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    The benefits of ISO 9001 implementation in the call center industry

    Over the last 10 years, call centers have become a large part of how we communicate with many organizations. Whether household utilities, personal banking, tax issues, or even dealing with federal or local government, the likelihood is that you will be put through a call center to have your problem resolved. Likewise, those dreaded cold calls to try and convince you that you need a particular product will almost always originate from a call center, be it at home or abroad. In certain US states, the call center sector can employ up to 5% of the workforce, and figures for abroad are even higher – in 2014 it was calculated that 10% of the workforce of the Philippines was employed in this sector. So, given the importance of this sector in financial and in customer retention terms – the person in the call center may well be the standard you judge the rest of the organization by, after all – it would surely make sense for a call center to try and standardize and improve customer satisfaction by implementing ISO 9001:2015. Let’s examine the benefits.

    Seeking benefits for call centers

    As intimated above, the role of a call center in the overall performance of a larger business cannot be underestimated. Given that the first impression of that organization may come from contact with a call center operative, and that the level of satisfaction gained from that experience may heavily influence the decision to do business with them or not, it should stand to reason that call centers should pay great attention to how they operate and deliver customer satisfaction. The ISO 9001:2015 standard is all about delivering customer satisfaction through the provision of services and goods built upon the principles of the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” cycle, so what particular elements of the standard could be used to improve call center performance?


    • Planning, risks and opportunities: Having KPIs (key performance indicators) and identifying risk and opportunity is as important for a call center business as any other. People tend to see KPIs as being purely financial measures, but perhaps call centers should consider other indicators. A caller who is not satisfied is at risk of going elsewhere, so inefficient call handling and service certainly risks losing customers and affecting the bottom line. Why not measure retention of clients month over month or customer satisfaction as well as bottom line? As such, planning of methodologies and knowledge of risk in this field will also benefit the organization, as will the ability to recognize and convert opportunities by selling other services when a customer calls, whether it be to complain or request a service.
    • Competence and awareness: This is a critical part of business performance, and competence and awareness of staff can go a long way towards guaranteeing customer satisfaction. A shared knowledge of the organization’s objectives and having the correct education and training can play a large part towards delivering a consistently excellent service. Ensuring competence and awareness is an ongoing process, and you can read more in the article How to ensure competence and awareness in ISO 9001:2015.
    • Customer feedback and complaints: Most customers have been frustrated when using call centers at various times, and this frustration undoubtedly leads to customers moving elsewhere and lost revenue. As such, in line with ISO 9001:2015 recommendations, call centers could surely benefit from more specific and direct solicitations of customer feedback. Whether using a prize draw to encourage the completion of feedback forms, having a complaints center directly on hand to call, which most call centers don’t, or managing a social media page for customer feedback, there are several ways of not only capturing feedback, but also making the client feel valued and important. Some of the information in the article How the ISO 9001:2015 standard can help you improve relations with your customers, can help you with this topic.
    • Improvement: This is at the heart of the standard and can help your call center improve performance. Using the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” cycle to improve performance by ensuring that corrective action is taken on non-conformities and customer complaints can improve performance greatly. Base your strategies and improvement plans on this cycle, and you can drive customer satisfaction and financial performance in a positive way.

    Feeling the benefits

    Many of these elements, and others highlighted within the clauses of the 9001:2015 standard, are designed to help standardize and improve an organization’s processes and deliver consistency and customer satisfaction. Using the standard in the call center business not only helps to do this, but can drive significant improvements in an organization’s financial performance. Retaining satisfied customers, engaging them and ensuring their complaints are dealt with efficiently, and translating opportunities into sales are all achievable if you implement ISO 9001:2015 principles to a call center business, and that should make ISO 9001:2015 a desirable accreditation for the call center. Why wait when you can start that road to implementation today?

    To learn more about the business benefits of ISO 9001, read this free white paper: How can 9001 help your business grow.

    Advisera John Nolan
    Author
    John Nolan
    John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.