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Tips for More Effective Call Center Workforce Management

This blog provides practical information on all aspects of workforce management for contact centers, including quality monitoring, call recording, performance management and analytics

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Call Center Workforce Management Blog

The Three Essentials of Workforce Optimization

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What makes workforce optimization such an effective call center solution is how all-encompassing it can be. 

There are so many moving parts that must be harnessed to deliver a favorable customer experience, but according to several industry analysts there are three that emerge as the most significant – the actual work that needs to be done at the call center, the people charged with that responsibility, and the processes put in place to help them achieve the goals of the business. 

Workforce optimization (WFO) helps with all three. 

The Work

Calls are received. In multi-channel environments so are emails and webchat requests and social media posts. Orders have to be filled, returns have to be processed, questions have to be answered. With the workforce management capabilities of WFO, accurate forecasts and schedules are generated so there are always enough agents ready to handle customer demand. 

The People

They make be working in the call center or from home. They all go through the same training but gradually develop specific skills that should be leveraged. They have different needs and preferences when it comes to shifts and schedules. And unfortunately, too many of them leave too soon, necessitating another round of recruiting, hiring and training. With WFO calls and other communications can be automatically routed to the personnel best suited to handle them. It provides flexibility to scheduling, making it easier to accommodate agent requests. And it provides the data agents need to make the job easier – which might induce them to stick around longer. 

The Process

What WFO provides here is visibility. No manager can be everywhere, particularly in a call center with 50 or more agents. Workforce optimization provides quality monitoring of customer interactions, and the ability to track and analyze how well processes are working through real-time alerts. It also provides more insight into every customer interaction through speech analytics.  

Monet's workforce optimization solution is cloud-based and delivered as a service, making it easy, fast and affordable to get started without the usual risk of software implementations. Find out more



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Call Center Performance Tips: Borrow from the Best

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Want to be a great baseball player? Study Kris Bryant’s swing. 

Want to run a great call center? Study how the best ones are getting things done. 

Maybe you don’t have time to travel the country visiting these successful businesses in person. That’s why we’ve collected some of their best advice and tips for better results. Hopefully they will work for you as well. 

Start with this: Make things as easy on the customer as possible. Some customers may appreciate exceptionally friendly service, but for most the top priority is getting an answer, placing an order (or whatever prompted the call), and then moving on with their lives. So emphasize speed of answer, technology that rapidly delivers the customer’s information to the agent, and allowing agents to provide what is needed without putting someone on hold or transferring the call. 

Are your communication channels fully integrated? That means knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each channel (ordering, conflict resolution etc.) and making sure well-trained and cross-trained agents are handling each interaction. 

Next, make sure your agents are engaged. That starts with measuring attrition and absenteeism to weed out those that aren’t cutting it, and perhaps using speech analytics to track performance. But if you demand great performance from agents, you need to give them something in return besides a paycheck – flexible working hours, extra help when they need it, and a path to advancement for those seeking something better. 

Is Net Promoter Score one of the KPIs you measure? It is at many top call centers. This gauges the likelihood of an average customer recommending or criticizing a business’s service. And it’s not enough to collect the data – you have to act on it. 

Finally, don’t look for answers outside the business when they might be available from your own teams. Companies routinely hire outside consultants to tell them what their customers are thinking, what they want, which products should be introduced and which should be discontinued. Before paying someone else a fee to deliver this data, investigate whether your agents and managers already have this information, and put them in charge of putting it together. 

By doing so, the company saves money while getting better answers, and offers an opportunity for agents to take on some executive-level business analysis, which may provide them with a path to career advancement.  


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Giving Agents What They Need to Succeed

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Call centers expect agents to be alert, engaged, up to date on company policy, and ready to give 110% every day. 

That’s fair – but is your call center helping them to achieve such consistent performance? 

Here are two areas where actions can be taken that will boost productivity, and make your business more efficient. 

1. Information: Where they want it, when they need it

Technology and data drive successful call centers. Usually that refers to the KPIs measured to gauge customer service, but it also applies to the optimized knowledge base that makes it easier for agents to deliver great service by being able to quickly access each customer’s information. 

Training materials should also be easily retrievable, so agents can review proper procedure on their own if a question arises. This encourages the healthy habit of self-monitoring of performance. 

And since call centers are typically part of much larger organizations, agents and managers benefit from online collaboration platforms where documents can be shared, and everyone can be kept up to date on new projects. This also encourages consistency and cooperation between departments. 

2. Stress relief

Breaks are necessary in the agent workday, but can and should consist of more than leaving one’s desk, stretching one’s legs, and perusing the leftover pastries in the break room. This is the time to de-stress. Since different agents achieve that goal in different ways, why not cater to both of them?

For those who prefer to burn off tension while burning off calories, a small workplace gym would be greatly appreciated. Those who prefer a quiet, peaceful respite would enjoy a relaxation room that might even offer sleeping quarters for a quick nap. 

Bonus benefit: These steps will make your call center the type of place where agents feel valued, and that means they’ll stay with you longer. 


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Three Irreplaceable Call Center Agent Skills

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What do you look for most when you hire call center agents? Experience is obviously important, along with a clear speaking voice (and/or writing and spelling skills for communication channels like video chat). It’s also beneficial to have someone who takes guidance well, is punctual and gets along well in a team environment. 

But there are some skills that are equally important but not always evaluated during the interview process. Pay attention for signs of them in your next recruitment drive: 

An Even Temperament

It’s not easy being yelled at by strangers several times a day. Hopefully that is not a regular occurrence at your call center, but when hostile customers need to vent it’s important to have an agent who is cool under pressure. It might mean the difference between keeping and losing those customers. 

Winning isn’t Everything – It’s the Only Thing

I know we live in an era where everyone gets a trophy for just showing up, but you want agents that don’t take such consolation prizes seriously. They want to be the best – especially if there are real rewards attached to that status. You don’t want to encourage cutthroat competition, but friendly rivalries between ambitious agents can be healthy. 

Independent Thinking

Yes, the script is important, but you can hire anyone to read words off a computer screen. It’s what happens between and around those scripted directions that make the difference between good agents and great ones. Find someone who will listen – who can project empathy in a difficult situation, and who can get creative to solve a problem, even if it adds a few minutes to average handle time. 

One more idea: When you find these outstanding agents, give them the technology they need to really succeed – such as Monet WFM Live. When you make it easier for them to do their jobs, they are likely to keep doing them longer. 


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Seasons Change: Make Sure Your Call Center Changes With Them

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For all the beautiful photos you’ll see of leaves changing color in Vermont and harvest festivals and pumpkin pies, the fact remains that autumn can be a depressing time. The summer is over, the days are shorter, and in some parts of the country the temperatures are already dipping below freezing. 

Coping with such changes can cast a pall over your call center, and affect agent performance – but only if you let it. Here are some ideas that can result in a more productive fall. 

Daylight Savings Time

The one part of autumn that no one likes is setting the clocks back, which throws everyone’s internal clock off for a while, and offers one more hour of darkness at the end of the day. If the transition was rough on your agents this year, next year try to make it more gradual, by adjusting shifts incrementally – say, 15 minutes a day for the four days preceding the change. Lighting adjustments in the call center – especially those that mimic natural light – can help as well, and even prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

Fresh Air

Breaks are part of every call center shift, but can be more beneficial if agents are encouraged to spend at least part of that time outside. The crisp fall air is stimulating and will boost alertness for when they return to work, especially in the afternoon when attention to detail often begins to slip. 

Celebrations

Emphasizing the fun parts of fall can make the season less depressing. Have a costume contest in the days leading up to Halloween. Offer free turkeys or pumpkin pies to agents who perform the best in November. 

Redecorate

Autumn holiday decorations can make a call center more festive. Some new furniture, a fresh coat of paint and some plants (real ones, not the plastic variety) also contribute to a more pleasant work environment. 

Plan Ahead for Cold and Flu Season

This tip benefits your agents and your customers as well. More of your employees will get sick this time of year. Recognize that it’s coming, give them the time off, and call upon your holiday file of backup and temporary agents to fill in before the Christmas season starts.


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How Cultural Diversity Benefits Call Centers

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There has in recent years been a significant push –  some would say one that’s long overdue – toward cultural diversity in business. And call centers are no exception. 

It’s a result that can occur naturally through a process of hiring the most qualified agents and management personnel for the job. But in geographic areas where the talent pool is more homogeneous, it can still be a goal worth pursuing. 

Why? These are just some of the benefits: 

New Perspectives

People from the same place often tend to view challenges or opportunities in the same way. A diverse workforce almost always results in a wider range of ideas being generated, and new ways to look at old problems. 

Productivity

Different types of employees often bring different skill sets to the business, resulting in greater efficiency. 

Better Customer Connections

With few exceptions your business will be (or is at least trying to be) appealing to customers of different ages, genders and races. There’s no telling which of these customers will want to reach out to your call center. With a diverse hiring policy you’ll be prepared for customers that speak different languages, or have different questions and concerns that will be recognizable to someone on your team. The more your call center looks like your customer base, the better than chances of optimizing the customer experience. 

Workplace Harmony

Studies have shown that diverse workplaces contribute to employee engagement and are happier places to work – and that’s certainly good news in an industry where employee turnover is traditionally among the highest.  


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Why is Speech Analytics Worth the Investment?

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We get it – call centers have a lot on their plates these days, with adapting to chat and social media, email and other channels, while maintaining quality in responding to calls. But even with these challenges, speech analytics is not something that should be viewed with a “we’ll get to it eventually” approach. 

The faster speech analytics is implemented, the faster it starts helping call centers reduce average handle time, improve service and increase company profits. 

Speech analytics recognizes why customers are calling and communicates this information to agents. That puts agents in a better position to handle the issue efficiently, and shorten the length of the call. 

Speech analytics recognizes trends in what customers are asking about – that could influence new product development or changes to existing products and ultimately boost sales. 

Speech analytics turns every phone call into a source of valuable customer data. While some call centers are still getting by on monitoring a fraction of total customer engagements, here is a solution that truly provides a big picture perspective on what the entirety of a company’s customer base is thinking, feeling, and desiring from that business. 

Speech analytics improves quality assurance by monitoring agent engagement and script compliance, gauging the effectiveness of greetings and closings, and pinpointing words or phrases used by customers that signal dissatisfaction, when there is still time for that relationship to be saved. 

These are just some of the reasons why speech analytics, and in particular Monet’s Speech Analytics solution have been so popular. Isn’t it time your call center started transforming voice data into critical business intelligence? Find out more about Monet Analytics.



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Don’t Be Scared of the Adherence Monster

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October means Halloween and Halloween means scary stuff. 

As you probably know, call centers can generate as many frightening situations as a haunted house, and they aren’t nearly as much fun. 

Do you begin to shiver at the very thought of customer service problems caused by adherence issues? 

Monet Software has a free webinar for that. It’s called “Fighting the Adherence Monster.” 

Like most monsters, this one can do a lot of damage, but it isn’t very smart. That’s why it is no match for the real-time adherence solutions available in Monet WFM Live. In this webinar, you’ll learn exactly how to use this solution to keep adherence issues at bay – it works even better than garlic does with vampires. 

Question: How much would you estimate a 25-agent call center could save just by improving staff adherence by 2%, and reducing shrinkage by 15 minutes per agent per day? 

The answer: more than $30,000. That’s a lot of candy corn. 

Considering how much money lack of adherence can cost your business, anything that can be done to get a handle on this deterrent to efficiency should be worth a look – especially if it takes just 45 minutes. That’s our webinar. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to find out how Monet Software can save you hours and hours of time lost to lapses in adherence. You’ll discover how WFM Live streamlines your scheduling goals and practices, and lets you keep a close, real-time watch on agent availability, holidays and breaks. 

“Fighting the Adherence Monster” can be accessed at your convenience here



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Have You Put Your Holiday Staffing Plan in Action?

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Oh, the weather outside is…still pretty warm, actually. But it won’t be long before the temperatures drop as the holidays approach. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get started on making sure you have the seasonal staffing place to handle increased call volume.

Hopefully you can consult a list of stand-by agents already in place. These are the folks that are accustomed to working a couple of months for you and then moving on until you need them again. If they have already spent time at your call center they will just need a refresher rather than the full training regimen, and can get up to speed very quickly. 

Of course, some of these temp workers will have moved on to full-time positions elsewhere in the interim, or for whatever reason may not be available this year. That means new recruiting, hiring and training, all of which take time. Even though you are hiring temporary, likely part-time help, use the same procedures you would to qualify a full-time agent hire. 

Since you’ll have so many new faces on the floor, it’s a good idea to also have your best agents available during peak periods. They can pick up the slack and help the newcomers as well. 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.

As busy as you’ll be, don’t stop quality monitoring throughout this time. That’s how you’ll discover which of your new agents are thriving, and which may not be invited back next year. 


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Have You Put Your Holiday Staffing Plan in Action?

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Oh, the weather outside is…still pretty warm, actually. But it won’t be long before the temperatures drop as the holidays approach. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get started on making sure you have the seasonal staffing place to handle increased call volume.

Hopefully you can consult a list of stand-by agents already in place. These are the folks that are accustomed to working a couple of months for you and then moving on until you need them again. If they have already spent time at your call center they will just need a refresher rather than the full training regimen, and can get up to speed very quickly. 

Of course, some of these temp workers will have moved on to full-time positions elsewhere in the interim, or for whatever reason may not be available this year. That means new recruiting, hiring and training, all of which take time. Even though you are hiring temporary, likely part-time help, use the same procedures you would to qualify a full-time agent hire. 

Since you’ll have so many new faces on the floor, it’s a good idea to also have your best agents available during peak periods. They can pick up the slack and help the newcomers as well. 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.

As busy as you’ll be, don’t stop quality monitoring throughout this time. That’s how you’ll discover which of your new agents are thriving, and which may not be invited back next year. 

Forecasting will be different from a typical week as well. Thankfully, Workforce Management software makes it easy to review call patterns from previous holiday seasons 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. 

With the call center running at peak efficiency, you may actually get your holiday shopping completed on time this year! 



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Managing a Call Center: What’s the Best Approach?

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When agents talk about the different call center jobs they’ve had, they will always compare managers and managerial styles, and which one they prefer. 

Which type of manager are you? Adopting a specific “style” is not necessary, and in fact most managers perform their duties in a way that is an extension of their personalities. But sometimes it can be helpful to consider whether a change in approach might be beneficial. 

For instance, some call center teams respond better to a supportive manager that downplays the distinction between management and labor for a “we’re all in this together” philosophy. With a responsible team the results may be impressive – but there must be some oversight to make sure agents are not taking advantage of an informal managerial style. 

At the other end of the spectrum is the taskmaster. He or she drives the team like a college football coach, with inspiring motivational speeches and continuous urging to go the extra mile for the company. Some agents will respond to this more aggressive approach, but others may fold under the pressure or be worried about falling short of expectations. Just remember that the best coaches always make time for their players, to help them be the best they can be. 

Enthusiasm is another positive trait in a manager, as long as it is channeled the right way. It becomes a problem when every idea suggested in a meeting is implemented with expectations of success, and then quickly discarded when it doesn’t perform as planned right away. This leads to inconsistent performance and frustrated agents. 

Change can be good; too much change too quickly often has the opposite effect. 

Not sure if you need to change your style? Talk to your agents. Ask them if there is something they are not getting from you, whether that’s guidance or support or even criticism. The more you can match your approach to the temperament of your agents, the better the odds of a successful call center. 


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The Benefits of Performance Management Software

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Performance Management is something of a catch-all term that incorporates a wide range of management aspects, from planning to developing agent skills, to evaluating performance based on metrics and making adjustments accordingly. Most call centers engage in some form of performance management, whether through ongoing meetings to assess progress or an annual review. 

It’s an essential process, and it can be a difficult one without software that tracks and analyzes the performance levels of your call center team. 

The analytics provided by Monet Metrics has made performance management faster and more accurate at a wide range of call centers. Data is delivered in a way that makes it easier to identify the skill sets of your agents, as well as any skill gaps that need to be filled by additional training. 

What used to require stacks of paperwork and tedious manual operations now gets completed automatically; saving valuable work hours that can now be devoted to other tasks. 

Is Monet Metrics your best option?

Obviously we think so. But as you explore the different software selections available you’ll want to select the performance management system that best fits your call center’s needs. 

As you investigate, always keep in mind that performance management is only as good as the data it receives. Your workforce management and quality management efforts, as well as those devoted to training and billing and other specialties, must collect accurate numbers for the system to work. With Monet, that’s never an issue. 

Performance management is one of the most effective ways to improve contact center service – as long as the metrics are accurate and implemented in a way that bolsters the associated workflow functionality. This is not a one-time fix but an ongoing program that should become part of a call center’s everyday management procedures.


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Workforce Management and Personnel Time Management

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Time, and how we use it, is one of the most important call center resources. We need agents to show up on time. We need calls to be completed quickly while still maintaining great service. Managers have to create forecasts and schedules, while still leaving time for other important tasks. 

Workforce management software can help with all of this. But it won’t help agents who either don’t own a watch or don’t pay attention to it. The efficiency of your call center demands team members that are organized, and possess reliable time management skills. 

Coaches can help where needed. They can encourage agents to set goals for how many calls they should complete in on day, and reinforce the importance of start times, end times and break times. Monitor progress and reward those that are able to change their habits. 

At first the coach or trainer may have to set up a goal schedule for these agents. But ideally this is a habit they should begin to pick up themselves. Suggest that it become customary to take 10 or 15 minutes at the end of a shift to review performance for that day, and to plan a schedule for tomorrow (or the next active day). The more they can plan ahead, the easier it will be to adhere to the schedule. 



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Complaining About Customer Complaints? Take Action Instead

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The call center business would be a lot more agreeable, if it weren’t for all those customers and their problems.

No matter how well a company is run, some complaints are inevitable. The challenge is not just keeping them to a minimum, but handling them in a way that salvages a customer relationship that, at that point, could go either way. 

Complaints, like any other type of call, also deliver raw data on what the company is doing right and what could be better. Paying attention to that feedback and making adjustments accordingly is one of the most important contributions a call center can deliver. 

Here are a few ideas that can make one of the most unpleasant parts of your job less difficult – and perhaps even beneficial.  

On the Front Line

Whether a complaint is registered via telephone, online chat or social media, your agents will be the first to hear it, and their responses are the ones that matter. How much authority do your agents have to handle these issues? 

Customers with a product issue may call requesting a refund. Can your agents provide it, along with the requisite apology? If so, that customer may not be lost for good. But if that customer has to be put on hold and transferred, or is required to fill out a form that goes through a formal complaint procedure, he or she is probably done with your company. 

Also keep in mind that with that latter, more complicated procedure, all of the time invested by multiple employees means that complaint was more costly to the call center. With smaller purchases in particular, cut your losses quickly by letting the agent take care of it. 

That objective ties into the always-important challenge of First Call Resolution (FCR). When agents feel they have been given enough autonomy to provide customer satisfaction, they can usually achieve a better result all the way around. 

However, some agents simply don’t want the responsibility. “Hold, please” becomes a standard response even in situations that should be resolved without that referral. 

With an workforce management solution, it becomes much easier to target agents on such metrics as FCR, and to monitor unnecessary referrals. 

Here’s another unpleasant thought: sometimes it is the agent that inspires the complaint in the first place: “too rude,” “too abrupt,” “left me on hold for ten minutes,” “promised me something that was not delivered,” etc. With the data collected and reports generated by WFM and more specifically Quality Monitoring, managers will also gain insight into which agents are generating the most complaints, and require additional training – or a lesson in manners. 

Hopefully such instances are minimal. If you used good judgment in the hiring and training process, your agents are your greatest assets for customer retention. Are you using them that way? That means listening when they tell you about recurring situations that are generating a negative response. 

Perhaps a limited-time offer is worded in a way that is confusing to some customers. Agents will not only be the first to know, they may in listening to callers be able to provide a solution to the problem. Make sure their feedback is getting to the management team. 

Communication is Key

The answer to almost every call center challenge is better communication – between agent and customer, agent and manager, manager and other department personnel. 

A customer-centric approach starts at the top and filters down to the front line. Hitting performance targets and monitoring metrics should enhance this approach, and not dilute it by making average handle time more important than a satisfied customer. 

Schedule regular meetings, company wide if possible, to review complaints. And when it’s time to present them, a personalized approach may induce a better response. For instance, a manager could report, “We’ve seen a 10% increase in customers upset about our new teddy bear not arriving on time.” Or, he could say “We had a call from Barbara in Texas who ordered the teddy bear in time for her little girl’s birthday, but it still arrived two days late.” That paints a more vivid picture of the problem than a dry statistic. 

How are complaints logged at your call center? An internal audit can be beneficial, as sometimes general inquiries or a customer closing an account may be classified as a complaint. Not only does this falsely inflate the volume of incoming complaints, it clutters the system in a way that may prevent genuine service issues from being resolved faster. 

Consistency

One more objective that helps with complaint handling is consistency. That starts again with agents. Are the new hires handling customer problems with the same skill as those who have been there for years? Monitor them more closely to make sure they are on the same page.

A monthly review involving agents, managers, coaches and trainers can help with keeping track of complaints, detecting trends, and making sure appropriate responses are going out. The longer an issue is undetected, the more complaints it is going to generate.  

Consistency across channels is equally imperative. If a social media message is not answered, that customer may resort to calling – now you have two complaints from one customer, which doesn’t look good on the balance sheet. 

One More Tip – Though It Probably Sounds Strange

Here is one last piece of advice that may seem counterproductive at first – make it as easy as possible for your customers to provide negative feedback. 

There’s no use trying to avoid complaints so you won’t have to deal with them. And yet some websites still try to bury the ‘contact us’ link where it won’t be easily noticed. There are just too many channels available now to try to duck angry consumers. By encouraging feedback, you remove one more frustrating obstacle from the customer’s path, and avoid multiple contacts from the same source.

Ultimately, complaints deliver content that can make your company better. Handling them efficiently is the most effective way to reduce them.  


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Do Your Agents Have the Freedom and Confidence to Go Above and Beyond for Customers?

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Every so often the media will pick up on a story of something unique that happened at a call center. Many of these feel-good tales feature a call center agent who decided to do something special for a customer. 

We came across this one that is worth sharing: an agent at Capital One received a call from a woman whose credit card was shut down due to “suspicious activity.” This was triggered by her attempt to purchase furniture and have it shipped to an address that was not the one the credit card company had listed for her.

Customers who get their cards shut down are usually in a shouting mood, but this woman had recently separated from her fiancé and was in the process of moving to a new place – hence the different address. She seemed more sad than angry, and when the agent found out what was happening in her life, she gave the woman 4,500 free airline miles to help her feel better. 

And that’s not all – the agent then sent flowers to the customer, with a note saying “Please know that you are in my thoughts and I hope these can brighten your day.”

Why is this important?

Two reasons: First, the story went viral. The customer related the experience on a Facebook post, and the agent was heralded as a hero on dozens of websites and message boards, all of which mentioned that she worked for Capital One. 

Capital One is a company that spends a lot of money on advertising (you’ve doubtless seen the TV commercials with Samuel L. Jackson). What did all this great positive publicity cost them? The 4,500 airline miles are really only worth about $45, plus whatever the going rate is on a nice flower arrangement. That’s a pretty solid return on investment.

Second, it raises the question of whether your agents believe they have the freedom to offer a similar gesture of kindness to one of your customers. Would they be appreciated or criticized for doing something that is not company policy? 

These stories make the news because they don’t happen every day, and they shouldn’t – but when the circumstances are right, encourage your agents to go above and beyond. 



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Encouraging the Customer Shift to Self-Service Options

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For several years, as the Internet and social media emerged as new communication methods, there were several call center industry stories speculating on whether live agents would soon be an endangered species. 

The prospect now seems less likely than it once did, as there is still a need and often a preference for customers to actually speak with another person to resolve their issues. 

But there is no question that agents are a more costly and complex service option than automated online responses or social media interaction. Two hundred agents? That’s a big investment. 500? Those call centers moved offshore to save money – and paid a different kind of price. 

Industry estimates vary on how many customer interactions can and should be handled without live assistance. But it’s at least 40% on the low end – some have it as high as 90%. 

The technology is in place now to make it happen – not just on the company end but from the customer side as well. Today almost all of us carry smartphones that plug us into a portable digital ecosystem. We now expect 24/7access to order information, return policies, special offers, store hour listings and other subjects that used to require a phone call. 

Now is the time to encourage your customers to explore the other options available. Self-service has reached the point where it can be just as quick and responsive (in many cases faster), so you’re not risking a customer relationship by doing so. 

The numbers show that about 30% of U.S. consumers have tried voice self-service to get things done. That number can and should go higher, with your help. 

Let them know that for the most complex situations, or when there is a real need to speak with an agent, you’ll be ready. But if behavior can be changed to the point where these are the only types of calls received, you’ll be able to get by with less staff, and lower costs. 


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How Speech Analytics Boosts Customer Service

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Do you really need speech analytics at your call center? That depends:

Would faster recognition of caller intent improve service?

Do you want to know what is having the most significant impact on your customer relationships? 

Do you want to boost the operational efficiency of your call center? 

If the answers are yes (and of course they should be!) then speech analytics is right for you

There is one more benefit that deserves special mention – savings. With speech analytics your agents can reduce the number of calls and repeat calls, as well as the length of the calls they receive. Along the way you’ll also identify processes that aren’t cutting it anymore, and find ways to make them more efficient. 

Is there a catch? Just one – to make the most of speech analytics, it should be deployed within a workforce management solution that can analyze and disseminate call center data and deliver analytics insights into the KPIs that matter most:

First-call resolution: By analyzing past customer interactions, patterns will emerge that will indicate to agents why this call is happening, perhaps even before the customer provides an explanation. 

Average handle time: when speech analytics identifies and removes recurrent issues, handle time drops. 

But wait, there’s more!

Yes, this is starting to sound like a late-night infomercial. But speech analytics really can play an important role in so many everyday call center functions. 

It can be integrated into your coaching to improve quality monitoring and agent performance. 

Introducing a new product or marketing campaign? Speech analytics can also pick up key words and phrases that reveal how well it’s going over with customers, and whether some course adjustment would help.

Questions? Contact us – we look forward to letting you know about Monet’s speech analytics tool, and what it can do for you.  


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10 Tips for Reducing Average Handle Time

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Average handle time? Still important, we’re afraid. It’s a constant challenge but there are ways to cut it down while still providing the quality of customer service that your company and your customers expect. Try these tips and let us know if they work!

Skills-Based Routing

Agents that specialize in certain types of calls will almost always be able to handle them more quickly. 

Automated Processes

Made the switch from spreadsheets to workforce management? Then you’ve taken a significant step forward toward reducing AHT – now review any other manual processes and discuss whether they can be automated as well. 

Interview New Agent Candidates By Phone

One way to determine whether an agent can communicate efficiently is by interviewing them over the phone. You’ll find out how they respond to questions and unexpected situations, skills that contribute to AHT reduction. 

No Cold Transfers

If a call must be transferred, always make sure the customer’s relevant data is transferred as well, so the same questions won’t have to be asked a second time.

Prepare for the ‘Top 5’

Use WFM and agent feedback to determine the top five reasons customers call. Focus on a streamlined response to these in training and equip agents with the authority to address them. 

Anticipate Questions

Similar to the previous tip, the more agents can anticipate what the caller may ask, the faster those answers can be provided. 

Route Repeat Calls to the Same Agent

First call resolution is important as well, but when a customer has to call back, route his or her call to the agent that responded the last time. Familiarity with the situation should expedite the call. 

No Interruptions

This sounds counter-productive at first, as agents may want to get to their scripted procedure and move things along. But AHT benefits from listening as well, especially if the caller is not in a good mood. Interruptions will only make angry callers more irritated, and further decelerate the process. 

Put Agents in Charge

Not of everything, of course, or they’ll pay themselves a lot of bonuses. But give them as much authority as needed to solve customer issues, investigate problems, and provide a solution. Transferring calls, even without excessive hold time, is never good for AHT. 

Reward Top Performers

Give an agent a special prize for reaching the maximum number of accepted calls per shift – as long as they’re achieving this goal in a way that also provides courteous and attentive service. 



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Caring and Confidence: Two Essential Call Center Agent Traits

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Imagine going out to lunch with a friend. You tell him that your doctor said you need to have surgery, and your friend replies, ��Oh well, that’s life – are you going to finish those fries?”

This is one of those situations when a person expects some expression of concern or sympathy. Another is when a customer has a problem and contacts a call center. The best agents are those that recognize when a customer is angry or disappointed, and respond accordingly. 

It’s not difficult, it doesn’t add a lot of time to each call, and it doesn’t require changing company policy – all it takes is a few kind words – “I’m sorry this happened, I understand how frustrating this must be. But you’ve come to the right place – let me see what I can do for you.” 

And it helps if they sound like they mean it, and are not just reading those words off a script. 

Caring is the first essential trait of a successful call center agent; confidence is also important. It’s a quality that some possess naturally, but for those that don’t it can be taught – at least within the confines of the call center job. 

A trainer may not be able to instill enough self-assurance in an agent to ask someone for a date, but for customer calls confidence emanates from knowledge about the company and its products or services. 

It is particularly critical in outbound call centers, at a time when telemarketing-weary customers are likely to be less receptive to a marketing message. The successful agent is one who can break through those barriers, by explaining that this call is not an annoyance but an opportunity. When you speak to someone who really believes in the cause he supports, you are likely to be more receptive to what they have to say. 

Caring and confidence – look for both of them when it’s time to hire new agents. As a bonus you’ll not just gain a quality employee that will boost your customer service, you may hire someone who can have a positive impact on your other agents as well. When these traits are encouraged, they can be contagious. 


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The Call Center Design of Tomorrow

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What will tomorrow’s call centers look like? If we’re lucky they might resemble the San Francisco facility designed for Airbnb. Check out the photos here

Clearly the idea was to create a call center that doesn’t look like a call center: no boring rows of cubicles, standard desks, drab break rooms etc. The space is more open and varied, with different settings to suit the preferences of each agent. 

There is more freedom of movement, as laptops now do everything that a desktop computer does, so employees do not need to be tied down to one plugged-in machine. There is more interaction between agents, but the work can still get done. 

You would think noise might be an issue in such an open environment. But as the article explains, the architects and designers worked with the company to install sound-absorbing materials, such as cotton padding in the ceiling and walls. Agents also used advanced headsets with a masking system in the microphone that reduces surrounding noise. 

Is this the future of the call center? With more customer contacts now being handled online or other means, fewer call center agents might make it possible to accommodate such flexible facilities. 


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Quality Monitoring: The Never-Ending Quest for a Better Call Center

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Maintaining quality, particularly in the customer experience, is critical in every aspect of call center operation. It’s at the heart of everything we do, from technology to agent screening to script creation. 

Quality monitoring is how call centers identify what is working and what isn’t. It is primarily a problem-solving system, but it also recognizes areas where things are going well, so those practices can be maintained. 

How can you get the most from your quality monitoring efforts? Here are a few tips that may help. 

Define “Quality”

It seems obvious, but still worth noting: You can’t assess which calls are successful until you have a standard for what constitutes a quality customer interaction. That takes into account not just the outcome of the call, but the manner of the agent, the total time required for the engagement, and how it met service levels and KPIs. This process is easier with a quality-monitoring tool that provides a comprehensive view of agent and call center performance. 

Review a wide range of calls before setting the benchmark for future success. The objective is to find the very best calls – ones that everyone involved agrees could not possibly have gone any better. Hopefully they won’t be too difficult to find!

Getting Agents Onboard

Initially some agents may view quality monitoring suspiciously, which is not only bad for morale, it could negatively impact the results of your efforts. Make it clear that monitoring is a company-wide necessity designed to make everyone – including managers – more successful at their positions. Make the process collaborative instead of authoritarian. 

A Reliable Process

Evaluation forms will likely be part of your QM program. These must be developed correctly, or every subsequent step might be impacted. Make sure you are asking the right questions and getting optimal results from them – that means the kind of responses that dovetail naturally into training and procedural changes to generate better results. 

The personnel assigned to head up QM will also be critical to the program’s success. Recruit a team to handle monitoring, evaluating and training, and make sure they have the expertise and the resources to do the job right. 

Call Scoring

This is another critical aspect of quality monitoring, so it is best decided with the participation of as many employees as possible. Divide each call into sections – greeting, closing, speed, issue resolution, courtesy, empathy, etc. – and then score each segment. This could be done with a letter grade like in school, or on a 1-10 scale. Then, compare results. Don’t be surprised if assessments vary – you are still early in the process and this is how you will determine what qualifies as a great call, a good one, and one that was not well-handled. The more participants become acclimated to the QM system, the closer the scores should get. 

Feedback and Dispute Resolution

Feedback is important throughout the process. At the outset you need feedback from your customers, which can be obtained through an advocacy survey. Don’t assume you know what they want or expect from your call center before asking them. 

Once monitoring has started, feedback may be handled through individual contact with agents, trainers and other personnel, or through group sessions where findings can be shared, and discussions can take place on how to best achieve whatever milestones were set. The more agents can be involved in this, the more likely they will be to buy into the process, and feel that their input is valued. 

Sometimes disputes may arise within a performance evaluation. If this happens, do not just dismiss the objection – schedule a re-evaluation conducted by another member of the team. 

Can you trust your agents to self-evaluate? Not at the beginning perhaps – but once they grasp how the process works many may be trusted to assess for themselves how well they are meeting the quality expectations of the call center. 

Check QM Against Other Call Centers

How does your call center fare compared to other call centers of similar size and function? Finding out via an outside agency that specializes in external benchmarking can provide a new perspective on how your business is performing. 

Recognize and Reward Success

When the quality numbers start trending in the right direction, make sure this is not unnoticed by all of your call center staff. Find a way to reward agents, coaches, trainers and other personnel for their contributions. 

The Right Technology 

Measuring quality manually is long and arduous process, that is made much more efficient when relevant data is accurately compiled and analyzed automatically. 

And yet, many contact centers have still not implemented an automated call monitoring solution, and are thus not gathering the measurable metrics that can only be garnered through effective call monitoring and evaluation. 

Before selecting a technology solution to be used in a quality monitoring effort, three questions should be asked: 

1. Will it improve agent performance?

2. Will the data we collect improve efficiency?

3. Will our call center monitoring solution protect us from a legal challenge?

Choose the Right Call Monitoring Software

Without the right software, a quality monitoring program is going to struggle. Monitoring of customer interactions should be simple for agents, and the intelligence gathered through the system should be easy to analyze for managers. Also, consider future growth – the software you select should be able to grow with your company, and meet your needs not only today but tomorrow. 



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Five Workforce Management Trends You Should Know

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Considering an automated workforce management (WFM) solution? Look for one that doesn’t just deliver a lot of data, but also functions in a way that complements how today’s call centers operate. This business has changed, and you won’t be able to change with it if you are burdened by yesterday’s technology. 

Here are five current WFM trends that should be part of your strategy, and that should benefit from the efficiency of an automated WFM solution. 

Flexible Staffing/Scheduling

The workplace of today is very different from what it was like 20 years ago. Agents, particularly those in the millennial age group, grew up in a world of on-demand service, and expect that same option at work. With WFM it’s easier for these agents to manage their schedules, bid for open shifts, request time off or select the shifts for which they are available. While some of this might sound like catering to the whims of people who despise a standard workweek, in the long run it results in happier employees, which is good for customer service. And while adjusting all of these shifts might have been a headache with spreadsheets, WFM streamlines the process so manager oversight is minimal.  

Compliance

With the automated processes made possible by WFM, managers don’t have to be as concerned about noncompliance with legislative and industry regulatory mandates. Just set up the system to accommodate applicable laws and requirements, and it will do the work for you, while also providing a full audit trail. 

Real Time Adherence

Are some agents spending 10 extra minutes on their lunches or breaks? Has one agent left early twice last week? WFM provides tracking that makes it easier to enforce time and attendance policies. It’s an objective system that makes sure the same rules apply to everyone.

Remote Locations

Enterprise and other growing entities may require more than one contact center, with locations in different states or perhaps even outside the country. Workforce management makes that single global system possible, integrating all functionality through one common interface. This method is more efficient than the regional siloes it replaces. 

Skills-Based Scheduling

Today it’s not just about having the right number of agents for each shift, it’s having the right blend of skills and services within that agent pool so that every type of incoming call stands an excellent chance of achieving a positive outcome. With WFM you’ll always know you’re covered, and can plan ahead when selecting additional staff or replacements when certain agents are on vacation. A WFM system with speech analytics makes it even easier to identify where agents excel, so calls in their specialty area can be routed to them. 



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One Formula for Calculating Call Center Service Levels

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A lot of us choose the careers we want based on one simple premise: whether or  not there is math involved. 

Unfortunately, math cannot be entirely avoided, even at jobs that seem to work more with words than numbers. 

Take the task of providing great service at a call center. You need an effective script, and agents that know how to relate to customers, and a workforce optimization system that deliver forecasts and schedules that keep the business running at optimal efficiency. 

But how can you prove that service is where it needs to be? Here is one system that may help. And yes, some math is involved. Sorry. 

First, you need to define the terms that will impact how service is assessed, starting with abandoned calls. Do you count the ones that hang up before an agent responds as a “call offered”? Or ignore them entirely since there was no opportunity offered to achieve a successful result? 

Next, select a service level objective, and the service level formula that works best for your business. There are several to choose from:  

Once you have your formula, select a time interval and clearly define exactly when a call starts (when the phone rings, or when the caller selects the IVR option that links them to a live agent, or after the recording opening message completes). Then, decide on a measurement interval (by hour, shift, day, etc.). 

An automated workforce optimization solution will be invaluable here, as it will gather the data necessary to calculate your service level. Analyze the data, review the results, and make appropriate adjustments in procedure or technology that could help you reach your service goals. Then start the process all over again. At least the second time, the math will be easier. 



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Speech Analytics isn’t Just Important, It’s Essential

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In a perfect world, all of your agents would always say the right thing at the right time on every call, practically guaranteeing a positive outcome. 

Impossible? Perhaps. But with real-time speech analytics, call center managers and agents have a tool that increases the likelihood of customers being paired with the agent most likely to answer questions and provide optimal responses and assistance. 

This level of response is even more critical now that customers have other methods available when contacting a company. Many will first inquire about an issue via email or a Facebook post. If that doesn’t work, a phone call is viewed as the last and best option, and that customer will expect to speak to someone with the knowledge and authority to take care of the problem. 

For the agent, this challenge becomes easier with a tool that delivers historical information about that customer in real time. That is what speech analytics provides. 

But this is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every customer is different, and even two customers who bought the same product and have exactly the same question may not benefit from the same type of response. With speech analytics, agents can change scripted responses based on speech cues, tailoring the discussion so it better matches the caller’s expectations. 

Typically deployed as part of a workforce optimization (WFO) solution, speech 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 Software version of speech analytics and desktop analytics is part of our award-winning WFO Live product. Both 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.



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Abandoning Spreadsheets at a Healthcare Call Center

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In healthcare, some treatments for illness have been effective for hundreds of years, while new treatments are always being developed that improve on older methods. 

The same can be said of a healthcare call center. Managers may still be relying on a traditional solution – spreadsheets – for forecasts and schedules, but this is one treatment that may have outlived its usefulness. 

If the data you have been generating with spreadsheets for 20 years is no longer sufficient, it’s time to make the change to WFM. 

We created a free whitepaper entitled Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling: Best Practices that explores this topic in more detail. 

What are some of the benefits of WFM, compared to spreadsheets?

More accurate forecasts

A streamlined scheduling process

More flexible management of start times, end times and break times

Easier skill-based scheduling

Greater transparency

Happier agents and customers

Spreadsheets simply cannot compete. Find out for yourself by reading the whitepaper. 



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