There was a time when the main focus of a call center was to get the customer off the phone as quickly as possible. Few contact centers adhere to this view anymore. Instead, the focus has shifted to improving the quality of each customer interaction. However, even if you are more worried about the customer experience, time management still plays an important role.
Managing time matters very much in a call center environment, even if your main focus is no longer the length of each customer call. The customer experience starts from the moment they dial your phone number. Does the customer hear hold music instead of talking to an agent? Do they have to wait 30 minutes because you don’t offer a callback option?
Customers can get frustrated if they have to wait on hold for 15 minutes to talk to someone, regardless of whether you solve their issue in 5 minutes. From their perspective, they’ve still spent 20 minutes on the call. Your call metrics will show good numbers for call length but have you really delivered a good experience?
So call center time management is very important and affects many facets of the customer experience. Traditional metrics like call length and after-call work time do matter. But you also need to keep an eye on other aspects such as average hold time, the number of times a customer is transferred when calling in, etc.
As you can see, there are different kinds of time management strategies you need to monitor a call center effectively.
Your agents need to have good time management skills to resolve issues as quickly as they can. They should be able to multi-task while focusing on the customer. As a manager, you need to monitor their performance and help them improve their skills when necessary.
Apart from individual performance, you also need to think of the overall productivity of your call center.
What are your service levels and are you achieving them consistently? All your employees should be aware of the call center goals. Do you measure them weekly or monthly? You should have a plan for how to improve if service levels fall to a particular threshold, whatever it might be.
Your agents are not the only factor impacting metrics and the customer experience. There are operational aspects as well such as how incoming calls are managed and routed. Some systems are better than others for a call center as they include robust call management features.
The phone system you use has a big impact on call center productivity. Your agents cannot do a good job if their equipment or software is either defective or ineffective. They may end up spending more time managing their hardware than helping customers. If the system consistently puts customer calls in the wrong queue, then your agents have to constantly transfer them. It wastes time for everyone and is incredibly frustrating to customers as well.
Even with the proliferation of social media and other forms of contact, the bulk of a call center’s interactions will be voice calls. A team may have 1 or 2 agents to answer emails but over a dozen people to answer incoming calls. So time management on phone calls is crucial for your overall performance.
When we talk about time management, most people think of the person answering the phone. While it’s important for agents to manage their time properly, the policies you set have a big impact on the length of calls. Consider some examples:
These situations are quite common in call centers and your employees need to know how to handle them. Agents need to know when they should escalate calls, when and how to contact a manager, as well as where to look for answers if they don’t know something. If your policies are unclear, they will have to waste time in getting answers to their questions first before they can help the customer.
Routing customer calls is also an important factor in call center time management. The phone system should have features like call routing, call hold, call queues, and voicemail to handle all kinds of calls. It’s not enough if you set up a phone tree for the customer to pick the right department. You should have fallback options as well.
For instance, what if a customer does not know the correct department? There should be an option to select 0 to speak with an agent. If a customer dials the direct extension for a person and they cannot answer the call, you should provide an option for them to contact someone else in the department or leave a voicemail. In other words, always have a plan B and if possible, even a plan C and D!
Modern call center phone systems offer innovative features that enable you to manage time better even while the agent is on the phone with a customer. It’s always good to record customer calls so you can train employees or help them improve their service skills. But what if you could monitor calls in real-time and help employees immediately?
That’s certainly possible with VoIP phone systems. Many providers offer a feature allowing supervisors to coach agents through the call without the customer’s knowledge. If the situation warrants it, the manager can also take over the call for the agent. Managers can help their agents and resolve the customer issue without delays. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
There are many cloud-based time management solutions for call centers you can use in your business. However, you may not need as many as you think particularly if your phone vendor offers features like Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), etc. Some providers also bundle call center management software with the phone service that is tailored specifically for that segment.
So before you dive into trying out the myriad options available on the market, contact your phone vendor first. See if they offer the features you want or if you can upgrade to a specific call center system. You may be surprised to find features you’re already paying for but not really using!
Even with a small call center, scheduling shifts can be a difficult task when you have agents with different skills levels, location preferences, availability, calling in sick, etc. If you offer multi-lingual options, then scheduling becomes even harder. Excel sheets and sticky notes may be sufficient now but it’s not a scalable system.
That’s why you need call center scheduling software. There are many inexpensive options out there – such as Humanity and ShiftBoard – that can help you create, edit, and manage agent schedules within minutes instead of hours.
Sometimes these functions are available in your phone system itself but you may need a more robust solution, especially if you need to record calls to comply with regulations. Recording and monitoring calls is an excellent way to coach agents and train new employees. You can also examine them later to spot inefficiencies in your processes and offer valuable opportunities to improve.
Keep in mind your requirements when selecting a recording solution. The solution must record VoIP and international calls. It should have the capability to record business calls from mobile phones, desk phones, or computers. It should integrate with your current phone system and also store recorded calls as long as you need them.
There are more comprehensive software tools available for call centers. These options cover everything from managing employee schedules to monitoring performance and activities. Agents can use the software to request time off, schedule training sessions, access knowledge sources, and get feedback from their managers. These applications often integrate with other call center tools such as live chat or help desk applications.
The best software allows you to manage your call center effectively while also helping you improve agent performance. You need real-time management solutions for a call center as voice calls continue to be a major part of any contact center. Effective time management can help any call center improve service levels and provide a superior customer experience.
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