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Healthcare Call Center Best Practices: Work with a Qualified Call Center

When looking for the best contact center partner, keep in mind that not all call centers are alike, and they definitely do not all have the same experience in every vertical. 

If you are considering outsourcing some or all of your call center work, it is critical to choose a partner that has industry-specific knowledge and experience so they understand the “why” behind your business and your clients/customers. Nowhere is that more evident than in the healthcare field, where HIPAA compliance, compassion, and empathy are essentials when it comes to healthcare call center best practices.

Insurance and pharmaceutical companies, wellness providers, medical assistance organizations, and healthcare exchanges all provide a differing and  wide range of services to customers. Yet every organization is different. You will need a partner that can tailor their solutions to meet your specific needs.

Here are just some of the things that call centers must have, or be able to accomplish for you,, in order to successfully support healthcare clients and their customers:

  • New Customer Acquisition. This might include enrollment/eligibility support, policy selection assistance, and health screening questions and assistance, even cross-selling and upselling of products or services.
  • Customer Support. This might include membership-specific services as well as billing and payment inquiries, claims status information, drug and pharmaceutical assistance, medical provider referrals, even technical help such as resetting ID and password information.
  • Account Management. In addition to serving your customers, your outsource partner must be able to support your business operations and growth. Behind-the-scenes healthcare call center best practices include strict adherence to HIPAA procedures, legal compliance requirements, efficient order processing, and ability to effectively handle adverse events, emergencies, and breaches.

Putting best practices into play

The easiest way to visualize how the right call center can benefit your healthcare business is by reviewing real-life examples.

A Health Care Exchange partnered with The Connection® because of our outstanding track record in achieving performance KPIs and our ability to scale services as clients grow or volume fluctuates. We exceeded their expectations:

  • We partnered with them to develop and provide extensive CSR training and ongoing monitoring to handle customer calls, achieving a 95% quality rating.
  • We created a special CSR team dedicated to reducing the Client’s  huge application backlog, eliminating more than 30,000 pending applications within a very short period of time..
  • We worked with the Client  to develop a dynamic staffing strategy that ensured minimal caller wait times even during peak periods.
  • We proactively identified and implemented additional efficiency improvements aimed at improving the overall customer experience.

In the words of the Client CEO, “The Connection team exhibits an understanding and “can-do” attitude that provides insight, feedback, and value that extends above and beyond their excellent call center services.”

For another Healthcare client, The Connection® was able to institute new customer service features including virtual hold (callers can request a return call rather than waiting on hold for an agent), new workforce management improvements, better alignment of staffing and capabilities, and much more.  The net effect has been a quality rating of 97% or higher along with a 17% reduction in labor costs.

Healthcare call center best practices can boost your customer experience and happiness and boost your bottom line as well. As long as you select an appropriate partner. Want to know more? Give us a call at The Connection®.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/healthcare-call-center-best-practices

Publish Date: March 12, 2020 5:00 AM


Interpreting a Call Center Metrics Dashboard with The Connection®

When you outsource your customer service to a professional call center such as The Connection®, you expect their agents to do a great job on behalf of your company and your customers. But how do you know if they are performing as promised? At The Connection®, we use a call center metrics dashboard tailored to each client.

Download our Sample Call Center Metrics Dashboard.

Our call center metrics dashboard shows day by day results as well as cumulative weekly and monthly totals, arranged on an easy-to-follow matrix. You can get into the weeds and study the details or you can also see the big picture at a glance regarding how we did (and, by extension, how you did). We share it with you regularly and go over it with you personally so we can answer any questions you may have.

Establishing Metrics That Matter to You

To create your dashboard, we discuss with you which measurements are most relevant for your business. In addition, there are some measurements we use for every client because they are industry standard and provide great benchmarks. Good examples of these are Average Speed to Answer and Call Abandon Rate. Today’s customers are impatient, and if you leave them hanging, they may leave you hanging, and we don’t want that!

We also establish key performance indicators (KPI) – numbers or percentages that identify the performance goals that we have agreed with you are important to meet. We measure data daily to get the greatest insight into trends that could influence forecasting decisions (for us, in managing your customer service, or for your company in making business decisions). As we study monthly results, we also look for anomalies in the data, with an eye toward understanding the cause.

Whatever the specific KPIs we use for your business, our call center metrics dashboard is jam-packed with useful, insightful data.

How the Dashboard Presents Data

Across the top of our matrix, we list each item to be measured, with corresponding KPI goals as appropriate.

Download a PDF version to get a better view of the report.

In our example you can see:

  • Calls offered (incoming calls)
  • Calls handled
  • % handled
  • Calls abandoned
  • % abandoned (with KPI of <5%)
  • Service level (with KPI of 80%)
  • Average speed of answer (with KPI of :30 or less)
  • Average handle time (from call answer go resolution)

We also track the volume of incoming emails and the number and percentage handled.

Down the left side of our matrix, there is a line for every day in the reporting month, with sub-sections for weekly totals and, of course, monthly totals that appear across the bottom line.

Interpreting the Data

In the world of answering and responding to contacts (voice, email, webchat), many KPI’s are interconnected.  We separate the cause from the effect to ensure the correct decisions are made from a workforce perspective. That way, calls are handled within compliance and within the quality standards that are key to how we represent your company and your brand to your customers.

Access our Call Center Metrics walkthrough to get the full interpretation of this sample report.

See for Yourself

Listen to our Call Center Metrics Demo as Brad McNeive, one of our Program Managers, walks a client through a monthly report to demonstrate how it works. You will quickly see just how informative our call center metrics dashboard can be for your business.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/call-center-metrics-dashboard

Publish Date: February 13, 2020 5:00 AM


Benefits of Outsourcing Your Appointment Setting Services

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) appointment setting services have become especially popular with customer-conscious businesses because outsourcing offers multiple benefits for your brand and your bottom line.

What could outsourcing your appointment setting services do for you?

Reliable responsiveness

When your customers need a response from your organization, they expect it to be quick. Staff must be available at all times and in sufficient number to handle customer calls promptly and efficiently. And if that is not the case, you are either risking turning off your customers, or turning away your customers. Voice mail or an answering service that responds with, “I’ll pass your message along and they’ll get back to you” do not cut it with customers. When your customer wants to schedule an appointment, your team has to be there to schedule it.

Consistent quality

Training is a top priority at The Connection. It may seem that anyone can schedule appointments, but the work is extremely important for customer satisfaction and requires attention to detail. If you are churning through customer care agents, then it is likely that the team is never getting the training, practice, and hands-on experience they need to be proficient and professional. Again, this may be a sign that outsourcing this function is in your future.

Customers will think our people are your people – because they are. We train our team (your team) to represent your brand in every way. In this fashion, you give up nothing by outsourcing except for the constant headaches associated with recruiting, hiring, training, managing, and (likely) the constant churn and turnover of your team.  

H.R. relief

Staffing is one of the biggest frustrations for in-house call center managers. Finding quality new hires, getting them trained, handling daily personnel management challenges, dealing with benefits and payroll can be overwhelming. Less-than-stellar customer service reps can quickly damage a company’s reputation. At The Connection, staffing goes to the heart of who we are, and we have the know-how and resources to assemble teams that will make you proud to identify with them as YOUR team.

Best-available technology

Call center technology is very expensive and must be frequently upgraded to remain relevant and cost-efficient. Once you own the technology, it feels like you need an army of IT professionals to manage it to ensure that it is properly integrated with your other components. For many companies, it can be nearly impossible to keep up. And the cost cuts deeply into capital that could be directed toward other critical business functions.

WATCH: Top 9 Mistakes People Make When They Interview Telephony Vendors [VIDEO]

Outsourced call centers thrive on the latest and most effective technology, and thanks to economies of scale, they can spread the considerable cost over multiple clients, lightening the financial load for companies such as yours. Here at The Connection, we ensure our technology interfaces seamlessly with your CRM or other software. We also offer customized reporting based on your key performance metrics.

See one of our call center metrics report samples first-hand.

Agile, cost-efficient scaling

When your business grows, an outsourced call center can scale up right alongside you without the added costs and delay associated with recruiting, hiring, equipping and training new personnel, and increased facilities costs. Conversely, if your business is seasonal, a professional call center can scale down as needed to meet lower volumes, rather than charging for what you don’t need.

To sum up

Appointment setting is a fundamental task for service companies, but it is time-consuming and costly when you try and ramp a team of personnel without the proper H.R., technology, or other support you need to be successful.  When utilizing an outsource company such as The Connection, you skip all the issues associated with making room for customer contact teams, outfitting them with technology tools and other resources, paying the overhead or dealing with the personnel and training issues. Scheduling is faster, better, more efficient. You get relief from the headaches, hassles and high costs, and you gain happier customers.

Learn more about appointment setting on our Call Center Services page. 

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/appointment-setting-services

Publish Date: January 30, 2020 5:00 AM


Customer Service Trends to Look Out for in 2020

Remember when call center agents used to “serve” customers by robotically reciting scripts over the phone? Not anymore. These days, customers expect to have an entirely different experience, one that is personalized just for them. They can reach out via numerous channels, and have actual conversations with agents. For 2020, customer service trends continue to point in one direction: even greater focus on total customer experience.

Companies across all industries now understand that customer experience is a brand differentiator — one that significantly impacts customer retention and revenue growth. Customer experience includes every touchpoint — online, in-store, and contact center interactions. To outperform competitors in 2020, companies will take advantage of customer service trends to sharpen their efforts to deliver a better customer experience.

Increased Urgency for Digital Transformation

Customers now expect companies to know who they are and deliver experiences that match their individual preferences. At the same time, customers are interacting with companies through more and more channels including websites, retail stores, social media, messaging, email, web chat, texting, and — oh, yes, voice calls. The challenge in 2020? To provide seamless, personalized experiences to customers across all of these touchpoints.

Contact centers that are still trying to piece together a hodge-podge of siloed legacy technologies and/or solutions from multiple vendors will pay a big price in 2020, alienating customers and agents alike. Customer serviced trends demand a focus on the channels that best match identified customer preferences. That requires the ability to collect data from all systems that support each touchpoint, and then centrally process and analyze that data.

Learning from Customer Data

Today’s customers want offers and experiences tailored to their individual preferences. In order to deliver that, contact centers will delve deeper into their customer behavior data for clues about each individual, using that data to choose which channel(s) they use to communicate with the customer as well as which specific products, promotions, or support are offered.

Contact centers will still use analytics to drive operations efficiency, too. Key call center metrics such as handle time, average speed of answer, and agent utilization rates, along with customer-focused KPIs such as first call resolution, customer satisfaction scores, and Net Promoter Score all tell part of the story. In effects, companies are using all this data to identify internal customer service trends.

Mobile-Friendly Is a Must  

More than half of Americans now own a smartphone, and that phone is probably their primary communication tool, regardless of channel. Not having a mobile-optimized website and mobile-access customer service options will be a deal-killer in 2020.

Customer Service Goes Social

Customers are now using social media to contact companies, for service and support as well as to purchase products. This is great news for social-savvy contact centers, because interacting with customers via social media saves money compared to live contact. It can also significantly increase customer satisfaction. A third of social media users say they would rather make contact via social media than phone, and nearly two-thirds say they expect companies to provide social-based support.

Using Artificial Intelligence to Boost Engagement

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here to stay, and it is getting smarter all the time. Customers are now comfortable interacting with chatbots, which can help companies gather valuable customer data as well as streamline customer service. In 2020, self-service AI will expand, as will its ability to learn from past customer experiences, thereby providing faster, ever-more personalized service in real-time.

Would You Rather Speak to an Agent?

Investment in automation and technology is crucial for improving the customer experience, now more than ever. To effectively personalize service, agents need tools that display historical information about the customer. Chatbots can support this by transferring contacts to a live agent as needed and delivering relevant messages to the agent’s screen as contacts arrive for seamless service. This hybrid AI-agent integration is a key trend to watch for in 2020.

Because live agents remain crucial for contact center success, one of the most important customer service trends continues to be human investment. Retention of quality agents more competitive than ever. In 2020, contact centers will offer timely, one-on-one feedback and ongoing agent training to develop and retain top talent. Because agents work on the front lines, engaging in interactions that determine customer experience, organizations will also solicit agent input about processes and customer feedback.

Recommendations Boost Sales

Studies show that 56% of online shoppers are more likely to return when a site offers product recommendations, and 45% prefer sites that offer personalized recommendations. Contact centers that take note of this will ensure live agents (and even AIs) have in-depth, up-to-date training that facilitates offering customer-tailored recommendations. 

Security and Privacy

Customers have grown used to reading about massive data breaches, but they have also grown weary (and leery) of them. An otherwise exceptional customer experience is ruined once a customer learns that their personal and financial information has been exposed to hackers or shared with other companies without their consent. Contact centers, and all areas of the organization, must strengthen data protection if they hope to retain customer trust and loyalty. This will require increased security technology, procedures, and employee training.

Conclusion

Customer service trends for 2020 reflect the need to keep improving communication processes, technology, data analysis and usage, and security. But they all aim to boost overall customer experience. And as much as technology continues to expand its presence in contact center operations, companies are also doubling down on attracting and retaining high-quality labor.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/customer-service-trends

Publish Date: January 16, 2020 5:00 AM


Causes of Inaccurate Call Center Workforce Forecasting & How To Avoid Them

Without effective workforce forecasting, call centers cannot serve customers well or function profitably.

Virtually everything that goes into optimizing resources — recruiting, hiring, staffing, and scheduling — depends on having an accurate estimate of the work that will come your way.

How accurate does your forecast have to be? As a general rule of thumb:

  • Large agent groups (100 or more agents) generally see relatively stable contact patterns. You should strive to forecast workforce needs to within 5 percent (or better), down to specific intervals (see table below).
  • Small groups (15 or fewer agents) often have more volatile patterns and should shoot for plus or minus 10 percent.
  • Those in-between should strive for something as close to 5 percent as possible.

In a perfect world, workforce forecasting would also be perfect. So, think of it as a work in progress, with continuous improvement as your top priority.

To help you reach your goals, we have identified ten common barriers to forecasting accuracy. In most cases, call centers with inaccurate forecasts usually find that two or three of these issues are most prevalent. The good news is, you can avoid these problems! By identifying the culprits, remedies become evident.

READ: Call Center Forecasting Challenges Managers Face

1. No Systematic Process Exists 

No excuses! Two myths often used to justify the absence of a systematic forecasting process focus on the “impossibly unpredictable” nature of the environment or claim that forecasting is simply not worth the time and effort. These misconceptions will set you up for failure because you cannot forecast successfully without establishing a consistent process.

2. Assuming "the Forecasting Software Knows Best" 

Forecasting software can be very helpful in collecting and analyzing data, running scenarios, contrasting methodologies and predicting potential outcomes. But you cannot just plug numbers in and have accurate forecasts pop out. The software does not know about your marketing plans, competitor activity, or any significant initiatives you have recently put in place that will literally reshape services. Software is a tool, not a replacement for humans.

3. Failure to Forecast at the Agent Group Level 

Even a perfect forecast of the aggregate workload will be of limited use if you route contacts to specialized groups. If you have a group of Spanish-speaking agents handling services A, B and C, you will need to forecast contacts from Spanish-speaking customers who need help with those services. This, of course, is a prerequisite to effective recruiting and hiring.

4. Ignoring Your Forecast   

If the forecast has been wildly inaccurate in the past or if no one understands the assumptions used in the process, it will not be given the credence it needs in the planning steps to follow.

5. Including Exceptions in Building Your Forecast 

Utility companies see contact volume go up when storms knock out power. The financial industry gets swamped when markets swoon. And all contact centers know what it is like to deal with a surprise spike in volume from an unannounced marketing campaign. These events are exceptions to normal activity, so including them in workforce forecasting guarantees skewed results. Those preparing the forecast must understand the root causes of past experience in order to make sound judgments about what will most likely be needed on an ongoing basis.

6. There is no Inter-Departmental Communication 

Most of the issues that affect customers and contact centers are caused by something going on in another department of your business. The forecast, as well as any larger business transformation initiatives, can be doomed if communication and feedback don't exist across all departments.

7. Planning Is Based on Unrealistic Goals 

If staffing is based on a handling time of four minutes when actual handling time is more like seven minutes, the resulting staff calculations and schedules will be based on a pipe dream. While things like lower employee turnover, improved training, or better systems could move things toward your desired handling time. However, ignoring reality in the planning process won't help to achieve better results or build confidence in the forecast.

8. No One Is Accountable 

Someone needs to be responsible for pulling together the various types of data needed for forecasting, ensuring that data is integrated into the forecast, and investigating which assumptions were off if the forecast proves to be inaccurate.

9. Agents Are Mixing Flexible Activities into Work Modes 

If agents are not using work modes consistently, especially after-call work, then accurate forecasting will be elusive.

10. Not Making the Connection with Staffing 

Forecasts mean nothing unless they are tied to staff and system resource requirements. Once you have a sound forecasting process in place, you are prepared to hire contact center superstars.

Workforce forecasting takes practice. You will never learn all there is to know about it — but you will get better at it. The best way to improve accuracy is to compare your forecasts with actual results and then ask, "Why?"

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/inaccurate-call-center-workforce-forecasting

Publish Date: November 21, 2019 5:00 AM


Call Center Staffing: Best Practices for an Outstanding Team

For many companies that operate their customer service call center internally, staffing is an ongoing concern. This is currently an even larger concern in an environment where the national unemployment rate is only 3.8%.  This can be both daunting and frustrating - but not impossible!

With that in mind, here are a few tips best practices for call center hiring and how to overcome some typical call center hiring issues:

Attract the Right Candidates by Identifying Your Ideal Hiring Profile

It is time to think beyond supplying the duties of the position. What type of traits and skills do you want this person to have? For CSRs, the answer typically includes buzzwords like patient, friendly, optimistic, problem solver, calm, outgoing. Go ahead, make a list and use that to define candidate selection criteria.

Identifying  and choosing candidates for their aptitude and not just their abilities allows you to hire well-rounded employees that have a higher rate of success. Employees can be trained on software programs, how to answer customer questions about products or the company, but adjusting personality to fit a role is rarely successful.

Do not overlook cultural fit. A candidate who looks great on paper but who is not a fit for the company culture will not stick around and cost you in the long run.

Source Candidates Using the Job Sites Your Ideal Profile Persona Uses

It does not make much sense to create an ideal hiring profile and post it on monstor.com if that is not where your ideal candidate searches for jobs. Want to attract millennials? Look at using Instagram and Twitter to promote job openings. Social media platforms are excellent forums for promoting the company as a great place to work. Here are some more tips for posting your job listing.

  • In your social media posts, job announcements, and ads use the language and tone that matches the candidates you want most.

  • Source and post positions on job sites that attract the level of candidate you are looking to hire. Snagajob.com and ziprecruiter.com attract non-exempt (hourly) applicants looking for a new opportunity

  • Be clear about who you want and also what the job entails. Many CSRs quit soon after being hired because the job is not what they expected.

  • We get what we ask for, so portray the position as professional customer service, not a menial entry-level or dead-end job. Talk up company training and promote-from-within policies.

  • Make applying easy. Adopting the latest technology is crucial, especially for millennials.

Tap Your Top Performers!

Happy employees make some of the best advocates, which means top performers can be some of your best recruiters. Ask your best people for referrals. While you are at it, why not include referral bonuses as an incentive to your employees?  A referral bonus will pay for itself in the long run and help spread the word that the company is hiring.

Use Assessment Testing to Narrow the Field

The more techniques you use to evaluate candidates, the more likely you are to gain a more complete, accurate picture of them as a potential CSR. Assessment testing can confirm an applicant has the right skills and also help identify which applicants are a strong fit for the role.

Along with formal testing, have top candidates role-play some calls using a real script. Also, be sure to check out their writing skills if they will be interacting with customers via chat, email, or texting. Will customers have a good experience interacting with this person?

Make the Team Part of the Interview Process

Including current CSRs in the interview process helps the internal team feel involved and invested in choosing the right candidate. It also helps weed out applicants who may be on their best behavior with the interviewer but then let their guard down to reveal true traits when talking with perceived “non-bosses.” The team is also in a great position to get a feel for cultural fit. After all, they will have to work with this person.

Be the Candidate’s Ideal Employer

The most effective (and least expensive) way to boost call center hiring results is to retain the great people you already have. There is a double bonus in creating a retention-friendly environment because the things that inspire people to stay are usually the same things that attract and close the deal with desirable new hires. For example:

  • Be flexible with scheduling and other rules where you can.

  • Train CSRs to communicate well and solve problems, then trust them to do that.

  • Stay abreast of compensation and benefits trends, and offer the best possible options including performance incentives.

How can you overcome your hiring issues?

  • Hire a recruiting firm that specializes in call center staffing. Recruiters may know the marketplace better. They can provide input on where to look for and uncover and secure top talent for their clients. They can provide advice on the current wages necessary to drive applicants to your organization.
  • Make the most of social media. Post alerts about new openings and encourage social followers to share. More importantly, post about your company and your culture. It is a very competitive marketplace, so why should someone choose to work for you over another call center?
  • Enlist your current employees. Referrals are a key source of new recruits. Current employees can speak first-hand about what their job entails and the working environment. Motivate and reward your employees with incentives if they make referrals.

READ: What Successful Call Center Management Looks Like

  • Renew your focus on retention. Retaining a current, qualified employee is far less costly than recruiting a new one, and employees who love their job are most likely to promote your call center in a positive light to prospects.
  • Increase wages. Make sure you are offering a competitive wage, or it may not happen.
  • Broaden your benefits package with non-traditional offerings your employees are asking for.
  • Never stop building relationships with candidates because fluctuating needs are a hallmark of most call centers. You will always need a backup list of qualified people to call.
  • Give yourself more time.  It is unlikely that you will find people who are unemployed and qualified to do the quality work that is important to you.  It takes time to compete and attract new recruits, it takes time to interview and select, and it takes time for qualified applicants to give proper notice to their future ex-employer.  The whole process is going to take longer, and recognizing that upfront and allotting for that extra time could make all the difference.

Outsourcing May Be the Answer

We mentioned earlier the possibility of hiring a recruiter. Outsourcing the recruiting function may help, however, you may also want to consider if this the time to work with a customer service outsourcing company, or at least a good time to discuss your situation with an outsourcer. They may have the type of people you are looking for because recruiting, training, and managing qualified talent is what they do for a living.  

And if the tight labor market is going to be around for a while, outsourcing your customer service function may be a longer-term solution.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/call-center-staffing-hiring

Publish Date: October 31, 2019 5:00 AM


It's All in the Numbers: Your Ultimate Guide to Call Center Metrics

No company can stay in business without analyzing performance data. However, useful data depends on using the right set of key performance indicators, or KPIs. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to gather these kinds of metrics in a customer contact center. 

Without further ado, here is our ultimate guide to call center metrics.

Contacts Offered = Volume of contacts received by the call center

Prospective clients with high volumes, and those that see noticeable spikes in volume, want to know their calls will be answered fast enough to keep customers from abandoning the call. If the call center is too small or cannot adjust staffing flexibly, that could spell trouble. For call centers, the ability to predict volume is critical.

PRO TIP: Your call center partner can help you with forecasting your own business. When your partner starts reporting a high contacts offered rate, pay attention to the timing of that spike. It may correlate with a high level of purchases, returns, or typical seasonality. Knowing this can help you prepare your own inventory for the future.

Contacts Handled = Number of contacts handled by the call center

Ideally, this number would equal Contacts Offered because every contact would get a response and a resolution. Unfortunately, this number is often lower, thanks to...

Contacts Abandoned = Number of contacts that gave up while waiting for agent assistance

Make them wait too long, and your contacts will abandon their attempt to resolve their problem, or make a purchase from you. Abandoned calls represent lost potential sales, and they can cause serious brand damage, too.

PRO TIP: The number of contacts abandoned can be lowered with the appropriate Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology. This type of technology offers automated call back options so the customer can choose to: get a call back, opt to get their question answered in the automated system, or get redirected to the right department. Your call center partner should have the most up-to-date call center technology to help make this happen.

Average Speed of Answer (ASA) = Average time a contact waits in the queue before an agent responds

Seconds seem like forever to someone on hold, and today’s customers have NO patience. Be quick, or they will go somewhere else.

PRO TIP: A solid benchmark for ASA is 28 seconds. That's the global ASA average. 

Service Level = Percent of contacts answered within a target queue time

This is the companion metric to ASA. Zero wait time would be nice, but a more realistic goal might be 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds or less.

Average Handle Time (AHT) = Average time it takes for an agent to handle a contact

This is an end-to-end metric, from the time the agent answers until the call wraps up.

PRO TIP: Your call center partner's AHT can be lowered with the right call center agent training and support. At The Connection, we put all of our CSRs through rigorous training programs so that they know our partners' business inside and out. The more they know, the more they can solve on their own without putting the customer on hold or transferring to another person!

First Call Resolution = Percent of customer issues resolved on the first contact

Increasingly, this is becoming a crucial issue with customers. When a shopper's desired product is out of stock, for example, they really, really want a fix — right now. They do not want to call back, nor do they want to speak with four more agents to get the help they need.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

This is usually measured using after-call surveys, either via IVR or email. Of course, every contact who abandons their call never gets to take that survey. Nonetheless, we can probably assume they feel dissatisfied. This is one more reason to focus on reducing the abandonment rate.

Agent Quality Scores = Performance measurement for call center agents

Usually, call center supervisors or quality assurance team members listen to calls (live or after the fact using recorded calls), scoring agent performance against a variety of criteria.

PRO TIP: Make sure your call center partner uses a standardized scoring guide to grade their agents. At The Connection, we use a tried-and-true Call Center Agent QA Guide that you can download for free by clicking the link below. Remember, agents should be helpful, kind, patient, and accurate as to the tone of their client. That's the type of service that keeps your callers on the line to fill out those after-call surveys in a positive light!

Agent Utilization = Percent of time each agent is handling customer contacts

In a perfect world, agents are continuously busy, moving from contact to contact at a comfortable pace — not so overwhelmed they cannot take a break, but not sitting around doing nothing, either. Too busy causes burnout and mistakes. Sitting around costs money without return.

Cost Per Call = Cost for call center to handle each contact

Without call center metrics — especially this one — it would be impossible to price services to make a profit. Contact centers are, after all, in business. It takes revenue to make money as well as fund growth. And that takes planning, which is why the next metric is also bottom-line critical...

Forecast Accuracy

How close does actual volume into the contact center match the forecasted volume? Savvy call center managers look ahead at the expected big picture as well as the details, forecasting volume by the month and year,  by days of the week and even day parts within each day. Getting the annual number right will not be much help if forecasts do not also support day-to-day personnel scheduling.

By using all of these call center metrics, business performance can be accurately predicted and the customer's experience can be as near-perfect as possible.

Do You See These Metrics?

All of these metrics are important to understand when setting expectations with your contact center partner, but how often does your partner actually show you this data? 

We have found that regular reporting on these and other metrics is not very common in the world of customer service. At The Connection, we hold monthly and quarterly report meetings with our partners where we explain how our success is impacting their business. After all, our success depends on our partners' success! So if we're not sharing the fact, for example, that we had an abnormally high contact offered rate in June, then you may not know to prepare for next June appropriately, or you may not know how successful/unsuccessful one of your products was, etc. You can see how important your call center partner's feedback could be!

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/call-center-metrics

Publish Date: October 17, 2019 5:00 AM


Customer Satisfaction Metrics: What You Should Know About CSAT and NPS

In this day and age of cutthroat competition, it is ever more critical to provide great customer service, and to ensure that the quality of care that you provide is viewed positively by your customers.  

Enter customer satisfaction measuring tools.  Two of the most common customer satisfaction metrics are CSAT (short for Customer Satisfaction) and NPS (Net Promoter Score). Here is what you should know about each of them.

Understanding CSAT

CSAT measures satisfaction relative to a specific transaction or interaction. Typically, customers are asked a single question in a follow-up survey, such as:

“How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the service you received?”

Customers score their answer on a scale of 1-5, and scores are aggregated to show an overall customer satisfaction rating as a percentage from 0 to 100%. Depending on an individual’s initial response, they may be asked additional questions designed to determine their level of satisfaction (or dissatisfaction). CSAT is generally used for two purposes:

1. Using CSAT to develop a customer service baseline

Customers are surveyed after every call or customer interaction, typically through IVR, email, or SMS. The company can organize this data:

  • Categorically by agent, product, or communication method
  • Demographically by age, gender, or location
  • By offering, based on product, service, demographics, or any combination of factors.

This provides an overall picture of how satisfied customers are with the service they receive.

2. Utilizing CSAT to track changes in customer service against corporate initiatives

Once a baseline has been established, CSAT can be utilized to measure the impact of new initiatives (training programs, policy modifications, offerings, etc.) on customer satisfaction. After an initiative is launched, CSAT scores are captured for 3-6 months. These scores are then compared to the baseline to identify any significant increases or decreases in satisfaction.

Understanding NPS

Net Promoter Score rates customer loyalty. It measures satisfaction and also gauges whether customers are likely to be:

  • Avid brand promoters (loyal to your brand)
  • Passives (neutral to your brand)
  • Brand detractors (negative)

With NPS, customers are asked a single question: “How likely is it that you would recommend [Company] to a friend or colleague?”  Customers rate their response from 1-10.

NPS is a great management tool, and it is easy to use. Because you classify each customer’s loyalty level, providing a baseline for follow-up the company can:

  • Benchmark current ratings by customer, product, communication method, or industry
  • Track growth against organization and industry standards, by customer and industry breakdown
  • Solicit promoters for reviews
  • Form focus groups to evaluate product or service offering for their target audience
  • Follow-up with passives and detractors to build greater brand loyalty
  • Gain insight to improve product features, benefits, and communications

To be truly effective, NPS should be measured quarterly. Deviations from the previous quarter can be reported and handled as needed, in a timely manner.  

Which Measure Should You Use?

CSAT is a good tool, but it only measures customer satisfaction on one transaction or interaction at a time. It does not take into account that many mildly satisfied or dissatisfied customers tend to skip surveys, and it does not address factors that contribute to customer satisfaction such as value, quality, price, how closely the expectations of the customer are met, or how valued the customer feels at the end of the transaction. Therefore, CSAT scores can be skewed in either direction.

One Viable Method

If you utilize quarterly NPS ratings in conjunction with CSAT, you can develop a comprehensive understanding of how customers view the organization’s service. However, merely gathering data is not enough. Regardless of the metrics used, following-up with customers is key to improving or reinforcing brand perception.

At The Connection®, we make sure that your organization has an appropriate follow-up plan and process that promotes follow-up with all levels of respondents, including any specific action items that may stem from follow-up responses.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/csat-and-nps-ratings

Publish Date: May 30, 2019 5:00 AM


How to Identify the Best Customer Service Assessment Test for Your Call Center

Assessment testing can greatly enhance the hiring process for any call center. If created well, these tests can identify a candidate’s existing skills and knowledge. From customer service assessment to technical proficiency tests, it's important to find out whether a candidate has the personality and social acumen to succeed as a call center agent.

Considering the extremely tight labor market and the high turnover rate in the call center industry, the ability to sharpen the hiring process can make a substantial difference for the business. Here are some tips to identify the best customer service assessment test for your call center.

A Test for Everything

A call center is all about service, but not every call center is the same. Even though a candidate has experience does not mean they are the right fit for your environment and customers. When assessing a candidate, we recommend evaluating both the tactical skills needed for the job and their soft skills. That requires using a variety of tests to learn as much as possible about each candidate.

While there are numerous pre-employment assessment testing programs you could use to help determine your candidates’ competencies and capabilities, it is important to zero in on tests that focus on your most-desired skills and personality traits.

Tactical Skills

Call centers require standard skills in typing, computer navigation, and basic writing. Testing in these areas confirms a candidate’s fundamental proficiency. There are also basic skills tests that determine the ability to understand and apply training and to communicate clearly in two-way conversation with customers. Often, these tests can be administered efficiently and objectively online.

Customer Service Orientation

Pre-employment assessments can also predict how likely a candidate is to be a good fit as an agent. Soft skills tests measure a candidate’s personality traits — things such as patience, tact, and “helpful nature.”

But, can the candidate pull it all together to succeed as an agent? Call centers are fast-paced, often difficult working environments. Someone may have the necessary tactical skills and personality traits, but you want to know how they will actually perform on the front line.

This is why companies also assess candidates using behavioral interviewing questions, role-playing, and scenario-based, situational questions along with traditional testing. These “real life” opportunities allow the candidate to demonstrate their ability to solve problems and handle varied customer service situations.

Customer Service Assessment Test ROI

What does the candidate bring to the job? Can they be trained to do more? Do they have what it takes to succeed? Even when efficiently administered, assessment testing takes time and costs money. Not surprisingly, though, candidates who score higher on assessment tests are more productive on the job and more likely to stick around. Testing is well worth the investment if it results in a boost in customer service quality (and, quite possibly, revenue) and reduces expensive turnover.

The key is to identify the best customer service assessment test process for your call center.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/customer-service-assessment-test

Publish Date: March 28, 2019 5:00 AM


Call Center Training Tips for Managing New Hires

Not every candidate who is hired to work in a call center comes with customer service experience. They may be friendly, outgoing, and patient, but they likely do not (yet) have the knowledge and call center-specific skills they will need to succeed. Since a lack of adequate training is a major contributor to attrition  in call centers, it is vital to create a call center training program that works.

Do not worry! There are some useful tips that can help inexperienced new hires blossom.

Kick Off NHO (New Hire Orientation) on a Positive Note

We recommend advising new agents about what to expect when working in a call center, so they will have a realistic picture of the job. But highlight some of the fun things they can expect to encounter in their new job. It is not all cranky callers and complaints!

Help new folks get an immediate feel for company culture. Give them a tour of the facility and introduce them to folks in departments beyond the call center, so they can get the big picture and make connections out of the gate. Ask the CEO to stop in and give a personal welcome.

Create a Call Center Training Checklist

To ensure the training program is successful over time, the process of onboarding new hires should be consistent. By creating a formal checklist trainers can use, every new employee will receive consistent  training, creating a best practice approach. Nothing will be overlooked, even as trainers work individually with people to provide extra coaching or skills development.

Create a Mentor Program

Any new job can feel intimidating. Assigning a mentor or “buddy” to each new hire ensures they always have a go-to friend to assist them. There is typically only one formal manager, but a buddy or mentor can provide one-on-one moral support as well as “insider” guidance on handling calls and the day-to-day call center experience.

Provide Feedback Often

Many times we wait until the end or “graduation” from the training program to provide feedback. Instead, provide feedback daily, or in “real time.” Feedback — positive or corrective — that is given closest to the action it references has the greatest impact. The ultimate goal is new agent success, and offering frequent feedback helps set them up for that. Keep up the feedback, in a less formal way, over the next weeks and months.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

This is not merely a cliché. Statistics show that when we feel we are part of a team, we work harder to not let our team down. Creating a team culture will enhance learning and the entire training experience. That helps new hires get comfortable faster, increasing the likelihood that they will stick around longer.

Listen to Your New Hires

As trainers and managers, we can become convinced that “we know best,” because we have been doing the job forever. However, we can still learn a few new tricks, too, if we listen. New employees come from a variety of backgrounds, and many times they have great feedback to offer about our processes. Their different perspective can suggest tweaks or bigger changes that enhance the call center work experience or improve customer experiences.

Even better, listen to experienced agents as well. As the folks on the front line of customer contact, they can provide valuable insight into improvements or other changes.

Do Not Quit Too Soon

Every manager knows that time is money, so it can be tempting to try to cram training into a too-short period of time. The most successful programs give new hires a transition period following formal training. Newly-fledged agents can begin to take simple calls under supervision rather than being put out onto the floor in a “sink or swim” environment. The more controlled situation allows agents to get a feel for the physical rhythm of handling calls as well as the personal side of handling customer contacts.

Conclusion

Spending more time on initial training and ongoing coaching may cost more up front, but it is an investment that will repay itself in higher quality, more productive, and happier agents who are much more likely to stay in their jobs longer. With a positive approach, mentors, lots of feedback, and active listening in your tool kit, call center training can transform inexperienced new hires into great agents.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/call-center-training-tips

Publish Date: March 7, 2019 5:00 AM


Call Center Hiring Best Practices for an Outstanding Team

Hiring qualified talent for your call center can be challenging. And if you don't hire the right people, you will likely experience even higher turnover rates.

If there is one thing recruiting experts are telling us to expect in 2019 it is that call center hiring is not going to get any easier.  Hiring the right CSRs requires a consistent process and guidelines. Here are some best practices that will help you recruit an outstanding team.

Attract the Right Candidates by Identifying Your Ideal Hiring Profile

It is time to think beyond supplying the duties of the position. What type of traits and skills do you want this person to have? For CSRs, the answer typically includes buzzwords like patient, friendly, optimistic, problem solver, calm, outgoing. Go ahead, make a list and use that to define candidate selection criteria.

Identifying  and choosing candidates for their aptitude and not just their abilities allows you to hire well rounded employees that have a higher rate of success. Employees can be trained on software programs, how to answer customer questions about products or the company, but adjusting personality to fit a role is rarely successful.

Do not overlook cultural fit. A candidate who looks great on paper but who is not a fit for the company culture will not stick around and cost you in the long run.

Source Candidates Using the Job Sites Your Ideal Profile Persona Uses

It does not make much sense to create an ideal hiring profile and then post it on monstor.com if that is not where your ideal candidate searches for jobs. Want to attract millennials? Look at using Instagram and Twitter to promote job openings. Social media platforms are excellent forums for promoting the company as a great place to work. Here are some more tips for posting your job listing.

  • In your social media posts, job announcements, and ads, use the language and tone that matches the candidates you want most.

  • Source and post positions on job sites that attract the level of candidate you are looking to hire. Snagajob.com and ziprecruiter.com attract non-exempt (hourly) applicants looking for a new opportunity

  • Be clear about who you want and also what the job entails. Many CSRs quit soon after being hired because the job is not what they expected.

  • We get what we ask for, so portray the position as professional customer service, not a menial entry-level or dead-end job. Talk up company training and promote-from-within policies.

  • Make applying easy. Adopting the latest technology is crucial, especially for millennials.

Tap Your Top Performers!

Happy employees make some of the best advocates, which means top performers can be some of your best recruiters. Ask your best people for referrals. While you are at it, why not include referral bonuses as an incentive to your employees?  A referral bonus will pay for itself in the long run and help spread the word that the company is hiring.

Use Assessment Testing to Narrow the Field

The more techniques you use to evaluate candidates, the more likely you are to gain a more complete, accurate picture of them as a potential CSR. Assessment testing can confirm an applicant has the right skills and also help identify which applicants are a strong fit for the role.

Along with formal testing, have top candidates role-play some calls using a real script. Also, be sure to check out their writing skills if they will be interacting with customers via chat, email, or texting. Will customers have a good experience interacting with this person?

Make the Team Part of the Interview Process

Including current CSRs in the interview process helps the internal team feel involved and invested in choosing the right candidate. It also helps weed out applicants who may be on their best behavior with the interviewer but then let their guard down to reveal their true traits when talking with perceived “non-bosses.” The team is also in a great position to get a feel for cultural fit. After all, they will have to work with this person.

Be the Candidate’s Ideal Employer

The most effective (and least expensive) way to boost call center hiring results is to retain the great people you already have. There is a double bonus in creating a retention-friendly environment, because the things that inspire people to stay are usually the same things that attract and close the deal with desirable new hires. For example:

  • Be flexible with scheduling and other rules where you can.

  • Train CSRs to communicate well and solve problems, then trust them to do that.

  • Stay abreast of compensation and benefits trends, and offer the best possible options including performance incentives.

Conclusion

Recruiting challenges are to be expected in the new year. However, by following the above best practices, call center hiring can attract and retain ideal CSRs who will stay, prosper and recommend other excellent hires.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/call-center-hiring

Publish Date: February 7, 2019 5:00 AM


Customer Experience Management Tools: How to Leverage Your Call Center

Customer service reps spend all day interacting with customers, which means the call center can be one of your most valuable customer experience management tools. These days, a company’s future can rise or fall based on their customer service.

Since you have made a major investment in infrastructure, personnel, and operations, here are some ways to leverage your contact center (and the associated investment).

Better Customer Experience Benefits Everyone

Taking orders and resolving problems are important, but a contact center can do more than “deal with” customer issues. Focusing on the customer’s overall experience can boost sales and revenue, improve CSR proficiency and productivity, increase customer loyalty and lifetime value, and uncover opportunities to improve more than just customer service.

How? Simply by paying closer attention to customer conversations and then acting on what you learn.

Customers Are a Unique Resource

No one knows what customers want and how they feel about their relationship with a brand better than the customers themselves. Therefore, contact centers are perfectly positioned to gather incredibly valuable information, and lots of it, straight from the source. Good or bad, every customer comment has the potential to provide invaluable insight. That’s why most contact centers utilize surveys to solicit feedback as one of their customer experience management tools.

However active listening can reveal even more than that. CSRs can identify (and then fix) problems with a particular product or service. They can notate comments that repeatedly surface — whether they are complaints or suggestions — about products, the company, or the customer contact process.

Quality assurance monitors are typically trained to focus on the CSR side of the conversation when listening to live or recorded calls. In the same way, paying close attention to the customer’s side of the conversation can be equally instructive. Active listening reveals their specific language and tone of voice when they speak and as they respond to the CSR. They may get the result they wanted, but let’s make sure the customer is also happy with their experience. Quality assurance monitoring is also a double check on the same customer insights that a CSR might pick up.  

Create a Culture that Values Listening

What does it take to leverage the full value of your contact center? A comprehensive, customer-centric strategy that:

  • Brings the contact center out from the shadows and into its rightful place as a vital component of your organization, capable of helping achieve overall business goals. That requires a company-wide culture that emphasizes customer service. It also requires a change in contact center and CSR performance metrics, to reflect the new emphasis on total customer experience as well as the important role that CSRs play in that process.

  • Includes managerial cross-training. Contact center managers may need broader business training in order to communicate and collaborate effectively with finance, marketing, and other key departments on top of understand the goals of the company and the best way that the contact center can help achieve those goals.

  • Refocuses CSR training and expectations. Customer service reps need the skills and authority to resolve more issues on their own. This increases productivity and eliminates key customer irritations such as call transfers or callbacks. Problem-solving cannot be scripted, so CSRs also need the chance to practice active listening to help customers in a variety of situations.

  • Creates a thorough process for customer feedback. With a more formalized process in place, CSRs can do a more thorough job of noting customer comments and suggestions as well as complaints. Regularly sharing this data with other departments enables everyone to benefit from the insights gained through customer conversations.

  • Utilizes the latest technology that supports systematic capture, communication, and analysis of customer-sourced information to identify opportunities to fix or avoid problems, improve products/services, and overall customer service. The most effective technology enables a call center to track a customer’s entire history, so they don’t have to repeat themselves every time they contact the call center.

Conclusion

You don’t need to treat your contact center as a frustrating, expensive necessity that does nothing more than process transactions. By acknowledging the contact center as the company’s number one listening post, it becomes one of your most valuable customer experience management tools.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/customer-experience-management-tools

Publish Date: January 31, 2019 5:00 AM


Evaluating Outsourcing Customer Service Cost: Is it Worth It?

Most companies perform some kind of customer service, whether that involves handling and processing orders, back-end support, or both. In many companies, the ongoing debate is: should we handle the process internally, or would outsourcing customer support be more cost effective?

Many companies view this question as one of cash flow — how much (more) is outsourcing than managing customer support in-house. But evaluating and comparing these options is more complex than simply cash flow. Here are some other key factors:

Labor Costs (and sometimes the only cost that is considered)

We all get that there is a differential in base wage from internal vs. outsource, but internally we also have the somewhat hidden costs that include benefits, sick pay, vacations, holidays, and the training and management of the agents. Then we need to figure in the cost of recruiting associated with the original hire and then the recruiting, rehiring, retraining costs associated with attrition. And now that we mention attrition, are we factoring in all of those costs?

Other Hard Costs

Companies that operate in-house call centers often do not realize, are not aware of, or do not include all the hard costs, so they do not have a complete picture of what they are spending to do it themselves. Therefore, they do not realize the true cost of insourcing.

This is one reason companies come to us. We help them see what other costs are involved that they may not have considered. Costs often overlooked include the space to house the agents, furniture, equipment, managers, trainers, Quality Assurance personnel, investments in technology for a voice platform, voice analytics, reporting platform, etc.

Opportunity Cost

It is also important to look beyond direct expenses.  There are MANY opportunity costs associated with running your own internal contact center including items such as:

  • What if you’re out of space and considering an extra 5,000 sq. ft. on the floor above? How much square footage are you utilizing to house CSRs?

  • Are you factoring in all the overhead associated with an additional X employees?  Perhaps the CSRs and all the associated supervisory and management personnel are putting you over the line for certain HR regulations. And if it’s not HR, it’s any number of administrative costs associated with having an additional team of employees.

  • Do you have the critical mass to scale up all the technology needed to successfully operate a 21st-century contact center? There are a lot of systems required — telephony, workforce, HR, payroll, quality assurance, etc.

  • What is the ongoing capital investment for technology, security, reporting, etc? Is it possible that you could wind up limiting investment in equipment, R&D, etc., for your core business because of the ongoing investment in a call center?

  • And what is the opportunity cost if you operate your own center and then don’t keep it current? How will that affect your ability to perform the customer service and support function at the level that you and management determines is necessary to support your customers.

And then there is the human side — how you are utilizing your people? It is one thing if you have 50,000 employees and you need an extra 20 people for the call center. But what if you have a 100-person company and you need 50 people for your call center? Or you have just 50 regular staffers but need 100 to handle customer service?

If your company is virtual — a very small staff using cloud-based services — operating a call center requires that either you shift your focus or hire a new set of people to ramp up a quality contact center. It gets worse if call center needs are likely to fluctuate for seasonality or other reasons. Now, the tail is clearly wagging the dog. With all the systems and support required, you are now in the call center business instead of focusing on your company’s core offering.

Conclusion

Is outsourcing customer service cost worth it? Well, the contact center is on the front line, dealing directly with your customers every day. You do not want to cut corners and deliver a bad product to your customers as their first impression, or any impression.

If your internal call center is already a solid operation, then the cost may be worth it. Otherwise, spending a little more to outsource to ensure customer service excellence will be money well spent, and in reality, once you have all the costs at your fingertips, it may really not cost any more at all.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/outsourcing-customer-service-cost

Publish Date: January 29, 2019 5:00 AM


How to Handle Gaps in Call Center Staffing

All businesses require a certain number of customer service reps to staff their call center and that number can fluctuate throughout the year. If you experience turnover at an inopportune time, e.g. there is a termination or someone quits without notice, your call center could be left temporarily short-staffed. Of course that does not reduce the number of customer contacts or your responsibility to handle them, so how do successful call centers handle this shortage?

Here are some useful approaches to solving this problem:

Run Overtime When Needed

There will be many times where OT is needed to get the call center smoothly through volume peaks. You even plan for it in some cases. But running short-staffed on purpose and using overtime as a standard “solution” is expensive and will burn out employees. Burnout negatively affects CSR-customer interactions, and it can lead to increased episodes of untimely absenteeism, and eventually increased turnover.

Cross-train other Personnel for Quick Action

As with overtime, this works best as a stop-gap measure, not a go-to solution because working extra hard during busy times leads to burnout. That said, there are times when this is a workable solution. Knowing that gaps happen, cross-training a few additional personnel ahead of time provides a pool of “gap fillers” who are knowledgeable to step in when and where needed. This versatility can greatly increase call center responsiveness overall.

While those are great reactive ways to handle gaps when they occur, it's extremely important to be as proactive with managing staffing gaps as possible. So, here are a few proactive strategies:

Headcount vs. FTEs

It is fine to budget your call center costs based on FTEs, but if you schedule to that budget, you will often be short on personnel. Between PTO, unscheduled absences, family emergencies, etc., even the best operations experience a daily shrink of 10%, and it’s not unusual in some instances to see 15% or 20% shrink. So, you need to have enough headcount on staff to schedule based on the need PLUS the shrink. In this fashion, even when people are suddenly missing, you will get your calls handled as you expected to.

Provide Time Off When You Can

Do everything you can to honor employee requests for time off. Being flexible goes a long way here. Maybe you cannot always allow someone the entire day away, but how about the two hours needed for the actual appointment? The CSR will appreciate your accommodation, and it will be easier for you to fill that small gap.

Show Thanks to CSRs

Create a supportive, caring year-round culture. Customer service reps who know they are valued as people, as well as agents, are far more likely to respect their work schedules and be willing to pitch in to do more when the need arises. Kudos for a job well done and incentives for exceptional achievement or attitude are just two ways you can enliven the call center atmosphere and show appreciation for CSRs.

Hire Right

So easy to say, so hard to do! Yes, today’s labor market is tight, but try your best to find the right people. Committing to hiring candidates who fit the call center culture and have a strong personal work ethic will reduce the risk of surprise absences or quitting.

As peak season approaches, time new hires so their training and “break-in” period can happen before things get too hectic. That way, training won’t be short-circuited by the need to get people on calls, and new people will be more productive when they do start to handle calls.

Conclusion

The more you do to plan strategically, hire the right people, and create a positive working environment, the less stressful things will be for everyone when gaps occur in call center staffing, and you need to depend on the rest of the team to pick up the slack.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/gaps-in-call-center-staffing

Publish Date: January 17, 2019 5:00 AM


CSR Management: How to Fire an Employee Without Leaving a Mark

No matter how hard we work to hire the best customer service representatives, sometimes it simply does not work out and the person is not cut out for the rigors of contact center work. Knowing when and how to fire an employee is one of the biggest challenges a manager faces.

Here are some tips for firing an employee without leaving a mark.

Did You Do Everything You Could?

Of course, no one likes to fire employees, especially in an industry notorious for low retention. So, ask yourself, "Did I do everything I could to help this employee be successful?" Some follow up questions may include:

  • "Did I provide a clear explanation of what this job entailed?"
  • "Did I clearly communicate what my expectations were for this role?"
  • "Did I treat this employee fairly and with the same respect as everyone else?"
  • "Did I address his/her concerns and provide helpful feedback that would lead to improvement?"
  • "Did he/she receive adequate and ongoing training?"
  • "Did he/she have the tools necessary to do his/her job effectively?"
  • "Did his/her colleagues help him/her along the way?"
  • "Is there a different position within the company that would be a better fit?"

If the answer is "no" to any of the above questions, continue to address your concerns with the employee and remember to document along the way to ensure that both you and the employee are on the same page and you have a paper trail in case you should need it later.

However, if you provided that CSR with all the tools, training, and support they needed to be successful and they continued to underperform, it is best to let them go. Here is how to handle that process:

Be as Direct as Possible

Firing an employee is not the time to be passive-aggressive. Do not sugar-coat the news or dance around the point. Be clear and direct in your decision and the reasoning behind it.

Provide a moment for the employee to absorb the information. Then, answer questions and provide next steps (i.e. paperwork).

Exiting Gracefully

It is overwhelming for both the employee and their colleagues to field questions following a termination.

Have a direct supervisor box up the employee’s items during the discussion to minimize interaction between the terminated employee and his or her colleagues. Always accompany the employee out of the office and ensure they have all of their personal items and contact information for future questions.

Business References vs. Personal References

Create a policy that does not allow the company or its managers to provide business recommendations or references for exiting employees. That said, companies can and should provide basic job information such as dates of employment, title, wage information to future employers, as this process provides consistency.

On the other hand, personal references are perfectly fine. Supervisors and managers can be allowed to provide personal references based on their personal experiences without causing liability to the company.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, some employees you hire will not work out. When you decide it is time to let someone go, knowing how to terminate an employee in the proper fashion can foster professionalism and respect between the remaining employees and the company.

Source: https://blog.theconnectioncc.com/how-to-fire-an-employee

Publish Date: January 10, 2019 5:00 AM

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