Whenever we think of a call center, what comes to our mind can be the image of a warehouse-sized room packed with desks and air conditioners where you can hear phones ringing continuously and agents working tirelessly answering queries. However, such visuals are rare these days.
A contact center is an essential part of a company as it provides customer support and generates leads, and the latest call center innovative ideas have made them economical and scalable for companies. If you are planning to start one for your company, below is everything you need to know about innovations and best practices for a call center which are essential for its effectiveness. But before exploring, we first need to understand a few foundational ideas about call centers.
What is a Call Center?
A call center is a branch of an organization that handles queries from its customers, whether potential, new or loyal; and helps with generating sales, sending reminders, or with payment processing.
Some responsibilities of a call center include:
- Providing satisfactory and all-round support to customers
- Increasing the frequency and quality of leads
- Generating new leads
- Providing an excellent customer experience overall
The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic created increased demand for remote customer service options for interactions between organizations and their customers. This has incentivized companies to provide work from home options to make the industry more attractive to employees.
Be Clear About What You Are After - A Call Center or a Contact Center
Is a call center different from a contact center? Many times you might hear these terms being used interchangeably when managing a call center. We can consider a contact center as an evolution of a call center. According to a recent customer service trends study, call centers can now receive customer queries through any number of communication channels, unlike in the past when the preferred channel used by a customer to contact the company was only through phone. As customers over the last decade have opted for an omnichannel approach to contacting a company representative, which includes messaging, emails, chat platforms, or through social media, the term contact center is being used to refer to a call center that accommodates this omnichannel methodology.
Furthermore, to keep up with other customer service trends by avoiding the poor reputation associated with the term call center, companies today prefer to call their customer support departments a contact center.
Are There Different Types of Call Centers?
Indeed yes. A call center is expected to address various needs of both customers and a company. We have broadly classified call center categories into the following:
- Inbound or outbound
- In-house or outsourced, based on who operates the call center, whether the company or a separate organization
- Proactive or reactive, based on the timing of reaction to a customer's problem
- And some call center plans are a mix of the above options
How to Run a Successful Call Center
To run a successful call center in present times, implementing new and innovative ideas for improvement is necessary to survive intense competition. A call center serves as a frontline for a company's defenses, thus implementing these improvement ideas in a timely manner can align a contact center with the latest customer service trends, which will contribute to call center success. But, how to improve call center customer service?
Call Center Best Practices and Improvement Strategies
The following are several innovation ideas for managing a call center successfully that can help you achieve maximum success, obtain goals, boost lead generation, and maximize customer satisfaction:
Revisit and Evaluate Skills and Training
Evaluating an employee for their skills long after you hire them is necessary and should be included in call center plans, as it helps to keep the individual updated, and increases their morale and efficiency. To test an employee, their problem-solving skills, aptitude, attitude and pressure handling skills must be evaluated. You should evaluate every employee from the ground up, starting with your supervisor, and providing them with career coaching and incentives.
Starting with a quick chat with individual agents, holding daily sessions instead of monthly or weekly appraisals is one of the best practices for call centers. Do not worry about the resources being consumed, since this will only create a culture of learning among your staff and help your contact center grow well into the future.
Integrate CRM Software
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is used in managing call center interactions and relationships with customers. The goal is to stay connected and improve business relationships to increase profitability.
CRM has become an essential call center improvement idea because it is difficult to remember every client's information. This tool lets you find sales prospects, store customers' contact information, and deal with marketing campaigns from a single platform.
Include Real-Time Call Monitoring from Time to Time
Real-time call monitoring involves tracking agent calls to oversee their performance as they are carried out. Managers can get an insight into call analytics, and track speech patterns and acoustics. This helps to detect escalation attempts, abusive dialect, and compliance offenses. Real-time transcripts and call playback are generated automatically, which can be accessed by the managers to help them to track the performance of their employees.
Including real-time call monitoring of employees helps ensure that a consistent level of customer service is provided to every customer. It also helps to identify the best-performing agents and agents who need more contact center training.
Self-monitoring helps contact center agents assess their performance with key call center metrics. This type of autonomous self-monitoring allows them to evaluate their own behavior and performance and adjust them properly. Self-monitoring interestingly can be better than real-time monitoring in that it can give them a sense of accomplishment in their role, which can have a marked improvement in their motivation and performance.
Maintain Regular Communication with Employees
Your employees are the ones who are on the frontline of your company. They know the process inside out and are familiar with the problems and solutions.
Maintaining regular contact with employees will help to keep you updated about the problems your company might be facing. Getting timely feedback from employees, holding board meetings, and accepting and implementing their call center improvement ideas will contribute to call center success.
Provide Targeted Feedback for Employees
Providing targeted feedback after regular evaluation of your company's employees, and listening to their problems, will help them improve performance.
Do not overly-criticize your employees, evaluate swiftly, measure their abilities, provide targeted feedback politely, and try to encourage them.
Offer Incentives for Outperforming Employees
There is no better way to encourage an employee to outperform than to offer incentives. You can place these incentives as contests, quotas, or rewards. Incentives will be their driving force in difficult situations, keeping their morale high, thus making them feel appreciated.
Prioritize Key Metrics and KPIs
Key metrics and KPIs are an important aspect of a contact center that helps its employees evaluate their performance. But you should know that if you focus on a wide range of metrics and KPIs all at once, you might ignore the most important ones that are necessary for call center improvements. This does not mean that you should do away with metrics completely, but you should identify and focus on the most important metrics first. For example, you might concentrate too much on First Call Resolution (FCR) when you should actually be concerned with lowering call volume.
Technological Call Center Innovation Ideas
Apart from implementing call center best practices, innovations in technology are also important to supercharge your contact center's performance. The following are a few customer service technology trends that can contribute to call center improvements:
Adopt and Omnichannel Approach
Innovation in channel management is necessary for the maximum performance of a contact center. In days past, phone calls were the most-used channel for communication, but they had long waiting times and required more company resources. Today, customers prefer to use multiple channels based on their convenience. They include emails, SMS, and chatbots.
Adopting technology that can provide access to multiple platforms all from a single interface, and training employees to multitask using an omnichannel approach, is necessary for efficiently managing a call center. Using email auto-responders can help in timely response in an omnichannel approach.
Use Automation and Artificial Intelligence
As the world shifts towards automation, so should your contact center. Using automation for your contact center will help you serve your customers timely and effectively.
Customers often prefer chatbots or virtual agents for short queries according to research, as they are easily accessible and deliver immediate solutions to their queries.
Automation is beneficial to an organization as it is cost-effective and only requires programming to set up to be ready to work for the company. You can even deploy social media chatbots and connect them to channels that are operated by human support so that they can transfer complex matters to human agents.
Include a Call-Back Option into Your Channels
The most frequent complaint causing a call center to gain a poor reputation is the long wait times. This problem is sometimes unavoidable, especially during peak hours. So what can you do to avoid queues and provide timely assistance to your customers?
The best solution is the callback options that can be directly embedded into your company's website, which allows customers to receive callbacks from agents instead of waiting in the queues. With the callback option, a customer can receive free callbacks at their time of convenience. There is less pressure on agents who can then receive and respond to more inbound queries, and can reduce the number of frustrated customers who would be waiting for their turn in the wait queue.
Provide Multilingual Support
The world of trade and commerce has become one globalized community without boundaries. This means that your company might receive queries from customers speaking different languages from different parts of the world. Providing customer support in multiple languages other than the country's native language will give your call center a competitive edge over your competitors.
Providing multi-lingual support will provide a personalized experience for your customers and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. But hiring and training your staff to speak multiple languages fluently is difficult and requires many of resources. So what is the solution? Using a multilingual built-in translation platform for customer service. Some of these software platforms can converse in more than 100 languages, instantly giving your customers an elevated customer experience.
Implement a Face-to-Face Video Chat Option
Providing face-to-face communication using video call options for customer service has made support more personalized and effective. Video customer support helps to build a rapport with customers, which can increase the efficiency of a contact center, and has shown to increase sales by 30%.
Video conversation allows support agents and customers to understand each other faster, as body language and facial expression on both sides are clearly visible. Because of this, video conversations are completed quicker than chat conversations, allowing agents to service more customers.
Integrate Live Chat with Social Media
In earlier days, customers used social media to read reviews or surf new products, but more recently, customers are using social media platforms for posting queries and complaints. Live chat integration of your contact center with social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allows customer support agents to respond to clients on the platform of customer's choice. This ensures timely response and boosts customer satisfaction.
Employ Call Center Software as a Service
Software as a Service (SaaS) was introduced in the year 1999, and since then, the growth of SaaS trends has been exponential. According to Finances Online, in 2018 the percentage of organizations running solely on SaaS platforms was 51% and has expanded to 86% in 2023. In 2015, SaaS end-user spending worldwide was $31.4 Billion USD and has grown to 171.9 Billion USD in 2022, with rapid extended growth forecast for coming years. So you can see that SaaS is not going anywhere but up.
What is Call Center SaaS?
It is a platform that manages inbound and outbound calls from clients, such as call tracking software, and their information, such as with a CRM, but all with the infrastructure in the cloud. Further, this type of platform can use call routing to measurement and analytics to help direct inbound calls to concerned agents.
Because the infrastructure is cloud-based, the platform is scalable, and it enables managers to track interactions and view analytics from either a mobile or a laptop. Further, it is cost-effective, easy to set up, and maintains centralized data.
Conclusion: Research and Implement Call Center Innovations and Improvement Strategies
Apart from introducing innovations in a call center, it is important to understand the latest service desk trends and best practices in order to outperform competitors. For managing a call center efficiently, make sure that all the contact channels are working as a unit and not acting as separate entities. These call center improvement strategies, innovations, and best practices can contribute to your call center's success if implemented correctly.