Three Styles of Phone-Based Support

A call center requires a certain level of preparation and organization in order to function effectively and get your customers into the hands of the right experts. Here are three popular methods for phone-based support as suggested by Kristin Robertson in her book, Spectacular Support Centers.

The first method is coined the “Dispatch” method. This style of support is set up with an operator at the front line, trained to determine the customers’ needs and direct their call to the correct department. By employing a human, this method avoids the cost and maintenance of buying an automatic call distributor (ACD). This will also speed the process for the customer support agent as the operator would be able to prep the call, entering basic information and passing on important details so that the customer doesn’t have to do it twice. Another positive effect for dispatch call placement is that customers will be answered by a human voice, every time. At the end of the day, people do still like other people.

Alternatively, using the dispatch method isn’t feasible in a high-traffic support center. The hiring and training cost to employ all the operators necessary to field calls would quickly overbalance itself when put into practice on a broad scale. Also relevant is human fallacy – if a call is misdirected or a customer is already frustrated, jumping through the loops to get back where he or she needs to be can result in a quickly escalated incident.

The second method is called “Touch and Hold,” which is based on empowering your support agents to present a one-stop-shop to each customer: no matter the call, each support agent should be able to field and resolve it to customer satisfaction. This method can work well with high volume call centers, and it encourages agents to be independent and own your brand as their own brand. While this can make a great team atmosphere, it can also be very stressful and require intensive training and cross-training. If your call center experiences a high turnover rate for customer service representatives (CSR), it can result in excessive spending to keep your center well equipped and staffed.

Thirdly, there is the “Tiered” method. This focuses on escalation and call depth, relying on basic customer support agents to take out 80% of incoming calls and bumping the more complicated or involved concerns to more skilled or highly trained agents as the case may need. It’s effective and efficient in providing quick answers when necessary and tends to retain CSR’s, as there are career paths available within the call center. The tiered method does delay access to highly complex support, however, which can be frustrating to a customer who is aware that their concern is beyond the help of the first two tiers.

Which one would work best for your company? The answer lies in flexibility. With an open outlook and a core value of improving customer satisfaction, properly employing the right type of call center organization can mean combining a few methods into a unique system for your own company, adding inspired elements, and even working with the customer feedback you receive to satisfy any missing elements. Call centers are a catch-all for customer concerns, questions, and compliments. It pays to be ready for it all!

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