Saturday, October 18, 2014

Five Reasons (Plus one) to use Screen Recording

Call recording is fast becoming standard practice in the contact center. Screen recording, which captures both audio and video of each agent’s desktop, isn’t there yet – but more contact centers are discovering the efficiency improvements and cost-saving benefits that can be derived from this technology.

A recent blog post from OrecX lists five reasons why contact centers should consider recording screen activity during customer interactions. It points out how some issues with customer service that would normally be attributed to human error can now be more accurately identified as a technology issue. Managers will also gain insight into how well agents navigate and interact with screens and applications, which also impacts customer service.

According to the blog, screen recording can:

•    Identify application or system breakdowns
•    Uncover areas where agent efficiency can be improved
•    Reveal unauthorized personal activity by agents
•    Identify PCI or HIPAA compliance issues
•    Record best-practice performance

To these benefits, we would add one more: screen recording provides a way to learn what customers want most from the contact center or the company itself, while also improving the overall processes of application use and service delivery.

There may be some “Big Brother” concerns among personnel aware that their activities are being recorded, so they should be made aware that screen recording also provides a means to reward outstanding agents. Those that are performing their jobs consistently should have nothing to worry about.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How to Improve Productivity when “Insourcing” Your Contact Center

After years of watching contact center jobs leave the U.S. for India and other foreign shores, companies are now bringing these positions back home. This article explains some of the reasons for this welcome phenomenon.

When outsourcing is replaced by “insourcing,” it’s great news for U.S. workers and for the customers of these contact centers, as they will now be treated to a better level of service.

But for the companies, there may be a challenge in upgrading contact center technology to what is necessary to remain competitive in this industry. Systems have become much more sophisticated in the last ten years, and it’s important to equip agents with the tools they need to prosper.

For most contact centers, the first priority would be an automated workforce management (WFM) solution, to replace the spreadsheets that may have sufficed in the past.

Productivity: WFM delivers a means to improve the productivity and cost-efficiency of the contact center by making so many vital tasks easier. These includes running simulations for more accurate forecasting, and scheduling that incorporates all call types and other activities. Exception planning, performance analysis, intra-day management, and other practices are streamlined through the real-time data generated by today’s WFM systems.

Cost: Of course, the last thing these companies want is a significant investment (in some cases $100,000 or more) in new hardware and software, on top of the other costs involved with insourcing. But with a cloud WFM system, a unified solution can be implemented quickly without a large upfront cost. Instead, users pay only a low monthly or yearly subscription fee.

Scalability: For companies bringing back multiple call centers in a gradual transition process, the cloud-based system offers additional advantages as well. A cloud platform provides maximum flexibility and scalability during this period, and is more easily deployed even across multiple locations. Since all data is stored “in the cloud,” it can be retrieved at any call center workstation.

With WFM, managers can spend more time managing all of the new agents in these new stateside facilities, instead of spending hours on Excel planning forecasts and schedules.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Why Does Your Contact Center Record Customer Calls?

How many calls does your contact center record? Some of them? All of them? Do you record the entire call or just a portion?

Answers will vary by contact center, but if your business is among that ever-shrinking percentage that has yet to implement call recording technology, it may be time to add this capability.

A recent OrecX blog post details the many ways in which contact centers use recorded calls, and how it improves both customer service and agent performance.

Feedback was solicited from more than 80 industry professionals on this topic. While better service and agent assessment were indeed the most-cited motivation for call recording, there were several other responses as well. These included dispute resolution, risk management, training and coaching, and customer order verification.

The blog post also explains how call recording and quality monitoring software used to be a luxury only larger businesses could afford. That is no longer the case, as today’s call recording solutions are more affordable, easier to implement, and simpler for agents and managers to operate. Find out more and watch this video about call recording.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Capabilities and Cost Saving Benefits of Workforce Management Software

Every year, the website Software Advice conducts a poll of contact center software personnel, seeking information on industry trends and product preferences. The 2014 results revealed that nearly half of all businesses surveyed – 46% – are buying contact center software for the first time this year.

Whether that number is being impacted by the rise in popularity and acceptance of cloud-based software, or the increase in small businesses choosing to handle their call center needs in-house, it’s a positive sign for both agents and customers that these companies will soon be reaping the benefits of an automated software solution, particularly in the area of workforce management (WFM).

However, many small and midsized contact centers are still attempting to get by without the capabilities, conveniences and cost saving benefits that WFM provides. Yes, it is possible to do so; but it requires that managers and supervisors confront daily challenges that could be streamlined or avoided altogether with software that is readily available, affordable, and easy to implement and employ.

A closer look at some of these challenges reveals the remarkable distinction workforce management software makes in everyday contact center operations. Here are just some of the advantages it provides.

1. Visibility in Schedule Adherence

Without WFM
Visibility is extremely limited. At times, it may be nonexistent.

With WFM
Managers access real-time adherence on a dashboard that compares planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, as well as real-time views of forecasted and actual call volumes, handle times and other key performance indicators. WFM systems can be customized to track overuse of ACW, lunches, breaks, or other non-productive or limited statuses. At one glance, the manager can see the exact status of each agent in real time against the planned activity. 

2. Shuffling of Breaks, Lunches and Non-Call Activities

Without WFM
These adjustments have to be made manually, which is more time-consuming and less efficient.

With WFM
Roster assignment functionality handles these adjustments automatically, based on the business need in the forecast, the schedules produced using the guidelines the shift profiles provide, and the most significant guidepost, employee availability.

3. Shift Change Communication

Without WFM
Even a minor shift change, such as adjusting a break by 15 minutes, must be manually communicated to agents. Doing so, through such means as editing an Excel file and posting it on a bulletin board, provides no assurance that these changes will be noticed in time.

With WFM
Whether it’s a supervisor requesting a schedule change for an agent, or a schedule change request submitted by an agent, WFM will immediately alert supervisors, workforce planners and all appropriate personnel, so the request can be reviewed and then approved or declined.  If approved, the change is immediately reflected in the schedule. Agents are notified of approvals or denials and the request is kept for future reporting.

4. Scheduling Agents in Sufficient Numbers in a Multi-Skilled Environment

Without WFM
These calculations can be very difficult when attempted manually.

With WFM
A workforce management solution, such as the one provided by Monet, employs skill teams (skill sets, or skill groups) based on each agent’s capabilities to handle certain skills/queues/competencies.  This allows the forecast process to select the best skills combinations for either blank shifts to be filled later, or to place existing agents.

5. Creating Multiple Versions of a Forecasting, Scheduling or Roster Period to Explore Preferable Options
Without WFM
Managers find it helpful to create “what if” scenarios to plan ahead for higher or lower call volumes, higher or lower handle times, different service level targets, different abandonment tolerances, and different shift possibilities. But creating different employee settings and templates takes a long time to complete manually.

With WFM
The most critical and useful step in the workforce management process is forecasting. With WFM it is easier to run simulations to calculate a precise forecast for future call volume, agent requirements and average handle time for any time interval of the day, based on historical data.

Monet’s WFM solution analyzes work history data that has been entered or received through ACD and PBX systems.  It calculates a forecast for future call volume, average handling time, and agent requirements for each 15-minute period of the day based on service level objectives. The forecast can then be used to convert the anticipated call volume into the number of agents required for each time interval to meet service objectives.

Additional Benefits
In addition to those previously described, an automated WFM solution provides even more dividends, especially when delivered via the cloud, a method that significantly reduces upfront costs.
  • Employee motivation and empowerment: when agents have more say in their scheduling, and are provided with the flexibility to accommodate their needs, they will be more likely to remain with the contact center.
  • Greater accountability: Both agents and supervisors are monitored more closely, making it easier to discover issues and correct them. 
  • Comprehensive reporting: The more accurate, real-time reports that are generated on workforce activity, the easier it is to make faster and better decisions.
While the economy is steadily improving according to most measurements, companies are still taking a very cautious approach when it comes to new investment. That is one reason why some contact centers have hesitated when it comes to workforce management (WFM) software.

However, making the case for this purchase should not be difficult given the inherent benefits derived from its installation, not the least of which is a boost in efficiency that will have a positive impact on the yearly budget.

Workforce management software is used instead of spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling. These critical tasks can now be performed more quickly and more accurately, with data that is automatically collected and organized, rather than having to be entered manually.

With WFM, costly instances of overstaffing and understaffing are reduced, schedule adherence is improved, and more flexible scheduling is possible. This benefits agents, and provides an incentive to stay with a job that takes their needs into consideration. For more information, please watch any of these workforce management videos.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Planning Contact Center PTO (Paid Time Off) Made Easy

At the contact center, as in several other types of companies, PTO stands for paid time off, and for your agents they are three of the happiest letters in the alphabet.

For managers, however, they are three letters that can induce headaches, as well as conflicts and scheduling issues that can impact customer service.

It’s the manager’s job to make every minute count in the contact center, and that’s a challenge when dealing with different schedules and constantly evolving exceptions. That makes PTO requests even more difficult, even if they are presented a week or more in advance.

A workforce management (WFM) system can streamline the processes related to PTO, and take some of the pressure off both managers and agents.

When WFM (as with the system provided by Monet) is used to plan and track PTO accruals, it automatically enters the necessary information into the contact center’s schedule and staffing roster. It is also possible to integrate the WFM system into the company’s human resources system to track and manage all related data.

Once the system is in place and procedures are established, WFM can also allow agents to schedule their own PTO. Result? Happier agents.

If PTO is still an issue at your contact center, contact us to find out how you can make time-off planning less difficult – and perhaps even fun.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

12 Tips to Ramp Up Contact Center Performance

A good contact center manager is always looking for new and innovative ways to improve customer service and performance. Here are 12 tips that might be helpful. Some are a little outside the box, but sometimes that is where the best ideas can be found.

1. An office makeover
Will a more colorful workspace and new office furniture make a difference in how agents perform? Studies have shown that most people are more comfortable and motivated in appealing surroundings.

2. Call your competitors
Have your agents and supervisors pose as customers and call competing businesses. Find out how they handle typical situations. Doing so will provide a better sense of how your company is doing, as well as more insight into the customer experience.

3. The magic wand

Ask everyone in the contact center, “If you had a magic wand, what is the one change you would make here?” You may be surprised at some of the answers.

4. The challenge of the week
Every week, focus on one specific goal where improvement could be made.

5. Email follow-up
If a customer had a difficult call with an agent, follow up via email with that customer, even if the situation was ultimately resolved over the phone. It’s a nice gesture that will be appreciated.

6. Start the day with a team meeting
Team meetings are always helpful, but once the workday begins it is difficult to get everyone assembled. The best time for these events is just before the shift begins.

7. Role swapping
Have a manager and an agent switch jobs for one day. Doing so may renew the appreciation each has for the work of their counterpart.

8. Celebrate the small successes

Agents do many things in the course of their shift that are beneficial to the company. Pick out 1-2 of these smaller successes and make sure they are recognized. 

9. Share customer feedback
When feedback is received via survey or email, whether positive or negative, make sure it is shared among all agents, managers and supervisors. This will provide important discussion topics at the next team meeting.

10. Suggestion box
The suggestion box been around for decades, but it is still effective because it offers a means for agents to provide feedback in a way that is anonymous.

11. Choose your own reward
Employee incentives are always a good idea, as long as the incentives are really something that would be appreciated. A vegetarian would not want to be rewarded with dinner for two at a steakhouse. Offer agents the chance to create their own rewards (within reason, of course!)

12. Team building competitions
Boys against the girls? East coast natives vs. west coast? There are several ways to divide the agents of one shift into teams, and have a friendly competition on general service or specific KPIs. Make sure the winning team is recognized (see previous tip).

Friday, September 12, 2014

5 Tips for More Effective Quality Monitoring

Contact center quality monitoring begins with establishing goals, then creating a plan for achieving them. These are decisions that can be made among call center management, but agents must be involved early and often. Clear communication is necessary to let them know what is expected of them.

Here are 5 tips for more effective contact center quality monitoring.

1. Develop a Strategy
What does "quality" really mean for your organization? The more clearly and precisely this objective can be defined, the better the chance it will be achieved.

2. Scorecards
Scoring calls – grading them on a number of criteria – provides the raw data that illustrates each agent’s virtues and faults. Quality monitoring scorecards can be a valuable reference tool for determining which call center agents are doing well, which are missing key components of their customer interaction, and which need additional training.

3. Team Meetings
Talk about quality in team meetings. Often these discussions uncover areas of concern that may not be tracked by any system.

4. Use Automated Tools
A quality monitoring effort will be successful based on how well it incorporates call recording, scorecards and screen capturing. Call recording software provides a source of great calls and terrible ones, both of which can be used in training. Quality scorecards measure performance on every aspect of a call, from the greeting and the close to the agent’s command of center policies, product information and ability to answer questions and resolve issues. Screen capturing adds a record of synchronized video, which provides insight into after-call activities, and can expedite the training process by allowing new agents a chance to watch superstars in action.

5. Create a Quality Culture
The more agents are involved in the quality monitoring process, the easier it will be for them to comprehend what is expected of them, and reach the best practice standards specified by the company. The goal is to create a culture of quality bottom up and top down.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

See Cloud-based Workforce Optimization in Action

We just announced a series of webinars about cloud-based workforce optimization in action. Join us on any of these days and see for yourself how to improve the performance of your contact center. See how workforce management, quality monitoring and performance management can work together in a unified solution to give you more insights, to better manage costs and to improve overall customer experience.

For your convenience, we are offering 2 different webinar times:
We hope that you can join us.

It's 11am - Do you Know What your Customer Service agents are Doing?

It’s one of the contact center manager’s most important responsibilities – knowing what each agent is doing at any given time during the workday. Of course, one person cannot be everywhere, but technology makes it possible to monitor agent activity without ever leaving one’s desk.

Monet Metrics delivers the information managers need in real-time, not at the end of the shift or the day. That means managers can react more quickly and correct adherence issues before they impact customer service.

Through this one valuable tool it’s possible to obtain actionable data on:
  • Service levels
  • Answer and abandon metrics

  • Average handle time (AHT)

  • Average speed of answer (ASA)
  • Average talk time (ATT)

  • Forecast accuracy
  • Labor costs and staffing

  • Shrinkage and absenteeism
Proactive performance management takes the guesswork out of knowing what your agents are doing, and how well they are doing it. Monet Metrics takes the guesswork out of performance management.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Performance Metrics and Agent Incentives

Incentives for call center agents are great – every employee likes to feel appreciated – but do you have the metrics to determine which agents are most deserving of special recognition?

If not, the good intentions of an incentive program can backfire, as deserving agents are unintentionally overlooked.

A workforce management solution delivers the performance metrics that are most pivotal to a call center’s customer service effort. Many of these are determined by agent performance. It’s a good idea to track them not only as they relate to agent incentives, but to overall performance efficiency and customer satisfaction. These metrics include:

Average Handle Time (AHT)
The transaction time from the customer’s initiation of the call.

Average Talk Time (ATT)

Which agents are better able to bring a call to a satisfactory conclusion in a reasonable time?

Average Speed of Answer (ASA)
This metric also has a direct impact on the number of abandoned calls, all of which represent potential missed sales or customer support opportunities.

After Call Work (ACW)
Often misinterpreted as non-productive time, ACW should be measured as a percentage of total handle time and adjusted accordingly.

Performance metrics help to easily, quickly and fairly calculate performance for each agent to use as a basis for incentives. With this data, managers will always know that rewards are going to those most deserving. To learn more, watch this contact center performance metrics video.