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7 steps to increase call center efficiency by 20% when your customers live in different time zones.

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As an international brokerage firm, we liaise clients seeking property abroad with our foreign partners everyday. At first, our sales managers worked with the PDF scripts, which brought direct leads only in 50% of cases. Then we started using a CRM system, but it wasn't enough to execute sales plans. We set up a separate call center, introduced a quality control center that collects feedback from both customers and colleagues, and increased efficiency despite the coronavirus pandemic and its challenges. Our call center works from a small office in Russia's backwoods and helps us close deals in Miami, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, and other cities worldwide.

In this article, we will share our experience of trying different interacting methods with clients, our motivation scheme for the sales department, and what we do to reduce employee turnover.

1. Make the CRM system save employees as much time and energy as possible 

Before implementing CRM, our staff spent huge efforts copying and pasting the right numbers, storing contacts, and compiling the database. It seems like a minor effort, but when an employee has dozens of calls and emails per day, every second counts.

We launched a system where you can call a customer with a single click. You can also quickly select which number the employee will call from– Spanish or German, for example, if the customer is from those countries.

The system stores the calling plan that the employees use. We worked out a plan for communicating with the client which includes not only calls but also emails and texts. The CRM system sends reminders of when to call client #1, when to write a text in messenger to client #2, and when to send an email using a certain script to client #3.

The system adjusts these notifications to the client's time zone, so employees no longer have to keep in mind the location of all our clients since they live all over the world. At that time, the plan was fulfilled by 60%. That wasn’t enough.

2. The Bonus system should be clear and transparent to motivate staff

When employees do not understand how to get a bonus, their motivation falls. People may be also confused by сonvoluted instructions or confusing department's standards.

We made each employee’s progress with calls and emails visible to everyone. With this transparency, the manager can also see how each employee is doing and quickly come to help. It also serves as an indirect motivation for colleagues, who have a competitive spirit.

We have clearly defined the ratio of basic salary and bonuses for employees. Recently, we included the number of calls in the financial motivation as well. Experienced call center operators are now required to have a rate of completed call of 80% and more, and newcomers need to start from 70%.

We have also introduced quality control. The quality control department listens to calls, collects feedback from both customers and colleagues, and constantly updates the scripts on which the call center operates. At the end of 2020, the call center was already bringing in 70% of leads with contacts.

3. Reduce employee turnover by no-fines policy and motivate with gifts

At Tranio, we believe that negative motivation can be an additional stressor in the job. When the market is unpredictable, you cannot intimidate employees with fines. Conversely, results-oriented managers often come up with unconventional solutions and initiatives, which only benefit clients and the company.

About 60% of managers' salaries are fixed, and the rest are bonuses. If an employee makes mistakes during the month, their bonus is reduced. To keep track of this, we made a list of potential mistakes so that everyone can see how much they can earn and what they can lose.

Every year the most successful managers receive travel bonuses: the company pays for a business trip to the country which they work for. Employees study facilities and communicate with partners, and sometimes combine their trip with a client trip and see the facility together.

This is especially useful for new managers. When an employee doesn't just sell the description from a picture but knows the location and the objects well himself, it is noticeable and it takes communication with the client to the next level  

4. Don't be afraid to recruit remotely

We used to be very attached to our offices when looking for new call center employees. We thought that a new remote worker would feel sad and lonely and would be difficult to manage. 

During the pandemic, we decided to recruit remote call center employees. It turned out that our fears about working remotely were unfounded. New employees are just as quick to learn and perform as those who work from the office. If colleagues working from home ask us to equip them with technology, we are willing to buy them laptops and audio headsets.

Although we were eager to recruit remote workers in other departments, we hesitated for a long time with the call center. If we had overcome these doubts earlier, we would have spent less time searching for employees and missed fewer calls.

We allocated a training week for new employees, when they do not yet work with real customers, to get to know the management, CRM, and learn how to react in different scenarios. And for remote workers, the training program is particularly useful. It also helps us in recruiting (candidates consider it an advantage that we make the first days on the job less stressful).

5. Find out the best way to communicate with clients.

We have noticed that overseas clients do not always want to talk on the phone. If we call a person and they don't pick up, they rarely call back themselves. At first, we had a hypothesis that they did not like being called from Russian numbers. We bought foreign SIM cards but in the end, we did not notice any significant difference. For some customers, on the contrary, foreign numbers cause unnecessary confusion. They see that the company was founded in Russia and that the surnames of the employees are Russian, and they don't understand why then we use German numbers.

Then we realized that our clients respond better to WhatsApp messages: when we text them, they are much more likely to get in touch. So now our call center still communicates via phone calls a lot, but we are also trying to be more flexible.

6. Create different scripts for video calls

We communicated with clients via video conferencing long before the coronavirus pandemic but now Zoom calls have become a natural part of our sale processes. We created video conferencing guidelines to set out the basic requirements and tips. For example, we divided a video call with a customer into three conditional stages, prescribing the desirable duration of each and the potential development of the conversation. This guideline takes into account the specifics of video communication - for example, at what minute a person starts to get tired of a video call and looks less into the camera.

7. Use the challenges of the pandemic as a newsworthy event

The constantly changing situation with lockdowns and quarantines in various countries created excellent opportunities for us to write or call potential clients who had already shown interest in our properties but had not finalized any deals.

Our sales managers were able to start the conversation by talking about the latest pandemic updates and then transition into discussing the countries where it is easiest to make remote transactions. This approach resulted in clients having their interests sparked, making them more open to buying.

Summary

Introduce a CRM system, adjust it to the needs of your staff that they do not waste time dialing a number, for instance. Set transparent criteria for rewarding employees. If they see the results of their colleagues that may give them additional motivation.

Launch a quality department, which listens to calls and makes sure that both employees and customers feel comfortable. The quality department regularly improves work regulations; For example, during the pandemic, we worked out regulations for video calls.

Having gone through this path of trial and hypothesis, at the end of 2020 we increased the number of leads per contact to 70%, and the calling plan is now on average 99% fulfilled. We hope our experience and tips will help increase your call center efficiency and meet the plan. 

Originally published on Customer Think Article link

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    Tranio’s managers offer advice on buying real estate in Russia
    Anna Boyarchukova
    Anna Boyarchukova
    Head of the Residential Department
    +44 17 4822 0039
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