In our last post, we laid out (and debunked) some of the most common misconceptions about outsourced call centers. Here we want to talk about what’s necessary to ensure that a call center is positioned for success—within the compliance arena, a hotline provides the most value to a company when employees actually use it to file complete and detailed reports so that the compliance/legal/HR teams can effectively be alerted to, investigate and resolve issues.
Being steeped in the hotline business since 1999, and retaining 96% of our customers year over year, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to maximize the utility and return on investment for our hotline customers. Ultimately, what you’ll notice is that each of these considerations is a means to a single, critical end: a reliable and exceptional caller experience.
What is a hotline and why does the caller experience matter? When you focus on the experience for your reporting parties, it’s because you understand and are demonstrating the critical nature of what you’re asking them to do: proactively come to you with sensitive, potentially damaging, information. It’s paramount, then, that they’re made to feel comfortable and secure doing so, in a way that’s not overly cumbersome or threatening, to increase the likelihood that they’ll (1) follow through with report completion; (2) provide as many details as possible to make investigating and resolving the issue easier; and (3) disclose their information—electing not to remain anonymous.
Here are 10 keys to a high-performing call center:
- 24/7/365 Service
Seems like a no-brainer, but around-the-clock accessibility is critical to a hotline’s success and the confidence it instills from employees and regulators.
One of the primary benefits of a third party hotline is indeed that it’s “removed” from a company. Not only will your employees see it as more objective and secure, but you can rest assured knowing that agents have no business or personal conflicts of interest. We fortify that objectivity even further by using a third party for our call center—giving our customers two layers of protection from concerns about fairness or conflicts.
- Dedicated Agents
Whether your agents work directly for your company or you contract them through a third party, having agents solely dedicated to your company ensures a wholly consistent hotline experience backed by a bedrock of trained, knowledgeable agents who understand the company, the nature of the calls coming in, and the best and most efficient ways to document calls.
- Proven Call Center Success
Call centers are high-turnover, demanding operations that require significant management and financial resources. Done right, compliance teams have an opportunity to save money while ensuring quality handling when the management of those operations are deferred to expert call center companies. For example, our call center partner, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, draws on a population rich with agent experience as Sioux Falls is home to call centers for brands like Citi, Wells Fargo, Esurance and Cigna. As a result, they’re able to hire, train and put in place experienced agents—assuring SLAs are consistently met—within days of client requests.
- Agent, Not Industry, Experience
At the end of the day, an agent’s goal is to transcribe the issue exactly as the caller reports it, in the most efficient way possible. Compliance teams are better served, then, to have agents seasoned in call handling over agents with compliance industry experience so agents don’t “lead the witness” and your team sees issues exactly as they’re reported.
- Time to Report
You want to let reporting parties tell you what happened as soon as possible. Delaying that with long hold times or drawn out legal terms and conditions can make them clam up, withholding important details, or abandon the call altogether.
- International Accessibility
Time to report is also an important consideration for your multinational employees. Do they have a number for the country they’re based in? How long do they have to hold for an interpreter? And how quickly do they hear someone speaking in their native language? Again, these are important considerations when trying to make your employees feel comfortable and ensuring they’ll make complete, detailed reports.
- Quality of Service
One of the biggest complaints about call centers as a whole is the lack of professionalism or care taken on the call. This can be remedied with rigorous, hands-on training that involves role playing and stringent, frequent performance reviews. Our call center, for example, evaluates and incentivizes their agents through the quality of each call, not the volume of calls handled. In addition, they’re monitored by their managers five times a month to ensure high quality.
- Flexibility with Call Volume
You want to ensure that when you push out a campaign promoting the hotline, and volume surges, you’re able to handle calls with the same expediency as normal volume times. Conversely, you don’t want to staff (and pay for) agents with nothing to do in low volume times. We’ve found outsourcing call center operations particularly effective for fast ramp times and cost savings when the volume isn’t there.
- Performance with the Right Metrics
In addition to individual agent quality evaluation, we frequently evaluate on the whole how quickly calls are answered, how long international employees hold for a translator, the percentage of calls abandoned and average talk time. Any fluctuations or shortcomings in these areas point to changes in the caller experience that needs to be looked at more closely.
Convercent outsources the management of our hotline—a purposeful, strategic decision that our customers benefit enormously from. We defer this work to proven experts in call center operations. As a direct result, Convercent’s call center goes beyond standard service level agreements (SLAs) for call handling, performance and professionalism. Our seasoned call center experts boast low turnover rates; rigorous training and reviews that yield the industry’s best call quality and handling metrics; and an unmatched ability to scale quickly. In short: Our call center arms our customers with the flexibility they may not yet know they need and an exceptional caller-centric experience they may not yet realize they’ve been missing.
The data from customers we’ve migrated over from legacy providers certainly supports that narrative: the increase in call quantity and quality, low abandon rates and high return rates to check report statuses mean they have more (and better!) information around the incidents that are occurring within their companies.
And that’s why we got in this business: because we understand, and see the difference, that a user-focused experience has on the compliance function.