Manage Your Call Center From the Outside In

Best-practice managers challenge their decision making process by always looking at a process from the customers’ perspective, or from the outside-in, rather than only considering the company view (the “inside out” perspective). The “inside-out” managers know that even though a problem is manifested in the contact center, the root cause may lie elsewhere.

For example, let’s say a contact center is experiencing an increase in web or billing questions. With inside-out thinking, the team’s primary concern is likely to be about the additional staff it will take to handle this new call volume. To address this, the team may decide to train the agents in an abbreviated call process so agents can get off each Web or billing call faster.

And, the tactic solves the inside-out problem: Talk time is shorter, agents handle more calls and no additional staff is needed. This management team believes they have solved the problem because they eliminated the need to add more staff.

But outside-in best-practice managers aren’t satisfied until the calls are eliminated—not just handled more efficiently. They look to the source of why the number of these non-value calls is escalating.

They recognize that these nonvalue calls are not only costing them money, they are also degrading the customer experience. This outside-in team energetically tackles the problem at the root, eliminating the cause at the Web or billing source.

You can be a catalyst for change. Discuss what the customer would say about a process if they were in the room.

Be sure to ask, “Are we looking at this issue from the customers’ perspective or are we only considering the view from inside our company or department?” Always seek to eliminate costs and enhance your customers’ experience by looking at things from the customers’ perspective.

How can you make the customers’ perspective come alive for your team? Seeing things through the customers’ eyes is much easier when employees become customers of the company.

When employees walk the path of the customer, they become expert evaluators of the experience they create personally and the experience created by “the system.” Their insights are invaluable to any continual improvement process.

But if you ask for input from agents, make sure you are ready to take action on it. Employees are watching to see if their feedback is falling on deaf ears and will quickly observe when nothing is changing as a result of their efforts.

When this happens, employees stamp the “be a customer” initiative with the dreaded “project du jour” label. And once the program is branded as such, you have little chance convincing employees to continue participation.

Kathryn E. Jackson, Ph.D, is president of Ocean City, NJ-based contact center consultancy Response Design Corp.

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