Regardless of the team size, an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) is essential for all call centers.
A call center SOP is a document that contains guidelines about business processes, administrative activities, and other information that help the agency run smoothly.
In this article, we’ll explain what a call center SOP is and why you need one. We’ll also highlight the nine key points to include in your SOP, along with four actionable tips for drafting it.
Lastly, we’ll mention a few sample call center SOP templates to help you get started quickly.
This article includes:
(Click on the link to go to a particular section)
- What is a Call Center SOP?
- 9 Key Things to Include in a Call Center SOP
- Why Do You Need a Call Center SOP?
- 4 Best Practices for Writing an Effective Call Center SOP
- 4 Handy Call Center SOP Templates
Let’s dive in.
What is a call center SOP?
Typically, an SOP or Standard Operating Procedure includes guidelines for carrying out day to day operations.
A call center SOP consists of procedures that guides agents and supervisors to perform a specific task like:
- Call forecasting.
- Setting standard metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicator), and more.
This document aims to help agents comply with the firm’s rules, simplify and optimize workflows, and meet business objectives.
Let’s take a look at a few key points to include in your SOP.
9 key things to include in a call center SOP
A Standard Operating Procedure document should cover everything relevant to your call center. You must determine what’s crucial and ensure that you include it in your SOP.
Here are nine topics you should consider adding to your SOP:
1. Administrative policies
The SOP manual should lay down the guidelines your agents, as well as other employees should follow while working in your call center.
It should address everything from hiring to leaves and performance reviews to termination of jobs. This way, your employees will know what they’re supposed to do, avoiding confusion.
For example, let’s say your company mandates submitting a doctor’s report to avail sick leaves for more than four days. Then, you should include this in your SOP for managers to follow up.
2. Software and technology
While you create an SOP, see that you include all the software your call center agents use and explain how and when to use them.
Additionally, you should update the SOP regularly to include new features of the software you’re using or add a new tool to the list. This will help your agents quickly pick up on the new tool without having to wait on someone else to assist them in navigating the software.
Here are some common call center tools that you should consider mentioning in your SOP:
- Automatic call distributor (ACD): To distribute calls among the call center agents.
- Interactive voice response (IVR): To manage incoming calls.
- Workforce management (WFM) software: Helps schedule shifts for agents.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) Tools: Improves customer experience and satisfaction.
- Knowledge management system: Stores, shares, and manages all information in the knowledge base.
- Call center monitoring software: Used to monitor customer service quality.
Check out our list of best call center software available today.
3. Quality management
Adding the required performance standards in your call center SOP will help agents know if they’re meeting the expectations.
Typically, call centers use metrics like KPI to track employee performance.
Some of the metrics are:
- Average call abandonment rate: Shows the percentage of callers who hang up before the call gets connected with agents.
- Average handle time: Reports the average time an agent spends on a call.
- CSAT (Customer satisfaction score): Gauges the satisfaction levels of customers.
- Average time in queue: The ratio between the total time callers wait for their call to connect and the total number of calls answered.
- Average hold time (AHT): The average length of time an agent puts a customer on hold.
Check out other crucial call center metrics for your business.
However, you’ll need sufficiently advanced tools to track these metrics in real-time.
Fortunately, performance management software like Time Doctor helps you track some essential time-related metrics. Time Doctor is a powerful employee productivity tool that helps companies boost employee efficiency and productivity.
It offers interactive time tracking to help you record the time taken for call center employees to complete a task. This tool also generates in-depth productivity reports for each employee.
With Time Doctor, you can also:
- Manage agent distraction with the idle pop-up feature.
- Track the time an agent isn’t working using idle time tracking.
- Take screenshots of agents’ monitors at regular intervals.
- Rate websites based on their relevance to work.
- Schedule shifts diligently with Work Schedules.
- Assign projects and tasks to agents.
- Offer a payroll management feature.
Time Doctor’s productivity measuring, distraction managing, and time tracking features will help you ensure your employees work efficiently and keep up call center service levels.
4. Training and coaching
Call center agents undergo regular training to stay updated on the developments in the customer service industry.
These can include:
- Simulated phone calls.
- Customer service training.
- Better call handling techniques.
- Effective call script creation.
An SOP lays down general guidelines about training programs to help them run smoothly.
Additionally, you can mandate one-on-one coaching sessions, virtual classes, and team-building activities to boost employee satisfaction and engagement.
Matters like flexible working guidelines and work schedules require agents’ feedback.
On the other hand, discussions regarding client selection, mergers, and termination may not necessarily include agents.
A call center SOP manual should clarify when to involve agents in decision-making processes.
This will allow agents to convey their thoughts on matters where the new guidelines can affect them. You can then use their feedback to review, edit, or retain the guidelines.
6. Human resources
An SOP document should explain hiring protocols and compensation guidelines for all jobs.
It should set down minimum qualifications and skills a new employee should possess to work for your company.
For example, let’s say your organization requires employees to have good typing skills and be team players. To ensure you hire such agents, your SOP can suggest conducting typing tests and interpersonal skills assessments for the new agents.
Complex jargon can leave employees confused and diminish the purpose of the document.
Moreover, SOPs that are difficult to process can tempt employees to stop reading them.
You should see that your Standard Operating Procedure manual doesn’t have any jargon that your employees may find difficult to understand. To ensure complete transparency, provide a glossary at the beginning or end of the SOP manual.
SOPs need to include proper instructions on how to proceed with every customer service process and situation. This way, your employees can readily find answers when in doubt and won’t waste time asking for help.
For example, your SOP manual can mention when agents should call back a customer if the call gets disconnected.
This will eliminate confusion, and agents can continue working without wasting time pondering what they should do.
9. Basic telephone etiquette
A customer service representative should maintain proper telephone etiquette during calls. This helps agents to provide better service, increasing customer satisfaction.
Some basic telephone etiquettes you can include:
- Begin by introducing yourself and the company.
- Speak clearly and directly into the phone.
- Be polite to customers.
- Try to resolve customer issues yourself before escalating them.
Looking for ways to improve customer satisfaction?
Here are 20 effective tips to help you out.
Now that you know what to include in an SOP, let’s look at its benefits.
Why do you need a call center SOP?
A well written SOPs will help optimize the call center business process and enhance customer satisfaction. But its benefits aren’t limited to this.
Here are other advantages of having an effective SOP:
1. Maintaining quality
A good SOP will utilize metrics and KPIs for quality assurance. It will set a minimum quality standard for the service or product you provide to customers.
This will compel employees to make appropriate changes in their schedule or increase their performance to meet your quality standards.
For example, the SOP can mandate that a customer shouldn’t be put on hold for more than five minutes. This encourages supervisors to take appropriate measures to reduce hold time.
Additionally, when you have customer support procedures written down, your agents can verify what they learned during training.
They won’t have to wait for their supervisor to help them if they forget what to do. This way, they can provide better customer support by offering solutions quickly.
2. Instructions for unusual circumstances
Along with mentioning step-by-step procedures of each process, an SOP also includes tips for unusual situations like handling angry customers.
Employees can easily refer to SOPs to resolve such issues on their own. This way, you’ll be able to provide better customer support without disrupting the workflow of the call center.
3. Compliance with government laws
The government may have rules on matters like paid leave, termination compensation, probation period, etc.
A well-drafted SOP ensures that the call center remains compliant with the country’s laws and employees adhere to them.
4. Better crisis management
Your employees need to know how to manage a crisis before it severely affects your call center operations.
- Be aware of the emergency exits.
- Know what to do during an internet outage.
- Know how to secure sensitive data during cyberattacks.
SOPs help manage crises by providing a checklist to follow.
For example, let’s say your call center encounters downtime during a peak hour. Agents can quickly refer to the SOP to provide uninterrupted customer service.
5. Increased safety
An SOP can mandate installing anti-virus software and warn employees about malware, helping secure sensitive customer data like a phone number.
Here are a few measures to include:
- Prohibit agents from using public wifi to avoid attacks via the internet.
- Agents shouldn’t share customers’ contact information unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Use secure telephone lines to ensure customer privacy.
Ready to create an SOP?
Here are four effective tips to help you get started.
4 best practices for writing an effective call center SOP
A Standard Operating Procedure needs to be well-written for it to be effective.
To ensure that the SOP serves its purpose, you can check out some best practices to follow while creating a call center SOP:
1. Involve agents while writing the SOP
At times, the rules set by upper management can be harsh for your team.
For example, a supervisor may not understand that different calls require different ACWT (After Call Work Time).
This is why you need inputs from agents who interact with customers to understand their situation and develop your SOP based on it.
2. Provide reasons
Providing the reason for including a particular guideline can help agents understand the need to follow it.
For example, instead of simply asking employees to turn off their cellphones during work hours, you can mention that answering personal calls from their desks might disturb other agents.
3. Follow a good format
A poorly composed SOP can discourage employees from reading it. Moreover, employees might undermine its value due to shabby formatting.
Here are few tips to help you create appealing SOPs:
- Leave abundant space to avoid straining the reader’s eyes.
- Use a formal font.
- Avoid using long and convoluted sentences.
4. Use a positive tone
Using an authoritative tone to lay down work instructions can intimidate your employees.
For example, prohibiting smoking and listing down the consequences of disobeying can seem restrictive. It might even drive away employees.
Instead, highlight the negative effects of smoking. This will make it seem well-intended.
All good reasons to have an SOP, right?
But if you don’t want to draft it from scratch, here are four good templates to help you with it.
4 handy call center SOP templates
Here’s a list of templates that you can use to get started quickly:
- Call Center Standard Operating Procedure
- Customer Service SOP Template
- Inbound and Outbound Contact Centre Standard Operating Procedure Template
- Free Standard Operating Procedure Templates
Additionally, you can use SOP software like Tallyfy, EtQ, and Way We Do to make things easier. They simplify the creation, tracking, and updating of Standard Operating Procedures.
You should draft a call center SOP considering the requirements of your organization.
The SOP should set clear guidelines for carrying out daily business processes. It should also help you maintain quality control and improve security while being compliant with relevant laws.
Use the guideline and tips mentioned above to draft an effective SOP. Once done, you’ll be able to manage your call center with ease!
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.