Managing Call Centres : A Logical Approach

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Easy customer accessibility to an organization always becomes an issue when the organization grows up in complexity, in terms of geographic spread, organization structure, products and processes. Call centres have been successful in providing easy accessibility amidst the complexities of an organization. (Often with single, easy to remember contact number to contact the organization) Today numerous call centres have been set up to transact, provide transaction updates, act as help lines, answer product related queries, and even handle grievances.

So, organizations have solved one of the greatest problems faced by their customers. Their job seems to be over. Is it?

Customers have always been a demanding and greedy lot; their needs never seem to be satiated. When their existing needs are met, they move to the next hierarchy of needs and the journey never seems to end. If we do a survey of these evolved customers (exposed to call centres) they would waste no time in bitching and moaning. The list would read as follows:

  • I have to wait too long. Nobody seems to pick up the phone fast enough… They put me on-hold for long durations
  • Call moves from one agent to another and so on and at every stop I have to repeat my story.
  • At times, when I want to talk to someone, all I get to hear is an automated message

Call agent does not address my problems satisfactorily, he/she tends to just register my call, rather than redress my problem.

On the other hand, call centre operations seem to have their own list of issues and problems, which would read like:

  • High turnover of call agents. Most call agents complain about the boring, repetitive nature of work
  • Complaints of burnout and emotional stress by agents.
  • Ever increasing queue of calls waiting, thus requiring more call agents.
  • High pressure to maximize productivity and efficiency
  • How to motivate call agents
  • The agent requirement seems to be ever increasing

Although most of the call centres were established with the objective of improving customer’s experience with the organization, the primary focus of most call centre managers has been cost efficiency and productivity. Controlling the number of agents (i.e. maximizing agents efficiency) is the top priority for call centres because it is the single biggest operating cost item. (Direct salary cost, the cost of infrastructure (workstation, connectivity, PC, facilities etc. are directly related to the number of call agents) On the other hand, to improve customer satisfaction, the call centres should ensure that a customer doesn’t wait long before his or her call gets answered and that the agents are able to understand and meet customer expectations satisfactorily. This would require deploying more call agents so that the overall call queue length is shorter and the customer gets adequate response to his call.

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