Call Center Culture Matters – Serious Tips for Serious Results
For many businesses, their call centers are the primary point of contact with consumers. Whether someone is calling to place an order, request information about a product, inquire about a delivery date or voice a complaint, a call center is expected to handle everything pleasantly, informatively and efficiently.
Put simply, a call center is the backbone of almost every business — not only for business leaders, but for consumers as well.
If you manage a call center, you probably understand the importance of your contact center’s role to your company’s overall fiscal performance. If you work in another department, you may not fully appreciate how much your employer’s success or failure is influenced by the customer service your company’s call center provides every day.
To get an idea of how heavily your company’s bottom line can be influenced by its call center, consider this: 78 percent of consumers have abandoned a transaction or decided not to make a planned purchase because they received poor customer service.
Why Good Customer Service is so Important
In her role as The People Skills Coach, Kate Nasser often uses examples of real-life customer service situations that have gone awry to train customer service representatives to provide the best service possible, or at least to avoid making some of the costly gaffes others have made.
Nasser recounts an instance in which a consumer contacted a cable company about the specific groupings of channels that were available to her. The call center agent she was talking to was unable to explain the groups to the woman’s satisfaction, so she asked to be transferred to another agent.
Instead of abiding by the customer’s request, the agent called the paying consumer stupid and disconnected the call.
Nasser cites another example of a failed call center interaction when a woman called a computer company because 12 new laptops wouldn’t power on. After explaining her dilemma to a contact center agent, the employee explained that there was no way to troubleshoot the computers if they wouldn’t power on.
The agent then accused the caller of doing something to the computers to prevent them from turning on.
In yet another example, Nasser tells the story of Julie, a woman who contacted the maker of a printer for help interfacing her computer with her printer.
Julie waited on hold for hours before she was told that she had clearly done something to prevent the printer from interfacing properly and the problem was simply not the company’s issue to resolve.
Julie then called her computer company and the issue was resolved quickly.
If you were Julie, who would you do business with in the future, the accusatory printer company or the helpful computer company?
Would you buy laptops from the same business after one of its employees suggested you damaged the new computers you received?
Would you consider buying something from a business in the future after one of its call center agents insulted you?
If you are like the vast majority of people, you will seek another business for your future needs if you receive poor customer service.
In fact, 91 percent of consumers will not readily do business with a company again if they are dissatisfied with the service they receive.
Unhappy customers will find another company to do business with, and they will also tell their friends, family members and colleagues about their negative interaction with your call center. Twice as many people hear negative customer service experiences compared to positive ones.
With consumers feeling that customer service representatives only provide sufficient answers to their questions 50 percent of the time, it’s easy to understand why 59 percent of American consumers are willing to try a new brand or business for a more satisfactory customer service experience.
It’s also understandable why 70 percent of Americans polled in 2011 were willing to spend more with businesses they felt provided superior customer service over their competitors.
That number represents a significant increase over the previous year, when less than six out of ten Americans said they’d be willing to spend more in exchange for better customer service.
What Is Call Center Culture?
Call center culture is all about your business’ values and informs how your employees act, view their work and create certain customs.
The right culture can strengthen your brand and help employees feel more dedicated to the work they do.
Building call center culture begins with looking at the current values and culture and seeing whether everyone is working toward a common goal.
Learning how to improve call center culture is different for each organization. For example, even though you want to have everyone focused on the same goal, you still need a culture that acknowledges individuals.
When you clearly lay these aspects out for employees, and they feel as if their everyday tasks are meaningful, they will be more motivated to come to work.
When the call center culture is healthy and positive, the entire team and company will flourish from the increased morale and productivity.
Various aspects impact the culture in a call center. One of the most notable is the leadership. Do leaders possess good habits and encourage change?
Are they easily accessible and fairly reward and reprimand when needed?
Every business’s culture will be different, but the benefits remain the same.
A focus on a strong call center culture can easily translate into lower employee turnover, improved customer service and increased revenue.
What Leads to a Negative Call Center Culture?
A call center culture can easily turn negative if leaders are not vigilant. Many call centers may not even see the warning signs or realize they have a negative call center culture.
Some factors that can contribute to this include:
Office gossip: No one wants to be in an environment where they cannot trust others. Gossip can easily make people feel suspicious and hurtful and can even lead to bullying.
Poor internal communication: A negative call center culture could mean employees don’t feel comfortable sharing their struggles, needs, wishes and goals. Employees should experience free-flowing internal communication and have their words heard and acknowledged.
Micromanagement: While leadership involves managing employees, micromanagement takes that responsibility too far. When employees are constantly being analyzed, they can begin to experience a great deal of tension and lack of trust.
Lack of empathy: When leaders only see employees as people performing a service for their business, they will likely begin to experience a lack of empathy. When leaders are not aware of their employees’ personal lives or don’t bother to form relationships with them, it makes employees feel as if they don’t really matter to the company.
It’s important to consider these factors because a negative call center culture can contribute to a lack of motivation, decreased work quality and higher rates of employee turnover.
The Advantages of a Positive Contact Center Culture
The numbers provided above highlight the importance of a call center in business because they show the significant impact that poor customer service can have on customer loyalty and your bottom line.
While that’s true, they also show that you have a great business opportunity to make your company stand apart from your competition and increase your revenue by improving the customer service your call center provides.
One of the most meaningful things you can do to improve your customer service is to establish a strong culture in your call center.
If building call center culture is something you haven’t considered before, you may be asking yourself, “What is contact center culture?”
The simple answer to that question is that your workplace culture is a reflection of your call center’s character and personality.
The more intricate answer is that your call center’s culture is the summation of your center’s values, customs, viewpoints, actions and attitudes.
Too often, call center managers and business leaders let workplace culture develop without giving it much thought, which is a mistake.
Your call center culture is at least as important as your business strategy because it influences every aspect of your contact center, including your leadership, management, policies and procedures, the prospects you hire, and your physical work environment.
In addition, your call center’s culture will heavily influence the customer service your agents provide.
Even though it can be difficult to establish the culture you want or adjust one that already exists, your call center can benefit from you doing so in several key ways.
Here are six advantages of having a strong contact center culture:
- Improved Employee Morale
When you have a strong contact center culture, it unifies your team and improves employee morale. When your staff members feel like they’re part of a cohesive team that’s working together to achieve your business objectives, your agents share a sense of pride in your call center. They also take increased pride in the work they do individually and collectively.
- Lower Turnover
In general, a strong call center culture will help you retain your employees longer and lower your rate of attrition as a result. Keeping your seasoned employees will do more than help you continue to provide the best customer service possible. It will also help you lower your labor costs because you won’t have to recruit and train new employees as often.
- Reduced Absenteeism
Once you’ve established a strong workplace culture, you’ll normally see a drop in absenteeism. When they work in an environment with a strong culture, employees are happier and more satisfied with their jobs. This means they’ll be less likely to call off from work unnecessarily.
- Improved Performance
Call center agents typically perform better in a call center that has a strong culture because the environment better engages them with their work, makes them more committed to achieving their individual goals and the goals you set for your call center at large, and improves the service they provide to customers. Because of this improved performance on an individual level, your call center will perform better overall. Generally, call centers with a strong workplace culture financially outperform centers that don’t have a robust culture — and they experience more success.
- Improved Prospective Talent Pool
Prospective employees normally look closely at an organization’s climate when they’re deciding where they want to work. It can be costly for you to hire the wrong person, and it can be expensive for a worker to take a job that isn’t the right fit and won’t last long because the person may have missed an opportunity that could have led to long-term employment. When you have a clearly defined, well-communicated call center culture, it can help your business attract the right applicants, the ones who will fit in with your call center. Establishing and maintaining a robust workplace culture can do more than improve the quality of your job applicants. It can also increase the number of people who want to work in your call center as word spreads about its positive climate.
- Increased Customer Loyalty
When your call center culture motivates your agents to provide better customer service, it will make your business stand apart from its competitors. Consumers will take note of your company’s reputation for providing excellent service, and it will increase the likelihood that they will give your products or services a try or return to make additional purchases in the future.
Tips for Creating a Positive Call Center Culture
Now that you’re familiar with the benefits that having a strong contact center culture can provide, you may be eager to establish a solid workplace culture in your call center.
While you may be excited about creating this type of culture and reaping the benefits it can provide, knowing where to start can be difficult, especially if you’ve never considered how your center’s culture can positively influence so many aspects of your business.
If you’re ready to get started with building your call center’s culture, you can begin by following these helpful tips:
- Look Beyond the Numbers
While many call tracking systems generate data that can help call center managers improve their center’s performance, it’s important to look beyond the information these systems can provide when you’re building your center’s culture.
Your agents are the people who deal with your customers directly. They know if it takes 30 minutes to resolve a complaint or if an order can really be processed in less than five minutes.
They also have ideas about how the customer experience can be improved, as well as their own work experiences based on their practical knowledge.
Solicit feedback from your employees at all levels when you’re building your center’s culture.
Share the data from your call tracking system with them, as well as your vision for the call center and ask them for ideas about how your vision can be realized.
When someone offers a good idea, acknowledge the person’s input and encourage others to continue to share their thoughts about how your contact center can improve the way it interacts with both clients and the people who work there.
The data you share with your employees may help them come up with more ideas, and it can help you make your performance goals more realistic and achievable.
- Provide Tools for Employee Collaboration
You should collaborate with your employees to build and maintain the workplace climate you want, and you should give your agents the tools they need to collaborate with one another.
Even though call center agents typically spend most of their workday talking with people on the phone, it can sometimes be a lonely experience. This is particularly true in instances where agents work from home.
You can prevent your employees from feeling isolated by providing them with tools they can use to collaborate with each other when they’re on and off the clock.
You can start by integrating the software you use in your contact center with chat tools, so employees can communicate with each other as they work.
This will make it easier for them to request assistance with answering a customer’s question, and it will facilitate communication and teamwork.
It will also help build camaraderie between agents even if they work in different locations and prevent anyone from feeling like they’re not part of your team.
You can also set up a dedicated Facebook page where your employees can discuss after-hours events.
Giving your staff members a means to discuss activities that will take place outside of the office and encouraging them to use it enhances the relationships that exist between your employees.
- Have Fun
As you’re building your call center culture, be sure to incorporate fun into it.
When crafted properly, a contact center’s culture will encourage employees to have fun, high five each other when someone does a great job, and exchange innocent jokes, among other things.
One way you can infuse some fun into your workplace is by designing some work-related games that your agents will enjoy playing.
Games enable your staff members to engage in some friendly, fun competition, and you can use them for training purposes.
To figure out what kind of game you want to set up, analyze the data your call center software provides to identify an area in which your center’s performance can improve.
Create a game that will help you improve in that area.
Whether you want to reduce your center’s average handling time or its overall first call resolution rate, you can initiate a game that will help your employees move closer to that goal.
One game you may want to consider is hangman.
You can set up hangman on a whiteboard and every time an employee hits a designated mark, he or she will get a chance to guess a letter and solve the puzzle. The person who ultimately solves the puzzle will receive a prize that your employees consider meaningful.
Having a positive work environment has an enormous impact on the bottom line. When employees are satisfied with the work they do each day, they work smarter and avoid burnout.
They find ways to optimize their workflow to focus on what will create the best experience for their callers.
They understand what the company’s mission and goals are and strive every day to achieve them.
Productive work environments also cost less.
As your contact center’s productivity increases, you’ll notice that turnover rates decrease, as well as employee absenteeism, burned accounts and other costly symptoms of unproductivity.
Your customer satisfaction will also increase as your caller needs are met better.
The improvements you see will far outweigh the investments you make in time and resources from applying these best practices.
As a contact center manager, you may be wondering what the next step is for you to improve your call performance.
While this article addresses the best practices for a productive contact center environment, it is far from a comprehensive guide.
Productivity requires a constant awareness of every aspect of your call center’s performance.