Monday, April 14, 2014

The Four Steps of Quality Monitoring for Call Centers

In many types of businesses, particularly those where product type, quality and price remain relatively consistent from brand to brand, a customer’s selection and subsequent loyalty may largely depend on the type of service he or she receives.

Quality monitoring can play an essential role in helping contact centers provide that outstanding customer service.

The goals of a quality program are to ensure consistent, high quality service that meets or surpasses expectations, to recognize agents who are doing a great job, and to identify opportunities where additional training may be needed.

While its primary function is to improve the performance of the contact center and not of individual agents, the latter benefit will be achieved as well as the process unfolds. Obviously, there is a direct connection between how agents treat customers, and how loyal those customers remain to the company. Quality monitoring helps to generate quality interactions, which in turn help to grow the business.

Creating an integrated quality monitoring program will take time and preparation, but the results are more than worth the effort. To get started, you will need to focus on four essential solutions:

•    Call Recording
•    PCI Compliance
•    Quality Scorecards
•    Screen Capturing

Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements.

Call Recording
Recording calls is an important step in the quality monitoring process, as it provides the raw data from which customer service will be analyzed. While calls can be reviewed through live monitoring, it can be beneficial to review selected calls by listening to them more than once, and to do so in a quieter, more controlled environment than during an agent’s shift.

Also, since quality monitoring will require the input of a number of managers and supervisors, a recording makes it easier for everyone concerned to have access to the customer engagement, and to provide feedback. When differences of opinion arise – as they almost always do when specific parts of a call are being evaluated, repeat listening will once again become essential.
Call recording systems should be easy to use, and specific recorded calls should be easy to locate. The system should integrate with ACD and other applications.

PCI Compliance
Before integrating a call recording solution, make certain the system is compliant with PCI guidelines. Start with a review of these three areas:

: There must be a means to cease recording when sensitive data is provided but not necessary to capture. This can be as basic as a Pause and Resume option, or a Mute button. When customer credit card data is transmitted and/or stored, it should be done only after this data has been encrypted.
Access Control: 
Both physical and logical access controls should be in place to restrict access to sensitive data. Access should be granted on a need-to-know basis only to those individuals who require it for the function of their jobs. Some contact centers address this by assigning a unique ID to all employees, so there will be an audit trail in the case of an unauthorized access. 

Network Security: 
Make certain that every aspect of the contact center technology is as secure as possible. That starts with an effective firewall and router, as well as internal processes that provide additional layers of protection. All traffic from unsafe networks and hosts should be restricted, and there should never be any direct access between any network component containing cardholder data and the Internet.

Quality Scorecards
The quality scorecard process should begin with a meeting among all those involved in creating the contact center’s quality management initiative. This is the time to identify goals, define intended outcomes, clarify objectives, and reach a consensus on what constitutes a successful call between an agent and a customer.

Some of your goals will be objective, but it’s the subjective measurements, such as agent courtesy, that may be more difficult to gauge. When developing a quality scorecard, make sure to specifically define how courtesy, patience, cooperation, support etc. is measured. Other areas to consider include voice clarity, accuracy, empathy, product knowledge and adherence to procedures.

Larger quality scorecards can be organized by category. It might also be helpful to phrase each item in the form of a question, with a rating system of 1-10 (this can provide a better picture of how each agent is performing compared to coworkers as opposed to a simple Yes/No response). Typically, scorecard questions include some variation on the following:
  • Was the problem diagnosed?
  • Was the customer listened to patiently?
  • Are questioning skills to resolve the call effective?
  • Were available resources used effectively to resolve the call?
  • Was the follow-up action to be taken after the call conveyed properly?
  • Were call closure guidelines adhered to?
Data analysis of the scores tells management how well they are doing, what's going well, and where further training is needed. It also can highlight where changes need to be made to the scripts the sales team follows or to the procedures the service team uses. Done right, it provides excellent information on the "Voice of the Customer" that is critical to the company's customer satisfaction program.

Screen Capturing
Call recording data on agent performance, and indeed the entire integrated quality monitoring process, is greatly enhanced when combined with a screen capture platform. 

Now, you’re not just listening to agents, you’re watching them as they speak with customers and enter data into their computer. This provides a means to identify when workflow issues are impacted by what agents do while they are on a call. Do they have sufficient knowledge of the call center’s CRM and desktop applications? Are they focused on their work? 

The additional insight that can be gained from watching a customer interaction can be used to improve such vital metrics as call handling time and first call resolution. 

Plus, when it’s time to train new agents, having archived audio/video recordings to show how the job should be performed will be invaluable. And for new hires, just knowing that screen capturing is in place will provide a powerful incentive to better performance.

“Quality” can be an elusive goal at a contact center with dozens or hundreds of agents, but an integrated quality monitoring program can make a significant difference in how customer service goals are met. However, once the program is in place it should not remain stagnant. Regular reviews through feedback loops will inspire additional fine-tuning and improvements. To learn more about integrated quality monitoring for contact centers, please click the link to watch a series of videos.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Contact Center Performance Management Explained

What is performance management? It’s a process of motivating employees through setting goals, measuring progress, providing feedback and coaching for improved performance, and rewarding achievements.

In a contact center this can be achieved through software applications the combine dashboards, analytics, workflow and data integration, all of which make it easier for managers to set specific performance goals and communicate those goals to agents and other personnel.

The technology exists to achieve your customer service objectives, but the key to performance management is utilizing the resources provided by the dashboards in the most efficient manner. That will require an alignment of human and technological resources, and perhaps some changes in personnel procedures. Once the contact center organization matches the views, reports and workflow routes generated by the system, it will be easier to achieve performance management goals.

Keep in mind also that performance management is only as good as the data it receives. Your workforce management and quality management efforts, as well as those devoted to training and billing and other specialties must be importing accurate numbers for the system to work. If they are not, these data sources must be reviewed for missing fields or identifiers, properly integrated, or updated as needed.

Performance management is one of the most effective ways to improve contact center service – as long as the metrics are accurate and implemented in a way that bolsters the associated workflow functionality. This is not a one-time fix but an ongoing program that should become part of the center’s everyday management procedures.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Customer Dispute Resolution through Call Recording

No matter how carefully you select and train your agents, or how satisfied customers are with your company’s product or service, disputes are still inevitable.

When this happens, having a recording of the conversation between agent and customer will be invaluable.

Many customers with complaints may start out angry – if they are informed via an on-hold recording or by the agent that their call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes, it may induce them to temper their comments. Without the yelling and profanity that might have been, it will be easier for an agent to get to the heart of the problem, and hopefully resolve it successfully.

But if the customer is still not satisfied, having a recording of the call provides specific information on what was said by each party, severely reducing the likelihood of false claims or misunderstandings. This can be especially important if the customer pursues legal action.

While almost every call can be a teaching moment, those that stand out in a positive or negative way will be the most valuable in improving quality assurance. Many of these will focus on customer disputes. By using these recordings in training, other agents will learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to dispute resolution, resulting in a higher percentage of successful outcomes and improved customer satisfaction. We invite you to watch a short video to see how easy call recording and retrieval can be.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Do Customers Experience When they Call?

Capturing the customer’s perspective is vital to outstanding service. Finding the best way to achieve this insight will put any call center on the right path to efficiency and success.

The best place to start is with call recording. When you can listen to the customer in his or her own words expressing their satisfaction with or objections to a call center engagement, you’ll know very quickly which agents are doing their jobs, and which part of your scripted copy is achieving the desired results.

Call recording software allows for random call monitoring, so managers can listen in on calls without agents knowing which discussions are being reviewed. That provides a more accurate reflection of a typical customer engagement. Review a cross-section of calls from each agent, from each shift and from each of the common call categories (order placement, order cancellation, questions, complaints, etc.) to get the full picture.

You can also significantly boost the impact of call recording by adding a Quality Management (QM) component. Start by creating a quality assurance scorecard to measure agent demeanor and performance as related to KPIs. Then score each call based on the scorecard and your preferred grading system. These scorecards provide a clear picture of how well each agent and the call center as a whole are doing, and where additional training is needed. You may discover, after repeating this process periodically, that even a small change in greeting or the insertion of a positive phrase or upsell effort can make a big difference.

Quality monitoring works best when all the tools deployed for its achievement are both automated and integrated, as they are in Monet Quality. We invite you to watch a short Quality Monitoring video that illustrates how it works.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Call Center Training Tips: Monitor Improvements

Training and coaching is only effective if you close the loop. This means that what happens after these sessions are complete is just as important as the sessions themselves. How else will you discover whether coaching is having the desired effect?

Many types of companies employ the closed-loop structure as a guideline for quality management and monitoring, and a way to improve both customer service and employee performance. It means forging links between processes and personnel so they complement each other, thus achieving optimal results more quickly.

Here is one 4-step system that will close the training loop at your call center.

1. The Plan of Action
What do you hope to accomplish through training and coaching? List specific goals and approach each training session with these goals in mind. Solicit input from managers, agents and even customers (through survey results and by reviewing recorded calls to identify challenges).

2. Training Sessions
Schedule training sessions in advance and follow your plan of action, while being flexible enough to consider agent feedback and ideas about areas that may not have been part of the original course.

3. Monitor and Check Progress
Review the results of the training and coaching sessions after a sufficient period of time has elapsed. This can be accomplished through follow-up sessions with agents, and through recordings and quality scoring of calls dated after the most recent training. How many objectives were achieved?

4. Closing the Loop
With the new data in hand, you can now create a new plan as in step #1, outlining another set of goals. With each journey around the loop, your call center becomes more efficient, while delivering better service and better results.

Friday, March 21, 2014

5 Steps to Better Contact Center Performance Management

Performance management is something of a catch-all term that incorporates all of the management aspects at a call center, from planning to developing agent skills, to evaluating performance based on metrics and making adjustments accordingly.

As with every other part of the management process, it becomes easier if you first develop a plan of action. Here are five steps that, taken in order, will make performance management more efficient.

1. Measure Current Status
How is the call center doing right now? Are forecasts and schedules accurate? Do you have data from surveys or others sources measuring customer satisfaction? Are orders up and complaints down – or vice versa? Compile a list of key performance indicators and find out how your call center measures up.

2. Set Realistic Goals
Based on the status report from the previous step, identify areas where improvement is possible, and set realistic goals. Chances are you won’t cut average handle time by 5 minutes per agent – but perhaps a 1-minute cut is possible, and when that time saving is added up over an entire month the savings will still be significant. Don’t focus only on quantitative objectives, where you can strive to hit a specific number that represents improvement. Set qualitative goals as well, such as challenging agents to be friendlier or more courteous with each customer.

3. Diagnose Problems
Now that you have your goals in place, identify the hurdles that stand in the way of their achievement. Will additional training improve agent demeanor? Would better forecasting and scheduling software improve staffing and cut costs?

4. Implement Changes
Whatever the challenges specified in step #3, this is the time to do whatever you can to correct them. Implement necessary changes to achieve desired results.

5. Monitor and Repeat
How did you do? Check your results, but don’t wait for the end of the week or month to start. Quality monitoring and tracking key call center metrics should be an ongoing process, as it may be possible to make additional changes to further optimize a call center process that is underperforming. Refine the system and then set new goals. The quest for excellence is a never-ending process, but with a solid performance management plan in place you’ll always be making positive strides.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What is Quality Monitoring for Call Centers?

Given its ubiquitous use in marketing copy, journalism and professional papers focused on the call center industry, one would think there was already a clear and mutually agreed upon definition for the term “Quality Monitoring.”

However, following a quick survey of various websites and a few search engine inquiries, it becomes clear that this is not the case. There are plenty of blogs and whitepapers delving into the benefits of quality monitoring and its challenges, but few seem interested in clarifying the term before diving into their talking points.

The Monet definition of quality monitoring is this: the integration of call monitoring (or recording) and quality assurance, to improve call center efficiency and customer satisfaction.

The next question is, “What is the best and most cost-efficient way to achieve this goal?”

Call Monitoring
While some call centers still monitor calls with onsite personnel, call recording software provides a much better solution. When a supervisor is physically monitoring a customer engagement, there is no way to know for certain if the agent’s performance is better than usual, because he or she is more focused during this scrutiny, or worse than usual because such intimate, direct monitoring can be unsettling.

Call recording software allows for random call monitoring, so the agent will never know which calls are being reviewed. Supervisors thus gain a window on the entire operation and are assured of reviewing a typical encounter between agent and customer.

However, call centers that introduce call monitoring should do so in a way that is open to agent feedback, and addresses any concerns about a “Big Brother” presence designed to catch them doing something wrong. It should be stressed that monitoring benefits both agents and customers.

Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance introduces a grading component into the call monitoring process. Recorded calls are randomly selected and measured against the guidelines and procedures at the call center.

Many of these are defined as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as how quickly the caller can reach a call center, how quickly they can reach an agent, how quickly their issue can be resolved and the call closed, and how long they wait on hold during a call.

Additional quality issues include agent courtesy, empathy with a dissatisfied customer, and the ability to follow procedures. While these will be more subjective than numbers-based KPIs, they are just as important to a successful call center. Best practices on these elements should be clearly defined so they can be graded accurately during a call monitoring session.

Quality Monitoring and Scorecards
The process of quality monitoring begins with the creation of a quality assurance scorecard that will be used to measure agent demeanor and performance as related to KPIs. This should be a company-wide process involving managers, supervisors, agents and even customers (through surveys ranking what is most important to them). If you don’t know what constitutes a “good” call vs. a “bad” call, this is one place to start.

Now the call review process can begin. Score each call based on the scorecard. Everyone involved in scoring needs to periodically evaluate the same call and compare scores to make sure scoring is standardized. Don’t expect universal agreement out of the gate – opinions on qualitative elements of each call may vary greatly, especially in the first few monitoring sessions. As goals become better defined, it will become easier to reach a consensus.

Scorecards are then analyzed to provide a clear picture of how well each agent and the call center as a whole is doing, and where additional training is needed. It also highlights where changes may be necessary to the scripts the sales team follows or to the procedures now in place. Even a small change in greeting or the insertion of a positive phrase or upsell effort can make a big difference.

Avoiding Feedback Fireworks
When it’s time to discuss the results of a quality assurance program with an agent, this is where he or she will worry that their worst fears will be realized. But this should be a supportive process that doles out encouragement along with criticism. Some call centers downplay one-to-one feedback in favor of group sessions, where managers and agents can share their observations and help each other.

When individual coaching is necessary, make sure this task is assigned to someone with the ability to effectively communicate ideas and skills. After the first few coaching sessions, managers should also begin to encourage agent self-evaluation, which saves time for managers and engenders a sense of trust and responsibility in the employee.

Don’t focus only on the negative; feedback sessions should also reward outstanding agents with company recognition, and perhaps a gift certificate or some other token of acknowledgment.

Integration: The Key to Successful Quality Monitoring
Quality monitoring works best when all the tools deployed for its achievement are both automated and integrated, including:

•    Call assessment and playback
•    Audio and video screen capturing
•    Evaluation questionnaires
•    Detailed reporting
•    Coaching and training tools

When these features work together, the result is a system that increases productivity and improves adherence to corporate procedures, while also providing managers and supervisors with more time to focus on training and other techniques to further improve customer service and satisfaction.

Quality Monitoring from the Cloud
Several diverse components contribute to quality monitoring. So the best QM solution would be one that encompasses all of these components from the same source.

Monet Quality enhances quality assurance to deliver unprecedented insight into quality monitoring, performance trends and agent training needs.

Monet Quality includes:

•    Call recording and playback
•    Quality scorecards
•    Customizable questionnaires
•    Live monitoring
•    Screen capturing
•    Audit trail
•    File management/archiving

And since this is a cloud-based service, the transition is faster while the costs are lower than traditional hardware and software products.

The goal of quality monitoring is to identify calls that fail to meet pre-defined standards and get to the root cause of why. The information captured by the metrics of a call center monitoring program are essential to the cost-effective operation of the call center and the collection of vital customer feedback on quality, performance, and service.

Using call recording and quality monitoring tools, such as those included in Monet Quality, it is possible to capture not only the call itself but the activity that took place on the agent’s screen and score 100% of these interactions, giving an accurate and comprehensive view of agent, team, and overall contact center performance. Fore more information, please download our Quality Assurance Strategy whitepaper.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Is Your Contact Center PCI Compliant?

Every company CEO has read the dire headlines about online security breaches, such as the one that hit Target last holiday season. Such incidents are not only costly; they are a public relations nightmare.

So the motivation is to protect the business and its valued customers at all costs. For call centers, security measures must be made in accordance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). The PCI DSS requires file encryption, secure storage and the deletion of certain information, such as the credit card security code.

To determine whether your contact center is PCI compliant, start with a review of these three areas:

Does your call recording technology provide a means to prevent the recording of sensitive data when it is not necessary? This can be as basic as a Pause and Resume option, or a Mute button. When cardholder data is transmitted and/or stored, it should be done only after this data has been encrypted. Any potential flaws in the system should be reviewed through a vulnerability management program. 

Access Control
Both physical and logical access controls should be in place to restrict access to sensitive data. Access should be granted on a need-to-know basis only to those individuals who require it for the function of their jobs. Some contact centers address this by assigning a unique ID to all employees, so there will be an audit trail in the case of an unauthorized access. Given the employee turnover that exists at many contact centers, access rights to this data should be terminated immediately after an employee leaves the company.

Network Security
Make certain that every aspect of your contact center technology is as secure as possible. That starts with an effective firewall and router, as well as internal processes that provide additional layers of protection. All traffic from unsafe networks and hosts should be restricted, and there should never be any direct access between any network component containing cardholder data and the Internet. All remote devices used by contact center personnel should also provide adequate protection. Follow-up testing on all security systems and processes should be conducted on a regular basis.

For more information about this and other regulations, please also check this blog post about PCI compliance and regulations. Please note, that the list mentioned above is not a complete list of requirements - please make sure to read the official PCI regulations and other applicable regulations for a complete set of requirements and rules for your contact center.

And of course, you can always contact us if you have questions about call recording and compliance.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Call Recording: The Top 5 Benefits

There are a number of reasons that call recording has become an essential element in a contact center. For any businesses that still haven’t added this capability to their company, here are the top five reasons why it should be done without further delay:
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1. Improved Agent Performance
What better way to review how contact center agents are fulfilling their obligations than by reviewing actual calls with actual customers?

2. Training
Recorded calls can be utilized to help new agents learn a call center’s best practices, or to review performance of the entire team at regularly scheduled performance reviews. Managers can evaluate efficiency, courtesy, conversational style, proper use of scripted or company-approved responses and other key components. At some point, agents should be able to review their own call records and self-evaluate, saving time for managers and coaches.

3. Protection
Client disputes can be settled faster by accessing call center recordings to review the discrepancy. With an undisputed record of what was said by both parties, the contact center can avoid the cost and inconvenience of legal action that could arise when no proof is available.

4. Customer Service
By now, customers probably assume their calls are being recorded even when they are not. Most are not only fine with this, they prefer it, for the same reasons that benefit a contact center – knowing a record exists protects their rights and creates a confirmation of what the company says it will do.

5. Customer Satisfaction
Call centers are often used for surveys on what customers like and what they don’t. But even in those contact centers that focus primarily on order placement, agents are bound to receive feedback on what the caller thinks about the company and its products, even when these opinions are not solicited. A call recording captures this data, delivering insight into consumer trends and product interest.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cost Comparison of Call Center Recording Software

We’ve devoted several previous blogs to the differences between the traditional on-premises hardware/software installation utilized by many call centers, and the cloud delivery model that is rapidly gaining in acceptance and popularity.

While there are a number of ways to compare and contrast how these solutions perform, the one that may be a determining factor for most businesses is cost. So let’s take a closer look at the dollars and cents.

Cloud computing is provided as a subscription service, which can be a tremendous advantage for smaller or midsized call centers, as there is no need to invest in additional hardware and software. In this model, call centers pay only for the usage of the system as a subscription - nor large up-front investment, installation and operation of hardware, etc. For a smaller call center, this means the ability to significantly lower upfront costs, while maintaining the option of scaling up as needed.

With the traditional on-premise model, cost considerations don’t stop with selected hardware and software, plus installation. There are maintenance costs and the need to purchase and install regular upgrades as well. Both of these expenses are not a factor in the cloud model, as there is no onsite equipment to break down, and upgrades are delivered automatically, often at no cost to the subscriber. And if the worst should ever happen – fire, flood, earthquake – there is no expensive equipment to repair or replace.

Staffing is another consideration. Hardware and software need to be looked after by managers and system techs. With services delivered from the cloud, some of these positions can be eliminated, which provides another boost to the bottom line. Cloud computing also makes it much easier for agents to work from home, which can reduce the need for larger (and more costly) facilities.

When comparing both models, you should compare the cost over the whole life-cycle based on the following criteria:
  • Purchase: Initial purchase cost for software and hardware
  • Capital: Large upfront investment and long implementation times result in higher capital costs
  • Implement: Cost for installation and implementation, including training and coaching
  • Customize: Cost for customization and configuration to fit your unique needs
  • Operate: Cost for running and operating the system including backups and IT staffing
  • Upgrade: Cost to upgrade the system
To learn more about this or if you would like to see a more detailed comparison, please contact us and we will walk you through a cost model.