Call Center Workforce Management Blog
Every contact center strives toward the same operating efficiency and customer service goals. However, each one is also unique, and faces its own specific operating challenges.
The establishment of key performance indicators (KPIs) is the first step toward consistent performance. KPIs, which are optimally monitored and measured by a workforce management solution, provide the data that fuels analytics, testing, development, efficiency, and productivity.
There are standard KPIs for every contact center, and they are all important. It is the manager’s job to focus on those where improvement is needed most, so discussions can begin on how to make that happen.
Common contact center KPIs include:
• Hold times
• Calls made per agent, per day
• Call response times
• Leads generated per hour
• Average handle times
• Agent talk times
• Average wait time for agents
Once again, the main purpose of KPI establishment and analysis is to create clearly defined goals for improving efficiency and service at the contact center. It is much more difficult to achieve cost reduction or boost sales without knowing how many calls are taken per hour or per shift, how long they last, and how many result in a sale.
When you have your goals established, don’t keep them a secret. They will be created by managers but must be disseminated to every agent to keep them on task throughout their shift.
And of course, KPI tracking becomes much easier, as well as more accurate, with a workforce management solution in place – preferably one that is cloud-based, so there is no issue with monitoring remote agents, and the contact center can avoid maintenance costs, hardware costs and software upgrade costs.
If you’re old enough you may remember the television series Lost in Space, in which the Robinson family blasted off earth en route to Alpha Centauri, but went off course and couldn’t find their way home. The series debuted in 1965, but was set in the year 1997, a time when the show’s creators apparently envisioned interstellar space travel but not GPS.
That’s the thing about the future – it always catches up and eventually becomes the present. So when predictions begin appearing online about what the contact center will look like in 2020, it might be wise to pay attention, especially as 2020 is less than four years away. By preparing now for the changes to come, your contact center can get ahead of the technology curve, and provide better customer service than other companies in your industry.
Let’s take a closer look at what the future holds.
The Role of Contact Center Agents
As contact centers embrace multiple channels for customer communication, agents will have to be skilled in more than one discipline. Companies that have already incorporated email, online chat, texting and social media may have agents trained in one of these channels. But in 2020, most agents will have the knowledge and skills to shift from one assignment to another.
As customers embrace more self-service options, find answers to basic questions and handle simple orders and returns on their own, they will not have a need to reach out to a contact center unless the situation calls for more extensive information. That means agents will need to be prepared to handle a wider range of product and service issues. Obviously this impacts training – and may manifest in prospective agents going through a more in-depth orientation that includes spending a day or two with different business departments within the company.
However, even with all of this additional knowledge and instruction, agents will also need to retain the qualities that companies require of them now – strong communication skills and listening skills, courtesy and empathy, and the ability to make decisions and resolve issues through their own initiative. Management, of course, will have to bestow the freedom on these agents to rely on their training and intelligence to act.
Given all the demands on the agent, this is a job that will no longer be classified as an entry-level position. A higher investment will be needed in qualified professionals. The hope is this will not just pay off in improved customer service, but also lower attrition rates.
The Role of Contact Center Managers
While agents will become more intimately involved in operations, managers will transfer out of a primarily operational role and adopt a more “big picture” outlook on the organization, and the strategic role of the contact center. Rather than monitoring KPIs, managers will be meeting with executive teams from other divisions on how departments can successfully work together to deliver a more efficient end-to-end customer experience.
To make sure agents receive the training they need to prosper in the contact centers of the future, managers will also have to make sure the contact center is recognized as a profit-boosting segment of the organization, and worthy of the additional investment necessary to make sure it functions at optimal efficiency.
The Role of Customers
The term “contact center” has already replaced that of “call center.” By 2020, we may be referring to these entities as “customer interaction centers.” That’s because customers want more options for communication, as well as the ability to switch from one to another if it might get them on their way faster.
Most customer contacts are still conducted by the telephone. Some experts believe that dominant role will gradually shift to webchat, as Millennials and subsequent generations come of age in technology-driven world where the answer to every question can be found on one’s smartphone. Fortunately, tomorrow’s agents will have grown up with the same technology and will be equally adept at these interactions.
The Role of Workforce Management
Workforce management will play a more prominent role in tomorrow’s contact centers, as the drive to optimize resources will always be key to running a successful business. In the contact center that means accurate forecasting, as well as analytics, skills-based routing and capturing important customer data.
Some WFM solutions, including Monet WFM Live, can do that now. As workforce patterns change, and more employees opt for flexible scheduling to balance their jobs with their personal responsibilities, WFM will have to keep up with even more accurate resource planning, and by making it easier for agents to bid on shifts in a way that does not negatively impact customer service.
The Role of Analytics
Analytics already plays an important role in tactical decision-making. That figures to increase as the contact center plays a more prominent role in delivering actionable business intelligence. Customer data will become even more specific, providing guidance toward new customer-centric services.
The Roles We Can’t Yet See
Speculating about future technology is always risky, as we learned from Lost in Space. But we do have some indicators about where contact center-related systems are headed.
We have video chat now but we’re probably going to have a lot more of it by 2020, a result of easier access, more bandwidth and customer comfort with the video webchat they already use through Skype and other services.
So if more customers opt for video, what channels will that replace? Some might say the phone, but according to a recent survey by Call Centre Helper it is email that is most likely to fall out of favor.
As speech analytics is already improving the depth of data derived from every customer call, a voice biometrics component may be added to this functionality. With it, agents can authenticate a caller’s identity instantly, without the repetition of a social security number, account numbers or other personal information. That results in both a faster and more secure transaction.
Speaking of faster – that’s what customers want, both now and in the future. The next-generation WFM solutions will strive to shorten average handle time by being even more intuitive in anticipating how calls should be routed and how issues can be resolved. The concept of “self-learning” functionality is no longer relegated to science fiction. The contact center of 2020 will be staffed by better agents working with better data, to drive customer satisfaction and retention, and deliver better value at a lower cost.
From the “easier said than done” department is the advice that works for just about every type of contact center – listen to your customers and respond to their needs. When contact centers develop this habit, customer conversion rates go up.
The way to get there is not through some sophisticated formula – it’s the basic business practices that we know we should be doing every day, but sometimes fall short amidst the day-to-day challenges that running a business entails.
Here’s a refresher course on the some of the most prominent of these practices.
Part of responding to customer needs is answering calls quickly – 30 seconds or less is a reasonable goal. Accurate forecasting and scheduling through a workforce management solution that predicts call volume is the key to developing consistency in this critical skill.
After initial agent training is complete, the process of learning and improving really begins. Reviews of recorded calls, positive reinforcement and coaching, and the flexibility to go off-script are just some of the ways that you can help agents sharpen their skills and instincts.
Adding Additional Channels
We’ve covered this before – webchat, email and mobile apps offer customers other options for placing orders or having questions answered.
Use Analytics Wisely
Data generated by workforce management and quality monitoring can point managers toward efficiency goals – but people are always more important than numbers, and agents should feel confident in the freedom to take some extra time with a difficult customer to bring about a successful result.
Never Stop Listening
You can’t turn full control over to your customers, but the more you listen to their preferences, the better you’ll be able to meet them. Don’t be afraid to test new procedures and experiment with script changes or other variables that might improve the customer experience. Not every test will be successful, but you’ll never know which ones will make your business better until you try them.
There are many reasons why call recording should be standard operating procedure at any contact center. These include ensuring compliance, agent training and for protection against he-said-she-said customer disputes.
But one of the biggest benefits of call recording is visibility. You have a 100% accurate record of exactly what each caller said and how your agent responded. And one way to leverage that visibility is with the addition of automatic call distribution (ACD) reporting. Now you can distribute calls to the agent most qualified to handle that customer’s inquiry.
Both systems complement each other. With call recording you’ll discover very quickly which agents are adept at calming angry customers, which show more patience with seniors who may need some extra moments to provide information, and which are good at explaining technical information to those who don’t have a technology background.
When these agent profiles are assembled, the ACD provides information on call types through graphical screens that make routing faster and easier.
Best of all, this happens without the caller’s awareness. For all he or she knows, they were just lucky enough to have their call picked up by an agent who knew exactly how to solve their problem.
In this business we all recognize the importance of first call resolution (FCR) as a metric for tracking efficiency. It’s one of the best indicators of a well-run contact center, and one of the stats most closely associated with customer satisfaction scores. In fact, according to a study by The Ascent Group, FCR is listed as one of the five most important metrics tracked by call centers. Organizations that have low FCR rates also tend to have low employee satisfaction and high turnover rates.
So what better way to boost FCR than by using call recording paired with ACD to deliver fast service and optimal customer interaction?
What happens when a business can no longer handle incoming call volume with the personnel they have? For some, it means the decision to create a contact center to make sure this important function is handled in a way that optimizes the customer experience.
If this seems like a difficult challenge, here is some advice on how to make the job a little easier. Even if you have a contact center in place now, this piece might offer some helpful advice on how to make it better.
Layout will obviously be determined by the space available – are you opening in a separate building, or devoting part of your current workspace to call center functions? Either way, the objective is to make it as conducive as possible to efficient service and teamwork. That means sufficient lighting and ventilation, work stations with comfortable chairs that make it easy for agents to communicate with each other, but not so close that they’re interfering with each other’s calls. For a quieter atmosphere add acoustic wall panels or carpeting. Don’t forget a nice break room.
If you already have contact centers and this is an additional location, the first place to look for agents, managers and coaches is within your organization. Perhaps some will want to move to a newer facility that might be located closer to their homes. Otherwise, follow the same practices you do when offsetting attrition at your current businesses. Make sure to hire bilingual agents, as well as those more adept at text, online chat and social media.
Obviously start with the essentials – a secure LAN, predictive dialers for outbound calls, VoIP, IVR, and an automatic call distributor that routes calls to specific agents. A call recording system is a must for legal protection and agent training. This can be acquired as part of a workforce optimization solution that includes workforce management, quality management, screen capture, performance management and agent analytics. With this technology in place, you’ll be able to do a better job of forecasting and scheduling from day one, while providing your agents with everything they need to serve your customers.
“Of course we have a quality management system,” most contact center managers say. “Does it work? Of course! It has ‘quality’ right in the title!”
If that’s true, congratulations. But here’s the problem – quality is not a fixed goal that, once achieved, can be maintained by repeating the same steps that got you there in the first place. Even if everything looks good, and you’d rather spend that time on other priorities, the objective here is continuous improvement, and that means ongoing attention.
Insight is the key to building the type of reliability that maintains quality year in and year out. Think of it as shining a light in every corner of the contact center, to illuminate what is being done right and to catch issues before they become serious.
Where You Are vs. Where You Want to Be
Gap assessment is the practice of identifying gaps between existing conditions and the quality processes you want to put in place. Start by comparing your quality management actions against what is referred to as standard operating procedure.
Where there are gaps at your contact center? Find out where and when they occur, define the problem that needs to be solved, and what control can be put in place to make sure the problem doesn’t come back. Chances are you won’t be able to answer these questions right away. Set time aside to interview key personnel, to observe processes over time, and to analyze the results.
If this results in change, be sure to give those changes time to work. Every time a new procedure is added, it will take agents time to adjust. And don’t change too many things at the same time, as it will make it more difficult to discern which new processes are working and which are not.
Avoid Silo Processes
Any kind of business is more successful when all of its divisions and employees are working together toward the same quality goals.
With larger companies, including contact centers, this can be easier said than done. Different divisions have different priorities, and while all of them may be similar in conception (better customer service, improved efficiency, lower costs, etc.), these efforts can always be improved (and can occasionally be hindered) by the data and employee input from other parts of the organization.
This is particularly true of quality management at a contact center. Such businesses are comprised of managers devoted to forecasting and scheduling, executives who review recorded and monitored calls to gauge customer service, and others who set goals for the organization based on agent and customer feedback. All of the functions are important for quality, but may be monitored separately.
Rather than take a siloed approach, where each system works independently without reciprocal operation with other divisions, having the right workforce optimization systems in place can provide easy access to cross-functional data that helps align teams, so they can work more effectively on common objectives. And access is immediate regardless of employee location, just one of the many benefits of a cloud delivery system.
With the centralized administration provided by unified WFO, there is no need to devote additional time and budgeting to costly integration projects, which can be effective but may not be scheduled more than once a month, if that. The fully integrated WFO framework automatically delivers important call center insights, metrics and alerts on an ongoing basis. Now managers can make more informed decisions and react more quickly to internal or external trends. Result? More consistent quality management.
Improvement Every Day
A lean quality management system is one that is intolerant to waste in all its forms by creating a culture that expects daily improvement. If there is something at your contact center that is not making a contribution, get rid of it, along with any other non-value-added steps in your processes.
Usually when organizations think about getting leaner it means cutting – less agents, less hours. And while that may be feasible, there are ways to add instead of subtract that can also contribute to a lean enterprise. These may include adding more flexibility and empowerment to the agent position, so that can deal with customer issues without additional assistance.
How the Right System Helps
As stated earlier, proactive quality management is made easier with an automated workforce optimization solution in place. Now you can quickly and accurately measure the metrics that are most critical to your quality system, analyze real-time data across different departments, and generate reports that help to share the knowledge faster.
Optimization and lean, continuous improvement programs are not just one-time projects, but a continuous cycle for improving your quality management system. It’s a worthy goal, as doing so can achieve a number of ROI benefits, from knowing you are always making the most efficient use of your resources, to the adoption of successful, sustainable processes, and the ultimate achievement of higher quality customer service delivered at a lower cost. Once you have the basics in place, introduce a maintenance program that can add modest refinements as needed for further optimization. You may be surprised at how much time and money can be saved by even the smallest change.
The calendar says we’re closer to Easter than Halloween, but we have a few contact center horror stories to share, and they’re too good to keep until October.
A customer opened a web chat with a cable TV provider. The company responded only with pre-prepared template messages – until the customer was shocked to see the personal information of another customer pop up on his screen. When this was brought to the agent’s attention, she typed, “Oh, sorry… hehe… I am typing in 2 other windows, and got confused."
Another cable TV customer called to cancel service that had originally been ordered in her husband’s name. Her husband had recently died. When she explained this to the agent, the agent responded that he would still have to contact them to cancel.
A corporate customer called a computer company to report that the 12 laptops he had purchased were not working. The agent’s response: “What do you want me to do about it?”
A customer with a billing question was transferred to an account specialist. As soon as the call picked up, the agent yelled, You, I told you not to call me again.” When the customer questioned what was going on, the call was disconnected.
The customer of an Internet service provider called to ask about a company’s bundling offers with cable TV, and the agent tried for more than 30 minutes to sell that customer a home security system. After the call ended, during which the customer did order cable, a technician arrived a few days later to install the cable – and the home security system that was never ordered.
Some of these sad-but-true anecdotes, like the now-famous tale of the customer that was on hold with Comcast for more than three hours, are clearly aberrations from normal procedure. But we live in a time when one bad experience gets shared on social media, repeated on industry blogs, and may even go viral.
So when we ask the question of why customers hate contact centers, these exceptional examples of bad service cannot be ignored. And as a recent survey from analytics company ForeSee illustrates, customer satisfaction derived from the contact center is crucial to company reputation, brand loyalty and future sales.
After receiving feedback from approximately 11,000 contact center customers, each asked to grade their experience on a 100-point scale, ForeSee found that most businesses achieved scores around 70. Those in the 80s are on the right track – but some only managed to edge into the 50s, indicating the need for significant changes to policies, procedures, or personnel.
Service-based contact centers tended to receive lower scores, which is not surprising. These are the types of businesses that hear primarily from customers that are already angry or confused, making the agent’s task even more difficult.
Two Solutions: Technology and Sensitivity
How is your contact center doing on the customer service scale? Would you hit that 70-range of average success, or is there work to be done?
If it’s time for a fresh look, there are two areas where changes are more likely to bring about better results.
Let’s start with agent training, which should extend beyond learning a script or becoming familiar with contact center procedures, and should also stress empathy, patience and understanding. Scripted responses might be more efficient, but it makes customers feel better if they believe they are connecting with a person who acknowledges their frustration, and reassures them that they have come to the right place for the help they need.
We’ve mentioned the CARP Method before but it’s worth acknowledging again. CARP is an acronym for “Control, Acknowledge, Refocus, Problem Solve.” It was created by Robert Bacal, who wrote the book If It Wasn’t for the Customers I’d Really Like this Job. His advice for handling complaints – “Control” the situation with polite but firm responses; “Acknowledge concerns in a way that takes them seriously; “Refocus” the conversation to solving the problem rather than complaining about its existence, then “Problem Solve” and wrap it up.
However, to be fair to your agents, it is also appropriate to train them on the difference between angry callers open to best practices communication, and the acceptance of an apology when merited, and abusive callers who just want to vent. It may not be possible to salvage these encounters, and it’s acceptable to give up on them when the threats and profanities start flying.
Workforce Management Software
All of the burden for customer service should not fall on the agent’s shoulders. The contact center must provide the tools necessary for that agent to do his or her job, as well as provide forecasting and scheduling that assures the presence of enough agents to efficiently handle incoming calls.
That used to be handled with spreadsheets but can now be covered with a workforce management (WFM) solution. With the advanced functionality and the more accurate forecasting and scheduling made possible by WFM, as well as the data it delivers on agent performance, schedule adherence and KPIs, contact center managers can always be assured the contact center’s resources are being utilized in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
Among the benefits:
Tracking and schedule adherence are difficult, if not flat-out impossible, with just a spreadsheet. Spot-checks are fine as far as they go, but without the real-time tracking provided by WFM there is a higher risk of over/under staffing, shrinkage and missed service levels.
You know what types of calls your contact center receives, and you know which agents are adept at handling those particular calls. But the process of routing calls to the best recipients is more complex given the number of calls expected in any shift, and the number of agents available to handle them. Skill-based routing becomes less challenging with a WFM solution.
Multi-Location and Multi-Channel Coordination
Companies with multiple contact center locations require a means to coordinate personnel, resources and schedules at each facility so the service they provide is consistent. There may also be agents working from home that must be accounted for. WFM delivers these multi-site capabilities.
Choosing the Best Solution
If you are considering the addition of WFM, it can be a confusing process. The best way to be assured of choosing the right solution the first time is to be prepared. Have a list of capabilities that you’ll want from your system, such as:
• The ability to coordinate in multi-skill, multi-contact environments
• Support for email, phone and chat contact channels
• The ability to run simulations based on required skills and personnel
• The capability to analyze and report on a wide range of agent and scheduling data
Next, have your questions ready for the vendors you contact. We’d suggest including these on your list:
How will this system integrate with my business?
The optimal WFM solution will improve a contact center’s procedures without requiring a complete overhaul of its current system.
How much does it cost?
An obvious question but also one that, for many smaller and midsized contact centers, marks the end of the discussion – unless they choose a cloud provider.
How long will it take to set up?
Once again, advantage: Cloud. Set up can be completed in days, with secure access available to agents and managers in the call center and at remote locations.
Is the system easily usable/scalable?
Usability is a priority with most cloud-based solutions, so call center agents and managers can get started more quickly from any location.
No contact center has ever achieved a 100% perfect service record. However, it’s a worthy goal to pursue even if one is doing so with imperfect people – and that includes managers as well as agents. But armed with better training that emphasizes courtesy and customer empathy, combined with a workforce management solution that locates the gaps between the contact center’s available personnel skills and resources, the contact center that inspires customer derision can be transformed into a sales-building protector of the brand.
One minute doesn’t seem like a very long time. But try this: get a stopwatch or a watch with a second hand, and time out one full minute while sitting and doing nothing else. It will probably seem much longer than you think.
Now, imagine one of your customers waiting on hold that long.
If this is happening often at your contact center, you might want to consider some changes. According to the advertising analytics company Marchex, 62% of callers will abandon a call if they’re not speaking to an agent after one minute. And no, those “your call is important to us” pre-recorded messages aren’t doing much to change their minds.
Marchex then translated that abandoned call rate into economic impact, using the cable TV industry as an example. If just 10% of abandoned calls were turned into new customers, it adds up to an additional $15 million in revenue per year.
Don’t Stop There
Of course, just picking up the phone quickly won’t result in a happy customer. It’s what agents do next that also counts. Reading a scripted greeting that launches the information gathering process is a fairly common practice: “Thank you for calling ABC Industries, where the customer always comes first. My name is Bob, can I have your account number please?”
Nothing really wrong with that, but the Marchex survey also found that something simpler, more personal and more courteous can also be more effective. A greeting as basic as, “Hello, how are you today?” can put a customer at ease, and add a personal touch to a professional call.
The ultimate goal is always more sales, more conversions, and more customer satisfaction. If too many minutes are going by without calls being answered, it may be time to look at a workforce management solution that will help you make better forecasting and scheduling decisions, so you’ll always have enough agents available to promptly pick up calls.
Perhaps you know the answer to that question. Or perhaps you just think you do.
There are two definitions for workforce optimization (WFO) – one that provides a general assessment and one specific to the contact center industry.
The general definition, or at least the one offered by Technopedia, is: “A strategy used in business with a focus on maximum customer satisfaction and benefits with minimal operational costs and supported by integrated technologies, cross-functional processes and shared objectives.”
All of these qualities would certainly apply to the contact center, but would also work for any number of professional pursuits. When we think WFO for our industry, the definition incorporates specific functionality such as call recording, workforce management, quality management and speech analytics.
We’re exploring this topic because of a recent Gartner report predicting that by the end of 2018, 70% of organizations with more than 300 contact center agents will be working with an integrated workforce optimization solution, either on-premise or in the cloud.
That’s about 20 months away. If you have not yet explored the possibilities of WFO, there is a real risk of falling behind companies committed to maximizing efficiency and customer service. It’s a big decision that will impact every aspect of your company, even beyond the confines of the contact center itself.
When you’re ready, start with a list of priorities and then seek out the solution best suited to meet them. Also, as so many business processes will be affected, look for a WFO application that can be implemented and integrated in a way that reduces the learning curve, while working toward ROI from day one. Price will also be a likely consideration, so a cloud solution may be the answer to achieving your technology goals at a cost you can afford.
There certainly seem to be a lot of surveys released these days, all focusing on the contact center industry and the impact of technology on the customer experience. We like to bring these to you when we find them, because if they’re done well they usually have something important to tell us about the state of our business.
We just found one from the United Kingdom that spoke to 100 contact center professionals about their workforce management adoption and challenges. If we had to summarize the findings in one sentence, we’d say it suggests that workforce management solutions are capable of making significant improvements in a contact center’s efficiency, but many businesses are still hesitant to commit to this improved technology:
• Just 29% of respondents have a WFM solution in place
• 33% report disappointing experiences with off-the-shelf solutions
• 67% believe the WFM provider did not provide adequate support and training
This is disappointing to read for a number of reasons. Workforce management has been around since the 1980s – this is not a shiny new toy that hasn’t been proven in the real world. If seven out of every 10 contact centers in the UK are still getting by with spreadsheets and other means, we can only wonder how much better they could be doing by embracing a solution that can revolutionize their forecasting, scheduling and staffing procedures.
Even more troubling are the responses from those that have adopted a WFM solution, and found it wanting. This has a negative impact not just on the company that provides that WFM software, but also on all of us in this business.
Looking closer at the survey results, we find the 33% that were disappointed in WFM found the system to be inflexible, and thus incompatible with the demands placed on the modern contact center. The challenges they found, in areas such as reporting, support, and overall performance, simply would not be an issue with a product like Monet Live WFM in the cloud.
Great WFM solutions are available – it’s up to contact center managers to do their due diligence and find a solution with the customization, flexibility, user-friendliness and support they require.
How much can substandard customer service cost your business? Considering a recent Zendesk survey that reported 82% of customers stop doing business with a company that does not treat them well, we would guess the losses engendered by poor service are substantial.
As the contact center is the first point of contact for many customers, it’s a place where service must be constantly emphasized at both the agent and managerial levels.
Here are some customer service trends that are gaining more attention in 2016, and may help to improve performance at your contact center.
1. Help Customers Help Themselves
At first “do it yourself” sounds like the antithesis of customer service, until you realize that many customers (more than 50% according to the Harvard Business Review) would prefer visiting a company’s website to having to call a contact center. By offering an array of self-service options, you serve customers better and eliminate many of the calls asking for basic information and services that could be addressed in another way.
But what exactly are those other channels referenced in our previous point? Web, online chat, email and texting are just some of the methods your customers would like to use – and sometimes an issue can be best resolved by switching from one channel to another, without having to close the first engagement. Make it easier for customers to transition from web to voice, and make sure you are tracking that customer journey for quality management purposes.
3. Social Media
Social media is still under-utilized as a business communication tool – but chances are your customers are already using it to discuss your business. It’s important to be represented there so you can respond to comments, positive or negative, as well as promote new offers and generate the types of discussions that will help you serve your customers better. There is an informal nature to Facebook chats that can produce more insight into what your customers are thinking.
4. Video Chat
This is not something you may have to think about yet, but some companies like Amazon have already incorporated this channel into their customer service strategy. Those who enjoy using various webchat services or Skype may wonder why they can’t order products and ask questions from companies the same way. Video chat won’t add much to a contact center budget, but some agent training will be required to acknowledge the differences between a phone conversation and a virtual face-to-face.
5. The Cloud Makes Everything Easier
Will 2016 be the year that the cloud becomes the top platform choice for contact centers? It’s too early to tell but the early returns are encouraging. We’ve covered the reasons for the cloud’s ascension before – lower costs, faster deployment, scalability, flexibility, ease of integration, user-friendliness, and the peace of mind of knowing that your business is always running the most recent and most secure version of the software you need.
If it’s time for your contact center to take a closer look at the benefits of the cloud, Monet WFM is a great place to start.
What are the first words your agents say to customers? According to one recent industry study, that greeting may be worth as much as $20 million to a business.
The study, “America’s Call Centers Revealed” analyzed conversations, hold times and call outcomes from more than two million contact center calls in 2015. Several interesting findings were uncovered, including:
• Open-ended questions from agents (such as “Why are you calling today?” can boost conversion rates
• Offering additional incentives works, as long as it is done in a ‘no pressure’ way
• Hold times are critical; if the wait is longer than three minutes, 50% of callers hang up
• About 10% of callers hang up if they hear an IVR
But it’s the revelations regarding the greeting that should raise eyebrows the
highest. Turns out there is still a lot to be said for courtesy, and treating each customer with respect. The study reports that when calls are answered this way, a consumer is 22 percent more likely to buy a product or service.
What would a 20% increase in sales mean to your business? Another $1 million? Perhaps another $20 million?
And the best part is, this is a change that doesn’t cost the business or the contact center anything at all.
Take a second look at your scripted greeting, and review call recordings to examine if it is being used and how it is being communicated. Tell your coaches and trainers to pay more attention to this part of the call. The benefits can be substantial.
With workforce management you have a lot of data at your disposal. And all of it is important – some to improve the efficiency of your contact center, and some to help you better understand the needs and preferences of your customers.
Let’s take a closer look at that second category today, as this is where many contact centers are seeing an increased focus. Tools such as speech analytics deliver insights that might have been impossible to achieve a decade ago. When agents have this data at their disposal they can react accordingly, and increase the likelihood of a successful customer engagement.
Here are three contact center trends that you should be utilizing:
1. Real-Time Data
What good is data if you get it when it’s too late to use it? Sure you can still make changes to affect future performance, but how much better would it be to deliver real-time guidance to agents, and alert managers when a call is going south? There is a predictive quality to this data, but if it’s compiled correctly you’ll be able to anticipate customer intentions and deliver a more customized response. It also works for online chat and email engagements.
2. Follow the Path
Think of every customer engagement as a journey with a starting point and an end point, where lots of different things can happen in between. The more you can understand about each customer’s journey, the better you can serve that customer. Analytics from a workforce optimization suite plays a big role, but don’t stop there – you’ll also want to bring agents together in a collaborative way to discuss that actions they took and how well they worked (or didn’t work), and perhaps bring in personnel from other company departments that can provide additional data. If you do it right, you’ll figure out where a journey is headed while it’s still near the starting point, and react accordingly so the rest of the path is a walk in the park.
3. Keep it Simple
There is data you’ll want to see after the fact, and data that’s important right now. When deploying analytics, make it easier for agents and managers to see what they need to see, when they need to see it. This may require some customization of your WFM solution, or simply bringing your system more in line with your business goals.
Since there is never a bad time to listen to good ideas about improving call center performance, we’ve rounded up some of the best we’ve heard recently. Any or all of them can make a difference in your business.
If IVR use is unavoidable, provide options that will make it easier to route customers to the agents best qualified to address their situation.
Maximize the Value of Every Call
How much data are you gathering from customer calls? Is there a way to add to that through a technology upgrade (such as speech analytics) or by a renewed focus on quality management and analysis of information gathered through workforce management?
Setting Personal and Professional Goals
Most contact centers establish achievement targets – lower average handle time, better first call resolution, etc. As these are implemented, agents and other team members should also be challenged to set personal goals, such as a renewed commitment to courtesy.
Improve the Agent Desktop
Do agents have the information they need when they need it? Do they have to dig through various programs to find appropriate data, while customers are waiting to have their questions asked or their orders processed? Maybe it’s time for a more user-friendly solution.
Share Successes and Good Ideas
When an agent finds an effective solution to a recurring problem, make sure that word gets out. Identify calls where everything went right, and schedule a group session so everyone can listen to it and learn from what they hear.
We’ve been discussing this often lately. Allow your agents to make decisions for customers – this not only requires a level of trust in agent judgment, it also necessitates a workforce management solution that provides agents with the data they need in real time to make an informed decision.
Review Remote Agent Practices
When instituted effectively, telecommuting agents can boost contact center efficiency, as well as staff retention and staff motivation. But it takes time and effort to bring about these positive results. Review your planning, execution and communication as it relates to home-working agents. Make sure you are getting them what they need to do their jobs, and that they are providing the same level of service you require from agents at your contact center.
Dig Deeper than KPIs
Average handle time is down? Great! But how did it get that way? Sometimes key performance metrics do not tell the whole story. Use this data as a launching point for an outcome-based strategy that places more emphasis on customer loyalty, customer satisfaction and new business sales.
“It���s the way we’ve always done it.”
That is the explanation managers to use for why certain contact center business practices have not changed for years, if not decades. But while some contact centers stick with traditional solutions, others have been more cognizant of how technology offers better ways to achieve customer satisfaction goals – and how this functionality is now available to contact centers of all sizes regardless of budget, thanks to the cloud.
If it’s time to consider an upgrade, here are some questions that you might wish to ask of your next technology provider.
Can I get important information on customers to agents in real time?
You may already be collecting data on customers, but is there a way to make that available to agents so they can customize their handing of a specific call – or route it to the agent best suited to handle it? Real time information is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity if agents are going to effectively meet a customer’s needs.
Can we provide 24/7 access?
Your team should be able to stay connected to the contact center wherever they are. Find a browser-based software solution that makes working from home as easy as working in the office.
Will this be easy to adopt?
A more sophisticated product won’t pay dividends if your agents can’t figure out how to make use of its capabilities. Choose a solution that will allow for a shorter acclimation period, and that will facilitate collaboration among your team members both on and off-site.
Will this help our agents be more autonomous?
Customers prefer only talking to one person at your contact center, rather than being put on hold or transferred to a supervisor and explaining their issue a second time. More and more, managers are trusting agents to make decisions that might otherwise have required executive approval. However, agents need access to the right data at the service level to make an informed decision.
The purpose of many of our blogs and articles is to provide information and suggestions on how to improve the quality and efficiency of your contact center. Of course, what works for a small center with 10 agents may not be equally appropriate for a large 24/7 facility with three shifts of 200 agents.
So the goal of this piece is to offer so many different kinds of tips in one article, you are bound to find at least a few that will be beneficial. Welcome to our spring cleaning piece – here is all the good advice we’ve had laying around the office all winter.
Let’s get started on making your contact center even better than it is right now.
Smart Call Routing
Use WFO or speech analytics to route customer calls to the agent best suited to deal with each caller’s issue. Calls will be handled faster, and customers will be happier.
Take the agents that work together out for some friendly competition, especially if they are pitted against the managers. Arcades, go-kart tracks or any fun activity can encourage agent motivation and loyalty.
Keep your Door Open
Agents appreciate a manager that is available to them when a problem arises or a question needs to be asked. The closer managers are to the area where agents are fielding calls, the better sense they will have of what is working and what is not. This is important for team-building as well.
Provide Multichannel Access
Some of your customers may want to interact with your company without using the phone. At some contact centers as many as 40% of customer interactions are handled via live chat, while others are conducted with email.
Take potential agents on to the floor to listen to calls before they go into training. This makes training more relevant and ensures they feel comfortable with the role and environment. Then start new agents on the phones with support before letting them fly solo. It builds their confidence.
Create an External Knowledge Base
Is there a place customers can go to answer the most basic questions about your company before calling? Don’t just create it – promote it via social media and your IVR message.
Make Your Customers Happy to Be Customers
Courtesy on the phone, empathy when there is a problem, and a friendly greeting and close to each call can make a big difference.
Expedite the Customer’s Path to a Live Agent
While it might seem more efficient to collect a caller’s personal information via automated message, the customer often has to confirm some of it with a live agent anyway. Most callers would prefer speaking to an agent as soon as possible.
Ditch the Emoticons
Do you really think an emoji with a tear in its eye is going to make a customer feel better about the order they never received? This isn’t junior high.
Empower Your Agents
Trust agents with the authority to handle basic transactions without a supervisor’s involvement or to use his or her best judgment with more complicated issues. This expedites the customer’s call and also makes agents feel more valued.
Free Product Samples
When a new product is introduced, provide your contact center agents with one so they can get acquainted with it, and better understand what questions may arise from its use.
Use Metrics Wisely
Metrics are vital in providing data on customer service goals – but make certain agents aren’t trying to lower average handle time by rushing through customer calls. The first priority is always the customer.
Promote From Within
Managers that used to be agents will have more insight into how the front line works, and will be better able to structure their forecasting, scheduling and training.
Be Patient with Seniors
Remember that seniors did not grow up with the same technology you did – make sure your agents know this as well, and encourage patience as they instruct the AARP generation how to negotiate online portals.
Think you know what’s most important to your customers? Why not confirm it with a survey that covers what they expect from a contact center? You may be surprised with the results.
Show your agents that their work is valued. A free lunch here, a spa day there, even an encouraging word or inquiry about their family can make them feel appreciated. And don’t neglect your off-site agents if you have them – telecommuting employees need acknowledgment too.
Share Training Ideas
A good idea for training and development can come from an agent, a coach, or even from someone outside the contact center. Hold meetings to update training session procedures and always look for ways to improve them.
The Suggestion Box
Whether it’s handled though regular meetings or anonymous suggestions submitted through the old-fashioned suggestion box, make sure agents have a means to offer ideas for contact center improvements – many of which can be implemented at little or no cost.
Create a Suggestion Box for Customers as Well
If you don’t wish to do a customer survey, have your agents ask customers before closing each call if there is a way that the contact center can better serve them.
Communication Builds Relationships
Face-to-face interaction with different company departments should be encouraged. Shared knowledge about how different aspects of the company work will result in new ideas to create better synergy, and ultimately better service. Also make sure the lines of communication are always open within your team, by keeping them up to date with any news, company changes or notable customer feedback.
Lead by Example
Motivation is always more effective when it comes from someone who follows the same rules and exhibits the same enthusiasm. Agents will pick up on a “do as I say, not as I do” approach very quickly, and respond accordingly.
Did you achieve all of your goals this month? Great! Now set some new ones. Strive for continuous improvement every day.
Have you added speech analytics to your contact center’s capabilities?
It’s worth considering – merging call recording with speech analytics can significantly boost lead conversion rates, as well as increase customer retention levels. At the same time, it’s a way to be 100% assured that agents are always in compliance with federal and industry regulations.
If and when you make that decision, here are some guidelines that can ease the implementation process and optimize the results this powerful solution delivers.
Speech analytics can do a lot for your contact center – but it’s best to start by specifying one or two areas where attention is most needed, and setting goals for improvement. Don’t try to do everything at once.
Make sure your agents and managers and trainers know how to leverage speech analytics capabilities and the data it delivers. It may take some time before the language and tone of every customer call can be accurately analyzed, but once you’re there the results will be very beneficial.
Dispel the notion that speech analytics was added to keep a closer eye on how agents do their jobs. Educate your agents on how this tool can help the business achieve its corporate goals.
Maintain Quality Monitoring
Speech analytics can enhance your quality monitoring, but it shouldn’t replace it entirely.
It will take time, and some trial and error, before speech analytics becomes fully integrated into your best practices. Don’t look for perfection in the first week or even the first month.
Sometimes with accurate scheduling it’s not about what you do right, but what you do wrong. Here are six examples where scheduling elements can be overlooked or mishandled, resulting in problems that can impact customer service.
Not Scheduling Breaks
If agents take their breaks when they feel like it, that might result in too many going off to lunch or the break room at the same time, leaving a shift under-manned. Avoid this by scheduling breaks – it may not be popular, but by providing agents some input in when they can take some time off, the transition might be made more easily.
Not Enough Part Time Help
If all of your agents work full time, they will always be there whether they are needed or not. Sometimes you’ll have too many people on the floor – occasionally there may still not be enough. By mixing in some part-time agents you can add more flexibility to your scheduling, and initiate split shifts. This will make it easier to cover peak hours, while not having to pay agents for sitting and waiting for the phone to ring.
Not Accounting for Shrinkage
Almost every contact center takes shrinkage into consideration, but the calculations are complicated without an automated workforce management system. With WFM and attendance reports, managers are more likely to get the numbers right.
Not Measuring Efficiency Properly
Schedule efficiency is a measure of how accurately and consistently the planned number of agents on staff matches the required staffing over the evaluation period.
WFM produces a more accurate picture, but make sure to use weighted averages when producing consolidated figures, while not neglecting outside business hours.
Assuming Everyone Wants the Same Shift
There is a tendency to struggle with filling evening and weekend shifts. But with a flexible and part-time work force this should not be an issue. Students may want to work weekends, and agents with outside obligations during the day may prefer an evening shift. Don’t look for a problem where none might exist.
Obviously this is the least excusable mistake, and yet there are still contact centers out there that just hope for the best. And to make it worse, they put off the hiring and training of new agents to replace those lost by attrition, and muddle through with a reduced roster that is even more vulnerable to unexpected schedule changes.
It takes both art and science to staff a call center. Next to hiring the right personnel, scheduling plays the key role in maximizing resources and making sure calls are handled in a courteous and efficient manner. The faster mistakes are corrected, the faster a contact center is delivering the level of service that customers deserve.
You have probably spent many hours studying the question of how you can provide better service to your contact center customers. Much of this attention will focus on the performance of your agents.
But agents have their own ideas about the state of their industry and what constitutes customer service. Can you learn anything from their insight?
A recent survey of more than 250 agents produced some interesting findings.
The Best Way to Get Things Done
Today’s contact centers offer a selection of channels for customer interaction, but which is the most effective? Nearly half of the agents surveyed (47%) still believe that the telephone provides the best opportunity to resolve a customer’s situation. Web chat finished second with just 26%.
But wait – isn’t the telephone outdated in this era of apps and social media? Not according to today’s agents. An overwhelming 90% of them are certain that there will always need to be a ‘call center’ component in the contact center. Perhaps some of these responses were motivated by job security but, as one explained, it’s easier for many customers to ask questions or describe a problem verbally than having to type out a long explanation.
Taking the Time to Get it Right
Agents are certainly aware of the importance managers place on KPIs like Average Handle Time – but sometimes that leads to a choice between wrapping up a call more quickly and making sure the customer is happy. While nearly 40% of agents surveyed said they tried to complete calls in 5-10 minutes, 32% replied that effective problem solving may take longer, so they’ll take 15 minutes if necessary.
Virtual Queuing vs. ‘On Hold’
No one likes to be placed on hold, which is why 81% of agents support virtual queuing that allows customers to call back at a time when they will receive immediate agent access. However, some expressed concern that customers may neglect to call back at the right time, which can result in more frustration.
Do They Care? Good News
The agent hiring and screening process seeks to find people with empathy toward customer issues, and a sincere desire to get problems solved. Of course, everyone says the right things in a job interview, but do they really mean them? This anonymous survey provided a chance to find out – fortunately, 98% of agents surveyed feel a sense of duty to the client, and a desire to provide a positive customer experience.
“Without them,” one agent said, “our business would not exist.”
We tend to think of speech analytics as a tool with a number of contact center performance benefits. Transforming voice data from customer interactions into business intelligence delivers the capability to improve:
• Agent performance
• Customer experience
• Regulatory compliance
• First call resolution
• Sales effectiveness
• Issue resolution
• Overall quality of service
You’ll notice that “reducing agent attrition” is not listed among its attributes. But when you take a closer look at the causes behind agent departures, it becomes clear that speech analytics can make a difference here as well. And not a moment too soon, as many contact centers suffer costly, time-consuming attrition rates of 50% or more every year.
Why do agents leave? Some are frustrated by ineffective training, or evaluations that do not reflect their actual performance. Some view the job as one that should lead to additional opportunities and incentives that never materialize.
But what happens when agent scoring is handled through speech analytics software? Supervisors don’t have to devote the same amount of time to agent evaluations, and coaching sessions can be more precisely tuned to address specific issues for each agent. Better training results in better performance, and more individualized attention results in agents feeling more valued by the company.
When agents are better trained and better motivated, customers receive better service. That makes it easier to offer incentive programs and income growth opportunities to outstanding performers.
The cost of replacing an agent who quits or is fired can be as high as $8,000 – half of that for hiring, the other half for training. At a 250-agent contact center with just a 15% attrition rate, that adds up to more than $300,000 every year. In addition to its many other virtues, speech analytics can help reduce this punishing annual expense.
We are in the midst of a particularly heated presidential campaign, with allegations flying in every direction. But when it comes time to cast a ballot, many Americans make up their minds based on the answer to one simple question – which candidate do I trust?
For contact center managers, the trust issue is also central to the agent hiring and training process. These are the people engaging with your customers – what they say reflects on the entire company. There may also be additional personnel at the company, such as legal and compliance, who are cognizant of agent-customer interactions and may want to participate in reviewing recorded calls and agent scripts.
Trust starts when all company personnel are on the same page as to what constitutes a quality engagement – this will likely be based on traditional compliance metrics and customer service data gathered through surveys and performance management reviews.
But the real key here is communication, to alleviate suspicion over agents sticking to the script, doing their jobs even if they are working from home, and being motivated to deliver good service from the first call of their shift to the last.
It’s important that everyone understands how quality management and customer experience are related – and this can be achieved by getting reps from all departments together for a roundtable discussion. Discuss quality, discuss trust, and figure out the best way forward.
What do omnichannel capability, self-service interactions and the cloud have in common? All are listed among the most prominent trends emerging in the contact center industry. Let’s take a closer look:
It’s a fancy word that simply means providing customers with a choice on how they interact with your company. The telephone continues to be a popular option, but email and online chat are preferred by those who don’t wish to speak directly with an agent. Contact centers should respond to these demands by making multiple channels available, and allowing customers to switch from one to the other during an enquiry.
And of course, it’s not just establishing these channels but having a workforce optimization solution in place to measure quality management and customer data that will impact service delivery.
No matter how many channels you add, some customers will prefer to settle their business without talking to anyone. The marketing firm Gartner predicts that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their interactions this way.
Such predictions have a tendency to over-estimate the consumer reliance on new technology such as mobile apps – remember with eBooks were going to put regular books out of business? Still, this is ultimately a positive trend for contact centers as it reduces workload on agents (and may eventually reduce the number of agents you need). However, as with omnichannel, it’s wise to have a system in place where customers can easily transition from self-service technology to a more traditional communication channel.
3. The Cloud Platform
It’s not the #1 platform yet, but it is getting there quickly. The appeal of no large upfront investment, always running the latest and greatest software, ease of transition and ease of use and better scalability, in addition to other benefits, are driving the contact center industry toward the cloud platform in droves.
As a pioneer in cloud solutions, Monet has not only been at the forefront of the cloud trend, we continue to stay on the cutting edge of what this model can provide. Questions? We’re here to help. Contact us today
Any expert in business or marketing will tell you that it’s easier to keep the customers you already have than to get new customers. But how can you convert first-time customers into reliable repeat business?
Often, this responsibility falls on the contact center – and the agent that picks up the phone may have just one chance to get it right.
This was the conclusion of a survey of more than 2,200 Americans by the PH Media Group. Almost 60% stated that if a first call to a company’s customer service line isn’t handled properly, they will not be calling again – or buying any more products from that company.
If you are a business with products or services geared toward seniors, the news is even worse – 63% of those surveyed said you get one call to provide good service, and if you don’t they look elsewhere. And since seniors are still the group that is far more likely to contact a business via telephone rather than an online platform, it puts even more pressure on your agents.
Millennials are slightly more forgiving, but more than half will leave as well after a negative call handling experience. That’s a more difficult loss, since with 18-24 year olds these could be customer relationships that will last decades.
A Renewed Commitment to Service
The challenge is how to make certain that first-time callers are always treated right. That responsibility falls first on the agent, but managers have a role to play as well. They should have a reliable forecasting and scheduling system in place so there are always enough agents available to deliver quality service. They should be utilizing call recording for performance management, and making sure regular coaching and training sessions are scheduled to keep your team engaged.
Well-trained agents and quality technology, working together, improve the likelihood of a successful resolution.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Larry Elder
It’s February – are all your New Year’s Resolutions broken by now?
Hopefully not, but if the ones pertaining to your contact center didn’t materialize as you hoped, it’s never too early or too late to start again. This time, you’ll have a better chance of success if each goal is accompanied by specific ideas on how to make it happen.
Here are five common contact center goals, and some suggestions of ways you can put them in motion.
1. Reduce Agent Attrition
There are several options available here, starting with sprucing up the office – new chairs, clean restrooms, fresh snack food items in the break room. Agents are more likely to stay when they can work in a clean and welcoming environment. Also, try to inject a little fun into the daily routine, either by launching customer service contests with small prizes for the best-handled calls, birthday celebrations, or more creative spins on casual Fridays – “Fancy Dress Fridays” or “Monday Night Football” days where agents can wear the jersey of their favorite team or player.
While these steps can make the work day more pleasant, some agents – and likely your best ones – will also want to know if their hard work is going to be rewarded with raises or internal promotion for those who have earned it.
Another reason agents leave is when they can’t reconcile the demands of their job with their home life, going to school or working a second job. You won’t be able to solve all these problems, but you can build more flexibility into your schedules to better accommodate agent preferences. For example, consider introducing a shift that finishes at 2pm to help those who need to pick up their children from school.
2. Improve Customer Service
That’s the main goal, isn’t it? And yes, there are countless ways to make it happen. But too often contact center teams will gather at the start of a new year and hear a rah-rah “This year we need to be committed to providing the best service we can” speech, and then it’s back to business as usual.
That’s not enough. If you want better service, you have to first define what that entails. A good place to start is by asking your customers. Have you surveyed them lately? Create a survey that asks questions about your contact center’s performance, its agents and processes, targeting the areas where you believe there is the most need for improvement. Also pay attention to what those customers are saying on social media if you communicate that way. When you have their responses, act on them.
What sort of complaints do contact center customers usually lodge? Too much time on the phone? Too much time on hold? Agents waiting for approvals to provide the caller with what he or she needs? Then perhaps another way to boost customer service is to empower your agents.
You’ll know best where implementing this policy would be most effective – perhaps provide agents with additional training so they can talk down angry callers without transferring them to a supervisor, or giving them the authority to approve returns or restoring funds to a customer’s credit card. Not only will this make your customers happier, it will also free up your managers and supervisors to focus on other matters, which should further boost contact center efficiency.
Here’s another thought – how are you assessing metrics? Is it all about hitting predetermined numbers, or is it about making sure callers are getting the assistance they need? Make sure your focus is more on effectiveness. It’s worth putting up with calls that stray outside your Average Handle Time target if they result in a satisfied customer.
3. Improve Your IVR
Having IVR can boost call center efficiency in several ways: calls are routed faster, questions can be answered without agent involvement, hold times are reduced, and for contact centers that are not open 24/7, IVR offers a means for customers to still obtain information.
However, for some customers IVR is not only inefficient, it’s downright annoying. Customers over 40 in particular may not be as willing to “talk to a machine,” and if they have to repeatedly “press 1” or tell that overly-friendly recorded voice what type of service they need, they are more likely to just hang up.
How can you tell if your IVR is helping business – or hurting it?
Analyzing calls and listening in to IVR interactions will provide the insight you need to make this determination. So it’s important to start your call recording and quality monitoring at the IVR, not when the agent takes the call.
If you are losing too many calls during the IVR process, it’s time to make changes. Is there a way to explain the caller’s options more clearly? Is there a means for the caller to bypass the system quickly if they insist on speaking to an agent? In addition to reviewing call recording data, a caller survey that requests feedback on the IVR stage of the call can also yield insight into what customers like, and what they do not.
4. Better Communication
In this case, the challenge is not communication between agent and customer, but between agent and manager, and within the other employee tiers at your contact center. Internal communication is just as important as external communication, and should be encouraged. One way to make it happen is to have agents serve as managers or coaches for a shift. Or make sure that managers spend at least some time on the contact center floor every day.
5. Upgrade Your Technology
A 2015 survey found that 67% of industry professionals specified budget as the biggest barrier to improving their contact center. But with the evolution of cloud workforce management tools, a business can upgrade to state-of-the-art technology without the large upfront costs of hardware and software investment. Depending on the system, an on-premise solution could run $100,000 or more.
Better still, once the cloud solution is implemented it will always be upgraded regularly to new software versions as they are released, at no additional cost to the business. 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.
Motivated agents, upgraded technology, better communication and a renewed focus on customer service – now you’re ready to tackle those resolutions.
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.
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.
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.
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.