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6 tips for improving contact centre performance

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Customer experience might be one of the trickiest aspects of a company’s overall performance. If it isn’t done right, then your business runs the risk of losing both clientele and money, and of earning a bad reputation in the process.

One environment in which quality customer experience matters most is your company’s contact centre. It is, after all, the first port of call for people who want to engage your services. That’s why it’s so important for your contact centre agents to be properly prepared to give customers the help they need. Here are six tips, gathered with the help of Merchants, to ensure optimal contact centre performance.

Train agents on a continual basis

Business objectives and customer wishes are bound to change over time, so make sure your contact centre operators are keeping up. Train staff on a regular basis, introducing new business concepts and technologies that will be useful.

Incorporate Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

IVR is a contact centre’s best friend. This technology collects basic information about a caller, which is immediately shared with the agent, before both parties are connected. It allows a simpler calling process, during which the customer’s needs can be seen to in quicker time.

Utilise automated call scoring

While we’re talking about new technology, there’s also an easier means for employers to assess agents’ performances. Speech analytics software enables the recording of all phone conversations between agents and customers. Upon the completion of each call, it grades the agent’s performance on the basis of established criteria, and shares the results with that agent via a scorecard. The agent is, therefore, made immediately aware of how they can improve.

Collate customer information

It’s possible that the information you have on each of your customers is split between more than one database. This means that an operator will have to retrieve that information from various sources or view it on multiple platforms, thus hampering their ability to assist the customer. To ease the process, all these sources can be merged, a task that’s achievable through the use of an interaction analytics programme. Once that’s taken care of, the agent’s task is made simpler and the customer’s experience is less frustrating.

Ensure the centre’s fully staffed

Long waiting times are often a major problem at contact centres, and are bound to frustrate customers. To avoid this, make sure you’ve hired a sufficient number of operators so that customer queries are resolved at a quicker pace. In order to estimate how many staff members you’ll need, review the centre’s call history and ascertain the average number of calls you get per day and what might be influencing that figure. That way, you’ll have a better idea of how to balance the ratio between the number of agents on hand and the number of calls coming in.

Create a supportive work environment

It’s not just the customers you’ve got to think about. There are numerous ways in which you can make your contact centre operators feel both respected and supported. Start by implementing flexitime so that they can achieve a stress-free balance between their personal and working lives. Also remember to give feedback on a one-on-one basis. It’ll make each agent feel important and will give them the opportunity to voice any concerns they might have. Lastly, if you have any positive feedback, give it to them. They’ll feel appreciated and therefore motivated to carry on with their good work.

Take this advice and you’ll not only be benefiting your customer base, and therefore the reputation and financial stability of your company, but you’ll also make the working lives of your call operators considerably less stressful.

Also note that, to implement these tips, you have the option of outsourcing your contact centre. It’s a strategy that saves company costs, while increasing your revenue, and helping you maintain a good standing with your customers.

8 ways to re-energise customer service

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Turning customer interactions into opportunities is easier than you think, according to Colin Hay, vice president of sales at contact centre Puzzel.

The trick, he says, is to keep it simple and to give contact centres the ‘wow’ factor with some quick and easy wins.

“Improving customer satisfaction and turning every interaction into an opportunity to create a good impression is every contact centre’s dream,” according to Hay. “However, far too many organisations make it a complicated business or spend too much time on internal dynamics that bear no relevance to customers’ needs. Essentially, the magic ingredients to achieve this dream are simple enough – a blend of people, process and technology. Get the mix right and you have the perfect recipe for success.”

Here are eight easy ways to re-energise your approach to customer service:

  1. Keep agents happy – happy agents = happy customers. Listen to what the frontline has to say. Agents are the ones who usually suffer the wrath of the customer, time and time again over the same thing. Hold regular listening sessions and internal focus groups to raise any issues and give management an opportunity to change processes. Then, give agents the right training and tools to do their job.Make life easier for staff. Could you introduce flexible ways of working that allow agents to strike an effective work/life balance? Is the office warm enough and the chairs comfortable? Give agents noise-cancellation headsets so that they can really concentrate on the customer, with minimal disruption, to deliver cleaner, crisper calls and find the information they want quickly.

    Finally, motivate, acknowledge and reward outstanding performance using the latest gamification techniques.

  2. Refocus the metrics – why focus on Average Handling Times (AHTs)? Traditional Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like these don’t always make a lot of sense and make it hard for agents to concentrate on delivering excellent customer service. Consider moving from time-based to service quality metrics such as first response times and first contact resolution rates.
  3. Remember the customer journey – from beginning to end and check your process, perhaps through mystery shopping. Why do customers contact you in the first place? It is surprising how few organisations actually do this exercise.Understanding what motivates customers to call, for example by looking out for repeat-contact reasons, will give you the information you need to re-align your customer service strategy and introduce a set of relevant, effective tactics.
  4. Be proactive – change contact centre culture by empowering agents to take decisions and actions that have a positive impact on customer satisfaction. Stand out from the crowd. Start by contacting customers before they have a chance to complain, or even better, before they are aware they have a problem. Earn loyalty and customer satisfaction in one fell swoop.
  5. Integrate systems – avoiding the need to switch between applications and having a customer’s account history visible on just one screen, immediately makes life easier for the agent and improves customer satisfaction. Reduced agent effort leads to faster query resolution and satisfied customers.
  6. Make life easy for customers – helping customers to help themselves is the smart way forward, for example provide a Web chat facility for straightforward enquiries? Studies indicate that people today, especially the Millennial Generation, want to self-serve. Make self-service a priority in the contact centre to boost customer service in more ways than one. The latest IVR and automated payment solutions allow customers to order products, book holidays, provide utility readings and obtain bank balances without speaking to an agent. This means more time for agents to dedicate to complex or sensitive enquiries that require a different approach and the human touch.
  7. Make the customer feel special – all customers like to feel valued. Encourage agents to follow up interactions with personalised calls or emails to make customers feel special. Why not take advantage of routing technology, based on CRM data, to prioritise VIP customers? Both tactics will guarantee increased satisfaction ratings and promote longer-term loyalty and profitability.
  8. Review your social customer service – there’s no getting away from it, social media is here to stay. Increasing numbers of people are relying on the world’s largest social media networking sites to source information, find out what others have to say about products and services and even air grievances.Turn this to your advantage by engaging proactively via social media. Create a platform for customers to exchange ideas, feedback and knowledge. This type of social forum will foster a spirit of inclusivity and encourage learning across your client base. Take it one step further by rewarding ‘super users’ who share valuable intelligence to help the broader community.

You don’t need to start from scratch. None of these practical techniques necessarily need new technology but they do require a long hard look at processes and procedures and potentially a tweak to existing systems. So the moral of the tale is don’t over-complicate matters and keep it simple. Adopt these eight quick wins to put the wow factor back into your contact centre.

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Forum Insight: 5 top tips to successfully closing big money deals…

800 450 Jack Wynn

There are a number of viable reasons as to why decision-makers across a broad range of sectors ultimately lose out on big money deals; many overlooking the simplest of techniques that can either make or break a business relationship. Here, we break down the fundamental tips to help you sell your services…

  1. Let the client do the talking

Inevitably, to provide the very best service for your existing and potential client base, it’s crucial to find out exactly what the client is looking for. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you can to hone in on what their needs are. By asking questions, not only will this benefit your end by acquiring a better understanding; however, the client will also feel they are being productive and part of the solution.

  1. Personalisation goes a long way 

    Remember that clients say things for a reason. If they volunteer that they can’t talk right now because they are getting ready for a social event taking place on a Saturday; on your follow up call, ask them casually how the event went. Although you shouldn’t pry or send a gift, by casually asking about the event, you show that you pay attention to details. Knowing how successful the party was will prepare you on how to approach the conversation.3. Be enthusiastic

Your client feels passionate about what they do, and if you show that you are passionate and enthusiastic about providing them the solution they want, you’ll get the client on board. An enthusiastic attitude is sure to open many doors for you.


  1. Play it simple 

    Speak to them on their level, not yours. Keep the conversation simple and get straight to the point. If your client understands what you can do for them, they are more likely to hire you. If you try and dazzle them with industry speak, you’ll lose them, and lose the contract. You may find that if you are speaking to a perspective client on the phone, stand up. For many people, standing makes them get straight to the point.

  2. When should we get started?

A straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no hinges on far more than just the specific closing sentence or question, reps often struggle with wording their deal denouements. Does this sound too pushy? Too weak? Should they ask a question, or use a statement instead? But just like there’s more than one way to peel an orange, there are several strong ways to close a deal.


Forum News: 10 ways to succeed at networking events…

800 450 Jack Wynn

Walking into an event room full of people you don’t know can be a scary experience. However, there are proven ways to conquer this fear and make networking an enjoyable and a useful process to do business. Here, we share 10 of the best practices to eradicate those networking nerves.

1. Plan ahead: Try to obtain the attendee list in advance and highlight the people you would like to meet. On arrival, contact the event organiser and say who you are trying to connect with. If they get the chance, an introduction between yourself and the other party will be made upon arrival. It might also be beneficial to go to the registration area to ask if one of your selected visitors has arrived

2. Get there early: If you are one of the first to arrive, it is much easier to strike up a conversation with a small group of people.

3. Most people are in the same position: If you do not know anyone else attending, it’s good to prepare a few opening questions: ‘Any particular presentation you’re looking forward to hearing today?’; ‘What brought you to this event?’

4. Join a group: Approaching a group of attendees already in full conversation is a daunting prospect. So be bold, confident, and simply ask: “May I join the conversation? I’ve just arrived and I’m keen to learn what’s going on.”

5. Build interesting conversation: Ask topical and relevant questions to the specific event. Be a good listener and don’t dominate the conversation with your own stories and business ideas.

6. Be helpful: Share your knowledge of the industry, your contacts and sources of information. If people perceive you as an experienced and knowledgeable professional, they will want to keep in contact and maintain a relationship.

7. Use your business card as a tactical weapon: I have a friend who renovates old wooden floors, so his business card is made of a thin piece of wood and has proven to be a guaranteed conversation starter. Be imaginative with the design and the job title displayed. Anything that says ‘sales’ or ‘business development’ could cause people to fear a sales pitch is on the way. So try and think of a job title that encourages a productive conversation.

8. Receiving business cards: Be sure to make notes on the back to remind you of the conversation and the person. This could become much use in future interactions.

9. Following up: If you engaged in constructive conversation with an attendee and have agreed to follow up after the event, then set a preferred method of contact and make sure to do so promptly.

10. What not to do: Sales pitches, even if you’re asked ‘what does your company do’, keep your answer to a very brief explanation. Don’t ‘work the room’ rushing from group to group as this is not the way to form business relationships. It’s better to have had four good conversations than a dozen meaningless chats.


Words by Paul Rowney, Director at Forum Events Ltd.