by Christine Brosnahan

How long has it been since your call center had a check-up? In the interest of call center health, if your answer isn’t within the past couple of months, that may be too long. Our call center support team developed a list of 10 questions for you to ask as you conduct your wellness check. No matter what answers you find, you’ll probably be glad you conducted the exam.

Question 1: What is one point of conversion worth to you?

Every operator should know what one point of conversion is worth in his or her office. You should also be able to tell your staff how many more sales are needed in an average day to grow conversion even just one percent. There are really two questions here you need to ask yourself:

1. Are you focused on talk time and only talk time?

2. Are you focused on empowering your sales associates to develop a connection with the caller without having to rush?

Spending a second or two longer to ask the caller relevant questions, build rapport and offer options based on what the caller has told the associate is proven to grow conversion. If you are still measuring talk time, I hope it is only for the purpose of accruing your telephone charges.

Question 2: Do you have a loyalty strategy at the front end of your sales process?

Loyal customers want to be recognized and they want to feel valued. Ask these questions:

  • Does your sales process identify loyal customers?
  • Do you know who your loyal customers are and can you identify them immediately when answering a call?
  • Do you treat your loyal customers with a higher level of importance?

Rework your approach to communicate how you value these relationships. Recognize your customers. Appreciate them. Let your customers know they are important to you. This small bit of expressed gratitude can gain you brand loyalty.

Question 3: Are you still measuring conversion? Talk time? Revenue per call?

If so, it’s time to think differently. There are many call center metrics a manager can measure and truly, only a few that actually matter. It is time to measure Revenue per Paid Hour! You need to know what your revenue per paid hour is now, and you must know the minimum Revenue per Paid Hour that will reach annual budget numbers.

Use this formula: Total Revenue / Total number of Paid Hours (excluding sick, holidays, and vacation)

Once you know where you are and what you need, you can set your Revenue per Paid Hour goals. Take it a step further, too. Study whether you have paid hours for idle time, or paid hours for associates off the phone doing project work that is not growing revenue. Balance your labor expense with your revenue to ensure you are staffing effectively and efficiently.

Question 4: Are you customer focused? Really?

The most profitable call centers today are those with an extraordinary customer-focused culture. Just ask Zappos. Too many companies claim to be customer focused, yet they make decisions based on cost or profit first and leave the customer second. Are you measuring the number of times a day that you satisfy a customer or are you measuring how many times a day you sell to a customer? Ultimately and ideally, customer satisfaction is what drives sales.

Question 5: What do your customers experience during the first 15 seconds of their call?

In the first 15 seconds of a call, the caller has likely decided if the associate is someone they like and whether the associate is capable of helping them fill their needs. This is when the caller decides if they want to buy. Ensure the first 15 seconds is a positive experience for your callers by determining what transpires in that time. Make sure the greeting is sincere and names are exchanged. Have your associate confirm to the caller “I can help you with that.” Remember, people buy from people they like!

Question 6: Do your incentives still drive desired behavior and results?

Most retail contact and call centers do not pay agents incentives, whereas in the hospitality industry, incentives continue to be a practice. Surprised? If you are still using an incentive program, ask yourself if it is driving the results you want. What you incentivize will be the associates’ focus. Make sure you are influencing the behavior and impact you desire.

Quality, customer satisfaction and revenue should be the focus, or at least part of the calculation. If you are using only talk time and conversion as measurements that earn an associate an incentive, you may be encouraging associates to rush through their calls. You may also see that when you reward gross bookings, they often don’t materialize. Take a look to see how many of those bookings cancel by pulling up your booking cancellation rate by associate.

Question 7: Are you operating your call center the same as you were 24 months ago?

We hope you and your center have evolved, because the marketplace sure has. Take a few minutes and list all the changes that you have made in your operation within the last 2 years for the purpose of improving services and increasing customer satisfaction. If you can’t produce a list, you might want to ask yourself if you are operating in the 21st century or if you are stuck in the past. Your callers expect your operation to be leading trends, not following them. I recommend downloading our free guide called the 21st Century Call Center Guide which goes into this topic in more depth and will show you see how you fare.

Question 8: Have you adjusted your service levels by the half hour to reflect the value of the business, or are you staffing to the same service level every hour of the day?

The industry norm says that a good service level is indicated when 80% of your calls are answered in 20 seconds or less. Most centers staff to meet that service level benchmark. Because not every hour of the day is equal in revenue generation value, you must take a hard look at if having the same service level during each hour of the day is effectively meeting your needs. Some thoughtful consideration may determine that though it is imperative to answer 85% of your calls in 20 seconds or less during peak times, perhaps service can be adjusted to achieve a 70% level in late evening hours when callers are more patient if they have to wait.

Question 9: Are your supervisors holding your associates truly accountable?

The supervisor position in a call center is usually one of the first levels of management. It is a position where future leaders receive on-the-job training in how to manage and lead. Often, these supervisors are young and struggling, as they desire to be friends with associates in addition to supervising them. Blurred lines make it more difficult to hold associates accountable. Invest in your call center training programs and the supervisors who motivate your team. Make sure your leaders know how to delegate responsibility and ensure expectations are met. An excellent sales associate is not necessarily a good supervisor as the roles call for different skills. Remember, leadership can be learned. Train your supervisors. Invest in their futures as leaders.

Question 10: How have your hiring practices changed to attract candidates that understand how to sell versus recruitment of traditional order takers?

For most contact centers, the days of just taking orders are over. Today’s market requires your associates to sell by creating a buying environment. That requires a different skill set. One such skill is the ability to listen. Consider testing a candidate’s listening skills before you hire them to determine the level they can listen. Not just hear…. Listen! There is a substantial difference. If your associates are not strong listeners, they won’t be able to determine what is relevant to your callers, which strongly impacts the caller’s experience and can stop the caller from buying.

When you have thoughtfully considered your answers by conducting your own wellness check, you may be well on your way to sustainable call center health. If you find you need an injection of outside inspiration, Aspire is always here to help you on your way to wellness! If you have anything you’d like to discuss about what you’ve read here, feel free to reach out to me directly. You’ll find my email in my bio below.