Call center efficiency is vital to maintaining and improving a business's image in the eyes of its customers.
Inefficient call centers can turn customers away for good and send them into the arms of a competitor. By optimizing your call center's efficiency at every level, you can ensure that customers always receive the best service you can offer and that their expectations are either met or exceeded with each interaction.
There are numerous ways to improve efficiency in a call center and some are likely to be more suitable for your call center's unique needs than others. To help you discover fresh opportunities for improvement at your own call center, we have compiled some of the best advice available below. Keep reading for these and a bit more information on factors that are most likely to jeopardize your call center's efficiency.
What Factors Affect Call Center Efficiency?
There are many factors at play in most call centers that could adversely affect their performance. Here are a few common causes for concern in call centers worldwide:
- Poor cooperation - Cooperation between agents is integral to their long-term success in dealing with difficult customer questions and concerns.
- Excessive turnover - This can lead to lower morale among remaining members of your workforce as both cooperation and cohesion are sidetracked by a revolving door of new hires.
- Inaccurate metrics - Bad metrics that misrepresent performance can cause all manner of mayhem for your team and derail improvement efforts. Tracking the right metrics can help to boost business performance and efficiency.
- Outdated tools - Bad tools make it impossible for agents to demonstrate meaningful improvement over time.
Addressing the above factors alone can drastically enhance your call center performance metrics, but the wealth of tactics explored below should take it to the next level.
Operational Ways to Boost Call Center Efficiency
1. Implement the right call center analytics solution to optimize performance across individuals and departments. “Because your call center is responsible for managing relationships with customers, your business success depends on the quality of your agents and the efficiency of your contact center operations. Optimizing performance across individuals and departments is essential to delivering exceptional customer experiences, reducing call center costs, and enabling business improvement.
“Call center optimization requires superior analytics that can measure and track a wide range of call center KPIs. From metrics around First Call Resolution and Average Handle Time to data that reveals insight into the performance of individual agents and the effectiveness of various departments, the right analytics solution will identify key areas of improvement and proactive steps for how to get there.” - Achieve call center optimization with conversation analytics, CallMiner; Twitter: @CallMiner
2. Leverage reporting for better scheduling. "Though forecasting is supposed to help with creating an accurate schedule, it can cause more harm than good. Forecasts look to the future based on the past, so the present is lost in the shuffle. This leaves management either over, under or incorrectly staffed, wasting or scrambling for resources. Having an automated scheduling system is great, but it is not foolproof. Reporting allows for proper adjustments." - Mandi Nowitz, Measuring Call Center Schedule Efficiency, TMCNet Call Center Scheduling; Twitter: @MonetSoftware
3. Give alternative telephone traffic forecasting models a try for better staffing. "Determining what happens with a given number of resources in place to accomplish a defined amount of workload requires a mathematical model that replicates the situation at hand. There are several telephone traffic engineering models available, and one of these in particular is well-suited to the world of incoming call centers. We use a model called Erlang C that takes into account the randomness of the arriving workload as well as the queuing behavior (holding for the first available rep) of the calls." - Penny Reynolds, The Math of
Call Center Staffing, SWPP; Twitter: @swpp_org
4. Use intrinsic motivation to energize your agents. "Contact centre motivation can be tricky because it is very difficult to scale your team assessments to evaluate everyone’s performance accurately every month. So, how can you motivate advisors when it is so difficult to assess everyone’s performance on a short, monthly basis? One method is to make a point of catching advisors doing good things and to use that recognition to ‘refill’ their sense of purpose. This provides intrinsic motivation." - 12 Great Tips to Improve Call Centre Performance, Call Centre Helper; Twitter: @callcentrehelp
5. Curb absenteeism with clear rules. "A number of studies suggest that absenteeism rates run as high as 5 to 10 percent in contact centers. The call center agents often stay away from duty without good reason. Many agents even use most of their sick leave for reasons other than sickness." - 18 Critical Risk Factors Call Centers Must Address and Manage Proactively, Call Center Hosting; Twitter: @callcenterhost
6. Capitalize on idle time. "First, give agents opportunities to take advantage of their idle time instead of getting sucked into a Reddit time warp. Use these times to build customer engagement. Have your agents write notes of thanks to your most loyal customers. Or, send a quick 2-minute coaching lesson to their queue after you’ve reviewed an interaction and provided context." - Laura Krajewski, Finding the Balance with Call Center Efficiency: 5 Tips for Improving Efficiency and Empowering your Agents, Sharpen; Twitter: @sharpentech
7. Incorporate continuous improvement into your organization's goals. "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." - Bill Pieper, 5 Strategies for Optimizing & Improving Call Center Performance, EPIC Connections; Twitter: @epicconnections
8. Streamline common problem handling with simple guidelines. "Another great way to boost the efficiency of your call center is to have clear processes for dealing with common issues. If you are regularly getting calls regarding the same problem, or you are encountering the same issue again and again with outbound calls, come up with guidelines for how agents should deal with these common problems." - Mohit Tater, Tips To Improve the Efficiency of Your Call Center, Entrepreneurship Life; Twitter: @startup_life
9. Reassess language choices in your agents' scripts. "Most call center scripts recommend professional language, an upbeat tone, and a considerate and sympathetic demeanor when speaking to customers over the phone. However, best practices also include avoiding less-obvious and potentially negative interactions. What’s interesting about some of these phrases is that they appear appropriate on the surface. It’s not until you dig deeper that you realize some of the underlying issues." - Call Center Best Practices: 6 Things A Rep Should Never Say, Salesforce; Twitter: @salesforce
10. Make training an ongoing activity. "Want to figure out how to improve call center quality? Onboarding and initial training are useful, but performance and recall degrade over time. When designing your team’s training plan, ensure that ongoing practice is part of your cadence." - Zach McFarlen, The Key to Better Call Center Efficiency Metrics? Great Training, Lessonly; Twitter: @lessonly
11. Encourage agents to interact with customers with clarity and emotional intelligence for best results. "Our customers tell us that interactions in their call centers score much higher when agents employ these customer-oriented behaviors:
- Anticipate customer requests
- Deliver explanations and justifications
- Educate customers
- Build rapport / Provide emotional support
- Offer personal information"
- Dick Bourke, Improve Customer Service to Improve Call Center Performance, CustomerThink; Twitter: @customerthink
12. Try implementing a buddy system. "Creating agent teams is a win-win for everyone. It educates agents, builds confidence, and boosts camaraderie. It lets agents learn from each other, improves their overall interactions with customers, and helps agents form internal relationships. Better yet, it produces organizational consistency by creating one-voice throughout the call center—a major benefit to consumers." - 8 Smart Ways To Drive Call Center Performance, 31West; Twitter: @31WestGlobal
13. Encourage agents to express feedback. "In our experience and that of our customers, contact center agents are typically the first to know about a broken process or procedure. After all, they are the ones on the front lines, taking the calls and interacting with the customers. It is very important to setup a feedback loop for your agents to provide input and suggestions. By consistently implementing agent ideas, you will not only increase their efficiency, but also help to boost motivation and morale." - Top 7 Ways to Increase Agent Efficiency in the Call Center, SpiceCSM; Twitter: @spicecsm
14. Eliminate non-value-added activities from your agents' customer interactions. "The presence of non-value-added (NVA) activities on service calls increases the actual talk time, which can provide more opportunities for fatal errors that can impact the customer’s experience. Some examples of these fatal errors include giving the wrong information to the customer, denial of service, rudeness, call disconnection, call avoidance or an incorrect service request creation." - Jyoti Govekar and Prasoon Agarwal, A Lean Approach to Improving Service Call Center Performance, iSixSigma; Twitter: @isixsigma
Tools & Technology to Boost Call Center Efficiency
15. Eliminate wasted time with a call transfer system. "As a contact center manager, the scariest sound you can hear is no one talking. You constantly want to hear your agents on the phone. But as you know, there are peak hours and slow hours. You’re tasked to increase engagement during slow hours of the day, week, or month. A modern method in which managers help the flow of call traffic is using call transfer." - Eduardo Lancara, 3 Ways To Improve Your Call Center Efficiency, Go4Clients; Twitter: @Go4Clients
16. Try games such as conversation simulations to improve agent performance. "A conversation simulation is kind of an interactive game that people can play on their computers and mobile devices. It imitates a conversation between the agent and other characters, for instance a customer. Each dialogue step can be based on a real business case from your practical experience. Learners are required to face a challenge in real time: correctly present a product, assign a task to a subordinate, or calm down an angry customer." - Helen Colman, 21 Call Center Games to Improve Contact Center Performance, iSpring; Twitter: @iSpringPro
17. Do not underestimate the importance of tracking metrics. "The first step to optimizing your call center performance is to measure and track your progress. It’s essential that you quantitatively and qualitatively measure key performance indicators (KPIs) that can help fine-tune your efforts. Your end goal should be to set milestones and track your momentum toward those milestones based on specific data points. The key is making sure you’re measuring the right data if you want to positively impact your call center performance." - How to Optimize Your Call Center's Performance, Scorebuddy; Twitter: @score_buddy
18. Adopt omnichannel practices for better issue resolution flexibility. "While focusing on processes is a key part of improving call center efficiency, your processes must make room for flexibility so that you can quickly adapt to customer needs. For instance, it is important that a call center not just concentrate on pure telephone calls. Nowadays, customers communicate via a wide variety of channels, each one according to their personal preferences. Customers may call, write emails or make inquiries via social media. So stay flexible when it comes to communicating with your customers because this increases how efficiently a request can be first addressed." - Nils Leideck, Improve Call Center Efficiency: Process Management is The Key, OTRS; Twitter: @otrsgroup
19. Implement more sophisticated call categorization to improve staffing accuracy. "Categorizing calls can help you save time in a few ways. First, it can help your overall call statistics since some types of calls—troubleshooting or complaints, for example—take longer than other calls. In turn, reviewing metrics for those calls separately can boost your general numbers. Second, you can review the call volume by category and see if your call tree needs to be reorganized or if you need to train more agents in certain areas to meet caller demand." - How to Improve Call Center Efficiency in 7 Steps, TrackSmart; Twitter: @tracksmart
20. Invest in intuitive knowledge solutions for faster customer assistance. "According to a recent study by Aberdeen, call center agents spend an average of 14% of their time searching for information for customers. That may not seem like a large percentage, but if you think of it in terms of an 8-hour workday, this means that agents spend more than an hour of their time each day trying to find the information customers are looking for. Outdated technology and infrastructure only exacerbate this problem. Updated technology can reduce the time agents spend searching for answers by making the necessary information more accessible to them." - Kari Switala, 8 Ways To Improve Call Center Efficiency, and How Glympse Can Help, Glympse; Twitter: @glympse
21. Track and improve average handling time to better satisfy customers. "Average handling time (AHT) is the average time spent by an agent in handling customer issues or transactions, from when an agent answers a call until the agent disconnects. This also includes the amount of time a customer is placed on hold within the duration of the call and the after-call work time which the agent spends doing back-office tasks. It is a commonly tracked metric in the call centre industry as it is directly related to caller satisfaction." - Kelechi Okeke, Measuring Call Centre Performance – 8 Metrics You Should Track, CXService360; Twitter: @service360blog
22. Keep track of first call resolution. "What the customer likely cares about most is getting their issue resolved quickly, easily, and professionally, the first time they reach out to your organization for assistance. Resolution does not equal satisfaction, but it can have a major impact on it. As such, even for these new channels first time resolution rate is probably still an important metric, both from an operations perspective and from a customer satisfaction perspective." - Joanna Jones, Rethinking Call Center Reporting, Business2Community;
23. Deploy a call-back system to assure frustrated customers. "If you deploy the call-back feature in your call center system, it might prove to be very helpful in cases when it becomes a necessity to keep the customer satisfied. The call-back system works on the ticketing technology in which the customer automatically gets a call-back after being missed." - Aashita Sharma, How to Tackle Spike in Seasonal Calls?, Call Center Hosting; Twitter: @callcenterhost
24. Monitor and improve your call abandonment rate. "You want to provide great customer support, but how is that possible when your customers disconnect before they reach an agent?
Call abandonment usually happens when customers are kept on hold for too long. When you increase the wait time of the customer, you’re making them feel unappreciated." - Greg Digneo, 30 Call Center Statistics and 10 Metrics to Track in 2021, Time Doctor; Twitter: @manageyourtime
25. Adopt self-service tools to conserve resources. "Sometimes, contact center metrics don’t tell the whole story. Let’s say that you have a high first call resolution rate, but it’s because customers are calling to ask you simple questions that agents can answer easily (for example, ‘What’s my account balance?’). Yes, agents are resolving issues the first time a customer reaches out, although it’s not the most efficient use of your agents’ time to answer those kinds of questions." - Leah Westfall, Elevate your contact center operational efficiency with these tips, RingCentral; Twitter: @ringcentral