In this highly competitive ecosystem, businesses are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. But it is equally important for them to think strategically and not compromise on the quality and efficiency of service levels.
We can see that customer expectations are rising and excellent customer service has become a critical factor and also a strong selling point for companies.
Gartner predicts that 89% of businesses compete through the level of customer experience they’re able to deliver.
The challenge – is how do you meet the increasing customer service level needs, while keeping costs low?
Take a long, hard look at the processes in your call center operations, and the types of queries and kind of volumes to understand where you can save costs quickly. Below are some proven and quick opportunities to reduce costs:
Obviously, reducing call volumes is the ideal way of reducing contact center costs. The question is how. Well, one trick to employ is to empower the customer with self-service options.
Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of all service interactions will take place without the involvement of a human agent.
There are many self-service options available – chat, website FAQ, self-help kiosks, discussion forums, FAQ bots are some options. The important thing is to assess the effectiveness of each in the context of which option will be best suited to your customer needs.
Not all queries can be moved to self-service. Businesses need to research all queries before deciding which will work in the self-service context. For example, if you have a complex product or service to sell, full self-service may not be the best option. The focus should be on improving customer experience. On the other hand, self-service is often the more desirable option for your customers, and it helps you reduce costs.
2) Measure How Key Metric Scores Impact your Costs and Revenue
Does your contact center management know how much a one percent change in customer satisfaction (CSAT) impacts your revenue? How much does it cost or save you? In general, there is little understanding of the correlation between cost and customer experience/ quality.
This may surprise many, but poll results from Call Centre Helper mentioned that only 60% of contact centers track First Contact Resolution as a KPI.
A study from Glance shows that 67% of customers hang up in frustration while waiting for a customer service representative to answer.
The key metrics to monitor in this area include Cost per call, CSAT, first contact resolution, abandoned call rate or quality scores. However, most of the well-known metrics (e.g. average handle time) do not show the direct impact to your revenue or cost; hence cost per contact can be considered as the main contact center metric to do this. Once you correctly calculate the cost per call metric, you can correlate it to operational efficiency and the impact on your bottom line.
Another important metric which has direct correlation with revenue growth, but is not generally considered to do so, is CX or Customer Experience. This relationship has been established in studies. Harvard Business Review concluded that, for transactional business models, customers with the best past experiences spend 140% more than those with the poorest past experiences; and Subscription-based customers with the best past experiences have a 74% chance of remaining a member for at least another year.
Forrestor also observed that companies with superior CX saw increased growth in customers, and considered it a basic need.
“CX is no longer just a discipline; it is the basic ingredient for growth”
Whether one uses CSAT follow-up surveys after any interaction, or simply asks customers to rate services with a Net Promoter Score, the key is to have some method of benchmarking where you know your current level of customer satisfaction. And as we all know, what gets measured gets the focus to improve. Focus on your top metrics. Get continuous feedback from customers, take appropriate action and repeat this cycle. As your customer experience/ CSAT scores improve, so will the bottom-line.
3) Refining your Resource Recruiting, Hiring and Training
According to CareerBuilder, the average cost of a bad hire can range from $25,000 to as much as $50,000.
The Contact Center industry is one of the largest sector to give employment opportunities and hire people with no prior work experience. Also, historically, agent turnover/ attrition is high when you compare it against other sectors. So it makes no sense to spend time and money in onboarding someone, only to find that they are unproductive or a bad fit.
One of the best steps which any business can take in this area is to improve their hiring and training process. For contact centers, there are some fundamental skills which are important, no matter which industry the call center belongs to:
- Adaptable and good memory of your products and services
- Confidence and optimism reflected in their voice/ speech
- Empathy towards customers
- Attention to detail
- Patience and grace under pressure
- Creative and efficient handling of multichannel communication
According to a LOMA study, the average cost to hire and train a new call center agent is roughly $7,500.
Some skills and traits are easy to find, while others may be evaluated using the right questions/ or DISC assessment or some other personality test. Though there may be some initial cost to do this, it has multifold benefits in the long run. Don’t just hire, select the correct agents.
If you verify the needed skills and knowledge, the more proficient and productive agents you will have in your contact center. This will not only reduce your hiring cost but will also improve metrics like first call resolution, average call handling time, and service quality.
Sometimes, all this may be hard to do in-house, or not as cost-effective. So, instead of hiring, businesses can look for help outside (e.g. outsourced call center) rather than completely relying on in-house hiring.
4) Using experienced Contact center service providers in the right areas
Sometimes it just makes sense for the business to stay focused on their core competency and to outsource the call center operations to specialized contact center providers. In-house contact centers need major investment in infrastructure, and technology – not to forget the other factors like cost, time, and energy required for agent training and to keep the operations running. In addition, as technology changes, the call center needs to be upgraded to benefit from the latest technologies. Now the scope of services managed by contact centers has also expanded to other customer channels like emails, chats, text messages, website queries, etc.
Some other benefits that a business can get from outsourcing: 24*7 global delivery options, flexibility of work shifts and expansion or contraction as business changes, scalability without limitations as there are no investment required in fixed costs, experienced agents capable of handling complex requests and trained in the specific business area like financial services products, and, as discussed, access to the latest technology upgrades.