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Customer Experience

8 Steps To Improve Contact Center Performance

Follow This Guide to Reach That Next Level in Contact Center and CX Outcomes

Contact centers everywhere are adjusting to the new normal, where digital demand is high, and customer expectations are getting higher. If your contact center is falling behind when it comes to these expectations, particularly when it comes to digital, your customer loyalty, revenue, and business could be at risk. 

You know you need to make changes, but maybe you’re not sure where to start. Perhaps the challenge lies within your current tech stack, your training program, your chosen KPIs, or maybe your business expectations are misaligned. 

Whether you’re satisfied with your contact center or feel there’s room for significant improvement, the truth is we can always get better. And your opinion might be skewed: according to Bain & Company, the delivery gap can be significant -- 80% of businesses say they deliver ‘superior’ customer service.

8% of customers agree. 

Whether you’re still evaluating where your contact center is falling short, have already pinpointed the areas you’d like to focus on for improvement, or you just want to see how you can make your contact center even better, this guide will provide insight into improving your contact center for optimized performance that drives predictable, continuous success.

1. Maximize Data-Driven Decision-Making

Data is flowing through your contact center at every hour of the day. As your brand continues to expand into new digital channels, and you begin to take a now-vital omnichannel approach to CX, the sheer amount of data your CX operation amasses from day-to-day is one of your greatest assets. It might also be one of your biggest challenges: significantly, a study at the University of Texas found Fortune 1000 companies can see an average revenue boost of $2 billion annually if they improve data usability by 10%, but 99% of contact centers don’t think their data intelligence strategy currently meets business needs. Closing the gap here can be game-changing to your contact center performance.

While it can be overwhelming to figure out exactly where to start, it is important to make the most of your existing data. By harnessing the power of experienced Business Intelligence and data analytics teams, your data can become actionable, showing you the breakpoints and pain points in your customer journey, and allowing you to build a truly customer-centric CX strategy.

As a CX leader, you’re probably already using your customer data to break down customer journey maps, personas, and have delved deep into different customer demographics and their preferences. You’re adjusting KPIs to be tailor-fit to your unique customers based on your current data, and you’re asking the right questions: are my agents engaged? Where are the roadblocks in our current operations? How many inbounds are we getting per week? You’re taking on the onerous benchmarking process -- but keep in mind, your analysis might need to be adjusted based on what new trends you find in your customer data.

But what’s next? 

  • Integrate your existing systems.  According to Deloitte, nearly two-thirds of C-suite executives see integrating their existing systems as the top obstacle to realizing ROI in their contact center.
  • Make data-driven tech stack updates. Integrating your systems  is key to making your data actionable, but you'll also need to make meaningful changes to your technology stack. This can help to uncover even more granular insights, poising you to come out on top when it comes to personalized, tailored CX that customers need.
  • Unify siloed product areas into a unified CX front. This may seem obvious, but many brands struggle with connecting product development and experience with a unified customer experience.

2. Optimize Your Omnichannel Workforce & Tech Stack 

Gartner research showed that half of brands will not have successfully executed an omnichannel strategy for their customer engagement channels by 2022. An Omnichannel strategy refers to the ability to handle customer interactions consistently and to the same level of high performance across each and every channel. This means you need to be able to deliver the same quality of experience across chat, voice, email, and social - and that a customer should be able to hop across each channel without having to repeat their issue or history.  

Increasingly, digital and social avenues for CX are becoming more and more important -- and have surged since 2020 due to the pandemic. In fact, 68% of the participants in the 2021 Customer Xperience (CX) Outlook survey by Hansa Research reported a significant increase in customer engagement and participation on social media, and Zendesk’s CX Trends for 2021 reported digital interactions at an all time high.

While the desire for more digital interactions is high, the reality is, many brands are facing  challenges in delivering against those expectations. You need a mix of the right people and the right tech stack to effectively deliver a stellar omnichannel experience.  

Consider the following types of solutions when rethinking your omnichannel contact center:

  • Cloud-based solutions for unified inbound CX management across channels
  • Digital escalation solutions to help resolve customer issues in real-time 
  • A social reputation management solution to help address customers on social media platforms
  • RPA automation solutions to automate simple customer requests and leave complex tasks for agents  
  • CX Survey tool to automatically send surveys to customers after each interaction, to better understand how their support experience went

3. Invest in Agent Performance Technology  

Empowering your agents to be successful with the right technologies for working in a modern contact center. It’s not just another IT expense -- investing in training and coaching solutions to help agents work faster and smarter, surpass goals, and make them feel valued is important to retaining the agents that keep your contact center running. 

Not only will these solutions help your contact center performance improve, but they are key for adding the digital natives you’re seeking out to your teams who desire digitally-enabled solutions, flexibility, and professional development. 

It’s also worth noting that 86% of agents feel that they don’t have the right resources in place to effectively support customers -- so investments in this area are critical to improving agent success.

Technologies or platforms that integrate real-time coaching and analytics with gamification and incentives have benefits for agents and supervisors alike. Agents are in it to win it, literally, when they are rewarded for their performance. Supervisors are armed with performance data that can help to:

  • Closely monitor performance
  • Identify areas for improvement
  • Drive consistent positive agent behaviors that translate into measurable results

Some solutions, like ibex Scorecard, up the ante with a gamified performance model that boasts a leaderboard for agent KPIs across the contact center, drumming up friendly competition to keep agents engaged and boost team spirit.

Also consider investing in simulated training environments not just for current agents, but embedded into the onboarding process, to immerse agents into your contact center and set them up for success from Day 1. 

4. Wave Zero Training for All Agents & Management

In order to create a robust training program for the entire contact center, consider the Wave Zero training methodology, which is focused on training leadership and management first. Using this method, leadership takes calls and trains on program delivery before onboarding and training agents, which is proven to impact:

  • Faster training times, resulting in lower costs for the client
  • Agent Speed to Performance, which means hitting target KPIs faster while reducing friction points for customers
  • More predictable CX outcomes, due to a concrete training method that leaves fewer changes for poor CX outcomes for when agents interact with customers. 

You should also invest in digital training solutions that can help agents get up to speed more quickly and efficiently. By tapping a training simulator technology, you can immerse agents on specific client program needs and scenarios to ensure they are ready to take on customer tickets and are able to ramp quickly and start hitting KPIs straight out of the gate.

Regardless of the training method you choose, and whether you are hiring a seasoned customer support agent with years of experience or an up-and-coming one, every new hire will need comprehensive training on your brand’s customers. This onboarding process should include:

  • Scripting and roleplaying on any anticipated customer concerns
  • Up-to-date technology needed to do the job well and instructions on how to use it
  • Guidelines on a brand tone and voice to be construed during each interaction
  • Customer personas and maps so agents can get to know the people they’ll be interacting with and their preferences and pain points before they engage with them for the first time

 

5. Create A Performance-Optimized CX Feedback Loop

Data and real-time tracking are only valuable if CX executives and contact center managers use them to improve. The training process is not one-and-done. Even after an agent is onboarded, there will always be room for improvement and continuous training. You can accomplish this by:

  • Investing in whisper coaching technology. These technologies allow managers to listen to conversations from agents, take notes, and provide positive and constructive feedback.
  • Engaging solutions for continuous coaching. Taking it a step further from whisper coaching, invest in a coaching and performance management tool, like ibex Inspire, that can quickly track, measure, and act on agent performance needs to identify personalized coaching opportunities in real time. 
  • Focusing on lower-performing agents. Customer experience is a team effort, but bringing up agents who need consistent assistance or make mistakes, such as transferring a customer for an issue they could have solved, can drastically improve call center metrics.
  • Reward good performances. Agent morale is essential to retention. You don’t want to be so focused on what’s wrong that you forget about what’s going well. Compliment agents personally if you hear how they handled a complex customer concern and consider highlighting it as a success story in an all-hands meeting. Gamifying metrics and giving out external rewards, such as cash or gift cards, to high-performing agents can motivate everyone.

Once you provide feedback and additional training to agents, continue to track progress. Listen-in to agent and customer conversations, using a whisper software if necessary (these are particularly useful if you have a remote workforce). Be sure to point out positive interactions to boost confidence and morale.

6. Build a Diverse, Empowered Workforce.

Your agents are what keep your contact center running. To make sure you don’t churn, burn, and repeat through agents, and to ensure you keep valuable, tenured agents on board, you need to invest in ways to empower and incentivize your people to continuously improve and grow with your brand. Not only will this boost agent retention, but it will save you in the long-run on constantly hiring to replace burnt-out agents.

  • Invest in career development: As much as you don’t want to keep replacing agents, agents want a sense of security, too. They don’t want to jump ship after they’ve invested a good deal of time working for your brand -- but if there are no opportunities, they may not feel as if they have a choice. Investing in technologies for continuous coaching and plans for professional development will be a win-win in helping your agents grow into your contact center leaders of tomorrow.
  • Be conscious in creating a positive work environment: What does your contact center look like? Having a branded, immersive space can make all the difference in boosting team morale. Do you have available perks in the office, such as free coffee or snacks? These little things can make a difference. In addition, safety is also a key concern -- especially in a post-pandemic landscape. Are desks far enough apart? Are you providing flexibility to your agents to work remotely or in a hybrid model?
  • Make your brand culture fun: Show your agents that you care about them not just as an agent, but as an individual. Make time for celebrations: birthdays, work anniversaries, holidays, and even events for family and friends, or to work together for a good cause. Work with HR to build a calendar of regular employee engagement events as well, such as happy hours, trivia, wellness activities, and more.
  • Be transparent. Create a supportive culture where leaders build positive relationships with agents by helping them to develop in a positive environment, built on a foundation of transparency. If there are areas to improve, or cuts to be made, communicate that to the affected agents.
  • Provide competitive benefits and pay. Today, the hiring market is brutal. Staffing your contact center is not easy -- especially if you require any specialized skills or niche industry expertise. Incentivize and show value to your agents by providing a competitive benefits package.
  • Prioritize diversity.  A culturally and linguistically diverse workforce is key in your contact center staffing. You’ll gain fresh perspectives and skill sets, and you can even break language and geographical barriers in your business.

7. Strategize for Scale

As your business and support needs grow, it’s essential to continue to scale your contact center operations accordingly. You should not only prepare for growth, but build in flexibility to respond to expected seasonal ramps and unexpected burst capacity. If there aren’t enough agents, waiting times will inevitably be longer, leading to call abandonment and lower CSAT or NPS scores, so preparing ahead of time is key to be able to forecast, plan, and execute during volume shifts -- expected or not.

By priming your contact center with a focus on speed, flexibility, and proactive complexity management, you should be prepared for anything: hyper-growth, a holiday spike, or anything else that comes your way. Make sure to consider the following when planning for burst capacity needs:

  • Do you have the right recruitment team in place to act on high-volume temporary hiring?
  • Are you flexible enough to ensure you have access to enough staffing? 
  • Do you have the right in-center and @Home plan in place to accommodate volume needs during seasonal and burst capacity events?
  • Are your recruitment and operations teams collaborating with Business Intelligence teams to make informed, data-driven staffing decisions and to predict volume based on historical needs?
  • Is your training team ready for volume recruiting and rapid ramping? 

For more information, our eBook, Peak Failure: Fixing Your Seasonal CX, provides a more extensive guide to preparing for peak complexity.

8. Keep an Eye on Chatbot, AI, and Automation Advancements

If a contact center isn’t meeting benchmarks, agent performance may not be the only factor — or the issue at all. Outdated ticketing systems, slow computers, and solutions lacking the fluidity offered by competitors can all lower customer satisfaction and experience. Making necessary upgrades to technology, as well as investing in new systems and solutions, can improve agent efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Updating legacy systems is not enough, however. Your CX program must be constantly looking ahead to the types of technologies your customers are engaging with. You must be where your customers are. CX has become a key differentiator for brands, and this, paired with digital transformation initiatives and new technologies, have resulted in the perfect storm for a digital tipping point. It’s disrupt, or be disrupted. In fact, 75% of company leaders believe that the pandemic accelerated digital adoption by 1-7 years. You need to have your finger on the pulse of what’s next to make sure your contact center is able to compete. This is especially true as your CX strategy shifts to reach more customers and a more distributed workforce.

Conclusion

CX is increasingly becoming one of your brand’s most important differentiators -- and your contact center is often the frontline.

Success does not just come from improved CSAT -- your contact center requires more than loyal customers to keep running. You need inspired agents who are armed with the right technologies to succeed. Investment here is critical to positive CX outcomes. 

And remember, it’s a continuous process. What works for your contact center today, might not tomorrow. A data-driven strategy, investment in talent, and constant innovation will keep your contact center ready for any challenge.


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