Call Center Strategies: Surviving a Recession
October 29, 2008
By Mae Kowalke
, TMCnet Contributor
The economy is top-of-mind for most people these days, whether from an individual/consumer or business perspective. Managers in many industries are having to make hard decisions, or worry that they may soon have do so. Getting some perspective and advice based on techniques that have been successful in past times of economic turmoil is a smart move.
Inova Solutions recently released a white paper, “Staying Afloat in a Sinking Economy,” that offers just such sage advice for decision-makers in customer-facing organizations. The paper includes three broad suggestions for strengthening call centers to survive a recession.
It won’t come as much of a surprise to call center managers that one key to effective cost-cutting, an unfortunate reality these days, is having a thorough understanding of how various business processes work and which resources contribute positively to goals and objectives. Emphasizing transparency, the Inova report starts off by recommending that call centers put real-time data in context.
When call center managers are forced by circumstances to make budget cuts, some criteria must be created for determining what is “nice to have” and what is “must have.” Real-time data, when viewed in context, can uncover efficiency gaps in the area of operating expenses. Comparing real-time and historical performance data in the context of forecasting and goals can be a very effective strategy for determining which cuts to make.
One area where cutbacks tend to be made are the workforce, and in call centers this trend if often especially troubling. Agents are the most valuable assets for a call center, so making cuts here can have major negative consequences down the road. The key, Inova said in its report, is to make sure only the least efficient agents are being cut. Keeping the 80/20 rule in mind, managers can make staff reductions work to the call center’s advantage by giving the best workers the tools they need to self-manage and work even more efficiently.
Giving “elite” agents more visibility into the call center’s operations is one way to boost efficiency. Providing real-time data about the status of various goals and campaigns can pay off in a big way. Workforce optimization is key to surviving a recession.
Finally, Inova suggested that call centers consider adjusting their customer service strategies. There tends to be a belief that improving key performance indicators and focusing on customer service objectives are mutually exclusive initiatives. Yet this need not be the case. Initiatives to improve first call resolution, for example, can tie the two together by measuring customer satisfaction/loyalty and applying what is learned to agent training.
Call centers that ride out this recession, Inova said in the report, will use real-time information effectively, will turn to technology as a useful tool, and will value agents as the most valuable asset.
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Mae Kowalke is senior editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae's articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.
Edited by Mae Kowalke