The latest generation of [customer service] call center software can easily generate page after page of analytical reports. Armed with these call center reports, managers set out to turn their departments into lean, efficient operations. Unfortunately three common reactions to these reports can devastate operations, making things worse rather than better.
1. Cutting Staff
Managers use call center reports to find and resolve sources of caller backlog. As queue times drop, some agents may find periods that they have no calls to take. The obvious, and incorrect, reaction to this is to lay off agents.
However these changes are generally made in response to the fact agents were overburdened in the first place. As the workload eases, reducing staffing simply creates the overwork problem again. In addition, any healthy company should grow. What happens when the organization has more customers and caller traffic starts to climb again?
If agents are idle for short periods of time, this is often simply a symptom of an efficient department and can be ignored. Agents will appreciate the occasional breather. Longer idle periods can be handled by giving agents additional, optional duties to fill their time or by adjusting, not reducing, staffing to cover high traffic periods.
2. Using Reports As Punishment
Call center reports can be used to find the agents who handle fewer than average calls per day. Shaking a page of statistics in an agent’s face and demanding improved call rates is not likely to solve the problem. The goal of analytics is to improve department operation for the benefit of the company, the customers and the agents. Using them as a source of discipline causes agents to see the tools as something negative.
In general, focus on the department as a whole rather than on individual agents. In cases were some agents are significantly underperforming, find out why rather than immediately jumping to a reprimand. Is the agent struggling due to poor training? Is the agent unable to cut off chatty customers politely? Is the agent handling calls that should be transferred to other departments? Using a positive approach toward these and similar problems will yield better results.
3. Treating Technology As An Answer
Call center reports are valuable tools for managers, but don’t expect them to be more than that. They are tools, not solutions. Information helps managers devise effective solutions and measure the effect of new policies and procedures, but don’t do anything by themselves. Simply installing software and putting up wallboards full of statistics won’t improve department performance any more than an axe will chop down a tree by itself.
Software is no substitute for human analysis and planning. Use the data gathered to determine where problems lie and to find new methods of dealing with these challenges. Create policies so agents know how to respond to changes in caller traffic. Develop a comprehensive solution rather than simply throwing money and technology at the problem.
Maureen has been a Marketing Specialist at Inova Solutions since 2007 and is a graduate of James Madison University. Maureen lives in Charlottesville, VA with roots in Baltimore, MD. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.