Categories
Call Center

Going Beyond the Call

Offer Call Backs and Customer Service Options

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

In thinking about going beyond the call, you may assume this is an article about offering web chat, text messaging, and email response in addition to handling phone calls. Though I’m an advocate of these options, thereby turning your call center into a contact center, these are not my focus this time.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Instead, I’m addressing what you can do with the telephone to go beyond the call. Here are some considerations:

Call Backs

Offering to call back the caller instead of having them wait on hold—in queue—is an option call centers can offer.

Some callers like this flexibility and others don’t. Some are skeptical they’ll receive a call back, while a few have tried it and never got the promised call—or it came hours later instead of the few minutes they were led to believe. Yet many delight in this option.

The benefits of a call back for the customer is not having to wait on hold, being able to attend to other activities, and a feeling of greater control.

Benefits to the call center are fewer callers on hold, lower toll-free costs, and agents who have a chance to prepare to engage with the caller before placing the call. Even something as simple as bringing up the customer’s account in advance saves agent time and reduces customer angst.

Abandoned Calls

What do you do with callers who hang up in frustration while on hold? Hope they’ll call back? It might not happen. Be glad for one less call to handle? This is a short-sighted response that misses the reason for the call center in the first place.

What if you took the initiative and called the customer back? “We see that you called us earlier today, but we couldn’t get to your call in time. Is there anything we can help you with now?”

Yes, some customers will have given up, figured it out on their own, or decide to vent their frustrations. But many will be impressed you called to check with them and have heartfelt gratitude you made the effort.

In doing so you can turn around a negative experience and correct it. As you do so, you’ll forge a stronger relationship between your organization and your customers.

Surveys

Some organizations do follow up surveys, either at the conclusion of a call or afterward. If you conduct surveys, what are your goals in doing so?

Is it merely to amass a statistical database of C-Sat (customer satisfaction) scores? There’s nothing wrong with this, but too often the end-of-call surveys try to learn about the effectiveness of the call before the caller knows if the advice they received is correct.

A better reason for follow up surveys is to determine customer service failures, providing a chance to correct your call center’s shortcoming. Then you can work to turn a negative customer experience into a positive one.

Going Beyond the Call

These are ways you can go beyond the call to better serve your customers. And that’s the reason your call center exists.

Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

Categories
Call Center

Make Chat Availability a Priority

Make Customer Service a Distinguishing Factor for Your Organization

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Companies are increasingly offering chat services as a way for their customers and prospects to reach them. Not only is this an option that more and more people want to use, but many businesses find it’s a cost-effective customer service solution.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

As such, you’d think that customer-focused enterprises would make chat availability a priority. Yet in my experience as a customer, too many do not.

Avoid Turning Chat On and Off

I’ve experienced multiple companies that turn their chat option on and off throughout the day. Though their posted schedule says they’re available during business hours, their practice runs counter to that.

One site indicated that their chat was online. Excited, I begin typing my message, but before I could press enter, the chat availability indication turned from online to offline.

Hopeful it was a momentary glitch, I stared at the screen for the next several minutes, poised to press enter as soon as the chat availability changed back to online.

I got tired of waiting and went on to my next project. This was most frustrating because I needed to reach them, and chat was their only option.

I’ve seen this occur on other websites as well, with chat toggling between online and offline throughout the day. This is no way to serve customers. But it is a way to frustrate them.

Have a Schedule and Follow It

A retail operation would never open and close throughout the day; no self-respecting business would ever do that. When a customer shows up during regular business hours, they expect to come in and make a purchase. The same mentality should apply to chat service.

Make a schedule and staff accordingly to meet that schedule. Yes, when it’s difficult to hire and keep staff, meeting a desired schedule is problematic.

Yet it should be a priority for any company that cares about its customers. And every business that wants to stay in business must put their customers first.

If staffing levels drop too low to support chat in a reasonable time frame, don’t shut it down. Instead note what delay customers may encounter, apologize for the inconvenience, and offer an alternate solution.

One company I deal with boasted 24/7 chat availability. That didn’t last long. They soon scaled back to business hours availability. And a few months after that, they reconfigured their chat window to be a front end to email.

You type in your question is normal, and they tell you they’ll get back with you in a couple of hours. The answer comes by email, even if you leave the chat window open.

Offer Alternatives

In addition to chat, other common customer service options include the telephone and email.

Presumably if a company can’t staff their chat service, they can’t operate their call center either, which carries an even more time-critical expectation than chat. But many companies have cut their telephone support altogether.

That leaves email. Of the three communication options, it’s the most frustrating, with lengthy delays lasting days—or being ignored altogether.

With email, back-and-forth interaction, which happens with ease on chat and phone interaction, is difficult and time consuming. Imagine waiting two days for an email response and receiving a message that says, “What is your account number?”

Yes, there are also self-service options, with many companies offering FAQs, blog posts, and customer forums where users help each other.

FAQs and blog posts seldom address the more specific questions I have. And I try to avoid forums because I have no way of knowing if the help they’re offering is reliable or not. And too often no one ever responds to the questions I post.

Chat Solutions

Offering accessible and prompt customer service is even more critical today than ever before, where a business can lose a customer at the click of a button. Offering chat service is a common and cost-effective way to do this.

But to be successful, do it wisely. This means no turning on and off chat throughout the day, posting and adhering to a realistic schedule of chat availability, and offering customer service alternatives.

And if your staffing levels don’t allow for this to occur, look for a contact center you can outsource this to, either to back you up as needed, according to a set schedule, or around the clock.

This is the perfect solution to providing consistent chat availability to your customers.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

Categories
Call Center

Is Your Management Style Hurting Your Call Center?

After Doing All You Can on the Hiring Side, Turn Your Attention to Retention

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

A college friend recently shared his experience working at his part-time job. Several of his coworkers had quit, and he planned to do so as well. His departure would move his employer from drastically short-staffed to critically understaffed.

She begged him to stay and offered him a significant pay bump, moving him to nearly three times minimum wage for his unskilled, entry-level position.

He accepted. But he quickly regretted his decision.

Three weeks later he quit for good. “She was just too hard to work for,” he said, “and no amount of money would get me to stay.”

He found another job right away. Though his new one doesn’t pay as well, he likes his boss and feels appreciated. He now enjoys going to work. As a bonus, the hours don’t interfere with his school schedule or studying.

Times Have Changed

In a different era, his first boss’s management style would have worked. Yes, she would have churned through employees, but hiring a replacement wouldn’t have been an issue.

Times have changed. It seems every business today is in a hiring mode. They’ve upped their pay, improved their compensation plan, and lowered their expectations. But they still have trouble filling open slots, as well as keeping the employees they do have.

And I hear rumblings—and have personally witnessed it—that some of the employees they do have fall short of expectations and are less than the caliber they once hired.

The common solutions to filling open positions in a tight labor market are to pay more, improve benefits, and be more accommodating. These are good solutions, but a better approach may be to re-examine your management style.

Management Style

Quite succinctly, is your management style hurting your call center?

In thinking back to past jobs, I’ve had managers who were patient, and others who were demanding; some were kind, and others were tyrants; some were complimentary, and others were condemning. I liked some and feared others. And when it came to compensation, some were fair, and others were cheap.

For the good jobs with great bosses, I stayed with those companies for a long time, working until my situation or their need for me changed. For the other jobs with less-than-ideal bosses, I moved on as quickly as I could.

Each one of these was a learning opportunity, teaching me what to do and not to do when it came to supervising staff and leading people.

Managerial Impact

When I moved into management, I strived to be a fair boss and treat employees well—to be the kind of employer I wanted to work for.

Though I didn’t always succeed at meeting my goal, I know that most of the time I did. Some employees noticed this and even thanked me for it. And a few told me I was the best boss they ever had.

I’m not sure how my focus on being a desirable boss and worthy employer affected our turnover, but I do know I felt good about myself and the effort I put forth to make the operation a better place to work.

Take Action

If your call center is short-staffed and you can’t find enough qualified employees, despite paying more and offering more, the long-term solution may be to focus on the retention side of the equation.

Look at your management style. Seek changes that will allow you to have a more positive impact on your staff and lead them in a more effective way.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

Categories
Call Center

Embrace SaaS Flexibility

Tap Internet Provided Services to Maximize Outcomes

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

SaaS (Software as a Service) is a subscription service that provides software solutions from a centrally located host. It also goes by other names, with some vendors making distinctions between various offerings. For our purposes, however, we’ll look at the concept generically.

SaaS offers several benefits not found in traditional premise-based call center solutions.

Affordable

SaaS is a subscription service, usually paid monthly, often in proportion to usage or configuration. As a monthly expense it shows up on your operation’s income statement. The SaaS provider handles all support and maintenance.

This contrasts to a premise-based system that’s installed at your call center. This system requires that you purchase it, install it, and maintain it. The purchase price appears on your balance sheet. The distinction between income statement and balance sheet is significant from a financial and tax perspective.

Scalable

When you buy a system, you make a guess at the size of the system you need. This includes the number of stations, ports, and options. The result is that you may pay per capacity you never use or find yourself under resourced and needing to buy more.

With SaaS you can make quick adjustments as needed to scale up to handle additional traffic or cut back to save money.

Portable

Moving an installed system from one location to another is a time-consuming, expensive task. It involves downtime, which inconveniences callers. With SaaS moving is easy. All you need is a quality internet connection and a device (usually a computer) to connect to it. This is ideal if you need to react quickly to changing situations such as a pandemic, manmade catastrophe, or natural disaster.

Current

When you buy and install a premise-based system, you quickly find using a platform that’s not running the latest version of software or you find yourself buying periodic updates. With SaaS this is never an issue. The provider keeps their hosted solution on the latest version, and all you need to do is login to access it.

Summary

Using a SaaS solution for your call center provides many advantages. It is affordable, scalable, and portable. It’s always up to date. Though you may have a business case or strategic purpose for purchasing, installing, and maintaining a premise-based system in your call center, don’t accept this as the default solution.

Give SaaS thoughtful consideration.

Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

Categories
Call Center

Call Center Work-at-Home Opportunities

The Benefits of Home-Based Telephone Agents

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

In the past few years, we’ve seen an unprecedented move to pursue work-at-home opportunities in call centers. Granted, a few operations were already there. And some outright reject home-based staff as an option.

But others have embraced a distributed workforce as a new way of doing business. And most operations have moved in that direction, albeit with varying degrees of interest and success.

Work-at-home opportunities apply to all employees, both agents and non-agent roles. At the risk of reviewing what you already know, here are some reasons why you should consider tapping home-based employees.

Retain Existing Staff

Providing employees with the option to work from home may mean the difference between keeping a great employee and losing them to another company—even a competitor—who offers that option.

Sometimes an employee’s situation changes, and they can’t—or no longer feel comfortable—coming into your office to work. But you can keep them as an employee if you offer them work-at-home opportunities.

Attract New Staff

When you’re looking to hire staff, having work-at-home opportunities for them to consider may mean the difference between you hiring a new employee and losing a great prospect. Don’t miss out on an otherwise-qualified candidate because you don’t allow for them to one day work from home once they’ve proven themselves.

Expand Labor Market

Every call center, it seems, struggles to find qualified employees. Though most prefer to pursue hiring from the labor market where the call center is located, this severely limits your prospects. By offering work-at-home opportunities, you can expand your labor pool to cover anyone, in any area, who has stable internet service.

New Agent Solutions

There are also a couple of new work-at-home opportunities that present themselves once you remove the restrictions of working from a centralized office. Though these aren’t impossible outcomes to realize with your in-house staff, they’re much more realistic to achieve from a home-based workforce. These are split shifts and on-demand work.

Split Shifts

Split shifts occur when an employee doesn’t work in one continuous block of time, but in two or even three smaller blocks. This can be ideal in meeting scheduling forecasts.

This depends on the specific needs of your call center and what your traffic looks like, but it could include working at the beginning of the business day and again toward the end. Or it may be taking calls for a few hours midmorning and a few more hours midafternoon.

It’s a lot to expect someone to travel to a call center to only work a few hours, leave, and then come back for a few more. But it’s much more realistic when someone’s already at home, can quickly login, work, and then log back out.

On Demand Work

Split shifts also point to another solution, which is on-demand work. This is effectively having someone on standby for when your call center gets busy. If they’re already at home and have a flexible schedule, they may be more than willing to log in and take calls to handle an unexpected traffic burst and then log back out when things return to normal.

Just make sure to treat your on-demand employees fairly. In exchange for their flexibility, pay then a higher hourly rate for on-demand work. It also means only contacting them when you really need them and promising them a minimum amount of pay when you do, such as for at least one hour.

What you want to avoid is having someone take calls for only a few minutes at a time, multiple times throughout the day. This will lead to frustrated staff and burn out.

Conclusion

Work-at-home opportunities abound. Make sure to make the most of them to best staff your call center, maintain a qualified workforce, and serve your callers.

Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

Categories
Call Center

Look Forward To Embrace The New Year

Seek to Control Whatever You Can to Produce Optimum Outcomes

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

The last two years have been rough. And I’m ready to embrace the new year.

Though I hate to tap the too-often-stated label of unprecedented, it’s an apt description of what we’ve been through. Just as individuals have suffered, so too have the call centers that employ them and the customers they serve. 

For most operations, it’s harder than ever to find and retain good employees. In general, clients and callers are less patient and more demanding than ever before. And there’s inflation to worry about too—something that’s not been an issue for several decades—that will drive prices and wages higher.

Yet I’m optimistic. 

Not only do I want to be positive, but I must be. Though many subsist in the fog of ongoing shock, with a near-PTSD perspective, I’m excited about the opportunities I see. I’m looking forward to what the next twelve months will bring. 

Here’s why I’m ready to embrace the new year:

Battle Tested

Recent months have showed us what’s important. We’ve adjusted our perspective and adapted to changes that we didn’t want and had little control over. Though we miss what was, we now realize that some of that wasn’t so important, and we learned to accommodate our situation to pursue what really does matter in a new and fresh way.

This applies to both our personal lives and to our call center operations.

We’ve survived. We’re ready for whatever happens next and in whatever form it may take. We’ve proven to ourselves—and everyone else—that we can adjust. Using this as our foundation, we are ready to embrace the new year with confidence. 

Opportunities Abound

Some people, and some businesses, have hunkered down for the long haul, waiting for things to return to normal. Normal is nice, and I hope to one day fully realize it. But if normal never returns, I’m okay with that too. 

This is because the future holds opportunity. It’s for us to seize these opportunities and make the most of them. As the old saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

In the call center industry, for instance, we can bemoan labor shortages, scheduling nightmares, and the upward pressure of wages, or we can seize it as an opportunity to shift into a new perspective, an enlightened mindset. Of course, I don’t have an example to share—at least not yet—but you get the point.

Shift from a problem mindset to an opportunity perspective so you can best embrace the new year.

We’re Only Limited by Ourselves

Walt Kelly’s comic strip Pogo gave us the classic line “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Though Kelly originally referred to pollution, the sentiment has broad applications. This includes our personal life and our call center operations. We can be our own worst enemy, limiting what we think, what we accomplish, and what we aspire to. Or with a shift in our outlook towards the possibilities before us, we can think, accomplish, and aspire to much. We’re only limited by ourselves.

Moving Forward

Though I haven’t provided actionable recommendations, I do hope I’ve offered encouragement to step into and embrace the new year with an enlightened, optimistic perspective that you have the potential to make it an amazing year for yourself, your family, and your work. Your call center employees, clients, and customers will appreciate your efforts.

Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

Categories
Call Center

Dealing With Staff Shortages

Tips to Achieve a Full Schedule for Your Call Center

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

For years many call centers have faced an ongoing challenge to fully staff their operation. But over the last year and a half this quest has become even more difficult, with an increased number of people opting to stay home and not work.

But this doesn’t mean the task of finding all the staff you need is insurmountable. You can conquer staff shortages.

Here are some tips to better fill your call center agent schedule. 

Avoid Short-Term Gimmicks to Counter Staff Shortages

Tales abound of large signing bonuses, referral fees, and unsustainably high hourly rates. These may get warm bodies in your door, but will they complete training? And if they finish training, will they stick around?

And when existing staff hears of the lengths you’ve gone through to fully staff your operation, they may resent these new hires for the incentives they received, perks that you didn’t offer them. They may resent you too. This disappointing attitude can negatively affect their work and their longevity.

Instead of pursuing short-term tactics, which will produce long-term grief, consider pursuing the following options that are more sustainable.

Embrace Work at Home to Add Employment Flexibility

You have home-based agents or are considering it as an option. But have you fully embraced it? Though it may be wise to start out small and proceed with care when it comes to managing a remote workforce, you must make a full commitment for this to work on a large-scale. This may be the easiest solution to counter staff shortages.

Target Underutilized Labor Markets to Find Qualified Agents

Most call centers prefer to hire in their local labor market. They do this even though they have a work-at-home model. This makes sense from a logistical standpoint. It eases training, technical support, and management. It also allows them to gather in person for meetings and to sometimes work out of your office.

Yet there are probably nearby labor markets that aren’t as close and are underserved. Though not as common as they once were, they’re still geographic areas that have more qualified workers than viable jobs. Dig into these markets and you will likely mine some great employees.

Another type of underutilized labor market isn’t bounded by geography but by circumstance. Some eager and qualified workers are homebound for assorted reasons.

This might be a lack of transportation, limited mobility, or social anxieties. But these people can still do an excellent job at phone work from the comfort and safety of their homes. And they’re waiting for a chance to prove themselves to you.

Consider Going Out of State to Embrace Areas with Lower Living Costs

Though you add another layer of payroll complexity when hiring staff in a different state, it may be worth the extra effort. Look for regions with a lower cost of living. Workers in these areas may have a correspondingly lower compensation expectation.

If it costs them less to live, they won’t need to earn as much from their job to have a satisfactory lifestyle. 

Review Your Compensation Package 

A common first response to dealing with a labor shortage is to pay more. Yet I list this last because it’s the last thing you should consider. Yes, your hourly rate or benefits may be holding you back from getting the employees you need and retaining the ones you want to keep.

Don’t, however, sweeten your compensation package without pursuing the above options first.

Yes, some call centers underpay their agents and suffer as a result. If your hourly rate is less than that of most other comparable positions, you need to pay more. You may need to add benefits to what you currently offer too.

As you do this, however, don’t make the mistake that most every employer makes when they increase their hourly rate or enhance benefits. If you pay more, expect more. 

I repeat: if you pay more, expect more. Don’t pay more to hire the same caliber people that you always have. Increase your expectations and tighten your screening processes. There are qualified people out there, but you won’t encounter any if you’re not expecting to find them.

Staff Shortage Conclusion

Though staffing challenges are part of the call center industry, you can take steps to better deal with finding and keeping the employees you need to run an effective operation.

Avoid short-term hiring gimmicks, embrace home-based staff, seek under-tapped labor markets, consider out-of-state hiring, and update your compensation package.

When you do these things with focus and intentionality, you’ll be more successful in hiring and keeping great telephone agents.

Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

Categories
Call Center

Call Center Innovation Provides Fresh Opportunities

Develop a Mindset of Ongoing Change to Produce Meaningful Results

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Most call center owners and managers want to see innovation in their call center. They yearn for leading-edge solutions that will promote quality and drive client loyalty. These are lofty goals. And they are also equally hard to realize.

In truth, connecting call center innovation with actionable outcomes presents a challenging situation. So, instead of seeking big, revolutionary business overhauls, look for simpler ways to integrate innovation in the day-to-day operation of your call center.

Each time an innovation opportunity presents itself, don’t first seek ways you could tap it to revamp your operation. Instead look for ways call center innovation can provide incremental change to what you already have. Here are three considerations.

1. Enhance Existing Services

With each new opportunity that presents itself, consider how it can enhance what you’re already doing. This is simply looking for new ways to do what you’re currently doing better.

For example, when voicemail first came on the scene, the industry assumed automated message taking would replace people doing the same thing and would do it for less. Yet these fears were unfounded.

Yes, this did happen to a small extent, and some visionaries built new businesses around this ground-breaking technology, but most operations adapted the technology to enhance what they were already doing.

The result included voicemail message retrieval, customized greetings, and personalized auto answer to list a few common innovations.

Each one expanded what the call center could do. So, look for these types of opportunities with each new solution that presents itself.

2. Offer New Services

Another consideration when call center innovation presents itself is to consider what new services you could offer because of it. This is what many outsource call centers did when voicemail came along. 

They continued offering their agent voice services as they always had. And they now had a new service using voicemail technology: automated message taking and delivery.

Voicemail didn’t replace what they were doing but added to it in the form of a new service.

3. Expand into New Markets

Sometimes an innovation can allow you to expand into new markets. For example, as answering service software became more sophisticated, it allowed its users to move into telephone order taking, appointment setting, and database integration.

Conclusion

Call center innovation need not happen in huge, revolutionary jumps. We can better apply innovation as manageable tweaks on a consistent basis over time.

This is the best and easiest way to find new opportunities for your call center.

Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

Categories
Call Center

Create Sticky Customer Service in Your Call Center

Real World Customer Service Stories to Inform Your Practices

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

For over twenty years I’ve written a “From the Publisher” column in each issue of Connections Magazine. For many years that meant six columns a year, although it initially was four and at one time it ballooned up to ten, but we’re now rightsized at six.

Altogether I count 174 columns, plus many other articles that I’ve published in Connections Magazine over the years. That’s a lot of writing and even more words, enough to fill several books. And that’s just what I’ve done—and more.

I’ve taken my best customer service posts, updated them, and added content. Then I wrote more examples and compiled them into a book. The result is Sticky Customer Service. It’s now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

The vision of Sticky Customer Service is to share real-world examples to illuminate customer service done well and customer service that falls short.

The goal is to help enterprises—including yours—to stop churning customers and start growing your business. Through its pages you’ll discover helpful customer service tips to encourage you to do better and celebrate what you do best.

For the call center industry, we normally think of customer service as happening over the telephone. But it also occurs in person and online. It’s critical that we excel in each of these three areas to form a comprehensive customer-focused perspective that pursues excellence through all channels.

Sticky Customer Service, by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

And even if your intent is to focus on the section covering telephone customer service, the other sections will still inform your outlook and give you helpful insights.

Customer service isn’t a once-and-done effort. It takes ongoing focus to truly meet customer expectations. Sticky Customer Service delivers over two dozen practical, action-oriented insights to help you turn customer service from an ingrained weakness into a strategic strength.

It’s a great tool for organizational planning, staff discussions, and customer service training. It will help you create sticky customer service for your organization.

Sticky Customer Service is the first book of my new Sticky series. Upcoming books include Sticky Sales and Marketing and then Sticky Leadership, capped off with Sticky Living. 

Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

Categories
Call Center

The Benefits of Home-Based Call Center Agents

Discover Why Every Call Center Should Move Toward Having a Remote Staff

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Many businesses struggle to find entry-level employees. This includes the call center industry. Though the technology to allow for remote work has existed for a long time—and continues to get better—some call centers are reluctant to embrace the option of home-based call center agents.

This may be due to several factors. A key one is the challenge of managing a distributed workforce. Another is being able to ensure quality. A third is a tendency to want to continue doing what we’ve always done and are comfortable doing.

Yet business dynamics continue to change. And the rate of change has accelerated in the past year.

If your call center continues to pursue a paradigm of having all employees work from a centralized location, now is the time to challenge that perception and reconfigure your operation to address today’s needs and prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities.

Here are some of the key benefits of hiring home-based call center agents.

Tap Homebound Workers

Some otherwise-qualified employees want to work but for varying reasons are homebound. This may be due to their preference or their circumstances, but the fact remains that they are eager candidates. It’s just that they can’t go to work, so you need to bring the work to them.

Fortunately, this is easy to do, as well as being a perfect fit, for call center work.

Though some situations don’t fit, such as people tasked with childcare or eldercare, other contexts are a nonissue. This includes people who lack transportation, live too far away from your office, have mobility issues, or struggle with social anxieties.

These people can potentially work remotely and function as ideal home-based call center agents.

Expanded Labor Pool

If your local labor market lacks qualified or willing candidates, has unrealistic compensation expectations, or suffers from a low unemployment rate, explore an untapped or under reached labor market to find home-based call center agents to staff your operation and round out your roster.

Flexible Scheduling

Many call centers could benefit by scheduling people for split shifts, working an hour or two at various times throughout the day to meet traffic peaks. In addition is the dream of having on-demand workers who could login to process calls to deal with an unexpected deluge of traffic, be it for a few minutes or several hours.

Both these dreams are a realistic option with home-based call center agents. Many are willing to accept odd schedules or be available for on-demand work. They measure their commute in steps, not miles or minutes.

And, unless your operation uses videoconferencing, their appearance doesn’t matter. They don’t need to follow an office-based dress code. Since there working from home, they can login within seconds and take calls for short shifts or on-demand, as well as regular shifts.

Of course, not every home-based employee will embrace this paradigm, but some will, and they may even prefer it.

Save on Facility Costs

With home-based call center agents, you have less people working in your office. This means you can scale back on your facility. Taken to its logical conclusion, you will have no staff working in your office. As a result, you’ll be able to close your office or sell your building. This will cut your costs and bolster your profits.

Provide Safe Employment

Though this concern is not as high as it once was, we should prepare for the possibility that it could one day reemerge, perhaps as an even more dangerous threat.

These are all benefits that have been around for as long as home-based call center agents have been a possibility. Yet there is one more benefit—a key consideration in this uncertain time—that you should not overlook and will be wise to embrace.

This is, quite simply, working from home removes employees from the physical contact of others, eliminating the possibility of getting a virus from their coworkers.

Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.