Why Are We So Afraid to Standardize Call Center Processes?

By Glenn Pasch

I had lunch with a client recently, and we discussed the areas of his business that he wants to improve. I uncovered a common structural flaw that many companies have: not all of the processes for employee job responsibilities are written out. Employees rely on their own notes (if they take any) and the training delivered by whomever the GM or site director had available at the time.

This scenario is completely dysfunctional. If three different people are responsible for training new people and there is no standardized structure for them to follow, then each one has their own version of how to perform the job. Not having a specific format creates confusion when management or a supervisor follows up. Inevitably, it leads to management saying, “Don’t listen to them; this is what you have to do.” How confusing for the new employee, and what a waste of time for all involved!

Some managers – especially in sales departments – have told me that documenting processes hinder them from executing their job. “That would cut out my own style of doing it,” they say.

Now, I appreciate and applaud personal style, but I am talking about the underlying techniques required to do the job. Let me give you a couple of examples:

  • Documenting the steps of a call (opening, presentation, discovery questions, and so forth) makes it easier to train agents and follow up with them. During the execution of a call, agents can focus on hitting each step that they are required to hit. This is the technique; style is what wraps around technique.
  • Documenting the process inbound agents should follow creates consistency in customer interaction – for example, listing the proper questions each agent needs to ask on every call, or writing out the steps management wants them to follow each time they interact with a customer.

Having worked for years in the food and beverage industry, I have witnessed just how integral documenting process is. How a waiter takes someone’s order, how they explain the specials, and how they place the order with the kitchen is never left up to chance or else chaos ensues, the system falls apart, and ultimately, customers don’t come back.

Here are a few other things that I recommend documenting:

  • How employees handle incoming or outgoing calls – some call centers create an actual phone script, whereas others have bullet points to be followed. This documentation ensures the proper communication of information to customers as well as retrieving correct information in a consistent manner.
  • How to handle leads – how quickly to respond to the lead, the process of following up, and when to put the lead into a “not interested” list
  • What the call center agents’ disposition should be for each lead they handle
  • How agents handle situations that are outside of the normal routine
  • When to involve a supervisor on a call with an upset customer

One of the most important processes to document is the employee code of conduct. This code creates a series of checklists for employees to reference in case they have questions:

  • What is expected of each agent
  • What level of customer service is demanded
  • What specific job duties agents are responsible for

Most employees, especially new ones, are not comfortable asking a question about process. They do not want to seem inadequate, so they try to fudge it, and that leads to poor execution. It would be much simpler and more efficient for them to go to a file on their computer or in a manual to find the answer.

If processes are not documented, it is harder for upper management to follow up and hold everyone to the same standard. Without documented processes, people begin to cut corners, even unknowingly, and if no one is checking, that new shortcut becomes the new standard of performance. It can lead to a slippery slope if there is no anchor or road map to quickly reference and get back on track.

If you currently have your processes documented, take the time to check them and make sure everything is up-to-date. Take the time to make sure everyone is executing them effectively. If you don’t have your processes documented, I suggest that you get started. Choose one area, document all of the processes performed, and continue until you work your way through every process.

It may seem like a lot of detailed work (which is why many call centers skip this step), but in the long run, your operation will run smoother and more efficiently.

Think of those documented processes as your road map to success. Even if you hit a detour or get lost, you can pull over, check your bearings, and get back on track quickly and efficiently, saving time, money, and avoiding the risk of a crash.

Glenn Pasch is the president of Improved Performance Solutions, a consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations improve their customer interaction. Improved Performance Solutions provides the proper training to convert conversations into sales and positive customer service experiences.

[From Connection Magazine – September 2010]

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