How To Deal With An Out Of Control Call Center
By Jeremy P Stanfords
Your organization acquires a new company with an understaffed call center using twenty year old technology. Or maybe it’s your own business, where problems that seemed minor a year ago have snowballed until you are faced with epic hold times, stressed agents and furious customers. You need to fix the problem now, but where do you start?
Develop A Comprehensive Plan Of Action
Although it may be tempting to do something immediately, it’s important to take the time to evaluate your options and come up with a real solution. Emergency actions tend to involve just throwing money or technology at the situation and hoping it works itself out. Then in six months, you are faced with the same issue. Everyone is impatient to get the problem fixed, but time invested in the creation of a strategy will result in a balanced, affordable and effective answer.
Of course, technology helps but you have to find the right kind of technology. Call center software that allows you to analyze the current situation and monitor the success of future changes is a critical tool. However rather than just picking software, find a qualified service provider who backs their technology with advice and training.
Find the Problems
Once your new call center software is installed and integrated with the phone system, analyze the call traffic and look for patterns. When does traffic increase? When does it decrease? Look at hold times but also look at dropped calls to give you a feel for how long a queue your clients will accept. Some industries demand instant response while others will tolerate a little time in a queue.
Call center software reports can be surprising. You might notice you always get call spikes on Tuesdays. Why? It doesn’t matter. If you see you consistently get greater traffic on Tuesdays, you can plan your staffing accordingly. Once you see the patterns and bottlenecks, you can start developing solutions tailored to your specific communications environment.
Let People Know You Are Addressing The Problem
Don’t hide from the situation. Your customers and agents already know you have long hold times, so admitting it isn’t giving away any secrets. Acknowledging the problem can cause the people involved to become less stressed about it.
Involve agents in the planning process. Keep them informed of the long-term plan to improve department operations, and give them regular updates. Include electronic wallboards that tie into the call center software so agents are aware of changes in call traffic. As they see progress they will be less frustrated with the situation.
Apologize to customers angry about the long hold times and assure them changes are being made. Consider offering some token gesture such as a temporary rate discount or a gift for their patience. Recognizing and sympathizing with their frustration will help maintain positive relations in a difficult time.
Call center software is not the answer, but it is an essential tool when rebuilding an out of control call center.