Workforce Optimization Hints, Tips & Best Practices
Customer service is often determined by forecasting, and forecasting is often determined by data. With a workforce management (WFM) solution you are on your way to better forecasts. But are you making the most of the information at your disposal? Here is a short three-point checklist that will help.
1. The Holistic Approach
Numbers, whether they are good or bad, do not happen in a vacuum. While it can be helpful to analyze different KPIs individually, it is better to review them in tandem as well, while also taking a closer look at the conditions under which they are generated.
Of course you should review average handle time (AHT) and call volume, but you should also determine how one impacts the other. Is AHT better in the morning than overnight? Is that just a result of less calls coming in? Perhaps, but you may also have fewer agents working in the wee hours as well, so the answer may not be that simple. Maybe your night-shifters are dealing with lonely folks looking for someone to talk for awhile after midnight – or maybe they need a little more training.
2. Timing is Everything
Review monthly and weekly service levels, but understand that within those longer time periods there are a thousand variables that influence how the numbers worked out. To gain more insight, shorten the timespan to as little as 30 minutes – perhaps even 15 minutes for a busy contact center or for peak calling periods. You’ll receive a more accurate view of what you’re doing right and what needs work.
3. Who is Messing With Our Numbers?
Sometimes the reasons your forecasts miss the mark have nothing to do with internal operations. You can adjust your staffing and shift numbers, but in a larger organization you have no control over when marketing announces a 24-hour sale, or how customer-billing cycles (that trigger billing inquiries) are structured.
Improved communication between departments can make it easier for contact center managers to anticipate the effect of such anomalies, and adjust accordingly. The WFM system will do most of the work for you, as long as you have the data in time to act upon it.
What happens when a business can no longer handle incoming call volume with the personnel they have? For some, it means the decision to create a contact center to make sure this important function is handled in a way that optimizes the customer experience.
If this seems like a difficult challenge, here is some advice on how to make the job a little easier. Even if you have a contact center in place now, this piece might offer some helpful advice on how to make it better.
Layout will obviously be determined by the space available – are you opening in a separate building, or devoting part of your current workspace to call center functions? Either way, the objective is to make it as conducive as possible to efficient service and teamwork. That means sufficient lighting and ventilation, work stations with comfortable chairs that make it easy for agents to communicate with each other, but not so close that they’re interfering with each other’s calls. For a quieter atmosphere add acoustic wall panels or carpeting. Don’t forget a nice break room.
If you already have contact centers and this is an additional location, the first place to look for agents, managers and coaches is within your organization. Perhaps some will want to move to a newer facility that might be located closer to their homes. Otherwise, follow the same practices you do when offsetting attrition at your current businesses. Make sure to hire bilingual agents, as well as those more adept at text, online chat and social media.
Obviously start with the essentials – a secure LAN, predictive dialers for outbound calls, VoIP, IVR, and an automatic call distributor that routes calls to specific agents. A call recording system is a must for legal protection and agent training. This can be acquired as part of a workforce optimization solution that includes workforce management, quality management, screen capture, performance management and agent analytics. With this technology in place, you’ll be able to do a better job of forecasting and scheduling from day one, while providing your agents with everything they need to serve your customers.
The calendar says we’re closer to Easter than Halloween, but we have a few contact center horror stories to share, and they’re too good to keep until October.
A customer opened a web chat with a cable TV provider. The company responded only with pre-prepared template messages – until the customer was shocked to see the personal information of another customer pop up on his screen. When this was brought to the agent’s attention, she typed, “Oh, sorry… hehe… I am typing in 2 other windows, and got confused."
Another cable TV customer called to cancel service that had originally been ordered in her husband’s name. Her husband had recently died. When she explained this to the agent, the agent responded that he would still have to contact them to cancel.
A corporate customer called a computer company to report that the 12 laptops he had purchased were not working. The agent’s response: “What do you want me to do about it?”
A customer with a billing question was transferred to an account specialist. As soon as the call picked up, the agent yelled, You, I told you not to call me again.” When the customer questioned what was going on, the call was disconnected.
The customer of an Internet service provider called to ask about a company’s bundling offers with cable TV, and the agent tried for more than 30 minutes to sell that customer a home security system. After the call ended, during which the customer did order cable, a technician arrived a few days later to install the cable – and the home security system that was never ordered.
Some of these sad-but-true anecdotes, like the now-famous tale of the customer that was on hold with Comcast for more than three hours, are clearly aberrations from normal procedure. But we live in a time when one bad experience gets shared on social media, repeated on industry blogs, and may even go viral.
So when we ask the question of why customers hate contact centers, these exceptional examples of bad service cannot be ignored. And as a recent survey from analytics company ForeSee illustrates, customer satisfaction derived from the contact center is crucial to company reputation, brand loyalty and future sales.
After receiving feedback from approximately 11,000 contact center customers, each asked to grade their experience on a 100-point scale, ForeSee found that most businesses achieved scores around 70. Those in the 80s are on the right track – but some only managed to edge into the 50s, indicating the need for significant changes to policies, procedures, or personnel.
Service-based contact centers tended to receive lower scores, which is not surprising. These are the types of businesses that hear primarily from customers that are already angry or confused, making the agent’s task even more difficult.
Two Solutions: Technology and Sensitivity
How is your contact center doing on the customer service scale? Would you hit that 70-range of average success, or is there work to be done?
If it’s time for a fresh look, there are two areas where changes are more likely to bring about better results.
Let’s start with agent training, which should extend beyond learning a script or becoming familiar with contact center procedures, and should also stress empathy, patience and understanding. Scripted responses might be more efficient, but it makes customers feel better if they believe they are connecting with a person who acknowledges their frustration, and reassures them that they have come to the right place for the help they need.
We’ve mentioned the CARP Method before but it’s worth acknowledging again. CARP is an acronym for “Control, Acknowledge, Refocus, Problem Solve.” It was created by Robert Bacal, who wrote the book If It Wasn’t for the Customers I’d Really Like this Job. His advice for handling complaints – “Control” the situation with polite but firm responses; “Acknowledge concerns in a way that takes them seriously; “Refocus” the conversation to solving the problem rather than complaining about its existence, then “Problem Solve” and wrap it up.
However, to be fair to your agents, it is also appropriate to train them on the difference between angry callers open to best practices communication, and the acceptance of an apology when merited, and abusive callers who just want to vent. It may not be possible to salvage these encounters, and it’s acceptable to give up on them when the threats and profanities start flying.
Workforce Management Software
All of the burden for customer service should not fall on the agent’s shoulders. The contact center must provide the tools necessary for that agent to do his or her job, as well as provide forecasting and scheduling that assures the presence of enough agents to efficiently handle incoming calls.
That used to be handled with spreadsheets but can now be covered with a workforce management (WFM) solution. With the advanced functionality and the more accurate forecasting and scheduling made possible by WFM, as well as the data it delivers on agent performance, schedule adherence and KPIs, contact center managers can always be assured the contact center’s resources are being utilized in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
Among the benefits:
Tracking and schedule adherence are difficult, if not flat-out impossible, with just a spreadsheet. Spot-checks are fine as far as they go, but without the real-time tracking provided by WFM there is a higher risk of over/under staffing, shrinkage and missed service levels.
You know what types of calls your contact center receives, and you know which agents are adept at handling those particular calls. But the process of routing calls to the best recipients is more complex given the number of calls expected in any shift, and the number of agents available to handle them. Skill-based routing becomes less challenging with a WFM solution.
Multi-Location and Multi-Channel Coordination
Companies with multiple contact center locations require a means to coordinate personnel, resources and schedules at each facility so the service they provide is consistent. There may also be agents working from home that must be accounted for. WFM delivers these multi-site capabilities.
Choosing the Best Solution
If you are considering the addition of WFM, it can be a confusing process. The best way to be assured of choosing the right solution the first time is to be prepared. Have a list of capabilities that you’ll want from your system, such as:
• The ability to coordinate in multi-skill, multi-contact environments
• Support for email, phone and chat contact channels
• The ability to run simulations based on required skills and personnel
• The capability to analyze and report on a wide range of agent and scheduling data
Next, have your questions ready for the vendors you contact. We’d suggest including these on your list:
How will this system integrate with my business?
The optimal WFM solution will improve a contact center’s procedures without requiring a complete overhaul of its current system.
How much does it cost?
An obvious question but also one that, for many smaller and midsized contact centers, marks the end of the discussion – unless they choose a cloud provider.
How long will it take to set up?
Once again, advantage: Cloud. Set up can be completed in days, with secure access available to agents and managers in the call center and at remote locations.
Is the system easily usable/scalable?
Usability is a priority with most cloud-based solutions, so call center agents and managers can get started more quickly from any location.
No contact center has ever achieved a 100% perfect service record. However, it’s a worthy goal to pursue even if one is doing so with imperfect people – and that includes managers as well as agents. But armed with better training that emphasizes courtesy and customer empathy, combined with a workforce management solution that locates the gaps between the contact center’s available personnel skills and resources, the contact center that inspires customer derision can be transformed into a sales-building protector of the brand.
Perhaps you know the answer to that question. Or perhaps you just think you do.
There are two definitions for workforce optimization (WFO) – one that provides a general assessment and one specific to the contact center industry.
The general definition, or at least the one offered by Technopedia, is: “A strategy used in business with a focus on maximum customer satisfaction and benefits with minimal operational costs and supported by integrated technologies, cross-functional processes and shared objectives.”
All of these qualities would certainly apply to the contact center, but would also work for any number of professional pursuits. When we think WFO for our industry, the definition incorporates specific functionality such as call recording, workforce management, quality management and speech analytics.
We’re exploring this topic because of a recent Gartner report predicting that by the end of 2018, 70% of organizations with more than 300 contact center agents will be working with an integrated workforce optimization solution, either on-premise or in the cloud.
That’s about 20 months away. If you have not yet explored the possibilities of WFO, there is a real risk of falling behind companies committed to maximizing efficiency and customer service. It’s a big decision that will impact every aspect of your company, even beyond the confines of the contact center itself.
When you’re ready, start with a list of priorities and then seek out the solution best suited to meet them. Also, as so many business processes will be affected, look for a WFO application that can be implemented and integrated in a way that reduces the learning curve, while working toward ROI from day one. Price will also be a likely consideration, so a cloud solution may be the answer to achieving your technology goals at a cost you can afford.
How much can substandard customer service cost your business? Considering a recent Zendesk survey that reported 82% of customers stop doing business with a company that does not treat them well, we would guess the losses engendered by poor service are substantial.
As the contact center is the first point of contact for many customers, it’s a place where service must be constantly emphasized at both the agent and managerial levels.
Here are some customer service trends that are gaining more attention in 2016, and may help to improve performance at your contact center.
1. Help Customers Help Themselves
At first “do it yourself” sounds like the antithesis of customer service, until you realize that many customers (more than 50% according to the Harvard Business Review) would prefer visiting a company’s website to having to call a contact center. By offering an array of self-service options, you serve customers better and eliminate many of the calls asking for basic information and services that could be addressed in another way.
But what exactly are those other channels referenced in our previous point? Web, online chat, email and texting are just some of the methods your customers would like to use – and sometimes an issue can be best resolved by switching from one channel to another, without having to close the first engagement. Make it easier for customers to transition from web to voice, and make sure you are tracking that customer journey for quality management purposes.
3. Social Media
Social media is still under-utilized as a business communication tool – but chances are your customers are already using it to discuss your business. It’s important to be represented there so you can respond to comments, positive or negative, as well as promote new offers and generate the types of discussions that will help you serve your customers better. There is an informal nature to Facebook chats that can produce more insight into what your customers are thinking.
4. Video Chat
This is not something you may have to think about yet, but some companies like Amazon have already incorporated this channel into their customer service strategy. Those who enjoy using various webchat services or Skype may wonder why they can’t order products and ask questions from companies the same way. Video chat won’t add much to a contact center budget, but some agent training will be required to acknowledge the differences between a phone conversation and a virtual face-to-face.
5. The Cloud Makes Everything Easier
Will 2016 be the year that the cloud becomes the top platform choice for contact centers? It’s too early to tell but the early returns are encouraging. We’ve covered the reasons for the cloud’s ascension before – lower costs, faster deployment, scalability, flexibility, ease of integration, user-friendliness, and the peace of mind of knowing that your business is always running the most recent and most secure version of the software you need.
If it’s time for your contact center to take a closer look at the benefits of the cloud, Monet WFM is a great place to start.
Since there is never a bad time to listen to good ideas about improving call center performance, we’ve rounded up some of the best we’ve heard recently. Any or all of them can make a difference in your business.
If IVR use is unavoidable, provide options that will make it easier to route customers to the agents best qualified to address their situation.
Maximize the Value of Every Call
How much data are you gathering from customer calls? Is there a way to add to that through a technology upgrade (such as speech analytics) or by a renewed focus on quality management and analysis of information gathered through workforce management?
Setting Personal and Professional Goals
Most contact centers establish achievement targets – lower average handle time, better first call resolution, etc. As these are implemented, agents and other team members should also be challenged to set personal goals, such as a renewed commitment to courtesy.
Improve the Agent Desktop
Do agents have the information they need when they need it? Do they have to dig through various programs to find appropriate data, while customers are waiting to have their questions asked or their orders processed? Maybe it’s time for a more user-friendly solution.
Share Successes and Good Ideas
When an agent finds an effective solution to a recurring problem, make sure that word gets out. Identify calls where everything went right, and schedule a group session so everyone can listen to it and learn from what they hear.
We’ve been discussing this often lately. Allow your agents to make decisions for customers – this not only requires a level of trust in agent judgment, it also necessitates a workforce management solution that provides agents with the data they need in real time to make an informed decision.
Review Remote Agent Practices
When instituted effectively, telecommuting agents can boost contact center efficiency, as well as staff retention and staff motivation. But it takes time and effort to bring about these positive results. Review your planning, execution and communication as it relates to home-working agents. Make sure you are getting them what they need to do their jobs, and that they are providing the same level of service you require from agents at your contact center.
Dig Deeper than KPIs
Average handle time is down? Great! But how did it get that way? Sometimes key performance metrics do not tell the whole story. Use this data as a launching point for an outcome-based strategy that places more emphasis on customer loyalty, customer satisfaction and new business sales.
“It’s the way we’ve always done it.”
That is the explanation managers to use for why certain contact center business practices have not changed for years, if not decades. But while some contact centers stick with traditional solutions, others have been more cognizant of how technology offers better ways to achieve customer satisfaction goals – and how this functionality is now available to contact centers of all sizes regardless of budget, thanks to the cloud.
If it’s time to consider an upgrade, here are some questions that you might wish to ask of your next technology provider.
Can I get important information on customers to agents in real time?
You may already be collecting data on customers, but is there a way to make that available to agents so they can customize their handing of a specific call – or route it to the agent best suited to handle it? Real time information is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity if agents are going to effectively meet a customer’s needs.
Can we provide 24/7 access?
Your team should be able to stay connected to the contact center wherever they are. Find a browser-based software solution that makes working from home as easy as working in the office.
Will this be easy to adopt?
A more sophisticated product won’t pay dividends if your agents can’t figure out how to make use of its capabilities. Choose a solution that will allow for a shorter acclimation period, and that will facilitate collaboration among your team members both on and off-site.
Will this help our agents be more autonomous?
Customers prefer only talking to one person at your contact center, rather than being put on hold or transferred to a supervisor and explaining their issue a second time. More and more, managers are trusting agents to make decisions that might otherwise have required executive approval. However, agents need access to the right data at the service level to make an informed decision.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Larry Elder
It’s February – are all your New Year’s Resolutions broken by now?
Hopefully not, but if the ones pertaining to your contact center didn’t materialize as you hoped, it’s never too early or too late to start again. This time, you’ll have a better chance of success if each goal is accompanied by specific ideas on how to make it happen.
Here are five common contact center goals, and some suggestions of ways you can put them in motion.
1. Reduce Agent Attrition
There are several options available here, starting with sprucing up the office – new chairs, clean restrooms, fresh snack food items in the break room. Agents are more likely to stay when they can work in a clean and welcoming environment. Also, try to inject a little fun into the daily routine, either by launching customer service contests with small prizes for the best-handled calls, birthday celebrations, or more creative spins on casual Fridays – “Fancy Dress Fridays” or “Monday Night Football” days where agents can wear the jersey of their favorite team or player.
While these steps can make the work day more pleasant, some agents – and likely your best ones – will also want to know if their hard work is going to be rewarded with raises or internal promotion for those who have earned it.
Another reason agents leave is when they can’t reconcile the demands of their job with their home life, going to school or working a second job. You won’t be able to solve all these problems, but you can build more flexibility into your schedules to better accommodate agent preferences. For example, consider introducing a shift that finishes at 2pm to help those who need to pick up their children from school.
2. Improve Customer Service
That’s the main goal, isn’t it? And yes, there are countless ways to make it happen. But too often contact center teams will gather at the start of a new year and hear a rah-rah “This year we need to be committed to providing the best service we can” speech, and then it’s back to business as usual.
That’s not enough. If you want better service, you have to first define what that entails. A good place to start is by asking your customers. Have you surveyed them lately? Create a survey that asks questions about your contact center’s performance, its agents and processes, targeting the areas where you believe there is the most need for improvement. Also pay attention to what those customers are saying on social media if you communicate that way. When you have their responses, act on them.
What sort of complaints do contact center customers usually lodge? Too much time on the phone? Too much time on hold? Agents waiting for approvals to provide the caller with what he or she needs? Then perhaps another way to boost customer service is to empower your agents.
You’ll know best where implementing this policy would be most effective – perhaps provide agents with additional training so they can talk down angry callers without transferring them to a supervisor, or giving them the authority to approve returns or restoring funds to a customer’s credit card. Not only will this make your customers happier, it will also free up your managers and supervisors to focus on other matters, which should further boost contact center efficiency.
Here’s another thought – how are you assessing metrics? Is it all about hitting predetermined numbers, or is it about making sure callers are getting the assistance they need? Make sure your focus is more on effectiveness. It’s worth putting up with calls that stray outside your Average Handle Time target if they result in a satisfied customer.
3. Improve Your IVR
Having IVR can boost call center efficiency in several ways: calls are routed faster, questions can be answered without agent involvement, hold times are reduced, and for contact centers that are not open 24/7, IVR offers a means for customers to still obtain information.
However, for some customers IVR is not only inefficient, it’s downright annoying. Customers over 40 in particular may not be as willing to “talk to a machine,” and if they have to repeatedly “press 1” or tell that overly-friendly recorded voice what type of service they need, they are more likely to just hang up.
How can you tell if your IVR is helping business – or hurting it?
Analyzing calls and listening in to IVR interactions will provide the insight you need to make this determination. So it’s important to start your call recording and quality monitoring at the IVR, not when the agent takes the call.
If you are losing too many calls during the IVR process, it’s time to make changes. Is there a way to explain the caller’s options more clearly? Is there a means for the caller to bypass the system quickly if they insist on speaking to an agent? In addition to reviewing call recording data, a caller survey that requests feedback on the IVR stage of the call can also yield insight into what customers like, and what they do not.
4. Better Communication
In this case, the challenge is not communication between agent and customer, but between agent and manager, and within the other employee tiers at your contact center. Internal communication is just as important as external communication, and should be encouraged. One way to make it happen is to have agents serve as managers or coaches for a shift. Or make sure that managers spend at least some time on the contact center floor every day.
5. Upgrade Your Technology
A 2015 survey found that 67% of industry professionals specified budget as the biggest barrier to improving their contact center. But with the evolution of cloud workforce management tools, a business can upgrade to state-of-the-art technology without the large upfront costs of hardware and software investment. Depending on the system, an on-premise solution could run $100,000 or more.
Better still, once the cloud solution is implemented it will always be upgraded regularly to new software versions as they are released, at no additional cost to the business. When a manual software upgrade is necessary, the cost can be prohibitive enough to be put off, which reduces a call center’s ability to operate at maximum efficiency.
Motivated agents, upgraded technology, better communication and a renewed focus on customer service – now you’re ready to tackle those resolutions.
Scheduling mistakes are frustrating for managers and agents, and ultimately for your customers. You review your forecasts and you do your best, but if the numbers on paper are not matching up with what happens during a shift, here are some possible reasons why, and what you can do to achieve better results.
Historical data reveals patterns that should make scheduling easier and more accurate. But don’t just stay in the shallow end of the data pool and factor in the obvious peak calling times and slower portions of a day or a week. Account for holidays and seasonal shifts, new product introductions and weather impact. And make sure your schedule includes lunch breaks, training sessions and other times when agents will not be available to take calls. An automated workforce management solution is the easiest way to collect and analyze this data, and then schedule accordingly.
The further out you create a schedule, the more you’ll have to account for shrinkage. You can foresee sick days and vacations for the week ahead – but two months from now? It’s impossible – so consider shrinkage so the circumstances you can’t anticipate now will not result in an under-staffed contact center.
Schedule Breaks as Well as Work Time
It’s one thing to account for breaks within a schedule – it’s another to actually affix them to a specific time, and expect your agents to adhere to it. Otherwise you may have too many agents taking breaks or heading out to lunch together at the same time, which will derail any schedule. WFM software can automatically assign breaks at the optimum time, so that impact on coverage and service level is minimized.
Work With Your Agents’ Needs When Possible
Agents are more likely to adhere to a schedule when the contact center is open to their work preferences. At a typical business there may be full time and part time agents, some working for home and some for whom this is a second job. Taking these factors into consideration will require more flexibility in schedule creation, but there are definite benefits to having a range of shift solutions available.
Full-Time vs. Part-Time
There is a stability to a full-time agent team that many contact centers find more desirable. But call patterns may result in too many agents collecting salary for doing nothing. That’s why some contact centers hire enough full-time employees to cover anticipated demand, and use part-timers to handle peak hours. The right mix will vary depending upon the business, but many find a 75% to 25% ratio of full-time to part-time agents will suffice.
When it is easier for agents to manage their preferences, it is easier for managers to create schedules that take into account their future availability. This should be a consideration when choosing a WFM solution.
Don’t Make Assumptions on Agent Preferences
“No one is going to want to work Saturday night.” Really? What about the agent who would rather attend his daughter’s soccer game on Saturday afternoon? Chances are you won’t need as many agents for the types of shifts generally viewed as undesirable, but you may be surprised at how many part-time or work from home agents will gladly take them. Don’t look for scheduling problems where they may not exist.
Regular Shift Reviews
Most veteran agents do not embrace shift reviews willingly. But contact centers should go through this process at least once or twice each year to confirm whether shift schedules are meeting customer service goals, and to determine if personnel changes might further optimize the agent skill sets available at any given time.
Equal Access to Preferred Shifts
One aspect of maintaining agent morale is making sure your team members believe they are being treated fairly, especially when it comes to the hours and shifts they are assigned. Scheduling that allocates more desirable shifts to the same agents week in and week out will alienate some employees, and that could impact their job performance and productivity. By distributing shifts equitably during the scheduling process, you can avoid such resentments before they are passed on to your customers.
Fill Vacant Positions as Quickly as Possible
This may be obvious but it still needs to be said. Few contact centers are immune to the challenges of agent attrition. The recruitment, hiring and training process to fill open positions is one that nobody enjoys, as well as one that places additional cost burdens on the contact center. However, the alternative is moving forward short-staffed, which inhibits scheduling flexibility and puts more stress on the agents you still have. It also limits your capacity to dismiss under-performing agents, as someone taking calls is better than no one at all. Resist the temptation to wait for peak season to begin your next recruitment campaign.
The Right Tool for the Job
Part of optimum scheduling is making sure the right agents are handling the right calls. With a tool like Monet Record you’ll have insightful data on how different agents handle different calls. That gives managers a way to determine which team members are best suited for different customer engagements. Monet Quality makes it easier to retrieve calls by specific type, and provides additional reporting and analytics to further assess each agent’s skills.
Unfortunately, the status quo rarely remains the same in any call center, so all these calculations must be regularly updated and re-examined. Monet Metrics delivers agent analytics, real-time alerts, scorecards and customizable reports, as well as data on key performance indicators such as agent adherence and service levels. This information can then be used in conjunction with workforce management to further refine the art and science of scheduling.
If there were a way to buy stock in cloud computing, this would be a good time to do it.
A 2015 Research and Markets report states that the cloud telecom industry, which includes cloud contact center ecosystems, is expanding at an annual growth rate of more than 25 percent.
Perhaps you can’t invest in an entire industry, but you can certainly invest in a cloud-based solution for workforce optimization, which will also pay significant dividends in benefits to your contact center budget, day-to-day efficiency, and customer service levels.
Hosting contact centers in the cloud has also been known to significantly reduce aspirin and other pain relief usage among managers, as it eliminates many of the headache causes that used to be unavoidable in this business, from hardware failures and networking issues to the budget-bursting costs of maintaining an IT department and keeping up with new software versions.
Consider the change in just one everyday contact center capability – call recording.
In the pre-cloud era, adding call recording required the installation of an onsite PBX system with a VoIP packet that recorded calls onto a separate onsite platform. With the cloud? Installation for agents can be achieved with the click of a button.
Cloud computing will continue to gain a larger percentage of the contact center industry because it offers benefits for businesses of every size and type. Large call centers enjoy a tremendous cost savings and a lower upfront equipment investment. Smaller contact centers can achieve the same technological sophistication of bigger companies on a smaller budget. And call centers with agents working from home or in multiple centers can tie everyone in to the same workforce management system regardless of location.
For these reasons and more, it seems likely that the popularity of cloud-based systems will continue to grow. Is it time you considered making the switch?
In looking back over a number of stories covering the contact center industry in 2015, certain themes quickly emerge. Putting aside those not relevant to this blog, such as the opening of new facilities and the trend toward insourcing, we selected two that merit renewed attention, as they will certainly be influential on the industry in this coming year as well.
Let’s start with the prediction that contact centers will be primarily digital within the next two years.
It’s not exactly a surprising trend, but one that emerged out of the gradual adoption and acceptance of other communication channels in response to customer preference.
Many stories on this topic came with dire forecasts about the demise of the traditional call center, as more people turn to email, Web chat, social media and mobile app interactions to get their questions answered. Instead, such capabilities have been folded into the contact center environment, where agents trained in these disciplines offer the same service they did on the telephone. And while these channels continue to gain in popularity, there are also strong indications that telephone agents will still be necessary for many years to come.
The other theme found throughout 2015 coverage is that of optimizing the customer experience, and indeed there is some crossover here with the multichannel approach. But another aspect of this is shortening the customer’s progression from point A to point B by finding out more quickly what that customer needs, and finding more efficient ways to provide it.
That responsibility falls primarily on the insight and experience of the agent, but can be aided immeasurably by analytics solutions that make it easier to determine the best course of action.
Typically deployed as part of a workforce optimization (WFO) solution, analytics has become a primary driver of performance and quality monitoring improvements.
Such capabilities have long been limited to only the largest contact centers with the largest operations budgets. But the advent of cloud-based WFO software has brought these sophisticated solutions within the reach of small and midsized facilities.
The Monet version of speech analytics and desktop analytics is part of our award-winning WFO Live product. Both new platforms deliver detailed, data-driven insight into daily call center operations and customer behavior, but without the significant investment that such benefits used to require.
What happened at Monet
Software in 2015? Glad you asked….
The year began on a high
note back in January with two prominent industry awards. CIO Review selected Monet Software as one of its 20 Most
Promising Contact Center Technology Solution Providers. This distinction was based on evaluation of Monet
Software’s capabilities in providing cloud-based Workforce Optimization (WFO)
The annual list is selected
by a panel of experts and members of CIO
Review’s editorial board to recognize and promote technology
“Monet Software has been on
our radar for some time for stirring a revolution in the Contact Center
technology space, and we are happy to showcase them this year due to their
continuing excellence in delivering top-notch technology-driven solutions,”
said Harvi Sachar, Publisher and Founder, CIO
Review. “Monet Software’s solutions continued to break new ground within
the past year, benefiting its customers around the globe, and we’re excited to
have them featured on our top companies list.”
That same month, TMC named Monet WFO Live – Workforce Optimization in
the Cloud as a CUSTOMER 2015 Product of the Year Award winner. “On behalf of both TMC and CUSTOMER magazine, it
is my pleasure to honor Monet Software with a 2015 Product of the Year Award,”
said Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC. “Its WFO Live solution has proven deserving of
this elite status and I look forward to continued innovation from Monet in 2015
Monet has been a pioneer in
the development of cloud-based workforce optimization solutions for contact
centers. In February, Monet CEO Chuck Ciarlo shared his thoughts about what he
described as “The Fake Cloud Phenomenon” in an article published in
Ciarlo expressed his
concern over the way some companies have tried to market a hosted client server
as a cloud solution, resulting in buyer confusion and unhappy clients. This is
happening at a time when more companies than ever are making the transition
from on-premises hardware and software installation to a cloud delivery model.
The integrity of a quality product may be threatened if the situation does not
In March, Monet celebrated the
release of contact center industry statistics on the insourcing of
agent jobs back from India and The Philippines (a celebration no doubt shared
by thousands of frustrated customers).
One aspect of this pivotal
trend is how contact center technology changed during the outsourcing years,
and how companies returning their contact center facilities to the U.S. realize
that what worked in the past no longer gets the job done. That is why so many
of these centers are ditching spreadsheets in favor of an automated workforce management (WFM) solution.
Every so often
we like to share a Monet success story on our website or through our company
newsletter, to illustrate how companies are saving money and boosting
productivity with Monet solutions, In May of 2015, we published a case study on
Bayview Loan Servicing, an investment management firm based in Florida.
The company was
struggling with staffing issues caused by inaccurate scheduling, and an
insufficient process for handling exceptions such as time-off requests. After
searching for a workforce management platform to address these challenges,
Bayview selected Monet WFM Live. Click here to see the results.
June was one of
our busiest months, and also one of the most gratifying. It began with the inauguration of our new consulting services in
conjunction with Marathon Partners, designed to help contact
centers get the most from their technology and optimize professional practices.
These services focus on two primary areas: Operational Assessment, a
15-point review of the contact center or back office incorporating processes, quality
management, service delivery and staff utilization; and Performance
Improvement: which guarantees a minimum ROI of 2:1 through process excellence,
best practice assimilation, performance management and implementation of a
highly effective management system.
That same month Monet launched a partnership with Compassion
International, the world’s largest
and fastest growing child development-through-sponsorship ministry. Throughout
the year of 2015, we were proud to help sponsor a child in need for every
subscription to Monet Software SaaS Workforce Management Suite.
Children assisted through
this effort will receive medical checkups, nutritious food, health and hygiene
training, educational assistance and, where needed, access to such special
services as surgeries and disaster relief.
Finally, we headed to Las
Vegas on June 15 to attend the 2015 Call Center Week Conference and Expo at The Mirage. Our Booth #609 was
a popular spot throughout the 4-day event.
In October we were back in
Vegas at the Rio Hotel for the 2015 ICMI Contact Center Demo & Conference. Monet was proud to serve as
one of the sponsors for this exciting annual get-together.
And as Halloween
approached, we offered a holiday-themed webinar entitled “Slaying the Adherence
Monster.” If adherence has ever been an issue at your
contact center, you know what it can do to schedules and budgets. But the Adherence Monster is
no match for Monet solutions with real-time adherence.
you missed this 45-minute presentation, featuring tips and tricks to help you
keep adherence issues away from your business, you can still check it out here.
It was indeed a memorable
year, one that would not have been possible without the support and
enthusiastic response from our clients, as well as the hard work and dedication
of our technology and sales teams. As we take a moment to look back on the
highlights of 2015, it is also a good time to say thank you to all of those who
helped make this year our best ever.
And while there are still a
few days left in the year, at Monet we are already looking forward to 2016.
While it is too early to reveal any details, the year ahead is one likely to
feature the debuts of new solutions, new services, and more opportunities to
meet with our clients and industry professionals at the top annual tradeshows.
Stay updated on all of our latest news and announcements here, or on our
Letters to Santa and holiday wish lists are a part of Christmas celebrations around the world. But if you could create a wish list for your contact center, what would you ask for?
This is not just a fanciful exercise. Writing down your goals for 2016 can be the first step toward achieving them. What is most important to the future success of your business right now – more accurate forecasts? A better way to create schedules? Call recording software? Finding improved ways to automate tasks?
Different call centers will have different lists, but a Workforce Management (WFM) solution in the cloud may figure prominently in the answers to many of them. Santa can’t bring it, but Monet Software can.
Here are a few more items that may be on your wish list.
Listening to recorded calls can boost the efficiency of your contact center. Listening to these calls while watching how agents relate to customers offers even more insight into employee performance, customer service and how technology is being leveraged for maximum benefit. With Monet Screen Capture, it is possible to review synchronized voice and video of your agents’ interactions. We’ve created a video demo that takes you through the process, from capturing customer interactions to the platform’s archiving and reporting capabilities.
Since 2/3 of customer interactions still take place over the telephone, speech analytics has become a more prominent source for customer insight. With Monet WFO Live’s speech analytics capabilities, contact centers gain even more insight from their call recording solution. With automated alerts triggered by voice data, managers have access to critical business intelligence that boosts both agent performance and the customer experience.
If you want even more transparency into how your contact center functions, what agents are doing at their desks, whether your business is in compliance with government or industry guidelines on information gathering, and where your procedures are falling short of expectations, desktop analytics may have the answers. Where speech analytics is primarily customer-focused, desktop analytics (DA) delivers insight on your agents and your processes. It captures and analyzes all agent desktop activities in real time, and it improves process automation and workflow.
Download our Free New Whitepaper
Technology plays a vital role in the contact center. Managers face a difficult choice when it comes to selecting a technology provider, as they must take into account not only the vendor but also the delivery method through which crucial contact center software will be accessed.
There are three options: an on-premise solution, where hardware and software must be installed, deployed and maintained at the contact center; a hosted system, where software is purchased but is installed at an outside service provider, and a cloud system, which converts such physical resources as processors and storage into Internet resources.
How should a manager decide which is best for his company? Our new whitepaper was created to answer the most common questions about the three systems, and to compare them based on several important factors, including:
• Start-up Time
Of course, for many businesses the most significant determining factor will be cost. That’s why the whitepaper analyzes the many different budget considerations associated with each delivery method.
Don’t invest in your next workforce management or workforce optimization solution without downloading our new whitepaper: Cost and Benefit Comparison: Cloud vs. Premise vs. Hosted. It’s free!
Download White Paper
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.