Reducing Costs in the Contact Center, Part 1 of 2
As 2007 comes to a close, many of our clients are turning their thoughts to how they can save money — both in their contact centers and throughout their operations — as well as starting to prepare for holiday season 2008. One of the best ways to plan for future success is to conduct a postseason analysis. In this first of a two-part series, I’ll explain how to perform a postseason analysis of your center as a baseline for customer service, process improvement and cost reduction.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the postseason analysis.
1. Form a postseason review team. Because your efforts are directed at customer service, process improvement and potential cost reduction, form a team that can bring different disciplines to the process. While much of the work will fall to contact center management (managers and supervisors), broaden the group to involve a few good reps. Also include general training and quality training, human resources, center scheduling, telecom traffic, IT, marketing, and returns and replacement if all of these areas are within your responsibilities.
Clearly, contact center management drives the process. But this effort should draw on the opinions and input of all. Challenge them to assess how things could be done differently, and make them answer the question, “How can costs be reduced without lowering customer service?” These meetings should occur sometime between mid-January and mid-February, giving you enough time to plan and achieve early results.
2. Review your metrics. Begin by reviewing your key performance indicators and how performance measures up against your standards and plans. The major metrics include contacts per hour; service level; abandon rate; attrition/turnover rate; call-handle time; talk time; after-call work time; contact-to-order ratio; transaction volumes for Internet, phone and mail; non-phone volumes and others. How accurate were marketing’s projections and your projections for calls?
Labor is 50 percent to 70 percent of the contact center’s costs. So it’s important to see how well you performed in terms of staffing-level accuracy, schedule adherence and occupancy percentage.
3. Review hiring and training practices. Labor’s cost, quality and availability is becoming an issue for many call centers, particularly in seasonal businesses where the selling curve is more compressed. Review your advertising media costs and results, and exchange information with other human resource departments. Review your prehiring testing, employee selection criteria and practices. What improvements and cost reductions are possible? Is there a place for temporary agencies rather than relying completely on in-house hiring? Should more calls be shunted off to outsourced call centers?
From a training perspective, how well did you train the CSRs to take orders and provide customer service? In our experience, there’s a considerable cost ($3,000 to $10,000 per new hire) and loss of time by senior associates to hire and train new CSRs before they’re productive. How can this be improved (number of classes and trainers; develop better training approaches such as e-learning, post-training surveys, length of training)?
4. Evaluate revenue generation. As part of their mission, many contact centers are charged with becoming revenue centers in addition to taking orders and providing customer service. What do your reports show about your success with cross-selling, upselling, outbound selling and increasing the company’s average order?
5. Consider process improvements. What does your quality and call monitoring show about your operation? As you walk through your system and operation, where are the bottlenecks? How can systems be streamlined? What functions and types of information can your system do more easily online? If you’re still processing batches of mail orders, can scanning reduce costs? How can live chat and e-mail management systems improve your operation? Do you need to move to the next level of call-scheduling software?
In the second and final part of this two-part series (to appear in our Jan. 15th edition), I’ll examine how to put together a plan of action to realize the major savings opportunities in your contact center.
Curt Barry is president of F. Curtis Barry & Co., a multichannel operations and fulfillment consulting firm with expertise in multichannel systems, warehouse, call center, inventory and benchmarking. Learn more online at www.fcbco.com.