Social-media

Inbound vs. outbound contact center channels

 

There used to be a clear division between inbound and outbound contact centers - one was for customer service, the other for sales. But with the increase in initiatives like inbound marketing and a greater call for proactive customer support, these lines have blurred. Sales people are as likely to receive inbound communication as to reach out themselves, and to some degree, the opposite applies to customer support agents.

So in this contemporary contact center space, what channels are most important? We examine inbound versus outbound channels and discuss how agents can be prepared to use them.

47 per cent of customers would sooner go online to complain than place a phone call.

Inbound contact center channels

Social media

All modern contact centers should incorporate social media into their business. And we're not just talking about direct chat, but monitoring comments, tweets and the like, too. According to an eGain report, 47 per cent of consumers would sooner go online to complain than place a phone call, and 18-35-year-old customers are twice as likely to use the web for complaints than those over 55 years.

But do you create a dedicated social media monitoring team or train your existing agents on the relevant platforms? There are mixed recommendations in the industry on this. Where the former may let you hone the expertise of your team, the latter integrates social media into the wider business - which might help you track queries and record data alongside other channels.

Chatbots

Chatbots are a growing trend. This is where customers talk with a system powered by artificial intelligence instead of an agent. Chatbots solve simple problems and let humans focus on more complex, important duties, allowing you to improve customer turnaround and increase their satisfaction.

That said, a business has to be ready for chatbots. They require a team of engineers (in-house or otherwise) and regular upgrading in order to operate effectively. On top of that, chatbots tend to work best when limited in scope; if a chatbot has to do too much, it can struggle, but a simple task it can repeat over and over will help it excel. For anything more complex, it must escalate to a human handler - which is where your agents will require additional training.

Inbound contact centres are increasingly featuring social media and chatbots.Chatbots and social media are becoming increasingly prominent in the inbound contact center space.

Content

Content - i.e. blogs, whitepapers and the like - may not seem like channels for your sales or customer service agents, but it's vital that your contact center staff keep up-to-date on what content is being published.

This is because the goal of content marketing is typically to attract more users to your website, answering their queries and educating them on topics relating to your product. Many of these customers will continue through the marketing pipeline to your contact center staff with questions relating to what they've just read or watched. If your agents aren't aware of what is being promoted, they may be unable to help further and this could cause a negative customer experience.

Traditional channels

Of course, no inbound versus outbound list would be complete without the traditional channels. Phone calls, emails and IVR remain important parts of the inbound contact center environment even as new technology takes greater importance - this is especially true of older generations, who eGain found still prefer phone calls. So while chatbot and social media training may be exciting, it's important never to let your fundamentals drop.

When was the last time you optimized your forecasting and scheduling system, or your IVR software?

Social media can be an effective tool for outbound contact centers chasing warm leads.

Outbound contact center channels

Social media and email

Social media and email have grown into strong inbound channels, but they should be integrated into your outbound center as well. This is to fit in with a warm calling strategy, where agents are reaching out to sales prospects who they've already made contact with online.

Most warm calls will likely follow an email request for a quote or demo, but contact center agents can also start warm relationships with social media. This could be in the form of replying to prospects' posts, or sending direct messages. Achieving this in your business will require basic social media training for agents, plus expanded training on how to research relevant prospects online (i.e. via LinkedIn).

Advanced dialers

Dialers have of course been around for years, but modern systems greatly surpass their legacy counterparts in terms of functionality. Modern computer algorithms allow systems like Aspect Predictive Dialer to be forward-thinking tools, detecting busy signals and no-answers, modifying campaigns dynamically, tracking and managing consent, and providing proactive outreach via voice, email or SMS.

These features are designed to maximize agent effectiveness and productivity, and they fit readily into a modern data-centric contact center.

Advanced predictive diallers are a valuable asset to outbound contact centres hoping to improve productivity.With a predictive dialer, your outbound agents would spend more time on calls and less time waiting between them.

In conclusion

Inbound contact centers are growing in size and importance, but outbound centers are still going strong and their success rates can be bolstered with smart digital channels. For local contact centers looking to improve their services, technology and training is a must.

If you need help installing either of these in your business, reach out to Call Design today. We've been a leading consultancy in the Australian contact center space since 1999, with a raft of advanced technology solutions and best-practice training sessions available to optimize your workforce and improve your customer experience.

To learn more, contact us today.


Retaining staff: A guide for contact centre managers

 

It's no secret that attrition is one of the biggest challenges facing contact centres, and it's something the industry acknowledges. In fact, 40 per cent of contact centre managers want to improve retention rates among staff, according to Deloitte's Global Contact Centre Survey.

So what can you do to hold on to your top performing agents? Let's explore.

Contact centre managers need to know how to deal with unhappy staff.Staff attrition is one of the greatest problems facing contact centre managers.

1. Analyse your hiring process

Reducing contact centre attrition starts with your hiring processes.

It can be difficult to know from a resume how well a candidate may suit your company, but it's important to begin building an idea as early as you can. Cover letters in particular should allow you to gain an understanding of how their past experience sets them up for life in your centre, but also what they expect from the role, and how they might fit into the structures you have in place.

Your hiring process should determine whether someone will slide seamlessly into your culture.

This information can then be added to at the interview. As well as digging deeper into their professional skills, a substantial proportion of this time should be allocated to determining whether the candidate will slide seamlessly into your culture. A good indicator comes in the form of their soft skills.

Soft skills is a category that includes attributes such as communication, leadership and collaboration, all of which permit people to work well alongside others and produce an atmosphere where people want to stay and develop.

2. Establish clear objectives, and clear rewards

Opportunities to progress finished second only to a good work/life balance in the list of factors attracting millennials to a workplace, according to Deloitte's 2016 Millennial Survey. Once hiring is complete, therefore, part of the onboarding process should involve giving your new recruits a clear picture of not only their own role, but what they can do to advance.

Crucial to this is having well-defined and easily available employee handbooks. Among other things, these should detail incentives for good performance, as well as Key Performance Indicator (KPI) targets that need to be met. This approach gives your staff something to aim for beyond their day-to-day targets. Though, as we will see in point four, these are also important when it comes to improving retention in contact centres.

Having a clearly defined progression for employees is a great incentive.Employee handbooks are great ways to show the opportunities for promotion.

3. Personalise incentive schemes

A great way to go the extra mile for your staff, and increase their loyalty to your business, is to personalise the incentives you offer.

This could be something as simple as giving employees a range of options if they're eligible for a reward, showing that you take these processes seriously and aren't simply going through the motions.

Digital rewards are also a great option. Acknowledging high achievers on social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn provide public acknowledgement of good results, and even a well thought-through email can be an effective way to build manager-staff bonds.

4. Stay on track

Using trackable metrics is an essential aspect of managing agent performance and the quality of client interactions.

This not only ensures that your customers experience a consistently high standard of service, but also allows you to catch potential problems and turn them around.

Tracking performance using metrics gives you the chance to catch problems and provide a solution.

Using metrics allows you to identify areas of weakness and provide the necessary training to bridge gaps. As well as showing interest in the professional development of your individual agents, this proactive management can halt the disenchantment that often comes with poor professional performance. Ultimately this may result in preventing an employee from leaving the company.

However, even when employees aren't missing targets, providing regular commentary to staff, based on the insights gained from metrics, is highly recommended. In fact, 51 per cent of millennials surveyed by PwC said that feedback should be given very regularly or continuously, and the more detailed, the better.

5. Open up your culture

Vital to preventing unnecessary loss of staff is creating a culture where agents feel comfortable talking to management about problems they may be having.

As these issues may range from professional to personal, it's vital that leadership are properly trained to make these interactions productive. As with feedback on trackable metrics, these are opportunities to catch issues before they snowball and provide a resolution that aids with retaining the staff involved.

However, sometimes enlisting the help of outside experts can be the best solution. Call Design's Contact Centre Consulting service is designed to help managers who are too close to identify the root cause of what is preventing an easy fix to culture problems. This service will optimise the running of your contact centre down to the smallest details, including leadership skills that could help you better understand the challenges facing your staff.

Exit interviews allow you to get insights on what went wrong,Exit interviews provide a valuable opportunity to learn how you can improve your systems for future employees.

6. Conduct exit interviews

Even if you adhere to all the guidance mentioned in this article, from time to time staff will leave. Rather than view this as a failure of your retention initiatives, use it as an opportunity to learn why this employee felt it was time to move on.

This is a golden chance where the individual in question is likely to be far more honest than they were during their tenure at the company. If there was no single reason that led to their departure, you can still gain valuable insights on what they feel your organisation does well, and what could be improved.

Learning from past mistakes and engaging with your staff is integral to reducing attrition in your contact centre. However, if you want more information on the relevant professional services you can make use of, get in touch with the team at Call Design today.


Why analyse performance in the back office?

 

With today's emphasis on customer interaction and experience, the back office is at risk of being overlooked.

Sure, your front line staff are the main touch point for customers engaging with your business, but you can't expect these employees to operate at peak efficiency if your back office isn't optimized. From forecasting workloads to running accounts, this is the team you'll rely on when customers demand answers to more complex queries.

This article will demonstrate why back office performance analysis should be a top priority for managers.

Performance analysis is a vital consideration to ensure a smooth customer experience.Delays in back office processing can have a large impact on the contact center

1. Find your weaknesses

If you want to improve the way that your back office staff are performing, you should start by identifying what isn't working as well as it could.

Setting clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your staff allows you to not only establish expected standards for work, but also to monitor trends. A good balanced scorecard provides you with the right performance metrics and allows you to identify and analyze individual points of weakness among your staff, and tailor ongoing training  to meet these exact needs.

Your staff are a key resource when it comes to actioning the results of this analysis. As well as drawing your own conclusions, group back office retrospectives give employees a chance to provide feedback on what's preventing them from reaching their goals, creating a cycle of improvement. A good performance program and action plan can not only dramatically improve your satisfaction results, but allow you to performance manage your employees 'up' and not 'out', resulting in a massive cost saving for any organization.

2. Improve customer experience

More than 50 percent of customers say that their experience of a brand will impact whether or not they invest in a service or product, according to Deloitte. Customer experience is, therefore, everyone's priority - not just that of front-line staff.

Integral to this is making every effort to resolve queries or complaints the first time they're raised. If this happens, you have the opportunity to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one, says a study from PwC.

Customer experience is everyone's priority, not just that of front-line staff.

To give your customer service staff the best chance of achieving first time resolution, it's important to ensure that you provide them with as much information as possible – that includes providing visibility to business performance and potential problems such as backlogs or processing errors in the back office.

3. Your staff want you to

The increasingly visible millennial workforce crave the regular feedback that accompanies performance analysis, suggests a separate PwC report. Professional development is important to this demographic, so opportunities to discover areas where they can grow through training are welcomed.

If you're a back office manager hoping to improve your processes and personnel operation, performance analysis is a vital step. Call Design's Performance Management Essentials Course is specifically designed to increase your knowledge in this area, and implement successful change. For more information, get in touch with our team today.


Why engagement management is vital for contact centres

 

We've all heard the adage that happy staff make for happy customers. A cliche, maybe, but one backed up by data. In fact, companies considered as customer experience leaders have 1.5 times more engaged employees than companies who lag behind, according to research by the Temkin Group.

Contact centres are direct points of interaction between businesses and clients, but there are reasons beyond customer satisfaction that make learning engagement management a must-do for those heading up agent teams.

Let's take a look at a few:

Customers will tell if your staff aren't fully engaged with their tasks.Engaged staff are more likely to have positive customer interactions.

1. It's a real time saver

Contact centres are traditionally flexible environments, and empowering staff to take greater ownership of their schedules is a popular way of increasing agent engagement.

The use of smartphone technology that allows employees to interact with each other, swap shifts and access their schedule remotely not only gives them responsibility for their working hours, but also saves your workforce management team a lot of time rearranging hours on their behalf.

However, implementing this scheme requires thoughtful management in order to maintain control over staffing numbers. It's important that it links with your workforce management tool, and rules are built in to check intraday staffing levels for each skill before allowing swaps to go ahead.

2. You can attract great staff

Millennials are flooding the Australian jobs market, and they rate engagement highly when choosing where to work.

The ability to progress up the career ladder came in first among a list of factors attracting millennials to employers, in a study conducted by PwC, beating even competitive salaries. They also expect regular feedback, praise for good performances and clearly established targets to aim for.

With all of these demands falling under the banner of employee engagement, it's clear that effective management is key for businesses that wish to remain competitive in the world of employment.

Staff feedback can help contact centre managers establish effective engagement strategies.Millennial staff expect regular engagement through feedback from management.

3. ...and keep them

Employees are a staggering 87 per cent less likely to leave a company where they feel highly engaged, as compared with staff in organisations where this sentiment isn't so strong, as claimed by a report from the Kenan-Flagler business school.

In an industry where high turnover rates are the norm, this is research contact centre managers can't afford to ignore. Indeed, individual engagement strategies such as prioritising the recognition and reward of high quality performance can in themselves improve retention, according to a Deloitte survey.

It's important to remember that these initiatives don't happen by magic, and careful planning is needed to ensure they fit the culture in your contact centre.

Effectively managing staff engagement has benefits beyond customer experience vital to the continued success of your business. Call Design's Manager Essentials course is an intensive one-day program tailored to optimise your leadership practices and get the most out of your staff. To find out more, get in touch with our team today.


Contact centres: methods for accurate forecasting

 

As a contact centre manager, you should always seek balance. You need to make sure that the workload is handled effectively and professionally, without having so many agents that staffing costs become too great. Learning how to accurately forecast supply and demand in contact centres will lead to greater customer satisfaction, improved staff morale and better productivity.

Here are some useful forecasting methods for contact centres.

1. Time series analysis

Time series analysis is a popular method for contact centre forecasting, and uses historical data to help predict future workloads. This may seem overly simplistic, but time series analysis allows workforce managers to isolate data to see the effects of certain factors such as trend seasonality, as well as changes that might come about after a targeted sales drive, for example.

In addition to this it's important to analyse average handle time (AHT) patterns as these tend to vary throughout the day, as well as by day of week. Using inaccurate data can lead to under or overstaffing.

By isolating variables in this way workforce planners can get a better idea of how similar changes are likely to impact the call centre workload in the future.

Accurate forecasting means you can better predict the workload in your contact centre.Better forecasting leads to happier customers, and staff.

 2. Workload

With the above mentioned contact volume and AHT information, workload can be calculated. This is done by multiplying the number of forecast contacts for the interval by the average handle time, and then dividing by the number of seconds in the interval.

3. Erlang C calculations

Erlang C calculations are based on the work of a Danish mathematician, and allow you to establish how many staff are required for a given contact volume based on meeting a certain service level goal.  This calculation provides the bums in seats requirement, i.e. how many staff would be required if they didn't take breaks, have meetings and one on ones or take annual leave etc.

4. Shrinkage

In order to work out the total staffing requirement, shrinkage needs to be included. Shrinkage refers to the time during which agents are being paid to be on the phone but are unavailable to take calls, or aren't working for other reasons such as being on a break, being in one on ones or in meetings etc . Including accurate shrinkage assumptions is critical to calculating staffing requirements as using incorrect data will lead to under and over staffing.

5. Attrition

It's no secret that attrition, or employee turnover, is high in the contact centre industry. Hiring and training new employees is an expensive and time-consuming business, so having a firm grasp on the numbers when it comes to attrition rates is important in making sure there are always enough agents to meet the workload requirements.

Being aware of the rate at which agents leave the business can also be useful in working out manageable shift patterns and how flexible you can be with working hours - measures that may help you better retain your staff.

6. Outbound forecasting

While some of the same tools can be used for workforce management in outbound call centres, there are also some important differences. Outbound contact centres are more targeted, as staff often need to speak to a specific person.  Although the workload can be managed a little easier than inbound calls, as the business is more in control, they still need to ensure there are sufficient staff to handle the workload and that their staff can make the calls when the targeted recipient is most likely to be available.

Understanding how to forecast contact centre staffing requirements is a good first step, but effective implementation and management of schedules are key. Call Design creates tailored workforce management courses and solutions to hone your skills and maximise the potential of your workforce. For more information, get in touch with Call Design today.


Instilling purpose: Creating a cohesive contact centre

 

With the number of Australians using social media still on the increase, as reported in data from Sensis, it's crucial that companies present a consistent experience for customers across different channels.

Unfortunately that isn't happening.

In fact, only 14 per cent of consumers strongly agree that companies effectively manage their experience across traditional and digital contact touch points, according to a study by Accenture. For contact centre managers this means the pressure is on to ensure that your agents can successfully continue customer journeys which often begin in the digital sphere.

Here are some tips for providing consistent customer experiences through creating a cohesive contact centre.

Setting targets is a good way to give agents an idea of what's expected of them.Work with your staff to set productive goals.

1. Setting contact centre goals

One of the most important aspects of quality management is setting great goals.

First-contact resolution should be a priority for managers in any customer-facing department, as 80 per cent of consumers who switch providers do so because their problem wasn't solved at the initial time of asking- another finding from the Accenture report.

By establishing a clear framework of key performance indicators (KPIs) agents know what's expected of them when interacting with customers, and have something to aim for. This will encourage them to continue to grow professionally, and will translate to higher quality interactions with consumers.

2. Aligning the company

On average it takes 12 positive experiences to reverse the damage from just one bad one, according to customer experience expert Ruby Newell-Legner.

By creating a company-wide standard, with specific targets measuring different areas of performance, you establish a quality benchmark that customers will receive no matter which channel they choose to interact through. This greatly reduces the opportunities for these negative experiences to take place.

Create a unified framework of aims and objectivesAlign the company so everyone is pushing in the same direction.

3. The power of task ownership

It can be easy for staff to lose sight of how their individual tasks contribute to the goals of the business as a whole. This is especially true in a contact centre setting where agents don't often see the products or services the company sells.

It's the role of the contact centre manager, therefore, to instill a sense of purpose within the workforce, and there are a numbers of ways to do this:

  • Invest time and training in staff to help them solve problems for themselves.
  • Praise and encourage high quality performance.
  • Provide regular feedback.
  • Make sure they know why their work is important.

Identifying the need for a more consistent customer journey is a key step for quality management in contact centres. Call Design offers tailored training and solutions to help managers empower their agents to provide a continually excellent customer experience. For more information, get in touch with the team at Call Design today.


Shift Bidding for Better Efficiency and Engagement

Without flexibility and room for change, schedules can get stale. Companies can find that schedules are becoming less and less of a good fit for evolving staffing requirements. Some agents, especially Millennial and Gen Z agents, can find that static schedules don’t offer the flexibility they crave. Perhaps junior workers get stranded in less-desirable schedules on weekends, holidays, or in late shifts they they’d prefer not to work. In many cases offering shift bidding more often can increase schedule efficiency and improve overall agent satisfaction. But without a world-class WFM system, Shift Bidding can be complicated and time-consuming. Many businesses find it impractical if not impossible to run a shift bid more than twice a year.

Bid More Often

Here's where our Workforce Management application comes in: with powerful tools to facilitate bids, WFM administrators can create and execute bids in a fraction of the time it took in the past, allowing them to run bids much more often. Some find they can bid for schedules monthly, semi-monthly or even weekly. WFM even makes it possible to run special bids for holidays, or for intraday offerings for OT or Voluntary Time Off.

Balancing Fairness with Performance

Using optimal schedules based on the most up-to-date staffing needs forecast, you can ensure a more efficient fit with changing business requirements. And you control the crucial step of ordering your employees to determine their order in the bid. Consider a ranking method that aligns with your business goals, emphasizes fairness but also incentivizes better performance. Think about a merit-based possibility to engage your staff more. Rather than an abrupt change that causes distress among your agents, you can gradually evolve towards a merit-based shift bid. You can also strike a balance between performance and quality scores for example by using them both in weighted combination.

Communication

Before diving in, carefully consider your strategy for communicating with agents and supervisors. Create a clear, compelling message that tell them why a new Shift Bidding process is under consideration, especially if you are thinking about moving towards a performance-based bidding system. Use Workforce Management to create What-If scenarios that show the benefit of using new schedules for bidding: better staffing efficiency, better customer experience, increased fairness, and the opportunity for agents to have more control over the schedules they work. Listen to agent concerns, make them feel that they are being heard.

And be absolutely sure that your first bid is set up and executed properly; if the agents’ first new bidding experience is poor, they can form a negative opinion that undermines morale. Take advantage of our experienced consultants who have been through this process many times and can help guide you past any pitfalls.

Results in Less Time

When it’s time for agents to bid, you’ll need an efficient interface that allows agents to quickly make their choices and see the results. Make sure they know their position in the bid order so that they can take this into account when ranking their preferred schedules. Our Workforce Optimization Agent Portal provides a clear, easy-to-use interface that shows agents their position in the bid, the schedules available for bidding, and let’s them rank the schedules according to their preferences. Once schedules are assigned and made official, agents immediately see the results in the WFO portal and the optional ME mobile app. All done with no need for manual sign-up sheets or manual reports to communicate results.

The benefits of efficient shift bidding can be impactful: users have seen increases in schedule adherence of 4% or more as well as productivity improvements of 5% or more. Improved schedule efficiency, time savings for WFM admins, improved agent satisfaction offered by shift bidding are only some of the ways that WFM creates impactful change for our customers. Contact the experts at Call Design to discover more.


Aspect Software Awarded Patent for Workforce Management Multi-Channel Scheduling System

Aspect Software a leading provider of native consumer engagement, workforce optimization, and self-service solutions, today announced the award of a new patent for modeling and simulating the interaction dynamics of chat, email, IM, social media and other text-based customer communication in a workforce management (WFM) environment. The patent was awarded for the unique method used to accurately estimate the required staff in a multi-skill, multi-channel contact center environment. Read more here...

https://www.aspect.com/company/news/press-releases/aspect-software-awarded-patent-for-workforce-management-multi-channel-scheduling-system


Aspect Software Receives 2018 CUSTOMER Magazine Product of the Year Award

Aspect Software, a leading provider of fully integrated consumer engagement, workforce optimization, and self-service solutions, today announced that TMC, a global, integrated media company, has named Aspect Software as a 2018 CUSTOMER Product of the Year Award Winner. The award highlights products which enable their clients to meet and exceed the expectations of their customers. Read more here...

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180403005159/en/Aspect-Software-Receives-2018-CUSTOMER-Magazine-Product


3 important goals for a new contact centre supervisor

 

Congratulations on becoming a new supervisor! This is a great leadership position to be in, but it comes with its own set of challenges.

If this is your first time leading a contact center team, you're going to need to set some goals in order to begin. The following should be three of your priorities, which will establish your relationships with staff, implement an effective coaching program and confront the issues agents face.

Goal 1: Establish a relationship with your agents

Agents don't always feel confident speaking with their new call centre supervisor, which makes forming relationships step one.Friendly relationships can close some of the gaps between manager and agent.

Forming relationships with your agents can build trust and help them feel comfortable communicating with you. Additionally, Deloitte's senior call center manager Sarah Stealey Reed recommends introducing yourself when you first start so agents know who you are and what you stand for. You should also listen to co-workers in order to find out more about the issues they face.

  • Key takeaway: Introduce yourself to everyone when you start, sit down for one-on-one chats to learn more about them, and shadow their customer interactions every now and then to better understand their abilities.

Goal 2: Establish a culture of coaching

Another good tip for new call center supervisors is to implement a performance management initiative with a focus on coaching. A panel organized by Call Center Helper said that coaching sessions can help staff achieve their full potential. You won't be alone: major companies across the world are turning to coaching as a means to improve staff performance - including Adobe Systems, Microsoft and GE, according to McKinsey research.

  • Key takeaway: Take time to think about your agents' development and how you can coach them into improving their skills. If you aren't sure about performance management, talk to a company that offers performance management training, like Call Design.

Goal 3: Challenge existing business practices

It's important to challenge the norm in your company and use your new influence to help make agents' lives easier - especially now that you know more about them. However, the Call Center Helper panel advises supervisors remind themselves that they don't know all the answers. Reed also agrees with this: Talk to agents, learn why things work and don't work, and use their detailed knowledge of processes along with your own expertise to find a fix that works for everyone.

  • Key takeaway: Don't try to make a system work that you already know doesn't. Use your newfound relationships with staff to find out the root cause of their issues and combine it with your own experience to implement a logical, effective solution.

If your discussions with staff lead you to believe you need a better workforce optimisation platform, or a training course to upskill before you tackle performance management on your own, talk to the experts at Call Design today.