Four Elements to Achieve Contact Center Success
I’ve been doing contact center deployments nearly as long as I’ve been in IT. I find them to be one of the most enjoyable types of projects I do. I enjoy the logical flow and the scripting that puts it into action. Over the years, I’ve learned there are quite a few things that need to be ironed out before a contact center deployment takes place. Getting these things right is absolutely critical. The contact center is a link between you and your customers, so it needs to operate flawlessly.
So, what are some of the elements that make this potentially complex and confusing deployment go smoothly? The biggest key is planning. I guess that is true with most IT projects, but I find that poor planning on contact center projects leads to a lot more work.
- Call Flow Diagram: The key component of a contact center plan is a call flow diagram. This shows in a visual way what happens as the call makes its way through the contact center. Without a good diagram, I find that the client and the engineer wind up with different concepts of how things should work. This can be compounded by the technical nature of engineers and the sometime non-technical nature of contact center staff. When a phone system is implemented, the engineer is usually working with someone from the IT department. They may not be a voice expert, but they typically are comfortable with IT jargon and have dealt with IT projects in the past. This is often not the case with contact center supervisors and staff. These people are usually experts in customer service or specific customer needs. This can lead to confusion. The call flow diagram eliminates the technical jargon and provides everyone with a standard they can follow. Call center projects shouldn’t be started without an approved call flow diagram.
- Voice Prompts: A component of the design that goes hand in hand with the call flow diagram and is also critical is voice prompts. Voice prompts are the way you interact with your clients. You use voice prompts to welcome them to the system, tell them their calls may be recorded, direct them through menus and ask them for input. Getting this right is key. So, what do you need to cover? First off, what is the verbiage of the prompt? This sounds simple, but there are a few keys. One of the biggest customer annoyances in contact centers can be the prompts. A very long prompt with a huge list of options can make it very hard to navigate a menu. It’s best to keep prompts as brief as possible, and keep menus to 4-5 options maximum. Another element to consider is the voice itself. Will it be male or female? Will you have it professionally recorded, or will someone internal do the recording. Professional recordings are great, but internally recorded prompts can work well.
- Hold Music: Another key element is music on hold. When all your representatives are busy on the phone talking to callers, the system can place the calls in a queue. Callers expect to hear something while they are waiting. This is usually a combination of prompts and recorded music. The length of the music is important. If the music is too short, the callers become annoyed by the repeated prompts. If the music is too long, callers feel like they’ve been lost and nothing is happening. I’ve found 30 seconds to be a good compromise. A little longer, or shorter, is fine. Some people play a message that tells the caller their expected wait time, or their position in the queue. However, I personally strongly recommend against expected wait times unless the call center is large and the contact with customers is similar in duration. Expected wait times are based on various algorithms that attempt to predict how long a caller will wait based on previous calls. This works poorly for small call centers, or centers with variable duration calls. Announcing the position in queue can be a great alternative. Knowing you are the 5th caller waiting and hearing it count down until you are next can give callers a great sense of progress.
- Integrations: A final area of caution is integrations. Maybe you have the client enter their account number and the system provides information like their balance. This is done through integrations with other systems. This should be documented in the call flow, but should also be detailed separately. For instance, the call flow might show “get account balance”. The integration detail would show the specific method used to do that; for example, the SQL query that was being sent to the database. The database integration would also be documented. This documentation is important because there are often many parties involved. You may be dealing with the contact center manager, IT project manager, database administrator, and so on. It’s best to document carefully and minimize the amount of time spent on calls.
Those are a few key planning elements that can get missed. There is obviously more to the planning than that. Agents, extensions, etc. are all key elements, but tend not to be overlooked. A little planning and extra thought put towards your contact center will make the implementation much smoother and the result much better.
Curtis brings over 25 years of collaboration experience to ABS. As the Collaboration Team Manager, Curtis works to ensure that ABS is consistently providing the latest collaboration technology and support to ABS clients.