Today’s Community Contributor is Daniel Epstein, a Senior Clinical Quality Analyst at UnitedHealth Group. Daniel has worked in the Healthcare industry for over a decade, and also has extensive experience as a producer and videographer. He has written multiple detailed reviews for collaboration, video editing, and document management products – including MS SharePoint. Starting off as a call center representative in 2007, Daniel worked his way up to site supervisor, learning what works (and doesn’t) for a nationwide network of agents. Experiencing a call center in both rolls, Daniel utilized the capabilities of Sharepoint to allow his teams to work more efficiently. In this article Daniel shares advice on how to use MS SharePoint to help maximize call center employee productivity.
Call centers are a necessary evil in our modern world. With even small and medium sized companies doing more business nationally and internationally thanks to advances in technology, walking into a building and asking for assistance isn’t realistic anymore. Mix that with the increasing speed of modern life, and you get customers who expect an immediate solution to their problem when they call in for help.
Accepting call centers as a reality, companies are constantly looking for ways to improve call center performance and customer satisfaction. From my experience managing a multi-state call center for a major health insurance company, there are 3 main bottlenecks that can prevent this:
- Employees not knowing the answer
- Employees giving inconsistent answers
- Processes falling through the cracks
Below is a more detailed description of what these bottlenecks are, what causes them, and how the Microsoft product SharePoint (MS SharePoint) can resolve these problems to improve call center efficiency for you.
Employees Not Knowing the Answer
When a customer needs assistance, they expect to talk with someone who is a subject matter expert (SME). In truth, all call center employees should be SMEs. However, due to variation in learning ability, tenure, and trainer skill…not all employees are equally knowledgeable.
Companies (especially bigger ones) tend to reflexively think the answer to knowledge gaps is to have massive databases ready for employees to use for research. But these assumptions are often built on the idea that the researcher has hours to sort through page after page of information. Another typical approach to this problem is to send daily emails with updates. However, this quickly becomes white noise and often is ignored by employees who are overloaded.
MS SharePoint has tools to address the needs of employees for RAPID access to vast amounts of information without simultaneously being overloaded. One such tool is the ability to create a Wiki (think Wikipedia).
The MS SharePoint Wiki interface is exceedingly simple yet surprisingly powerful, and can be helpful in many ways to improve call center performance:
- updates can be made quickly and universally,
- new information can be added and backed up instantly,
- and load times are immediate due to small file size.
Ultimately the greatest strength of the wiki is its “spider-web” design of information. Each fact can be housed on it’s own page, yet can be connected to other related topics. This cuts down on white noise and clutter, allowing employees to zero in on the answers they need in real-time and relay that information to the customer.
Employees Giving Inconsistent Answers
The nature of today’s business world is that everything is always changing. Updates, additions, revisions, etc. all require constant training and retraining of personnel. However, even if they receive the same training, not all employees will behave in the same way. Here are two examples:
- Established employees with confidence in their knowledge but set in their ways may be slow to absorb new information and adapt to new processes.
- New hires, fresh out of training, may be more receptive to new information but can lack confidence and practical skills that come with years of experience
This combination of factors can have detrimental effects on call center performance.
Here’s a scenario that highlights this:
A tenured employee gives outdated information on a call. The info doesn’t sit well with the customer, who decides to call back later and get a second opinion. The second call is handled by a new hire, who is asked the same question and due to being fresh out of the most recent training class, gives the correct answer. However, when questioned why this answer doesn’t match the one given on the previous call, the new hire defers to the tenured agent’s incorrect answer, assuming they know best.
What could have been one call is now two calls, and the customer ultimately got the wrong information.
MS SharePoint can prevent this scenario by providing not only the Wiki mentioned above, but also team-specific customized homepages. No longer will all your employees have Google as their homepage, but rather a dedicated home base where they can see the latest updates and have access to the most current links needed to resolve customer issues.
If you have multiple call centers across the country, each can have their own unique homepage while still following the same MS SharePoint template, thus enabling any employee looking up info for another team to be instantly familiar with where to navigate.
Processes Falling Through The Cracks
If you’re running a busy call center, ensuring that your employees are following all processes and procedures is key. However, having manual tasks and processes tied to specific scenarios increases the chance that some customers will fall through the cracks.
For example, say a customer calls and wants a list of products supplied to them. Your internal process involves emailing a separate team for help, and then emailing the customer back once that team is finished. But sometimes you forget to email the team because another call came through, or forget some vital info and have to call the customer back. Sometimes that team forgets to finish their search, or forgets to alert you when they’ve finished. Since the supervisor can’t access your email, there’s no oversight of the process until the customer calls in weeks later, irate that they’ve been ignored.
Rather than having an overly manual process with little to no oversight in place, there is a better way to handle this situation. MS SharePoint workflows can help automate processes and decrease the chances of human error.
MS SharePoint has very robust automation workflows that can be created with very little effort, and there are plentiful how-to videos in existence. Using these workflows to improve the call center performance in the above scenario, you get this:
A customer calls and wants a list of product prices supplied to them. You complete an MS SharePoint-based template that walks you through what info is needed. Upon doing so, SharePoint automatically generates an email to the team for help, as well as duplicate emails to your supervisor for tracking of the process at a high level. Once the team finishes their task, they upload it to the original SharePoint template. Doing so automatically generates an email to you and your supervisor announcing the materials are ready to be sent.
For an extra level of security, you can also add a workflow that would automatically generate a reminder email after a certain number of days if the process had sat dormant, preventing any given request from falling through the cracks – and preventing another call from a now angry customer.
MS SharePoint, The Ultimate Call Center Productivity Tool
Automated workflows, personalized homepages, knowledge base wikis, and other tools are what allow MS SharePoint to maximize your call center performance. Costs are based on server size and usage, so it’s scalable depending on your needs. I highly recommend it for any call center, as it will bring consistency, speed, and employee engagement to help you improve overall call center performance.
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