wikiHow to Optimize Call Center Performance

Two Parts:Enhancing PerformanceCreating a Quality Technical Environment

The primary keys to performance in a call center are training and motivation. The metrics, however, are the determining factors of success. Answering a specified percentage of calls in a set number of seconds and percentage of abandoned calls are common measures used in Service Level Objectives and Service Level Agreements (SLOs are expectations; SLAs are contracted requirements). The caller satisfaction survey (AKA customer satisfaction survey) is another common metric.

The challenge facing the business is to keep callers satisfied while minimizing call duration; effectively helping the customer and getting them off the phone quickly is a difficult balancing act. Here are some steps you can take to help improve overall performance.

Part 1
Enhancing Performance

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    Measure. Information is critical. Keep a thorough database of every call, when it arrived, how long it took to answer, how long it lasted, who answered it, how many times it was transferred and to whom, and (very important) the category of the call. It is also vital to score and measure performance on calls. Too many call centers are obsessed with productivity metrics and don't focus on how their agents actually perform on the phone. This is bad. Use a tool that scores calls like LogMyCalls or HyperQuality.
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    Categorize the calls appropriately. There will always be some kind of “miscellaneous” bucket in the database for calls that don’t fall into one of the predetermined categories. Make sure the Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) make good notes on all calls, but especially the miscellaneous ones; you’ll use these notes to determine if new categories need to be created. Remember that calls in different categories will take differing amounts of time to handle.
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    Use skill-based routing. As your categories develop, you can route different types of calls to the CSR pool most adequately trained to handle them. This will reduce the amount of time needed to handle individual calls. Depending on the size of your call center you might have anywhere from a few to a few dozen different staff categories (many people will be cross-trained in multiple categories).
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    Roster staff based on volume. This is stating the obvious, but you will typically use a combination of Call Volume, Call Duration, Time-to-Answer and SLO Percentage to estimate the staff you need at any given hour.
    • An Erlang-C calculator is an excellent tool to help determine how many staff you need based on volume, duration and SLO (Erlang-B calculators are used to determine how many incoming trunks you need).
    • The results can also be used to predict abandon time and percentages.
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    Monitor, record and review. You absolutely must have staff that reviews recorded conversations. Those people are process improvement specialists that help identify what went right and what could be improved on the calls. The work product is a list of training improvements that will help the CSRs serve the callers better and faster.
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    Update training. Keep your CSRs trained. One training session before they start is just not enough. The CSRs need to be regularly trained on the improvements developed by the process improvement specialists. One or two days of training each quarter is a reasonable place to start, to keep training new and interesting.
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    Display call status prominently. There is some data to indicate that when the call statistics displayed so the CSRs can see them, performance spontaneously improves. The rationale behind this is the human psychological desire to compete and win. People feel naturally rewarded when their game improves. There are many vendors that sell light boards that will interface with your systems.

Part 2
Creating a Quality Technical Environment

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    Ensure that the call center is able to handle large amount of simultaneous calls. In bigger call centers, hundreds of clients can call simultaneously. Therefore, it is important that the calls be queued and while the call is on hold, play a relaxing music.
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    Ensure an ability to transfer and forward calls. There are cases when the agent is not able to resolve the customer’s problem and then the agent has to be able to forward the call to a technician.
    • Call center software is good if it is able to handle a large amount of simultaneous calls as well as containing functions essential for the agent’s work, such as call queue, hold, transfer, call recording, IVR menu and e-mail handling.
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    Get a response menu. Every bigger call center has an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu that removes a lot of strain from the agents, because it helps the customers with basic services, usually with their account transactions or they can get their billing information.
    • Call centers have many functions that make the everyday life of their agents easier, such as auto dialer applications and the screen pops with useful information.
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    Keep in contact with customers. This means not only by phone but by e-mail and fax too.


  • Make the environment comfortable. If people share workstations, it’s harder for them to feel “at home” but if people can put a few personal possessions in their space it will improve their feelings of loyalty. Likewise don’t skimp on lighting or technology. Glare-resistant screens are a must as are comfortable headsets.
  • Operations managers are analysts. This person needs to be trained on the newest call center techniques and theories on a regular basis. This will be the staff member that makes the call about how many people you need at 2:17 AM on Sundays. Make sure they are always on the cutting edge of analysis theory and have the best tools available.
  • Reward process improvement specialists. These people keep your operation running lean and strong. Your profit increases significantly when even one second is cut from the average call time. Keep them happy and they’ll make you money.
  • Reward CSR performance. The industry fact is that CSRs, typically, are not highly compensated so monetary performance rewards are very often a strong motivator. You might reward everyone when the overall statistics are better than some specified norm, and you might additionally reward the top 10% of the performers. Make sure the call categorization is taken into account since different call categories will necessitate different metrics.


  • A sensitive HR department is… the answer is “good and bad.” Yes you need to be sensitive to the people that work for you (they have lives, responsibilities and feelings) but predictable attendance is incredibly critical in a call center. Three strikes and you’re out may seem harsh, but if people don’t show up on time or take unscheduled breaks you can’t staff to predictions. Be fair but strict.
  • Don't assume a steady state. Just because you've predicted call volume, duration and staffing correctly for the first two weeks of the month doesn't mean the same numbers will hold true for the last two weeks - or for next month - or next quarter. Staffing predictions are incredibly variable based on a large number of factors. As your historical database grows, so will the precision of your predictions.
  • Manage your SLAs. Don’t jump at just any contract; if the terms aren’t favorable then move on. If a company wants you as their outsource contractor, but wants you to answer 99% of all calls within 15 seconds (that’s one incredibly tough objective), you need to look closely at their previous data to make sure you can satisfy the contract.

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Categories: Phone Skills