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Tackling cost-effectiveness in contact centres

Focus on your workforce.

The question of cost-efficiency is critical to any company with a contact centre, whether it’s a sales-based operation, customer service centre or a debt-collection facility. The question is not purely about profitability, however, it also relates to customer loyalty and retention.

It’s important to remember that a contact centre is just one aspect of the customer journey that may be improved to enhance the overall customer experience.

A good place to start is to figure out the cost of a call per minute in a contact centre. This can be calculated by working out time spent talking to customers divided by the total cost of the contact centre environment, including salaries, the floor costs and other infrastructural requirements. In this example let’s peg the cost at R10 per minute. Once a cost per minute is estimated or determined, this can be used to benchmark and measure the efficiency of your workforce and processes and its subsequent impact on the overall profitability of your contact centre.

Focus on your workforce

A contact centre dashboard will enable managers to track agent performance. Performance management tools can be used to find out who the “most expensive” agents are the agents making the fewest or longest calls are likely to be the “most expensive”). Once identified, you can optimise the performance of those agents by checking to see if further training is necessary, and ensuring that they are productive and able to work efficiently with the tools provided. A good sales agent will be efficient at converting calls to sales, while a poor agent may not have the experience to do this and need some assistance.

An underperforming agent may be simple to address, but the bigger challenge is to find out whether or not the customer is happy. Sales, customer service and debt collectors all have different kinds of calls, but a useful measurement tool is to allow the customer to rate the call. If an agent gets a consistently low rating, then this can be addressed.

Identify the correct process optimization opportunities

Automation through self-service options such as IVR, chat, or mobile offer an opportunity to address customer needs fast, and reduce costs at the same time. If half of the calls coming in to the centre could be dealt with by a self-service option that reduces the call time by half, then this reduces the cost of the contact centre.

Phoning a customer should always be the last resort for a contact centre focused on debt collections as this remains one of the most costly mediums. Instead, agents should focus on using the cheapest methods available – text messages, emails, and interactive messaging. This also serves to build up intelligence that tracks the propensity of customers to settle across different mediums. Interactive messaging provides cost-effective alternatives to voice calls and has a level of contact that secures people’s attention and informs or negotiates in real-time. Recording and interpreting this data then enables visibility to track ideal contact methods on a group or even customer level.

Interaction costs can be reduced through time savings – for example, routing a second query back to the original agent to prevent the customer having to repeat details, or using a screen-pop with customer information to reduce time taken to perform the identification process.

The ultimate goal is to use improved efficiency and productivity to build customer relationships and drive profitability from the ground up. It’s an ongoing process as the business matures; optimised processes throughout the customer experience, from initial contact to conclusion, can build customer retention, loyalty and satisfaction, and that’s the primary focus of any company with a contact centre.

*Wynand Smit is CEO at INOVO, a leading contact centre business solutions provider.

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