Call Center Customer Service
It’s all about the process.
Growing your business means finding out how you can scale your operation sustainably. If you don’t keep the process top of mind, your entire business could fail.
Not shockingly, that’s as true for call center customer service as it is for most (if not all) other aspects of your business. Finding a way to keep a consistent process in place even as some of your customer interactions get handled by outside entities is absolutely vital to success.
Make no mistake: outsourcing your customer service can be a great way to scale. But that’s only if you can find a way to keep it consistent even as your business and volume grows.
More than 80% of your customers bail on your business if they experience bad service. To avoid that, you have to make sure that the outsourced team feels like a true extension of your business.
That’s where process documentation enters the equation.
Understanding the Importance of Documentation in Call Center Customer Service
It may seem like an annoyance at first. Should you really spend the time writing things down when that time could be better spent actually getting to work?
The short answer: yes. The long answer is worth digging into.
Think about your biggest worries when it comes to outsourcing. The agencies are disconnected from your business, the quality of service may not be up to par, and you will not be in the loop on the actual qualities of the call. Now, consider the fact that the right process documentation, executed just right, can solve it all.
Documenting your processes creates a standard set of expectations. It makes sure that every agent, from their first minute representing your business, holds up their end. And of course, it increases the quality of customer interactions.
Process documentation in your call center customer service means setting the baseline. It provides a foundation for everyone working on your behalf to rely on.
Take it from Glenn Pasch, an authority on improving customer interactions:
Think of those documented processes as your roadmap to success. Even if you hit a detour or get lost, you can get back on track quickly and efficiently, saving time, money, and avoiding the risk of a crash.
Pasch uses the example of the food and beverage industry to make his point. If you have a favorite restaurant, you know exactly:
- How your waiter will take your order
- Where you can learn about the specials
- About how long a meal takes to cook
- When the desserts are offered
- And more.
Nothing is left up to chance. A well-run restaurant has standardized its processes to the point where each and every interaction is consistent and reflects the greater brand. So why can’t a call center operate the same way? With process documentation, it can.
6 Areas in Which Process Documentation Becomes Crucial
Let’s dive into the specifics. Process documentation matters, but can only make an impact for your outsourced call center operations if you get it right. In this case, that means focusing on 6 distinct areas where this type of standardization can make an immense difference.
1) Standardizing the Steps of a Typical Service Call
Customer service agents know that every call is unique. But they also know that, at its core, every call can be broken down into the same underlying parts.
- The introduction. The agent makes sure their counterpart knows who they’re speaking with, and usually tries to get a name to make a personal connection.
- The problem. The agent allows the caller to explain exactly why they’re calling. They dig for details if necessary to diagnose the problem.
- The exploration. The agent suggests and/or tries a few common solutions to the problem. In most cases, these solutions will result in the right answer.
- The escalation. When the exploration doesn’t result in a solution, the agent escalates the call or promises a call back while exploring further.
- The resolution. Ideally, a solution is found. Even if it is not, this step allows for at least a temporary resolution that ends with some kind of quality control, like a survey.
Standardization of these steps can go a long way. It allows your agent to know exactly what to expect and how to react.
Beyond documenting the steps needed in these basic phases, it helps to get down into the details and create a script for agents to follow. That script may consist of simple bullet points or more complex flowcharts of potential answers, depending on the complexity of the typical call.
Through documenting your service call steps, you can make sure that every agent follows the same general steps, increasing consistency. Many call centers can even help in the scripting process.
2) Call Center Agent Onboarding and Ongoing Training
Just as the individual calls are important to script and document, so is the general process of getting new agents on board with your business and providing ongoing training for existing agents who work on your behalf.
This step can go a long way towards dissuading the fears of many growing businesses. A standardized onboarding process helps to make sure that all agents, new and existing, truly feel like an extension of your business.
An onboarding process should cover the following parts for every agent to consider:
- A general introduction of the business, including its mission, vision, and values.
- An exploration and explanation of the customer base, both demographically and in terms of behaviors and typical pain points.
- In-depth product training that allows the agents to truly understand the items and problems customers will likely call about.
- Brand standards and guidelines, especially as they relate to tone and voice. That includes the type of vocabulary used, personality and personas, and more.
All of these elements are crucial for new agents, but they can matter just as much for those who have been working on your business for a while. These agents may just need a refresher, but ongoing training especially during and after product updates is vital.
This training may be possible without a documentation process, but it can be significantly enhanced by it. That process ensures a level of standardization that ensures every agent gets the same knowledge base.
3) Call Center Agent Code of Conduct
A code of conduct is a crucial part of call center operations far beyond their work with your business. Everyone working for a partner you can trust should be relied upon to act ethically and in the customer’s best interest.
That said, it’s not uncommon for companies who partner with call centers to present their own code of conduct, applicable for every agent working on their behalf.
At its most basic, the code of conduct should cover the following:
- What is expected of each agent as they interact with your customers?
- Where do agents draw the line between resolution and escalation?
- What specific duties are within the scope of work for the agents? Which of them deserves handling by you or someone internal?
- How does call center agent behavior relate to your mission, vision, and values?
It might just be a few general sentences. More often, it’s a set of statements related specifically to customer service.
You already have a code of conduct for your employees. Translating that to your call center agents allows you to be more internally consistent, and better integrate the call center (or any outsourced operations) into your business communications.
4) Call Escalation Procedures
Don’t leave call escalation up to chance. If you do, you could end up with a mess that results in anything but customer satisfaction.
Call escalation is a hassle for your customers. It’s part of the reason they hate customer service so much. And yet, it can be necessary.
Everyone working in this field has been in a situation where the problem just wasn’t possible to solve. A different department, or perhaps a supervisor, needed to get involved. It’s sometimes inevitable.
What you can do, though, is minimize that effect. Set specific guidelines, points at which the call needs to be escalated. They might be customer trigger thresholds or simply a level of technical detail that cannot be expected from the agent. Document exactly what those thresholds are.
That way, the agents working for you will always know when to escalate a call. Crucially, though, they’ll also understand when that type of escalation is not necessary.
5) Guidelines for Common Problem Solving
A similarly documented process should be in place for common problems with the product, service, or company that agents might encounter.
Even the best products can fail sometimes. Chances are you know what some of those weak spots are, the most common complaints that your audience tends to have. That’s your opportunity for documentation.
Think of it as a type of internal knowledge base or FAQ section. Write down what those problems are, as well as the common answer or solution that can help.
Sharing this list with your agents gets them on a consistent expertise level that will become invaluable during their calls. Its benefits ring true throughout the entire process:
- During onboarding, when they can use it as a reference guide as they become familiar with the product.
- For ongoing training and professional development, especially as the list of common problems grows or changes.
- During individual calls, when they can use it as a reference guide to avoid escalation and improve their chances of resolution.
In that last use case, it becomes a supplement to the individual script. Every agent is on the same page, maximizing their abilities to represent your company.
6) Reporting and Analytics Standardization
Finally, don’t underestimate the potential of documentation as it relates to your reporting and analytics.
We’ve covered before just how important this part of Business Process Outsourcing becomes. Standardizing it through documentation optimizes its potential.
Call center reporting tends to include qualitative and quantitative metrics on the success of each call. Both aspects can vary greatly in quality if you’re not careful:
- How is the quantitative data on call volume collected? Do only answered calls count? Does call length include hold time?
- How does the customer judge the quality of a call? Is the survey standardized across the call center or subject to each agent?
The questions could keep going. Only documentation helps you generate enough consistency to truly build reliable reports that provide valuable insights into the success of your call center operations.
It’s not just the process of collecting data, either.
As you partner with a call center, it also makes sense to document the process through which you will receive the reports and analytics that help you better understand your customer service.
Does that happen weekly or monthly? What are the benchmarks your reports are judged against? Do you receive raw data or just high-level summary reports?
It bears repeating: the key here is process standardization, which is only possible through documentation. You minimize variables and maximize your chances of receiving valuable, insightful reports on a regular basis.
The Key to Success: A Call Center Working With Your Processes
In all of the above examples, documentation can be the key to providing excellent and consistent customer service. You just need a call center willing to work with you.
That last part is a crucial point. Not all BPO partners are actually willing to go into that might depth when it comes to lending their agents. Even when they are, the work to actually create all that process documentation can be extensive.
Finding the right partner, then, has to become a core priority as you expand your business and scale your customer service operations.
You need a call center who’s as committed to the relationship as you are. That means not just embracing the documentation approach, but providing valuable insights and assistance in the process.
Remember: a call center likely knows more about typical calls, codes of conduct, and other industry standards that most businesses. That means they can become an important resource through the entire endeavor.
The right call center can provide tips, advice, and even already-documented processes to help you get started. That way, you can rest easy knowing that scaling your business will not hamstring your customer service.