I have now worked or toured call centers in nearly every state and many countries of the world. I have clearly targeted the 10 biggest mistakes I see when I work with struggling call center operation. I encourage you to give heed to this list. If you do not recognize any of these deficiencies in your operation, they could “bite” you in a very harmful way. First on the list is NAIVETY or ARROGANCE, I have truly seen many call center face their demise because “upper management” assumed all was well or they simply ignored the failing signs. I get that most leadership does not know what they don’t know and thus the call center operate on its own. I strongly encourage listening often to the conversations going on between the front-line and the customers. You will likely be very surprised by the consistent conversation that occurs. You might be afraid to know the truth, but better to know and fix it, than to be surprised by legal action later. Second on the list, PEOPLE RUN THE CALL CENTER NOT TECHNOLOGY, in my candid opinion – technology is causing more damage than good. Call Center Management, is being influenced by technology salesman more than true operation experts. Because management does not know how to lead call center people, they are willing to rely on technology to do it for them. This results in selfish-inexperienced (in cc operations) sales people selling something that can’t deliver what was promised and call center now being strapped by technology holding there operation prisoner because transitioning out of the technology is too expensive and cumbersome. Shame on technology vendors for pretending to want to help a call center operation and shame on call center executives for buying the line that technology is the “be-all-end-all” of their problems. Third on the list is, LEADERSHIP / MANAGEMENT. Where to being with this topic, I have so much to say about this challenge. Most call centers experience a 20% to 30% (and sometimes higher) turnover in their call center. It is said that, “people don’t leave a company, but rather the leader.” I hear it so often that call center agents dislike their leader. The leader usually has only their former leader as an example of leadership and even though they didn’t much like that leader, the poor leadership genealogy perpetuates because the “blind is leading the blind.” The call center “space” has grown faster that any function of a business (next to computer science), but the educated and competent people to lead it has not be able to catch up. Call Center operation then settle for who they HOPE will fulfill a leadership role adequately. Fourth on out list is, TEACHING CORRECT PRINCIPLES. Most call center operation I have been exposed to have very poor training curriculum. A well rounded training should include these 4 quadrants – a) Company Orientation, b) Product Knowledge, c) Systems and d) Skill Enhancement. Also an ongoing coaching ought to included in the program. Most Call Center find it only necessary to beat product knowledge into everyone’s heads and leave out the how, what, where and why of the education. Fifth on the list is, RECRUITING APPROPRIATE TALENT. Call Centers are battling a negative cogitation because of the approach to recruiting people to perform the duties in the call center. Although there is so much I can say about this topic, I will point out this key thought. The Call Center possess an interesting dynamic. it is often viewed as an entry level position and yet holds the strongest influence with the companies customers and generated revenue. I can say that most organization I have worked with are very confused by the call center and sometimes see it as a “necessary evil” of the company. This is why so many that work in the call center want out as quick as they can get out. There needs to better education of the call center and its function. The Call Center World can be a very prosperous experience for the person who chooses to make it their career and to the company that pay attention to the details and give the respect due to the operation. This concludes part 1 of 2 of this article. Be sure to read part 2 where I will cover, 6) Environment / Conditions, 7) Compensation / Recognition, 8) Processes / Product, 9) Interpreting Statistics and 10) Workforce Management. We continue with number 6 on the list of “10 Biggest Mistakes Managing Call Centers.” Number six, which is ENVIRONMENT / CONDITIONS. I can attest to the importance and influence the environment has to the productivity of a call center operation. I have seen trashy facilities and I have seen world class facilities and the difference in culture and productivity is obvious. With little to harp on here, because I am seeing the trend vastly leaning heavily toward the significance of a pleasing workplace. I like to see a call center with a lot windows, bright colors, appropriate lighting, spacious workstations, fun break-room, etc.. I have seen some creative and attractive call centers across the world and I can share more about this topic if you would like to call me. Number seven, is COMPENSATION / RECOGNITION. Probably no surprise to anyone that compensation is on the list. Here is the biggest conflict, if you work in a call center you believe you do not get paid enough to do the duties you cover and if you own or manage a call center, you feel you pay far too much to run the call center and view it as a “cost center” rather than an a function of your business that generates revenue. Especially if your recruiting team has done a poor job at recruiting exceptional talent. If you see sloppy call center agents, management and culture, you would not have a lot of confidence paying for such an expensive operation. Attracting top talent will be much easier when you have established a competitive compensation plan, but more importantly a clear career path and a consistent recognition program. We have a lot of ideas to help you with this stage of managing a call center. Number eight is, PROCESSES / PRODUCTS. One of the most common demise of a call center that I see time and time again, is the lack of thought-out processes. Individuals fail and customers become so frustrated they leave and people get fired because of sloppy – cumbersome processes. Often times the processes are not communicated or documented very clearly and many operation are making it up as they go or simply just flying by the seat of their pants, so to speak. In addition, the offering may not be appropriate for the type of call center functionality, meaning that skill-set and call-to-action do not match. Sometimes a call center representative is asked to do too much with a call or even too little. There is much more to this point, but be mindful of your processes and products you are running through your call center. Number nine on our list is, INTERPRETING STATISTICS. I can’t stress enough the critical importance of knowing what the KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are in a call center. I am stunned at how few leaders even understand what they are and how to read them to manage their piece of the call center. If you don’t know the numbers and how to interpret them, then you don’t know your business and if you don’t know your business, you have no business being in the business! Service Levels, Average Talk Time, Calls Per Hour, Abandon Rate, Average Hold Time. Conversion Rate, just to name a few; are essential stats to call center operations. Seeing them on a report is one thing, knowing what they mean and how to respond to them is another that very few people I have worked with can translate. I am an advocate of the need for colleges and universities to offer a degree in call center operations / management. Now to the last but not least biggest mistakes managing a call center, number ten WORKFORCE PLANNING. You might be familiar with the many software systems that assist with this particular challenge in a call center. Even with the help of software programs, I still see a huge challenge managing work flow. This just might be the biggest enigma of managing a successful call center operation. To staff an appropriate number of people, you need to predict call flow. It is easier to predict outbound calls as opposed to inbound calls, but nonetheless, predicting call flow is a bit of a trick. If mistakes are made in staffing, whether you staff too many or too little, this could mount an enormous cost. Being on top of the numbers and history will help to better predict call volume. This is when technologies can be of great assistance. Tracking statistics, controlling call flow, routing to available representatives, messaging and other call management strategies can all help with the callers experience with your company. It is very important to take your call center operation seriously. I can only tell you about the many call centers I have seen drowned in their naivety and carelessness toward the call center. I can help you to not become a tragedy and give you a much better chance at prosperity and abundance derived from your call center.
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