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As we start 2021 it’s the perfect time to focus on resolutions for the year ahead in both our business and personal lives. So, after a challenging 2020 how can contact centre operations be improved – particularly when it comes to reducing hidden costs while still delivering great service?

We’d recommend starting the year by carrying out a health check into your systems and processes, focusing on these five key areas:

1. Improving the agent experience

Efficient and effective customer service starts with happy, motivated and engaged agents. For a start unhappy staff are more likely to leave, pushing up recruitment expenses. Average annual turnover in the industry is running at 20% according to ContactBabel’s UK Contact Centre Decision-Maker’s Guide 2020-21, so improving retention rates both reduces costs while keeping the experience and skills of agents inside the business.

As well as looking at building a strong, supportive culture and working environment, particularly in current times, focus on your technology.

In particular, there are three areas where minor changes can deliver major results:

  • Closer integration. ContactBabel research found that 96% of agents have to manage multiple screens and applications within a call – and 38% need to access four or more. This all leads to longer calls, costing an estimated £4.33 billion in lost productivity across the industry. Integrate your systems into a single agent desktop to improve the experience and save time and money.
  • Better access to information. As interactions become more complex, the range of information agents require has increased exponentially. Make sure that you empower them with access to a single, centralised and self-learning knowledge base that gives them the ability to immediately find the information that they need.
  • Improved call quality. Even looking at the most basic areas can yield benefits when it comes to reducing costs. Poor call quality caused by substandard headsets lengthens interactions and frustrates agents and consumers alike as they are forced to repeat themselves. This adds up to £285,480 of lost time every year in a typical 250-seat contact centre.

2 . Better operational management

Eliminating unnecessary processes and streamlining operations helps reduce waste and cost while allowing staff to focus on delivering excellent customer service rather than completing admin tasks.

Agents account for around 75% of contact centre costs, so managing them efficiently is vital. Invest in an effective Arbeitskräftemanagement (WFM) system to remove the overheads of forecasting and scheduling resources – and ensure that agents can access it through self-service to highlight their work preferences and shift-swap with colleagues. This improves morale and retention while reducing management time.

Look at how digitising processes and introducing new technologies such as AI can automate or remove steps in your operations. For example, if you can automate wrap-up activities after a call you’ll be able to free up agent time and enable them to be more productive.

3. Deeper understanding through analytics

Increasing efficiency starts with having a comprehensive picture of each and every interaction. This insight enables you to pinpoint areas for improvement that may otherwise be hidden in overall operations.

For example, call accounting systems give you a detailed picture of your call costs, enabling you to pick the best tariff and supplier for your needs, identify underused assets and even spot potentially fraudulent activities.

Analysing interactions at a granular level lets you highlight calls with excessive average handling times (showing a need for agent training) or excessive silence (typically when agents put a call on hold to hunt for information). Fixing these issues leads both to greater efficiency and more satisfied customers.

4. Removing manual processes

Technology is now able to help automate previously time-consuming manual processes or help deflect interactions to lower-cost channels through self-service – all while improving the experience for agents and customers.

Look at these processes in particular:

  • Identity verification. Manual identity verification by agents adds an additional 34 seconds to call times according to ContactBabel. That adds up to 40.7p per call – over £400,000 in a contact centre handling a million calls annually. Automating the process saves time, reduces the possibility of errors and helps agents build faster rapport with authenticated callers.
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Audit the front-office activities in your contact centre and then identify where RPA can improve them, such as by integrating disparate systems or guiding agents to work more effectively, such as through scripts.
  • Selbstbedienung. Customers want the ability to find their own information, 24×7, without needing to call or email. So deploy web self-service systems, chatbots and self-service IVR to allow customers to answer their own queries, increasing satisfaction and freeing up your resources for more complex interactions.

5. Improve your technology

Efficiency in many contact centres is held back by outdated technology solutions and infrastructure that has often been added piecemeal over the years. This leads to poor integration between systems, data silos and additional costs in terms of paying for legacy systems from multiple vendors.

Reviewing your overall contact centre technology infrastructure can therefore identify major improvements and where you can make savings, such as replacing legacy systems. For instance, if you embrace cloud-based solutions you gain greater flexibility over your IT, can scale to easily meet your needs and remove server costs.

While it can appear daunting to switch these business-critical systems, you can adopt a modular, staged approach that gradually migrates from piecemeal legacy solutions at a pace you are comfortable with. Pick a vendor that can grow and adapt with you as your needs change.

Take a fresh look at how you can reduce hidden costs in your contact centre – download our comprehensive guide How to Save Costs in the Contact Centre whilst Improving Customer Service. To learn more about the state of the contact centre industry, download the ContactBabel UK Contact Centre Decision-Maker’s Guide 2020-21, sponsored by Enghouse Interactive, here.

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