Every year we say goodbye to what has shaped us into what or who we currently are. Whether you had a great year or are just glad you survived it, your experiences can always become an opportunity to improve at something.
In our context, 2023 has brought about significant changes through a series of challenges and successes. With this article, join us in welcoming the new year by reflecting on call center staffing lessons gained throughout the past months.
Top Trends that Shaped the Industry
Change is constant. That statement proved to be true in the call center industry. Innovations are constantly introduced to the work landscape in today’s tech era. Emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence and automation, successfully entered call center processes.
It can be difficult to find a company in the field that hasn’t begun using machine learning to streamline its services. Many company leaders have also integrated tech through chatbots and virtual assistant usage.
These trending tools made responses faster and more convenient. Overall, they proved helpful in enhancing customers’ and clients’ overall experience. This was a significant factor for businesses since research showed a shift in customer expectations.
A survey revealed seventy-one percent of consumers expect personalized interactions from companies, and seventy-six percent get frustrated when it doesn’t happen.¹
These numbers pushed firms to go beyond the one-size-fits-all approach. Leaders scrambled to create a more personalized experience for each customer, which would have been impossible to do in the past. Luckily, companies had innovative tech tools on their side.
Using data analytics, call center companies optimized their calls’ quality. They took historical metrics and used them to forecast call volumes and personalized customer offers.
Another trend that took the call center industry by storm is the change in communication channels. Companies adjusted their dynamics based on customer preference. Since people tend to contact support using different mediums like email and phone calls, omnichannel contact centers were created.
Battles Call Center Companies Face
We can’t have victories this past year unless faced with battles to win. Like other fields, the customer service industry has faced different challenges that motivated them to improve. Some examples of these hurdles are:
- Staffing shortage – Many companies have experienced fewer people than ideal. This resulted in increased workload and stress for employees.
- Poor Quality Service – Since agents were stretched thin, they tended to be less detail-oriented and helpful. Giving their attention to too many tasks led to poor service and overall customer dissatisfaction.
- Employee Burnout – Constant pressure to perform perfectly while juggling multiple tasks caused employees to burn out quickly. This is one of the most significant contributors to the poor retention rates call center companies experience.
Analyze the problems listed above. What have you noticed? Each battle customer service companies face is somewhat connected with the other problems.
This connection shows that all challenges must be addressed, whether big or small. Failure to implement solutions and innovations could mean your organization’s downfall.
Successful Strategies and Lessons to Take Away
We’ve discussed past customer service trends, including the challenges that negatively affected agent performance and customer experience. Now that it’s clear that one problem resulted in another, you might be interested in knowing possible strategies to stop the downward spiral.
As a company specializing in providing call center staffing, Salem Solutions compiled 5 lessons and strategies to prepare for your team’s success in 2024.
1. Proactive Workforce Planning
With technology, it’s now possible for companies to look ahead and see possible trends and outcomes within the industry. The best way to be future-ready is to have a plan from A to Z in workforce management.
This means anticipating future staffing needs and creating a plan to provide them. For instance, your call center is adopting AI-driven tools to enhance efficiency. You can employ predictive analytics to forecast future staffing needs based on historical data.
You can predict when call volumes will likely surge and plan for additional staffing during these peak periods. You also need to have a backup plan in case uncontrollable things occur.
Imagine a sudden surge in demand that exceeds your initial hiring projections. An effective backup plan would be partnering with staffing firms to fill in your available roles with great individuals.
2. Flexibility in Staffing Models
Since contact center agents deal with people, the dynamics between customers and employees can be different. Even people choose to communicate firmly based on their preferences – there’s no official way customers ask for help.
In fact, results from a Statista survey showed that 42 percent of customers still prefer to use phone calls when they need to solve customer service problems, 38 percent prefer digital channels, and the other 20 percent prefer email.²
In response to this trend, your staffing model should be adaptable enough to allocate resources effectively to manage incoming call volumes and incorporate specialists trained to handle customer concerns through these diverse channels.
Offer training courses to your agents about how to give exceptional service in all possible mediums. Enhance your agents’ communication skills in both written and verbal formats to ensure a great customer experience. This way, your company can create a workforce capable of delivering exceptional service tailored to each customer’s preferences.
3. Upskilling and Reskilling Focus
Just like how the challenges were connected with one another, the lessons and steps you can take to succeed in 2024 are also interlinked. Along with training your agents to master different communication platforms, you must also provide training programs for upskilling and reskilling.
Technology is continuously improving, and customer expectations are changing alongside it. So, you need to equip your call center agents with hard and soft skills that can prepare them for the future of the customer service industry.
Make sure your call center agent training revolves around leveraging emerging technology while still being adept in handling complex customer needs.
4. Efficient Technology Integration
Instead of being afraid of what technology can do on its own, invest time and budget to find out what it can do for you. A successful and modern call center landscape requires efficient technology integration in its processes.
For example, AI can be used to provide real-time insights based on data and metrics gathered through cloud computing. Automation can also ensure faster customer response time and fewer tasks for live agents.
Some tech tools can indeed replace human responsibilities, but that’s the purpose of upskilling and reskilling through agent training programs. By leveraging tech tools and helping your team be more comfortable in using them, you’re already improving employee turnover rates, workforce management, and customer experience.
5. Employee Care and Appreciation
As company leaders, you must take the time to understand your employees. Focusing only on your client’s pain points will leave your agents injured. A thriving contact center in 2024 is a company that cares and appreciates its agents.
A study by CMP Research shows that an agent’s health can impact the quality of service they provide.³ No matter how much you train agents or refine their soft skills, they will still perform poorly if they’re burned out.
Put yourself in your agents’ shoes. Instead of more training tips, give them policies that promote a healthy work-life balance.
Prioritize their physical and mental well-being, provide incentives to boost morale, and care for your employees overall. Look at them as your partners in providing the best customer care and not like chatbots that can offer help whenever customers need it.
ADDRESS CALL CENTER CHALLENGES WITH SALEM SOLUTIONS
As we enter the new year, seize the opportunities it brings by addressing the lessons learned in call center staffing throughout 2023. Your success relies on cultivating a flexible workforce that aligns with the customer service industry’s evolving demands.
If you’re worried about finding top candidates to fill your company’s skills gaps, Salem Solutions can provide you with temporary and direct hires based on your call center staffing needs. Reach out now to begin a conversation!
1 McKinsey & Company. “The value of getting personalization right—or wrong—is multiplying.” 12 November 2021, https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/the-value-of-getting-personalization-right-or-wrong-is-multiplying.
2 Statista Research Department. “Communication channels customers prefer to use to resolve customer service issues in the United States in 2020.” Statista, Aug 18, 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/preferred-channels-customer-service-issues-/
3 CMP Research Team. “Customer Contact Executive Priorities in 2023-2024.” Customer Management Practice, Nov. 2023, https://www.cmpresearch.com/