Call Centre Customer Sales & Service - How to improve Quality.

Article by Bob Stevenson, MD of AQM ( Australian Quality Monitoring) in Sydney. January 18th 2000.

The current Status Quo - Quality suffers when call quantity is the main focus

As business becomes increasingly reliant on the use of in-bound/outbound telephony staff to promote and sell it's products and services the need to be confident of the abilities of the reps taking the calls has become of paramount importance.

Response times, telephone manner, product knowledge and sales skills all play an important role in ensuring that your company is best represented and that the sale is made or the caller is 100% satisfied with the outcome of the call.

Invariably any deviation from expected customer care procedures or the conversion of an enquiry to sale is only discovered when a problem arises or at the end of a promotion or sales period when expected results have not achieved.

Just as damaging is any adverse reactions or misconceptions about your business or products not reported which also impacts negatively on revenue and reputation.

Including quality monitoring as early as possible in the process and performing regular quality audits helps minimise and prevent these occurrences whilst also providing invaluable on-going feedback on your sales or call centre team.

Some internal quality initiatives.

Although it is now common to record a sample of conversations to assess performance, the results can be flawed for a number of reasons including internal politics, career protection, reps being "tipped off' etc.

Additionally these are time consuming exercises and in the high pressure environment that most call centre management work in, the monitoring and assessment of these calls can sometimes end up way down on the list of priorities (much though the managers don't want them to be!!).

Alternatively if the call centre function has been out-sourced it can be difficult for the client to determine how well the service provider is performing these audits as problems with staff or quality is not an area a service provider is keen to highlight.

Ideally an independent source undertaking audits and monitoring can be the solution to overcoming these problems

Using external Quality Consultants.

The term "mystery shopping" will be familiar to many in the call centre environment. This entails sample calls being made under the guise of a genuine caller to provide a realistic assessment of the process and people.

Traditionally these calls have been made from large bureau type operations where documented staff turnover can be a regular problem and in some anecdotal examples it would appear volume rather than accurate feedback has been the driving force.

Australian Quality Monitoring (AQM) Pty Ltd. has recently completed a number of projects that seem to have overcome some of these traditional problems.

Employing a large flexible workforce from all sectors of the population in order to provide a true representation of the client base calls were made from home addresses throughout Australia.

Providing a more realistic shopping scenario and avoiding the same phone number appearing regularly on the reps caller number display the company were able to simulate the normal enquiry handled by the reps as part of their duties.

Working with benchmarks from the client the team is trained to assess the response received when calling the company and provide realistic and qualified feedback. As best as can be achieved they are your customers not part of a polished "young gun" bureau team!

Recent Quality Assurance Projects.

A recent exercise for a large retail travel organisation has helped provide invaluable feedback on the abilities of staff and helped the management confirm business initiatives were being driven through to customer level and that pre-determined customer service levels were being met.

The feedback also highlighted a number of potential problem areas allowing management to introduce a more concerted training and management program before too much damage had been done.

Another exercise targeting a National Hire car organisation provided some fairly startling results including at one stage a 7 minute wait to be connected to an operator (by then the buyer is long gone!).

Poor product knowledge from some of the reps reflected badly on the company (it is unknown if this was due to new staff or poor training but nevertheless was of immediate concern to the National Sales Director).

More startling however was very clear impression that the operator's priority was to give a quote and get on to the next call.

Of the survey undertaken only 12% of the callers were asked if they would like to make a booking!

This of course has major impacts on the business and can be seen to negate the need to provide this service in the first place as all that is being achieved is a glorified (and more expensive!) price list!

Achieving uniform quality improvements.

Although quality auditing and monitoring will not solve the problem it will play a major part in assisting management understand how the service is performing and become a tool to highlight areas that do need attention.

In addition regular quality audits can achieve: -

Confirmation that the training dollar spent and techniques taught are impacting positively at an operational level

Identification of potential problem areas either with a particular person(s) or alternatively with a process.

Constructive feedback on sales/call centre staff’s ability

Provide additional input towards performance reviews

Deliver qualified feedback for management to assist in business growth, sales training or performance counseling.

Confirmation that external suppliers of call centre functions are maintaining agreed service levels and standards

Additionally an independent service monitor can play a useful part in evaluating service providers capabilities "in the field" prior to final agreements on tender exercises

Finally, morale and motivation are now major drivers to centre management. If used correctly, monitoring and audits can play a huge part in identifying "star" teams and individual performance to assist in recognition and reward processes

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About the author

Bob Stevenson is a Director of Australian Quality Monitoring (AQM) Pty Ltd.

The company was initially set up as a result of the realisation that "good old customer service values" were starting to suffer as a result of the huge volumes of business that customer service representatives were increasingly being asked to undertake.

AQM provide a range of services to business covering all aspects of customer service, call monitoring, services audits and mystery shopping exercises

With over 15 years of sales and business management in the UK, Belgium, Holland, the US, Asia, Fiji and Australia, Bob has experience in a wide variety of industry sectors including Sport and recreation, Travel and tourism, Information Technology, Recruitment, and Customer service to name but a few.

He can be contacted by email on aqmbob@ozemail.com.au   or by phone on (02) 9939 3654

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