Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Industry Survey Reveals Contact Industry Priorities

MCM Outlook 2014, a new survey from Multi-Channel Merchant, provides an interesting snapshot into the priorities at more than 1,200 contact centers.

When asked, “what is the most important contact center measurement you rely on?” almost half (49.5%) cited customer service scores. This was closely followed by service level and first-call resolution (FCR) rate. Interestingly, respondents that cited first-call resolution doubled from the previous year.

This reflects a belief that callers do not just prefer a quick response, they want one that is informative and substantive, so their issue can be resolved without further communication.

And if customer satisfaction is tied to ease of service, that’s good news

There are a number of ways to reduce FCR, including improved agent training and incentives, but the most important difference-maker is a software system that provides the resources agents and managers need, as well as the analytics to help managers set policies that can also work toward this goal.

This is a realization that is also catching on, according to the MCM survey. Last year, 32% of respondents – nearly one out of three – reported that they did not rely on any contact center measurements. That number dropped significantly, to 17.2%, in 2014.

for contact centers, because it is a goal they share as well. Contact center managers also place a high priority on first-call resolution, because improving that number also reduces business costs.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Planning for the Unexpected In the Contact Center

“Planning for the unexpected” may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s an important aspect of contact center management.

It’s possible to do because activities that could be classified as unexpected would not be surprising to a manager – breaks, vacations, training sessions, days off. The only aspect of these activities that is unexpected is when they might happen. Planning for them is made much easier by utilizing the intra-day management and exception management capabilities of a workforce management solution.

Intra-day Management
Using a graphical display of agent schedules, a manager can drag and drop breaks, lunches and other exceptions to adjust the contact center schedule as needed. Real-time updates are instantly recorded, and any surpluses or shortages are displayed for any part of the day. When the unexpected occurs, managers will instantly know the best way to react without sacrificing customer service. 

Exception Planning
The best workforce management solutions, such as Monet WFM Live, provide a fully integrated Exception Planner, with the ability to schedule exceptions such as vacations, training meetings, jury duty, etc. These can be scheduled far into the future or recorded as recurring exceptions.

While many of these activities can be documented days or weeks in advance, the Exception Planner also supports mid-day exceptions as they occur, taking them into account while choosing shifts and scheduling breaks.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Boosting Visibility into Call Center Agent Activities

Watch Video
It’s 11am – do you know what your agents are doing?

The more you know, the better idea you’ll have of how well they are meeting your objectives. And since this is important information, you should get it in real-time, not at the end of the shift or the day.

Proactive performance management makes this possible, with the right technology in place. However, too many call centers still lack the capability to track and measure key performance indicators (KPIs). Without this vital data, forecasting, scheduling and staffing become much more difficult – and cannot be achieved with the same economic efficiency.

With the real-time performance management capabilities of Monet Metrics, you’ll gain the insight you need into how much each agent is costing you, and how often each one stays in (or falls out of) adherence. You’ll get actionable data on such metrics as:
  • 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
By taking a unified approach to KPIs, and not examining each one separately, managers receive a clear picture into how their contact centers are functioning at any given moment. Armed with this data, it’s easier to make adjustments that result in a better utilization of resources, better cost management and improved service levels.

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

The True Cloud for Contact Centers: Interview with Monet Software CEO

For years, the term “cloud computing” spoke for itself. It referred to a very specific kind of software delivery system, one that has grown much more popular in recent years.

But lately, there has been a rise in products claiming to offer the benefits of a cloud solution, that provide only a variation on traditional technology, with all of its accompanying costs and complications.

If you are considering cloud computing in your contact center, you can maximize the benefits derived from it by choosing a trusted, reputable provider and getting the right system in place, the first time.

Monet CEO Chuck Ciarlo was recently interviewed for an article that takes a closer look at what defines a genuine cloud solution. As with any true cloud provider, he has been frustrated by those entities that seek to confuse the marketplace with products that promise much but deliver little.

"True cloud solutions, says Ciarlo, are based on a distributed delivery model, allow for frequent updates, are able to be delivered with guaranteed service levels and up times, are multitenant and not managed per instance, and are scalable. These are capabilities not found in client-server products that are simply pushed up to a hosted facility the vendor controls but lack virtualization and scalability, he says."

Click here to read the article.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Customer Experience Tip: Empower you agents

Your contact center has policies and procedures in place that you expect your agents to follow. They have been trained in your way of doing business, and receive periodical reviews and coaching to make certain they are adhering to the system.

So is it then counterproductive to suggest that you also allow agents to stray from that system, and to exercise some flexibility when it comes to doing the right thing for your customers?

It may sound that way, but contact centers that recognize there’s not a textbook answer to every customer engagement are those that are doing more for customer service than marking items on a checklist. Your agents should be empowered to make decisions, to stay on a call a few extra moments, even to break a rule every now and then, to preserve a customer relationship.

To be clear, this is discretion that should be earned, and not bestowed on day one. After an agent has been with the contact center for awhile and has shown good judgment, he or she should then be given the latitude to sometimes take action that may not be in the script.

The online shoe store Zappos is often lauded as an example of this type of customer service, and with good reason. The company seems to have located the right balancing point between efficient and consistent procedures, and thinking outside the box.

“Never take your customers for granted,” said Scott Klein, manager of the company’s Customer Loyalty Team. “Never settle. Many companies get to a point where they hit cruise control, because things are going well. Zappos realizes that customers are our lifeblood — they're keeping us in business. The moment we take our customers for granted and stop listening is the moment that a competitor steps in and pushes us out of the way.”

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Virtual Home Agents: Manage Them More Easily in the Cloud

Technology has had a profound impact on the way Americans work, and nowhere has this been more apparent than in the rise of telecommuting, or work-from-home positions. Any office-based task can now be completed as easily from a home computer as it can from a corporate cubicle. And with the right workers and the right technology, such as contact center cloud software, the results are often more efficient and

Contact centers have also experienced a rise in “virtual agents,” those that work out of their homes. For the first time, qualified agents looking for a position no longer have to live close to a call center location. In fact, they don’t even have to reside in the same state.

Yes, the absence of direct supervision demands a high level of trust between employer and employee, but it’s an arrangement that can be beneficial not only to the agent, but to the call center and its customers.

The Benefits of Working from Home
If an agent is happier working from home, that positive attitude will certainly be reflected in his or her job performance. The comforts of home can make a call center agent more motivated to maintain their employment by working hard and meeting the company’s needs.

While there are virtual agents of both sexes and all ages, the average age for these  types of employees is approximately 40, which in most cases means an experienced worker that will be the same age as the average contact center caller. This increases the odds of that agent “speaking the same language” as the customer.

Parents with small children also fall into this age group and often prefer the family proximity of a home-based office. It also eliminates their drive to and from work, which not only increases family time, it also decreases gas costs, automobile wear and tear, and the need to purchase a “work wardrobe.” 

One might think coaching at-home agents might be more complicated, but training one on one via telephone can be as effective as an in-person coaching session.

What about technology? In many homes the bandwidth provided from a DSL/cable connection is higher than what many call centers provide. However, security measures must be implemented to make certain all customer interactions are not subject to hacking or breaches.

Scheduling is another area where virtual agents can be an asset, though reporting may have to be adjusted to include necessary KPIs for managing remotely. They can also contribute to the flexible scheduling needs of a call center – when there are unexpected peaks in call volume, at-home agents can help by simply logging on to their computer – no need to drive down to the call center first.

Finally, it’s not surprising that managers have reported much lower attrition rates with virtual agents, which is particularly significant in an industry where high employee turnover is typical.

Managing Virtual Agents
Overall statistical results have shown that home-working agents are more productive and provide superior service to callers when compared with their contact center-based colleagues, delivering exceptional performance in KPIs with fewer behavioral issues.

But for call centers unaccustomed to this work arrangement, managers may be reluctant to introduce a paradigm that is so different from their status quo.

However, the transition can be made quickly and efficiently with cloud software. In fact, the evolution of cloud software has accelerated the work from home trend in the call center industry, as it provides the same technology and service capabilities to an agent’s home computer and web browser as they would enjoy at the call center. No installation is required, data sharing remains secure, and managers enjoy even more flexibility in the forecasting and scheduling process.

Since all call monitoring, recording and analysis data is stored “in the cloud,” access is independent of location. The same information can be retrieved at any call center workstation, as well as at home and on mobile devices away from the office. With more companies hiring telecommuting employees, or working out of their home part-time, that flexibility can be invaluable as the industry continues to evolve.

Multi-site recording systems should provide full recording and monitoring functionality, as well as instant retrieval of any files, whether from local or networked storage systems. With a cloud-based system, storage is never an issue. Whether there are two call centers or fifty at home agents, all calls and customer interactions can be unified within one system.

Installation is simpler as well. Where in the past there would be a need to set up remote call recording systems and tie them together, the cloud-based system can be implemented more quickly, and with a lower investment cost in equipment. It’s also more environmentally friendly, as fewer machines mean less of a power drain – another monthly savings.

And working from home doesn’t mean the agent is isolated from coworkers; cloud software incorporates collaborating and chat tools, seamlessly integrated with current systems. Real time dashboard and adherence tools allow a manager to monitor virtual agents as easily as those within the call center, and provide instant feedback as needed.

Helping work-from-home agents achieve acceptable performance standards becomes much easier with a quality monitoring solution. The in-depth analysis and consistent reporting provided by a QM system exposes areas where improvement is needed, and provides accurate measurement on changes that occur as new standards are adopted.

The benefits of expanding call center operations to incorporate at-home agents are numerous – for the company, it means a larger talent pool to recruit from, the ability to add more agents without adding office space, having a flexible virtual staff “on call” for an emergency, and being able to address sudden increases in call volume within minutes, not hours.

For the agents, it’s a chance to have a job that does not require a car, a new business suit or the added expense of daycare for the kids.

Companies now have the means to build a geographically diverse team that works together with all the benefits of improved productivity and better communication.

While such arrangements are still the exception, they may not stay that way much longer. One survey predicts that nearly 80 per cent of employees could be working ‘outside’ their organization by 2020 thanks to the rise of cloud computing.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Customer Experience Tip #1: Make it Easy for Customers

We should be living in a golden age of customer service. The technology now available to companies and consumers should make doing business more efficient than ever before.

Unfortunately, the reality has not lived up to our expectations. Ask most consumers what they want from a company, and most will say they want their transaction handled in a way that is easy.

Contact centers would do well to listen to this. Whatever resources are being channeled into technology, personnel, training, best practices etc. should all be working toward the same goal – making life easier for your customers. There are some aspects of this that are beyond the call center’s reach, but where they can contribute to a positive customer experience, they should do so, keeping these objectives in mind:
  • Make it Easy to Learn About the Product – this is achieved through intelligent, well-trained agents who can answer questions
  • Make it Easy to Purchase and Pay for the Product – how efficiently can credit card information and shipping information be collected in a secure fashion? How aggressive should an agent be with upsell opportunities that will delay completion of the transaction?
  • Make it Easy to Contact the Company to Get Help and Support – that means no long waits on hold, no 10-12 rings before the call is answered, no putting customers back on hold after collecting some information, and no asking for the same information multiple times, as a caller is moved up a chain of support personnel before reaching the one that can actually address their situation.
Easy is always better. What can you do at your call center to deliver this type of customer experience?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

An Innovative Approach to Call Center Quality Monitoring

What is the objective of quality monitoring? For most call centers it is an effort meant to improve customer service by measuring agent performance and the efficiency of training and practices.

Call recording provides much of this insight, but the best quality monitoring program is one that integrates call recording, scorecards and screen capture, thus taking the entire program to the next level.

Quality Scorecards

Scorecards make it easier to identify superstar agents, and pinpoint the specific areas in which some agents may require additional training. By grading each portion of a call, from its length to the courtesy of the agent’s responses, managers have much better idea of where improvement is most needed.

Screen Capturing

Call recording insights are magnified by the data accessible through screen capture recording, which captures both synchronized voice and video of an agent’s customer interactions. Now if there’s an issue, a manager will know if it’s the agent that needs help, or if the desktop applications in place need improvement.

By 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 interactions, giving an accurate and comprehensive view of agent, team, and overall contact center performance.

Once these changes are put in place, the call center should see a positive impact on such KPIs as average handle time and first call resolution.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why Call Center Recording is Essential

The addition of call recording capabilities to a call center delivers benefits far beyond the one that is most obvious – creating and storing a record of each customer encounter.

Whether assessed by itself or in conjunction with workforce management, call recording is an essential element in an efficient call center.

We’ve created a call recording whitepaper, which you can download here for free  that explores this subject in greater detail. In “Call Recording Software: Why It’s Essential for your Call Center,” you’ll discover:
  • How call recording improves the quality of customer service
  • The positive impact of call recording on agent training
  • How call recording helps increase productivity – and profits – by delivering the data necessary to improve call center practices
  • The ways in which recording calls ensure compliance and protects call centers from lawsuits
  • How call recording can help resolve HR issues
In addition, the whitepaper describes the advantages of incorporating call recording into a unified workforce management (WFM) solution that impacts forecasting, scheduling, adherence, quality, metrics and compliance. When all of these efforts are engaged, call center management have the resources necessary to take a more proactive approach to improving customer service.

Too expensive? Not when call recording and WFM are delivered in a faster and more affordable way via the Cloud.

Download “Call Recording Software: Why It’s Essential for your Call Center” now and learn how it might help your contact center.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Call Recording Health Check for your Contact Center

Do you use call recording (CR) in your contact center? If not, perhaps it’s time to explore the numerous benefits that this technology provides.

If you are enjoying the advantages of this technology, great! But there may be ways in which it can be augmented to provide even more benefits to your agents and your customers. These questions should help you determine if your call recording solution is being used to its fullest potential.

1. What calls do you record?
Is your system recording a representative sample, or is every call being collected and archived? While the first method might deliver solid statistical information, recording every call provides more insight into agent performance.

2. Are you using call recording for coaching and training existing agents?
This is one of the best uses for recorded calls. Managers can review recordings with agents, and discuss which aspects of the agent’s performance are on target, and which merit additional training.

3. Are you using CR for on-boarding of new agents?
Explaining company policies and procedures to new agents is one thing – providing recorded calls that illustrate those procedures in action provides a much more vivid and memorable means of instilling these practices into new hires from day one.

4. Is CR being used to gain more customer insights?

What could be a better indication of what customers want from your call center than the voices of those customers themselves?

5. Are you using CR to resolve issues and disputes?
Some disputes are inevitable. But with a recording of the conversation between agent and customer, the contact center has the means to either settle the issue, or prevent it from escalating into a legal matter.

6. Do you use CR in conjunction with quality assurance for a comprehensive quality monitoring system?
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. When CR and QA work together, the result is a system that increases productivity and improves adherence to corporate procedures.

To learn more, please watch any of the videos about call recording and quality monitoring.