Customer contact campaigns that use outbound dialling, can be a delicate balancing act.  Of course, keeping costs under control and maximising staff productivity is high on the list, along with the need to address any compliance obligations providing increasing pressure.

Against this is the need to ensure that overall quality of the customer experience remains high and just as importantly, that staff engaging with customers feel motivated.  After all, customer-facing staff are as much a part of the company’s brand as any marketing campaign says Justin Hamilton-Martin.

It’s a tough list, but not one that’s impossible to tick all the boxes on, particularly with some of the new technologies on the market, which together with the right internal processes, can drastically simplify and improve call centre operations.

Here are a few examples of how that delicate balance can be achieved, starting with real-time campaign monitoring.  Conventional methods are based on reviewing performance daily, weekly or – in some cases – monthly.  While this approach can uncover what did or didn’t work, which is useful insight for future campaigns, it is too late to help that particular campaign.  Modern contact centre technology allows for constant observation of, for example, whether inbound call waiting times are becoming too long.  Remedial action might include immediately changing the ratio of call blending (in other words, the ratio of inbound to outbound calls), so that outbound staff start handling more inbound traffic.

Another campaign monitoring technique which can work well includes interleaving multiple, smaller lists into one campaign, to allow data managers to test new sources of data without materially upsetting the balance and momentum of teams.  Monitoring contact rates and conversion rates per list can help assess more quickly where to spend efforts and allows for continual evolution whilst mitigating risk.

Intelligent routing of inbound calls is something that customer teams could benefit from, because calls are routed according to adviser’s skills or priority groups.  There are several benefits: calls are handled more quickly and efficiently (good news for customer and the agent), inexperienced staff aren’t exposed to overly challenging calls and more experienced staff feel that their expertise is being put to good use.

Call scripting is always a tricky one: too relaxed and there’s the risk of agents going ‘off message’, too strict and they feel hampered, potentially leading to a rather wooden and unnatural experience for both agent and customer.  The bottom line is that agents will always perform better if they can hold engaging, ‘real’ conversations, so providing guidance that does not dictate scripts ‘word for word’ is worth spending time to achieve and – most importantly – integrate the agent’s screen with CRM systems, so any improvisation is in line with on-screen data about that customer and his or her situation. Analyse and refresh scripts regularly and think about screen recording, which teams can then review, to see where scripting might be improved.

Compliance is, quite rightly, an increasing focus within the contact centre market, protecting both consumers and companies. However, achieving and demonstrating compliance can mean a considerable administration overhead.

Better call abandonment management

Abandoned calls are frustrating for consumers, but it’s also frustrating for call centre staff and can have a huge impact on productivity.  With Ofcom in the throes of re-examining nuisance calls (an area where there are already fines of up to £2 million for companies who exceed acceptable thresholds) and expected to become even stricter, the issue of abandoned or nuisance calls is definitely in the spotlight.  Users of outbound diallers have tried to keep within Ofcom limits using answering machine detection (AMD) solutions and while the idea of these is great – to automate the process and prevent call abandonment – they have brought their own problems, such as filtering out too many potential call recipients too quickly by creating high volumes of false positives.  Plus, they come with a massive administrative overhead, so many organisations have either abandoned AMD or are struggling to make it work.

However, the new generation of AMD technology launched in 2015 is a step-change in how AMD is managed: it focuses on accuracy (which makes sense, since existing systems weeded out too many numbers that in fact had a human at the end of the line), achieving 99.99 per cent accuracy based on a sample set of over one million calls.  Moreover, it is undetectable for caller and caller, eliminates the delay of existing systems (and those time and cost savings will add up over the day), plus because data is collected automatically for the call centre operator, the administrative headache involved in demonstrating Ofcom compliance thresholds are being met is drastically reduced.

Staying with the topic of compliance, there is the thorny issue of PCI DSS.  While of course having strict rules around payment processes protects both the consumer and the agent, traditional approaches – where the agent effectively ‘drops out’ of the dialogue while the payment is being made – is a clunky process that loses time and risks the conversation being dropped altogether.

Again, new technology to the rescue.  The development of DTMF clamping technology means that the agent can stay on the call without being exposed to sensitive customer card data, whilst the payment is being made, reducing delays or worse still, a call being dropped.

These are just a handful of the new technologies being developed for the modern customer contact centre environment. . They are all good examples of how an efficient call centre with productive staff isn’t just about focusing on minutes, but looking at the overall picture to make sure that available resources are being used properly, that compliance is being achieved, that staff are helped – not hindered by technology and above all, give customers a high quality experience.

Justin Hamilton-Martin is CEO of Ultracomms, which was founded over a decade ago as Europe’s first ever cloud-based contact centre solution provider

Justin Hamilton Martin

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