October 2, 2014

Balancing Quality and Efficiency: CRM Add-Ons for Call Centers

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Tags: CRM

Call centers are known for tracking every aspect of a phone rep’s performance. Average handle time and hold time for calls are measured, along with the capture rate for customer information. Reps are also assigned a percentage value based on how their adherence to a set daily schedule. Yet because contact centers are on the front lines of customer interaction, they also place a high premium on customer care. Companies depend on their phone reps to build rapport, retain clients, sell products, and reinforce brand image. Reps are also expected to meet their key performance indicators (KPIs), while handling each client with sincerity.

These requirements can make for a difficult balancing act. 

A 2011 survey by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) revealed that just 29.9 percent of call center employees believe their centers successfully “balance . . . call center efficiency and customer experience.”

Reps Need the Right Tools 

In the same ICMI survey, most participants cited poor internal technology as the biggest obstacle to both efficiency and customer experience. 

Tech innovators have been catching on to this dilemma and using it as a springboard to further automate call center processes. Many of the top customer relationship management (CRM) software companies offer fully stocked arsenals of add-ons (or “apps,” depending on the vendor) that can help customize and expand CRMs. The benefit for call centers is threefold:

  • automate and streamline operational procedures
  • bolster employee engagement
  • improve quality of customer interactions as a result

Navigating the Add-On Store Ocean

There are thousands of add-ons available for CRMs, which can be a bit dizzying for first-time buyers. Determining which add-ons your center needs will depend on the size of your center, the pricing of the individual apps, and the areas where your CRM is already performing well.

Here are some popular categories of add-ons that can quickly prove their utility in any call center, along with a few well-known solutions to help you get started.

TELEPHONE INTEGRATION

Sometimes referred to as computer telephony integration (CTI). Many companies are already using this, but centers with older CRM software may not have integrated telephony. Likewise, departments within a center that are taking on new telephony responsibilities will likely need this upgrade. Common features of telephone integration include click-to-dial, record creation, call history, chat integration, and number detection.


ALERTS

Our brains naturally store important details about people we meet that influence the way we treat them. Don’t mention politics around Ned; he’ll never stop talking. There’s Jennifer; she still owes me $100. George is going through a tough time right now; be extra nice to him.

Call centers also need a way of remembering nuances—or even warnings—about clients and their accounts, but this is easier said than done when you have 500 employees. An alerts add-on can help your center build and manage a collective consciousness for customers. That way, even if you’ve never spoken to Client A before, she isn’t a stranger. Or, on the flipside, if a fraudster has been calling in, pretending to be Client A, your team can keep the upper hand in security.


TIME TRACKERS AND SHIFT SCHEDULERS

This can be useful for scheduling large staffs and teams daily, weekly, or long term. Shift schedulers can also help manage breaks, time off, task assignments, clocking in/out, along with improving overall adherence.


SALES AUTOMATION MANAGERS

Tailored specifically to sales departments, these add-ons help automate some of the basic operations of selling and client management, such as scheduling follow-ups, drip marketing through email and social networks, and sending out reminders about upcoming contract renewal deadlines.


KPI DASHBOARDS

Dashboards are another well-known feature, but if you’re unsatisfied with the way your CRM currently tracks and records KPIs such as handle time, the amount of data logged, or sales numbers, referral rates, you might look into upgrading with a KPI dashboard add-on. If you’re tracking such indicators manually (in Excel, for instance), a dashboard solution can save hours of time.


GAMIFICATION

Bringing gamification to your center can drastically improve the way employees engage with their jobs. Call center work, by its very nature, can be repetitive, which leads to boredom. Applying game mechanics like level progression, points, badges, and leaderboards to important KPIs and processes can bring about some quick results. For more information on this, read our (full article) on gamification in call centers.


ENTERPRISE SOCIAL NETWORKING

You already know that your employees use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks at home to express themselves and connect with others. What if you could encourage that kind of habit in the workplace? Social networking add-ons are a great way to foster a community and personal investment in the workplace by giving employees a virtual identity to craft. Some gamification add-ons have social components built in, but there are also stand-alone platforms available.


Consider the preexisting features of your CRM and decide if you’re happy with the current functionality. Are there any capabilities you simply don’t have yet that could improve your center’s performance?  Finally, ask your salespeople and service reps before you make purchasing decisions, as they’ll be the ones using any new apps or add-ons.