Certifying the New ITES Economy

Call Centres have a well-deserved reputation in the training world. Between the average attrition rates among call centres, 80% of HR Managers globally expressed their need for training updates. Call centers are almost as busy training as they are serving customers. A combination of ITES Market growth & higher business profile in this fast economy is making Call Center Training a very challenging business.

Though older than the Internet & E-commerce, call centers are still a relatively recent invention in modern India.

Today globally the United States & Canada are home to 1,40,000 call centres-also referred as customer-care centers, contact centers, support centers, customer contact zones & multimedia access points. Los-Angeles based Call Center news Services estimates that around 20,000-30,000 call centers exist in Europe & Asia many serving North American companies as outsourcers of operations.

US Call Centers employ between 1.5 % to 2% of working population or upwards of 2.5 million people, according to Call Center Management Review. Together they handled 9 Billion customer contacts in 2001m and according to Telemarketing magazine accounted for more than $700 Billion in annual product & service sales in the United States alone.

And the jobs just keeps getting bigger & bigger. Overall contacts are expected to increase to such as degree that the current number of agents worldwide need to double by the end of this year. Call centers capacity worldwide will nearly double within 5 years growing from 7.3 million seats in 2001 to more than 13 million in 2006. E-mail received by call centers may increase by 1000% by end of 2003 from 1999 levels according to Datamonitor survey of contact center managers.

Re-Think Call Center Training.

Tremendous growth in the call center industry also brings a number of challenges., & Training Companies feel that Certified Call Center Education can decrease operational level understanding between senior management and call center execs, who feel call centers as merely” telemarketing team” or cost centers”

Referring to a recent study conducted by IDC that in 2001 US call centers purchased $415 million worth of training from external vendors. That figure will rise to nearly 1 Billion by 2006!!!

An industry study also conducted by Deloitte & Touché found that of call centers surveyed 84% reported instructor -led, classroom training is the primary delivery methodology. Only 3 % use some form of computer-based training.

The challenge comes in training news CSR`s to do an increasingly complicated job faster & better. On a normal day a call center agent can be required to handle 100-150 phone calls, that require assistance, and every time transaction is timed, logged & followed up. On top of that Call center agents are required to adjust to rapid changes in products & services and to be proficient in the skills of multiple-channel communication environment.

However today with various certifications available in call center domain, HR managers in the US have taken it in their operational framework.

Considerably as whole ITES bandwagon had recently made an entry in India, it’s up to the senior management & HR team to wake up & take call in implementing training Certified Curriculam.

So what exactly do new employees need to learn about the call center?

I asked agents and supervisors alike what the missing pieces were and below is their “Top 5” list. How many of these areas are you covering in your own training program?

  1. The Profession and the Industry How many of your staff understand the world of call centers? It’s important for them to understand the vital role your own call center plays in the organization, as well as the bigger picture of call centers everywhere. A customer support executive should understand that this is more than “just answering the phones”, but a mission-critical part of businesses everywhere – a bona fide profession, not just an in-between stop on the way to a “real” job.

    Include information about industry demographics (types and sizes of centers, as well as the numbers of folks that work in the profession). And make them aware of the career opportunities and professional development options available to them in this industry. This type of awareness will help your retention efforts in the long run, as well as increase job satisfaction in the short term.

  2. Performance Measurement Do your staff understand what you’re measuring every day in terms of the call center’s overall performance as well as individual performance? It’s useful for them to understand what the call center’s performance goals are in terms of service and efficiency (and perhaps revenue) in support of the company’s overall objectives. Perhaps the center gathers marketing data and focuses on customer input for future product and service offerings. Rachel should understand how these call center operational goals then translate down into measures of her own performance.

    Include training on performance measures; with particular emphasis on all the items an agent will be measured on and why. Every person should understand how his/her performance will be evaluated and understand what they can do to affect those numbers and scores.

  3. Workforce Management Do your staff understand why management is so obsessed with everyone being in their seat and adhering to their work schedule? It’s critical for them to understand the basics of the workforce management process and the impact on service and cost of getting the “just right” number of people in place to handle the calls. A CSE should understand the effect on service he/she has if he/she’s not available when scheduled and what that also means in terms of how busy co-workers will be.

    Include training on how the forecasting and scheduling process works in your center. Every person should understand how workforce schedules are created, and the impact that just one person can make on service and cost.

  4. Call Center Technology Do your staff understand how the calls they’re taking right now arrived at their desktop and what the customer has experienced to the point at which live conversation begins? It’s helpful for them to understand the overall concept of how a call or contact arrives at their workstation, as well as what technologies enable them to handle calls more effectively once they arrive. A CSE should understand what customers experience in terms of IVR self-service or sitting in the ACD queue before picking up the call. A CSE should fully understand the capabilities of all the technology at her disposal in terms of terms of handling each call (such as CTI or contact management systems).

    Include training on how a contact gets from the customer to the desktop, and what the communications process is like for customers. Every person should understand what technologies are available to them in handling the call more efficiently, as well as have a basic understanding of the other technologies at work “behind the scenes” in the call center in terms of workforce management system, quality monitoring, workflow management, and more.

  5. Customer Relationships Do your staff understands the value of each and every customer call? While we’re not suggesting they whip out a calculator on every call, it is important for front-line staff to understand the concept of lifetime customer value so the proper emphasis on service is placed. Rachel should understand that while one single call might not seem that important, when the average value is multiplied over a “lifetime” of calls, every interaction can be significant in customer retention.

Including training on lifetime customer value and the critical role that each agent plays in customer retention and the bottom line, and if you have a CRM strategy and CRM technologies in place, it’s important to help the front line staff understand how that strategy affects them in handling contacts.

Including these five components in your front-line staff’s orientation program will go a long way in equipping them with the knowledge to better understand the context in which their role is performed.

Amit Nayak
ITESGrads India

October 2003

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