EPISODE 20

Best Practices from 6 Contact Center Experts

 

Episode details

We’ve found that often times the best way to break through the noise and figure out your next best step is to talk with peers. And, in a mostly virtual world these…

Episode details

We’ve found that often times the best way to break through the noise and figure out your next best step is to talk with peers. And, in a mostly virtual world these days, that can be tough to find. So we interviewed some incredible contact center leaders to see what advice they’d lend. And it’s real good.

This episode was adapted from the article, “Experts Weigh In: 3 Contact Center Management Best Practices.”

 

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Customers expect more from customer service than ever before.
Zendesk’s 2022 CX report found that more than 60% of consumers now say they have a higher expectation of customer service than before the pandemic, yet a whopping 54% feel that “customer service is an afterthought for most businesses they interact with.”
If you’re anything like our clients, I know you face these stats every day and are weighing careful steps on how to move forward and make a positive impact. But it’s really tough to know the right path to take without breaking things or taking 3 years to bring a new product to your experience.
We’ve found that often times the best way to break through the noise and figure out your next best step is to talk with peers. And, in a mostly virtual world these days, that can be tough to find. So we interviewed some incredible contact center leaders to see what advice they’d lend. And it’s real good.

Intro

Welcome to Snackable CX, where we break down our best resources into bite-sized guidance on how to stand out and be known for your customer experience. I’m Sam Salerno, here from Mindful, the best in class, total experience solution that aims to add kindness to your tech stack.

Let’s jump right in with tip #1: You gotta break down data silos and create an omnichannel experience for your customers.

Sam, all you talk about is omnichannel omnichannel omnichannel. Well, believe me: I don’t just do it to sound smart. Everyone we spoke with said omnichannel is table stakes for brands and contact centers today.

As consumers, we’re swimming in communication channels — voice, chat, email, SMS, Facebook, Instagram…it’s endless. And what’s more, we expect the brands we do business with to interact with us on our preferred channels AND let us channel-hop without losing context.
Mark Ball, the Senior Business Analyst for Contact Center Technology over at Lowe’s told us, “If you can’t meet customer expectations for contacting them on the digital channel of their choice, you’ll be left by the wayside.”
And Ted Hunting, the SVP of Marketing at Bright Pattern said, “Companies need to be able to respond easily on any channel,” and have “all of the customer’s previous journey at their fingertips.”
But here’s where we face our first challenge. Contact centers have a bad rep for struggling to provide this kind of experience to their customers. I mean, just think of the last time you hit a digital dead end in a self-service channel and had to restart the entire conversation with an agent on the phone. A few episodes ago I told a story about my dad swearing to never do business with a company again after they made him repeat himself three times on three different channels.

Yes, it’s agonizing for customers. But what you may not realize is these disconnected systems cost contact centers, too. Lower first contact resolution rates, longer average handle times, spikes in agent burnout, dismal CSAT and NPS scores…it doesn’t matter how many channels you show up on: if your customer interaction data isn’t there when it matters most, it’s a huge loss for customers AND contact centers.
So, what can you do if this is feeling a little bit too close to home? Here are two pro tips:
First, take an inventory of your current tech stack, find the gaps, and then search for a holistic omnichannel solution—not just channels that act as quick fixes. Again, Ted Hunting from Bright Pattern says, “Don’t look to point solutions like adding a separate system for SMS or chat when you need new channels. Each point solution results in siloed systems, which makes it more difficult to interact with your customers.”
Second: Do your homework. You need to know what omnichannel solutions are out there and how they can integrate with your current tech stack without having to blow the whole thing up and start over. Jamie Herl, Manager for Contact Center Technology Support at Lowes, told us, “Due diligence is key to selecting the right tools. You know your business better than anyone, so make sure you have a seat at the table when discussing the requirements and what is needed.”
And…just a friendly Mindful side note here: If you’re like, “Well, that’s great, but I don’t even know where to start,” that’s what we’re here for. We do this kinda stuff ALL THE TIME, so feel free to hit us up, even if you just wanna chat about omnichannel and the baby steps you can take to set it up in your own contact center.

Alright, tip #2: Make sure your team can adapt to changing levels of demand.

Managing ticket volume has always been a challenge for contact centers. But when COVID snuck up on everyone back in 2020, ticket volume shot through the proverbial roof. And it’s still hanging out up there, with Zendesk reporting that baseline support tickets rates are still 20% higher than before the pandemic.
This increased call volume brings a special type of cyclical havoc on call centers. When call queues get backed up, hold times get longer. When hold times get longer, customers grow more frustrated and take that frustration out on agents. When agents are treated like human punching bags, burnout spikes and attrition rates go up. Which means there are fewer agents in the contact center, so call queues get even further behind. And round and round we go.
And on top of all that, workforce managers are banging their heads against the wall trying to figure out staffing, which, as Tiffany Glass, the CTO at 1-800-Pack-Rat told us, is “almost impossible to plan and manage” when “call volume can double from week to week.”
The plain and simple truth is: Contact centers need to have the ability to quickly adapt to levels of customer demand.
If your contact center team is on the struggle bus with predicting demand, there are three ways you can support them.
First, allow your customers to request a callback. If you’re drowning in calls and/or long hold times, you need to deploy a virtual queue and callback solution in your tech stack. This will immediately smooth out your peak call times—reducing customer hold frustration, relieving pressure on your agents, and improving forecasting for workforce managers.
And if you’re looking for proof, we’ve got an awesome case study you can check out on our website showing how the Connecticut Department of Labor used callback to navigate a 500% increase in calls at the height of the pandemic.

Second, use a click-to-call solution on your website or mobile app. If you want to give your customers a premium experience while boosting your contact center efficiency, install a click-to-call widget on your website. These tools let customers request or schedule a call from an agent—meaning they get to skip the IVR and hold queues while also cutting down on telephony fees and pacing out call volume across the board.

And lastly, improve your self-service channels. If you’re like me and eighty-one percent of consumers out there, you likely hop online to try to troubleshoot your own issues before calling into customer service. To smooth out call volume, you need to optimize every customer-facing aspect of your business—from your website and knowledge databases to your chatbots and IVRs. Just remember: self-service channels are great deflection tools, but they should never be a barrier for a customer to get help from an agent. Buried phone numbers, dizzying IVR menus, loopty-loop chatbots are all recipes for frustrated callers that will take up more of a contact centers precious time and resources.

And finally, tip #3: Make time for training and coaching to elevate your whole team.

Chances are you’ve already got some sort of customer service training in your contact center. But to really improve agent performance, you gotta pair traditional service training with training on your products or services—especially if your product offerings are particularly technical.

When asked about this kind of training, Jared Preston, the Operations Manager at GoalZero, told us, “Without training, our customer service level is unacceptable.”
And agents recognize this, too. Zendesk found that 62% of support agents feel “more skills-based training would improve their performance.” The better they understand your products, the better equipped they’ll be to answer your customers’ most technical questions.
To do this, work to create a team culture focused on continuous improvements. Cheri Mitchell, the Case Management Supervisor at Allsup Employment Services, says, “Identify what makes your agents tick and what motivates them. Adapt to their learning style to help them achieve better overall results from each team member.”
Usually, this kind of talk about in-depth training sets off some alarms for resource- and time-sensitive managers. But there are some simple ways you can work this in without having to break the bank or send your agents off to week-long seminars.
You could work coaching sessions into your regular agent one-on-ones. Invest in a learning management system and create product- and skills-based training resources for your teams to work through at a pace that makes sense for their schedules. Or consider developing a mentorship program where tenured agents can mentor new talent and act as a sounding board for their questions or concerns.
No matter how you do it, the key to success is to break training down into bite-sized pieces and naturally work it into everyday schedules. Slowly but surely, this creates that culture of continuous improvement that truly boosts contact center efficiency at an agent level.

Last thoughts

Phew…lots of good stuff from some solid experts. And we really only scratched the surface in this episode. Fortunately, you can check out the plethora of resources we have on our site all about taking your contact center to the next level.
But the plain and simple takeaway is pretty straightforward: contact center optimization always comes down to the tools you use and the people you employ. When you take the time to find the right tools for the job and you invest in your workforce, you ultimately set your contact center up for success.
And hey, if you’ve listened this far and you’re just flat out feeling stuck or under-equipped, then again, just give us a shout. We eat, sleep, and breathe contact center efficiency, so we’d love to come alongside and help you put these tips to work for your business.

Nutritional Facts

This episode has been adapted from the article, “Experts Weigh In: 3 Contact Center Management Best Practices,” which you can find in the Mindful CX library at getmindful.com.
We publish new, Snackable CX episodes every week, so be sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. See ya next time.

Written and hosted by Sam Salerno.

Produced and engineered by Jared Evers.

Edited, mixed, and mastered by Adam Griffith.

Artwork designed by Rob Beckham.

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