The term “call center” doesn't necessarily have the best connotation. Customers will only use that word when referencing a support experience that was, let's say, less than enjoyable.
And there's good reason for their feelings of dread. Many call centers are plagued with problems that negatively affect the customer experience. High turnover and lack of adequate coverage lead to burnout and low team engagement, all of which contribute to low satisfaction scores for both customers and employees.
Don't be that kind of call center.
Keeping your team happy helps bypass many call center problems and will translate into a better experience for your customers.
We've put together a list of nine common call center problems for your company to watch out for. As long as you're taking steps to address these directly, your team will be able to function better and support your customers and products the right way.
Call center problems you need to fix right now
Call centers are the voice of your company and your brand. If you're not careful, these pitfalls will negatively affect your team and customer relationships. When these frontline employees aren't supported, it can cause irreparable damage to your business.
Low team member engagement
Call centers face a unique problem at many businesses. Not only are the employees somewhat isolated from the rest of the company, or outsourced entirely, they're less likely to have the time to socialize with the team. This is even more true for business process outsourcing (BPO) call centers.
This is not only a problem when you're trying to build a great company culture, it contributes to a number of the different call center problems we'll feature in this article. When a team is not engaged with their work, the customer can tell. Whether it's the boredom that comes through in vocal tone, a lack of care when addressing in-depth questions, or a general lack of enthusiasm for tackling their daily tasks, the disengaged employee is the first problem your company should address when thinking about improvements to a call center.
Call center teams should feel like they're making a difference. Including the team in cross-functional initiatives with HR, marketing, and product can go a long way to making them feel like a part of the bigger picture. Call center employees need to buy-in to the company's shared values.
One way to keep track of this is through an internal Net Promotor Score (NPS). The NPS is a quick way to get a general feeling of where your team engagement stands. Once you have that pulse, it's easier to find ways to make the team feel like they're a part of the company and the mission. You can also follow the NPS with a qualifying survey for more information. It is helpful to get the qualitative data for exactly how your team is feeling as well as the general pulse from an NPS.
Negative customer feedback
Getting positive feedback is easy; negative feedback not so much. Keeping customers happy and supported is the number-one task for any call center, so it's important that you have a system in place for receiving and addressing their feedback.
Whether the feedback is regarding the interaction with an employee or some other product issue, your team should feel empowered to handle it directly. Make sure everyone in the call center is trained in best practices for deescalating difficult conversations and empowered to make decisions to make the customer happy. Each conversation your team has with a customer is an opportunity to form stronger relationships.
This means that each member of the call center team should have decision-making authority on important choices for the customer. Highlight situations when your team goes above and beyond to help the customer succeed; positive feedback goes a long way towards boosting and maintaining morale.
Call centers have notoriously high turnover rates. As an entry-level position, many of the people who apply will be right out of college or potentially looking for a summer job. As a result, employee retention rates suffer.
This can make it difficult to maintain a consistent level of quality support. New employees coming in or churning out on a regular basis will make staffing predictions much more difficult. Having a solid training program in place is a great way to combat this issue. The faster you can get an employee up to speed, the easier it is to offer the best support possible.
When team members do leave, it's important to perform an honest exit interview as well. Direct feedback can help your company build a better training program, work through any perceived difficulties a previous employee had, and build a better, more cohesive team in the future.
Lack of knowledge sharing
Call center employees need to know your product inside and out. Being able to properly support a customer requires a deep understanding of not only how the product is built, but how a customer interacts with it. When knowledge isn't being shared between teams, it's more difficult to help the customer. This can be a larger problem in BPO call centers due to their lack of geographic proximity as well.
Knowledge can come from anywhere - senior team members, knowledge base articles, and an internal wiki. No detail is too small to remain with one person; everyone on the team should know where to search for answers or who to ask. Keeping a central database of information, a chat channel, or a standing meeting can help make sure everhyone knows where to look.
Another great way to share this knowledge is to have your team participate in training new team members. Demonstrating their insights into your product will help solidify their knowledge. You can hold meetings for team members to share their expertise as well. If one person is more adept at HTML than the team, or maybe better at recognizing trigger statements, they can share that knowledge to the team directly.
Training a new employee takes time, especially when that person needs to support an entire product or service. Employee onboarding should factor in the time it takes for a new team member to be comfortable. It can take months to learn a product and more than a year to be truly comfortable. If your business is considering BPO call centers it becomes even more difficult as someone will need to travel to their location for intensive training.
High turnover rates can make this more difficult, but when you offer the right kind of support and training to a new employee, the entire call center team will benefit. Think about how your training progresses and reevaluate often. Each new team member can provide feedback on what worked best for them.
If your training is full of presentations, try incorporating videos; if it's mostly spent in a conference room reading, look into shadowing an active call center employee while they're on the job. Each person needs their own kind of training, and a varied program will help you bypass this common call center problem. A product certification program is one such program. Whether certification courses are taught by more seasoned call center employees or a member of another team within the company, this is a great way to share knowledge cross-functionally within the company. And it doesn't just benefit new employees; senior team members can brush up on information they may have forgotten as well. With the pace that markets, target personas, competitors, and products change it's always important for your call center team to be up to date.
Long hold times
There will always be times when a customer needs to wait on hold. It might be due to inbound volume, staffing levels, or overall call duration, but on average customers expect to wait on hold between one and five minutes. Longer wait times will not only frustrate the customer, but they also have a compounding effect on your team's efficiency.
It's important that your company is aware of average hold times and call duration for the call center team. Once you have these benchmarks, it will be easier to train employees on best practices for driving calls and getting to a resolution faster without suffering any loss in quality.
These metrics will help give the call center team a way to track their improvement over time, but make sure it doesn't become the single metric that indicates success. Your team should be empowered to spend time supporting a customer without fear of spending too much time on the phone.
Lack of adequate coverage
Your company will only be able to support customers successfully when you have the staffing levels to handle the inbound volume. Companies should staff according to their goals and needs to avoid overloading employees. This is especially important if your goal is to provide an exceptional customer experience. Proper planning, scheduling, and insight into overall production will help the entire team.
Make sure your employees know how their shifts affect the rest of the team as well. It's important that call center employees keep one another accountable. The team will suffer, hold times will creep up, and morale will go down when there isn't enough coverage.
A lack of adequate coverage will affect your customers as well. Employees who always feel like they're behind will suffer burnout faster and are more likely to provide lower-quality support.
Fielding calls every day can be difficult. Customers will likely not be in the best mood when reaching out to your team in the first place, and call center employees will need to absorb a lot of outward frustration over time.
It's imperative that employees take breaks. Being able to walk away from the floor for even five minutes can help alleviate stress. Your call center team also needs to understand that this customer frustration is not directed at them personally. Being able to brainstorm solutions for a difficult customer and get an outside perspective on their problems is invaluable for overall team health.
This is why culture is so important for a call center. Without it, the team will not be able to rely on their colleagues and leaders for support. There's nothing worse than spending an entire day at work without being able to talk to your peers.
Too many distractions
Call centers face this problem more than other office spaces. Due to the nature of the work being done there, call centers are loud and hectic places. At any time there will be a number of different conversations happening between team members and customers in close proximity. It's important that this doesn't affect your team's ability to communicate.
If your office has an open floor plan, it becomes even more difficult. Make sure the team always has a quiet space to work through issues with their customers. It's also important that your communication tools don't pick up this ambient noise.
When onboarding a new team member, it will be important to let them know how communication works in the office. Training the team to have conversations with their peers off the floor can make it easier to bypass the potential for any additional distractions.
Don't let your call center suffer
Being a supervisor at an effective call center can be challenging, but it's not impossible. You play an important role in the company's overall success. When you take the right things into consideration every day, your call center will have no trouble being successful.
Recognizing these common call center problems is the first step, but it's also the most important. Take a look at your call center team and walk through these nine common pitfalls from top to bottom. When you're able to recognize the potential for problems it becomes easier to proactively solve for them.
Create a plan to account for these common call center problems and prioritize it for your business. You can measure how your team is currently as a baseline and optimize as you go forward. By creating a call center culture that helps the team grow and support customers better, you'll be able to solve any of these challenges that come your way.