Have You Standardized Your Call Center Processes?

By Glenn Pasch

I had lunch with a client recently, and we discussed the areas of his business that he wants to improve. I uncovered a common structural flaw that many organizations have: not all of the processes for employee job responsibilities are written out. Employees rely on their own notes (if they take any), and the training delivered by whomever is available at the time.

This is completely dysfunctional. If three people are responsible for training new call center agents and there is no standardized structure for them to follow, then each one has their own version of how to perform the job. Not having a specific format creates confusion when management or a supervisor follows up. Inevitably, it leads to management saying, “Don’t listen to them; this is what you have to do.” How confusing for the new employee, and what a waste of time for all involved.

Some managers have told me that documenting processes hinder them from executing their job. “That would cut out my own style of doing it,” they say. Now, I appreciate and applaud personal style, but I am talking about the underlying techniques required to do the job. Let me give you a couple of examples:

  • Documenting the steps of a call (opening, presentation, discovery questions, and so forth) makes it easier to train agents and follow up with them. During the execution of a call, agents can focus on hitting each step that they are required to hit. This is the technique; wrapped around the technique is one’s own style.
  • Documenting the process inbound agents should follow creates consistency in customer interaction. This might include listing the proper questions agents need to ask on every call or writing out the steps management followed each time they interact with a caller.

I have witnessed just how integral documenting process is in the food and beverage industry. How a waiter takes someone’s order, how they explain the specials, and how they place the order with the kitchen is never left up to chance or else chaos ensues, the system falls apart, and ultimately, customers don’t come back.

Here are a few other things that I recommend documenting:

  • How employees handle incoming or outgoing calls: Some call centers create an actual phone script, whereas others have bullet points to be followed. This documentation ensures the proper communication of information to callers, as well as retrieving correct information in a consistent manner.
  • How to handle leads: This includes how quickly to respond to a lead, the process of following up, and when to put the lead into a “not interested” list.
  • What the call center agents’ disposition should be for each lead they handle
  • How agents handle situations that are outside of the normal routine
  • When to involve a supervisor on a call with an upset customer

One of the most important processes to document is the employee code of conduct. This code creates a series of checklists for employees to reference in case they have questions:

  • What is expected of each agent
  • What level of customer service is required
  • What specific job duties agents are responsible for

Most employees, especially new ones, are not comfortable asking a question about process. They do not want to seem inadequate, so they try to fudge it, which leads to poor execution. It would be much simpler and more efficient for them to go to a file on their computer or in a manual to find the answer.

If processes are not documented, it is harder for upper management to follow up and hold everyone to the same standard. Without documented processes, people begin to cut corners, even unknowingly, and if no one is checking, that new shortcut becomes the new standard of performance. It can lead to a slippery slope if there is no anchor or roadmap to quickly reference and get back on track.

If your call center has your processes documented, take the time to check and update them. Make sure everyone is executing them effectively. If you don’t have your processes documented, I suggest that you get started. Start with one area, document all of the processes performed, and continue until you work your way through every process.

It may seem like a lot of detailed work (which is why many call centers skip this step), but in the end, your operation will run smoother and more efficiently.

Think of those documented processes as your roadmap to success. Even if you hit a detour or get lost, you can get back on track quickly and efficiently, saving time, money, and avoiding the risk of a crash.

Glenn Pasch is the president of Improved Performance Solutions, a consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations improve their customer interaction. Improved Performance Solutions provides the proper training to convert conversations into sales and positive customer service experiences.

[From the August/September 2011 issue of AnswerStat magazine]