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

The Pitfalls of Scheduling – And How to Avoid Them

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Scheduling mistakes are frustrating for managers and agents, and ultimately for your customers. You review your forecasts and you do your best, but if the numbers on paper are not matching up with what happens during a shift, here are some possible reasons why, and what you can do to achieve better results. 

Insufficient Data

Historical data reveals patterns that should make scheduling easier and more accurate. But don’t just stay in the shallow end of the data pool and factor in the obvious peak calling times and slower portions of a day or a week. Account for holidays and seasonal shifts, new product introductions and weather impact. And make sure your schedule includes lunch breaks, training sessions and other times when agents will not be available to take calls. An automated workforce management solution is the easiest way to collect and analyze this data, and then schedule accordingly. 

Shrinkage

The further out you create a schedule, the more you’ll have to account for shrinkage. You can foresee sick days and vacations for the week ahead – but two months from now? It’s impossible – so consider shrinkage so the circumstances you can’t anticipate now will not result in an under-staffed contact center. 

Schedule Breaks as Well as Work Time

It’s one thing to account for breaks within a schedule – it’s another to actually affix them to a specific time, and expect your agents to adhere to it. Otherwise you may have too many agents taking breaks or heading out to lunch together at the same time, which will derail any schedule. WFM software can automatically assign breaks at the optimum time, so that impact on coverage and service level is minimized.

Work With Your Agents’ Needs When Possible

Agents are more likely to adhere to a schedule when the contact center is open to their work preferences. At a typical business there may be full time and part time agents, some working for home and some for whom this is a second job. Taking these factors into consideration will require more flexibility in schedule creation, but there are definite benefits to having a range of shift solutions available. 

Full-Time vs. Part-Time

There is a stability to a full-time agent team that many contact centers find more desirable. But call patterns may result in too many agents collecting salary for doing nothing. That’s why some contact centers hire enough full-time employees to cover anticipated demand, and use part-timers to handle peak hours. The right mix will vary depending upon the business, but many find a 75% to 25% ratio of full-time to part-time agents will suffice.

User-Friendly Technology

When it is easier for agents to manage their preferences, it is easier for managers to create schedules that take into account their future availability. This should be a consideration when choosing a WFM solution

Don’t Make Assumptions on Agent Preferences

“No one is going to want to work Saturday night.” Really? What about the agent who would rather attend his daughter’s soccer game on Saturday afternoon? Chances are you won’t need as many agents for the types of shifts generally viewed as undesirable, but you may be surprised at how many part-time or work from home agents will gladly take them. Don’t look for scheduling problems where they may not exist. 

Regular Shift Reviews

Most veteran agents do not embrace shift reviews willingly. But contact centers should go through this process at least once or twice each year to confirm whether shift schedules are meeting customer service goals, and to determine if personnel changes might further optimize the agent skill sets available at any given time. 

Equal Access to Preferred Shifts

One aspect of maintaining agent morale is making sure your team members believe they are being treated fairly, especially when it comes to the hours and shifts they are assigned. Scheduling that allocates more desirable shifts to the same agents week in and week out will alienate some employees, and that could impact their job performance and productivity. By distributing shifts equitably during the scheduling process, you can avoid such resentments before they are passed on to your customers. 

Fill Vacant Positions as Quickly as Possible

This may be obvious but it still needs to be said. Few contact centers are immune to the challenges of agent attrition. The recruitment, hiring and training process to fill open positions is one that nobody enjoys, as well as one that places additional cost burdens on the contact center. However, the alternative is moving forward short-staffed, which inhibits scheduling flexibility and puts more stress on the agents you still have. It also limits your capacity to dismiss under-performing agents, as someone taking calls is better than no one at all. Resist the temptation to wait for peak season to begin your next recruitment campaign. 

The Right Tool for the Job

Part of optimum scheduling is making sure the right agents are handling the right calls. With a tool like Monet Record you’ll have insightful data on how different agents handle different calls. That gives managers a way to determine which team members are best suited for different customer engagements. Monet Quality makes it easier to retrieve calls by specific type, and provides additional reporting and analytics to further assess each agent’s skills. 

Unfortunately, the status quo rarely remains the same in any call center, so all these calculations must be regularly updated and re-examined. Monet Metrics delivers agent analytics, real-time alerts, scorecards and customizable reports, as well as data on key performance indicators such as agent adherence and service levels. This information can then be used in conjunction with workforce management to further refine the art and science of scheduling. 


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Regional Sharing for Contact Center Services

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In 2016, a process will begin in Connecticut designed to consolidate different municipal and district services, in an effort to both lower costs and to offer these services in a more streamlined and consistent manner. 

Contact centers, including those devoted to public health, pension administration and emergency call handling, are among those that may be consolidated by region. According to one study, lowering the number of emergency call centers from more than 100 to just eight could be achieved without impacting service. 

Such changes may be headed for the private sector as well. New contact centers are sometimes established for one individual line of business or new venture, which does not have to fit efficiently into a larger enterprise. That can result in wasted resources and replicated technology platforms. 

The company that carried out the study, launched a program to achieve more efficient economies of scale based on resources, facilities, technology and processes. It was discovered that there were a number of opportunities for savings, including:

Resource pooling, combining hiring profiles and skill requirements (10-20% savings)

Process simplification and workforce management efficiencies (10-15% savings)

Common critical monitoring and reporting metrics (10-15% savings)

Shared CRM applications and improved call routing efficiencies (5-10% savings)

Optimized common agent desktop tools (5-10% savings)

Contact center consolidation is one of the primary ways to improve operational efficiencies and improve constituent satisfaction. Is it something your company should consider? 


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Performance Management and Agent Reviews

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Agent reviews should be a mandatory part of your contact center regimen. Your performance management results depend in part on knowing you have a capable, motivated team of agents working on behalf of your business and your customers. 

But what is the best way to handle these essential but sometimes challenging assignments? Most contact centers rely on one of two options: a company-wide review in which every agent receives their feedback at the same time (a focal review), or individual annual review sessions, dated from the day that each agent joined the company. 

It’s Your Anniversary! Now, Here’s What You’re Doing Wrong…

Of course, with new hires you probably won’t wait a full year before providing review feedback. But once any probation period has passed, the method of using annual written or verbal reviews has several advantages, starting with the obvious – it’s a logical approach that also makes it easier for managers to prepare, as they may only have 1-2 reviews in a week, as opposed to a focal approach, where the entire team is reviewed at the same time. 

This is also a reliable strategy if the crux of your review is a measurement of agent performance against the contact center customer service criteria, rather than against the performance of other agents. 

However, scheduling often proves more difficult with this method – nobody really enjoys agent reviews, so managers sometimes procrastinate, resulting in delays or sometimes even neglecting to do them at all. Plus, if performance reviews reveal a flaw in a company process that needs to be changed, doing so may be harder to implement throughout the entire contact center. 

You’re All Slackers. OK, Back to Work

The advantage of a focal review is getting all the reviews out of the way quickly. This always makes a difficult task more palatable. And because you’ll have performance review data on all of your agents at the same time, it’s easier to compare and contrast their performances, and provide updated guidance on new company policies to the entire team. On the down site, focal reviews take longer to prepare, especially at larger contact centers.

Whichever option you choose, the most important thing is to make sure the reviews get done. When management neglects the review aspect of performance management, it makes it easier for agents to neglect the responsibilities of their position. 



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Migrating to the Cloud: How to Get Ready

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There are no shortage of blogs and articles online, including right here at Monet, about the many benefits associated with moving your contact center technology into the cloud. By now you have likely read about the cost savings that results from a cloud migration, as well as improved flexibility and scalability, higher customer satisfaction and even improved agent engagement. 

What is not as well-covered in these pieces are the best steps to take right before making the transition, so the move into the cloud will be easier, and your contact center will be ready to make the most of its new capabilities. Here are a few ideas that may help. 

Embrace the Omni-Channel

With the cloud you’ll be able to achieve customer communication via phone, email or online chat. If you do not have all these channels integrated now, prepare your agents for what that will be like, and how to route customer contacts appropriately for the best service. 

Sifting Through the Data

Whatever data you were using now to create forecasts and schedules and analyze performance will likely be multiplied by the workforce management and optimization solutions delivered through the cloud. The good news is it will all come via a single desktop, so there will be no need to switch between systems. However, you’ll want to start preparing ahead of time on which metrics to focus on, and how to optimize the real-time reporting capabilities you’ll now have to make changes as needed. 

Always Be Prepared

Cloud solutions are more reliable than the software contact centers used to rely on. However, having a plan for when something goes wrong is always a good idea. Most companies devote just 2-4% of their IT budget to disaster recovery planning. And yet, the actions taken before a cyber attack are as significant, if not more so, than actions taken after the worst has become reality. Control measures can reduce some security threats; detective measures could help catch a potential man-made breach before it occurs. 

Now that you’re ready, welcome to the cloud! If you need any additional help or information, contact us. Monet Software is a pioneer in contact center cloud solutions, and can make your transition as smooth and seamless as possible. 



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Another Year, Another “Product of the Year” Award

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We don’t mean to sound jaded. 

It’s always an honor when one of our products is singled out for recognition in the contact center industry, and that has indeed happened once again: Monet’s WFO Live – Workforce Optimization in the Cloud has been named a Product of the Year by TMC’s CUSTOMER magazine, a leading source for contact center news, product information and communications strategies. 

This is also the third year in a row that a Monet solution has earned Product of the Year honors, to go along with a Customer Experience Innovation Award bestowed by TMC in 2014. 

“What this award means to us, more than just another honor to hang on our wall, is the acknowledgment that WFM Live is making a real difference at contact centers of all sizes across the country,” said our CEO Chuck Ciarlo. “The improved efficiency and customer service experienced by our customers every day is the best award we can imagine.”  

What should such consistent recognition mean to you? If you are a Monet customer it means the WFO solution you selected is among the very best available. If you are still considering a migration to an automated WFO tool, we hope it means you’ll take a closer look at what Monet has to offer. 

Investing in WFO is a decision you only want to make once. So why not select a complete end-to-end cloud-based workforce optimization solution packaged and priced to deliver the lowest total cost of ownership? 

Monet WFO Live offers comprehensive capabilities including workforce management, call recording, quality management, screen capture, performance management, agent analytics and archiving and reporting capabilities. It’s easy to set up, easy to use, and provides software fixes and upgrades as part of its software subscription fee at no additional cost. 

Perhaps that is why the awards keep coming. 

Find out more about WFO Live, and how it can boost efficiency at your contact center – at a price you can afford


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Contact Centers: Bullish on the Cloud

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If there were a way to buy stock in cloud computing, this would be a good time to do it. 

A 2015 Research and Markets report states that the cloud telecom industry, which includes cloud contact center ecosystems, is expanding at an annual growth rate of more than 25 percent. 

Perhaps you can’t invest in an entire industry, but you can certainly invest in a cloud-based solution for workforce optimization, which will also pay significant dividends in benefits to your contact center budget, day-to-day efficiency, and customer service levels. 

Hosting contact centers in the cloud has also been known to significantly reduce aspirin and other pain relief usage among managers, as it eliminates many of the headache causes that used to be unavoidable in this business, from hardware failures and networking issues to the budget-bursting costs of maintaining an IT department and keeping up with new software versions. 

Consider the change in just one everyday contact center capability – call recording. 

In the pre-cloud era, adding call recording required the installation of an onsite PBX system with a VoIP packet that recorded calls onto a separate onsite platform. With the cloud? Installation for agents can be achieved with the click of a button. 

Cloud computing will continue to gain a larger percentage of the contact center industry because it offers benefits for businesses of every size and type. Large call centers enjoy a tremendous cost savings and a lower upfront equipment investment. Smaller contact centers can achieve the same technological sophistication of bigger companies on a smaller budget. And call centers with agents working from home or in multiple centers can tie everyone in to the same workforce management system regardless of location. 

For these reasons and more, it seems likely that the popularity of cloud-based systems will continue to grow. Is it time you considered making the switch?


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Forecasting: What’s Happening Now

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Forecasting determines many of the daily decisions made by contact center management, and plays a key role in a center’s ability to operate efficiently and deliver quality customer service.

How are contact centers today handling this ongoing challenge? One UK publication invited industry personnel to share their methods and assess their performances. The results, and the ideas generated, may provide you with more insight into how your contact center measures up, and where improvement may be possible. 

Using the Past to Predict the Present

Forecasting relies on historical data to anticipate call volume and other key factors in planning a schedule. Most forecast planners use at least two years’ worth of data, though some prefer five years. At contact centers where products and promotions are constantly changing, managers rely on just 12-18 months for forecast creation. 

Forecast Accuracy/Intervals

The average accuracy of forecast variance to actual calls falls into the 5-20% range. While some manage to stay in single digits (5-6%), others are still struggling with numbers as high as 80%. One contact center reported that service queues are typically more accurate than sales. 

Nearly 75% of contact centers surveyed forecast at 15-minute intervals; the rest do so every 30 minutes. 

The goal of increasing forecast accuracy has inspired a wide range of strategies, from assessing holidays and other unique days separately to improving coordination between departments (such as marketing and finance) to boosting the precision of the numbers being used. 

And while relating ideas that went right, some managers also shared some memorable mistakes in the hope of helping others to avoid them. These ranged from a simple accounting error (missing a zero from the monthly total) to putting too much trust in a client’s forecast, to relying on insufficient data. 

However accurate a generated forecast may be, however, contact centers still sometimes experience a disconnect from company management on the number generated. This can lead to issues with appropriate staffing decisions, and challenges in meeting customer service needs while also having time for meetings, agent training and other activities. Such conflicts have been resolved by producing results that are consistently accurate, and presenting data to management in clear graphical models that are easy to understand. 

Manual or WFM?

All forecasts also rely on agents being in the right place at the right time – as this doesn’t always happen, contact centers have learned to build more flexibility into their forecasts. This is much easier to do with an automated workforce management solution. Survey responses were roughly split between those that use a WFM tool and those that still rely on spreadsheets. 

Multichannel Forecasting

Finally, the survey asked respondents if they are also forecasting for email, webchat and social media. Historical data may be more limited in these communication channels, but most are still making the attempt, using whatever numbers are available. 


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How to reduce agent attrition?

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Most people seem to take perverse pleasure in hearing horror stories about their profession – as long as the experience being described is one that didn’t happen to them. 

Department store workers often gather after their shift to swap tales about difficult customers; police officers, between serious calls about crimes in progress, sometimes find themselves summoned to homes where they are asked to open a pickle jar, or to kill a bee inside a frightened person’s home. 

This is certainly true of contact center agents as well. One story you may find online is the agent who works at a body shop, who was accused of holding a customer’s car hostage for three weeks. Wonder if the agent sent that customer a ransom note after the call? 

Here is the part that isn’t so funny – too many of those calls can contribute to agent burnout. It’s a challenge for every contact center regardless of size or industry, as evidenced by consistently high attrition numbers. Given the investment required to hire and train a replacement every time an agent decides he or she has had enough, it is critical for managers to hire wisely, and take whatever actions are feasible to create a more positive professional environment. 

The Emotional Toll

The Wharton Financial Institution Center held a Call Center Industry Forum that explored how the front lines of a corporate contact center are often charged with emotion, and companies need to account for that when hiring and training workers to take on this critical role in customer contact.

“There is a growing need for workers who have to deal constantly with the public to manage emotions – and this is especially true for those on the phones,” said Steffanie Wilk, a Wharton management professor who has done extensive research on call centers.

Is there anything that can be done to help agents better cope with stressful situations? Certainly the hostile calls aren’t going to stop, even if multichannel capability shifts some of them to email, online chat and social media. They still have to be dealt with, but reading an angry screed does not raise the blood pressure as much as being yelled at on the phone. 

One way to approach the situation is to focus on hiring agents that are a good fit, not just for the demands of the position but also for the company itself. 

Wanted: The Perfect Agent (for us)

Try that ad in a job listing and see what happens. Perfection may not be possible, but by presenting a more detailed sense of your company culture, the specific nature of incoming calls and other variables that are specific to your contact center, managers are more likely to weed out candidates that won’t be able to cope. 

Does your contact center handle insurance claims or technology products, where close attention to detail is necessary? Is the contact center an important source for upselling, requiring agents to not just process orders but have some sales skills as well? Do you receive a high percentage of calls from seniors, which may require more patience in resolving an issue? The more you understand the particulars of your business, the easier it will be to find the right agents to handle them. 

Script Flexibility

While it’s important for new hires to adhere to the contact center script, as they improve their skills and become acclimated to the position, it may be more of a hindrance than help to experienced agents. The repetition of the same lines every day can certainly contribute to burnout. 

Here is where ongoing coaching and training can help, as well as call recording and quality monitoring. Give proven agents more flexibility in script usage, then analyze the results. If the rate of successful outcome remains consistent, tell that agent to keep up the good work. Managers may also discover non-rehearsed responses used by veteran agents that are more effective than what was in the script, which can then be adopted company-wide. 

One other point with new agents – during their initial training it is beneficial to not just tell them what to say, but why they are saying it. Let them know the reasons behind the content, and make sure they understand why these decisions were made. While it might not seem necessary to reveal the strategy behind the script, it might make them feel more involved, and not compelled to read lines from a page because they are not trusted enough to converse with customers on their own. 

Anticipation and Autonomy

Many contact center customers don’t start out angry. They call with what they believe is a reasonable request or a simple question, only to be put on hold, or transferred from agent to agent, or asked to repeat their contact information three times. Result – what should have been an uneventful call morphs into the kind that contributes to agent burnout. 

Such situations can be avoided with a review of your contact center’s current systems. Is there a way to reduce transfers by giving the agent more autonomy to solve the customer’s problem? Would a workforce management solution boost the accuracy of forecasting and scheduling, so there are always enough agents to handle incoming calls? Would an investment in speech analytics deliver data that helps to anticipate a caller’s needs, so that call can be routed more efficiently or resolved in a shorter time? 

Leave Your Worries on the Doorstep

Another contributing factor in agent attrition has nothing to do with how the contact center is run. If an agent is having problems at home, they can affect performance and increase stress levels to the point where something has to give. And most people will leave their job before they leave their family. 

Obviously you can’t tell every agent who shows up in a bad mood to go home, but a few questions about the agent’s home and family during the hiring process may help identify those who are more likely to arrive at work in a more upbeat state of mind. 

Conclusion

Call centers average a 30% turnover rate, but that’s no reason to accept such substantial attrition. If your call center is at 25% turnover, set a goal to lower that to 20% in six months or one year. These steps may help with that process.



 

 

 


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Analytics, and Getting to Know Your Customers Better

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What is it that your customers really want?

That question is (or should be) the departure point for so many decisions that impact contact center operations. If you don’t know what they expect (or these days the better word might be ‘demand’) from your business, it’s a lot more difficult to give it to them.

You can ask them, of course, with customer feedback surveys, but analytics provides more detailed and accurate insight into every aspect of the customer experience. Used properly, analytics deliver a proactive view of current and future trends that will impact forecasting, product development, marketing and other operations. 

Imagine: Analytics identifies a customer that, from their words or actions, is about to sever ties with your company. A special offer personalized to their needs, presented during this critical time, might save the relationship. 

Monet offers both speech and desktop analytics solutions that provide an array of customer information; often at the time it is needed most. As agents speak to customers, analytics can offer such important data as their purchasing history, their value as a customer, their temperament, and the outcome of their previous contact center experiences. Knowing this, an agent can react accordingly, or perhaps even route the call to an agent that worked well with that customer in the past.  

And while analytics has traditionally focused on calls, the same strategy can be used for social media (now the first choice for millennials), as well as self-service and digital channels. You may not be able to sense mood from a customer’s voice this way, but contact patterns and word choice can be analyzed to determine the most appropriate next step. 

Today, however, more than 50% of contact centers still lack any social media capabilities, much less the analytics that make these channels important sources of customer data. 

Is it time for your contact center to discover the benefits of analytics?





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Choosing a WFM Solution: What's Most Important

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Perhaps this is the year your contact center will make the investment in a workforce management (WFM) system. This is something you only want to do once, so take the time to investigate the options available. 

What is most important? For most contact centers the decision to pursue automated WFM stems from a desire to improve forecast accuracy. Forecasting impacts scheduling, staffing, customer service, contact center budget, and nearly every facet of the business. Get it right, and you’re well on the way to an efficient operation; get it wrong, and there’s no end of trouble. 

With that in mind, here are four factors to keep in mind when selecting a WFM solution

Integration

It should be easy. When you acquire workforce optimization, workforce management, quality monitoring, call recording, speech analytics and whatever else you need from the same trusted provider, it’s never an issue. But if you have other vendor applications that must work with a new WFM solution, make sure the tools are available for integration before purchasing. The contact center will always be more efficient when all of its technology resources are working together toward the same goal. 

User-Friendliness

This is often overlooked – “our agents will figure it out eventually.” Well, maybe. But what happens when agents leave and new arrivals have to be hired and trained? And if certain tasks are too difficult or cumbersome, even agents familiar with the system will likely ignore them, passing any resulting delays and inconveniences on to your customers. There are quality WFM solutions available that are easy to adopt and easy to use. Why consider one that is not? 

Flexibility

You may not be able to anticipate all of your contact center’s future needs at the time of your purchase. Nothing wrong with that – just make sure you invest in a system that can grow with your business. 

Return on Investment

WFM in the cloud has substantially reduced the upfront investment necessary in acquiring this vital functionality. But that doesn’t mean ROI is any less important because the investment is smaller. With all of the efficiencies that WFM can improve, it shouldn’t take more than a year to achieve ROI – many Monet clients do so in a fraction of that time. 


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Headline Wrap-up: The Year in Contact Centers 2015

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In looking back over a number of stories covering the contact center industry in 2015, certain themes quickly emerge. Putting aside those not relevant to this blog, such as the opening of new facilities and the trend toward insourcing, we selected two that merit renewed attention, as they will certainly be influential on the industry in this coming year as well. 

Let’s start with the prediction that contact centers will be primarily digital within the next two years.

It’s not exactly a surprising trend, but one that emerged out of the gradual adoption and acceptance of other communication channels in response to customer preference. 

Many stories on this topic came with dire forecasts about the demise of the traditional call center, as more people turn to email, Web chat, social media and mobile app interactions to get their questions answered. Instead, such capabilities have been folded into the contact center environment, where agents trained in these disciplines offer the same service they did on the telephone. And while these channels continue to gain in popularity, there are also strong indications that telephone agents will still be necessary for many years to come. 

The other theme found throughout 2015 coverage is that of optimizing the customer experience, and indeed there is some crossover here with the multichannel approach. But another aspect of this is shortening the customer’s progression from point A to point B by finding out more quickly what that customer needs, and finding more efficient ways to provide it. 

That responsibility falls primarily on the insight and experience of the agent, but can be aided immeasurably by analytics solutions that make it easier to determine the best course of action. 

Typically deployed as part of a workforce optimization (WFO) solution, analytics has become a primary driver of performance and quality monitoring improvements. 

Such capabilities have long been limited to only the largest contact centers with the largest operations budgets. But the advent of cloud-based WFO software has brought these sophisticated solutions within the reach of small and midsized facilities. 

The Monet version of speech analytics and desktop analytics is part of our award-winning WFO Live product. Both new platforms deliver detailed, data-driven insight into daily call center operations and customer behavior, but without the significant investment that such benefits used to require.


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Is Your Contact Center Ready for 2016?

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What is new for 2016? Predictions abound, but several trends are already underway that will certainly help to define priorities within the contact center. If you are still making New Year’s Resolutions, don’t forget to add these to the list. 

Engaging Millennials

Depending on how old you are now, it may be hard to believe that the generation born between 1980 and 2000 is in charge, and their expectations of customer service are different from that of their parents. They grew up with technology and are accustomed to instant communication, answers being available on their schedule, and getting what they need from a company without having to pick up a phone (unless it’s a smartphone with a retail app). Do you have a multichannel software platform in place to meet their demands? Are you using text messages to reach them with new offers and promotions? 


Social Media

Facebook and Twitter are no longer new, but their impact in customer service continues to grow. Once the exclusive domain of those under 30, these channels are now commonly used by everyone, including seniors, and not just for sharing memes and happy birthday wishes. The Harvard Business Review reports that people using Twitter for customer service grew 70% from 2013 to 2014, and 30% of social media users prefer to conduct business this way instead of over the phone.


Anyone Not in the Cloud Yet?

The move toward cloud contact center solutions continues unabated, for all the reasons we have covered in previous blogs – lower upfront cost, instant updates and upgrades of software, faster implementation, security, reliability, user-friendliness. According to Call Center IQ, 76% of surveyed organizations will have made the switch to the cloud by the end of 2016. If you haven’t done so yet, the time is now. 

Turning Agents into Salespeople

Agents who try to upsell customers? Not as annoying as we might have thought, as it turns out. The CFI Group’s Contact Center Satisfaction Index reports that more than 40% of consumers are open to an agent recommending additional products or services. Have you trained your agents in doing so? Is this part of your current script? 

De-Stressing Average Handle Time

Sure, it’s still important for agents to handle each call efficiently. But if the problem isn’t resolved, it doesn’t matter if the call lasted two minutes or ten minutes. The first priority is to bring each customer engagement to a successful conclusion. With multichannel customer service available, the new, hot KPI is “negative response rate,” a reference to those unresolved engagements. It’s worth taking more time to keep that number to a minimum. 



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Looking Back…and Looking Forward

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What happened at Monet Software in 2015? Glad you asked….

The year began on a high note back in January with two prominent industry awards. CIO Review selected Monet Software as one of its 20 Most Promising Contact Center Technology Solution Providers. This distinction was based on evaluation of Monet Software’s capabilities in providing cloud-based Workforce Optimization (WFO) solutions.

The annual list is selected by a panel of experts and members of CIO Review’s editorial board to recognize and promote technology entrepreneurship.

“Monet Software has been on our radar for some time for stirring a revolution in the Contact Center technology space, and we are happy to showcase them this year due to their continuing excellence in delivering top-notch technology-driven solutions,” said Harvi Sachar, Publisher and Founder, CIO Review. “Monet Software’s solutions continued to break new ground within the past year, benefiting its customers around the globe, and we’re excited to have them featured on our top companies list.”

That same month, TMC named Monet WFO Live – Workforce Optimization in the Cloud as a CUSTOMER 2015 Product of the Year Award winner. “On behalf of both TMC and CUSTOMER magazine, it is my pleasure to honor Monet Software with a 2015 Product of the Year Award,” said Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC. “Its WFO Live solution has proven deserving of this elite status and I look forward to continued innovation from Monet in 2015 and beyond.”

Monet has been a pioneer in the development of cloud-based workforce optimization solutions for contact centers. In February, Monet CEO Chuck Ciarlo shared his thoughts about what he described as “The Fake Cloud Phenomenon” in an article published in Connections magazine.

Ciarlo expressed his concern over the way some companies have tried to market a hosted client server as a cloud solution, resulting in buyer confusion and unhappy clients. This is happening at a time when more companies than ever are making the transition from on-premises hardware and software installation to a cloud delivery model. The integrity of a quality product may be threatened if the situation does not change.

In March, Monet celebrated the release of contact center industry statistics on the insourcing of agent jobs back from India and The Philippines (a celebration no doubt shared by thousands of frustrated customers).

One aspect of this pivotal trend is how contact center technology changed during the outsourcing years, and how companies returning their contact center facilities to the U.S. realize that what worked in the past no longer gets the job done. That is why so many of these centers are ditching spreadsheets in favor of an automated workforce management (WFM) solution.

Every so often we like to share a Monet success story on our website or through our company newsletter, to illustrate how companies are saving money and boosting productivity with Monet solutions, In May of 2015, we published a case study on Bayview Loan Servicing, an investment management firm based in Florida.

The company was struggling with staffing issues caused by inaccurate scheduling, and an insufficient process for handling exceptions such as time-off requests. After searching for a workforce management platform to address these challenges, Bayview selected Monet WFM Live. Click here to see the results.

June was one of our busiest months, and also one of the most gratifying. It began with the inauguration of our new consulting services in conjunction with Marathon Partners, designed to help contact centers get the most from their technology and optimize professional practices.

These services focus on two primary areas: Operational Assessment, a 15-point review of the contact center or back office incorporating processes, quality management, service delivery and staff utilization; and Performance Improvement: which guarantees a minimum ROI of 2:1 through process excellence, best practice assimilation, performance management and implementation of a highly effective management system.

That same month Monet launched a partnership with Compassion International, the world’s largest and fastest growing child development-through-sponsorship ministry. Throughout the year of 2015, we were proud to help sponsor a child in need for every subscription to Monet Software SaaS Workforce Management Suite.

Children assisted through this effort will receive medical checkups, nutritious food, health and hygiene training, educational assistance and, where needed, access to such special services as surgeries and disaster relief.

Finally, we headed to Las Vegas on June 15 to attend the 2015 Call Center Week Conference and Expo at The Mirage. Our Booth #609 was a popular spot throughout the 4-day event.

In October we were back in Vegas at the Rio Hotel for the 2015 ICMI Contact Center Demo & Conference. Monet was proud to serve as one of the sponsors for this exciting annual get-together.

And as Halloween approached, we offered a holiday-themed webinar entitled “Slaying the Adherence Monster.” If adherence has ever been an issue at your contact center, you know what it can do to schedules and budgets. But the Adherence Monster is no match for Monet solutions with real-time adherence.

If you missed this 45-minute presentation, featuring tips and tricks to help you keep adherence issues away from your business, you can still check it out here.  

It was indeed a memorable year, one that would not have been possible without the support and enthusiastic response from our clients, as well as the hard work and dedication of our technology and sales teams. As we take a moment to look back on the highlights of 2015, it is also a good time to say thank you to all of those who helped make this year our best ever.

And while there are still a few days left in the year, at Monet we are already looking forward to 2016. While it is too early to reveal any details, the year ahead is one likely to feature the debuts of new solutions, new services, and more opportunities to meet with our clients and industry professionals at the top annual tradeshows. Stay updated on all of our latest news and announcements here, or on our Facebook page. 


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Quality Monitoring in 2016

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New year resolutions in business? Sometimes they work and sometimes, like that pledge to lose 10 pounds, they don’t. But making the effort helps contact center managers focus on priorities, and keep up with emerging trends and changing customer needs.

 

Take quality monitoring – we are in the midst of a major transition in how customers interact with companies. Mobile devices have changed the game, and businesses need to be aware of this and prepared to engage with customers however they choose to reach out.

 

How should this shape your 2016 plans? First, let’s look at what hasn’t changed – the responsibility of the contact center to provide excellent service, whether that is via telephone or email or online chat. Then, take action to make sure all of your customers are being properly served. Ask these questions:

 

Are we looking for what we’re doing right, or what we’re doing wrong?

Monitoring is the best way to spot problems. Sure, you’ll also find out what you’re doing well, but the sooner issues can be identified the sooner they can be solved.

 

Are we making the most of the data available?
With a workforce optimization solution you have access to a wealth of insightful data on contact center performance. Are you making use of all of it?

 

Are you getting the small things right?

Little issues in service eventually result in big problems. Use quality monitoring to make sure that best practices are being maintained in every aspect of the call from the greeting to the final ‘click’.

 

Do you have the right software solution in place?

Monet Quality – Quality Management in the Cloud makes it easier to evaluate agent performance and skills, achieve higher customer satisfaction through improved customer service, and increase staff productivity through improved call handling. Plus, it’s easy to set up, affordable to implement and delivers proven results. If you add it to your New Year’s resolution list, the rest of your quality monitoring challenges will be much easier to achieve. 


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Improving Quality Assurance? Easy as 1-2-3

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Quality assurance offers a way to turbo-charge the benefits of call recording and monitoring. The objective is to measure agent performance, and initiate changes in training or procedures as needed to boost customer service.

It’s an important effort but one that presents an array of challenges to achieve effectively. Here are three tips that can make a big difference in your quality assurance strategy.

1. Don’t Rely on Random Sampling

While every customer is important, some customer calls are simply more important than others, at least in how they pertain to quality assurance. Rather than selecting a random sample of calls for evaluation, focus on scoring calls with the most significant orders, calls from the highest-value customers, and/or those related to a specific promotion or upsell opportunity. Desktop analytics software (available from Monet) can make it much easier to classify calls and find those that meet any pre-determined criteria.

2. Close the Loop

Quality assurance does not work as a standalone program. It should be part of a customer service cycle that ends with satisfied customers, and begins when agents are hired and trained. Think of quality as a proactive process that fuels every contact center action, and necessitates regular updates based on customer feedback.

3. Reassess Your Training Efforts

Training is a vital component in agent performance, so regular training sessions should be a necessity, and should not be approached as an afterthought, or something to squeeze into brief respites of low call volume. Also, make sure training is supplemented with ongoing coaching that provides positive reinforcement and support. 


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IVR and the Smartphone: A Perfect Match

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A 2012 poll found that 80% of consumers would stop doing business with a company after a bad experience with an interactive voice response (IVR) system. Some consumers can’t imagine any encounter with an IVR that doesn’t end in frustration or shouting “Operator!” (among other choice words) as the recording rambles on about options available by pressing 1, or 2, or 9. 

Is there any way to make the IVR more appealing? Or are companies forced to use this technology doomed to the prospect of an angry customer base?  

Enter the Smartphone

The problem with the IVR is customers have to wait for audio instructions before following a series of steps that (hopefully) gets them to the answers they need. But when those options are provided via visual representation on a smartphone, those same customers don’t seem to mind. 

All of us when we’re online are used to clicking on the links that will get us the answers we need. We’re so accustomed to it that navigating a visual IVR menu can be completed much more quickly than waiting to hear the full list of options from a recorded message. If waiting for an agent still proves inevitable, a visual IVR can offer video presentations that may be helpful, and at the very least are more informative and entertaining than the musical selections that play while we’re stuck on hold. 

Best of all, this self-service technology is not expensive – an important consideration for companies that opted for the IVR to avoid the cost of a full-service contact center. 

So if you must resort to an IVR, a smartphone version provides a new way to access the cost and convenience benefits of the system, without the obstacles that drive customers away. 


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10 Tips to Improve your Quality Scores

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Quality scores still an issue? That’s not good. This is the feedback that illuminates how customers are being treated by your agents, and if they are getting the help and information they need. Here are a few steps you can take to start those numbers trending in the right direction. 

1. Identify the Agents that Need the Most Help

All of your agents should receive ongoing training and coaching. But with a quality management system you’ll know which agents need extra help. 

2. Target Negative Feedback

This may seem obvious, but many contact centers still base assessments on random samples of calls and surveys, rather than those with negative customer feedback. That’s where the problems are, so that is where training should start. 

3. Real-Time Analysis

When VoC data is added to quality scorecards, agents get real-time performance feedback, which can encourage self-correction. 

4. Screen Recording

Screen recording provides an added dimension to call recording and scoring, and gives you a much better idea of how every agent is performing his or her job. 

5. Schedule Training in Quieter Moments

Training sessions are too important to be subject to interruptions. With a workforce management solution, you can pinpoint activity lulls and schedule accordingly. 

6. Review Feedback on All Channels

Call centers are contact centers now. Review performance analytics for online chat and email as well, and incorporate these into training. 

7. Use After-Call Surveys

Surveys initiated immediately after the customer engagement are one way to accurately capture the respondent’s reaction. Given time to cool down, a customer may be more charitable when they fill out a form a week later. That’s nice of them, but it doesn’t help you identify where help is needed. 

8. Dump the IVR

This may not be possible, but if it is, it can only help. Routing calls directly to a live agent or the appropriate department is always preferable from the customer’s perspective. 

9. Improve Scheduling

When staff shifts are optimally scheduled to call demand patterns, calls are efficiently answered and customers have one less reason to be upset. 

10. Speech Analytics

Real-time speech analytics tools can allow you to start raising performance levels and quality scores immediately. It will be easier to detect when agents are not following the script or using language that is not compliant with company policy. 



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A Glowing Forecast for Cloud Based Contact Centers

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Global cloud-based contact centers were a $4.6 billion dollar market in 2015. What does the future hold? According to a study released by ReportLinker, that market will grow to a remarkable $14.7 billion by 2020. 

Surprising? Not really. Contact centers of all sizes and types are recognizing the benefits of the cloud delivery model, which is reflected in the growing adoption rates. No other solution offers a way to modernize technology while lowering costs at the same time. 

Today, software-based technology is still more prominent in the contact center industry. But the ReportLinker study suggests those days may be numbered. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between a cloud-based delivery model, and one that requires on-premises hardware and software installation. 

Set-up/Implementation

With a cloud model, set up can be completed in days, with secure access available to agents and managers in the call center and at remote locations. With a traditional hardware/software system, complete installation and configuration can take several weeks, if not months, which will add additional costs and inconvenience to the conversion process. 

Upfront and Operating Costs

Here the cloud model has a clear advantage, as users pay only a low monthly subscription fee with no upfront investment. Depending on the system, an on-premise solution could run $100,000 or more. Likewise, ongoing operating costs are higher given the need for back-ups, maintenance, upgrades and hardware replacement. 

Scalability

With a server, you can only expand your capabilities so much before another investment is required. The cloud platform allows for maximum scalability. 

Upgrades

When it’s time to upgrade the software, it can be delivered automatically with a cloud model at no additional cost. When a manual software upgrade is necessary, the cost can be prohibitive enough to be put off, which reduces a call center’s ability to operate at maximum efficiency. 

Usability

Usability is a priority with most cloud-based solutions, so call center agents and managers can get started more quickly. Traditional solutions tend to be more complex.  

Isn’t it time you considered making the switch?


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The Contact Center Holiday Wish List

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Letters to Santa and holiday wish lists are a part of Christmas celebrations around the world. But if you could create a wish list for your contact center, what would you ask for?

This is not just a fanciful exercise. Writing down your goals for 2016 can be the first step toward achieving them. What is most important to the future success of your business right now – more accurate forecasts? A better way to create schedules? Call recording software? Finding improved ways to automate tasks?

Different call centers will have different lists, but a Workforce Management (WFM) solution in the cloud may figure prominently in the answers to many of them. Santa can’t bring it, but Monet Software can. 

Here are a few more items that may be on your wish list. 

Screen Recording 

Listening to recorded calls can boost the efficiency of your contact center. Listening to these calls while watching how agents relate to customers offers even more insight into employee performance, customer service and how technology is being leveraged for maximum benefit. With Monet Screen Capture, it is possible to review synchronized voice and video of your agents’ interactions. We’ve created a video demo that takes you through the process, from capturing customer interactions to the platform’s archiving and reporting capabilities. 


Speech Analytics

Since 2/3 of customer interactions still take place over the telephone, speech analytics has become a more prominent source for customer insight. With Monet WFO Live’s speech analytics capabilities, contact centers gain even more insight from their call recording solution. With automated alerts triggered by voice data, managers have access to critical business intelligence that boosts both agent performance and the customer experience. 

Desktop Analytics

If you want even more transparency into how your contact center functions, what agents are doing at their desks, whether your business is in compliance with government or industry guidelines on information gathering, and where your procedures are falling short of expectations, desktop analytics may have the answers. Where speech analytics is primarily customer-focused, desktop analytics (DA) delivers insight on your agents and your processes. It captures and analyzes all agent desktop activities in real time, and it improves process automation and workflow. 



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Test Drive Your Holiday Preparation Plan

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It’s December, so chances are you’ve already outlined and implemented your strategy for handling the increased call volume caused by the holidays. 

Is it working? Great! But if it’s not, it may be time to take a closer look at the plan and see if something was missed. 

Here’s an idea for the next time you anticipate a call spike: take the contact center for a test drive. There is no substitute for practice, not only to confirm that you have the right resources in place, but to allow your agents (particularly the newer hires) to acclimate to the pressures of a more hectic work environment. 

The objective is to recreate real-world conditions, which means you’ll need personnel to take on the role of callers, and agents and managers reviewing results as they happen. 

Perform multiple drills. The idea is to reveal unforeseen hurdles that can impact customer service. It may also be a good idea to add an unexpected challenge to observe how your team responds. Let’s face it: you can’t plan for everything, so this is a chance to find out if you have agents and managers in place who can adapt under fire. 

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

That is the question. A test drive will deliver the kind of insight that can detect and prevent problems before they occur at the worst possible moment. 

Try a few practice runs before your next busy weekend or special event – it will improve your odds of keeping the contact center running smoothly. 



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What are the Real Differences Between On-Premise, Hosted and Cloud Solutions?

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Download our Free New Whitepaper  

Technology plays a vital role in the contact center. Managers face a difficult choice when it comes to selecting a technology provider, as they must take into account not only the vendor but also the delivery method through which crucial contact center software will be accessed. 

There are three options: an on-premise solution, where hardware and software must be installed, deployed and maintained at the contact center; a hosted system, where software is purchased but is installed at an outside service provider, and a cloud system, which converts such physical resources as processors and storage into Internet resources. 

How should a manager decide which is best for his company? Our new whitepaper was created to answer the most common questions about the three systems, and to compare them based on several important factors, including:

Security

Start-up Time

Scalability

Upgrades

Integration

Flexibility


Of course, for many businesses the most significant determining factor will be cost. That’s why the whitepaper analyzes the many different budget considerations associated with each delivery method.

Don’t invest in your next workforce management or workforce optimization solution without downloading our new whitepaper: Cost and Benefit Comparison: Cloud vs. Premise vs. Hosted. It’s free!


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What are the Real Differences Between On-Premise, Hosted and Cloud Solutions?

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Download our Free New Whitepaper

Technology plays a vital role in the contact center. Managers face a difficult choice when it comes to selecting a technology provider, as they must take into account not only the vendor but also the delivery method through which crucial contact center software will be accessed. 

There are three options: an on-premise solution, where hardware and software must be installed, deployed and maintained at the contact center; a hosted system, where software is purchased but is installed at an outside service provider, and a cloud system, which converts such physical resources as processors and storage into Internet resources. 

How should a manager decide which is best for his company? Our new whitepaper was created to answer the most common questions about the three systems, and to compare them based on several important factors, including:

Security

Start-up Time

Scalability

Upgrades

Integration

Flexibility

Of course, for many businesses the most significant determining factor will be cost. That’s why the whitepaper analyzes the many different budget considerations associated with each delivery method.

Don’t invest in your next workforce management or workforce optimization solution without downloading our new whitepaper: Cost and Benefit Comparison: Cloud vs. Premise vs. Hosted. It’s free!



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Workforce Management Trends in 2016

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It’s never too early to start looking ahead to next year (as you may have noticed from all the news coverage about the 2016 presidential election). 

When the topic is workforce management, there are already signs of trends that will likely continue into next year and beyond. As 2015 winds down, here is what is happening at contact centers throughout the U.S. – how are you approaching these issues?

Higher Investments in Personnel

When employees are viewed as an asset instead of a cost center, it impacts how they are recruited, hired, trained and maintained. This takes into account management and contact center procedures as well, but workforce management can contribute to agent satisfaction by making flexible scheduling possible, and making it easier for agents to work the hours and shifts they prefer.

Hiring Millennials

This is a natural generational occurrence happening at all types of businesses, including contact centers. Millennials have grown up with technology and will know the difference on day one between WFM that makes them more efficient, and systems that fall short. 

The Infusion of Analytics

WFM is bolstered by speech and desktop analytics tools that deliver more insight into customers and their needs. 

Changing Platforms

More mobile devices, more social media prominence, and gamification are just some of the overarching technology trends that may impact the evolution of WFM software suites. Consumer devices now set the pace, so contact centers may anticipate the adoption of their features and functionality in the workplace. 



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The True Definition of Quality

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When you think of quality, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the efficiency of a contact center that is meeting its customer service goals? Is it the quality monitoring solution that helps managers identify issues and resolve them?

These are important, yes. But quality is more basic than that. It begins as a mindset, an approach to work and achieving goals that must be shared by every contact center manager, coach, trainer and agent. Yes, there are quality processes that can and should be put into place, but if the people behind them are not dedicated to making the best decisions for the business and its customers, these processes will not be sufficient by themselves. 

How can we take that quality mindset and put it into action? It starts by being proactive. The goal is to spot problems and solve them when there is still time to do so, even if it requires above-and-beyond effort. Stories of this abound in the business world – hotel managers who drive two hours to return a credit card to a guest about to board an international flight; the gift-wrap employee at the department store who adds an extra bow and the more expensive ribbon to make every package look special. 

That type of quality doesn’t exist solely at the top or the bottom of the organization – it must be present at all levels. It must be so prevalent that those agents or other personnel who lack the quality mindset will find themselves engulfed by it from every direction, so they must either rise to meet the same expectations or seek employment somewhere else. 

Author Amitava Kar, one of the world’s leading experts on quality management, once said “The quality of an organization will not improve unless, and until, we have (people) with a caring mindset…leaders must embrace quality as their personal responsibility and must demonstrate quality in their behaviors and actions before they can expect people to trust or follow them.” 

When this is achieved, then you may be confident that your contact center will maximize the great potential inherent in a quality management solution. 



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Workforce Management and Labor Costs

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We’ve discussed the convenience, efficiency and customer service benefits of workforce management software in previous blogs. We’ve also covered the cost benefits, but there is one aspect to this topic that perhaps isn’t as prominent as it should be – the positive impact WFM can have on labor costs

In the contact center, labor costs can amount to more than hourly wages. Overtime is becoming a common occurrence as businesses struggle to cope with more flexible shifts and schedules. Managers may not like it but they accept it as an unavoidable cost of doing business. 

With WFM, these same managers can achieve detailed insight into labor issues and agent schedules. That visibility results in more optimized schedules that proactively minimize overtime and can trigger alerts on when overtime thresholds are approaching, so action can be taken to prevent it. 

Ironically, one of the main reasons smaller and midsized contact centers hesitate to invest in a workforce management solution is how much it costs. But WFM in the cloud alleviates most of those concerns, and will be a wise investment for everything it delivers in return: 

Reduced administrative costs from manually scheduling employees

Lower overstaffing costs through more accurate schedules

Less productivity loss due to unplanned absences

Better agent adherence with real-time monitoring

Administrators who believe workforce management technology is beyond their budget would do well to examine the costs of doing nothing. The benefits of greater productivity, lower costs and better labor decisions provide ample evidence suggesting that this is one investment that contact centers can’t afford not to make.




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