According to reports, the global market value of call centers will reach $496 billion by 2027. With the rising importance of call centers, it becomes even more imperative now that they operate in an essentially systematic and organized way.
This is where the need for a call center SOP arises. Standard Operating Procedures are guidelines about administrative activities, business processes, and other information that call centers need to follow regardless of their team size.
Let's understand what call center SOP is and why and how call centers should have these procedures in place.
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What is Call Center SOP?
A Call Center SOP or Standard Operating Procedure is a document with all the daily operations guidelines.
An SOP comprises every procedure that will guide the agents, executives and supervisors to perform specific tasks like scheduling, staffing, call forecasting, and setting KPIs and standard metrics.
At the same time, this document assists agents in complying with the rules and regulations of the firm, simplifying and optimizing the workflows, and meeting business objectives.
Let's delve deeper.
Benefits of Call Center Standard Operating Procedures
The benefits of call center standard operating procedures are not limited to enhancing customer satisfaction and optimizing business processes though these are the primary ones. Other benefits include:
An ideal SOP will make use of KPIs and metrics to assure quality. It will also set a certain quality standard for the product/service the company offers to its customers.
Referring to the SOPs, employees can modify their schedules and meet the performance standards to maintain this quality. SOPs can have mandates that require the call center executives not to put a customer on hold for more than 5 minutes. The supervisors can, accordingly, adopt measures to reduce the hold time.
Guidance for Unusual Circumstances
Apart from listing down all the steps involved in each procedure, a call center SOP includes tips and tactics for handling unusual situations like dealing with angry customers.
Employees can refer to the SOPs to get guidance in resolving such critical issues independently. Thus, they can promise the best possible customer support without disrupting the workflow of the call center.
There are guidelines for internal customer service in the SOP too.
Compliance with Government Rules and Regulations
An adequately drafted SOP helps the call center stay compliant with the country's governing laws and ensure that all employees adhere to these.
The government usually has regulations on employee compensation, paid leave, probation, termination, etc.
Better Crisis Management
The call center employees must know how to manage a crisis before it turns out to be detrimental to the overall operations.
SOPs can help crisis management by providing them with a checklist to follow. Crises like the call center encountering a sudden downtime during a peak hour can be handled by referring to the SOP to continue offering uninterrupted customer service.
There are several detailed guidelines for dealing with other crises resulting from an internet outage or exposure of sensitive data during cyber-attacks.
Higher Level of Security
Call center SOPs also mandate the installation of anti-virus software while warning the employees about malware and helping them protect sensitive customer data.
An SOP also includes measures to prohibit the agents from using public Wi-Fi to avoid attacks via the internet.
There are rules such as the agents should not share any customer contact information unless in a few exceptional circumstances or using secure telephone lines to strengthen customer privacy.
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Points to Include in SOP Call Center
A call center SOP must include the following topics in all their details:
The SOP document must lay down all the administrative policies and guidelines that the executives, agents, employees, and supervisors must follow while working at the call center.
The policies must encompass everything from performance reviews and termination of jobs to leaves and hiring regulations. The more detailed it is, the less confusion there will be among the teams.
Even the minute details such as how many days of sick leave an employee should submit a medical certificate must find a place in this SOP.
The call center Standard Operating Procedures you create must also include all the software the agents are using and how and when to use it.
You should also update the SOP from time to time, just as there are additions to the software's features or new tools to the list of technologies.
Some of the standard call center tools that are worth mentioning in the call center SOP are Automatic Call Distributor (ACD), Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Knowledge Management System, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Workforce Management (WFM) Software.
Quality Management Measures
Quality management measures come in two ways, KPIs and performance standards. Both help the agents know and understand if they are meeting the expectations. The quality management standards also highlight the differences between answering services and call center services.
Call centers usually follow set metrics like KPIs to measure the employee performance outcome. Some of these are:
- Average handle time indicates the average time an agent spends on the calls
- CSAT or Customer Satisfaction Score to estimate the customers' satisfaction levels
- Average call abandonment rate to look into the percentage of callers who have hung up before connecting with the agents
- Average hold time points to the duration an agent puts a customer on hold
- Average time in queue, which is the ratio between the total time callers waited to connect their calls, and the total number of calls answered
Training and Coaching Terms
Call center executives regularly train to stay updated about the developments in the global customer service industry.
A call center SOP lays down the general guidelines about these training and coaching programs so they can run smoothly. Training on simulated phone calls, better call handling techniques, efficient call script creation, and customer service training is typical, among others.
The feedback of the call center agents regarding work schedules and other guidelines is crucial, and they occupy an essential part of the call center SOPs.
Alongside, details of discussion on client selection, termination and mergers are a part of the SOP but might not always involve the agents. The SOP, therefore, should clarify when and in which situations to involve the agents in the decision-making processes.
Participation of the employees will allow them to express their thoughts on matters where the introduction of new guidelines can affect them. Based on the feedback, you can edit and review these guidelines.
Best Practices for Writing Call Center Policy and Procedures
A call center SOP has to be highly effective in doing what is expected, and for this, organizations need to write it well and with utmost care. To ensure that the document serves its purpose, you need to follow these best practices while writing down the call center policy and procedures:
Involve the Agents
Whether you are drafting the SOP for a big-sized call center or some small business answering services, it is necessary to involve the agents. This is because, at times, the regulations set by the higher management can be a bit too harsh for the team.
For instance, executives might need a different ACWT or After Call Work Time, which supervisors might not understand. In such situations, the input of the agents or the executives who regularly interact with the customers proves indispensable.
Explain the Reasons
While creating a Call Center SOP, one of the best practices is to mention the reason behind a particular guideline. This motivates the team to follow the guidelines.
For instance, with a guideline that requires the employees to switch off their phones during work hours, there should be a reason for the same: trying not to disturb other executives while responding to customer calls.
Follow a Suitable Format
Presenting the SOP well is also a necessity. A poorly drafted SOP can discourage the teams from going through it. Bad formatting might also end up undermining the actual value of this document.
Certain practices you can follow to create appealing SOPs have used a formal font, written in simple, easy-to-understand language and emphasizing generous spacing to prevent straining the reader's eyes.
You must deliberately avoid an authoritative tone while writing an SOP for a call center. This can highly intimidate your team.
Use a positive tone as much as possible to ensure that the intentions are good and no guideline restricts the employees in some way or another.
If the guideline prohibits smoking, the focus should be on the harmful effects of tobacco, for instance.
Call Center SOP Takeaway
While call center SOP is a must for every call center, organizations must draft it, keeping the unique requirements in consideration.
Nonetheless, the SOP should clearly define guidelines for executing the daily business processes. It should help maintain quality and improve security alongside ensuring compliance with the relevant laws.
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