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Learn how contact center managers can improve and scale up their customer service through effective contact center management.
Customer service is the backbone of any business. And a good customer service experience relies heavily on how the contact center is managed. Contact center management essentially refers to how contact center managers run their daily operations. This all-encompassing concept covers a variety of activities including, but not limited to, employee hiring and training, workforce management, and customer interactions.
Contact center managers also decide on the most appropriate customer service metrics, goals, and objectives for the contact center — in conjunction with the leadership team.
The primary difference between a contact center and a call center is that a contact center can handle customer conversations coming in from multiple channels including phone, live chat, messaging, and social media. Conversations in a call center, on the other hand, take place only through a voice channel — specifically, inbound and outbound phone calls.
And the differences don’t end there. Contact centers and call centers also differ in terms of their business objectives, and the experiences they provide to customers.
A key aspect of the contact center manager’s role is providing relevant and reliable support and information to both agents and customers. To do this, they need the right knowledge, skills, and experience to implement workflows for day-to-day tasks geared toward better customer experiences. Their core responsibilities include:
Defining and developing contact center objectives with senior management
Identifying and resolving existing and new contact center issues
Staffing, training, and guiding agents in their day-to-day activities
Monitoring and measuring contact center agent workflows
Providing the right tools, technology, and resources to enable effective customer service
Optimizing contact center processes to improve efficiency
Advancing employee engagement and increasing agent retention
Budget allocation and performance management tracking
Collecting and analyzing contact center metrics, identifying trends, and conducting QA
Preparing agent performance and KPI reports for the leadership team
There’s no limit to the breadth of skills and experience required to be successful as a contact center manager. These seven skills, however, are absolutely essential to contact center success:
Customer-centric mindset: the primary skill needed to succeed as a contact center manager is familiarity with the needs of the customer — this is necessary to ensure customer satisfaction.
Empower agents: managers are likely to be trusted more if they encourage their agents to be autonomous — both in the ways they tend to customers, and the customer service decisions they make on a daily basis.
Agent training: managers need to track agent performance, pinpoint issues, and adjust workflows to optimize customer experience, which means they need to put together agent training programs that address both performance- and goal-related objectives.
Problem-solving: customers can get frustrated at times, and the agent on the other end of the line bears the brunt of it. A manager who is level-headed can help keep customer conflicts to a minimum.
Strong ethics: managers should prioritize honesty and integrity over other business goals, and pave the way for a culture of customer service that puts people before profits — creating an environment that encourages agents to demonstrate ethical behavior during customer interactions without prompting.
Emotional intelligence: empathy has been a hot buzzword in customer service for a long time but most contact centers often fall short of the real thing. Good managers must foster a culture that focuses on building meaningful relationships with customers.
One of the biggest responsibilities of a contact center manager is to monitor agent and customer behavior. They should be able to gather actionable data and use metrics to identify real-time industry trends, create detailed reports, and fine-tune agent processes — so they can enhance the customer experience, agent performance, and ultimately, contact center performance.
Here are a few important contact center metrics that offer better value when measuring performance.
Net promoter score (NPS) measures customer loyalty and can provide valuable insight into how agents are resolving customer issues. This is done by asking them one simple question: “on a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend the company or agent you spoke with to a colleague or friend?”
Managers can deploy the survey over any of the available communication channels. Based on customers’ responses, they’ll get one of the following scores.
78% of consumers permanently change how they feel about a company based on a single interaction with the contact center.
First contact resolution (FCR) rates indicate the percentage of customers’ issues that were fixed at first contact. It’s a useful metric to track and improve customer service efficiency as well as customer experience.
The FCR metric is a better metric than average handle time (AHT) because it offers a better understanding of agent performance and customer satisfaction.
FCR is measured in two ways:
Not all customer questions or requests can be addressed at the first contact, and net FCR factors those cases in (e.g., technical support queries).
Both metrics can track operational efficiency, i.e., how fast agents respond to customer inquiries, and are a good indicator of customer satisfaction. These metrics help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.
The only difference between the two metrics is that first contact resolution takes into account all customer touchpoints, including calls, whereas first call resolution only factors in customer calls.
The ultimate goal of a contact center manager is to ensure customer happiness. A good indicator of customer happiness is the customer satisfaction score (CSAT), which is a rating given to an agent by a customer. This is obtained by asking the customer to fill out a one-question survey — similar to the NPS survey — about a particular interaction they’ve had with an agent (e.g., “Were you satisfied with how our agent handled your query?").
The CSAT score is measured by adding all of the scores an agent receives in a specific time period and dividing the sum by the number of survey responses collected for that period.
These are just a few of the top quantitative metrics contact center managers can use to optimize contact center performance. Apart from these, it’s good to pay attention to key non-qualitative quality assurance metrics (like providing customer value through upselling and cross-selling) to measure and improve overall performance. Such metrics go a long way in identifying the shortcomings within a contact center, thereby helping managers streamline workflows for a better customer service experience.
Most contact centers are increasingly going remote as a result of the pandemic. So it’s important to consider how these responsibilities, skills, and metrics apply to remote contact center managers. Although remote contact centers have their own set of challenges to overcome, many of the basic principles, such as agent training, cultivating trust, being empathetic, etc., remain the same.
Here are 10 best practices that contact center managers can implement — regardless of the environment they operate in.
Contact centers are built on individuals who are dedicated, and willing to go above and beyond. In addition to technical know-how, managers should hire people who have a genuine passion for customer service. Take the time when screening and staffing new recruits to look for both skills and spirit.
To ensure your chosen candidates are mentally and physically ready for the job, it’s fundamental to provide a comprehensive training and onboarding program. This way, agents will get to know the company’s customer service standards right from the start, which will in turn make them better equipped to handle any type of customer inquiry.
Another great way to empower contact center agents is to develop a robust coaching culture. Create an environment that promotes continuous learning and provides opportunities for personal and professional growth — in which the contact center manager provides agents with feedback, examples, and activities to complete to improve performance. When managers identify areas in which agents are lagging behind or need assistance, coaching can help improve not only their abilities but their self-confidence as well.
Agents are at the front line of the contact center, giving them the best sense of day-to-day realities concerning customer needs and expectations. Managers should schedule one-on-one meetings with their team members on a regular basis. Doing so can facilitate mutually beneficial ideas that result in personal and process improvements. And agents will appreciate having an approachable manager who encourages feedback and takes a genuine interest in the employee experience — which can lead to higher retention.
Realistically, working in a contact center can be stressful. This stress impedes agent productivity. For smaller contact centers, it can be a particularly big problem as agents feel pressure to work overtime, and often end up sacrificing quality in the process. Proper scheduling — based on factors like agent skills, peak hours, case volume, and more — helps to combat this workload balance issue, and gives agents enough time to recharge their batteries.
77% of the top customer service and support leaders say that automating customer service processes is a top priority in 2021.
For a small contact center, a sudden spike in case volume may prove disastrous to customer satisfaction and employee wellbeing. Conversely, a larger team on a quiet day may find there’s not enough work to go around. Staffing should be based on average call volumes and peak times per day, week, month, and year. By balancing agent workflow, managers will be better able to meet demands during the peak season.
Sprinklr’s contact center automation software routes cases to the agents best suited to resolve each particular issue quickly — while reducing the time it takes agents to discover the context of each new case.
The importance of data can’t be stressed enough. As far as customer service is concerned, customer data gathered in a contact center allows agents to analyze customer behaviors and sentiment, and reach them on their preferred communication channels. NPS, FCR, and CSAT are just some of the important metrics that can lend great insight into contact center operations and drive effective decisions.
When managers monitor customer conversations, they’ll be able to see firsthand how contact center agents handle both justifiably frustrated and problematic customers. Call monitoring can help managers identify opportunities to optimize agent performance and customer wait times. The findings make it easier to provide quality feedback, empower agents, and streamline all contact center processes — and ultimately improve customer relationships.
Successful contact centers know that the performance metrics contact center managers keep an eye on don’t necessarily tell the complete story. This is where customer feedback comes in: any review or comment from customers should help managers take the necessary steps to improve customer relationships and experiences. Collecting quality feedback can be as simple as conducting a quick survey through phone, email, SMS, or social media.
There’s no doubt that a strong driver to contact center management success is technology. No matter how many agents there are in a team, without the latest technology to complement their efforts, a contact center may never reach its full potential. Prime among them is a capable CRM tool that integrates with your helpdesk solution. A bidirectional sync between the two enables the contact center manager to work together with sales teams to close cases faster and provide more value throughout the customer service journey.
In addition, the following add-ons are necessary for effective call center management:
Interactive voice response (IVR): an automated business phone system that serves customers based on the input received through their phone keypad or voice response.
Automatic call distribution (ACD) or call routing: a telephony system that automates the receiving and distribution of calls to agents. It can help sort and manage large volumes of customer calls to ensure calls are distributed to agents based on their availability. It’s a must-have for inbound contact centers.
Conversational chatbots: AI-powered virtual agents that can emulate human agents in terms of carrying on a natural conversation with a customer. They differ from their rules-based counterpart in that they are capable of understanding the nuances of customers’ responses, and thus provide a richer experience.
Contact center analytics: the term refers to the collection and analysis of customer data to surface actionable insights — customer satisfaction (CSAT), revenue, customer retention, customer effort score (CES), and service-level agreement (SLA) performance — about a contact center’s performance. Sprinklr CSAT Prediction can enable your contact center to provide better customer service by analyzing historical customer behavior and predicting likely future actions.
CSAT Prediction uses the world’s most advanced AI engine to analyze conversations based on intent, sentiment, emotion, intensity, and time of reply. The results provide live feedback for agents, more accurate CSAT reporting, and escalate automatically to supervisors when a negative score is predicted.
Sprinklr Modern Care automates contact center workflows and processes at an enterprise scale, giving your team a single, streamlined way to unify customer care across 30+ digital and traditional channels. By leveraging advanced AI-powered automation to deliver an omnichannel experience, teams can automatically identify customer issues — then turn them into cases that are prioritized and intelligently routed to the right agent. On the first touch. Every time.
The tips and techniques mentioned above can take contact center management to a whole new level. Combined with the world’s only unified customer experience management (Unified-CXM) platform, contact center managers can build a contact center that will improve agent-customer interactions.
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