A full 96% of customers say customer service is a key factor in their loyalty to brands. What’s more, brands who do it best bring in 5.7 times more revenue than their competitors, according to Forrester. And a full 77% of consumers say customer service inefficiency actually detracts from their quality of life. (Yikes!)

As most know in this industry, relevant customer service metrics to track and improve so that brands get the loyalty they deserve include first contact resolution (FCR) and time to resolution (TTR). Improving these metrics can increase customer loyalty and drive up revenue. But improvements must of course be balanced with cost.

Contact center managers know that the best way to strike this balance is to focus on efficiency. For instance, organizations can improve worker retention by decreasing the amount of time spent on repetitive tasks and ones employees aren’t well-equipped to handle. Efficiency can also empower employees to focus on more important and strategic customer concerns, rather than answering a question easily found in the FAQs for the eighth time in one day.

So, the question is, how do we go about improving efficiency even more in contact centers? Here are five tips. 

1. Tweak Escalation Processes

As you know, there are two main types of escalation in customer service: functional and hierarchical. Functional escalation is when an agent realizes they cannot answer a question and transfers it to another team with more resources or expertise for the topic in question. Hierarchical escalation happens when an agent can’t answer a question and passes it on to someone higher up the food chain, such as a supervisor or manager. (Hierarchical escalation may also include circumstances when the interaction begins with a chatbot who can’t assist, then gets passed on to a human rep.) No matter what type or combination of escalation process an organization uses, there are a few ways to improve them. 

First, lay out clear expectations around response times for agents. This can include emails needing to be responded to within eight hours and all social media posts within two, for example. When agents are aware of these “deadlines,” they can be held accountable for meeting them or even rewarded for quicker responses. 

Additionally, it’s important to have very clear escalation procedures in place so that agents know when and how to pass a question on to a specialist or manager. Finally, keep track of how escalation metrics are changing over time, and make decisions about how to structure, incentivize, and improve teams based on hard data. 

Unbabel’s Director of Customer Success, Luis Pinto sums up customer support team best practices, saying it’s key to implement, “clear processes and guidelines, a robust knowledge base and a structured work flow.”

2. Update Training Regularly

Most customer service teams are skilled at onboarding new team members and training them during their first days on the job. Fewer teams have a strong system in place for refreshing and updating that training — but this is just as important. Updating training to include efficiency best practices like the ones described in this post can help increase their adoption and utilization across the organization. 

There are two main ways to tackle ongoing training: one-on-one or in a group setting. One-on-one training can look like performance reviews that include a competencies check-in to review specific efficiency-related skills and take a look at metrics like FCR and TTR for an individual team member. These can be very effective. 

That said, you know your customer service teams thrive when they are united and connected. Customer service work is hard (understatement alert!) Dealing with dissatisfied or angry customers all day can take a toll. Team-building activities that also include training can improve employee engagement and increase satisfaction, which — bonus! — often has indirect benefits for efficiency. 

3. Optimize Teams

Since most customer service teams include a mix of in-house and outsourced workers, it’s vital to take steps to optimize each type of team. When it comes to in-house customer service teams, one successful strategy is to hire people who are already passionate about the product or service the company provides. For example, if end-users are gamers, hiring people who already love and play the games will automatically improve the quality of service they provide. It also improves efficiency, because far less time needs to be spent training employees to understand the products and services and customers’ unique needs. They just get it.

On the outsourcing front, our favorite tip is to partner with BPOs or other outsourcing providers who have a future-forward, technology-centric approach. These types of partners are the most likely to bring efficiency and a focus on continuous improvement to contact center operations. They can often take much of the heavy lifting of dialing in efficiency off your plate altogether. (Get more tips on optimizing customer service teams.)

4. Use technology wisely

Of course, technology is one of the most powerful ways to improve customer service efficiency. One of the key concepts when it comes to using technology wisely is the multichannel or omnichannel customer experience. 

As you know, brick-and-mortar stores are no longer the locus of customer interactions. The evolution of consumer-facing technology means customers have all sorts of methods at their disposal to get in touch. A customer may attempt to contact a brand for customer service reasons via phone, email, online chat, social media, and more. 

To improve contact center efficiency with all of these customer support channels in play, it’s vital to have a clear omnichannel strategy. Specifically, teams need to have a way to sync communication channels so they can move seamlessly between them (just like customers do). Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Kustomer are just a few of the platforms that offer omnichannel customer support to help dial in efficiency. 

5. Lean on machine translation

We are living the globalized business reality today, and customers expect service teams to speak their language — not figuratively, but literally. It’s nearly impossible to scale a customer service team up (and down) to speak every necessary language at any given moment, which is why machine translation is so powerful. 

Machine translation enables any team anywhere to respond to customer requests, no matter what language they arrive in. It relies on artificial intelligence, ideally with humans in the loop, and boosts operational efficiency while also controlling costs. Machine translation allows customer service teams to seamlessly scale up and down during periods of high or low volume, all while boosting customer service KPIs like CSAT and FCR. Put simply: Multilingual support is no longer a nice-to-have for global businesses, and machine translation is the only way to deliver it efficiently.

Parting words

U.S. businesses alone lose an estimated $62 billion (with a b!) every year due to poor customer experiences. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be this way. Improving contact center efficiency can ensure your business is one of the ones that sees increased revenue and repeat business due to happy, loyal customers.