Tips for More Effective Call Center Workforce Management

This blog provides practical information on all aspects of workforce management for contact centers, including quality monitoring, call recording, performance management and analytics

Call Center Workforce Management Blog

Contact Center Leadership: Easy as 1-2-3

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Leadership is an often-overlooked trait in any business, including the contact center. Every company has a boss, but not every boss is a natural leader. 

One way to establish leadership, according to this article, is to adopt a set of best practices that help managers lead agents and achieve goals. But with so many other responsibilities (coaching, preparing management reports, dealing with unexpected occurrences), doing so can be a challenge. 

Here is one three-step process for cutting through the clutter and focusing on what is most important. More...


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Speechless? Step Up to Speech Analytics

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Many organizations have told us about the difference that Monet Speech Analytics has made in the efficiency of their contact centers, and how many customer relationships have been improved or saved by the rapid response to real-time situations that it makes possible. 

If you haven’t considered adding speech analytics to your call center intelligence tools, here are just a few ways it can enhance the experience you provide your customers. 

By transforming voice data from customer interactions into business intelligence, you now have the capability to improve:

  • Agent performance
  • Customer experience
  • Regulatory compliance
  • First call resolution
  • Sales effectiveness
  • Issue resolution
  • Overall quality of service 

Call recording is still important, of course. But speech analytics turbo-charges the value that can be attained from these calls. The software automatically processes and identifies important keywords and phrases, allowing you to quickly find calls related to specific issues and challenges. It also provides automated alerts when a new relevant call is received. 

Whether you are seeking to lower customer complaint rates or address compliance issues, speech analytics helps you to find the interactions you need, so you can spend less time searching and more time solving the problem. 

Find out more about Monet Speech Analytics.



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2014: A Record Year for Contact Centers

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Did your contact center add more agents last year? If it did, it was not alone. 

According to Jobs4America, as many as 50,000 new positions were created in the contact center industry in 2014, about 15,000 of those in the fourth quarter alone. 

Some of this job growth can be attributed to a rebounding economy, and some is no doubt related to the number of companies that are moving contact center functionality back to the United States after years of outsourcing. 

What does it mean? Prepare for a busy year. And be aware that while you’ll be speaking to more customers going forward, none of them will be that interested in how much busier you are – they just want good service. 

Workforce management Software (WFM) is the key to delivering that service, and not just in the customer-facing operations of the front office. In the back office, WFM can streamline a variety of tasks, including simulations to improve forecasts for staffing and call volume, and scheduling improvements created by optimization of agent availability and service levels. 

Does your WFM solution have the multi-channel efficiencies necessary to provide the same functionality to your back office as to the front office? If not, perhaps it is time to investigate a system that will allow you to take a more proactive approach in managing back office activities – no matter how busy you get in 2015 and beyond. 



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Exploring Trends in Quality Assurance and Quality Monitoring

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Recently, we’ve been speaking to some contact center managers about what is happening in their centers. This feedback is important to us as we develop new products and services, and upgrade our existing solutions. 

Quality Monitoring (QM) and Quality Assurance (QA) are two of the challenges that clients have mentioned most frequently. We have covered these topics in several previous blogs and articles, as well as the white paper Seven Strategies for Effective Quality Assurance.  

“Yes, this is helpful,” they responded. “But is anything new going on in this field?” Are there any new ideas or trends that are working that we could try?”

The answer is yes – and no. Here we will cover some of the most recent developments in the quality monitoring and quality assurance field; however, these should not be implemented in a way that replaces the proven tools and techniques that have worked for more than a decade. The best solution would be to incorporate the new methods as an enhancement to your current strategy – assuming it is based on solid ideas and principles. More...


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Gamification = Motivation

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“This is an office – not a playground!” Such words were frequently uttered for generations at companies, where the employees seemed more interested in having fun than doing their jobs. 

More recently, however, studies have shown that finding the element of fun in every job that must be done (to paraphrase Mary Poppins) can actually improve productivity and customer satisfaction. 

It’s called gamification, and it means redesigning everyday routines and tasks to be more game-like and interactive, resulting in experiences that are more engaging, more fun, and (hopefully) more productive. 

Can this work to motivate employees in the contact center? Possibly – as long as there are not any negative consequences to the activities devised. 

At some Target stores, cashiers compete in on how quickly they can ring up purchases. Something like this could be tried in a contact center, as long as agents are not rushing through scripted responses to end the call faster. Likewise, a challenge among agents on who can achieve the most upsells of a certain product could backfire if agents resort to more aggressive techniques that exacerbate the customer experience. 

Managers must introduce a gamification program with care – specifying guidelines for competitions and stressing the ultimate goal of improving not just worker morale but customer service. In the contact center environment where so much of the workday is spent in repetition of basic tasks, the right kinds of games can add excitement to the team, and might even help the company retain its best agents. 

If you have created any activities that have proven successful, let us know


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Defining – and Improving First Call resolution

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In the old days it was simpler – first call resolution (FCR) at the call center was a simple measurement of how often a customer’s issue was settled within one call. No standard definition was required. 

Today it’s a little more complicated. If a caller is transferred from an agent to a technical support expert, that’s still one call but two separate conversations – does that still qualify? What if a call is made after an attempt to resolve the issue via web chat proves unsuccessful? That’s just one call as well, but it was also the customer’s second effort to achieve a goal. 

While definitions might change, one thing is certain – FCR is the most highly correlated metric to customer satisfaction. A CFI Group study surveyed customers whose issues were not resolved in one call; it found that 43% said they would take their business elsewhere. 

Keep These Customers with WFM

An automated workforce management (WFM) solution is one way to improve first call resolution and encourage customer loyalty. 

With WFM it’s easier to implement a skills-based schedule so calls are answered by agents with the talent and experience to resolve them. It also allows managers and agents to use recorded calls to learn from mistakes and train new agents in proven company procedures. 

These recordings can subsequently play a role in your quality monitoring efforts. Score each one based on specific criteria and overall success, and it’s easier to discover the best way to address different types of customer questions and concerns. 

Finally, if you have a WFO system with speech analytics, you can use this resource to identify important recurring words and phrases, and how an agent should react when receiving a call that fits their criteria. 

However you choose to define FCR, one fact is certain: the better prepared your agents can be for any eventuality, the more likely they will be able to end a call knowing they have just said goodbye to a satisfied customer.


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Incentivizing Your Contact Center Agents

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“Incentivizing” is something of a buzzword now in business. It refers to ways to acknowledge and reward employees to build a sense of loyalty and encourage outstanding performance. 

If you are thinking of introducing an incentive program to your contact center, here are a few tips that might help. 

1. Clarity

Make sure agents understand the goals you wish them to achieve, and make sure you have an accurate, objective means to measure their performance. Workforce optimization software can play a key role here. 


2. Divide and Inspire

Don’t make your program one-size-fits-all. A new hire should not be incentivized in the same way as a 5-year veteran. Your top performers are already highly motivated – the program should reward them in a way that inspires those just under that top 5% or 10% tier to up their game. Likewise, strive to incentivize “average” agents into stars, and those that are struggling to achieve a more consistent performance. 


3. Offer the Right Rewards

Perhaps you think dinner for two at the neighborhood steakhouse is a great reward, but your vegan agents won’t be inspired. And while everyone appreciates money, it doesn’t have the same tangible impact as a gift. Try this – acknowledge achievement with a point-reward system. Once points are accrued they can be traded in for a reward selection of the agent’s choice. 


4. Recognize Everyone that Improves

Contests can be motivating, but if awards are only bestowed on the top 3 performers in a month, that won’t do much for the agent who also improved his job performance but finished fourth. Make sure everyone who is getting better is sharing in the accolades for doing so. 


5. Keep it Fun

An incentive program should not turn into a cutthroat competition between agents. It should be a unifying program that focuses on celebrating both individual and collective achievement. 



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Social Media and Contact Centers

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“Social media” is a phrase no one would have recognized ten years ago; today, it’s an essential element in any customer-driven business. 

The contact center used to be the primary source for managing customer relationships, and still has a very important role to play in this function. But today, customers are just as likely to take their compliment or their complaint to the company’s social media platforms. 

There are a number of reasons for this – people have incorporated social media into their everyday lives to such an extent that it’s the first communications channel they think about when wishing to contact a company. It’s also a way to communicate the message instantly, without having to look up a phone number or be put on hold. 

Now that Facebook and Twitter and other outlets have redefined the relationship between companies and customers, it is important for the contact center to be in sync with how these relationships are managed – perhaps it’s even time for social media to be managed by the same personnel, who have been trained in customer relations and company policies on how to address feedback. 

There are significant differences between a call and a social media post, the most important of these is that the latter automatically becomes a public conversation. Thousands of other people will read the customer’s comment and the company’s response. That makes the tone and content of the engagement even more critical. The right response (especially if it is posted quickly and not 5 days later) will have a positive impact on the original poster and on everyone who sees it. 

Social media also provides a means to be proactive in a way that the contact center cannot. Savvy posting can be used to promote and protect a brand, and develop closer relationships with customers by staying in touch with them between orders and in-person visits to the business. The good work that is done here can resonate beyond the response to any single phone call or email. 



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Customer Loyalty Starts with Agent Loyalty

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Happy agents result in happy customers. So how do you create happy agents? 

Let’s go beyond the obvious answers to this question – a competitive salary, scheduling flexibility that allows agents to balance home and family responsibilities with their job, and appreciation from managers and supervisors.  These are all important and necessary best practices for creating a positive relationship between employer and employee. 

However, it’s also important to build supportive relationships between agents, which is more difficult since each one spends the day talking to people outside the office and not those in the surrounding cubicles. 

Team building is an excellent method to encourage company loyalty and create happier, more effective agents. This is especially true if you have remote agents and employees that work from home, as they have even fewer opportunities to network with coworkers. 

One way to introduce this concept would be to establish a weekly or monthly get-together offsite, at a restaurant or a park. As employees bond it’s also a good time for managers to seek feedback on how they feel about their jobs, and ask for suggestions on how to better serve customers and make the contact center a more positive place to work. 

Yes, this may require an investment on the part of the business, but the outcomes that will result will make this money well spent. 

There are also team-building practices that can be introduced at no cost, such as a huddle at the start of each shift – a few words of encouragement, a reminder of the importance of the customer, and singling out a few agents for their contributions can be a great way to start a day. 


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Reducing Churn with Motivated Agents

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In every type of business there are unfortunate realities that seem inevitable. With contact centers, one of these pitfalls has always been agent churn, or agent attrition. 

For years, the rate of attrition across the industry has remained fairly consistent at approximately 30%. Many call center managers would single out this turnover as one of their top priorities for improvement, but when the numbers don’t drop they just assume there’s nothing to be done, and that about one of every three agents is not going to be there very long. 

However, given the significant business costs associated with agent churn, and its impact on customer service, perhaps it is time to take a new look at agent retention. 


The Cost of Attrition

If you are a contact center manager, the cost of attrition is already built into your annual operating budget. Funds are allocated for the high costs of recruiting and hiring new agents, training those agents, and any loss of productivity resulting from new hires becoming acclimated to a new company and new procedures. 

However, there are additional hidden costs that are not always acknowledged, including the impact that agent churn has on customer churn. 

If a customer receives poor service from a new agent, he or she may decide to try another company. According to an inContact study, a 1% increase in churn represents a 1% decrease in revenue. If the attrition rate could be improved by 50%, the result would be a 1.2% increase in company revenues. For a firm with $500 million in annual revenues, improving the attrition rate would represent more than $6 million saved in hidden costs. 

Another detriment to churn that is less obvious is how it disrupts the culture of the contact center, particularly in the effect it has on remaining agents. It’s not pleasant to regularly welcome new agents into nearby cubicles, only to watch them leave after a short period of time. 


The Cure for Attrition

It will come as no surprise that the key to reducing attrition is keeping agents longer by making sure they are happy and motivated in their work. Companies have different philosophies on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to employee motivation, but here are a few tips that can produce positive results.

Hiring

Retaining quality agents begins with hiring quality agents. Those who start out with the required experience, personality and skills for call center work are more likely to become the type of agents worth keeping. 

Environment

An agent who dreads going to work every day will soon rid himself of that habit. A call center that is bright and clean and inviting provides motivation by simply being a more pleasant place in which to work. There are also a number of team-building activities, seminars, outings and other activities that can improve agent morale and build a team spirit outlook.

Respect

Agents are on the front lines of customer service, and they will have ideas on how methods or scripts can be altered to better serve customers. Respect these ideas and reward those that are implemented. Agents will feel more motivated if their ideas are taken seriously, and they feel like part of a team. In addition to open communication, managers should also nurture, encourage and support their agents to encourage loyalty and consistent job performance. 

Rewards

It’s the most obvious, but also among the most effective motivation tools – reward good performance with a little something extra besides a weekly paycheck. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – perhaps an “Agent of the Week” designation that comes with a gift card for a local restaurant. 

Training

Some agents may view training as a necessary evil, but if these sessions are used to teach new skills, which may be critical as call centers evolve into contact centers, it provides motivation for the agent by adding variety to their daily obligations. Learning new skills benefits both the agent and the call center. 

Trust

While coaching and training should be a regular part of the agent experience, agents should also be able to use call recording software to review their own performances and make changes as needed. They will also appreciate the trust you show in them by allowing them to correct their own mistakes. 

Patience

Did an agent mishandle a call? It’s going to happen, especially with newer hires. This is a coaching moment, but not a “verbally dress down the agent on the floor” moment. Nobody’s perfect. Take the necessary steps to minimize such incidents, but insults and threats are not going to result in better performance or motivated employees.  

Technology/Flexibility

Agents work best when they have the technology that makes their jobs easier. Call recording software and quality assurance solutions not only benefit managers, but agents as well.

Workforce Management (WFM) can play a prominent role in engendering employee satisfaction. When WFM was first introduced, it was perceived as a means to control a call center workforce and keep an electronic eye on them at all times. But in today’s call centers, agents and managers have discovered how WFM improves both communication and schedule flexibility:


Skill-based Scheduling allows managers to better match agents with the types of calls they are most comfortable and experienced in handling.  This boosts both employee confidence and customer service. 


Flexible Schedules are more easily managed with WFM, so agents can balance obligations in their personal lives with work responsibilities. 


Online Collaboration between agents and supervisors makes it easier for agents to bid for shifts, and to handle changes as needed. 


Exception Calendars keep all call center personnel informed and prepared for issues. 


Reporting and Transparency Tools provide more accurate assessments of agent performance, so they can be monitored and reviewed fairly.


All of these capabilities help call centers to engage agents in the planning and management process, and that makes for happier agents. 


Conclusion

When asked to specify the greatest obstacles to achieving their key business goals, 53 percent of call center leaders selected attrition, outranking all other choices. By intelligent employment of communication, process and technology, particularly workforce management software, it is possible to reduce attrition rates and create motivated agents.




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Does your Workforce Scheduling Software Deliver these Reports?

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Optimal resource scheduling requires accurate forecasting of work volume and staff requirements. Workforce management (WFM) software makes it easier to specify shift patterns and daily duties, and factor in the skill sets and preferences of individual agents. 

This information should be delivered via reports. But if your system is not delivering the information you need, or is providing that data in a way that is difficult to decipher, it might be time to consider a new WFM solution. This is particularly important since the responsibility of WFM does not end with the production of an accurate schedule. 

If you are ready to consider a new WFM system, be sure to ask about the reporting options that can make a positive difference at your contact center. These include: 


The Hours Worked Report: this report makes it easier to observe the breakdown and summary of assigned activities, balance multiple types of work, and handle other backlog issues

The Agent Status Report: Compare this report with the Hours Worked Report for new insights into workload distribution and productivity 

The Service Performance Report: Compare “How we did” results to “What we expected” numbers. 

The Coverage Report: Reveals gaps in staffing. 


These are just some of the capabilities of Monet WFM. Find out why we call it “Call Center Workforce Management Made Easy.” 


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Contact Center Performance Webinar: View on Demand now Available

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Monet Software recently presented a webinar entitled “How to Gain More Insight into the Performance of your Contact Center.” The event generated a strong turnout and has received positive feedback from many of those in attendance.