The Complete Guide to Managing Call Center Agents
As a call center manager, a lot is on your shoulders. From day-to-day tasks and monitoring operations to keeping everyone happy and setting goals, it’s essential you have a resource to turn to for learning and development. Look no further, dive into the complete guide to managing call center agents and discover new ways to improve call center operations, and help share the weight. Check back often for new content and updates ― as the call center industry is always changing and new products are continually being developed to help make your life easier.
Strategies for Keeping Call Center Agents Engaged and Efficient
Keeping your call center and its agents efficient often goes hand-in-hand. When one is efficient, the other usually follows. However, it’s not always so simple. Thankfully there are multiple foolproof ways to improve your agent efficiency.
Build effective agent training guides with lasting effects
Often it falls onto the call center manager to properly onboard and train agents to make them the most effective. Ongoing agent training is an excellent way to make sure all your agents are on the same page and up to date on the latest practices and regulations. Ensuring your agents know how to handle any situation boosts efficiency and provides customers with the best service as well.
Here are a few examples of ways to help your call center agents become more familiar with selling and supporting:
- Create an effective onboarding program and don’t stop there. Build ongoing training procedures that help fine-tune agent skills.
- Show your call center agents you care by providing incentives for sales and the quality of service provided.
- Introduce top-performing call center agents and make them available for training.
- Don’t be afraid to do one-on-one training in addition to group training.
Equip agents with the necessary tools
Providing agents with the tools they need to perform their daily tasks is key to keeping employees efficient. Insufficient resources make it difficult for agents to excel and accomplish their goals efficiently. Additionally, having the best call center software boosts agent productivity by allowing agents to maximize the amount of time spent working.
Help agents feel valued and motivated
Every organization has the opportunity to exceed expectations by the way they manage their team. Doing so can be done by showing your agents they are valued and heard. Listening to agent feedback and experiences can result in improving your contact center as a whole and giving your agents the motivation to keep going. Keeping morale high can make the difference between having an agent with unsatisfactory performance and one who goes the extra mile.
Nurture agent and consumer relationships
Your call center’s success relies on the thing that matters most — your agents’ relationships with your customers. Every company attempts to create an overall satisfactory customer experience, but it can be harder than it seems. With constant changes concerning customer expectations, your call center should be on the lookout for best practices to improve customer relationships.
Positive customer experiences generate loyalty throughout your organization. There is always room for improvement as your organization grows and succeeds. It all starts with the right tools to get you started.
Four Things Call Center Agents Need to Know for Exceeding Customer Expectations
1. Know the product
The primary purpose of a call center agent is to provide support and sell products. As more organizations rely on call center agents to do their selling, it is critical that the agents thoroughly understand the products and services they are selling or working with. New agents joining the call center team will need to quickly get up to speed.
Enabling your agents with knowledge about the product or service they specialize in is a simple way to dramatically improve your company’s customer service and satisfaction.
Chances are, many of the customers calling have already searched online about how to pay a bill or found the information that is easily accessible. Remember that they are calling to take advantage of the niche knowledge and expertise they expect your agents to have. Your agents need to be educated and prepared to help.
2. Know the company culture
Agent productivity and job satisfaction are directly tied to the culture of any organization and are central to a top-notch call center. The way an organization treats its employees and the way employees treat each other can greatly impact the culture of a company.
When agents feel they are treated well, being more motivated and engaged will follow suit. A Gallup poll reports that 15% of global employees feel engaged with their work and that 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager. The culture and management within a call center can set agents up for success.
Gallup explains that exceptional organizations create a culture of engagement where employees can perform at their best. Call center agents want to succeed. Help them.
To increase agent engagement, focus your call center goals on building a culture centered around positive experiences. Start with a small-scale initiative like equipping agents with tools that help prepare them to interact with customers in a way that is consistent with business objectives.
3. Know the customers
Managers may fully understand their customer demographics, but do the agents? Exceptional customer service starts by truly understanding your customer base. Once agents are educated about the customer, you can start tailoring your approach. Ensuring your agents understand who your customers are will dramatically change how agents interact with them.
The quality of service your call center provides is a direct reflection of your company and agents on the front line. Building positive customer relationships takes effort and happens over the lifetime of a customer. On the inverse side, one bad customer experience can cost you a potential customer.
A Few Things to Remember:
- Match customer behavior — communication style or channels like email, SMS, and voice
- Anticipate customer needs before they ask
- Take control and personalize empathy to help build rapport
4. Know when they are out of their depth
It takes guts for a call center agent to admit they need help. Only the wisest of agents would acknowledge that they are wrong or in over their heads. Ideally, a situation like this doesn’t come up too often, but agents should never hesitate to ask, transfer, or escalate a call when they need help. Part of a manager’s job is helping agents feel comfortable asking questions and seeking help.
A part of knowing how to handle a situation also includes the ability to be flexible. Even if that means branching out and implementing software such as IVR (Interactive Voice Response) to simplify and improve the customer experience. Customers place value on companies who offer immediate help — whether that is speaking to a live agent on the phone or using live chat.
Over the past few years, live chat features have become more prominent as methods of customer service change according to customers’ needs.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Solutions That Benefit Everyone
Ensuring that your agents step up to the plate to execute a quality customer experience is not always an easy task. Luckily, advanced cloud-based features and tools help optimize the customer experience. Interactive Voice Response (IVR), an automated customer service solution, can help your call center increase customer satisfaction by utilizing self-service options to meet caller needs. With over 67% of consumers preferring self-service options, providing customers with what they want will set your call center apart from the competition.
The benefits of IVR don’t stop there though, take a look at three immediate benefits of implementing an IVR system in your call center.
1. Improve professionalism
It may feel like advanced call center solutions and impressive features are only for the big corporations. However, small businesses worldwide are implementing IVR systems that give them the professionalism equal to a large company. You can ensure your customers have a pleasant interaction with your call center by using an IVR system – complete with a professional voice and self-service options.
2. Increase first contact resolution
Customers will be able to go through the customized prompts and navigate their way to finding the information or help they need. As a customer goes through the IVR prompts and navigates their way to speaking to an agent (if needed), their information is gathered along the way. This information is then used to direct the customer to an agent skilled in helping solve the issue. This process ensures the customer is getting the assistance they need from the first agent they are connected to, and reduces the need for multiple phone calls.
3. Increase agent efficiency
Implementing an IVR system into your call center is the key to helping your agents problem-solve efficiently. With the right self-serve options available to customers, many will be able to find the help or information they need without ever speaking to an agent. This frees up your agents’ time and allows them to focus on helping callers who do need live assistance. Doing so can also improve overall performance and help agents reach their KPI goals.
How to Effectively Manage Remote Call Center Agents Working From Home (WFH)
Many call centers adopt the work from home (WFH) model and employ agents that work remotely. Hiring remote agents can offer many benefits and expand the talent pool to select from. However, implementing a different work model also comes with different obstacles.
While agents are working remotely, the environment around their office space may change – but the atmosphere and way they handle client needs should remain consistent with company standards. Regulating these variables from afar can be a challenge. Take a look at a few pros and cons of having agents work remotely:
Contact centers are able to implement WFH agents with ease, thanks to cloud-based software. Agents can plug in and get to work from any location as long as they have an internet connection and a device that can support the software.
It is important to make sure each agent is equipped with everything they will need to succeed in their role while working from home. Reporting, analytics, and internal chat features allow for managers to give assistance, track agent productivity, and ensure that performance continues to stay at a professional level – no matter where agents are working.
Call Center Managing Made Easier With Workforce Engagement
Workforce Engagement is a call center software tool made up of two parts, Workforce Optimization (WFO) and Workforce Management (WFM). Workforce Engagement is an all-encompassing software solution that provides you with the tools you need to excel in managing call center agents.
A deeper dive into Workforce Optimization (WFO)
Call Center Workforce Optimization (WFO) is an integral part of any call center, as it should be.
With an effective WFO program, your call center is able to turn data from customer interactions into action that leads to exceptional customer experiences.
WFO plays a key role in how agents are trained, coached, monitored, rewarded, and adhere to service level agreements with customers. The overall customer experience hinges on how well call center managers implement a WFO program.
Key features of a successful Workforce Optimization platform
Having a successful WFO program can introduce new levels of efficiency in your daily call center operations and agent performance. The key features of a successful WFO platform include:
- Voice Analytics, Transcription, and Call Recording
- Call Center Reporting and Analytics
- KPI Analyzing and Actionable Insights
Benefits of Workforce Optimization and Engagement
In addition to feature sets and best practices, effective and efficient WFO software can help any call center with:
- An overall increase in customer satisfaction and experience
- Improved agent engagement and feedback
- Reduced organizational costs while improving efficiency
A closer look at Workforce Management (WFM)
Call Center Workforce Management (WFM) is used to forecast agent availability based on the volume of communication received. The features of WFM are a key component to Workforce Engagement. The key features of a Workforce Management platform:
- Predict time of day scheduling
- Track call center agents to enforce adherence
- Predict agent skills required to handle forecasted call volume
Workforce Management best practices
- Set realistic adherence goals for your agents and remember nobody is perfect. Look for trends in average handle time to build goals around and be consistent with the entire team.
- Make agent schedules as close to production as possible. Doing so will save you time or having to redo schedules altogether if an increase in call center volume hits unexpectedly.
- Allow for flexible schedules to help increase agent engagement and productivity while promoting a positive work-life balance.
- Turn agent overtime and time off as an advantage to help mitigate times when contacts are high, or even slow. This will save your call center thousands of dollars.
- Review goals and metrics annually and make improvements based on feedback from agents and managers.
Call Center Software Features for Improved Agent Training
If done right, training your call center agents is an ongoing process. Nobody’s perfect, and there’s always room for improvement – which is why it’s important to do continuous agent training and coaching to keep moving in the right direction.
The importance of agent coaching
As call center managers train and manage their agents with analytics in mind, they can incentivize their workforce with data that reflects their agents’ performance. Exceptional performance only comes from call center workforces coming together as a team to improve and manage performance efficiently.
Ongoing training and coaching may seem like a challenging task to accomplish when you are handling agents and your own workload simultaneously. However, to maintain compliance regulations and stay away from possible risk, you need to stay on top of agent performance and capabilities. Thankfully there are tools and features that help you keep up with all the moving pieces.
Voice Analytics: The secret to enhanced agent performance
Getting your agents on track starts with accurate data that gives insight into their performance. Voice Analytics is essential for ensuring that your agents are trained in line with your metrics and necessary KPIs. Not only that, but Voice Analytics helps call center managers to recognize patterns within their customer base. Your data can provide a lot of information about your customers’ experiences with agents, help you find ways to increase satisfaction, and improve agent training.
How you train your agents is reflected not only in their interactions with customers but as well as in your data. Call center managers who are receiving real-time insights from voice analytics are already at an advantage against their competitors who might be accustomed to sticking to outdated platforms and services.
With the help of voice and speech analytics, managers receive:
- Transcripts of every call
- Call recording and redaction
- Enterprise-level engagement analytics
- Cloud-based call records
Real-time data is truly a win-win all around for call centers — regardless of circumstances. Why have your agents be blind-sighted by their performance data when they can train with the right tools and stay informed?
Speech analytics alone doesn’t resolve every possible roadblock call centers can face. Call center agents can still feel frustrated and overwhelmed with their team. It’s essential for call center managers to utilize cloud-based tools to communicate with their agents daily. The best goals and metrics you can make are based on previous performance indicators and feedback. Stay realistic and optimistic with your agents, and they will reciprocate with improved performance.