The following is a guest post from Megan Webb-Morgan, a web content writer for Resource Nation. Megan writes about small business, focusing on topics such as business phone systems.
Even in the wake of email, chat, and social as a means of contacting customer support, 90% of US consumers prefer to communicate with companies over the phone, that according to American Express 2011 Global Customer Service Barometer.
In order to keep your call center performing at its best while keeping costs down, consider the most important elements in streamlining your call center budget.
1. IVR Routing
Instead of routing all of your calls to the first agent available, you can segment your inbound callers with an interactive voice response (IVR) system. After interacting with the menu, callers are sent to the appropriate agent with the right skills to solve their problem quickly.
IVR identifies and segments callers according to need, allowing your call center to tailor services according to customer request – shortening call times and increasing first call resolution rates.
- Using a virtual queue can increase customer satisfaction by informing callers how long their wait will be before they reach an agent.
2. Cloud-Based Software
According to Frost & Sullivan, hosted call centers stand to save over 40 percent in costs over a 5 year period as compared to on-premise solutions. The larger the center is, the more it will save by switching to cloud-based call center software. In essence, utilizing cloud software will save you as much money as would firing 40% of your call center agents.
- Switching to the cloud can also reduce your IT maintenance costs. As the software is hosted on the service provider’s external server, you don’t have to pay up-front for software, upgrades, or maintenance.
Just as automating your call routing can decrease the number of agents you need on hand, so to can utilizing a self-service menu help streamline your call center budget. If customers can accomplish their task or find the answer to their question without needing to interact with a call center agent, your call volume decreases and your company saves money.
- Check your call center metrics to determine what the most popular queries are. Are most customers calling with general questions that can be answered with an automated self-service menu – such as your businesses’ hours or returns policy? The more you customize your call center to fit your customers’ needs, the more you’ll save.
4. Prioritize FCR
Your call center metrics come in handy in other ways, as well. For example – you can use your first call resolution (FCR) rate to determine how many times a customer contacts your center before their problem is solved. Preferably, your customers should find a resolution the very first time they call – any more, and not only does your customer service decrease, but your operating costs increase.
- An 80% FCR means that on average customers require 1.2 contacts to resolve a question or issue.
- Look for ways to improve your FCR through better scripts, better training, and better managerial oversight.
5. Effective Scheduling
Labor is your single biggest call center expense. Take a good look at your current staffing ratio of full time, part time and flex time employees. Ascertain whether changing the mix can reduce costs.
- Call center analytics and call volume forecasts can help you schedule your agents more effectively. You need enough agents on the clock to handle your call volume at a reasonable rate, but not so many agents that some of them end up sitting idle.
Use the information provided by your call center software analytics to make informed decisions about staffing, call resolution rates, call routing, and self-service options. The more you streamline your call center’s processes, the smaller your operating budget will become.
As you streamline your service budget, what features can you not live without? Make sure you explore the full-range of possibilities available before you make your final decisions.
Download Free White Paper:
"Effective, Affordable Call Center Management Technology"