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Call Center Management in a Down Economy

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Back to Basics

Well, here we are. There are tried and true call center management techniques that we’ve known about and should have been implementing and perfecting all along. Only problem is, reality got in the way. The reality we are now faced with is that our Directors, VP’s and CEO’s are demanding a reduction in cost. You are wondering how you are going to maintain enough staff to answer the calls coming in, and not have every customer complain to you.

It’s a tough one, I know. Like so many industries, ours is hit hard by the downturn in the economy. Our industry, that of helping customers, selling or up-selling, and providing needed support, is experiencing rapid downsizing. Historically, our customer care, customer service, and tech support departments are the « sink hole » for funds within the organization. It is the first and last place executive management looks to cut costs.

We are not surprised. This is the business we are in: the business of people. Few would call it stable. For years, we have enjoyed growth, even with the ups and downs. But now, more businesses are just seeing the downs. Call Center Management

As managers and business leaders left behind, we are now asked to take our call centers to a whole new level. To do even more with even less! And, by the way, make sure the customers stay happy.

So, here’s the rub: get busy doing all those things you’ve read about. If you were to take a call center management training or certification class, you’d learn everything you need to know. One problem though, are they going to let you expense $1000-$2000 for it? Nope.

Here’s an outline of some of the basics – unfortunately putting all of them in an article would be to much for both of us. For more information at a price management can swallow, get yourself a good book.

Lay a Foundation
Every call center, like any business, needs its own set of standards and policies that are backed up by a mission. Write your call center a mission statement that is in line with the company goals. This not only sets the stage for forthcoming changes, but your executive team will love it.

Next, support that mission statement with Service Levels that you will publish to your management and customers. You probably have them already, but do you have enough of them and are you managing to them and publishing your results? Be sure to include: service level, average speed of answer, average abandonment rate, max hold, customer satisfaction rate, first level resolution rate (if applicable), and first call resolution rate.

Report on all of these and USE the information to create changes that will improve processes and performance.

Value
To support your service levels, make sure you document all standard operating procedures and perform trend analysis regularly. The only way to monitor cost is to know value. You’re going to want to communicate the VALUE of your call center to your management team. How do you do that?

ROI = Value – Cost

Know the cost of your call center, specifically the cost per call. That’s all of your overhead: salaries, equipment, software licensing, phones, computers, facilities (rent), everything. Divide that by your call volume. That is you Cost Per Call.

You need to know that so that you can communicate what impact your improvements are having. If you put into place a Self Help system for your customers, and that eliminates 100 calls per week, and your cost per call is $25, you just saved your company $2500 per week.

Drive volume down and quality up. Attach value to an improvement in quality. Does a great call save another call back from that customer? Does it mean a saved customer that will buy again? If so, what is the average order, what is the value of that saved customer?

Get yourself up to speed and become an expert in:
Managing Call Center Employees
How Adults Learn, Training
Managing Conflict
Change Management
Your Influence

And most importantly, make sure you are staffed correctly. Use a staffing model to ensure there is no waste (downtime). Don’t out perform your SLA’s too much. If you can come down on performance to save the company some money – do it.

Lastly – be sure to communicate your successes!

Study, study, study – and in this economy, you are likely on your own. Companies are not willing to absorb that cost. All of these cost reduction and quality improvement measures are on-going and won’t happen overnight. Go for the low hanging fruit first, review and communicate results, then go for the next one up.

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