Author: Michaud Ray, Senior Director, Major Account Management
Call center vendors have provided much-needed efficiencies for retail banks, but they’ve also demonstrated that excellence in service adds business value. An additional benefit that outsourced vendors provide is economies of scale when expansion needs arise. But, when addressing the need for expansion of services, there are several questions that call center operations professionals should answer in order to develop the right path forward.
When you consider the scope of the existing contract, are you buying activity or results?
Based on the expansion of service required, if the scope of the contract is about numbers and speed, then the possibility exists for diminished satisfaction levels if this becomes the sole basis for the new service. Instead, it’s smart to consider the upside potential if you were to prioritize the delivery of differentiated service with a higher perceived value.
Customer service in banking is about money—your customer’s money. This makes the experiences that your customers have with call center agents more emotional than transactions for most other types of products and services. Your vendor should be able to provide expertise about how to transform activity-based interactions to results-driven interactions.
For example, a call that’s measured solely on average handle time (AHT) is an activity. A call that’s measured against customer-based outcomes is oriented toward results. AHT is often used as a metric focused on solely reducing costs. But, cost can only be a meaningful measure when it is balanced against value. The real trick is to make the most of the ratio between the cost of each customer contact and its potential value to the organization. The question to ask isn’t ‘How can this call cost less?’ but, rather, ‘How can this call deliver more?’ Also, “What unexpected value can you provide the bank customer on that call?”, ‘Where can you design call flows where not only is the original need addressed, but also potentially another associated unspoken need whereby the customer is delighted and a future call back avoided?’
Does your current contract call for multi-platform or blended services?
One of the best ways to balance agent loads when spikes in call volume arise is to cross-train agents to handle complementary lines of business. For example, if your call center vendor is servicing both deposits and credit card lines of business, how many agents are trained with a blended approach?
It’s often thought that agents are most effective when trained specifically on one line of business, but a blended approach can safeguard against agent attrition as well as volume spikes. Additionally, it’s important to consider that the variety of duties that agents experience helps to improve morale and enthusiasm by creating a more stimulating environment with less repetition day in and day out.
A call center vendor with expertise in customer interaction design should be well equipped to design the cross-over processes, understand the ‘sweet spot’ with skill set blending, institute knowledge through interactive training, and provide measurable accountability for the success of the program. With this type of multi-platform experience as a norm, adding new lines of business will be more easily assimilated into the call center with the desired results achieved.
What type of relationship do you have with your call center vendor?
There is often a tendency for the client’s management team to work from either end of the relationship spectrum. They are either micromanaging or too hands’ off in their approach. At the micromanaging end, the bank is overshadowing the expertise that the vendor was hired to deliver, negating the full value they could be realizing from the relationship. With the hands off approach, often the result is missed opportunities because the innovative ideas the vendor could bring are not encouraged or allowed to develop.
This can become problematic during an expansion plan if both sides are not mutually aligned as to the goals and desired outcomes that should be achieved and able to take advantage of the existing infrastructure and resources in the most efficient and innovative ways to incorporate services for new lines of business.
For example, the bank may want to utilize more tier 2 agents than tier 1 agents to reduce costs. But it’s not as simple as rerouting the calls with the expectation of achieving the same results. By working collaboratively with your vendor, they can analyze your request and provide recommendations on re-engineering processes, modifying training procedures or hiring differently skilled workers to achieve the bank’s goals.
Collaboration is the Key Element
From the scope of contract to the type of services and the vendor relationship, collaborating with your vendor to get the most value from each area will help you identify the highest overall value opportunities available to improve current services and meet your expansion needs. By enhancing existing customer service operations, you can prime your call center for coming expansion needs. The outcome is a win for your bank, your vendor—and most importantly, your customers.