By Jan Kühn, head of Business Services at INOVO
Providing excellent customer service is an ongoing challenge – what works today isn’t guaranteed to provide the same service levels tomorrow – but what do you do when things suddenly go wrong, when service levels drop in a short space of time? Identifying the potential source of problems is the first critical step in resolving challenges and returning to excellence.
People and processes
When service levels suddenly plummet, the supporting software, hardware and technology is often the first to bear the brunt of the blame. However, the source of the fluctuation can often be closer to home and within the control of the business – starting with the supporting people and processes.
Examining call length and volume
For example, if conversations take longer than expected or if call volumes suddenly spike, such as when a service goes down or there is an unexpected sale or promotion, this could put strain on service levels. Ongoing training and effective interdepartmental communication can play a crucial role here – not just to ensure that calls are handled efficiently, but also to prepare agents and the contact centre for multiple eventualities that could affect call duration, volume and general service levels.
Using data effectively
Workforce management and call forecasting assist with staffing and scheduling to account for how many agents will be needed in peak periods such as promotions or seasonal increases in traffic. The time of day and day of the week can influence how many people are required at any given time. If you are attempting this manually, you could be losing out on the information that could be provided by data analysis that reveals patterns in call demands/volumes.
Other factors such as poor schedule adherence (e.g. unscheduled/long breaks) could also have an impact on the number of agents available at any given time to answer calls, resulting in a dip in service levels.
Tracking occupancy rates
The occupancy rate is a measure of the amount of time agents spend on work-related tasks relative to the time they are logged in. If occupancy rates are very high, less agents will be available to service calls, resulting in a longer waiting time for callers, and a decrease in service levels. This could also indicate that agent workload is too high, which could impact their stress levels and ability to perform their job optimally. Conversely, if occupancy rates are very low, agents will be idle for long periods, which will increase staffing and service costs and could potentially create boredom and job dissatisfaction. Ultimately, there is a fine balance between juggling occupancy levels and service levels correctly – it’s something that should be constantly monitored by contact centre and operations managers.
Take a closer look your team: are they using your solutions correctly? Have they been equipped by training to monitor the right metrics? Perhaps you have a new manager who wasn’t informed of processes during his predecessor’s handover – it happens more often than you’d expect.
Tools, software and integrated business
Agents are only going to be as efficient as their tools and training allow them to be. Streamlined business tools will mean that your agents don’t have to spend unfruitful time updating information, searching for correct information about your customer or attempting to transfer calls to the right department – all at the cost of your customers’ patience and the availability of your agents.
Check that the amount of time an agent takes to finish all tasks associated with the call is not excessive; tasks such as updating the database, helpdesk or CRM, completing paperwork, speaking to colleagues, sending emails, updating a calendar and so on take your agents away from being available to customers. See what you can do to make after-call responsibilities more efficient.
It is impossible to mention all possibilities here, but monitoring and measuring at every turn will allow you to catch anomalies and address them rather than letting a challenge impact your ability to deliver the kind of great service levels your customers expect.