4 expert tips to improve your call centre CX

by Derick Lafleur
09 October 2017
4 expert tips to improve your call centre CX
Nobody wakes up in the morning filled with excitement and unbridled joy at the thought of engaging with a contact centre. Salmat’s Derick Lafleur discusses how to to save your customers from calling you.

In my consultancy role at Salmat, I spend a lot of time performing diagnostic reviews on various contact centre operations. In short, I will immerse myself into a contact centre operation and review it primarily from the customer’s perspective.   

My diagnostic review always starts with – How do we eliminate the need to contact? If we can’t eliminate the need, how do we painlessly automate the process? If we can’t fully automate, how do we ruthlessly minimise the customer’s effort?  

After performing many diagnostic reviews in many centres across many industries, there are consistent and common themes that keep cropping up. Without further ado, here are my top four tips to improve your call centre CX.  

#1 – Do you really know why your customers contact you?  

Most contact centres will record the outcome of a call or the inquiry type. Some of you will have data such as X customers had a sales inquiry, Y customers had a billing inquiry, etc.  However, what was the key driver for the enquiry? Was it a misunderstanding of your sales collateral? The bill itself? A product feature?  

What specifically was missing in your existing collateral and/or the customer’s knowledge of your product or service that resulted in a need for them to contact you? Or, what part of your overall customer journey failed, leading to the contact (eg fulfillment of an order)?  

A clear understanding of the key drivers to your customer contacts will provide the content to your “fix it” roadmap. Fix the key driver so the customer doesn’t need to contact you, everybody wins.

This doesn’t have to be complicated. If you aren’t currently tracking your customer contacts to this granular level, you can consider the following.

You can:

  • Expand your outcomes codes into more specific reasons

  • Deploy a multi-tier approach to tracking key drivers (eg Tier 1 has general categories such as Billing, Sales, Customer Service, Technical Support, then a second list of options appear such as Bill Inquiry, Refund Request, etc.  

  • Expand your quality monitoring processes to include determining the key driver to the contact (if possible)

  • Utilise various technologies such as speech and text analytics to help you uncover the key drivers in the customer’s language

  • Call your customers and ask them directly. What can be done differently or made available to them such that they wouldn’t have had to contact you? Most customers will be more than happy to discuss and value the fact that you want to understand their perspective.  

Armed with this information, you can use tools such as a pareto chart to help you sort the inquiries in order of frequency and effort to resolve, from highest to lowest.  Maximise the return on your “fix it” investment by commencing at the top of the list and work your way down.  

#2 – How do you communicate with your customers? 

A significant percentage of traffic into a contact centre is driven by the organisation itself through poor communication with its customers. Not only is this frustrating and at times concerning for customers, there is an increase in your operating costs.  

To draw an example from my diagnostic archives. One of my clients had made a decision to discontinue one of the services they offered their customers. The client had developed a suitable and comparable replacement for the discontinued service and customers were able to manage the migration themselves through the website, however they were time bound with a cut off date. Straightforward and so far so good.  

The critical and costly mistake was the lack of a clear communication strategy. The client didn’t explain the reason for the change and instead focused solely on the cut off date. The absence of the context of the change, coupled with a looming service cut-off date, led customers to flood the business’ contact centre, worried that there was a problem with their account.

Let me explore another example.

A few weeks ago, I had an incident occur with my personal bank. Out of the blue, I received a text message advising that my replacement card was on its way and a reminder that I can activate it through my smartphone app. I hadn’t requested a replacement card, so I felt a sense of dread that someone had hacked my account. I dropped everything and immediately called my bank where I was informed that due to my loyalty, they had decided to proactively upgrade my card at no cost.  

What was seen as a proactive action by the bank to deepen their relationship with me, instead resulted in an unnecessary phone call and concern from a loyal customer. As of writing this blog, I have yet to activate this new card.  

So, go ahead and audit the way you communicate with your customers:

What is the purpose of your message?

Are you looking to influence a particular action or is your message purely informational? If it’s the latter, let the customer know that. In the absence of any clear understanding of this, some customers will draw the conclusion that there is something they must do, leading to confusion and wasted effort and time.

Is it the right channel?

The purpose/content of the message and any associated timeframe are the key drivers when deciding which channel to use when communicating with your customer. For example, if you need to remind or provide an update on a service appointment later that day, use SMS instead of email. 

What action, if any, needs to happen? 

Be specific. If you want them to sign up on your website, say so. Don’t tell them to “Contact us for more details”. 

Have you included your contact centre leaders in the development of your communication strategy?

In my experience, this rarely happens. Typically, the contact centre will receive a “heads up” about a piece of communication after the fact. Your contact centre leaders talk to your customers every day and will be invaluable in helping you develop and deploy an effective communication strategy. 

Should you communicate?

Are there any moments in your customer journey where a new proactive communication will preemptively provide customers a key piece of information that will eliminate the need for them to contact? Consider using a low cost channel such as SMS or email for proactive communications like these, so as to avoid your customer making a more expensive and unplanned phone call or visit to a bricks and mortar location. 

Do you set clear expectations?

Many unnecessary contacts are driven by expectations that are not met, even perceived ones. How many times does your centre receive a contact from a customer, asking for an update before the quoted timeframe has expired? Let’s say you have a policy whereby you advise customers that an action will take “7 to 10 business days”.

First, the customer will typically only remember “7 days”. Second, after 4-5 days the customer may recall the 7 day part, but likely forget when the “clock” on the 7 days started ticking. So, instead of “7 to 10 business days”, settle on 10 business days, and translate this into a specific date (eg you will receive your order by 10th November). Then, about halfway through the timeline, send a brief SMS confirming everything is on track for “10th November”.

#3 – Some processes can’t be killed with conventional weapons

All processes and procedures have a natural evolutionary lifecycle. Something happens somewhere in your business driving the creation of a new process and its ongoing evolution over time (which usually yields more steps, not less). Often the original reason for a process is no longer there, but due to changes in personnel and roles within your organisation, the process lives on and on and on. A waste of time for your customers (poor experience) and employees  creates unnecessary complexity and cost.  

In my experience, I have uncovered “no-longer-relevant” processes (and individual steps within these processes) in 100% of the contact centres I have reviewed. This is a fact of life in all operational centres. Once my diagnostic has uncovered a process, I will (a) ask “Why?” the process is needed in the first place, and (b) ask “Why?” for each step within the process. I will continue to ask “Why?” until I am either satisfied that a process/step is indeed required or I have successfully identified a candidate for a process/step lobotomy.  

You should strongly consider an ongoing programme of reviewing your key processes. It doesn’t need to be complicated. 

The key elements to consider are:

  • Assign an Owner – Ensure you assign this task to a specific owner. I highly recommend that this owner not have any involvement in the day-to-day execution of the processes under review. This will ensure that their review is not adversely impacted by “being too close to the process”.  

  • Maximise your return – Sort your inquiry types/processes by workload (volume x time), from highest workload to lowest. Start at the top and work your way down the list. 

  • Must have vs nice to have – It is crucial to understand the difference between a must-have versus a nice-to-have. Another way to help you understand the importance of a step or process, is to simply ask yourself, “What happens if we don’t do this process or collect these data points?”  

  • Set a target – Determine the number of processes you will review each month/quarter.   

  • Invest in change – Ensure the output of your review has the necessary support and resources to implement the agreed recommendations.

#4 – You're asking your customers to do what?

The aggregate result of the above should lead to reducing the number of contacts into your centre, which then leads me to the final point. For contacts that must be managed by your contact centre personnel, what effort do you require and demand from your customers?
Another example from my diagnostic archives. A specific client had a procedure related to the aggregation of multiple services onto one “master” account. In most cases, customers had all the information they needed during the initial call. The written policy was to advise the customer to step through the following actions:


  • Go to the website and find form titled “Form A” 

  • Download and print Form A

  • Fill in all the required details and sign it 

  • Scan and email the form back.  

  • Someone will then call the customer to advise that the form was received and the requested action completed

A suggested improvement to this process; send the customer a link via SMS with a pre-filled form and the customer can fill in the missing details. The alternative is if the customer has all the details at the time of the call, complete the process. If you “need” a signature (nice to have), substitute that instead with a voice signature. 

Through some effective communication methods, not only can organisations reduce operational cost, the customer experience is far superior with less effort.  

The key point with all of this is, if you are unable to eliminate a customer contact, be as creative as you can in minimising any effort from your customer.  

So there you have it, my top four tips:

  • #1 Understand why your customers contacted you, and fix it!
  • #2 Think carefully about how you communicate with your customers.
  • #3 Take no prisoners with your processes.  
  • #4 Minimise the effort required from your customers.  

Find out more about Salmat’s contact centre offering here or call us on 1300 725 628.

About the author
Derick Lafleur
Business Consultant – Salmat

Derick Lafleur has 20 plus years of experience in the contact centre industry across Australia and Canada. Starting as an outbound collections agent, Derick's career has progressed through various leadership roles in workforce planning, reporting and analytics, solution design, client relationship management, and commercial and contractual negotiations. As a Business Consultant within Salmat's Group Solutions Team, Derick is focused on assisting organizations in driving improvements in contact centre efficiencies and the customer experience.

More articles by Derick Lafleur