Workforce Optimization Hints, Tips & Best Practices
In 2014, a Comcast customer tried to cancel his service. He was placed on hold…for three-and-a-half hours. After enduring that wait, the customer finally hung up and tried again, only to find that the service center had closed.
At about the three-hour mark, our exasperated customer began recording his reactions. That video (“Comcast put me on hold until they closed”) has been viewed more than 1.8 million times on YouTube.
It’s an amusing story, as long as you’re not the customer or Comcast. But putting callers on hold is nothing to laugh about, even when it cannot be avoided.
Average Handle Time – and the Scourge of the Hold Button
One of the most important of the contact center’s key performance indicators (KPIs) is Average Handle Time (AHT), which records how much time an agent spends with one customer. It has been described as the bedrock for all contact center planning systems, which makes sense; if you guess wrong with this metric, it is difficult to plan anything else correctly.
Most contact centers calculate AHT by added Total Talk Time, Total Hold Time and Total Wrap-Up Time. Some contact centers cheat by figuring hold time as a separate stat (Average Hold Time) but they are just kidding themselves. The agent is still working on that same caller’s needs. Every time a customer is put on hold, the handle time just keeps growing.
How Do Your Customers Feel? They Hate It
The text message service TalkTo recently concluded that the average American spends about 13 hours on hold every year. Over the course of a typical lifespan, that adds up to 43 days of listening to “Thank you for your patience – your call is important to us”. No wonder they are upset.
And while these numbers are not any worse than they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago, callers today may not have the same patience as their parents did. Anyone that grew up with the instant gratification of an online purchase or finding answers to questions by typing a few words into a search engine is now accustomed to getting what they want and not having to wait for it.
If you put these customers on hold, some will understand that you are trying to find the information you need to help them – but most will think you are just wasting their time. Among customers who feel they have waited too long on hold, 1/3 will hang up and never call back. Relationship over.
Let’s take a closer look at the three reasons most customers are placed on hold, and what can be done to shorten those waits – or eliminate them altogether.
1. Not Enough Agents Available
When there are too many calls and not enough agents, it results in the especially frustrating “ABC industries, please hold.” The call is answered but the customer is immediately relegated back to the limbo of hold.
The Solution: Better Forecasting and Scheduling
Forecasts are made to anticipate caller demand and to make certain the contact center will never be short-handed. Many contact centers use spreadsheets to create forecasts, but the results are always time-consuming and often inaccurate.
A workforce management solution delivers automated workload forecasting and schedule generation. Managers can run simulations to calculate a precise forecast for future call volume, agent requirements and average handle time. Peak calling times can be identified based on trends and patterns in historical data. Once you know when incoming calls will be heaviest, it’s easier to readjust agent schedules as needed to handle the demand.
Workforce optimization is the art and science of having the right number of employees, with the right skills at the right times to meet accurately forecasted volumes of work, and to do all that at a predetermined service level. With Monet WFM Live, you are able to forecast incoming work based on historical patterns, with the added ability to schedule and track employees based on preferences, skills and availability.
2. The Agent Does Not Have the Information Necessary to Address the Caller’s Question or Situation
Callers expect answers. If a customer has to be placed on hold while the agent asks someone else, or needs to get an approval before authorizing a return (or whatever the situation may be) that caller will wonder why the company didn’t do a better job of training its employees. Yes, that is unfair in many cases, but perception is often reality, and customers will certainly be happier if their business can be conducted quickly by the person who answered the phone – without any on-hold delays.
The Solution: Agent Training and Trust
Most of these hold scenarios fall into two main categories: the agent either does not have the necessary information, or the agent could handle the situation but is forced to speak with a manager or supervisor before proceeding. By expanding the agents’ authority to make decisions, many of the latter instances can be eliminated.
If an agent cannot answer a caller’s question, it’s possible the question is so unique and unexpected that no amount of training could prepare for it. But those situations are rare. More often, callers are placed on hold in these situations because the agent is still new and learning on the job. Better training might prepare new agents to answer the full array of common customer queries, without resorting to the ‘hold’ button so they can ask a co-worker or manager for help. Managers can also help avoid these situations by created an online knowledge base that can be accessed quickly and easily (and is updated regularly to include new offers, promotions, etc.).
3. Insufficient Contact Center Resources
Resources, in this case, can refer to either personnel or technology. Forecasting and scheduling can optimize agent allocation, but if there are not enough agents on the payroll, customers will have to wait longer to be addressed. And technology exists to further refine data collection and improve agent preparation and performance, but it must be implemented to do so.
The Solution: Do What You Can
There’s no universal cure for this one. If the budget allows for hiring more agents, most contact centers will do so. If it doesn’t, it’s imperative to maximize the human resources available, and here once again WFM can be critical. When it’s delivered via the cloud like Monet WFM Live, there is no large upfront investment, so these capabilities are now within reach of small and midsized contact centers as well.
What else might help? Some contact centers are using speech analytics to analyze call patterns and identify more frequently asked questions. By doing so, agents can be better prepared to handle specific situations so those callers do not have to be put on hold while answers are sought.
Bonus Tip: Maximize Hold Time
Regardless of preparation and resources, there will always be times when a customer has to be placed on hold. Is there anything that can be done during this time to make it more tolerable – or to reduce abandoned call rates?
Statistics shows that more customers hang up if their hold time is spent in silence. Music is preferable, but even better would be pre-recorded messages of relevant information about the company, that may not address their particular situation but might be helpful to them anyway. Another option is offering to call the customer back when the agent is available.
Reducing the amount of time your customers stay on hold will not only result in shorter handle times, but will make your customers and agents happier.
Think Halloween is scary, with all those horror movies and little ghosts and monsters ringing your doorbell?
That’s nothing compared to the frightening service problems that can result from adherence issues at your contact center. You’ll hear a lot of screaming this month, but you certainly don’t want to hear it from your customers.
Thankfully, Monet has a free webinar for that. And you are invited.
It’s called “Fighting the Adherence Monster,” and it is scheduled for October 28 2015 at 11 am PDT.
If you have ever encountered the Adherence Monster, you know how it can seriously increase labor costs. Bullets won’t kill this beast – instead, you need a technology solution that has the capability to streamline schedule adherence goals and practices.
How can you know that agent availability, holidays and breaks have all been accounted for? Can you make adjustments in real time? How do you know which agents are doing their part for schedule adherence and which may require additional guidance or training?
Fortunately, the Adherence Monster is no match for Monet solutions with real-time adherence.
Don’t miss this informative webinar featuring tips and tricks to help you keep adherence issues away from your business. Spend 45 minutes with us, and you’ll save hours and hours of time lost to lapses in adherence.
Register here, it's free!
Are you already seeing Christmas trees going up in stores? Sure, it might be too soon, but there’s no such thing as rushing the season when it comes to contact centers – especially if November and December is your busiest time of year.
There are more than 100 shopping days until Christmas, but the time to make sure you are prepared to handle the holiday season is right now. Here are 5 ways to start:
1. Create or consult your stand-by agent list
Many contact centers hire temporary agents to keep up with increased call volume. You may have a list of these agents who helped out in previous years, as well as qualified agents that were interviewed for positions, and did not get the job. Start contacting them now to check their availability. If you don’t have a stand-by list, start putting one together.
With Workforce Management software it is easy to review call patterns from previous years so you’ll know what to expect in the months ahead. Run simulations based on this data and review the results so they can be as fine-tuned as necessary.
3. Shift schedules
Have your best agents available during peak periods, and have a plan to make sure all holiday season schedules are easily accessible to all concerned parties so there’s never any confusion. Obviously there will still be some revisions along the way, but WFM should resolve any issues before they can impact performance.
4. Streamline training
When adding temporary agents, you may need to train them in a more efficient way so they are prepared for what’s to come. If possible, streamline the desktop solutions available to temps so they can find the functionality they need without any confusion. When you have a mix of full-time and temporary agents on the floor, have a system in place to route the more complicated calls to experienced agents, leaving new hires free to handle more basic transactions.
5. Monitor the new hires
Have personnel available for quality monitoring, focused in particular on your overflow workforce. Some will excel, and these are the agents you might want to keep on the payroll after January 1. If you don’t have a position available now, given the turnover rate in this business it’s only a matter of time before you will. Save their contact information.
There are two types of people – those that set trends and those that follow them. Here are 7 trends that are currently taking place in the contact center industry – are you keeping up, or is it time to play catch-up?
1. Moving to the cloud
Why is this a trend? Lower upfront costs, more flexibility, more scalability, quicker reactions to changes in customer behavior, no need to build complex and costly hardware and software systems, less downtime, automatic software upgrades as they become available, deployment in weeks, not months…shall we go on?
2. The omnichannel approach
It’s not just offering different customer contact channels besides the telephone, it’s making sure that all of them deliver a seamless customer experience. If you’re on top of this trend, you are ahead of the curve – a Deloitte survey shows that less than 20% of contact centers have fully integrated their channels.
3. There’s an app for that
Self-service apps are becoming more popular with customers who prefer to resolve issues without speaking with an agent. If your company doesn’t have one in development yet, it’s something to start thinking about.
4. Fielding the tough questions
Customers who opt for email and live chat and other communication means will still use the phone for complex issues and difficult questions. Agent training must take this into account so your team is prepared for interactions that involve more than taking an order.
Work from home opportunities are becoming more prevalent in the contact center industry, and workforce management software helps make telecommuting possible. This may be a preferable situation for some of your team members, and because of the lower overhead and churn rate, it’s good for the contact center as well.
6. More emphasis on compliance
Security breaches and headline-making hacker stories have more companies thinking about regulatory compliance, especially with the handling of customer credit card information. When was the last time you reviewed your compliance needs and security measures?
7. Likes and tweets
Social media was something that businesses and contact centers of previous generations never had to worry about. But these new online channels should be viewed as an opportunity, not a problem. Incorporate social media engagement into the company’s overall communication strategy. A Facebook ‘like’ will be read by thousands of other customers and prospects.
How can we deliver a better customer experience?
That question is one faced by every contact center manager, especially after returning from a tradeshow full of new ideas, or reviewing last quarter’s numbers and not being happy with the results.
New ideas are great, but they should be built from a solid foundation, and that means an older idea that always works – workforce optimization. This is the clearest way to make your business stand out when it comes to customer service.
One good customer experience can have a very positive impact on loyalty, retention and word of mouth recommendations. Unfortunately, the same is true of one bad experience. WFO helps contact centers operate more effectively, by delivering the tools and data necessary for agents to do their jobs. When agents know what to do, and managers know what their agents are doing, the result is more satisfactory customer experiences.
And to turbo-charge your WFO, employ it in conjunction with speech and desktop analytics. Now you have even more data on agent productivity and performance, and you gain faster insight into different types of customer questions and inquiries so they can be routed to the right agent.
Monet’s WFO Live features workforce management and call recording, both essential for forecasting, scheduling and training. Plus you’ll find solutions for quality management and performance measurement, all delivered from the cloud, so you won’t be making a significant investment in hardware and software.
For small contact centers with just a few dozen agents, or major contact centers with hundreds of personnel working round the clock, workforce optimization is a vital component of a successful business.
Workplaces have become more casual over the past ten years. The millennial generation is accustomed to less structure, and many businesses have tried to accommodate that preference in a way that does not impact productivity.
In the contact center, this has prompted some discussion as to whether agent breaks should be strictly scheduled just like training sessions and other activities, or if more flexibility is feasible. There is even some documentation out there about agents being more efficient if they can take an unscheduled break as needed.
However, at this point we believe that scheduling breaks is still the right way to go. The very idea of workforce management is built on methods of data analysis and numbers crunching that tells managers when breaks can be scheduled based on capacity. The WFM tool populates breaks when it deems them appropriate given the workload forecast. If adherence slips, it is then up to supervisors to reschedule breaks based on call volume, which can be done with the right WFM provider (such as Monet WFM Live).
While it sounds more restrictive, there are still ways in which an agent’s preference can be accommodated. Indeed, once agents grasp the most common call volume patterns for days and shifts, they are able to request breaks and other time-off requests at times when such requests stand a greater chance of being approved.
If everyone works from the same data, the process becomes easier. And as long as that remains the case, unscheduled breaks should be discouraged. When agents can change their own schedules, it makes it far more difficult, if not impossible, to gain any value from forecasting or measuring adherence.
Hundreds of blogs, websites and magazines publish pieces about what a new year will bring. Not many of them go back later to review the accuracy of their predictions. So we found a piece from the beginning of 2014 featuring five technology trends believed headed for the contact center this year. Let’s see how it did.
1. Hybrid Cloud Adoption
It was anticipated that 2015 would see more contact centers with a hybrid environment, where some solutions were accessed from the cloud and others were installed on-site. While such businesses exist, the more prominent trend has been turning everything over to the cloud, because of the flexibility and cost-savings possible.
2. Virtual Agents
Would 2015 be the year of the virtual agent? Final stats aren’t in but thus far we are not seeing any indication of a significant increase in telecommuting, though this is a movement that has seen steady growth over the past decade. Cloud-based workforce management that allows agents to access the technology they need from any location will, if anything, expedite this trend.
3. Customer Service Apps
The smartphone, many predict, will change how customers interact with companies, and may even result in the extinction of the contact center. But while more companies have introduced customer service apps in 2015, contact centers are not going anywhere anytime soon.
4. Attack of the Big Data
Frost & Sullivan defines Big Data as volumes of data so large and moving at such a high velocity that they are difficult or impossible to work with using traditional database management tools. There has indeed been a growing influx of data from both traditional and new sources, including data logs, social networks, and clickstream data in web interactions. Monet Software has devised solutions to make this data more accessible and better organized, so it can be used to bring a new level of customer insight, and help drive real-time decisions on customer handling and workflow.
5. Multi-channel Access
This prediction was certainly accurate. Companies can no longer be content with traditional call center functionality. Customers now expect to reach out via other channels and receive the same quality response. For contact centers this means not just having qualified personnel in the right positions, but the ability to capture data across the channel spectrum that will help deliver better service in the future.
Change is never easy. Perhaps that is why many contact centers are still reluctant to make a switch from their software-based technology to the cloud. Even the prospect of no longer dealing with maintenance, storage or utility costs is not enough to offset concerns about whether a hosted contact center solution really delivers on everything it promises.
Here are some of the most common reasons why businesses hesitate, and how we address them with our clients – most of whom ultimately make the cloud transition, and now couldn’t be happier.
1. I’ll lose too much business during the transition!
Actually, you won’t. The cloud solution will be customized, prepared and tested before it is live, and can run parallel with your hardware solution during the actual conversion, so it can continue to function if an issue arises. Typically, however, the switch to cloud is quick and easy.
2. Is it really better?
Absolutely. It is more flexible, it is more scalable, there are no upfront costs, you pay only for what you need, you’ll receive software upgrades automatically as soon as they come available (without receiving a bill every time that happens) which makes it easier to work with home-based agents and other telecommuting personnel. These are just some of the benefits you’ll enjoy from day one.
3. I’m worried about turning over control of my data to a cloud
Maybe they should have found a better word when the technology was introduced, so it doesn’t seem like your data is traveling somewhere so distant. But the reality is you are still in control, just as you were when the hardware was sitting in your contact center. You can make changes as you need them, and with Monet you’ll also have the expertise of our dedicated support team to answer any questions.
4. It costs too much
Not at all. Hosted solutions cost 1/3 less than hardware solutions (and that is a conservative estimate on total savings). In fact, cost is one of the primary reasons why companies make the switch.
5. The cloud is unreliable
Once again, the opposite is true. Cloud solutions are actually more reliable than hardware-based technology because of their built-in fail-safes and redundancies. When all of your equipment is in one place and something goes wrong, you are out of luck. With the decentralized nature of the cloud, even a power outage won’t shut you down.
According to a study sponsored in part by Oxford Economics, 69% of businesses surveyed expect to invest in the cloud either moderately or heavily over the next three years, migrating their core business functions as a result.
These findings are consistent with a Forbes magazine piece published in June of 2015, suggesting that 55% of enterprise predict cloud computing will enable new business models in three years.
Why are these transitions taking place, particularly at contact centers that seek the benefits of a comprehensive workforce optimization solution?
With the cloud, a call center can be up and running with new WFO software in just days. Traditional WFO can take weeks, and sometimes months, to install.
No upfront investment for hardware and software is required for WFO in the cloud. Instead, contact centers pay a monthly subscription fee that, in many cases, will also cover training, support, maintenance and upgrades. Operating costs are lower as well, as there is no need for backups or hardware replacement.
The cloud gives contact centers room to grow, and upgrade the functionality they need when they need it. With a server on-premises, a contact center is limited by what that server can handle. Many call centers also report better ease of use with a software as a service (SaaS) solution.
All upgrades are automatically delivered free with WFO in the cloud. Upgrades to traditional hardware and software are an important revenue source for their respective manufacturers, so they won’t be going away.
There is always some risk when a call center invests in new technology. But with a cloud system it is easier to cancel a service that is not satisfactory. This is not always the case with a substantial upfront hardware/software investment.
Ah, the 1980s. Rubik’s Cubes and Cabbage Patch Kids and Duran Duran. Good times for those of us old enough to remember. And at the call center, we had the technology we needed to deliver great customer service.
The problem? Some call centers are still using a lot of the same technology.
An IVR system with 5 (or 8, or 10) options (including the ever-popular “press 7 to repeat this menu”) was cutting-edge back when Dynasty was on television. Ever go through all the options, and select the one that best fits the purpose of your call, only to then hear the message: “Our offices are now closed. Business hours are 9am to 4pm Tuesday through Friday…”
That won’t do anymore. People are busier now. They are used to faster (if not instant) communication, and the call to the contact center is just one more task in a multi-tasking day. The “Your call is important to us…please stay on the line and an operator will be with you shortly” message might sound polite, but to the caller it’s just more wasted time.
Another 1980s holdover is separate IVR and agent systems, at a time when such systems are easily integrated. The caller enters their account number when prompted by the IVR, and then they are connected to an agent who asks for the same number again. Not fun.
If your contact center is stuck in the ‘80s, it’s time to think about a 21st century technology makeover. Not sure where to start? Review recorded calls (or add a call recording system) and analyze the feedback from your customers. How many of them are frustrated by the time they speak to an agent? How many of them voice their displeasure over the time spent reviewing options and pressing buttons as prompted by the IVR? How many of these engagements could be handled more efficiently through email or web-chat or other channels?
Does your call center need to change with the times?
If you can’t remember, this might be a good time to take a fresh look at that script, and decide if changes would result in a better customer service experience.
When you do so, request the help of several of your best agents in the process. These are the men and women who will be working from that script, so they should be comfortable with its content, and able to advise from past experience on which questions and responses will be most effective in different customer scenarios.
For example, too many scripts use sentences that like this:
“On behalf of ABC industries I want to let you know that we appreciate your business, and that we will continue to work toward earning your trust.”
Customers today have heard well-worn content like this countless times, and are well aware it is not coming from the agent but from a script the agent is reading. The sentiment is important, but it could be expressed in a less fabricated way.
Agents – some of whom may have already taken to doing so – can suggest ways to make the customer feel valued that will sound more natural. These are the men and women on the front line of your customer service and loyalty efforts – they hear the reactions from customers every day (as you should as well through your quality assurance program).
Speech analytics offers another way to gauge customer reaction to certain scripted lines and responses. The ultimate goal is to create a script that is more of an outline than a word-for-word speech.
Some content must be expressed in a specific way to be consistent with industry regulations. It’s also likely that the answers to some basic questions will always be the same. But if every part of the call is scripted, the result is a robotic conversation that leaves the customer feeling more like a number than a person. When managers and agents work together on scripting, the result can be copy that encourages quick and efficient calls, while allowing agents to go off-script when there is a need.
Reducing Payroll Losses from Time Reports with WFO
The expression “time theft” is one that is likely familiar to every business owner with employees, including contact centers. It refers to situations where employees are paid for time they did not actually work.
It’s the kind of phrase that makes managers angry because they feel as if employees are taking advantage, but it also makes employees angry because an accusation of stealing is never something to be taken lightly.
But despite the discomfort it introduces into the workplace, time theft is an issue that must be confronted. While many contact center managers may not worry about an agent checking his or her Facebook page for a few minutes on company time, they will certainly not tolerate when one agent clocks in a fellow agent who never showed up at all.
To be fair, that type of fraud is rare, but it does happen. It’s the more subtle forms of time theft – adding a few minutes to the beginning or end of a shift, counting a break time as work time, conducting personal activities while on the clock, that most impact productivity and business costs.
It should also be acknowledged that many examples of time theft are inadvertent. Agents may honestly believe they worked the number of hours listed on their time sheets. Contact center work shifts can seem long and repetitive, and it is easier for mistakes to be made under these circumstances. But even without fraudulent intent, these situations can still be damaging. According to one estimate, time theft costs companies $400 billion annually in lost productivity.
According to studies by the American Payroll Association (APA), almost 75 percent of businesses in the U.S. are affected by time theft. These instances can take as much as 7 percent out of a company’s gross annual payroll. For a business with a $1 million payroll that adds up to $70,000 every year.
When employees were asked if they have ever exaggerated the number of hours worked on a shift, 43% admitted to doing so at least once. It is worth repeating here, however, that these cases often happen without malicious intent. A contact center agent may stay a few extra minutes, or arrive ten minutes early, and not be aware they are doing something wrong when those minutes are recorded on a digital time sheet.
The APA also reports that the average employee “steals” anywhere from 50 minutes to 4.5 hours per week by showing up late, leaving early and taking extended breaks and lunches. At the high end, this equates to approximately six weeks of stolen time per employee per year—as the study observes, whether the discrepancies are intentional or not, that is a staggering figure.
Contact centers have advanced a number of solutions to combat time theft, with varying results. Paper forms and traditional time clocks can help but are also vulnerable to agents who record their hours inaccurately or have someone else check them in.
A biometric time clock, which uses an employee’s fingerprint to verify their identity before clocking them in, can be far more effective. It can also expensive to implement, and may strike some managers as overkill.
A workforce optimization (WFO) solution may be the best option for making sure that there is no discrepancy between the hours declared and the hours truly worked. One of the primary benefits of WFO is increased productivity and service levels, and these are achieved in part by functionality that accurately records the number of hours worked.
Monet Live, Workforce Optimization in the Cloud provides a means to optimize all aspects of the workforce, including scheduling and hours worked, in one solution. One way it achieves this by tracking agent adherence to planned schedules and determining agent work time accounts. In addition, Monet Screen Capture (included in WFO Live) provides full-motion video and audio capture, which shows what agents are doing at any given time during their shifts.
The issue of time theft can be a difficult one to broach at a contact center. But if a business is losing too much money from agents inaccurately recording the hours they worked, it is an issue that must be discussed.
Since managers cannot be there to monitor every agent before, during and after a shift, an automated solution is the best way to combat the loss of productivity caused by time theft. With recurrent coaching and training and a workforce optimization solution, a contact center can mitigate this problem.
There is never a time when customer experience should not be a priority at the contact center.
But this year, we are seeing a renewed focus on this most important attribute, and through our blogs, articles and webinars are working to provide the information and resources that can help our clients re-dedicate themselves to delivering the best service possible.
This was the inspiration for our webinar “Monet WFO Live in Action,” which offered a guided tour of that product’s many features and benefits, and how they work together to serve your customers. These qualities were recently honored by TMC, which named WFO Live as a CUSTOMER 2015 Product of the Year.
But what about cost? It’s not as significant an issue with a cloud-based solution like WFO Live, but we understand that it’s also a factor in the day-to-day decisions every contact center manager has to make.
However, when the emphasis is on customer experience first, and fiscal challenges second, the result is a positive impact on both situations.
Why? If a contact center delivers a great customer experience, it is going to make a difference in the bottom line. Happy customers buy more products, and remain customers longer. And if they share an account of how well they were treated on social media, that brings more business, and more opportunities to convert first-time callers into satisfied customers.
The annual Call Center Week Conference and Expo is one of the largest industry events of the year. Monet Software is proud to take part in the 2015 conference, which will be held at The Mirage in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 15-19.
Please visit our booth (#609), where we look forward to meeting with customers and contact centers managers, and to exploring new trends in the industry.
This year, the focus is on customer-centric service. Sessions and topics on the agenda include: “Value in the Voice of the Customer,” “Why the Customer Experience Matters and What you Can Do About It,” and “Customer Experience Journey Mapping in a Digital World.”
But as always, there will be speeches from industry experts on a multitude of other subjects, from how to ignite employee engagement to advanced strategies in chat support and call center cloud strategies.
If you have not registered yet, or would like more information about the 16th annual Call Center Week Conference and Expo, visit their website at http://www.callcenterweek.com/.
Sometimes the best descriptions fall short. That is frequently the case with a contact center solution that offers as many features as Monet WFO Live.
We could talk about all of the ways that this workforce optimization solution can make the management and operation of any contact center easier, and how these benefits are multiplied when they are offered via cloud, and how many problems and challenges can be eliminated when WFO replaces spreadsheets, but there’s really no substitute for taking a few moments to watch the system in action.
This was the inspiration for our webinar, “Monet WFO Live in Action.” Monet Account Manager Nate Welsh and WFO Application Consultant Rich O’Farrell provide a guided tour of the product’s many features and benefits – ACD, WFM, forecasting, scheduling, call recording, quality, performance management and analytics, as well as how all these functions work in sync with each other.
You’ll also find out how easy the system is to implement and use, which not only shortens ROI time but will make your agents happier as well.
If you missed this webinar the first time around, it is now available for viewing free on the Monet website. Just click the link below, and get ready to discover what 21st century contact center efficiency looks like. Sometimes, seeing is believing.
Access the Webinar here
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.