How Healthy is Your Hotline?

Key takeways to managing your third party call center and optimizing that relationship to the fullest

With more and more public companies engaging third party call centers to “check” the whistleblower program box (as they must), expectations for these call center are exceedingly high, while visibility into the day to day operations of the program remain limited in many cases. How do you understand the inner working of your call center without being there or calling everyday? No one has time for that!

The rise of innovative compliance software has solved a lot of pain points i.e. enabling seamless incident management and reporting, but anonymous hotline services are far from obsolete. Fundamental to the health, success and effectiveness of any whistleblower program is the trusted individuals on the other end of the phone who are critical to the proper (and accurate) intake of sensitive case information to your company. It is key that all call center agents are diligent, ethical, objective and efficient, which is no easy task.

Below are some suggestions in managing your third party call center and optimizing that relationship to the fullest to ensure your employees are confident and comfortable disclosing the information that you need to hear first:

Fundamentals:

  • Multi-language capable call center agents or a reliable third party translation services
  • Fully operational 24/7 providing round-the-clock availability
  • Standardized and objective case intake procedures by setting scripts, talk tracks, helpful resources and standards for any call center agent who works on your account.
  • Defined and routine QA process – Don’t know if or how your third party vendor is managing your agents performance? Try calling and filing a report to see how it is handled and if it leaves you sleeping sound at night. If not, it is time to ask your vendor to start supplying daily and weekly QA reports. This is routine for any call center and they should be able and willing to provide you with a standardized set of reports right away. It is then up to you to go the extra mile to help your vendor create the QA scoring model based on the essentials of your hotline service. Make sure to explicitly layout what behaviors are automatic failures, and what behaviors should be scrutinized most to ensure complete compliance with your standards.

A Few Metrics to Look At:

Call center metrics will prove very beneficial in analyzing the effectiveness of your program on an agent-level, as well as defining very specific service level agreements with vendors. Whether you are looking at the efficiencies behind your staffing schedule, or structuring contracts around the agreement that 80% of all incoming calls will be answered in 20 seconds or less (customers love this), here are some metrics you should request and be familiar with:

  • Call volume and  # of calls abandoned prior to case completion (by hour of the day)
    • Call volume and abandonment rate are very telling to the efficiency of a call center agent as well as their compliance with your intake guidelines. A high abandonment rate can also be indicative of reporters not feeling comfortable with or confident in the call center agent. Hourly trends will help build staffing efficiencies.
  • Average handle time (AHT)
    • In some industries, agents are incentivized on lower AHT levels. For your hotline, this metric is very helpful in understanding how each agent is doing in relation to one another and how efficient your case intake process is over the phone. Upward or downward spikes in this metric should be cause for question—lower AHTs should get you thinking “is all the information we need being obtained?” while a higher AHT may necessitate a restructuring of your intake processes and scripts.
  • QA scores by agent
    • Taking part in the QA scoring model is essential for you to truly understand how your agents are adhering to your direction—are they doing what you want them to be? Standardize the QA process and look at weekly reports to address any issues or concerns with additional resources or training for your agents.

Why it Matters to YOU

Take it from one of the great (if not greatest) business magnates of our time, Warren Buffet, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”

Your company’s hotline service is a reflection of your corporate compliance culture—if you set up a non-threatening intake process where employee engagement is encouraged, you will get those calls, disclosures and cases on your desk before anyone else. In 2014, over $21 billion in judgments was obtained against companies when it was the employees who got the government involved first.

Companies must adopt and implement hotline policies and standards that will reduce the risk of becoming engulfed in expensive and avoidable government actions. You want to prevent misconduct but also provide the appropriate, accessible facets for your employees to let you know of all the happenings of your organization both good and bad.

Consider taking a more active role in your third party hotline’s day-to-day operations. You need to be able to quickly and efficiently gather, manage, resolve and report on all cases coming in—a well-run hotline could save you a lot of time, energy and headaches down the line.

The proof is in the pudding: being the first to know, whether good or bad, can save your company big time in the long run.