During my time within the call/contact center industry I’ve had the opportunity to work on quite a few call center projects.
I’ve noticed that some call centers were welcoming of my ideas. And some others which were a bit hesitant at first due to several reasons. These included from not wanting to try something new since they’ve been doing the same thing for over 12 years and why change? Or they just weren’t aware of what to do or how to do it.
However, I never go into a call center with the mindset of what I can do to change things around with the snap of my fingers or let’s clean the house (an expression to get rid of agents and start fresh).
Change needs to be gradual, achieved by developing an understanding of the current processes and people working.
Getting To Know The Agents
When I transitioned to the role of trainer and on-site supervisor at the current call center, I made it a point to walk the floor and greet agents daily, ask them how their day was going, get permission to sit with them and listen to their calls, and inquire about what they did and why.
But I also made it a point to connect with the agents as people, by asking other questions such as were they in school, what they did for fun, and about their families.
During this time, while getting to know their current processes I learned a lot from the agents. In one instance I sat with one who was quite rude to callers when they selected the wrong option through the interactive voice response (IVR) system.
I asked her if it was right to punish callers. I said: “How would it feel if that was you on the other end or someone you cared about?” I believe she understood that I didn’t like that behavior.
Another agent I spent time with was great, knowledgeable, and who provided exceptional customer service. She even sent me the resources she created to help me with training.
However, we ended up losing the agent because the call center wasn’t able to make a schedule adjustment. I was a bit disheartened since in the limited time I spent with her I understood the value she brought to the call center as a whole.
Incorporating What You’ve Learned
As I started training, I did things the way they were done at first. But gradually I incorporated some of the processes I knew worked based on my experience:
- Something as small as creating a knowledge center where agents could pick up job aids and quick reference guides (QRGs) to pin up in their cubicles
- Creating training plans for classes, updating the current training material, adding knowledge retrieval exercises in the form of knowledge checks, and PowerPoint quizzes such as a Jeopardy game
A lot of the feedback I gained from agents helped tremendously with content creation. Like the development of frequently asked questions (FAQs) for each line the call center took.
The FAQs covered general items that a new agent would need to know, but which would also help and refresh the knowledge of current agents. Examples included commonly used resources on topics that covered how to change passwords and links to important websites.
The FAQs additionally helped our leadership team with agents who forgot their passwords or to change them on time. These online tools also assisted with other common tasks, like how to enter a request for time off or verifying a provider’s National Provider Identifier (NPI) using the NPEES website.
I also learned that the current knowledge management system wasn’t reliable due to cumbersome access to modify content and the difficulties agents were having to review material.
That led me to work on a SharePoint site that included everything from the phone software to customer service, links to important websites, and to information on each call queue.
We also started making more initiatives to have activities within the call center, such as peer recognition, drives to raise food items for Gleaners, pitch-ins, competitions: in short, just about every excuse we could find to have fun.
To learn more about what was happening in the call center we ended up doing a gap analysis. A survey was sent out to the agents who were then interviewed.
A strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis was performed, along with a comparison of successful agents and an examination of other relevant facets of the call center operation.
The analysis helped us gain a deeper understanding of where we stood and things we could do to improve. This process did take a while, but we wanted to do it right the first time.
To be upfront, I was a bit nervous about what the results may display but ended up with several opportunities to help improve training, processes, and overall morale.
We received a detailed report about where we stood, opinions from agents and leadership, suggestions for improvement, what agents enjoyed working at our call center, and so on. The document covered everything from the décor to call center operations.
However, when the results came in, the call center agents spoke. They enjoyed working here and what they did. I was relieved, and most of the fixes were low-lying fruit.
I recall that one of the suggestions was that the call center looked too boring, like the color scheme.
The quick fix was creating posters through Canva with quotes such as “Customer Service is not a Department it’s a Culture.”
Another suggestion was modifying the call center attendance policy, so we made some adjustments to give agents more leeway. Here’s one such example. If an agent had a last-moment medical appointment coming up we excused the absence if they brought in paperwork and made up the time missed during the work week.
I would like to add that some of the gradual updates I made were done keeping in mind the following:
- Has this worked previously?
- How much effort is required and what is the potential return on investment (ROI)?
- After implementation how do I gauge ROI? Does it add value to the call center, more specifically to the agents by boosting morale or refining processes?
I believe that when we invest in our agents there is always a direct and indirect ROI by tenfold. This can be seen in improved customer interactions, meeting service level agreements (SLAs), and reduced turnover.