the last time you conducted a comprehensive review of both your contact center performance and processes? We’re talking about more than measuring standard metrics. You need to dig deep to discover the pain points using customer journey analysis, as well as compare your agent efficiency to industry standards.  You should also regularly evaluate your call handling processes and call flows to determine if they are aligned with your organization’s current goals. Over time, processes and technologies can end up being boot-strapped together for various reasons. Before you realize it, your contact center policies can stray from industry best practices and diverge from the best path to achieve your organization’s goals. With the rapid changes in contact center technologies, if you have not conducted a deep benchmark analysis in the last twelve months, you are probably missing potential savings and not maximizing the potential of your contact center. Understanding your strengths, weaknesses, and process gaps is the first step in successfully optimizing and improving call center performance.

2.) Create measurable goals that include continuous improvement. Most contact center goals revolve around improving the customer experience and reducing costs. These are key goals for contact centers in almost every organization. But let’s dig a little deeper.  You need to understand where your organization is going and how industry technology and trends will impact those goals in one year, three years and five years.  This requires you to analyze if the customer is getting what s/he wants now, and formulate a plan for continuous technology and process improvements to stay current with best practices and customer expectations as technologies evolve and your company scales. Your organization should have a continuous improvement plan that addresses both company efficiency goals, as well as evolving customer expectations for IVR, email and chat. Whether you are still running a traditional call center or an omnichannel contact center, ensure you are working towards measurable short-term and long-term metrics for all industry and internal goals.

3.) Maximize your human capital investment. People are the largest expense for most contact centers, so optimizing your workforce can deliver substantial cost-savings. To obtain this goal, you need to focus on two key factors:

  • Optimizing agent efficiency. Having appropriate staff levels is crucial. You should continually evaluate optimal staffing levels and ensure you have the right number of agents, with the appropriate skills, for all call periods. Next, look at your hiring practices. Are you recruiting for the qualities that ensure a good long-term employee and setting the right expectations for potential agents? Studying this process and ensuring a good fit before you hire is key for improving call center performance. Once on-board, consider if your agents are being trained and coached properly, then allocated to the correct call flows. Successful contact centers continuously improve technology and processes, to maximize agent efficiency.
  • Creating a good agent experience. One of the more overlooked areas of call center optimization is ensuring an excellent agent experience. Organizations frequently focus on customer journey analysis and sometimes forget that creating a good agent experience goes hand-in-hand with optimizing the customer experience. You need to ensure that agents have the right tools to do their job and a positive environment in which to work.  Ask yourself, do your agents feel valued? Are your agents happy at work? Do you offer a viable career path? Evaluate and optimize your agent experience, because if your agents are not happy, the CX will not be good.

4.) Evaluate your technology stack. Improving call center performance requires that you regularly evaluate your technology stack. Optimizing your technology and ensuring all of your tools work together efficiently is crucial to maximizing the effectiveness of your agents and creating an ideal customer experience.  Assess your technology stack and automation tools, evaluating everything from automation flows to new technologies that improve CX and efficiency.

Some new technologies, such as AI-enabled decision tools that guide agents and customers onto the right path, can dramatically reduce agent call time and enhance the customer experience. Make technology evaluation part of your one, three and five year plans to ensure you have the right platform to run an efficient and effective contact center – today and tomorrow.

5.) Use a professional project manager for technology implementations. Most contact centers regularly upgrade technology to improve performance. However, many companies do not have skilled project managers to handle these implementations. Many organizations place internal staff members in charge of these projects, asking them to coordinate the communications, tasks, timelines, technology vendors, implementation specialists and internal stakeholders, in addition to doing their regular job. Unfortunately, these employees usually don’t have the time to manage this process or the experience to know how long each part of the project takes and which timelines can’t be missed without risking the project completion schedule. This frequently results in projects that run months or even years past schedule.  Professional project managers dramatically increase your efficiency and your ability to quickly realize the ROI from your technology investment.

We hope you find these tips helpful for optimizing your contact center’s performance.

If you have not optimized your contact center in the last twelve months, our experienced team can frequently help you save 5 – 10%. Contact us today to discover how quickly an optimization review can pay for itself.

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