All entries tagged with “summertime”

Rants & Raves: Summertime & The Living Is Easy... Or Is It?

Featured Speaker Kathleen Peterson of Powerhouse Consulting speaks out on her summertime sadness when organizing her annual vacation.

The Call Center has historically been linked to "production" environments in which the dynamic is to process as many calls as possible in as short a time-scale as possible. The focus on how many calls came in and how many calls each person handled has historically caused a perceived conflict in quality. The agents on the phone are often torn between the call they are on and the
calls in queue. This is further amplified in some centers with reader boards alarming, lights
flashing and managers running around like lunatics. No wonder there is a resistance among Customer Service departments to acknowledge that they are, in many cases, Call Centers, or atleast use a Call Center as a key delivery channel.

These conditions certainly do not have to be true. Just for the record, in a well-run Call Center,
the agent is responsible for the call and the management is responsible for the queue. So what to
do to create a high performance service culture within a Call Center environment? Here are four
key areas to evaluate in your quest for Call Center mastery.

1. Make sure that the Call Center is part of the big picture.
To take on the responsibility of the queue, management must view the operation as a total process, one that is connected to the enterprise. This connection must be made in terms of the organization’s values, vision and mission. Is it clear what role the Call Center plays in the overall objectives of the company? This clarity will allow for inclusion and recognition instead of being thought of as a back-room operation. Call Centers do not generally generate their own activity (queues); these are typically a result of marketing promotions, product enhancements, billing issues, service additions, changes in policies or procedures, and so on. This being true it would follow that the parts of the organization responsible for these functions should partner in the planning and audit process. This involves acknowledging that the Call Center is part of a total process, not simply a random series of phone calls coming in and being handled by our staff.

2. Evaluate your planning process.
Queue management begins with an effective "forecast" of demand. Strive for accuracy within plus
or minus 5%. An effective forecast is tied to the other objectives we have for our center. These
include customer retention and satisfaction, sales, employee satisfaction and shareholder return.
In order to evaluate the planning process, we must determine if we have allocated the proper
resources to the task. The forecasting tasks include storing and analyzing historical data, creating
and adjusting schedules, managing the intra-day queue, reallocating staff and managing the
scheduling software system, if you use one.

The forecast person is sometimes known as the "capacity manager." This person should also be responsible for formalizing the flow of information between other departments and the Call Center. The position of capacity manager should not be shared; to be effective there needs to be a dedicated source. This person may need the support of the Call Center manager (and occasionally even more senior management) to be certain that other departments provide theinformation necessary to achieve a high level of accuracy. Historical data is only the starting point for an effective Call Center forecast.

Call Center managers must radiate credibility to their counterparts. They have to be kept "in the loop." In order for that to happen, their peers must respect them and feel confident in sharing vital information with them - information such as two million sales brochures going out in Tuesday’s mail or listing the Call Center’s toll free number as a response mechanism, for example. The Call Center manager, as well as the "capacity manager," needs to be aware of this information in order to know how many people to schedule for what is likely to be an increase in the number of calls. Sometimes, those information handoffs are never made. The result: lost revenue and frustrated customers. All the staff-forecasting software in the world cannot overcome a problem like that. To make matters worse, Call Center morale can take a nosedive when reps are faced with angry customers who know more about a sale or product launch than they do. A strong liaison with other department managers and a calendar prepared by the capacity manager or forecasting team can solve the problem.

Conversely, the Call Center can and should provide vital management information to other
departments. Inbound Call Centers are staffed, to a large extent, on the basis of the number of
inquiries and/or complaints they receive on a given number of issues. If, for example, an
automobile manufacturer’s top consumer complaint last year was that customers’ keys broke off
in the door, it is incumbent upon the Call Center to share that data with the engineering
department. Fixing that problem will mean happier customers and fewer calls to the Call Center.
Fewer calls will mean a need for fewer reps on the phones and will cut overall costs of the center.

3. Focus on quality.
Do you tell agents on the phone to act differently during busy periods? I have repeatedly asked
this question of Call Center managers and often get an emphatic "well, yes, of course". "Exactly
what do you tell them to do?" I ask. Some say, "We just tell them to hurry up!" Others say, "We
tell them not to cross sell." So, we sacrifice revenue opportunities in favor of calls in queue. Ask
yourself, "Does the answer to this question - what to change when it is busy - initiate a quality
conflict for the people taking the calls?" If so you are making a mistake.

We must understand that it will always take longer to do it over than it will to do it right. If we ask
front-line staff to compromise quality because we have a queue issue, we will be setting the stage
for the oft-found belief of Call Center staff that management cares more about quantity than
quality. This is not to say that our front-line staff may not be able to reorganize the workload or
make some adjustments in their behavior during peak periods, just not at the risk of quality.

4. Commit to training.
Training is the single most important investment in the Customer Service Call Center. In most
Call Centers, initial training is often lengthy and ineffective; ongoing training is often canceled and
monitor programs leave much to be desired. Training also acts as a morale booster. One of the
major contributors to turnover is when staff feels as if their growth doesn’t matter to the
organization. To improve quality, improve training.

Call Centers must also be creative about training because we simply cannot take staff off the
phone for instructor led programs, as you can with other departments. The use of the
Internet/intranets, video tapes, CD-ROM and computer-based training all lend themselves to
dynamic scheduling and self-paced learning.

When preparing your budget, plan for a minimum of ten hours per year per person for training.(This is a minimum – not a recommendation; I believe it should be much higher). Then measure
whether the training took place.

Study the error rates and types of errors in your center to adjust the training curriculum. Have
your training people do an analysis of the types of calls handled and the skills required, so they
can maintain a skills matrix and prepare individual training plans.

Finally, make your monitor program an absolute training vehicle and not necessarily a strict
performance measurement tool. The monitor program is like providing your front-line staff with a
"personal trainer". This is a very expensive program when you figure in all the supervisor hours
and in many cases, the technology investments. We must demand a performance return on this
investment. Hold your monitor scores up against other measurements. If the program is effective
(assuming your turnover rate is not in the double digits), you should see improvements in handle
time, service level and occupancy.

Naturally, the right kind of training is essential - product knowledge training, Customer Service
training and training in how to use the phones, computers and software needed to run a Call
Center enterprise. However, when training lasts eight, ten, twelve weeks, there’s a risk your
people will be overwhelmed with information. On-the-job training can go a long way toward
teaching reps the practical skills of applying product knowledge to a factual situation or learning
how to diffuse an angry customer.

The configuration of your people should also drive the type of training provided. For example,
while all staff may be trained in answering basic product inquiries and complaints, several reps
might be assigned to specialized teams which deal with technical issues, high ticket items, high
volume customers or customers with special needs. Those special needs must be addressed in
the training curriculum. Be aware, however, that productivity is a potential tradeoff though in an
environment with many small teams. Larger generalized groups of representatives can take more
calls than a consortium of smaller ones.

Many Call Centers receive training from a designated corporate training department, somewhat
disconnected from the Call Center. It is important in a Call Center for the trainers to report to the
Call Center director and to have continuous exposure to the Call Center environment.
Within that framework, trainers can take on a mentoring role during the first 90 days a trainee
spends on the floor. It is key for trainees not to feel they have been cast adrift the moment the
initial training period is over.

Kathleen Peterson is the Founder and Chief Vision Officer of PowerHouse Consulting. Kathleen Peterson is an acclaimed Contact Center consultant and industry visionary. Kathleen has emerged as one of the most sought-after experts in the field of Customer Experience and works with the world's top customer-focused companies. She is widely published in prestigious journals in the US and abroad. Kathleen is a featured speaker at conferences and Fortune 500 companies. She has shared her humour, philosophy and experience in keynotes in the US, London, Paris, Turkey, Dubai, and Hong Kong. 

Kathleen will be speaking at the Contact Center Summit in Sarasota-FL this November, covering the topic of "Backstage at the Customer Experience."




2015 2016 30 under 30 9/11 911 access control active shooter activities adding value air conditioning airports alcohol allen interactions apply appointment appointment based appointment based events appointment-based appointment-based event appointment-based events appointments apps april articles AT&T attend attendees Austin Baltimore behind the scenes benefits best way better big data blog boating Boston budget buildabike building business California call center call for speakers campus candles career center certification CEU change change management checklist chicago christmas cleanliness colleagues collectiveview comcast communication companies company policy complaints complimentary concierge condos conference confirmed connect connections conservation conserving construction consulting consumption contact contact center contact center & customer service summit contact center summit coping corporate correctional news CPP credit card customer customer engagement customer outreach customer service customer service week dads dallas dan schawbel dangers data death decorating delegate delegates development diet digital law diversity drink tickets drunk driving dryvit ecofriendly eCommerce education education & healthcare security Forum education and healthcare security education facilities management education facilities management forum education security emergency employee employee benefits Employee theft employees employer energy engagement enterprise entry event event recap events examples executive executives exercises expansion expenses experience experiment expert experts expo face time face-to-face facebook facebook messenger facebook study facilities facilities management facilities management summit facility facility manager fail fathers february feedback fire hazards flexibility fm ford forum Forum events forum experience Forum Team forums Franklin free frustration fun funny get togethers gift card network gifting goals good google government great event green green building news grieving guest guest blog guest speaker guide gun safety gun violence H2O hand sanitizer hanukkah happy hate HC&O News healthcare healthcare facilities management forum healthcare security healthiest airports healthy higher pay hired hiring holiday holidays hospitality hospitality & facilities forum hospitals hosted-buyer hosted-buyer event hosted-buyer events hotel hotels hours House of Cards houston houston texas how to hr hr & employee benefits hr & employee benefits summit HR Strategy Summit human resources ideas ima incentive incontact india industries informal information instant internet introduce invitation ISA ISACA IT Security J.D. january jobs join us JP Morgan Julie (Jules) Carter IrvinĀ¬-Rooney june Kathleen Peterson keeping employees motivated this holiday season keynote speaker kimberly-clark Langham leadership learn lecture LED legal lessons liability lights linkedin lisa reuth lisa rueth listen location LOL los angeles loss love loyalty magazine management manager manipulation manners marc miller march marketing marketing summit marriott media media partner media partnership meet people meetings meltdown messageme messages messenger Michelle Obama millennials misconduct mistakes modules money morale motivation nashville network networking networks new orleans new years new york times news newsletter november numbers NYT obstacles office office update omni open enrollment organizations outreach outsulation pacific palms resort Paid time off parties partnership party Pasadena patience patrick hayes PCRM peers performance perks peterson Philadelphia Phoenix Physical Security pictures planning policies policy policy dispute positions positive Powerhouse preparation presenters press release prevention privacy prizes productive productivity professionalism program progressive PTO qualifications raffle Randy Fox rants & raves rants and raves raptor raptor technologies recap recording recruitment register relax relaxed reorganization reports representatives resolution resort response rest restructuring retention retrofits reviews risk Ritz Ritz-Carlton ROI sadness safety safety forum sales San Diego Sarasota save saving scenes schedule schools schools facilities science scranton products season seconds security selection process seminar seminar program seminar topics seminars september service sexual assault sheppard partners shopping short smart phone sms social media software solution provider solution providers speaker speakers sponsor news Sprint stockings strategic strategy stress success summary summer summertime summit summits supply survey survivor sweet T-Mobile talent Talent Acquisition and Retention Summit talent management taxis team Team Building teams teamwork tech technology technology solutions terms of services testimonial Testimonials texas text message the front door time time off timeline tips title vii top performers topics total security total security summit trade show tradeshow tradeshows training training & development training & development summit training and development travel traveling trees twitter unemployment rate update updates upgrades upset vacation valentine's day valentines value vendor vendor press release vendors venue venues Verizon veterans veterans day viber virtual volume washing Washington DC water welcome westin whatsapp white paper wifi work workload workplace workshop workshops wrong young