Your set of call center Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) contains standards for carrying out day-to-day activities. Documenting call center business processes is a good idea in any high-performing business, and it can help single departments run more efficiently. Why are call center standard operating procedures important?
The Importance of Standard Operating Procedures in a Call Center
If you’re trying to improve your business’s call center, you’re upgrading your IT and investing in the best small business phone systems. But without well-trained staff and solid internal processes, your efforts could go to waste.
The market for call center software grew to $28.09 billion in 2022, up from $23.9 billion in 2021. There’s a big advantage for call centers that are ready to improve the way they work every year. With that in mind, let’s go over what a set of standard operating procedures really is, and how you can go about writing one for your call center.
By setting standard operating procedures, your staff will always know what to do in a given situation. That helps individual workers, and it’ll help the whole department run in a consistent way even in a remote cloud call center.
Your standard operating procedures will cover areas like staffing, best practices for time management, setting clear KPIs, and staying compliant with any regulations affecting your business.
Maintain Quality Service
Maintaining a quality service is essential to improving your CSAT measure (customer satisfaction score). Your call center standard operating procedures should set clear KPIs (key performance indicators) for the call center team to aim at improving, such as the first-call resolution rate or the resolution time.
You can also specify minimum standards of quality, such as not keeping a customer on hold for more than five minutes total. On a busy day, this helps agents prioritize what they need to focus on in any given situation.
Specifying your procedures in an employee handbook or in an ever-evolving digital knowledge base gives agents something to refer to when they’re not sure what to do. This helps them work faster and more autonomously, as they’re not waiting around for a busy manager to be available to help them. That’s essential when there’s a customer on the line who needs their problem solved quickly.
You can’t maintain a consistent quality without maintaining consistency in the first place. Like a company migrating applications to the cloud, you make your service more consistent by moving all your procedures into one online location where they’re always available.
This is even more important in a call center, where customers might be dealing with several agents over the course of resolving their problem, or even one call. If one call center agent gives them one answer and another gives them a different answer, that’s going to worsen an already stressful situation for the already potentially stressed customer. When one bad experience can lose you a customer, it’s important all your agents have access to the same information.
Not only do your standard operating procedures contain information, but they also contain procedures. If you make a change to the one procedure document, you’ve made an improvement to every customer service call that’s affected by that process. This is even more of a benefit to your business when that process is handling a critical issue, like a faulty product or a failed delivery.
If you have a marketing team they’ll know all about measuring performance. From getting ROI on ads to setting up affiliate marketing strategies for beginners, they’re tracking data every day to figure out what works.
Your team should have KPIs to help move in the right direction, but you should be tracking metrics on individuals. This will enable data-driven performance reviews that help both agents and their managers. If the agent and their supervisor aren’t on the same page, the performance review can be a waste of time.
It’s critical to define the expectations and structure that will be used by managers or supervisors to evaluate the agent’s performance. It also gives agents a clear picture of performance indicators and how they’ll be evaluated. This clarity is essential for developing agents, increasing productivity, and rewarding good performance.
Every firm has staff who are familiar with all policies and procedures. Without call center standard operating procedures, new hires have to rely on busy colleagues and managers for every question or concern. This slows down everyone in the team and leads to worse service for customers.
To avoid such scenarios and to ensure that each agent is responsible for their tasks, provide them with all the assistance they require. When agents spend less time finding out how things are done, they have more time to focus on the tasks at hand. If agents have information like a quick guide to negotiating, they’ll be able to work much more autonomously.
In your call center, feeding the answers to common issues into your standard procedures document enables you to speed up training and reduce the long-term cost of new hires. Not only can you grow your call center faster, but you can also start up whole new branches and quickly get them working exactly as the established office is.
The standard procedures document also establishes a chain of command: who’s responsible for what, and who to talk to about a problem. This ensures that your team knows who to contact for any review or special approvals.
When everyone on the team is on the same page, there are fewer misunderstandings and you can scale fast without a reduction in quality. As with any other documented business process, standard procedures can also open the door for automations that reduce human error and lighten your team’s daily workload.
Writing Your Call Center Standard Operating Procedure Document
Now that you know what the document is, here are a few best practices and some areas you should make sure to cover.
Upper management’s policies can cause problems if they don’t properly communicate with employees. A supervisor, for example, may not realize that different calls require different after-work call time (ACWT). This is why you need feedback from agents to account for factors you might not be aware of, or to add more edge-cases and caveats into your standard procedures.
Agents will be more likely to follow a guideline if the value is properly explained. Use examples relevant to their situation to explain why the procedures exist and what the positive outcomes for them are.
The standard procedure document should cover administrative policies from hiring to vacations, performance reviews, absence and holiday policy, and notice periods. This way, your employees will understand what they’re intended to do and there will be no confusion.
If you’re investing in new software and hardware, you’re wasting money if you’re not properly training staff to use it. Your standard procedures document should include everything staff need to know about how to operate software and hardware, like how to set up automatic call distribution or how to add a signature in Word.
You should review the document regularly to make sure new software or updates are accounted for. As with other processes, your agents should be able to learn how to use the tools without having to ask a manager or colleague. This is an even more important issue if you have new remote colleagues, who are using software tools for every single interaction with your company and customers.
Quality of Service
Including needed performance standards in your standard procedure document will help agents ensure they’re meeting the standards. Common KPIs you might track for your call center could be:
- Call abandonment rate: the percentage of callers who hang up before being connected to an agent.
- Average handle time: shows how long an agent spends on a call on average.
- CSAT (Client Satisfaction Score): Overall customer satisfaction level
- Average time in queue: The amount of time callers wait for their call to connect.
- Average hold time: The average amount of time a consumer is placed on hold by an agent.
Agents in call centers have to be trained regularly. This might be part of learning and development or part of an annual assessment. Your standard procedure document is for managers as much as employees, and should specify your policies around training. These exercises can include:
- Role-playing exercises over the phone.
- Improved call-handling methods with new hardware and software.
- One-on-one coaching sessions, virtual group sessions, and team-building events.
Importance of Call Center Standard Operating Procedures
A standard operating procedure document is the first step to turning a good call center into a great one. By standardizing the things you’re doing right, you can prevent things from going wrong and make sure agents are delivering great service every time.
Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications and voice transcription platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Jessica has also written for other domains such as Neal Schaffer and Codeless. Here is her LinkedIn.