By Mark Coudray and Bruce Belfiore
Today there is a common thread of innovation that connects contact centers engaged in outbound sales, inbound sales, cross-selling/upselling, as well as collections.
It’s not technology, because centers vary widely in terms of their access to sophisticated call routing, dashboards, analytics, and other software systems.
It’s agent optimization – – optimization based on new approaches that boost sales results, whether you have the latest in dashboards, analytics and gamification, or if you have none of these. This emerging methodology improves conversion performance for the most advanced sales operations, as well as for less advanced sales operations and even customer care centers wanting to increase their cross-sell and up-sell capabilities. Center size is not a barrier: while this methodology holds clear advantages for large-scale operations, it has also been proven to work in a center of under ten agents.
The approach to optimization, which we call the Benchmark Sales approach, has six components that set it apart:
- Caller analysis. This has two components: 1) careful analysis and categorization of call types and 2) close attention to caller communications styles.
- Agent analysis. This goes beyond the personality testing used by many centers, and integrates personalized communications style analysis. This analysis is shared directly with individual agents and is usefully leveraged in subsequent coaching of the agent.
- Matching of styles. This methodology identifies sympathetic and antagonistic communication patterns between agents and customers. Note that in this context, “antagonistic” does not mean hostile; rather it refers to suboptimal compatibility of communication styles. The methodology shows ways to increase successful interactions in general, and especially between people whose styles are “antagonistic”, or less compatible.
- Call analysis. Several hundred calls are analyzed and scored for semantic polarity sentiment. We have pioneered this approach, which brings extra rigor and structure to the study of sales calls. This innovative semantic sentiment analysis is used as the foundation for script development.
- Creation of specialized scripts. These scripts contain key words that optimize connection for sympathetic communications and avoid negative semantic outcomes for “antagonistic” communicators. These scripts are not used as straight jackets, but rather are guides that an informed agent can tailor to his or her personality.
- Tracking and review of results. This is done in programmatic fashion, leading to increasing success over time.
Competent coaching is, of course essential to this process. As indicated earlier, a strength of the Benchmark Sales approach is it can be piloted by any kind or size of center that deals with sales or collections, and can improve results in a measurable way.
One center that recently adopted Benchmark Sales demonstrated significant improvement in year-over-year weekly performance. In the performance graph below, call analysis and initial agent analysis and training were done over the first four weeks. Then, between weeks 5 – 12, agents began to apply their knowledge of communication styles, matching their style to caller style. In week 13 the crafted scripts were introduced.
A consistent increase in performance was experienced after a slight decrease during the learning and internalization of the new scripts. This pattern was mirrored in the stair step progress pattern in the weeks where the scripts were being adjusted for further optimization. The vertical axis represents the increase in cumulative orders over the previous year.
Managers who are constantly seeking ways to improve their results and add to enterprise value recognize that enhancing their human capital is the key to both short and long term success. Investing in agent optimization can be a high ROI initiative you can pilot now or in your next fiscal year.
Mark Coudray is an expert in sales acceleration and optimization in the digital age. Bruce Belfiore is Senior Research Executive and CEO of BenchmarkPortal, custodian of the world’s largest database of contact center metrics. BenchmarkPortal is the industry leader for metrics-based research and best practices consulting for customer contact centers of all kinds.
Hear Mark and Bruce discuss sales optimization on this recorded episode of CallTalk™, the contact center industry’s first online radio program:
For additional information on the Benchmark Sales methodology, please contact MarkCoudray@BenchmarkPortal.com