Workforce Optimization in the Cloud

Follow the latest trends on cloud-based contact center software and workforce optimization

Workforce Optimization Hints, Tips & Best Practices

2014: A Record Year for Contact Centers

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Social Media and Contact Centers

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Customer Loyalty Starts with Agent Loyalty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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CIO Review Magazine selects Monet as 20 Most Promising Contact Center Software Solution

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Every year, the experts at CIO Review choose the top 20 contact center technology solution providers – those the publication believes are making a difference in this volatile market. 

Monet Software’s cloud-based workforce optimization solution appears on this year’s list. 

“Monet Software has been on our radar for some time for stirring a revolution in the Contact Center technology space, and we are happy to showcase them this year due to their continuing excellence in delivering top-notch technology-driven solutions,” said Harvi Sachar, CIO Review’s founder and publisher.

At Monet we appreciate the recognition from such a prestigious source as CIO Review. The press release announcing Monet’s selection can be found here

Of course, our customers have known about the benefits of our unified WFO solution for some time. They have experienced how it has optimized the utilization of contact center resources, how it improves service levels and productivity, and how it can boost revenues with an investment much lower than what is required for an on-premise solution. 

You can read the article on the top 20 solution providers on the CIO Review website.


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The Search for Truth in Cloud Providers: An Information and Resource Guide

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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. 


Buyer Beware

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


Additional Resources

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


Conclusion

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. 



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Monet WFO Live is Honored by TMC Customer Magazine – Again

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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.


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Cloud Computing and the Benefits of an Inclusive Workforce

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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. 


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Complete Workforce Optimization Tips and News in one Blog

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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


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Monet Workforce Optimization Honored Twice in 2014

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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.

In 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.

We would 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.



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Still Scheduling with Spreadsheets? Put WFM on Your Holiday List

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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.
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The Contact Center Cloud: 2015 and Beyond

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workforce management in the cloud
At the dawn of the 21st century, many of us wondered where all of the technological breakthroughs promised to us in science fiction over the past 100 years would finally arrive.

While we still await for many of them, the new century did bring a new paradigm in IT delivery, that has been growing in popularity and acceptance ever since.

Cloud computing arrived not a moment too soon, as the demands on data centers had already grown to near capacity with no sign of slowing down. By 2015, over 2.5 billion people with more than 10 billion devices will access the Internet. And they will all be able to connect with a cloud infrastructure requiring one billion virtual servers.

The potential in this system for contact centers and other types of businesses was immediately apparent. Cloud computing represented a major sea change in the design, development and deployment of technology, through a pay-as-you-go business model that transformed the future of computing, even as it was already evolving through the emergence of mobile platforms.

As 2015 approaches, it seemed like a good time to analyze the current state of cloud-based contact center solutions, and where they are headed next year – and beyond.

Rave Reviews
The seventh edition of the Cloud-Based Contact Center Infrastructure Market Report, recently published by DMG Consulting, evaluated the performance of eight leading and contending cloud vendors. It found that the majority (61.5%) of satisfaction scores fell into the “highly satisfied” range for in all 12 major categories surveyed:

•    Product
•    Implementation
•    System availability/up-time
•    Professional services
•    Training
•    Ongoing service and support
•    System upgrades
•    Product innovation
•    Responsiveness to product enhancement requests
•    Communication
•    Product pricing
•    Overall satisfaction level

In addition, 31.2% of the average ratings were in the satisfied range (3.0 to 3.95); 5.2% were in the somewhat satisfied range; and 2.1% were completely satisfied.

These numbers suggest that end users are now comfortable and confident in leveraging a cloud solution in a contact center, and prefer this system to the traditional on-premise alternative.

Steady Growth
From a user base of just 269,000 in 2008, the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market has picked up momentum year after year. According to DMG Consulting, seats grew by 12.8% in 2013. While that rate is down from the 32.5% jump in 2012, the slower adoption rate is actually a positive indicator of market maturity, as vendors are more accurately tracking sales.

Escalating adoption rates point toward increasing awareness of the benefits of the cloud model, including increased flexibility in resource management, lower costs, easier access to upgrades, less burden on internal IT resources, and improved automation, scalability and operational efficiency.

Where We Are Now
DMG expects adoption of cloud-based contact center infrastructure solutions to continue, and predicts that the number of cloud-based seats will grow by 20% in 2014 and 2015, 18% in 2016 and 2017, and 16% in 2018.

This is significant because of the nature of the change that is taking place. The switch from an on-premise solution to a cloud solution at a contact center is not the equivalent of a company switching from one hardware provider to another. Instead, this is a fundamental shift in IT services delivery, which can seem daunting to businesses that have utilized the same systems for decades.

As DMG writes, “Never before have we witnessed an all-out rebirth of an entire industry due solely to a new delivery model.” Clearly, the promises of large gains in efficiency and flexibility have been big enough to overcome any misgivings.

These developments are happening both in public clouds (deployed by Internet companies, hosting service providers and others) and private or enterprise clouds (deployed by enterprises behind a firewall for an organization’s internal use). The latter may be growing more rapidly given the increased acceptance of the cloud model by enterprise IT, as limitations in server capacity and network bandwidth would no longer be an issue.
 
2015 and Beyond
While the growth of cloud computing has been impressive, it has not yet reached its full potential. Customers will continue to demand more from cloud computing infrastructures and solutions, and the industry is already making strides toward overcoming challenges.

One of these is the emergence of federated systems, in which communications, data and services can move more easily across cloud infrastructures. While contact centers can now move data between data centers, the industry should evolve to a point where data will securely scale into public and private clouds as needed, between service providers and to vendors, partners and clients.

Improving efficiency is always a worthy goal, especially when it is generated from current infrastructure and processes. But as providers ramp up power, capacity and operations investments, it is also important to continue to make cloud use as simple as possible for the end contact center user. As systems tend to become more complex as they grow, this will certainly be a challenge in the years to come.

Security is another vital area, especially in the movement of data outside of traditional physical boundaries. Privacy must be maintained, while maintaining the stability of applications as they are transferred into a cloud environment.

The continued evolution of cloud computing will also require open standards for solutions, hardware, software, integration and processes.

Conclusion
The cloud has already made profound changes in the way contact centers interact with their customers. This is particularly true at smaller and midsized centers that had previously been unable to afford world-class technology. Today, any contact center regardless of size, location, budget or IT expertise can leverage the cloud’s array of benefits, including flexibility, scalability, ease of use and cost-savings.

While the future of the cloud looks promising, evolving the infrastructure to realize its full potential will require cooperative development and specific focus by many providers and customers across the IT landscape. To learn more, please download our cloud software whitepaper.



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Contact Center Jobs are Coming Back Home

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Contact Center Jobs are Coming Back Home. The trend of outsourcing contact center jobs that has been prevalent for more than a decade now seems to be reversing itself. Thousands of these jobs are coming back to the United States, for reasons that have as much to do with economics as customer service.

Monet CEO Chuck Ciarlo has written an article on this important subject, which has been published by Contact Professional. It analyzes the five most significant factors that have led to contact center jobs coming home, from customer frustration to privacy and security.

When outsourcing is replaced by “insourcing,” it’s great news for U.S. workers and for the customers of these contact centers, as they will now be treated to a better level of service.

Of course, the last thing these companies want is a significant investment (in some cases $100,000 or more) in new hardware and software, on top of the other costs involved with insourcing. But with a cloud WFM system, a unified solution can be implemented quickly without a large upfront cost. Instead, users pay only a low monthly subscription fee.

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Contact Centers in 2014: The Year in Review and Outlook for 2015

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What changes did 2014 bring to the contact center?

This past year, workforce optimization and the cloud based model were priorities at many contact centers, as most of the major trends were related in one way or another to how these capabilities are delivered and utilized.

Here are three significant developments from 2014 that should continue into 2015 and beyond.

1. Cloud Adoption

More contact centers made the switch to the cloud in 2014 than in any previous year.

Spending on cloud computing reached $100 billion this year, according to a CRN survey. It’s a trend that continued from 2012, and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, DMG Consulting projects that the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market will grow between 35-45% every year through 2015.

There are a number reasons for this movement. The cloud model offers all of the advantages of call recording, workforce management and workforce optimization without the upfront investment in hardware and software. System flexibility and ease of implementation are also benefits. And since all data is stored “in the cloud,” it can be accessed from the office, from home and from a mobile device.

Those that make the transition have no regrets, according to the 2014-2015 Cloud-Based Contact Center Infrastructure Report. This is an independent survey that tracks end-user satisfaction with vendors, products, service, support, training and innovation. In 2014, 61.5% of all responses fell into the “highly satisfied” range, and 31.2% were “satisfied.” Factor in the 2.1% listed as “completely satisfied” and that adds up to a nearly 95% satisfaction rate.

2. Enterprise and the Cloud

The misconception that cloud computing is best suited only for small and medium-sized contact centers began to dissipate in 2014. More larger businesses discovered that the cloud is not only ready for the enterprise, it is also now the preferable option over traditional on-premise software.

A recent survey of 1,000 IT professionals by Forrester Research found that they are turning to cloud products as a way to offload management of non-mission-critical applications such as WFO. A Gartner survey projects that nearly 50% of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by 2017.

Even traditional hardware firms are jumping on the cloud bandwagon. Hewlett-Packard recently announced it would spend $1 billion over the next two years to develop and offer cloud-computing services. The company’s most prominent competitors, IBM and Cisco, have also accelerated their cloud initiatives.

The rapid rise and success of the Salesforce enterprise cloud ecosystem is further testament to the security, scalability and acceptance of cloud applications among the world’s largest corporations, including Coca Cola, Wells Fargo, Delta Airlines, Sprint and NBC Universal.

The cloud offers many of the same benefits to contact centers of any size, among them flexibility, accessibility through any computer or device, cost savings, simplification of IT infrastructure, seamless integration with existing systems. However, enterprise adoption has been impeded by concerns over scalability and security.

This perception has started to change, as enterprise recognizes how cloud now offers a much higher grade of security than most internal IT departments. Network architecture is protected with firewalls and intrusion detection systems. Systems and applications are frequently tested to confirm adherence to industry-standard security requirements. Cloud providers also verify their security controls through third-party certifications such as ISO 27001 or ISO 27002, standards recognized globally as the most comprehensive framework for establishing security best practices.

Scalability concerns were always somewhat baffling, since the ability to scale on demand is one of the most intrinsic and significant benefits of cloud computing.
A cloud service tailored precisely to customer needs can be seamlessly integrated into the existing enterprise IT infrastructure. Changes can be made quickly without business interruption, and overloading is never a concern as long as the system is managed properly. The same capability could not be accomplished through an on-premise solution without a significant investment of time and planning, as well as costly changes to existing IT systems.

What may have been a concern for enterprise businesses is the question of whether applications, session information, uploads, data etc. can keep up in a scale-on-demand environment. However, with auto-scaling and scale-up capabilities, such issues have been resolved with current cloud-engineering techniques.

3. Unified Workforce Optimization

A contact center will always be more successful when all of its divisions and employees are working together toward the same goal.

There are a number of customer service metrics that must be monitored, and acted upon if there is an issue. However, the approach of analyzing these metrics irrespective of related issues or factors (the so-called “silo” approach) has fallen out of favor.

Instead, more managers in 2014 began taking a more holistic view of the business, of how different teams impact these metrics, and how collaboration between teams provides a better means to improve results.

For years this was easier said than done, as different divisions focused on different priorities, even though their main goals were usually the same – better customer service, improved efficiency, lower costs, etc.

Take workforce optimization. A contact center may have one manager in charge of 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.

Rather than take a siloed approach, where each system works independently without reciprocal operation with other divisions, WFO can provide easy access to call recording, performance management, analytics, workforce management and other cross-functional data, to help teams work more effectively on common objectives. And with a cloud delivery system, access is immediate regardless of employee location.

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. Now managers can make more informed decisions and react more quickly to internal or external trends. Result? A more optimized call center performance.

Conclusion
What new business developments and technology trends will 2015 bring? No one can say for certain. But it’s probable that cloud adoption, enterprise cloud adoption and unified workforce optimization will continue to escalate in popularity and acceptance. Contact centers now considering whether such actions would be right for them are encouraged to not get left behind. If you want to see Cloud-based WFO in Action, please click the link to watch our on demand webinar.
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Metrics that Matter in your Contact Center

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Do you know what metrics are most important for your contact center?

While every business is different, these are the KPIs that are likely on your list:

•    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

Knowing what to monitor is a good first step. But obtaining the necessary metrics and reports on these KPIs, while there is still time to improve them, is even more important.

Effective monitoring requires a workforce optimization solution that delivers operational data, preferably in real time. The more information you receive – 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.

No wonder so many contact centers have adopted WFM solutions from Monet. Our systems are designed to optimize the utilization of your resources, which makes all the difference in improving service levels, making forecasts and schedules more efficient, and lowering costs.
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Successful Contact Center = Successful Company

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The challenge for any contact center is making every customer engagement, whether it is conducted by telephone, email or live chat, a successful one.

Yes, it’s difficult, especially when some callers are in a bad mood even before the agent says hello. But when customers are satisfied, it can make a huge difference in the company’s bottom line.

One survey, by an analytics company called ForeSee, gauged customer satisfaction with contact center services to find out how each customer’s experience impacted the company’s future success.

They found they satisfied customers are far more likely to remain customers, and to make a similar purchase again from the same company. Even more significant, however, is the willingness of a happy customer to recommend the company to a friend, family member of colleague. Thus, one customer who has a positive experience with your agents may create many new customers.

While the focus is typically on calls, equal attention should be paid to email responses, so they are prompt and helpful, and live chat sessions, to make sure participants are getting the answers they need.

“A satisfied customer,” the survey concludes, “is the key to maintaining and growing sales and profitability regardless of channel.”

The prospects of delivering those happier customers become much easier with the right technology tools in place. And now that these sophisticated solutions are available via the cloud, even smaller and midsized contact centers can provide optimal service without a huge upfront investment.

Find out more about Monet’s workforce management solutions.

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Contact Center Cloud – What are you Waiting For?

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With every new survey that comes out, it seems as if more and more companies are making the switch to a cloud-based technology. This is also consistent with what is happening in contact centers, from those with less than 50 agents to the enterprise with thousand of agents.

We’ve listed the reasons before, but perhaps it’s time for a refresher course in the many benefits of contact center cloud software solutions.

Cost
With a subscription-based cloud system there is no large upfront cost and no licensing fees. Operating expenses are lower as well. The money that is saved can be re-invested in other parts of the company.

Scalability
The ability to scale on demand is one of the most intrinsic and significant benefits of cloud computing. Cloud service providers allow clients to increase or decrease existing resources as needed to accommodate changing needs on demand.

Flexibility
With the cloud it’s easier to operate multiple contact centers from one facility, to accommodate agents working from home, and to make it more convenient for those that wish to access applications from a mobile device.

Simplification of IT Infrastructure
Since the cloud provider manages all updates and upgrades, there are no patches to download or install. The cloud provider also manages availability, so there’s no need to add hardware, software, or bandwidth as the user base grows.

Security
The cloud is safer than ever before, thanks to a range of security measures to protect data, communications and the physical data centers where information is stored.

If you still haven’t investigated the numerous advantages of cloud computing, what are you waiting for? Monet can help, talk to us.
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Monet WFO Live Receives Customer Experience Innovation Honor

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Monet WFO Live - Workforce Optimization in the Cloud has been named a finalist for the 2014 Customer Experience Innovation Award presented by TMC’s CUSTOMER magazine. The award recognizes best-in-class companies setting the standard in delivering exceptional customer experiences.

It’s always rewarding to be recognized, especially when it comes from such a prestigious source. The TMC website is read by more than 1.5 million business and contact center professionals every month, and their publications, such as CUSTOMER, are as close to an official publication as this industry has.

CUSTOMER has been around since 1982. The contact center industry was much different back then and, today more than at any other time, it is technology that drives efficiency and customer service. So it’s especially gratifying to have our technology singled out for the contribution it makes at contact centers of all sizes and types.

Monet WFO Live  is a complete suite for call centers to automate workforce management, call recording, quality assurance and agent analytics. Call centers can quickly and easily optimize all aspects of their workforce with one affordable solution, resulting in better utilization of resources, better cost management and improved service levels.

Awards are great, but it’s the feedback from our customers that means the most. We know the difference that WFO Live is making in contact center efficiency because you have told us with your calls and emails.

If you haven’t discovered the benefits of WFO Live, find out more here.



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Cloud Based Workforce Optimization for the Enterprise

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Larger companies typically have higher security and scalability requirements. That may be why cloud solutions are more prominent among smaller and midsized contact centers. But is this perception that cloud solutions are less secure and scalable really accurate?

The answer is an unequivocal “no.” The evolution of cloud solutions and cloud security has reached a point where their convenience and cost-saving benefits can now be shared by enterprises with thousands of agents.

Let’s focus on workforce optimization; a solution such as Monet’s WFO Live makes it possible for companies of any size to scale IT quickly and efficiently, and to quickly make changes without business interruption.

And since larger contact centers often operate out of more than one facility, WFO Live makes it easy to operate multiple centers around the world through one solution that is easy to install, operate and back up.

But what about security? Monet currently has customers with thousands of agents successfully using Monet Live in a secure, scalable cloud. The success of Salesforce.com offers additional evidence that larger-scale enterprises can make the transition with confidence.

And those that do so will not be alone. According to a Gartner survey, nearly 50% of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by 2017.

It’s a big decision and one that should be researched thoroughly. That’s why 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. Talk to us and learn how we can help your company.


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How to Prepare your Contact Center Workforce for the Unexpected

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

Of course we can’t see into the future. But sometimes making an educated guess at future events is an important part of the contact center manager’s job. The crucial functions of forecasting and scheduling can help to eliminate uncertainty, by using available intelligence to predict the resources that will be necessary for customer volume.

Unexpected, or Just Poor Planning?
Whether a contact center experiences relatively steady calling patterns or frequent periods of uncertainty, a workforce optimization solution is the key component of forecasting future call volume. The access it provides to historical call history can help managers navigate the scheduling challenges posed by seasonal promotions, special offers and new, aggressive marketing tactics.

These regular practices, of drawing upon 1-2 years of call history, and uncovering call patterns that can predict future patterns, is the best way avoid unexpected circumstances. Such calculations are rendered more precise by including non-call activities as well, such as breaks, training, after-call work and internal communication.

A workforce management solution can also employ skill teams (skill sets, or skill groups) based on each agent’s capabilities to handle certain skills/queues/competencies.  This allows the forecast process to select the best skills combinations for either blank shifts to be filled later, or to place existing agents. It’s another way to plan ahead for whatever the next shift or day brings.

Visibility into agent activity is another priority. The contact center is made up of many employees. While the overall performance is driven by processes, and efficiencies, it is the individual performance of each employee that drives the engine. Knowing that, it is obviously very important and critical to have better visibility into the performance and activities of each agent.

Surprisingly, many contact centers still have not installed the tools that makes this possible, such as adherence dashboards, reports, status alerts and an AUX Setup to track overuse of ACW, lunches, breaks, or other non-productive or limited statuses.

What about factors outside the company and the contact center? Historical data may not exist for some of these, but it’s too simple to categorize them as “unexpected” and hope for the best.

Perhaps you don’t know exactly what the weather will be like tomorrow or next week, but you should recognize how it can impact call volume. If it’s bad, more customers are likely to stay home and shop. If it’s sunny and clear, call volume may be reduced.

How will call volume be changed by an election day, or a championship series with a team in your city? How is the national economy faring? Are the products or services your company sells more in demand when times are good, or when a recession looms?

Running multiple simulations and gauging the outcomes can better prepare contact centers for almost anything that comes along. Most surprises can be avoided this way.

When You Can’t Predict Everything
Still, unexpected events do occur: One of the top agents calls in sick at the last minute. There’s a glitch in the system that could not have been foreseen. There’s an increase in call volume that was not anticipated by the historical data. While a proactive approach to forecasting and scheduling always pays dividends, there are times when a manager will have to be reactive to a situation no one could see coming.

When this happens, it’s vital to have the tools to monitor activities and receive alerts, so managers can react quickly and make changes as necessary (and make sure those changes are communicated to all personnel). The two best weapons available to meet these challenges are utilizing the intra-day management and exception management capabilities of a workforce management solution.

Intra-day Management
Tracking schedule adherence for a shift or a day after they have ended is a missed opportunity to correct an issue more quickly. Monitoring intra-day activities, from lunch breaks to training sessions, helps to maintain service levels.

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

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

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

Conclusion
The first step in planning for the unexpected is differentiating between those occurrences that are truly unexpected, and those that are not.

For some events you can plan ahead by learning from the past, using ACD call history, running scenarios in forecasting, training people on multiple skills and creating flexible staffing schedules. Such precautions make it easier to overcome certain challenges as they occur.

For other events that cannot be anticipated because they happen outside your control (such as call volume spikes or a flu bug infecting multiple agents) real time intra-day alerts to dashboards and mobile devices quickly notify managers, so they can make changes that will have an immediate impact.



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Cloud Security in Contact Centers: The Questions to Ask, The Answers to Expect

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The cloud is about to get a lot more crowded.

That is the conclusion reached by a new research report that projects the cloud-based contact center market to grow from $4.15 billion this year to $10.9 billion in 2019, at a compound annual growth rate of more than 20 percent.

There are a number of reasons why contact centers are moving away from environments where data is centrally accessed and stored, and into a distributed, virtualized system. These include lower upfront cost, scalability, ease of upgrade, speed of implementation, and many others covered in previous blog posts and articles.

Security, however, remains a point of contention with some companies. The Cloud Industry Forum surveyed 250 senior IT and business decision-makers on what they view as key challenges to cloud adoption. More than 60% identified security as a leading issue.

Is the Cloud Secure?
The short answer is yes. The cloud offers a much higher grade of security than most internal IT departments, and at a much lower cost. However, contact centers should also be aware of the differences between cloud providers, and the right security-related questions to ask.

What Constitutes Security?
Achieving an adequate level of security at a contact center requires the coordination of many systems and applications, as well as vigilance on the part of agents. There are five layers in all, each of which plays a vital role:

Physical Security
The data uploaded to a cloud resides in one or more data centers. These centers should be protected by multiple security perimeters, including electronic surveillance, qualified 24/7 security staff and multi-factor access to keep physical intruders away. The centers should also be equipped with state-of-the-art environmental systems that make certain that operations are not disrupted. To avoid any data compromise from a fire or natural disaster, data should be stored in multiple geographic regions.


Network Security
Network security is perhaps the most significant threat to contact center data. Network architecture must be protected from a wide array of outside threats. A firewall is usually the first line of defense, while anchoring additional security measures, such as web application firewalls and intrusion detection technologies. This firewall is a barrier between the public Internet and the cloud infrastructure, that controls traffic between trusted and untrusted networks.

An intrusion detection system provides an alert when someone is attempting to compromise systems or data, and responds quickly to minimize the possibility of a security compromise. Before such systems are triggered, regular vulnerability assessments identify any weaknesses in a cloud system that can be exploited by hackers.

The web application firewall blocks non-essential traffic to the application layer and protects poorly coded applications. It can block both SQL injection attempts and XML-RPC Exploit attacks.

Also, while many may be aware of load balancers as they relate to application availability, they have a security component as well, as they allow for termination of SSL traffic, provide centralized certificate management, central restriction of weak SSL ciphers and HTTP and HTTPS session persistence.

Finally, log management helps protect, detect and respond to security incidents by identifying unauthorized access attempts.


Systems and Application Security
The focus here is on how contact center platforms and applications are designed and built. Security should be a priority at each stage of the development cycle. Cloud software that was designed from the ground up has built-in security optimized for the cloud. Traditional on-premise software that is offered as a hosted solution might have some more security challenges, because the solution was not designed and optimized to be delivered over the web.

Frequent testing is required to confirm adherence to industry-standard security requirements. All code releases should undergo both automated and manual reviews, as well as in-depth penetration testing prior to release.


Information Security
Cloud providers verify their security controls through third-party certifications such as ISO 27001 or ISO 27002, standards recognized globally as the most comprehensive framework for establishing security best practices.

As many contact centers field orders from customers where credit card information will be provided, the cloud system should be compliant with the 12 security domains of PCI-DSS standards. The PCI DSS requires file encryption, secure storage and the deletion of certain information, such as the credit card security code. Contact centers affiliated with the healthcare industry should also be HIPAA compliant.

Agent Security
Of course, the client must accept some of the responsibility for security as well. This includes using complex passwords and limiting access to online data within your organization.

The flexibility and scalability of the cloud model makes it easier for contact centers to employ remote and home-based agents. These agents must be held to the same standard as those that work within the contact center, and that extends to security concerns. Agent-customer interactions should be monitored regularly.  Call recording should be used for security compliance, and providers should have visibility into data collected by these agents. Desktops used by remote agents must be secured in a way that ensures compliance and data encryption.

Asking the Right Questions
To make an informed decision, here are some of the most important questions to ask a potential cloud provider.
  • How long have you been providing a cloud-based contact center platform?
  • How many security perimeters are in place around your data centers?
  • Do your data centers have 24/7-staffed security?
  • What types of security measures have you taken to protect your network?
  • What security measures were taken throughout the development of your platform and applications?
  • Are you compliant with established third-party security standards?
Conclusion
The protection of information is vital to corporations in the digital age, and while no system is 100% secure, current technology is more than a match for any outside attempt at a data breach. Partnering with the right provider is the best way to achieve confidence in the transition to the cloud.

Several layers of security measures and processes are built into the cloud infrastructure, platform and services. All client access endpoints are secured, with alerts for password brute-force attacks that prevent those accounts from being compromised. Built-in firewalls provide additional protection, and many clouds also offer encrypted data storage.

As organizations become more experienced in cloud security options and best practices, cloud security will become less of a concern. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about cloud security in contact centers.

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New Video: Workforce Management and Optimization in the Cloud

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In case you missed our recent webinar about cloud-based workforce optimization, you can now watch it on demand in our webinar video archive. People who attended the webinar learned a great deal about the role of cloud-based WFO in improving:
  • Workforce management
  • Quality Monitoring, and
  • Performance Management
See yourself how Monet's cloud-based WFO can help gain more insights and improve the performance and service quality of your contact center.


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We invite you watch the recorded webinar in its entirety at your convenience - just click the link above.



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Workforce Optimization Webinar

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Our recent webinar about cloud-based workforce optimization received a great response. Amidst the shared information and productive discussions, those in attendance learned a great deal about the role of cloud-based WFO in improving workforce management, quality monitoring and performance management.


Watch Webinar Now
If you were not able to attend, Monet invites you to see what you missed by viewing the recorded webinar in its entirety at your convenience.



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How to Improve Productivity when “Insourcing” Your Contact Center

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After years of watching contact center jobs leave the U.S. for India and other foreign shores, companies are now bringing these positions back home. This article explains some of the reasons for this welcome phenomenon.

When outsourcing is replaced by “insourcing,” it’s great news for U.S. workers and for the customers of these contact centers, as they will now be treated to a better level of service.

But for the companies, there may be a challenge in upgrading contact center technology to what is necessary to remain competitive in this industry. Systems have become much more sophisticated in the last ten years, and it’s important to equip agents with the tools they need to prosper.

For most contact centers, the first priority would be an automated workforce management (WFM) solution, to replace the spreadsheets that may have sufficed in the past.

Productivity: WFM delivers a means to improve the productivity and cost-efficiency of the contact center by making so many vital tasks easier. These includes running simulations for more accurate forecasting, and scheduling that incorporates all call types and other activities. Exception planning, performance analysis, intra-day management, and other practices are streamlined through the real-time data generated by today’s WFM systems.

Cost: Of course, the last thing these companies want is a significant investment (in some cases $100,000 or more) in new hardware and software, on top of the other costs involved with insourcing. But with a cloud WFM system, a unified solution can be implemented quickly without a large upfront cost. Instead, users pay only a low monthly or yearly subscription fee.

Scalability: For companies bringing back multiple call centers in a gradual transition process, the cloud-based system offers additional advantages as well. A cloud platform provides maximum flexibility and scalability during this period, and is more easily deployed even across multiple locations. Since all data is stored “in the cloud,” it can be retrieved at any call center workstation.

With WFM, managers can spend more time managing all of the new agents in these new stateside facilities, instead of spending hours on Excel planning forecasts and schedules.



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The Capabilities and Cost Saving Benefits of Workforce Management Software

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Every year, the website Software Advice conducts a poll of contact center software personnel, seeking information on industry trends and product preferences. The 2014 results revealed that nearly half of all businesses surveyed – 46% – are buying contact center software for the first time this year.

Whether that number is being impacted by the rise in popularity and acceptance of cloud-based software, or the increase in small businesses choosing to handle their call center needs in-house, it’s a positive sign for both agents and customers that these companies will soon be reaping the benefits of an automated software solution, particularly in the area of workforce management (WFM).

However, many small and midsized contact centers are still attempting to get by without the capabilities, conveniences and cost saving benefits that WFM provides. Yes, it is possible to do so; but it requires that managers and supervisors confront daily challenges that could be streamlined or avoided altogether with software that is readily available, affordable, and easy to implement and employ.

A closer look at some of these challenges reveals the remarkable distinction workforce management software makes in everyday contact center operations. Here are just some of the advantages it provides.

1. Visibility in Schedule Adherence

Without WFM
Visibility is extremely limited. At times, it may be nonexistent.

With WFM
Managers access real-time adherence on a dashboard that compares planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, as well as real-time views of forecasted and actual call volumes, handle times and other key performance indicators. WFM systems can be customized to track overuse of ACW, lunches, breaks, or other non-productive or limited statuses. At one glance, the manager can see the exact status of each agent in real time against the planned activity. 

2. Shuffling of Breaks, Lunches and Non-Call Activities

Without WFM
These adjustments have to be made manually, which is more time-consuming and less efficient.

With WFM
Roster assignment functionality handles these adjustments automatically, based on the business need in the forecast, the schedules produced using the guidelines the shift profiles provide, and the most significant guidepost, employee availability.

3. Shift Change Communication

Without WFM
Even a minor shift change, such as adjusting a break by 15 minutes, must be manually communicated to agents. Doing so, through such means as editing an Excel file and posting it on a bulletin board, provides no assurance that these changes will be noticed in time.

With WFM
Whether it’s a supervisor requesting a schedule change for an agent, or a schedule change request submitted by an agent, WFM will immediately alert supervisors, workforce planners and all appropriate personnel, so the request can be reviewed and then approved or declined.  If approved, the change is immediately reflected in the schedule. Agents are notified of approvals or denials and the request is kept for future reporting.

4. Scheduling Agents in Sufficient Numbers in a Multi-Skilled Environment

Without WFM
These calculations can be very difficult when attempted manually.

With WFM
A workforce management solution, such as the one provided by Monet, employs skill teams (skill sets, or skill groups) based on each agent’s capabilities to handle certain skills/queues/competencies.  This allows the forecast process to select the best skills combinations for either blank shifts to be filled later, or to place existing agents.

5. Creating Multiple Versions of a Forecasting, Scheduling or Roster Period to Explore Preferable Options
Without WFM
Managers find it helpful to create “what if” scenarios to plan ahead for higher or lower call volumes, higher or lower handle times, different service level targets, different abandonment tolerances, and different shift possibilities. But creating different employee settings and templates takes a long time to complete manually.

With WFM
The most critical and useful step in the workforce management process is forecasting. With WFM it is easier to run simulations to calculate a precise forecast for future call volume, agent requirements and average handle time for any time interval of the day, based on historical data.

Monet’s WFM solution analyzes work history data that has been entered or received through ACD and PBX systems.  It calculates a forecast for future call volume, average handling time, and agent requirements for each 15-minute period of the day based on service level objectives. The forecast can then be used to convert the anticipated call volume into the number of agents required for each time interval to meet service objectives.

Additional Benefits
In addition to those previously described, an automated WFM solution provides even more dividends, especially when delivered via the cloud, a method that significantly reduces upfront costs.
  • Employee motivation and empowerment: when agents have more say in their scheduling, and are provided with the flexibility to accommodate their needs, they will be more likely to remain with the contact center.
  • Greater accountability: Both agents and supervisors are monitored more closely, making it easier to discover issues and correct them. 
  • Comprehensive reporting: The more accurate, real-time reports that are generated on workforce activity, the easier it is to make faster and better decisions.
Conclusion
While the economy is steadily improving according to most measurements, companies are still taking a very cautious approach when it comes to new investment. That is one reason why some contact centers have hesitated when it comes to workforce management (WFM) software.

However, making the case for this purchase should not be difficult given the inherent benefits derived from its installation, not the least of which is a boost in efficiency that will have a positive impact on the yearly budget.

Workforce management software is used instead of spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling. These critical tasks can now be performed more quickly and more accurately, with data that is automatically collected and organized, rather than having to be entered manually.

With WFM, costly instances of overstaffing and understaffing are reduced, schedule adherence is improved, and more flexible scheduling is possible. This benefits agents, and provides an incentive to stay with a job that takes their needs into consideration. For more information, please watch any of these workforce management videos.



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How Contact Centers in the Healthcare Industry Benefit from Workforce Optimization

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The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a source of excitement, confusion and frustration – and not just for doctors and patients.

Contact centers that service the health care and health insurance industries have been inundated with calls about the new guidelines – some asking questions, some looking to sign up.

According to one article, between 7,000 and 9,000 new customer service agents were hired just to handle phone and Web chat traffic for the exchanges run by the federal government. That is a heavy burden to place on contact centers, but one that can be managed with Workforce Optimization (WFO) software.

With WFO, contact centers could more accurately forecast and plan personnel needs by running “What If” scenarios and analyzing the results. WFO can also provide assurance to contact center managers (through call monitoring) that all calls are being handled in compliance with federal regulations and policies, which is a critical concern when dealing with a person’s health care history.

Monet CEO Chuck Ciarlo wrote an article on this topic that appears in the current edition of Call Center Times.

And for those contact centers that stumbled out of the gate in dealing with the public response to “Obamacare,” it is never too late to get equipped with the right technology and the best delivery option to provide a better degree of customer service.


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