ProTips: 5 proven methods to increase call center agent productivity

This is a guest post by CallHippo.

The topic of call center efficiency and agent productivity may sound overwhelming for many business owners, but it's too important a topic to ignore. Let's take a look at a few facts and figures from Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service Report.

  • 58% of customers prioritize customer service when choosing a brand.

  • 61% of consumers have stopped dealing with a business after a poor service experience.

  • 59% of customers have higher expectations for customer support from their preferred brand than the previous year.

As you can see from these statistics, giving your customers the best customer service experience possible is proven to increase your returns. One of the ways to do this is to give your call center agents the support and environment they need to contribute their best. After all, happy agents are usually more productive and exceed their manager’s expectations.

To do this, we're offering some of the most effective tips for optimizing your call center and improving agent productivity.

ProTip #1: Give your agents autonomy

We cannot deny the fact that working in a call center may become monotonous for agents. Many call center agents are required to follow a complex set system of rules and processes that can take a toll on their mental health and reduce agent performance. 

To avoid this issue, give your agents a certain degree of autonomy in their approach with customers. According to a 2004 study, autonomous agents can address customer needs in a more responsive and personal way. This can improve call center productivity and also allow managers to focus on more pressing issues.

Last but not least, reasonable independence boosts agent morale and helps them engage with team members more efficiently.

ProTip #2: Encourage the use of the latest technology

Cloud-based technology such as VoIP has evolved significantly over the past few years. Support your agents with the best available technology to help motivate them and give them what they need to succeed.

a) Wireless headsets

Untether your agents from their desks using wireless headsets. They can experience productivity improvements such as: 

  • A decrease in the transfer of calls to other agents results in better First Contact Resolution.

  • A lower number of calls put on hold improves customer satisfaction, as agents can physically visit colleagues or locate other information or files.

  • Agents can enjoy their job more as when they are not confined to their desks for most of the day.

These improvements also reduce talk-time per call, allowing agents to handle a higher number of calls per day.

b) Omnichannel experience

Many businesses still operate with separate teams for email, telephone, and chat support. This division often leads to poor optimization of agents’ time and duplicated responses.

For example, an agent receives a call from a customer who has already sent two emails. In a traditional call center, the agent does not have access to these emails, so the customer has to relay the information a third time before the agent can begin resolving the issue.

In modern contact centers, call center software can manage all support channels and also forward calls automatically to the next available agent with the appropriate skills.

Thus, the omnichannel approach increases call center efficiency as agents can deal effectively with customer inquiries across all channels.

c) Systems integration

According to Contact Babel, 86% of contact centers involve agents using multiple applications within a single customer call. 49% of them require agents to access three or more applications in the same call.

Thus, agents spend around 40% of their time sorting through different back-office systems while the customer is on hold. 

Call Center Metrics by Contact Babel

Image source

The solution is to integrate all back-office systems into a single user-friendly interface. Agents can use it to access customer data from different departments instead of logging in to multiple systems, one at a time.

d) Self-service for customers

Agents often do not need to speak to customers to provide simple pieces of information. For example, if a customer wants to check the shipping status of their package or check the balance on an account, it's often more efficient for them to look up this information on their own.

Self-service helps customers get the information they need quickly and also improves agent performance. Thus, agents can devote more time to complex inquiries or handling new leads.

ProTip #3: Reduce employee turnover

In HR, the term "employee turnover rate" refers to the number of employees leaving an organization during a specific period.

A higher turnover rate is not a good sign for any business, especially call centers. New agents will take time to adapt to your call center’s work culture, and constantly needing to re-hire new agents will greatly impact both your business's productivity and expenses.

Here are some tips to reduce employee turnover:

  • Encourage employee engagement through team building activities and employee appreciation initiatives.

  • Make employee onboarding and ongoing coaching as interactive as possible.

  • Encourage honest and open communication amongst all employees.

  • Focus more on skill-building and career development to develop knowledge-based agents.

  • Set positive quarterly goals in addition to day-to-day job responsibilities.

You cannot stop employees from leaving your organization altogether, but by prioritizing employee experience and offering career development, you can retain your best employees and increase their productivity.

ProTip #4: Emphasize quality over quantity

Call centers generally measure the success of agents by metrics known as KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), but you cannot define success based on quantitative metrics alone.

As a manager, use technology to get more specific insights into your agents’ performance and explore their areas for improvement. For example, use AI-enabled speech analytics to study customer behavior and coach agents about enhancing the customer experience.

Another way to understand your agent’s work quality is to measure CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) scores.

How to Calculate CSAT ScoreImage source

If you combine CSAT scores with other productivity metrics, you can better identify your top-performing agents and those who need additional training and support.

ProTip #5: Design a comprehensive training program

Nearly every organization has an internal training program for its employees. However, most of these programs cover only the basics and consist of defined modules. Such programs often fail to improve agent performance.

Training at call centers should be continuous and based on progressive feedback. For example, an agent might make the same mistake for two months while waiting for their quarterly coaching session. This issue can be avoided with continuous coaching and training systems.

When designing a training program for call centers, ensure you cover the three significant drivers of productivity:

  • Achievement: Do agents feel they are contributing?

  • Recognition: Does the management see their agents’ contributions and provide recognition?

  • Development: Are agents learning new things and growing consistently?

One last thing to know is to document your training program and upgrade it regularly. Your training program documentation should offer realistic call center tips for agents.

Make improvement an ongoing effort

Remember, there is no finish line; when it comes to helping your agents improve, it is a continuous process. With these tips, you can be part of the process and empower your agents to reach higher levels of productivity, efficiency, and employee fulfillment.

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