The End of Spreadsheets in Call Centers

Last year, I was surprised when I discovered that one of the largest tech companies in the world ran their global call center operations through spreadsheets. Yes, that’s right, spreadsheets! The irony of a tech company using old school methods seemed counterintuitive.

My conversation with the program manager of Company X went something like this:

Me: “So, you’re using spreadsheets to run your call center operations, correct? Could you explain the process?”

Program Manager: “We use them for everything! To begin, we use spreadsheet forms for quality evaluations. We consolidate CRM and telephony system data to identify agents who need coaching from our team leaders. We also use spreadsheets to run our internal point-based contests to reward our top performers every month. We pretty much use spreadsheets to run our entire global call center operations.”

Me: “Hmmm, interesting!”

Call Centers: The Newest Competitive Weapon

Call Centers have become more strategic than ever. This is the way consumers communicate with brands whether by phone, email, chat or social media. However, the vast majority of contact centers operate in a manual and inconsistent way when managing their diverse and distributed call center workforce. It’s common for companies to outsource their customer relationship management processes to multiple contact center vendors. Surprisingly, these vendors also rely on spreadsheets and email communications as the facto standard.

Bad Habits of Call Center Management

We all have bad habits. Just as some of us drink too much coffee, are glued to our phones or don’t get enough exercise, call centers know spreadsheets are doing them no good and need to be kicked to the curb.

The use of spreadsheets in call centers are wonderful for quick data mapping so that employees can input raw data and get a basic overview. But at the same time, spreadsheets make terrible long-term storehouses of information and business processes because that information is not visible in real-time, and therefore not very helpful in engaging employees to improve and change behaviors effectively for the customer.

In short, you can hack your way to managing a diverse, large and distributed call center workforce by solely using spreadsheets, but run the risk of losing operational excellence, lowering team productivity and decreasing customer satisfaction.
Spreadsheets just don’t cut it as they slow down your internal processes and make it difficult to coach, retain and engage your workforce.

So, why are people still using spreadsheets to run a call center operations?

Based on my own experience of working in call centers, here’s what I’ve gathered:

Data is not centralized: Call centers use multiple systems and programs to track Payroll, HR, Training, CRM, Telephony, Quality, Incentives, Recognition and Reward programs among other things. So they need to export data from each individual source and consolidate the information on a single spreadsheet in order to make the right decisions. It’s easy to start building models on spreadsheets, but can be difficult to maintain over time. A tough process to scale and maintain.

Call center vendors are too complicated: Twenty-year old technology vendors like NICE or VERINT that provide Quality Management, Performance Management and Voice of the Customer modules are complex to use, expensive, and time-consuming to learn; as a result, call center managers fall back on spreadsheets to get things done because in the short-term it may be “easier”.

The Traditional Way to Manage a Call Center Workforce

Even though call centers are utilizing technology to track and record calls and measure quality, they are still in large part using spreadsheets and email communications to share reports and feedback. And in general, there is a big gap in getting this feedback directly to the agent in an effective way. Collaboration, coaching and remedial training consists of email exchanges, face-to-face meetings every couple of weeks, and classrooms where long on-boarding courses takes place.

So the question that needs to be asked is: How effectively are you using technology to actually engage and motivate your workforce to increase customer satisfaction?

Call centers are infamous for their chaotic work environments-employees operate in real-time but rely on tools that do not. This inconsistency has negative impacts on employee engagement and productivity, customer experience and the company’s bottom line.

The Future of Call Center Management

At PlayVox, we are on a mission to make call centers a better place to work.
We see the heavy reliance use on spreadsheets and old school tools to manage a call center workforce as an unhealthy habit.

Because of this, team leaders spend most of their time doing administrative tasks and creating reports instead of coaching and motivating their teams. And the company’s bottom is affected.

At PlayVox, we believe that it’s possible to run a call center operation without the need to use dozens of spreadsheets or multiple platforms and softwares. We believe in a holistic and unified approach to manage a call center workforce.

In this new era of technology, it’s time for the call center industry to reshape the way they manage and run their operations for the better.

The End of Spreadsheets in Call Centers has started.