The key to better managing your contact center

There’s an effective, impactful behavior that can help transform your contact center

by Mike Rajich, Director of Product management, AT&T Contact Centers and Enterprise Routing

Managing a contact center has to rank among the most challenging jobs in the business world. You’re overseeing an environment that’s diverse in virtually every sense — diverse customer and client wants and needs, a diverse and sometimes globally dispersed workforce, and diverse goals and expectations set by your company.

Is there any way to make your job easier? I recently put that question to Ted Cart, AT&T consulting practice director.

Mike Rajich: If you could give contact center managers one piece of advice that would help them manage in such a diverse environment, what would that be?

Ted Cart: In a word, communicate. Communicate effectively and continually with all your audiences — your customers, agents, the business leaders and managers. Communication is key to the success of any company, but especially to a contact center.

Your job is communication — in more ways than one. Yes, your agents must be able to communicate well with customers and clients. And as their manager, you’re responsible for keeping them up to date on issues that affect their jobs.

You also must keep stakeholders and your staff aware of changes in policies, procedures and tools. You must make sure agents know about any changes that will affect customers — changes in contact-center hours, for example — and communicate those to callers.

Here’s why communication is so important:   

  • Communication with the customer and team members is crucial to the success of a project – whether the project is diverse geographically or technologically.   
  • Building trust with the stakeholders through communication and transparency will lead to a high-trust relationship.     
  • This will speed execution and lower costs for the project overall with the added dividends of increased collaboration, partnering and loyalty amongst team members.

MR: Let’s talk about the impact of effective communication in terms of each audience. Start with the customers or clients.

TC: How well you communicate with customers obviously can make or break the company. Customers will take their business elsewhere based on their experience. Smart companies improve loyalty through care, historically by voice, but other elements are becoming just as important now.

Effective communication with customers goes beyond being polite when you take their calls. It includes interacting and transacting seamlessly across every channel customers use — phone, chat, video, social media.

This is where an omnichannel approach is especially helpful, since it helps ensure your agents have all the information from a customer contact, no matter what channel was used or whether the customer switched channels during the contact. Customers expect the contact center to know that they just did something via the web, then called in.

MR: What about communicating with stakeholders? Of course they’ll want to be kept updated on results and such. But do you need to loop them in on anything else?

TC: With all their day-to-day responsibilities, it’s too easy for business leaders to overlook the contact center, or assume that it’s just a customer complaint center. Let them know how much more you do by engaging with them frequently.

In addition to any regular required reports, keep your stakeholders apprised of projects, accomplishments and even challenges in the contact center. This helps build trust between you and the business, and it demonstrates your value to the company.

Also important: Be proactive. Don’t wait for executives to ask for information. Tout your best employees and their accomplishments. When you implement a new tool that improves customer service or you reach an important milestone, let the higher-ups know. If an agent solves a high-profile customer issue, blast it out.

MR: Speaking of agents, contact center managers obviously need to keep representatives updated on new policies, procedures and other internal matters. But how can you communicate effectively with people who are constantly on the phone or engaging customers online?

TC: Good communication with your team is absolutely vital. Beyond letting them know about changes and company news, open communications can help boost morale. It helps agents feel that they are part of the team, and an important part of the company.

There are a number of ways to communicate with your team. Short meetings before or after a shift are a good way to convey news or developments they need to know immediately—new procedures that could impact how they handle customer calls, for instance. You can also send out email blasts, post news on internal websites, or use internal social media vehicles.

Not sure of the best way to communicate with your reps? Ask them what method they prefer.

As with communications to your stakeholders, don’t limit yourself to conveying official corporate news or business results to your reps. Put the spotlight on agents who have done a great job. Do a round-up newsletter of news from agents themselves — birthdays and anniversaries, graduations, and other milestones. Keep them current on projects going on in the contact center and the company overall.

MR: Any final thoughts on communication?

TC: It's important to acknowledge that effective communication requires more than talking. It also requires listening. Learn to be a good listener. Hear the other person out, whether that other person is a customer describing a problem, a business leader wanting more information about operations, or an agent who has an idea for a new tool. Solicit opinions from others, including your agents.

Communication is one of the most powerful tools you have in the contact center. Use it to make customers happy, but also learn to use it to make the business stronger.

The takeaway

It’s important to have the proper tools and solutions to help make communications easier, whether you’re helping customers or developing reports for internal audiences.

AT&T has a broad portfolio of solutions and consulting services to help you efficiently connect with people inside and outside your company. Our contact-center architects, data scientists and customer-experience analysts draw on their industry-leading expertise to help you:   

  • Assess your overall contact center strategy   
  • Get valuable insight into when, why and how often your agents initiate sessions from each channel   
  • Save money by identifying tools that can help you communicate effectively   
  • Identify issues that might affect the quality of your interactions

AT&T’s consulting services draw upon the company’s extensive experience in contact-center solutions, including:   

  • More than 30 years offering 800/toll free and advanced feature services   
  • More than 20 years providing contact center premises- and cloud-based solutions   
  • More than 15 years supplying managed interactive voice response services   
  • Partnerships with other leading solution providers   
  • More than a decade of experience as a technology leader in developing IoT solutions.

Find out more about contact center solutions and services that can help you meet the challenges of managing a diverse contact-center environment.