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Develop Versatility in the Call Center for Efficiency and Profit

One of the main challenges for many financial services institutions is how to operate efficiently without lowering customer satisfaction. One of the areas where the impact from this challenge becomes visible can be found in the call center. This is where the quality of expertise provided by your outsourced call center vendor should come into play.

Finding Economies of Scale in the Call Center

Let’s say that you need to find economies of scale in your inbound call center without hiring additional agents. Currently, your inbound call center is a services queue with no product sales. But, in order to meet this year’s revenue objectives, your inbound call center needs to produce a revenue stream in addition to retaining and satisfying existing customer needs.

Your call center vendor should possess the required expertise to take an existing service line and successfully incorporate a sales component. This will allow you to maximize each and every customer touch point based on uncovering additional needs that can be matched to product offers that will increase customer satisfaction.

One issue that can keep banks from capitalizing on the ability to reduce costs while maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction is when call center services are divided among multiple vendors. When this situation occurs, customer information can become fragmented across call centers that serve different customer needs. Without the customer’s full account history, it’s often impossible to harmonize service across the customer’s lifecycle or to identify new needs that additional products can address.

But, aside from the inconsistency in service that customers may experience, the bank in this situation is also hampered from obtaining economies of scale that become available when one vendor runs multiple high-volume programs. This is because once a framework for service is in place, it can be scaled out across programs to ensure consistency in service—as well as sales.

Maximizing Agent Value

Oftentimes, banks take the approach of assigning service or product programs their own agents. The rationale is that agents specialize in specific product knowledge and will be more efficient than if spread across broader programs. Sometimes this is true, and sometimes this situation can cause problems that were not predicted by the bank.

For example, when a new regulation that impacts the consumer is put into effect, the call volume is high. But, over time, the call volume can lessen which means the program needs less agents. Because of the low volume, the limited staffing on the program becomes an issue that results in low agent attendance and satisfaction levels. The logistics of this operations model makes it such that any issue of over or under staffing can become a major problem.

One bank with a lot of smaller programs did an assessment and discovered that agent profiles, system tools and call requirements were nearly the same across all of them. The solution to gaining efficiencies and saving money was simple—combine the smaller programs into one larger program. The training required to bring all the agents up to speed on the other products and services was minimal and the change was managed easily because the agents were enthusiastic.

As a result of the change, the agents’ morale improved, their motivation returned because they were able to learn and use new skills, and they enjoyed responding to a wider variety of calls. The bank achieved its objectives as call abandonment was reduced, agent attrition decreased—and most importantly—customer satisfaction levels improved dramatically.

Protecting Customer Satisfaction

It would be nice to think that there will never be an adverse situation that will displease customers enough to diminish satisfaction levels. But that may not be realistic. Occurrences over the last five years have demonstrated that situation as being all too real. The question banks will need to answer is that, if and when such an event occurs, will our customer services provider be able to manage it well enough to protect customer satisfaction?

During an adverse event, you need a vendor with a strong methodology that enables them to react quickly to formulate a uniform plan, make adjustments in agent training and perform continuous improvement as they learn more about handling the situation effectively.

The following three steps can help your call center rise to the challenge of addressing an unforeseen event:

· Step 1: New Case Scenario Solutions

A number of new cases and scenarios will result from an event. The first thing to do is to document them, design how agents will address them and determine which metrics they will impact. Average handle time (AHT) could be one to consider. These solutions show the correct way to solve a difficult case, within an acceptable period of time with a higher level of satisfaction on the part of the user. The call handling solutions should also be standardized so that all calls of the same type are handled in a uniform way.

· Step 2: Cross Coaching

Cross coaching refers to the performance feedback provided to representatives by an alternative indirect superior. The purpose of this is to provide more diverse feedback which leads to more comprehensive opportunities for service improvement. In a nutshell, indirect superiors meet with quality analysts to identify potential operational and procedural problems. This information collected is then shared with the Training and Quality department that then develops new training designed to address the specific challenges identified.

· Step 3: Training Enhancements

To effectively absorb the excessive call volumes that sometimes occur in particular segments, agents from one market can be cross trained in the different segments to become multi-functional. The resulting diversity in ability and skill of the call agents results in the ability to maintain targeted customer satisfaction and AHT levels across all industry segments.

When all is said and done, it’s the versatility of a banks call center that will determine how well efficiencies can be found while protecting customer satisfaction. Since customer satisfaction is the foundation for the bank’s profitability, it follows that customer service should become the hub that, in turn, serves the bank.