Running a contact centre can be difficult, especially when your call centre operates in one geographic region while providing services to another.
International contact centres face many of the same obstacles as domestic contact centres, but they must also overcome language and location-related barriers to function properly. With the added burden of soaring industry-wide turnover rates, leaders of international call centres must find new ways to keep operations under control while also keeping teams appropriately staffed.
Caller Expectations are on the Rise
While the majority of consumers choose to reach out to companies via multiple mediums, many have reported wanting to avoid going through structured IVR systems – so it’s no surprise that communication quality within a contact centre has become more important than ever before.
Besides nurturing an omnichannel approach to customer care, organisations should carefully consider the operational aspects of their call centres to ensure it is satisfying as many callers as possible, including adequately addressing customer vulnerability.
To learn how CallMiner is helping African Bank better extract and operationalise insights from voice-based customer interactions in its call centres, watch to our Tech Central podcast, How CallMiner is Helping African Bank Retain and Grow its Client Base.
Read on to learn how your international contact centre can approach agent management optimisation, procedural improvements and more.
Agent Management Tips for International Call Centres
1. Use call recordings and ongoing training to nurture emotional competence among agents.
“Diffusing tense conversations and satisfying the chronically unsatisfiable are but two of the emotionally charged skills of every great call center agent. Training agents to excel at their positions falls largely on teaching them to calmly coax positive results from negative situations.
“Emotional intelligence can be trained most effectively by refocusing your agents’ attention on their own behaviors. Tone, verbal enthusiasm and clarity are key factors for every employee to consider in their dealings with callers as well as with other team members. Use of recorded calls where similar issues were handled adeptly are particularly effective here.” – 5 Call Center Training Best Practices, CallMiner; Twitter: @CallMiner
2. Offer rewards for great performance.
“According to Gallup, 69% of employees would work harder if they were better recognized. And that recognition doesn’t have to be expensive either. Even simple, low-cost gifts can increase productivity as much as 20%. Implementing daily and weekly goals and rewarding employees with small gifts for beating those goals will get the best out of your team.” – Nicolina Savelli, 7 Tips for Success from Experienced Call Center Professionals, Fonolo; Twitter: @fonolo
3. Encourage agents to cheer up callers with more flexible scripting.
“A 2014 survey suggested that 69% of customers feel that their call center experience improves when the customer service agent doesn’t sound as though they are reading from a script. Stiff, robotic greetings and obviously canned responses make customers feel undervalued, and can make call centers appear disingenuous, uncaring, or even rude.
“For whatever reason, when people have the opportunity to respond to something positively, they begin to see the experience as being a positive one. Take advantage of this phenomenon by constructing your scripts to promote positive responses.” – Effective Call Center Scripts, Salesforce; Twitter: @SalesforceGov
4. Minimise language barriers with better hires.
“One of the most prominent barriers that come in outsourcing an off-shore call center is communication limitation such as accents, unclear pronunciations, and frank language. These shortcomings do affect the service quality.
“A 2008 report by CFI group explained that when customer service professionals are perceived to converse softly and clearly, they resolve customer issues 88% of the time. This is a vast difference having a huge impact on service quality.” – The Basics of Outsourcing for International Call Center Business, CRESCO
5. Encourage agents to listen, but always be objective in their judgements.
“While talking to angry callers, agents must dissociate from what the caller is saying and stay focused on resolving the issue. Agents must know how to be right without telling callers they are wrong. Listening and asking appropriate questions is a good way to reach the root of a problem.” – Jasmine Somaiah, 8 Training Tips To Boost Call Center Communication Skills, CallHub; Twitter: @CALLHUB
6. Implement call centre etiquette tests regularly.
“Call center etiquette tests are a great way to evaluate your agent’s performances. They are an easy way to track metrics and discover trends within your agents. The tests can be administered two different ways, through online exams where the agent simply goes through and answers a series of multiple-choice questions or through live testing. Live testing would require a manager or supervisor to listen in on the call through live call monitoring and take notes on what the agent is doing correctly and what they might need some more work on.” – Connor Kimball, Top Call Center Etiquette Tips, Avoxi; Twitter: @AVOXI
7. Build your company’s culture around collective goals.
“Call center culture is all about your business’ values and informs how your employees act, view their work and create certain customs. The right culture can strengthen your brand and help employees feel more dedicated to the work they do.
“Building call center culture begins with looking at the current values and culture and seeing whether everyone is working toward a common goal.” – Alexa, Call Center Culture Matters – Serious Tips for Serious Results, EVS7; Twitter: @dolphindialer
8. Prioritise training new agents.
“Hiring is only a very small part of successful call center management. Granted, it’s an important part, but hiring mistakes can be mitigated through a thorough onboarding process that teaches good habits and communicates your high standards.
“We recommend putting special emphasis on training employees how to deal with customer complaints. The bulk of their calls will probably be of this type so it’s important to prepare them right from the beginning.” – 15 Best Practices For Effective Call Center Management, Sling
9. Grant agents the authority needed to satisfy callers’ expectations.
Call center workers routinely say the hardest part of their job is that they know how to help the customer, but do not have the authority to take action, such as waiving a late fee. This forces the customer to get angry enough that he or she asks to speak to a person who has authority.” – Aarti Mehta, Call Centers: How to Reduce Burnout, Increase Efficiency, Wharton; Twitter: @whartonknows
10. Recruit emotionally intelligent individuals with great communication skills.
“Regardless of position, all call center employees must possess excellent communication skills. They must also be able to retain and explain information about products or services and display exceptional patience and discipline. Watch for these skills when recruiting and hiring for your call center.” – Allie Decker, How to Run a Call Center in 2020, HubSpot; Twitter: @HubSpot
11. Hire agents at the beginning of their careers.
“Prospective candidates must be hired at the very beginning of their professional career and trained to be the best at what they do. During the hiring process, the emotional quotient of the candidate must be gauged as it can have a profound effect on job performance, teamwork and most importantly decision making. They must also be provided with good incentives and benefits considering the high attrition rate of employees that the call center industry witnesses every year.” – Robert Brown, 10 Effective Call Center Operational Performance Strategies, Invensis; Twitter: @invensis
12. Adapt to difficult circumstances by building trust between your agents, company and callers.
“The nature of a call center operator’s job is very sensitive, as there is account information available every time they assist a customer. It requires a certain level of trust and transparency to have operators providing customer support in a remote location.
“To compensate for the increased risk, we identified operators that would be working from home based on their experience and skill sets. There were strict criteria to meet the requirements. But our clients were willing to explore this opportunity with us because our call center operators were proven to be high-quality, trustworthy employees that were dedicated to customer satisfaction.” – Allen Pettis, Propelled by COVID-19, How We Reimagined Our Call Center Operations, GlobalPayments; Twitter: @GlobalPayInc
13. Strive to improve workplace satisfaction to minimise turnover.
“It is important to note that the base level at which employees are hired into call centers sees a great deal of turnover. Because of the nature of call center work, this isn’t really something that can be avoided. Minimizing the amount of turnover seen by your center may be possible by improving workplace satisfaction among employees and offering incentives for both excellent work and length of time spent with the company. By retaining employees longer, a center stands to reduce hiring and training costs, improve consistency in productivity, and generally streamline everyday functions by using a more knowledgeable, well-trained staff.” – Ahmed Macklai, Your Guide to Understanding Call Center Operations, ChaseData; Twitter: @ChaseData
14. Train call centre agents on company policies to improve call resolution rates.
“Effective call center strategies require agents who are knowledgeable about the products and services their company offers. In addition, call center agents need to fully understand the way their organization operates. They must familiarize themselves with the existing special promotions, business conditions and marketing strategies.
“Call center agents need to continually improve their knowledge and skills. A lack of in-depth knowledge undermines both the agents’ confidence and customer trust. It also compromises the agents’ ability to further engage customers and communicate brand values.” – Marketing and Call Center Strategy, CSG
Procedural and Technological Tips for International Call Centres
15. Let your operations team handle real-time management.
“Effective real-time management is based on having the right reports that measure compliance and clear process for acting as you see variations. Both of these are the responsibility of the operations team, not the workforce management team.
“Schedule adherence and after call work management are part of the overall performance management processes. They fall into the same bucket as quality, call control, customer satisfaction, absenteeism and other metrics. The team leader has to manage the overall performance of the agent. They engage in performance management, they set targets, they may even terminate employees for these metrics.” – Charles Watson, The Best Tips to get Real Time Management Right in your Call Center, injixo; Twitter: @injixo
16. Keep the customer journey in mind.
“Every centre has a multitude of processes, but the biggest challenge that it faces is to understand the end to end process from the customer perspective! The customer journey is what happens from the point in time when a customer decides to contact you through to the completion of that request or transaction. How long does this journey take and what does it feel like taking the steps along the way? How long is spent waiting? Does the agent have the customer details to hand? Can the agent answer the query first time? Does the fulfilment when expected? Is there the need to contact the organisation again because what was promised hasn’t happened on time?
“One very easy but critical way of looking at the customer journey is to mystery shop the centre and to see what it really feels like to be the customer. Put yourselves in the shoes of your key customer demographic type and call your own centre today.” – Key Components of a Call Centre Operation, CallCentreHelper.com; Twitter: @callcentrehelp
17. Leverage a quality monitoring program for vital feedback.
“Most call center quality monitoring is done by people rather than software. Speech recognition software is improving but has not yet reached the point where it is preferred over human monitors.
“Some companies set up their call centers without including a quality monitoring program. This is short-sighted. The information captured by the metrics of a call center monitoring program is essential to the cost-effective operation of the call center and the capturing of vital customer feedback on quality, performance, and service.” – F. John Reh, How to Implement Quality Monitoring Processes in Call Centers, The Balance Careers; Twitter: @thebalance
18. Optimise business processes to improve handle time.
“How much time does it take to answer an inquiry (e.g., talk time plus after call wrap up time for telephone calls)? Longer handle time requires more staff. Since labor cost is the single biggest expense in a contact center operation, reducing the handle time by just a few seconds per transaction can translate into significant cost and performance benefits. Reduce handle time by improving business processes, system enhancements/response time, training, and quality monitoring that translates to corrective action.” – Contact Center Operation and Management, Digital.gov; Twitter: @digital_gov
19. Specify standard operating procedures to fall back on.
“The standards and metrics call centers often use include factors like the average speed of answering calls, call handle time, average hold time for customers, customer satisfaction, call quality, number of calls in queue and abandonment rate. The standard operating procedures tell quality control agents how to measure these indicators and how statistics are to be evaluated. Procedures also document guidelines for notifying managers and leaders or creating action plans if performance falls below a certain level.” – Matthew Schieltz, The Standard Operating Procedures for Call Centers, Bizfluent
20. Keep company vision, brand identity and values in mind when developing your call centre strategy.
“First acknowledge that as contact center leaders we do not have a ‘blank canvas’ to work with. The corporate strategy has already been defined and is evident in the Mission Statement, Vision and Values documents. In reviewing these documents, we can gain an insight into the strategy, the customers served, the manner in which value is created, the goal and objectives of the strategy and the values which are the touchstone for making difficult decisions. So the development of contact center strategy is completed in the context of the corporate direction.” – Colin Taylor, 7 Steps to a Contact Center Strategic Plan, Customer Contact Week Digital; Twitter: @CCW_Digital
21. Implement IVR post-call surveys to glean better insights from callers.
“Evaluating your customers’ satisfaction shouldn’t be a one-time or annual task. With customer preferences shifting faster than ever before, it’s important to grade their experiences while they are still fresh in their minds. IVR-based, post-call surveys enable you to rate interactions, usually on a numeric scale and provide the opportunity for the customer to give feedback.” – Walter Lash, How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Call Center, VHT; Twitter: @vhtcx
22. Leverage assistive AI technology to speed up call resolution and lower agents’ workloads.
“Agent Assist AI is going to be huge. Being able to have AI technology listening to a call to help guide the agent will help the customer experience immensely. Depending on what the AI hears, it may prompt the agent with certain disclosures or talking points. While Agent Assist won’t take over the call, it will make agents more efficient. It will be like having a supervisor or QA team member with the agent at all times, silently running in the background and prompting them in real-time.” – Thomas Laird, Call Center Operations Trends for 2020, CustomerThink; Twitter: @tlaird_expivia
23. Incorporate redundancy in your call centre’s design to provide more consistent service.
“The underlying technology supporting call center operations is a key consideration when choosing a call center, especially one that is located abroad. Call centers should have redundant systems in place in case of a natural disaster or trouble with the local infrastructure. Otherwise, your customer service representatives could go offline leaving callers unanswered.” – Adam Uzialko, The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Your Customer Service to an Offshore Call Center, Business News Daily; Twitter: @auzialko_BDC
24. Offer consumers calling options that match your capabilities.
“Some businesses have available call center services 24/7. Others only have these services during specific daytime hours. There is no right or wrong choice. It depends on what works best for the company. That said, make sure that you’re clear about when your clients can reach you. Don’t encourage clients to call ‘any time’ if you don’t have a 24/7 phone service. Instead, direct clients to call during your available hours.” – Ashley Baumann, Six Customer Service Tips for Your Call Center Services, Millennial Services; Twitter: @Millennial_Svcs
25. Compare your call centre’s metrics and KPIs to those of other call centres to see where you stand.
“The International Contact Center Benchmarking Consortium (ICCBC.org) provides thorough data and trends analysis. Data published by IBBC and other sources can help you discover where you stand within the industry and how you can improve performance or validate current processes. The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI.com) also provides a wealth of knowledge and contact center information. Improving contact center performance could be a critical factor in determining business profit or loss.” – Rob Maynard, Ten Things to Consider for a Better Contact Center, Cisco; Twitter: @ciscoit
How does your business handle international contact centre operations?