A call center can be a challenging workplace. While the rewards of the job are of great significance to the industry as a whole, call center agents really require training to sift through the interactions with disgruntled customers, fixing issues, pitching products and adhering to very strict work schedules.
There is also the element of competition prevalent both inside an agency and within different agencies, which means that job security, can only be achieved through hard work and the production of fruitful results.
Call centers have taken a ride on the digital boom to overcome their most prevalent difficulties using call center software designed to reduce the workload of agents and provide fast and efficient service.
However, call centers stand at the direct point of confluence between the industry expectations and customer expectations, which makes their job as important as is difficult.
Each year, we see a new wave of challenges that the telemarketing agencies are faced with. This also means a new host of potential opportunities for call centers to capitalize on should they be able to overcome the challenges.
It is one of the most dynamic streams of work, since businesses are always looking to adopt new and better solutions to further their efficiency ratings, and customers are also looking for the best possible products that can help them out.
Caught in the middle of two continuously evolving phenomena, the call center industry must also evolve in terms of the type of services it provides and the manner in which it approaches its job.
In this article, we will take a look at five of the most critical challenges that call centers are likely to face in 2017, and what businesses can do to mitigate the potential damage incurred by these challenges.
These are extensions of some of the biggest problems that exist in the industry in modern times, and how they are likely to shape up in 2017.
This is an indication of the number of call center employees who choose to leave their job at a call center to join elsewhere or take up a different job.
The demanding nature of a call center job leads to a lot of people opting out. This continues to be an issue despite significant betterments to the work environment since the advent of technological tools.
The problem of employee attrition is especially prominent in larger call centers that house more than 400-500 employees working round the clock. In fact, the average call center sees one out of every three personnel moving on at the end of the year.
With this high turnover rate comes an associated turnover cost, which makes this a logistical as well as financial burden on the call center. This problem is expected to escalate with more competition springing up and offering better job opportunities at relatively less experience.
Call centers have tried to work around this problem for years, with some places showing significant success while success continue to see a high attrition rate.
The secret to keeping employees loyal and satisfied with their job lies broadly in morale boosting and offering incentives for exceptional work.
This would also help create an overall atmosphere of healthy competition where every agent spurs the others to work efficiently.
Lack of Interdepartmental Coordination
Most issues that customers have, are likely to span across more than one aspect of the product, for which the involvement of more than one department looking after customer service might be necessary.
However, very often we see a system in place which inhibits an agent from either directly communicating with agents of other departments, or having authority to access their data.
This directly leads to the agent often being unable to resolve an issue on the first call. In fact, almost 60% of low first call resolutions are attributed to agents not having data in place to deal with the situation at hand.
Unless something drastically changes in 2017, a whole lot of a call center agent’s time and resources will be spent up simply trying to get their hands on the necessary information.
An independent survey found that just over a quarter of the time an employee is billed for, is spent locating and accessing data.
There are call center software solutions specifically built to lessen this challenge. Using proper databases to store and clip your information, then distributing those databases with anybody who might need to run a query and retrieve data from it, is a relatively simple task once the initial structure has been set up.
Every employee must have a complete idea of what the customer is likely to want and how best to approach a conversation with him, with all the available data to back it up.
Bad Experiences Become Viral
Practically, industry experts understand that it is impossible to please every customer, and set their market standards accordingly.
However, in the age of social media platforms, one of the most significant worries for call centers in 2017 is that a customer having a bad experience is able to magnify the problem and catch the eye of a lot of people instantly over Twitter or Facebook.
It is impossible to predict how a customer might behave once he feels he is not satisfied, and in this day and age, it is also impossible to predict the magnitude of ramifications that might occur if one misplaced rant goes viral on Twitter.
The problem has only intensified with the emergence of online review sites dedicated specifically to voicing the opinions of the users.
Suddenly, companies are seeing people drift away from the carefully curated testimonials in favor of more haphazard opinions posted online, to formulate their decisions.
Something as simple as a 140-character negative review can turn into a PR nightmare, if the person reviewing enjoys popularity online.
Optimization of Work
While data analytics and machine learning have opened doors we could not even conceive a few years back, the subjects are still in their infancy, and it will take some time and research before we can harness their full potential.
As things stand today, one of the major challenges for call centers is the accuracy of predictions with regards to call volumes, staff requirements, cost benefits, etc.
While we have developed sufficiently accurate models in plenty of fields using data analytics, the reason this accuracy needs to be very high when applied to a call center is that if the model does go wrong and a company ends up scheduling less workforce than is required, it could result in a loss running into the billions in just an hour of inefficiency.
Because the stakes are so high, optimization is one of the most critical problems that exist in the telemarketing industry, and our brightest minds are working day and night to come up with the near-perfect solutions that will revolutionize all of marketing.
Inability to Live Up To Rising Customer Expectations
Better business opportunities means more people are able to draw out above-par salaries. This means that more people are able to invest in products than would have been the case some 15 or 20 years ago.
With this ability to invest money for a product, comes a surge in expectations on the side of the customer. The competitive market also contributes to this steep rise, by trying to outdo each other in providing the very best to every individual.
Call centers face the brunt of this rising customer expectation. Customers today expect the best service at the shortest possible time, and businesses can struggle to live up to such a service level.
Nearly one-fifth of all call center managers agree that the inability to match rising service levels is their greatest worry in the year to come.
2017 will be a tough year in this regard, with expectations set to soar higher than before. Companies are recruiting more personnel and investing in automation to try and serve their customers as best they can.
Eventually, the market is set to move towards a point of saturation, where customers will know what to expect and companies will have an idea of how far ahead or behind they are compared to other players in the market.
The Case Study
We have explained what the top causes for concern in 2017 are going to be with respect to call center operations. These problems are not limited to any specific geographical area, or any specific genre of companies, but affect almost all sectors of the market, excluding the very niche areas where the target audience is very limited.
To highlight what sort of an effect these factors could have, we will take a look at the example of OysterRover, a telemarketing agency that has been hired to provide call center solutions and customer service for a large organization.
In this case study, we will take a look at the situation that this call center and its parent company was in, including a study of the problems they were facing.
We will also talk about the changes that they implemented in a bid to solve those problems, and whether there was any discernible effect of those changes.
The results of the move will also be analyzed, and we will determine whether any positive effects were seen emanating out of the changes or not.
The Problem Scenario
Heading into 2017, the company was battling to preserve its majority share in the market. They faced several issues in their day to day operations, and were looking at a stunted growth rate even after adopting the best call center software to help them formulate the best possible strategies moving forward.
They were looking to find out exactly what was going wrong in their business so that it could be rectified after it had been identified.
Some of the major problems faced by the company are discussed below.
1. Employee attrition rate was on the rise, from 28.41% two years back to 30.5% recorded last year. A significant number of these employees were migrating to rival companies, which was an additional concern for the management.
2. More and more customer feedback surveys were showing a growing discontent with the level of service that was being provided, even though they were ahead of industry standards and set their internal benchmarks very high. They were unable to determine what they could do to live up to the growing expectation of service from the customers.
3. Call Abandonment was on the rise, owing to poor scheduling of staff. There were certain occasions now and then where the predictive models failed, and a whole lot of calls had to be queued because there weren’t enough employees to deal with that sort of call volume.
Once these problems were identified, the company tried to come up with certain policies that would mitigate the adverse effects. The solutions that they drew up are listed here.
1. Features like work from home, and incentives such as pay rises and prizes for rewarding good performances were implemented to keep employees motivated to work harder and stay loyal to the company.
2. Dedicated PR and social media teams were employed to ensure that the brand does not suffer from backlash from unsatisfied customers over social media, and that the overall image does not get negatively affected.
3. Predictive models were based on more intense data mining, helping to increase their accuracy and churn out more efficient possibilities. A standby group was kept handy to deal with an emergency situation.
The problems that they faced were not ones that could be eradicating with one move. However, they were able to keep their issues under check using these changes, so that even if the challenges persisted, they had the tools to deal with it up to a manageable level.
The solutions proposed fulfilled the ultimate requirement, that is, allowed the company operations to go on without significant hindrances, and the business continued to perform better and better.
We see what the main concerns for the telecommunication industry are likely to be in 2017, and what sort of measures can be taken to keep these issues down to a manageable level.
The industry is growing every year, and with it, problems are bound to grow as well. What matters is how we deal with them, and how quickly we can work towards an optimal solution.