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Small Call Center - Question

Author esalettel
#1 | Posted: 24 Dec 2009 07:38 
I am a newly hired Client Services Manager for a small company. I currently have a team of 6 CSRs who mostly take inbound calls. My company has installed a telecomm system with full call center functionality, but the ownership is reluctant to "turn it on" in its existing form for the fear of negatively impacting the client experience. Currently we are using a standard phone system where inbound calls ring to all phones, (approximately 20 throughout our building) and a CSR is expected to pick the phone up, but if, after 4 rings no one answers, then someone else (shipping employee, receiving, training, etc.) picks up the call.

The new system has a queue with a maximum hold time of one minute and a voice message that tells the client that the maximum hold time is one minute. Ownership believes that any hold time is unacceptable and poor service. I disagree, and believe that one minute hold time is well below the standard, and is preferable to clients waiting with a phone ringing 4 - 7 times in some instances.

Any advice on this and on how to work to convince ownership of the advantages of turning on the call center functionality?

Author KarenSB
#2 | Posted: 26 Dec 2009 10:28 
I understand the systems in place, and the need for them.

Rather, I understand the *perceived* need for them (after all, why give a human being a job when an automated system will not need benefits and time off; will not get pregnant or find someone who will pay better?)

All I can say is, when I make a phone call to a business, and a real person picks up the phone? I am immediately more inclined to like everything about them. I don't ever recall counting the rings, for what it's worth.

Sorry that this is probably not the support you are seeking. I think automated systems have been a major contributor to the lack of compassion, empathy and quality service that organizations used to value.


Author KarenSB
#3 | Posted: 28 Dec 2009 05:27 
Yikes! Very clumsy last sentence that completely changes what was intended.

Strike and change to:

"...automated systems have been a major contributor to compassion, empathy and quality service bleeding out of organizations. It used to be that these traits were valued by organizations, but they must have gotten in the way of the bottom line."


Author ayaree
#4 | Posted: 28 Dec 2009 16:36 
Esalettel, I can see why this would prompt you to make changes. This sounds like it would be frustrating. I have a few observations about the way the inbound clals are currently being handled:

-are all individuals int he company capable of answering the phone in the same way, do they all represent the company the way it should be (typically you don't have all roles in a company with equal strengths in speaking on the phone)

-are calls being accidentally misrouted and dropped because of the "anybody answers" method?

-are people in all areas of the company waiting to hear that 4th or 5th ring every time a call comes in - how well are they doing at their standard jobs, the ones they are there to focus on? Phones ringing no matter where you go...Do they get perturbed? Doesn't that place the CSRs under a spotlight on a routine basis?

-do others in the company sound like they are panting when they answer the ohone? Or maybe like they had their faces buried in an Excel document on their screen? Or distracted because they are in a meeting with a client or supplier or colleague?

-Does every role in the company have this kind of potential scrutiny as to whether anyone is missing a beat? That doesn't sound like a fair playing field. Common goals and larger teamwork is great, but each small group should have a chance to manage their own stuff and get a lending hand when there is is less manageable volume. I am not a stranger to the philosophy that all corners of a company have something to offer in terms of universal goals; but at the same time, I am pretty firm on the idea that small teams do need to be their OWN teams and have their own little culture, their own quest for success. 20 people is a large enough pool for there to be more than one team (dept), for sure.

-1 minute or less is pretty good to me. I think once you reach 5 minutes, you have somebody feeling like it has been 20 minutes (it really hasn't been that long, but that length of ime just seems outrageous when you're a customer calling in somewhere)

- what is the nature of the business that creates the need for a call to be picked up by a person within that window of time, so that it is worth the risk at getting quality that is not controlled by the manager of the group in place for the purpose of responding to customers?

-what if a customer is dissatisfied somehow out of the context that involves person X outside your team? How are you supposed to manage that? The response will probably be that this would be impossible since calls would be routed to a CSR anyway. Aside from my point about how it is not constructive for individuals outside the team to become call relayers, there may not be a guarantee that this is true (in fact, it's very likely that someone outside the team will take a crack at resolving something for a customer, either thorugh their own desire or through urgency conveyed by the caller. Then if the non-CSR fumbles, you are in rough shape that you could have avoided if only you had within your reach the opportunity to manage the territory of inbound calls and move toward maintaining a certain level of excellence within your own group.

-what about the call that is still being worked on, when new rings come in? It makes better sense for additional resources within the group on a part-time basis. (There are people that are motivated by the idea of being in a contact center environment on a part-time basis, and in learning the current ropes since the last time they were in at the office. It also adds to team morale to have good part-time employees return to the team when volumes are high. I don't think you get the same result from "anyone in the company" endeavoring to pick up the work from the CSRs.)

-are there ever specific topics that can be categorized and routed to this person or that person? That is where the ACD system would become handy. It's not doing much to route a topic anywhere, when you can channel a need straight to an expert instead.

-you can use the system for basic reporting on volumes over time, so that you can plan. And this can be geared toward actually lowering staff headcount at times rather than necessarily increasing it - all depends.

-does the "pick up by anybody, anywhere in the building, every time" still come out with more virtues to it than the method that allows for some cohesiveness for the CSR group, when all this and more has been analyzed? It's only one little piece of automation, it's not like an interactive thing (IVR) that makes you feel like you are a mere human and not worthy of digitally scripted respect.

If the system is in place, why was it purchased to begin with?

Author sgorick
#5 | Posted: 11 Jun 2010 06:50 
As your call center becomes busier, it will be very difficult to always answer the phone in under a minute. You may want to suggest that management consider using an on hold message in those instances when callers must wait for an agent.

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 Small Call Center - Question

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