Delivering outstanding customer care and experiences is a number-one priority for many C-suite executives and business leaders. But finding and retaining outstanding agents, creating operational efficiencies, and implementing omnichannel technology solutions requires a high-wire balancing act for contact center leaders. Before you throw your arms up in despair (and don’t look down!), we’ve curated six actionable tips to boost contact center agent efficiency while upleveling your customer experience.
What Is Contact Center Operational Efficiency?
Contact center operational efficiency is a term used to describe when processes are flowing smoothly and costs remain at a minimum. While the formula for operational efficiency is straightforward—total operating expenses divided by total revenues—there is no silver bullet for achieving efficiencies. Contact center operational efficiencies can be gained from any combination of the following:
- Quality monitoring
- Cost-effective technology solutions
- Agent performance
- Agent productivity
Contact center agents are front and center to the efficiency equation and can make or break customer experiences (CX) and service delivery. A contact center’s efficiency thrives on individual agent performance and motivation. However, an encouraging pat on the back or a management team cheer isn’t enough to produce the results you’re hoping for.
The nature of a contact center agent’s job can already be quite demanding, so it’s important to strike a balance as you make strides to improve employee performance and increase operational efficiencies. Here are some typical ways in which to measure contact center agents’ performance:
- Schedule Adherence – this metric goes one step further than whether agents are showing up and helps you monitor whether agents are sticking to the tasks they are assigned to complete during their shifts.
- Occupancy Rate, also called Agent Utilization Rate – a measurement of how much time was actually spent handling customer inquiries compared to the total time a person’s shift was scheduled.
- Forecast Accuracy – An accurate forecast leads to a more accurate schedule – which in turn leads to more cost efficiencies and more job satisfaction for agents and contact center managers.
Why It’s Important To Improve Contact Center Efficiency
Eliminating inefficiencies and improving overall contact center agent performance are the key objectives for any support or customer service center because they drive the smooth customer experience, increase customer retention, and build brand loyalty.
McKinsey’s 2022 State of Customer Care Survey found that customer care is now a strategic focus for companies. “Respondents say their top three priorities over the next 12 to 24 months will be retaining and developing the best people, driving a simplified customer experience (CX) while reducing call volumes and costs, and building their digital care and advanced analytics ecosystems.”
With creating more agent efficiencies and optimizing productivity and processes top of mind for companies, as a contact center leader, how do you translate this business strategy and business priorities as best practices in your contact or customer service center?
Putting in place performance metrics, or key performance indicators, is a good starting point. Measuring contact center performance metrics is essential because it allows you to understand how efficiently employees are performing over time and whether they are meeting the company’s service level agreements, customer experience goals, and improving customer satisfaction rates.
By tracking workforce management performance metrics, such as first contact resolution, contact centers can create more accurate forecasts, identify areas of process improvement, set realistic goals, and create effective training programs to develop agents’ skills and expertise.
6 Tips For Improving Contact Center Agent Efficiency
With clear workforce performance goals and metrics in place, it’s time to turn your focus to your agents. Follow these proven six tips to improve agent efficiency.
1. Less Is More
While it can be tempting to allow customer service agents to power through long hours, this can lead to agent attrition. Instead, break up their work day by allowing them to take rests during what can be a repetitive job. Enabling agents to work on alternate channels like email or social, is also helpful to break up some of the synchronous channels like phone and live chat. Remember, happier agents lead to happier customers and stronger customer interactions.
Traditionally contact centers would drive their agents to take on as many customer interactions as possible for as long as possible. But it is important to note that, the quantity of inbound engagements is irrelevant if overworked agents have difficulty maintaining top-quality service and broken processes exist. This is especially true when handling high-pressure customer queries – a little time between interactions can make a big difference—and can help customer support representatives maintain high customer satisfaction rates and avoid unhappy customers.
Studies report that letting the customer service team to take frequent rest periods actually leads to an increase in productivity and mental awareness, as well as stronger agent performance. Powering through long days might feel like a tactic of an efficient contact center. But really, it’s the opposite.
Overworked agents can lead to compromised performance and increased stress levels and burnout, which in turn leads to lower morale and can have the biggest impact on contact center performance. Poor customer experiences and customer dissatisfaction will affect overall customer retention. Therefore, encourage your agents to take breaks so they can stay fresh, healthy, and productive.
Related Article: 5 Strategies For Increasing Contact Center Performance
2. Create The Right Atmosphere
When you need a fresh start, putting a new routine in place lets you take control of the situation and gives you that extra boost. The same can be done in the workspace.
Think about both the environment and the equipment. Lack of productivity can sometimes be a result of not having the right supplies or not having the right space. What does the ideal contact center workplace look like? What atmosphere and tools will empower agents to deliver on customer expectations? For example, will multiple monitors allow agents to respond more confidently to complex issues? Will an ergonomic chair help agents feel comfortable and therefore deliver excellent customer experiences?
Reflect your company’s vision, mission, and primary goals into the work environment and transmit the right message to your staff. Even if your agents and contact center managers work in a hybrid model, or are entirely virtually or remote, creating a great workspace is possible. Consider offering agents a small stipend for home office upgrades to ensure agents have the right technology to conduct customer interactions with excellence and deliver an optimal customer experience.
Think this is just about a new keyboard or a fresh coat of paint? Think again. When your agents know they matter, they can’t help but deliver a top-tier level of customer service and create loyal customers. And that’s where you can realize big gains in operational efficiency and reduce agent turnover.
Related Article: Best Contact Center Software for Remote Workers
3. Provide Continuous Feedback And Training
Formal staff training can sometimes be dull, too general, or even neglected. Contact center managers and customer service teams are both busy with daily operations—who has time for hours of training? Instead of mandatory training sessions for everyone, think of implementing a coaching process and regular training.
Lack of proper training is one of the biggest threats to employee productivity. But the best contact center agent training programs happen on an ongoing basis. Rather than seminars where everyone is required to attend, focus on delivering feedback individually and offering the right learning and training sessions for each agent to build upon individual skill sets.
It’s also important to understand how each individual learns best. Not everyone is responsive to onlytalking about an area of opportunity. They also may need to review an example to really understand how they need to improve. Some people may pick it up immediately and make the change. But it’s important to know your team and their learning styles.
For example, one agent may struggle with response time, one may struggle with how to handle multiple inbound interactions at once, and another may face challenges in soft skills like customer empathy. So instead of a one-size-fits-all team training, aim for ongoing, continuous feedback and training.
With proper guidance, customer support center representatives can learn to handle incoming interactions and stay motivated as they boost their performance metrics. Plus, agents can work daily toward achieving their own unique training goals—no need to wait for formal training when you can improve right away.
Implement an ongoing training schedule for each level of experience to enhance agent productivity. This will ensure that varying topics of specific skills (and don’t forget soft skills and problem-solving skills) and best practices are being covered and delivered at appropriate times for agents—and ensure you operate an efficient contact center.
Related Article: Five Coaching Tips For Contact Center Agents that Work
4. Up The Competition
A little competition can add some fun and break up mundane tasks. It’s a great way to increase motivation without making a big investment. By nature, everyone has a competitive streak and wants to excel when they see their peers rising to the challenge.
If one agent has a low average handle time or abandonment rate, other agents will want to achieve that goal too. Plus, a little healthy competition can increase operational efficiency for your whole contact center.
Monthly incentives could be just the motivation your agents need to hit key contact center metrics. You could create competitions for individual agents around a single metric—for example, average speed to resolution or average wait time. Or you might consider a competition between two groups on your customer support team to create camaraderie and get agents rallying around each other.
Rewards for reaching key metrics don’t have to be huge or expensive to be gratifying. Think preferred parking, cool desk accessories, or unlimited coffee. Even gaining bragging rights is a reward in itself.
Related Article: 13 Easy and Creative Contact Center Rewards and Recognition Ideas
5. Train Agents To Be Tech-Savvy
The purpose of a contact center is to raise customer satisfaction scores, improve customer engagement, resolve customer issues, and provide a positive customer journey. Sounds tough, right? Take a load off your agents’ shoulders by giving them the much-needed tools and information available right at their fingertips for customer requests and support.
As you know, customer relationship management (CRM) software is a key part of contact center operational efficiency. Agents gain quick access to the customer’s history and can see any notes taken regardless of the engagement channel.
But how can you uplevel the power of a CRM for greater operational efficiency? Consider seamless integration with your workforce optimization system. An AI-driven workforce management system can reduce overhead costs and create efficiency by evolving your plan in real time, and when it’s integrated with your CRM, your agents can thrive. Workforce management integration is a crucial piece of contact center or customer service software for modern contact centers.
With the right technology, employee satisfaction will likely increase, and will also help achieve your business goals. Get ready to see your operational efficiency soar!
Related Article: Benefits Of Integrating Your QA Software With Your CRM
6. Empower Agents With The Right Information
How often have you submitted a customer service request or inquiry, only to be connected with a customer support agent who has no understanding of your issue? It’s one of the most common mistakes in an inbound contact center and can lead to a dip in your First Contact Resolution.
A great way to boost efficiency is to train contact center agents to answer the most common questions. An ideal first step towards this can be establishing a knowledge repository. Build a resource center or knowledge base with answers to common questions, so all agents can respond to FAQs with confidence, even if they’re not experts in a certain facet of your company.
Bonus points for creating a page on your company website with the top questions for customer self-service options. This empowers your customers to reach their ultimate goal and resolve issues independently, rather than sitting on hold or experiencing lengthy resolution times.
Related Article: How to Improve Your Email First Response Time
It’s Up To You—Empower Agents To Be More Efficient
You might think it saves your organization time and money to require your employees to put in more hours. Although this methodology might work for robots, it doesn’t have the same outcome when applied to people. To increase contact center efficiency, customer service managers and contact center leaders must support their teams. Investing in your employees is an investment in improved customer satisfaction and leads to positive customer experiences and service delivery.
Show that you value agents’ well-being by:
- Supporting their development
- Giving regular feedback and coaching sessions (don’t forget breaks!)
- Creating an appealing work environment
- Adding some fun competition into the mix
- Supplying the essential information, technology, tools and training to grow and fully optimize their skills.
Agents who feel they matter to a company are more committed and vigilant in their work. Committed, empowered agents ultimately deliver better customer experiences—a win-win for agents, contact center managers, and organizations.
You Are Not Alone
Call center leaders are faced with many challenges, including agent management, development, and retention, while delivering on the business strategy for outstanding customer experiences. Thankfully there are tools, resources, and technology to help you excel. Playvox offers a suite of solutions to help you increase contact center agent efficiency. Book a demo today to learn more.