Call Center Productivity .. a sustainable solution.
The Galley Slave Syndrome :
The constant pressure to answer more calls with less people has given us the Age of the 'battery call center'. Vendors will promise desperate Call Center Managers that by implementing this IVR system or that CTI software call-lengths can be reduced by 2 seconds on average which adds up to a productivity gain of 15% yearly, based on brain dead projections of current call figures.
The number one prize for brain dead application of this principle goes to Pacific Bell which under much fanfare in 1995 declared that by forbidding the directory inquiry reps to say 'good morning' & 'good bye' and instead using 'hi' & 'bye' productivity gains would amount to $ 22 million a year. Only a bookkeeper with little common sense and NO call center experience could believe such projections and the fact that senior management bought into the idea simply underlines how far removed the Call Center is from the mainstream business. Next step is to outsource.
Currently the worst Galley Slave Call Centers are : Airline reservations, Credit Card Customer Service & Telco's. Mind you, all aren't that bad, but most are driven by call traffic numbers & not call outcomes.
What is wrong :
The call center has gone off purpose or more likely never worked it out. Remember you're there to give the customer access to the organisation. A good call handling results in more business or reduced cost. So what are you doing measuring the results of the call center in quantitative terms rather than in OUTCOMES ? Unless you're measuring what you're doing in terms of results, that is quality of communication, then why are you doing it at all? Sure you need some traffic measures to facilitate staffing & rostering. But that doesn't make these operational figures the product of the call center, unless you're a call producing factory, in which case the best way to handle the productivity issue is to instruct the reps to hang up on any call duration over 45 seconds. Or maybe even better, have the ACD do it automatically. Oh, you think it will upset the customers and only be a temporary solution?
The Solution .. 'The Coaching Culture Call Center':
The real potential for productivity gains lies with your people, the reps that actually talk to the customers. Its called motivation. Give people a reason to do better, to bring more of their intellectual powers to work. If instead of bringing 20% of themselves they decide the job is fun, interesting and fulfilling and bring 40% of their potential. That's a 100% productivity increase and cost nothing in terms of monetary investment. It does cost a lot in terms of management time and effort creating a coaching culture call center. But at least the call center will have a future.
What is a Coaching Culture Call Center :
It is a call center where everybody from the manager to newest representative is actively working to improve communication, relationship & sales skills to achieve better call outcomes.
Coaching means "to help achieve" or "to help improve towards a known goal". The key word here is HELP. In a coaching culture it becomes natural to help others, rather than demonstrate own superiority. Everybody must learn to become a coach and must learn how to coach and what to coach.
Here are some (the list is long) of the skills most needed to be coached and trained :
1) How to control a conversation, so it doesn't drag on needlessly
2) How to identify the Needs of the caller
3) How to handle angry callers
4) How to project the intention 'to help' the caller
5) How to be honest with the caller
6) How to pay attention to every caller .. and not let your mind wander
7) How to be outcome focussed without being pushy or dominating
Training & coaching is very different from educating. Educating is telling or teaching the rep what to do... training is helping the rep to do it by overcoming own barriers to communicating and achieving call outcomes.
Motivating is NOT making others do what you want them to do, because you want it, but making them do what you want them to do, because they want it. Motivation is helping others find the starter button to their own generator, rather than continually needing to be hot-wired by your generator. ( In 1965 Professor Herzberg published " One more time, How to motivate your people " and it is still to this day the most reprinted article of the Havard Business Review).
Niels Kjellerup June 16th 1998
PS: If you're interested in learning more about The Coaching Culture Call Centre we plan to set up a Call Center Know How section of this Website for subscribers only. This section will give you access to the materials and models used by Resource International to help our clients.
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