Call Center Workforce Management Blog
If business patterns from the previous few years continue, 2015 will see more companies than ever making the choice to break away from the high cost and maintenance responsibilities of supporting their IT infrastructure in house.
The alternative – moving to the cloud – offers a number of significant benefits for contact centers in technology, efficiency and cost.
So far, so good. The challenge now for contact centers is choosing a provider that delivers an authentic cloud solution, rather than one attempting to exploit the benefits of the “cloud” name, while offering a product that is no different (and in some cases, worse) than a traditional hardware/software system.
If all hosted software offerings labeled as “cloud” are anything but, how can you tell the difference? It’s not enough to review the marketing collateral provided by vendors – do your homework first so you are already familiar with how a genuine cloud solution works, and which questions to ask to make sure you are getting the right product.
A true cloud solution is built from the ground up with software coded to perform better as a fully hosted solution. Applications can be customized in a way that will not cause complications as new product enhancements are introduced. And since all updates and upgrades are automatic, and do not require additional cost, your contact center is always assured of operating with the most up-to-date functionality.
If such product upgrades are delayed, it may mean you have been stuck with a fake cloud solution.
Result? A system with all of the problems and costs associated with an on-premise solution. It won’t be as scalable as the cloud, or as efficient. In addition to delayed and difficult product upgrades, a fake cloud solution will entail other drawbacks that will have a negative impact on your business. Don’t be surprised if downtime increases as a result of the limited resources of the hosting set up. Security could also be an issue, as the provider may not have the most important industry certifications, such as PCI-DSS security compliance, EU Safe Harbor certification, and SSAE 16 (SOC1) Type II audit completions.
Finally, any company that would misrepresent the most basic features of its product is one that will likely not be in business for the long haul. Imagine that worst case scenario – your service provider goes out of business, and you are forced to quickly find another vendor and make the switch, risking loss of data or data access. Or you can start over building an in-house solution, which will not be cheap.
The Qualities (and Quality) of a True Cloud Provider
True cloud solutions are typically more scalable and more reliable than hosting of traditional software, while offering the advantages that companies expect from a cloud delivery system, including:
• Automatic upgrades to new software versions
• Fast and secure system access from anywhere with web access
• close to 100% guaranteed uptime
• Advanced data privacy protection
• Easy integration with other applications
• No significant upfront investment
For more information on the differences between fake clouds and true clouds, there are a number of third-party resources available online which specify industry standards, while highlighting additional benefits of the cloud computing model. Here are just some of the most popular:
The Cloud Standards Consumer Council (cloudstandardsconsumercouncil.org)
The CSCC is an end-user advocacy group established to address the lack of a customer driven prioritization and focus within the cloud standards development process. The Council separates the hype from the reality on how to leverage what customers have today, and has established a core set of client-driven requirements to ensure cloud users have the same freedom of choice, flexibility, and openness they have with traditional IT environments.
Publications available on the website include The CSCC Practical Guide to Cloud Computing and The CSCC Practical Guide to Cloud Service Level Agreements.
The Cloud Computing Use Cases Group (cloudusecases.org)
While this site has not been recently updated, it offers two solid white papers on common use cases for cloud computing. It is also a helpful source for cloud information in Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
The Open Group (opengroup.org)
The Open Group is a consortium comprised of IT experts around the world who have developed several IT standards, while providing a number of assets related to cloud computing. These include The Open Group Cloud Computing for Businesses, a publication that can be downloaded for free, as well as several white papers including Building Return on Investment from Cloud Computing.
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.
However, with cloud computing growing so rapidly, many vendors are trying to position themselves as cloud providers by re-labeling and re-branding traditional on-premise software applications. This can lead to problems with upgrades, process integration and business viability.
Customers need to be able to recognize a true cloud solution as one that was designed from a web-based, multi-tenant, self-service perspective, and provides secure and easy access over the Internet, so contact center agents can work from anywhere at any time.
A few simple questions about cloud-computing and some time spent on researching the background and reputation of the provider should quickly clear up any uncertainty about the type of product being offered, and whether it qualifies as genuine.
Did you ever have that feeling of déjà vu? Sometimes, it’s a good thing.
Last month, Monet’s WFO Live – Workforce Optimization in the Cloud was selected as a TMC CUSTOMER magazine 2015 Product of the Year Award winner. As delighted as we were, we couldn’t help but think back to December of last year, when WFO Live was also selected by TMC as a recipient of its Customer Experience Innovation Award.
Such acknowledgment is always welcome, but it is especially appreciated when it comes from TMC, the world's leading business-to-business and integrated marketing media company, and a valued news resource to more than 3.5 million industry professionals. This is a company that knows contact center technology, and their recognition of Monet tells us that our products are meeting the needs of this industry as it continues to grow and evolve.
And while awards are great, it’s always the feedback from our customers that means the most.
Monet WFO Live – Workforce Optimization in the Cloud is a complete suite for contact centers to automate workforce management, call recording, quality assurance and agent analytics. The system creates efficient schedules for incoming call volumes, tracks key metrics in accordance with a company’s business goals, and monitors calls for quality, training and compliance purposes.
We know the difference that WFO Live is making in contact center efficiency because you have told us with your calls and emails. At Monet we’re already at work on new solutions and capabilities that will be announced later in 2015. Whether more awards are forthcoming or not, as long as we continue to receive positive feedback from you, we know we’re on the right track.
Find out more and read the official press release.
One of the many benefits of cloud computing is its accessibility for contact center agents whether they are at their desks, on the road, or even at home.
There are a lot of good reasons to consider a work-from-home situation for some of your contact center personnel. You can now hire qualified agents even if they live 100 miles or more away, since they don’t have to drive to work. Parents with small children might also enjoy the convenience of a home-based office, as long as it does not interfere with their professional obligations.
It is also a way to be more inclusive with your hiring practices, by providing home-based jobs to people with disabilities. Physical limitations could make it difficult for someone to travel to and from a contact center, but by accessing the contact center’s software from a home computer, such people could make a valuable contribution to your business.
These agents will also appreciate the flexibility in scheduling that is possible when contact centers employ workforce management software. Now, medical appointments or family obligations can be accommodated, and the agent does not have to worry about changing a shift when necessary.
The evolution of cloud software has accelerated this trend in hiring, as it provides the same service capabilities to an agent’s home computer as they would enjoy at the call center. No installation is required and data sharing remains secure.
Managers used to a more traditional contact center environment make require some adjustment, but most eventually appreciate the benefits of a telecommuting arrangement. One way to ease into the change is to create a pool of back-up agents for times of increased call volume, or for when there are too many unexpected absences. Occasional trips to these agents’ homes for monitoring and coaching are usually enough to keep their performance consistent. Plus, these visits give the manager an excuse to get out of the office for awhile, which is always welcome.
The start of a new year is a natural time to evaluate the status of your contact center, and decide if any changes would be beneficial moving forward. If you are ready to put together a checklist of important topics, you may wish to start with these.
What is the current state of your agent team(s)? Do you have enough people for each shift? Do they have the skills necessary to fulfill their obligations? How effective are your coaching and training programs? Review the personnel situation and adjust staffing as needed.
How does your contact center get things done? There are a number of processes in place that are employed to improve customer service and optimize forecasting, scheduling and adherence. Review these processes and look for areas where they may be improved. Take quality monitoring, for example: how are calls being scored, and who is doing the scoring? Is it time for a fresh perspective, or to begin tracking elements of each call that are not being reviewed now?
Is your hardware and software out of date or obsolete? It might be if you’ve been using an on-premise solution for such vital functions as workforce management. WFM providers supply ongoing enhancements and updated versions on a regular basis, but they also charge users for every one of these upgrades. With the economy still recovering, companies may not have the resources to keep up with the improvements. Perhaps this is the time to consider a cloud delivery system, where upgrades are free and there is no large upfront cost.
Contact center managers must be up to date on any new federal and state laws that might impact their business, as well as any changes in company policy. This is the time to not only be aware of any such regulation issues, but to make sure your employees are aware of them as well.
Our blogs are written to be an easily accessible resource of information on a wide range of technology topics related to the contact center.
Until now, blog content has been divided into separate pages, but we thought it would be better to move all of this content into one location, so our clients and website visitors can more easily review the copy available and find which pieces contain the answers to their questions or concerns.
Take workforce optimization. From the benefits of WFO vs. spreadsheets to gaining insight into the customer’s perspective, we have dozens of blogs featuring the latest tips, tricks and best practices of workforce optimization for contact centers.
Want to know more about the trend of unified workforce optimization? Call quality scoring and training? Adding speech analytics or desktop analytics capabilities? Now you can get all the answers you need in one place: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog
There is still a misconception that cloud computing is best suited only for small and medium-sized contact centers, because of concerns over security and scalability. Whether this was ever accurate, it is certainly no longer the case.
Cloud computing is not only ready for the enterprise, it is now the preferable option over traditional on-premise software.
Monet has created a new whitepaper that analyzes this topic, at a time when more companies of all sizes and types are exploring their technology options.
Use of cloud applications is increasing rapidly every year, which is not surprising given the array of benefits intrinsic to this service:
• Scalability – Cloud service providers allow clients to increase or decrease existing resources as needed to accommodate changing needs on demand.
• Flexibility – Cloud applications are available from any computer or any device—any time, anywhere. That allows enterprise personnel to be more flexible in and out of the workplace.
• Cost – With a cloud system, larger companies can take advantage of scaled maintenance in a specialized data center, while investing the money saved in capital expense into other aspects of the business.
• Ease of Use – Since the cloud provider manages all updates and upgrades, there are no patches for customers to download or install.
• Security – The cloud offers a much higher grade of security than most internal IT departments.
Monet is always available to help address the concerns of companies considering a cloud solution, and to identify the many ways in which the cloud can benefit your enterprise.
Whether they are designated as New Year’s Resolutions or corporate objectives and strategies, the end of the year is a time when many of us naturally take stock of where we are at, and where we are going.
For contact center managers, the desire to make every new year better than the one before requires the right performance optimization plan. And if you are in the process of creating a blueprint for success in 2015, here are four areas you’ll wish to explore, and some of the questions that must be asked if your business is ready to boldly confront the ongoing challenge of delivering excellent customer service.
1. Workforce Management: Forecasting, Scheduling, Adherence
Workforce management (WFM) has been defined as “assigning the right employees with the right skills to the right job at the right time.” In a contact center, if a manager schedules the right agents with the appropriate call-handling skills on the shifts where those skills will be most needed, he or she is certainly on the best track to an efficient operation.
Workforce management and workforce optimizations (WFO) software can play a critical role in these functions. Is your contact center equipped with these capabilities? Do you have the right system in place to meet your needs?
The difference between handling the important functions of forecasting, scheduling and adherence with the right technology, vs. with a system that uses spreadsheets, for instance, is significant when it comes to proper utilization of resources, and the level of customer service delivered.
An accurate forecast model relies on accurate historical data. WFO delivers seasonal stats, monthly stats, daily stats, even numbers analyzing one portion of one hour, so variations can be determined and adjustments made accordingly. Special days and special events will also figure into these calculations.
With WFO, managers can automatically manage start times, end times and break times, so that agent needs are acknowledged, while call center performance capabilities are always met. An automated system provides more flexibility than a spreadsheet, while also contributing data that can help managers put the right agents in the right positions to maximize customer service.
In a contact center where workforce management software is capable of real-time adherence, a manager always knows if his team members are adhering to the schedule. The reporting generated by WFM can analyze adherence by team or by time period, making it easier to pinpoint issues that result in lower service levels.
The best WFM solution will include accurate call volume forecasting from historical data and ACD integration, flexible schedule creation that incorporates foreseen and unforeseen variables, agent exceptions, intra-day changes to both forecasting and scheduling, and performance management reports.
2. Quality Assurance: Call Recording and Scoring
Quality assurance refers to a proven process of establishing quality goals and verifying and checking the quality of a service, as well as the activities implemented so that quality requirements will be fulfilled.
Assurance of quality requires a series of preventive actions, all focused on process and based on a set of standards defined by the company. There are challenges to getting it right, particularly if a contact center lacks a reliable means to measure and track quality, either via management action or software that provides automated data on policies and systemic activities.
Do you have the right technology and personnel in place to determine quality standards, and then to achieve them? Perhaps 2015 will be the year to take this important step. Here is one way to get started:
- Define Quality Goals and Objectives – What constitutes a quality customer engagement? Quality assurance can only be attained if “quality” is specifically defined. Start by establishing thresholds, such as the number of calls per agent and time allotted for each call. Determine the call center’s current status in these and other areas, and document all goals and objectives.
- Focus on Communication – Open communication between agents and managers and agents and coaching/training personnel expedites the quality assurance process.
- Automate QA Processes – QA is easier when you can turn over many of its processes to the tools, templates, triggers and programs available for that function. An automated solution is not only more efficient, it also frees up personnel to spend time on other issues.
- Unification and Integration – Call center goals should be consistent, with personnel and technology working together to arrive at the desired place. Make sure that all teams are putting the QA plan into action based on the same goals, and measure progress based on the same reports.
- Real-Time Monitoring – Quality assurance is extremely difficult, if not impossible, without reliable, real-time quality monitoring that incorporates alerts, dashboards and key performance indicators (KPI).
- Use Scoring to Rank Agents – Call scoring requires a cooperative effort among managers, agents and even customers (through feedback and survey results) to determine what elements are important in each customer engagement. Scoring can also be invaluable in ranking agents for training purposes, as well as for assigning schedules and creating rosters.
- Think Long Term – While QA helps to fix short-term issues, it should also be established and utilized to track and report on long-term trends and improvement.
3. Performance Management: Real-Time Alerts, Dashboards, KPIs
Performance management is something of a catch-all term that incorporates all of the management aspects at a call center, from planning to developing agent skills, to evaluating performance based on metrics and making adjustments accordingly.
As with every other part of the management process, it becomes easier if you first develop a plan of action. If you don’t have one, start by measuring your current status, then set realistic goals for where improvement is possible. Diagnose the causes of any issues, and then implement changes accordingly. Check the results, refine your system and then set new goals.
All of this takes accurate, reliable, up-to-date data.
It is critical for call center management to keep track of key metrics throughout the course of the day. This is also a practice made considerably easier through workforce management software. Dashboards deliver visual displays that provide insight into forecasts, schedules and adherence, so managers always have an instant snapshot of what is happening at every moment throughout the day.
It’s also important to know which metrics are the most crucial to track. That list is likely to include:
• Average Handle Time
• Calls per Hour
• First Call Resolution
• Abandoned Calls
• Average Wait Time
• Completion Rate
• Forecasted Call Load vs. Actual
• Scheduled Staff vs. Actual
• Waiting Calls
• Average Call Value
The more information you receive from your WFM software – KPIs, scorecards, alerts, dashboards, reports – the better equipped you will be to take effective action to better meet the customer service goals of the contact center.
4. Analytics: Speech and desktop
Speech analytics boosts the effectiveness of a call recording solution. It’s still a fairly new technology that has not been widely adopted within the industry. Is this the year your contact center moves ahead of the curve?
What do you get with speech analytics? It starts with automated alerts triggered by voice data that deliver critical business and marketing intelligence to improve agent performance and the customer experience. This is the type of information that would take weeks to ascertain with spreadsheets; with speech analytics, you’ll have it in minutes.
Desktop Analytics gathers application data at the desktop level across users, processes and technology, to help improve productivity and service delivery, while reducing compliance issues and lowering business costs. The more managers understand how agents interact with their desktop environment to perform daily tasks, the easier it will be to improve productivity, prioritize issues that need to be addressed, and fine-tune best practices that can then be replicated across the call center.
We’ve devoted a number of blogs to the challenges of finding the best contact center agents, from hiring and training to ongoing coaching and providing incentives for exceptional performance.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to assemble a team of outstanding agents, this is the time of year to make sure they feel appreciated. Answering phones or conducting online chats in a contact center is a challenging job, and managers who appreciate what goes into a good day’s work already know how important it is to acknowledge professional contributions that make the team and the company better.
At Monet, we are pleased and proud to provide contact center technology solutions that can make the agent’s job a little easier, a little more predictable, and hopefully a little more fun.
We want to take a moment to say Happy Holidays to all of the contact center teams that show up every day with professionalism and positive attitudes, even when dealing with customers who seem to have misplaced their holiday spirit. Thank you for a job well done.
Monet Software picked up a little hardware during 2014, with two contact center awards from TMC.
Back in March, Monet WFO Live: Workforce Optimization in the Cloud was selected as a 2014 Product of the Year for exceptional innovation, by TMC’s CUSTOMER magazine.
And last month, WFO Live was designated as a finalist for the 2014 Customer Experience Innovation Award, presented by the same publication.
this season of good will, we would like to express our appreciation to
all of those that helped make this happen. Thank you to our customers
that trusted in Monet, and thank you to all of the managers, supervisors
and agents that use Monet software on a daily basis.
also like to thank all of our employees for their hard work and
dedication. As we look back on the achievements of 2014, they inspire us
to work even harder in 2015 and beyond to continue providing the best
contact center solutions to meet the needs of our clients.
Measuring service level is an obvious and necessary exercise for every call center manager. But service level should not be confused with the more comprehensive examination of customer experience. Once you’ve developed a strategy to track, measure and improve customer experience, you’ll have a road map to identify any systems and programs that need to be revised for optimal customer satisfaction.
The challenge comes from the reality that customer experience encompasses a wide range of touch-points within the company that a customer may encounter – email, website, store, chat, reps.
While telephone engagements are just one piece of the puzzle, they are a particularly important piece. They provide an opportunity to find out about the other channels and aspects of customer experience, and to fix any problems. It’s also the time and place when most customers expect to be queried about the company, and may be more open to providing honest, direct and detailed feedback.
If your call center has not yet expanded its data collection to cover customer experience, it is time to do so.
The first step is to create a strategy – determine you customer experience goals, and how to analyze where you are in achieving them. Then make sure your agents have the training, the tools and the motivation to meet your call center’s customer service and customer experience initiatives.
Does your call center need a makeover?
Sometimes, bad habits or lax business practices can slowly and gradually infiltrate even the best of call centers, and the customer experience can suffer as a result.
When this happens, it’s time to consider a business-wide transformation that will get the contact center back on an efficient track. Such an effort should focus on three specific areas.
Successful call centers are customer-centric call centers. Is that the mission that informs how agents perform their job, how forecasting and scheduling is achieved, and how priorities are listed when it comes to staffing, budgeting and other business essentials? Putting the customer first can only lead to better performance.
When was the last time your call center processes were reviewed? Would a few updates or changes to agent scripts result in a faster and better customer experience? Taking a fresh look at how you’re doing business now, and bringing agents, managers, trainers and even customers into this process, may inspire new ideas that can make a positive difference.
Technology should be a primary source for delivering customer interaction insights. Workforce optimization solutions are big part of this. Do you have the right tools and are you utilizing those you have available to their full potential? These include workforce management, call recording, screen recording, quality assurance, desktop analytics and speech analytics. Is it time to upgrade current solutions or add new ones? The better a call center can utilize workforce optimization systems and other processes, the more optimized its service levels. Result? Once again, more satisfied customers.
Want to learn more? Take a moment and watch any of these demos to see if you need to improve your call center technology.
Scheduling is a vital component in the success of every call center. And concrete, reliable data is vital to achieve accurate, consistent scheduling results.
For decades, that data was gathered through spreadsheets, and would take hours to compile. Even then, the results were not always accurate, or flexible enough to accommodate last minute changes or other issues.
And yet, hundreds of contact centers continue to handle forecasting and scheduling the same inefficient way they did 20 years ago, which is why the data generated sometimes proves insufficient.
It’s time for a change, and technology has made that change possible. An automated workforce management (WFM) solution can improve scheduling accuracy, making sure all the necessary resources are always in place.
A WFM system provides the flexibility to automatically manage start times, end times and break times. Spreadsheets cannot match this speed and efficiency, which results in unhappy agents and higher shrinkage. And wouldn’t you rather spend the hours now devoted to compiling schedules to focusing on other aspects of your business – or just getting out of the office on time for a change?
If so, perhaps it’s time to add a WFM solution to your holiday list. To find out more about this important investment, read “The Real Cost of Spreadsheet Based Scheduling” to find out if you should put WFM on your holiday wish list.
You've probably heard how Monet's cloud-based WFO can help gain more insights and improve the performance of your contact center. But have you taken the time to see Monet’s Performance Management in action?
Now is your chance: you are cordially invited to a free webinar on Thursday December 18, at 11am PST (2pm EST) entitled “How to gain more insights into the performance of your contact center.”
Topics will include how visibility at the agent level can make a critical difference at your contact center, how it helps managers learn what is happening at any moment in real time, and how it helps agents to improve their performance.
We’ll also cover the benefits of real-time data and alerts of key metrics and activities. These provide the insight to act quickly and make certain that adequate performance and service levels are always maintained. Automated data aggregation from different systems lets you view all of the key data on the same dashboard to make faster and better decisions.
We look forward to seeing you at this event.
Register for the webinar now!
While different contact centers have different needs, it’s hard to imagine a call center that could not benefit from a workforce management (WFM) solution. Whatever the specific goals of your business – lowering costs, improving efficiency, better customer service – workforce management can help to achieve them.
If you missed any of these 2014 posts about contact center workforce management, here’s another chance to review them.
1. Video: Workforce Management and Optimization in the Cloud
With this video you can see for yourself how Monet’s cloud-based solutions can help gain more insights and improve the performance and service quality of your contact center.
2. Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling Best Practices with WFO
The quality of call center customer service is largely dependent on accurate forecasting and scheduling. So why do so many call centers still rely on spreadsheets for this most important of daily tasks?
3. 15 Tips on Contact Center Scheduling
The right workforce management system streamlines the process and provides more consistent, accurate data.
4. The Call Center Choice: Cloud or Software?
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.
5. Six Steps to Improved Call Center Staffing
Out of every dollar spent in call center costs, about 75 cents is related to labor. That makes staffing decisions pivotal to the operation of the business.
Even if New Year’s Resolutions aren’t always kept, they should be
attempted. At the very least, they focus our attention on the areas of
our lives that require the most improvement.
That same philosophy
can be applied to your contact center as well. As 2015 approaches,
where could your business get better? And what will be required to bring
about a positive change?
If we were to survey a number of contact centers of all sizes and types, these are the resolutions we’d be most likely to hear.
1. Improve the accuracy of forecasts and schedules
Is it time for a change from spreadsheets to an automated workforce management (WFM) solution?
2. Improve adherence tracking
adherence at the end of a shift or a day is a missed opportunity to
correct any issues more quickly. Such improved tracking is practically
impossible with just a spreadsheet.
3. Improve quality monitoring
call recording system is invaluable. But call recording software
without integrated quality monitoring is not helping contact centers
make the most of the technology.
4. Getting data in real-time
schedule adherence can be beneficial, but without the real-time
tracking provided by WFM there is a much higher risk of over/under
staffing, shrinkage and missed service levels.
5. Key metric alerts
real-time alerts of call center metrics such as average handle time,
abandoned calls and first call resolution, agents and managers gain the
data necessary to address the most important customer service issues.