Call Volume, Call Centers and Boulders
We all remember dreading making that call to fix something over the phone. From dialing, then speaking to an automated system machine, then waiting "on hold" for an undetermined amount of time listening to irritating recorded music, finally we speak to a live customer service person.
This place here, the people place, is where companies consistently gamble.
The gamble? As a customer, we never know who will answer our call. The company representative might be professional and know the ins and outs of the system to serve our needs or the person answering the phone may not have much understanding and be simply a front end call center employee. The representative might take action to find the answer or may simply placate us with the intention of ending the phone call.
Here's what companies miss. If we don't have our problem solved - we call back. The only difference, we call back with an increased likelihood of frustration and reduced tolerance for "letting things go."
The answer? Do not stop a boulder rolling down the hill from the middle. Stop the boulder from rolling in the first place. Enter, first call resolution.
First call resolution: solving the problem on the first call. "Solving the problem" does not involve knowing the answer to everything. It means making sure that the customer feels heard, and setting the customer's expectations in regards to both how and when resolution will take place.
After giving a time frame for solution, then commit to meeting the customer's expectation.
What happens when a customer repeatedly calls about the same issue? This scenario presents a fantastic opportunity to introduce a consistent process to pre-emptively solve the problem. When a company prevents a problem, it prevents the numerous calls triggered to solve the problem, i.e. less call volume!
Clear logic, but why do companies not execute such a simple solution? Process. Companies do not consider the impact of their decisions as they relate to customer facing process.
One of my clients owns a concrete pouring business. My role was to assess the causes preventing several concerns: scalability, bandwidth constraints and profitability. We reviewed bandwidth allocation for key resources, revenue impact of common problems and the customer facing process driven by the buyer’s journey.
While I identified several areas of improvement with easy, rapid implementation, one particular area remained critical – a 30% error rate on job completion. This problem resulted in several concerns:
- A return visit to fix the mistakes
- An extra cost in materials
- A loss in potential productive time of human resources
- A delay in subsequent projects
I discovered that my client hired untrained, unskilled laborers for $10/hour. They were making many mistakes as would be expected with their inexperience. The cost of saving money on labor resulted in an increase in both material and ironically, overall labor costs.
So I had a crazy idea.
I told him to increase his labor costs to reduce his business costs. I walked him through the rationale and he hired a laborer at $15/hour.
Guess what happened?
By increasing his labor costs, the error rate on concrete jobs decreased from 30% to 8%. So an increase in initial labor costs resulted in a reduction in both material and overall labor costs.
Now replace concrete with call volume and overall labor costs with subsequent calls.
Boulders. They all roll the same downhill and all are easier to stop before they start to move.