What are the best in class customer service and Australian contact centre operations best practices? This was the question a client recently challenged Matchboard to answer. The number of white papers, ebooks and market research reports on this topic is, frankly, overwhelming, so we’ve distilled our top 10 best practices for customer operations below.
1. Voice of the Customer (VoC)
Asking for, and acting on, customer feedback is considered a best practice for contact centres. According to Forrester, 68% of contact centres have a voice of the customer program, a percentage that has been steadily rising over recent years. Customer feedback can be captured through many sources, including post-call surveys, online surveys following a self-service interaction, email surveys (following an email or web chat interaction) and speech analytics (which can track customer emotions and keywords in conversations and drill down to root cause analysis of complaints). The key to VoC programs is to action the insights which are gleaned through the data collected.
2. Multi-Channel Capability
Consumer preferences for how they interact with an organisation have evolved rapidly in the last few years. Best-practice involves not only offering the choice of phone, email, web chat, social media, mobile, video and self-service channels but also ensuring the customer experience is consistent across all these channels. A customer should be able to skip from a company’s website to a call centre to a social media community forum and get non-conflicting information and customer service procedures. Companies need to acknowledge that consumers expect different levels of service according to the channel – for example, a major complaint on social media that is not responded to within hours may go viral and cause significant brand damage.
3. Outbound communications
Consumers are increasingly resistant to cold-calling, yet companies still need to be proactive. The market is moving more towards a “warmer” approach which is often two-step or “two-channel”. Examples: ➀ a company conducts an online marketing campaign which collects customer contact details and the contact centre then follows up on the expression of interest through telemarketing ➁ A company sends an SMS with a special offer and invites the customer to connect with an agent.
Cross-sell/up-sell telemarketing is also increasing, but with more customisation than before.
4. Complaint management
Companies are drawing on technology to better manage customer complaints, sometimes with significant financial benefit. For example, an Australian energy retailer is moving to a 100% call recording environment, so it can reduce its $6 million annual bill in Ombudsman complaints, by investigating complaint calls and being able to prove compliance and accuracy in the information provided. Companies are also drawing on analytics-as-a-service to drill down into complaint calls to discover broken processes and proactively contact and turn around customers identified as “detractors”.
Countless studies have shown that employers who offer their contact centre staff flexibility in the workplace will benefit from more engaged employees, lower attrition, longer tenure…which all translates to savings in recruiting, training and operational costs.
Flexibility can be offered in many forms: flexible rostering (different shifts, part-time), work-at-home option, job-sharing, time off instead of financial rewards for exceeding targets, flexibility to shift to email/chat or quality assurance rather than phone work (if someone needs to rest their voice and/or has a child for whom they can’t find alternative babysitting arrangements), opportunity to access social media/the web while at work, opportunity to exercise on breaks (eg. treadmill).
6. New World KPIs
Measuring AHT, Grade of Service and Abandonment rates have been the cornerstone KPIs of contact centres for decades, but best-practice centres are now refocusing on KPIs which reflect the total customer experience and the growth and retention of customers: KPIs such as Net Promoter Score (directly linked to customer loyalty and advocacy); First Contact Resolution (emphasising the importance of resolving the customer’s issue at the first point of contact rather than encouraging agents to get off the phone as quickly as possible); and Employee Engagement (as engaged employees are much more likely to deliver highly rated customer service). These KPIs are not linked to a single channel, but can be measured across the full gamut of customer touchpoints. Sometimes these KPIs are wrapped up in a balanced scorecard. (Check out our article on KPIs & metrics for Social Media Service.)
7. The 5-star Factor
Contact centres are being increasingly equipped with better facilities for employees, to compensate for the monotonous and sedentary nature of the job. For example, St George Bank’s contact centre bathrooms have “mouthwash, hand wash, perfume, deodorants, mints, tissues”. Fair Work Ombudsman has a dedicated breastfeeding room at its Sydney centre. An outsourcer in Melbourne hired an interior designer to give its centre a contemporary deluxe look. And other centres have playrooms, fitness equipment onsite, and gourmet coffee machines. It is best to provide a high degree of comfort for staff and regularly update the physical environment to reduce monotony.
8. Knowledge Management
Companies’ product and service information is constantly changing, and the challenge is to make the same accurate information instantly available to both the contact centre staff and customers. This need has spawned a rise in the adoption of best practice knowledge management systems (KMS). The impact of an effectively structured KMS can be reduced call handle times (as information is more easily found), reduced training time (as not all “knowledge” needs to be covered in training) and more effective content, as a result of feedback and suggestions from both the contact centre and end-users on the helpfulness of online content.
9. In the Cloud
The move towards call centre cloud technology is unstoppable, and is being embraced by small and large centres alike. The cloud is often considered best by many because of its rapid scalability, portability, business continuity, and reduced reliance on, and cost of, internal IT resources and systems upgrades. Not only that, the cloud makes available to smaller contact centres technology that previously only larger centres could afford, including customer feedback systems, cloud based speech analytics, multi-channel contact and social media management systems, workforce management and knowledge management systems. (Check out our Tips for Contact Centre Technology Procurement.)
10. Hybrid delivery
While most companies still prefer to operate their own contact centre, many are outsourcing to third party contact centres for overflow calls, specialised skillset calls, after-hours contact management (enabling a 24×7 customer service proposition), and as a back-up should the in-house centre go down. In some cases, there is a requirement for the third party contact centre to be within a couple of hours’ drive of the in-house centre, so as to provide hot site functionality. Other companies deliberately select third parties in other geographies for risk mitigation purposes. In addition to Australian Call Centres, overseas options for outsourced call centre services, such as New Zealand (around 25% savings), South Africa (30-40% savings), Fiji and the Philippines (40-50% savings) are dramatically rising in popularity.
If you’re interested in adopting any of these customer service best practices in your operations, contact us. Matchboard will connect you to the right Australian call centre service providers to meet your needs, and refer you to specialist consultants where required. Or just start sourcing now!
This post was authored by Sharon Melamed. With 25+ years’ experience in call centres and outsourcing in Australia, the US and Japan, Sharon is an industry veteran who has helped hundreds of companies find and implement contact centre solutions around the world. Sharon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with Sharon on LinkedIn.