Year-on-year, call centres continue to grow in number and the demand for an exceptional customer experience increases. Now a key customer interaction channel for companies, many have invested significant time and effort in finding new ways to improve performance and effectiveness.

Results have often been mixed. Furthermore, due to increasing customer expectations this need for investment is ever increasing. However, call centres present a great opportunity for businesses to better understand their customers’ needs and in turn add more value through an enhanced customer experience.

Inefficient efficiency

For too long, call centres were managed with efficiency measures solely in mind. Agents were judged on their average handling time and wrap time. At the same time, managers focussed on grade of service productivity measures such as ‘speed of answer’. These approaches did not work, leading instead to increased customer dissatisfaction, failure demand and greater overall cost in the long-term.

Call centres versus processing centres

To effectively use service excellence to bring about change, it’s important to first understand the two key differences between a call centre and a processing centre:

1. The customer-facing aspects of a call centre require different skill sets from a processing environment (coaching emphasis, planning assumptions, conversational competencies etc.).

2. Customer’s expectations in terms of speed of service are very different for a call centre, where service levels are usually set in terms of seconds rather than the hours or days set for a processing centre.

Developing efficient and effective call centres

Where improvement effort has been focused on efficiency based change such as call shortening and scripting, this has generally led to disillusioned staff and disgruntled customers.

At OEE Consulting we believe the focus should instead be on the needs and expectations of customers. It’s why we developed the following six principles for improving call centre performance:

1. Tackle non-genuine demand

Identify the customer demand elements that are non-genuine or abandon-rate related and build a robust feedback process both within the centre and its planning process, but also with the rest of the organisation.

Create voice of customer patterns

Understand the call structure from a customer’s point of view and develop appropriate training, coaching and monitoring models.

3. Set up best practice and build in quality

Identify and agree key elements of best practice within core call types, and ensure appropriate deployment via the revised coaching model. 

4. Optimise resource

Define skill set routing and multi-skilling requirements for best service levels coverage.

Put effectiveness first

Reassess and deploy performance indicators, together with targets and incentives, with a bias towards effectiveness.

Level work

Identify opportunities to level demand in order to reduce capacity losses linked with service levels allowances, for example inbound/outbound call blending or merging contact and process activities.


To unlock the full potential of call centres it’s important to focus on effectiveness over efficiency. By putting Lean Consumption principles in place, customers will be happier, staff more motivated and long-term costs reduced.

The result being a more successful and customer-friendly call centre. In the end, that will be more efficient anyway.

Want to talk? Contact our expert:

Mark Palmer

+44 (0)1865 593911



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