Call centers are a natural place to run experiments because all the elements are present to give good experimental results. (For a list of these elements, see Blog Post.) In a typical call center there are potentially hundreds of agents handling many calls per day. Each call can have several quantifiable outcomes related to the objective of interest. For example, the length of each call can be measured if the objective is to improve efficiency. If the objective is to increase revenue, sales per call is measured. Other metrics may include customer satisfaction, return call rate, customer retention, etc.
In some cases several call centers from the same organization will be part of the same experiment which will ensure the results are applicable to all call centers. Industries that use experimentation in call centers include credit card companies, banks, service, retail and online. Experimentation works equally well whether the calls are in-bound or out-bound.
Case Study –Improving Call Center Sales
This organization wanted to improve net sales in their call centers. They had eight call centers where they received calls regarding their credit cards and chose to use three in this improvement effort. In addition to the primary objective of increasing sales they wanted to decrease time on call and improve employee satisfaction since they were experiencing high employee turnover. After conducting a number of brainstorming sessions with customer service representatives (CSRs), team leads and managers the list of ideas was narrowed down to those that were actually tested. The experiment was in three call centers, included hundreds of CSRs, 24 team leads and tested 10 ideas.
The ideas they tested were:
- Sales coach availability (coach was ready to coach after any sales call or not)
- Unit manager monitoring calls (or not)
- Use of lead associates as coaches (instead of dedicated sales coaches)
- Operations manager available on the floor (or not)
- Use of unit managers as coaches
- Increase the time off the phone for call center associates
- Increased training to access customer and product information
- New hire coaching (or not)
- Self-paced training for call center associates (via taped calls, or not)
- Self-paced training for call center associates (via Web, or not)
Five of these factors were identified as improving at least one of the key metrics (increasing sales, decreasing call time, improving employee satisfaction). The increase in net sales was approximately four times what Citibank management had hoped the experiment would achieve and resulted in an additional millions of dollars in sales per year!
In addition to improvement in sales, the implemented factors also had a notable positive impact on employee morale and engagement.