How to Cut Costs In Contact Center Operations

Most telephone contact centers are expensive to operate and maintain. Their executives often announce that calls will increase significantly over the coming year, but require agent staffing levels to remain the same.

Unfortunately, most organizations believe that simply streamlining or purchasing new technology will solve all their problems, but it is only part of the solution.

To continue meeting key performance indicators (KPIs), maintain service levels and absorb additional volume, contact center operations managers should consider four things: efficiency, process changes, self-service, and technological upgrades.

Keeping these four things in check will allow your company to cut costs in contact center operations without the possibility of increasing employee churnover rate and risking your contact center culture.

Efficiencies in Contact Center Operations

Using certain technological tools can increase efficiencies across contact center operations. Some tools include prepopulating address and phone number fields, which cuts down on the time an agent needs to verify information. That allows the agent to spend time-solving the problem rather than filling in blanks.

how to cut costs in contact center operations

Also, providing an option for agents to call back customers instead of leaving them waiting on hold decreases customer frustration while allowing agents to be more efficient in their call handling.

Most importantly, focusing on first-call resolution will increase customer satisfaction while making sure your agents are not stuck dealing with compounding issues. Each time a customer calls in, reviewing notes consumes time, and customer frustration increases.

Evaluate process changes

Nothing can decrease customer satisfaction and increase the cost of a call more than when several agents are handling the same call. Blind call assignments can lead to customers hopping among agents until they are lucky enough to find one with enough knowledge to solve their problems.

Accurate routing of calls to the most-skilled agent available at the time can increase customer satisfaction and efficiency.

Similarly, real-time call monitoring can capture where operations may be failing the customer. Additional training needs and time traps that slow down contact center operations while frustrating the customer can be highlighted and reviewed.

Self-service and automation opportunities

Although self-service phone technology can be frustrating for some customers, well-designed self-service and automation can decrease call volumes while increasing customer resolution. Self-service options that are intuitive and require little effort from the customer will resolve issues faster and more efficiently.

contact center operations

Also, educating customers via informative hold messages can help build knowledge for customers to handle issues themselves. More customers prefer handling issues via internet or other methods over calling into an agent. Providing knowledge and resources allows customers to help themselves while decreasing call volume.

Technological upgrades

Self-service phone tree options have been around for a while, with mixed reviews from customers regarding call resolution. That does not mean phone trees are the only option. Chat options can build communication among agents, allowing them to talk about a customer issue before transferring the customer to another agent.

Also, chatbots are becoming a strong contender for customer resolution. As mentioned, more customers prefer to help themselves. In fact, millennials prefer using FAQs and chatbots over phone calls. While it may be easy to discount the importance of chatbots, well-designed language-adaptive chatbots and artificial intelligence technology can resolve issues faster than agents, and with more customer satisfaction.

It goes without saying, if clients are calling less often because the quality of your online content is good enough to solve their problems, you can cut costs in contact center operations sooner than later. Make sure to implement ways for clients to send feedback about every piece of content that is designed to help them solve problems, before calling. With better and ever-evolving content, the fewer the calls.

Keeping an eye on basics

If you noticed the pattern, it all comes down to Customer Satisfaction, Customer Experience and as Jeff Bezos puts it in many interviews, Customer Obsession. He says many times that the #1 thing that made them successful was Customer Obsession. Another tip, your company will certainly benefit if you cut costs in contact center operations but if you have raging fans and clients, your company will grow steadily and exponentially, so make sure to understand what your priorities are.

Contact center operations can fall into a hole in which they purchase all technology available. But, no new technology is a magic bullet. Improving operations and processes requires technologies that are properly implemented and monitored.

Managers are still required to monitor and keep track of the right flow measurements and accurate KPIs to make sure contact center operations continue to add value. Technologies that are not monitored rarely show value, especially if they are not implemented well.

Instead, optimized call centers use a combination of operational efficiencies to decrease agent time and process changes to ensure the customer is connected to the correctly skilled agent the first time. Automation opportunities and self-service education can boost the benefits of chatbots and other technologies for customers to use.

Ultimately, you can cut costs in contact center operations using a variety of options rather than by decreasing staff. Using all the tools at a contact center operation’s disposal will ensure KPIs are met, service levels are maintained and call volume is handled within the required staffing level. Call us for a free consultation on how Call Center Optimization Group can help your organization streamline for additional cost savings.

Empowering Banking Call Center Employees With Advanced Analytics

3 MIN. READ

According to a 2017 survey of banks in the Asia-Pacific, North America, and Europe, 80 percent of all customer interactions occur on digital. However, only 25 percent of sales (5 percent on mobile and 20 percent online) occur on digital channels. This shows that most sales in the banking sector require some level of human interaction, whether on the telephone or in branches.

So, although digital has transformed banking in many respects and most customers prefer to consume banking services through digital means, there are some that still value the human touch. Even those who use apps to access banking services often prefer face-to-face interactions for complex financial products.

Seamless Omnichannel Offering

As such, a banking call center or an in-house call center operation in your bank shouldn’t neglect the human side of the equation as they continue to make progress in digitizing the customer experience. To increase sales and maximize revenue, a banking call center must create a seamless omnichannel offering that leverages both human and digital channels. They must find the ideal combination of personal and personal interactions that match the predisposition of their clients.

Banks need to make the leap to an omnichannel approach that facilitates easy movement between channels and use data about each customer to enable cross-channel sales. Those that are yet to leverage the omnichannel approach are missing out on a major opportunity to improve and maximize their sales productivity.

To transition to true omnichannel distribution, a banking call center must develop the following capabilities:

  • Using data-driven insights into sales journeys and customer activity to improve marketing personalization.
  • Equipping a motivated sales force with the tools to operate in omnichannel environments.
  • Granular customer data and advanced analytics for better targeting.

When applied to data generated by digital banking and customer transactions, advanced analytics can help increase the reach and impact of omnichannel sales. Advanced analytical capabilities enable banks to acquire insights into customer behavior and segments, ensuring precise targeting and accurate tailoring of value propositions and products.

By applying data mining techniques to customers’ online behaviors and spending patterns, banks will be able to identify those high-potential, high-value customers that bring in the larger share of revenues. Such customer behavior can be analyzed to optimize lead generation so that banks can focus on the right customers. Also, identifying granular behavioral clusters can help align and balance out sales, value generated, cost to serve and service levels.

Data-driven product development

Advanced analytics also helps inform product development. Tracking online customer behavior can help banks monitor the level of interest in a particular product or service or help indicate possible instruments that customers need to solve problems they encounter. For instance, banks with advanced analytics capabilities can help identify customer segments that are more likely to go to rival banks for a loan, enabling the bank to come up with differentiated products and services that will appeal to such a customer base.

Conclusion

Combining new and more granular data with recent advancements in analytics tech (such as non-linear machine-learning algorithms) can dramatically improve customer targeting and the prediction power of models. Integrating static customer profiles with high-frequency triggers and variables (gathered through real-time analysis of customer behavior) can skyrocket conversion rates.

Banks should also note that customers usually do not make purchasing decisions or respond immediately to a sales approach via direct channels. This means that human intervention must come into play before a purchase is finalized. As such, conversion rates may depend entirely on how well banking call center reps respond to the first contact.

According to an American Express research, good customer service requires representatives to be able to provide satisfactory answers to questions or quickly connect them with someone who is knowledgeable. As such, banks should ensure that they not only use digital channels to respond to inquiries but also deliver a timely and appropriate human response to customers as they progress through the buyer’s journey.

Tips for a contact center approach to mortgage originations

3 MIN. READ

Reverse mortgages are perceived as one of the most complex and unique financial products, which is why many borrowers find it stressful to acquire them. Marketers traditionally had face-to-face meetings with clients and guided them through the lengthy loan origination process.

However, savvy reverse lenders are effectively using call center personnel to originate these loans.

For such in-house loan originators, getting clients to sign on depends on their ability to develop connections and gain trust quickly. However, lenders should perform due diligence and weigh the projected return on investment before implementing a call center approach to generating loans. Lenders looking to leverage a contact center approach to mortgage originations successfully should keep the following tips in mind.

Identify the problem

When an individual starts to show interest in a reverse mortgage product, there is usually an underlying problem that precipitated such interest, and the lender must solve that problem. It’s important to identify the problem first. It could be health issues, loss of job or primary source of income, or the death of a spouse.

To successfully originate loans from potential clients through the contact center approach to mortgage originations, loan officers must be good and empathetic listeners. Once they identify the problem, they can leverage their expertise and guide the client in choosing the product that best fits the situation.

Anticipate questions

On average, customers have approximately 10-15 questions when it comes to loan originations. Loan officers who expertly answer these questions rapidly build trust and instant credibility with clients. As such, lenders should anticipate the questions that borrowers may have and come up with responses that are concise and clear.

Get personal

For conversations to be genuine and personal, they shouldn’t just focus on business dealings alone. To build rapport with clients, it’s a good idea to take a break from all the finance talk and connect. This means getting personal with clients and learning about their day-to-day lives and interests.

Loan officers should ask questions to find out if they’re college football fans, cat lovers, soccer fans or if they like to play the piano or go fishing or backpacking. Such personal information can be great for building connections and common points of interest. It’s also a good idea for lenders to share information about themselves. This makes for more interesting, engaging and meaningful conversations between clients and loan officers.

Tailor the conversation

It’s essential that loan officers do not use a script or a one-size-fits-all approach when communicating with leads. Since clients are different and their situations are unique, it’s best to tailor the conversation to their particular perspective. Loan officers should try to understand the persons at the other end of the line and alter their approach and tone based on their take on the client’s personality and needs.

Be sensitive

Since finances is an intimate and touchy subject for many, loan officers must be extra sensitive when speaking with potential borrowers. Drawing out customers over the phone and getting them to share their story requires a delicate touch. As such, loan officers should project sincerity, confidence and an air of honesty in all their interactions with clients. Before engaging customers on a sensitive topic, it’s a good idea to ask for permission. This helps prevents awkward situations during the conversation.

Conclusion

Although taking a contact center approach to mortgage originations can yield several benefits (including higher-quality leads, more customers and increased revenue), lenders should perform due diligence before embarking on such a project. They should factor in expenses with regards to infrastructure and staffing and weigh the expected benefits against these costs. They should also include leads and other marketing expenses when calculating the value of operating a consumer-direct call center.

One bonus tip that goes without saying: When using a contact center approach to mortgage originations you need to make sure that training for loan officers on active listening, being empathetic and knowing their product from A to Z is on point. This will enable them to take control of the conversation, no matter the situation at hand.

At Call Center Optimization Group we can help you find the perfect partner to start outsourcing mortgage originations. We have spent years researching and vetting the call center marketplace and we are confident we can leverage this experience to find the perfect partner for your business success. We go through the entire Outsourcing Lifecycle process to ensure you will get only the best, without all of the risks associated. The best is: We offer this service at NO COST.

Contact us today.

Customer-Centric Online Retailers Emphasize Good Call Center Service

5 MIN. READ

Long-term growth and success depend largely on customer loyalty and satisfaction. The Customers 2020 Report predicts that customer experience will overtake product and prices as the key brand differentiator by 2020.

Coupled with evolving customer service complexities and expectations, customer service has become a top priority for brands worldwide. As such, forward-thinking businesses are taking a customer-first approach to call center operations and readjusting processes and procedures to deliver even more strategic value.

The growing importance of ‘customer-centricity’

Research carried out by Deloitte and Touche found that customer-centric organizations were 60% more profitable than their competitors, while a Forrester study shows that 72% of customer-centric businesses have made improving customer experience a top priority.

Both Zappos and Amazon are prime examples of brands that have spent years building a culture around their customers’ needs by emphasizing a customer-centric culture in all their contact point.

In today’s business landscape, “customer-centricity” has become so important that tech giants like Oracle have created new roles like that of CCO (Chief Customer Officer) to deliver amazing customer experience across all touch points consistently.

Such organizations are coordinating and adapting all customer contact points to deliver strategic value and meet evolving customer expectations.

Building a customer-centric culture through improved call center operations

Building a customer-centric culture involves identifying what customers want and creating conversations as well as products/services to fulfill their wants, needs and requirements. A key part of implementing a customer-first culture revolves around improved contact center operations.

Driven by the desire to reduce costs, raise customer satisfaction scores and deliver better-personalized customer experiences to a growing digital consumer base, savvy brands are looking for ways to improve their call center service.

Leveraging technology to improve customer call experience

In particular, customer-centric online retailers have begun investing in customer-facing technology solutions to improve the customer call experience. These solutions, which are redefining the way brands interact with customers, include chatbots, AI-driven robots, RPA (robotic process automation) and functionalities such as self-service capabilities in IVR (interactive voice response) systems.

The widespread adoption of chatbots and AI

Amazon is one of the brands that have done an excellent job and are showing the world how bots and AI can be applied in customer service without sacrificing customer satisfaction. Today, 25% of companies with customer-facing sites are deploying bots to handle simple, low-level questions, and using higher-skilled workers to address more involved contacts (and try to upsell while they are at it).

Another company created an omnichannel experience that merges online and customer data so call center agents can access info on the customer’s browsing history and experience with the firm. The effect reportedly raised customer satisfaction scores by 7%. To achieve these results, brands must leverage the right mix of technology and processes.

Although a Deloitte survey indicates that phone calls are expected to account for only 47% of contacts, 93% of executives surveyed at consumer and industrial product firms expect contact volume to remain the same or grow.

This reflects the growing use of bots and AI. In Amazon’s help experience, chat has become the first option for customers hunting for help while call center personnel handles more involved issues. Done correctly, this will drastically reduce the volume of calls coming through your call center, freeing up personnel to deliver more personalized service to customers with more complex issues.

To stay ahead of the competition, improve customer satisfaction scores and ensure customer loyalty, online retailers must take proactive steps to deliver better contact center service by emphasizing a customer-centric culture across all touchpoints.

By leveraging customer-facing technology (especially bots and AI) in their workflows, call centers can increase revenue, reduce costs and deliver an awesome customer experience.

You can learn more about how to use technology to enhance your customers’ experiences by scheduling a consultation with Call Center Optimization Group. We can help. Call us now at 1-888-650-5880.

Calculating call center staffing to support patients and employees

2 MIN. READ


Call center staffing can be a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve. However, accurately forecasting the demand for staff, particularly during peak periods, is critical for call center success. Understaffing a contact center increases both customer and employee attrition, whereas overstaffing wastes money. Some health plans, medical groups, and companies attempt to determine their call center staffing as a ratio of total members or customers. Unfortunately, ratios rarely consider peak times for customer calls. Accurate calculations are needed for call center staffing in order to support customer expectations and mitigate employee turnover.

Customer expectations have increased

The reality of call centers is that customer expectations are set based on their most recent, best experience. Managers can no longer depend on internal progress over previous years or months as customers are comparing their experience with every call center experience, including those with competitors or outside industry.

Customer expectations have increased while patience and tolerance for long wait times has decreased. Before a contact center can calculate appropriate staffing levels, the business must make strategic decisions regarding customer service levels. Market analysis combined with business goals will provide the necessary information for the next step in appropriate staffing levels.

Calculating call center staffing

Unfortunately, call center staffing cannot follow standard operational workforce formulas. Standard procedure states businesses take the full amount of work available and in what time frame to calculate how many staff members are needed. Contact centers do not function based on back-to-back tasks, though.

Instead, call center staffing must consider peak times of day, the day of week and time of year combined with staff experience and caller needs. While SOP formula might state 10 staff members are needed for one hour’s worth of calls, a call center might receive 15 calls in the first 15 minutes of the hour. Suddenly, customer satisfaction bottoms out as the average call wait time skyrockets.

Another important metric to consider is average talk time. While the average talk time during one part of the day might be a consistent two minutes, the talk time could double later in the day due to compounding factors. All of which are important aspects to accurate staffing.

The best formula for call center staffing analyzes peak times and average call data to achieve an effective rate of customer satisfaction without excess downtime, essentially narrowing in on the sweet spot of your organization’s goals.

Importance of accurate staffing

Health care and medical organizations have become increasingly focused on the patient experience as customers have more options and choices regarding providers. Staffing based on customer service strategies and business goals can provide stronger customer loyalty and better patient satisfaction, which can translate into longer employee tenure.

Over 70 percent of a call center’s cost is personnel, and turnover costs 16 percent gross annual earnings of an agent. Long wait times and unhappy customers increase employee dissatisfaction as agents deal with heightened frustration, which, in turn, increases turnover. Staffing your contact center with enough agents to handle demand at appropriate customer service levels will relieve stress from the overall workforce.

Accurate staffing provides better customer satisfaction that translates into increased patient loyalty. Similarly, higher customer satisfaction and lower wait times provide a better work environment for your agents. Overall, accurate call center staffing is essential to operating a successful contact center.

Click here for a free consultation on how the Call Center Optimization Group can maximize your call center staffing.