Call centers have been around for decades, serving various business purposes – be it providing inbound service, telemarketing or handling communications with the customers.
In recent years, the internet has revolutionized all digital enterprises, call centers included. The manner in which customer problems are approached and solved today has changed drastically, and very quickly, to reflect a more comprehensive, data-driven, modern approach.
Call center agents – who are the forefront of this interface between the customer and the company – have found it hard to constantly adapt to the newer and more innovative practices which are being introduced.
These agents take the aid of software which has been designed for very specific call center processes, and performs very specific tasks in an efficient and rapid manner.
Technological advancement has allowed agents to automate certain processes and optimize the flow of work to ensure that more efficient results can be achieved.
There is, however, still one nagging issue that does not look like it is going away anytime soon – the pace of evolution of technology is increasing every day, and this makes it very difficult to identify the solutions which can not only bring about a change in the system to produce better results, but which will remain relevant in the near future.
This is why, call centers which had a successful technological infrastructure up and running for years, suddenly find themselves struggling to stay in touch with the rest of the world in terms of providing innovative solutions.
The changes in landscape today are experienced both from technological advancements and the increase in customer expectations.
Driven by a market that is looking to increase its productivity every single day, the big question that call centers face is, how do they get more out of technology?
How can they leverage the tools they have to create even more efficient work processes? How can they add or dump technology intelligently, so that their returns are multiplied?
Keeping these pertinent questions in mind, we have compiled a few tips that would help to use technology better, as well as direct your company towards better performances by harnessing the full potential of the tools you already have.
These are the pointers that will set you up for the long-term success.
1. Focus on value addition. There’s something new out on the market every day, and inevitably it helps your business in some way or the other.
What managers need to determine is which of these thousands of available options will bring the best with their very specific case.
This is why, the only technology you need to focus on is the one which adds most value to your operations. Focus on the benefits that its implementation could bring to your customer, your team and your company.
If there are tangible benefits over what you already have, this is a technology you should seriously consider investing in.
2. Give your employees time to adapt to change. For call center agents, new technologies can be baffling right off the bat.
The onus lies with the management to introduce the tools in a very clear and comprehensive way so that agents are able to clearly understand what it is and what it can do, and then give them some time to work with it themselves and get a feel of the new environment.
There are bound to be occasions when employees fail to use the new tech properly, but managers need to give them the space necessary for them to get used to it, so that eventually they start using it to better their performance.
3. Fresh technology needs fresh training. Just as call centers deal with the queries of customers handling a new product for the first time, managers must be prepared to deal with queries of employees dealing with the new tech for the first time.
They require access to self-service tools such as explainer videos, troubleshooting guides and other solutions will help agents find their way around the environment.
In addition, agents need to be given eternal training on how to use the software to benefit their work. They need to be given a run-through of the new features that have been introduced, the features which have been changed, and how all of this can be incorporated in the work they were doing previously, only this time in a more reliable and efficient way.
4. Structure your technological tools appropriately. Even the best technology can fail to change a workspace unless it is built to accept the new features.
Call centers should understand that adopting new tech means, an overhaul of the existing practices in favor of a necessarily better way of going about things.
Find a specific used case which is relevant to your business, where the implementation of this technology could change the way solutions have been perceived so far for the better.
You can only start using a technology when you are clear about the changes, the structural adjustments required, the manner in which efficiency will increase and the desired result.
5. Scale up from smaller roots. Introducing a new technology can be a make or break for a company. Therefore, it is a good idea to start off on a smaller scale, testing the software with select users to begin with, and gradually rolling it out for use in the entire organization after the successful test runs.
In this manner you not only allow people to get acclimatized to the newer technology, you reduce the risk factor significantly, because if it does fail, it fails while only a fraction of your employees are using it and you can still replace it without incurring humongous losses.
6. Trust your KPIs for evaluation. Choosing the right key performance indicators to monitor the effects of any changes being implemented is probably the single most important step to take, in order to ensure the continued success.
A company that fails to identify its correct metrics, will go down sooner or later. Innovative technologies often have an effect on more than one department, so it is important to understand exactly what parameters the effectiveness of the technology should be judged on.
Once established, these metrics need to be evaluated carefully and regularly, and any discrepancies need to be acted upon, for the operations to progress.
Taking decisions guiding by the data brought out by these metrics is important to ensure the technology can settle in and start producing performances.
7. Prioritize easy-to-use over features. Whatever time it takes for your employees to master the new technology, is time that they are spending away from their phones, and away from their usual work routine.
Therefore, the faster they get back to their stations, the less you stand to lose in terms of daily performance. This is why technology that is designed to be easy to understand and implement is so important.
Agents should be able to grasp it in as little time as possible, and get to practically implementing it soon after. This ensures that daily operations at the call center are affected to a minimum degree even though such a robust change has been implemented.
Instead of a software that packs a whole lot of features in a complicated bundle, go for the one which gives you the essentials you need, in a simple format which is easy for the user to comprehend and work on.
8. Have an expert in place to give quality feedback. No matter how quick your agents are at grasping the basics of the new technology, there is going to be a situation where somebody gets stuck.
This is why an in-house expert is required, who can provide support and help to solve the problem quickly, so that work can go on.
If this is not possible, call centers should at least have an IT consultant on call who can resolve such issues if and when they crop up.
In addition, the feedback on usage during the initial days is an important part of improvement by the managers as well as employees. They understand the best ways to use the software, and how to avoid wasting resources and time.
The Case Study
We have talked about the revolution that technology has ushered in, with respect to the telemarketing industry. The pace of development we see today is unprecedented, which comes with its own set of benefits and challenges.
The biggest benefit, obviously, is that we now have the processing power and the tools to draw the most precise conclusions from data which allow us to provide service that is more personalized, more efficient and serves more to the specific needs of a user than trying to gauge how the product might fit in with their needs.
The challenge, however, is that technological solutions are becoming redundant too quick, because we are either taking too much time to adapt to new technology, or are failing to use the technology to its full potential.
To illustrate this very issue, let us take the example of CurveBall Technological Solutions, a telemarketing agency providing call center solutions for an established tech firm.
In this case study, we are going to take a look at their problem scenario, the challenges they faced and the solutions that were suggested to compete with them. We will also see the result of these solutions, and conclude whether it had a positive impact overall, or not.
The Problem Scenario
CurveBall prided itself on its top-notch technological infrastructure, and had been providing quality customer service for almost a decade.
Over the recent years, however, they have noticed a lull in their growth rates. They tried to bring in the best call center software solutions which would successfully provide decision-making that influences a better productivity.
What they fund was that although there was a short-term spike in productivity, the solutions that were being proposed were soon becoming outdated, owing to a flush of new tools becoming available.
The specific challenges that the company faced are listed below.
1. Every time a new technology was introduced, a lot of time and resources were spent in training the agents on how to use it, which corresponded to a lot of the business getting hampered for these purposes.
2. Agents were unable to cope with an upgrade so frequently, leading to improper utilization of resources. Thus the very reason for investing in the new technology was left negated.
3. On occasion, faults were realized after the investment was already made, which meant a huge amount of losses were weighing in. The company was unable to clearly predict whether the best call center software would fit into their scheme of things.
The managers at the company recognized the need to implement some serious changes sooner rather than later. They came up with the following solutions.
1. The company looked for technology which provided simple UI and easy platforms to work, so that agents could quickly get a grasp of proceedings and get back to work.
2. A team of experts were hired by the company to serve two purposes – provide comprehensive training to help agents understand the upgrades, and stay on call in case there was a need for clarification or technical assistance at any point.
3. Instead of deployment of technology outright throughout the organization, the company decided to start small, test the effects and then scale up accordingly. This saved them substantial costs in case a technology was found wanting.
The results of the move began to show within a year of implementation. Call center software solutions were now being rolled out more effectively.
Because of the training provided and the easy UX opted for, agents did not take long to find their way around the software.
This meant that they were utilizing it better as well, translating into more efficient customer service. Customer satisfaction was on a high, sales were up over the last two years and productivity at the office was increased.
Thus we see that following these simple tips will help you to get more out of your technology. In a digital world such as ours, it is often how we use what we have, rather than what we do have, that determines our success.