13 Call Center Best Practices That *Actually Help* (Pt.1)

It takes a lot of skill to run a call center well.

You have to manage people, manage tech and manage processes. And some contact centers have to do all that without much support from the rest of the business…

But here are some call center best practices that should make your job easier.

#1 Put data into call routing

‘Best practice’ should mean best for you and best for customers.

Automated, data-driven call routing ticks both boxes.

Here’s what I’m talking about. Most of the time, you can route customers based on data you’ve already got. Think open Helpdesk tickets – think language preference – think recent orders. You have all that data on record. 

And it’s all data you can (and should) factor into routing before you interrogate customers with IVR

How? CTI means you can see a customer’s phone number. In practically every case, identifying a customer also means identifying something that should influence routing. 

What’s the benefit?

Automated routing sends customers to the right agents first time more often, and more quickly. Do you want shorter calls, less hold time and better FCR? I thought so.


#2 Smash data siloes – centralize your knowledge

Knowledge is a resource that can drain away without you even noticing.

Contact centers are consistently advised to centralize their data. But… how?

One option is to invest in a single System of Record and insist that everything is stored there. There are two problems with that:

  1. It involves migrating data from previous systems, and
  2. You’ll still end up with duplication and inconsistencies

Data migration is probably the most effective way to destroy a lot of data. And ultimately, you don’t solve data silos by building one really big silo.

…an organization with multiple data silos will find that as it grows each silo will scale independently of the others and lead to greater silos. As a result, its CX program becomes more and more complex to the point where the input far exceeds the output.’

Andrew Park, The Danger of Data Siloes  

A much better option is to integrate your various data storage systems. (The babelforce recommendation is to use APIs – there are other ways but… well, they’re not as good.) 

What’s the benefit?

Data hygiene is itself some call center best practice. No business can operate for long with unreliable information. Plus, once you’re data is reliable, there’s a lot you can do with it. Like automated routing!


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#3 Create a zero queueing option

Newsflash: customers hate waiting on hold. It’s annoying, it’s a waste of their time and – this is important – it’s pointless.

You can’t justify upsetting so many customers. (70% say they get ‘extremely frustrated’ waiting on hold.)  

Likewise, you can’t keep employing more and more agents.

The third option? Move to a zero queueing model. Give customers the option to hang up and receive a call back when an agent is free.

What’s the benefit? 

The zero-waiting approach means big benefits for the inbound call center. The main one is customer experience; people like having the option to avoid waiting on hold. (Especially when they’re confident that they’ll still get a timely call.)

Among babelforce users, callbacks also lead to a 25% increase in agent talk time. That means more of each interaction is actually useful to the customer. Naturally, call abandonment massively reduces as well.

#4 Survey (the right people) regularly

Customer input is everything. And surveys are one of the best ways to get it.

Enough said?

Not quite. A lot of contact centers survey without much strategic thinking. But there are different kinds of survey to run and a lot of different events which should trigger surveys 

At the very least, you should have separate surveys for customers who:

  • Complain
  • Make purchases (especially big ones)
  • Go through a lengthy resolution
  • Stop doing business with you

Online resources are the best way to survey at scale. There are tons of options, but one of the most important questions is how you deliver the survey. 

Surprisingly, SMS messages with links are still one of the most effective options. (Probably because everyone has SMS and it carries a lot of trust.) 

Online surveys aren’t the last word in surveys though. IVR is still the best bet for post-interaction surveys (for obvious reasons). Complaints and VIP customers usually warrant a phone call.

What’s the benefit?

You can’t act on what you don’t understand; surveys can tell you what you need to know. Really good surveys also help with retention and brand management. Across every demographic, consumers prefer brands that ask for feedback.  


#5 Survey staff too

Why are staff surveys overlooked so often? You need to understand the challenges your teams face and how they’re affected by them. (Even if they’re going to give you bad news. In fact, especially if they’re going to give you bad news!)

The ‘how’ can be as simple as you like. Small teams often use printed surveys and a comments box.

If you’re surveying a wider pool you’ll likely need an online survey; otherwise, it’s too challenging to parse the data.

A good staff survey is:

  • Anonymous – participants don’t have to identify themselves.
  • Clearly defined – you’ll ask clear questions about relevant issues. You won’t get bogged down in who’s eating all the free donuts.
  • Optional – encouraging participation is fine. Forcing participation will get you negative feedback.
  • Actionable – staff expect to see positive change come from their input. So be careful about topics that you can’t change.

Once you’ve completed a staff survey, make sure your team knows what happens to their answers. You need to recognize the contribution and set expectations around the changes you can make.  

What’s the benefit?

Staff feel listened to and valued. You get a cheap source of vital strategic information.

#6 Automate, automate, automate

Automation is probably the most important tech the contact center can have.

You’ve got more customers to please than ever before and their expectations are higher. The first contact centers were set up to deal with scale; the modern contact center has to deliver quality at scale.

Just imagine if an agent suddenly recovered 30-40% of their work-time. They’d not only be less stressed and more satisfied with their day-to-day, but agents could use that time for critical thinking tasks and complex customer interactions. In the meantime, companies could develop their employees into a creative and empowered extension of their brand’

Mikhail Naumov, Forbes 

In the 2020s automation will focus on:

  • Data entry across multiple systems
  • Self-service – chatbots, IVR, SMS, social media etc.
  • Customer segmentation
  • Proactive and pre-emptive service
  • Service personalization

… and probably a lot of things we haven’t thought of yet!

What’s the benefit?

Automation is basically a winner across the board. A great integration strategy coupled with strong automation means automating more interactions and paying more attention to really valuable contacts.

That’s another way of saying ‘cost down, quality up’.

So how’s automation at your contact center? Somewhat done? Started, but not amazing yet? About 40% of businesses think they’ve already fallen behind in their attempts to automate processes – and that’s probably a generous number. 

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