Monday, July 18, 2011

As communications is our business we get to answer tons of questions from our customers. More than 4000 employees in seven contact centers across Russia handle 8 million customer calls a month.  We sat down with Tatyana Rodionova and talked about her experience in managing operations of the MTS contact center in the macro region “Center”, located in Ryazan.

How long have you been working with MTS? How did your career evolve?

I joined MTS ten years ago – in July 2001 – as a specialist of the contact center in Ryazan. Back then, we had small call centers with five to twelve employees scattered across the country. In 2006 the call-centers were consolidated.  Now we have seven call-centers and one center of outgoing contacts – that doesn’t receive incoming calls. As the contact centers were being reorganized, I was promoted to lead the call-center located in Ryazan which covers 16 regions.

How many employees do you have? What is the typical profile of a customer service representative?  What are the requirements for working in the contact center?

We have 640 employees – the majority of which are young university-educated women (with the most popular name being Lena). To work here we require a higher education, PC literacy, excellent communication skills, and articulate speech. Experience, however, is not required; employees receive a month and a half of training once they start working.  Advanced courses and training are also available to those looking to further their careers at the call center..

What is the inflow of inquiries?  Do you process phone calls only?

We handle around 1.8 million inquiries a month. We receive SMS, emails and questions via web-chat, but 99% of customers call us. I believe this is county specific, as Russian customers enjoy talking to customer service.  They would rather speak to a Customer Service Representative than look up the information on the website or use IVR. The customers sing songs, joke and some even flirt with our employees! Of course we have a policy that provides guidance for these situations. Also, we train our employees to reduce the talk time. At MTS, the average talk time is 143 seconds while in the call-centers of Vodafone, with which MTS is a partner network, the conversation on average lasts much longer – maybe as long as 450 seconds.

How have you seen shifts in call volume? Is it cyclical? Are there particular seasons/days/hours that experience higher levels of volume?

The peak hours for us are in the morning on weekdays and in the evening when people are on their way home from work – they often call us from cars or public transport. Days before holidays are very hot, especially before the long New Year’s holidays. As they plan their travels clients call to check their balance, subscribe to services and inquire about roaming prices. Then during the actual holidays and on weekends call volume falls.

What are the main reasons subscribers call the contact center?

Around 35% of the customers call when they have questions about a specific service, terms of usage, or want to understand how to subscribe or unsubscribe to an MTS product.

Customers are increasingly calling us to inquire about the GPRS settings. 12% of the calls are about payments, while 10% of the subscribers call to inquire about the charges to their account. Calls to block/unblock the phone number account for about 9%. 7% are about voice and data plans. Our contact center also handles calls of fixed broadband and pay TV customers (about 45,000 a month).

What are the KPIs for employees?

We strive to provide a superior customer experience and aim to do so as expeditiously as possible. Employees are evaluated based on their ability to provide excellent customer service with a portion of their compensation tied to the successful sales of products and services. We’ve taken a page from Vodafone and leverage their experience on how to most effectively sell our products via the call centers. To evaluate customer satisfaction, our system offers every third customer the opportunity to evaluate the quality of the service they received from 1 to 5. Ranking of the employees is based on the customers’ assessment. We show the ranking of each employee on the screens in the contact center. This establishes a game-like dynamic and inspires healthy competition.

Can you recall an amusing question or story from a customer?

Well, we certainly have a lot of them! One time a woman called and our employee asked her to introduce herself in order to identify her in our database. She says, “Svetlana Lebedeva,” but the search in the database yielded no results. “Try Svetlana Matveeva,” suggests the customer – again no person with such a name. “OK, try Svetlana Kryuchkova. I’ve been with MTS so long that I’ve been married three times!” 

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