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Hi, This is Your Contact Center! Have We Met?

At ICMI's symposium in Washington D.C. last week, I had the privilege of attending the "Essential Skills and Knowledge for Effective Contact Center Management" course, lead by ICMI certified associate, Jean Bave-Kerwin.

The course focused on tools and strategies for improving quality and service levels in the contact center, regardless of contact center size, channel or industry. The attendees included managers, supervisors and agents with a range of experience from contact center veterans to newbies, like myself.

For two days, we listened and learned numerous valuable tips, tools and strategies for achieving overall success. We calculated equations and reviewed case studies inspired by actual contact center crises and many an “Ah HA!” moment was experienced.

Getting To Know Your Contact Center

Throughout the course, there was one theme that seemed to find its way into most of our discussions: "How well do you know your contact center?" More specifically, how strong are the lines of communication between executives and contact center management in your company? If you’re not sure, and even if you are, it could be worth your while to take a closer look.

Communication, or lack of communication, seems to be a bit of an epidemic in terms of the contact center’s relationship with the rest of its organization for one reason or another. One major discovery I made from the "Essential Skills and Knowledge" course is that even the smallest imbalance in the contact center's resources can have a tremendous impact on productivity and service quality. The best way to fix this, or prevent it altogether, is to start a conversation. Take the time to get to know your contact center. Do they need more agents, more comprehensive training or better tools? Are you planning to change something that impacts your contact center? Tell them about it! If you’re a contact center and haven’t heard from your management in a while, take the initiative to say "Hey, over here! We could use some help!"

An excellent reference for how to go about starting up this conversation is Brad Cleveland's article on what senior-level managers should know about their call centers. In the article, Brad describes why it is important to understand the contact environment your customers are experiencing by spending some time getting to know what it is like on the other side of the phone, email or chat channel.

Another great reference is an article by Greg Levin on how to enhance the value of your call center to the rest of your organization. There are plenty of great ideas for consideration in there, as well.

To put it simply, speak up! Be the catalyst for the conversation and you may be pleasantly surprised at what changes you can start up. Of course, we’d like to hear some of your experiences in starting these conversations. Has it worked for you? Let us know!

Christina Hammarberg is the former associate editor at ICMI.

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Marta Kelsey — 11:11AM on Aug 8, 2011

I've seen opening the lines of communication up between marketing and the call center can increase sales. A weekly meeting between department heads could be the key to closing additional sales.

Allyson Rollins — 12:06PM on Aug 11, 2011

A suggestion I would make is to have members of the organization sit with a call center agent for 30 minutes one day, to help understand the questions that are asked from their customers. The call center is the information hub, everyone calls an 800# to get answers so to open the lines of communication across departments enhances the customer's experience and increases the knowledge of the agents. The more information agents are armed with the better it is company wide, great reflection across the board.

— 12:56PM on Sep 13, 2011

I would have to say that it's also about proper communication. Agents especially are dealing with a lot of information overload. Many times, they are asked to log into an intranet type environment to obtain updates on what's happening in the company, and many are asked to do this on their own time (e.g. come in before your shift and get up to date). This can cause a huge HR issue and is also a bit demotivating. Using proper channels and identifying best practices in communication are key to ensuring the system works as intended.