The recent economic downturn has had an impact on just about every industry, and the call centre industry is no exception. The contact centre services market has always been competitive, but now that companies across the world are tightening their budgets, it’s become even tougher to run an efficient, competitive contact centre without sacrificing quality of service.

That’s not to say it’s impossible though. The following tips will help you to provide the best service possible to your clients, without breaking the bank.

1. Offer a flexible shift model:

When you first get a client, it can be hard to predict what the call volumes will be like, and scheduling can be a nightmare. As you learn what the client needs, try to offer a flexible shift model. This will reduce your personnel costs, make your employees happier, and improve your service levels.

2. Improve schedule adherence:

Educate your agents about the importance of staying on schedule. Make sure they know exactly what their schedule is, and reward them when they stick to it. Don’t go overboard on punishing the occasional slip, but do make sure that repeat offenders know that what they’re doing is unacceptable.

3. Cross train your agents

Once your agents are fully trained in dealing with the needs of one client, consider cross training them so they can provide other contact centre services. This could greatly reduce the number of agents you need to handle typical call volumes.

4. Refresh the training

For many contact centres, continuity control is a big issue. Make sure that your agents understand what they’re doing, what they’re supposed to say to callers, and how they’re supposed to log what was said, and the customer’s response.

5. Even small companies can use big solutions

If you have more than 20 staff, you may want to consider workforce management solutions instead of a plain old spreadsheet. This is especially true if you’re relying on cross training or a flexible shift model. Predicting call volumes and determining whether your available agents can keep things ticking over will be difficult without more sophisticated models than the average spreadsheet can provide.

6. Think big and encourage your staff to do the same

Make sure that your staff understand that they are part of a team, and that if they don’t turn up, it causes problems for everyone else. Explain to them the importance of continuity control, and of adhering to their schedule. Try to implement the same solutions that a big business would use – eventually, you will be a big business.

Providing contact centre services is a delicate balancing act. You need to make sure that you have enough employees to answer the phones and provide good service, but not so many that you’re paying some to do nothing. Too few employees, and you end up with an over-stressed, sweatshop atmosphere. Too many, and you end up throwing money away on idle employees. It will take time to get the balance right, but in today’s competitive market, it’s important that you invest the time to do so.

Article written by Crispin Jones on behalf of Maintel, experts in continuity control and contact centre services.