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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

4 Reasons You Need Speech Analytics In Your Call Center

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No long introductions here because we know you’re busy. Here are the four reasons your call center should be looking into speech analytics.

1. It Delivers Data

Every call that comes in is a valuable source of data. Call centers have long understood this and try to mine the elements from each conversation deemed most relevant to company performance and customer service. Speech analytics allows this analysis to go deeper than ever before. Managers will gain more insight into the effectiveness of agent scripts, by the reactions customers provide with their words and the emotional nuances that sometimes suggest more than what they’re actually saying. 

2. It Saves Money

Technology upgrade investments don’t get any smarter than this one. By at least one estimate, call center speech analytics achieves ROI in as little as three months. After that, it just keeps delivering data that offers insight into new product creation, product promotion and positive branding, while also boosting customer loyalty. 

3. It Improves Customer Service

More information available to your agents means a stronger likelihood of first call resolution and a satisfied customer. When callers don’t have to call back, that lowers the volume for everyone, which at peak times can cause a significant improvement in how quickly other calls can be taken and resolved. 

4. It Boosts Profits

Cross selling and upselling are opportunities too often missed in the course of a call center shift. Perhaps your agents have a standard offer that closes specific kinds of calls, but what type of response does it receive? With speech analytics, those rates can be reviewed, and customer responses can be analyzed to achieve greater results. Perhaps some upsells work better with older customers, or with males. Others are perfect for first-time buyers. Now you can customize upsells and cross-sells based on each customer’s response. 

At Monet, our speech analytics and desktop analytics are incorporated into our WFO Live solution to help maximize agent productivity and performance. For basic call centers or contact centers that offer omnichannel interactions between agents and customers, this powerful alliance of WFO and analytics can better meet your customer needs, help you to better utilize your resources, and improve service levels.


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Join Monet Software at Call Center Week 2017!

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What’s your lucky number? If you’re going to be in Las Vegas next month for Call Center Week, may we suggest 1320? That’s the booth where you’ll find us in the Mirage Resort, June 26-30.

Make sure you stop by. We look forward to this annual get-together and the chance to meet and talk shop with fellow call center industry professionals. Discussing your challenges inspires us to work even harder to find new answers. 

At this year’s event we’ll be focusing how Monet’s award-winning workforce management solution seamlessly integrates with Salesforce™ Service Cloud™ to deliver:

  • Improved case and chat management
  • Better forecasts
  • Real-time workforce visibility
  • Greater customer satisfaction

For businesses with helpdesks, this is a real breakthrough. And members of the Monet team will also be there to talk quality monitoring, performance management, speech analytics, and how our award-winning solutions have helped so many companies deliver more efficiency to their call centers. 

If you’ve never been to Call Center Week before, make sure you budget enough time to see as much as possible. This year’s itinerary includes workshops with such titles as “Create a Culture of Engagement,” “Empower Your Team to Deliver Personalized Service Across Channels” and “Differentiating Customer Experience in the Age of the Mobile Consumer.”

In addition, CCW 2017 features master classes on “Hiring for Retention: Building Blocks for Staffing your Contact Center for the Next Generation,” as well as sessions on networking and digital transformation. 

You’ll also have a chance to tour the Zappos headquarters, and find out how their unique customer service philosophy has inspired consistently strong sales. 

We look forward to seeing you at booth #1320!


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Call Center Service: Crunching the Numbers vs. Caring for Customers Workforce Management is the Key

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There is a delicate balancing act taking place almost every day at almost every call center. 

On one side of the scale there are KPIs that measure how long a customer waits to reach an agent, how long the call takes, and how often the issue described is resolved without the need for further calls. On the other side is the quest to provide caring, quality customer service, which is not so easily measured on a graph or a pie chart.

Did we say it was a delicate balancing act? Sometimes it’s more like a tug of war. 

But with workforce management it doesn’t have to be. 

If you have well-trained agents in place who know how to speak to customers with different concerns and personalities, you’re halfway home. It is their job to make callers feel valued, to calm angry emotions and to represent the company in a positive way, so that caller will stay a customer even if they had a problem. 

That takes time – more time, perhaps, than the number crunchers among your management team would care to allocate. Workforce management, especially when combined with speech analytics, allows agents to quickly access customer records so they don’t have to ask for information that might be helpful. It may also prevent having to transfer to the call to other representatives, always a frustrating experience for the caller.

The right technology can also spot trends among customers faster and easier, which moves the call forward to the successful resolution stage. 

If you are still using spreadsheets and are considering a workforce management system, we encourage you to read one of the following whitepapers:

  • How to select a Workforce management solution: This document provides a list of key questions you need to ask and evaluate when selecting a solution.
  • What is cloud-based workforce management: This paper compares the new cloud-based solutions with the traditional on-premise software solutions.



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Introducing: The Benefits of Workforce Management

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When call centers add Monet WFM Live Workforce Management to Evolve IP’s award-winning contact center solution, the result is a more efficient call center operation. 

If you haven’t yet experienced the difference automated workforce management can make, here are just five of the ways it will boost the productivity of your agents and your business. 

1. Better Forecasts 

Workforce management automatically processes all relevant data to deliver more accurate short-term and long-term forecasting projections. And when forecasts are more accurate, it means fewer instances of overstaffing or understaffing. You’ll always have the right number of agents for every shift. 

2. Better Schedules

There are a multitude of agent non-call activities that must be considered when creating a schedule. Monet WFM Live makes these non-call activities part of the forecasting and scheduling process. This is especially important since customer engagement today is based on many different channels such as phone, email, webchat and social media. 

3. Tracking Adherence

Schedule adherence is still one of the biggest challenges for call centers. With workforce management, a call center can monitor and record the adherence status of all agents in real-time. The system tracks data on every status related to this issue, from lunches to daily breaks to when agents log out. If a problem is discovered it can thus be handled quickly. 

4. Intraday Forecast/Schedule Management 

Intraday management is always a challenge. Workforce management monitors intraday workload information (planning, controls, deployment strategies) that will produce pre-emptive rather than reactive actions for managers, which can then be communicated to agents. 

5. Exception Handling

Workforce management manages and processes exceptions in a way that communicates all necessary information to all parties concerned, accepts or rejects each exception instance based on company criteria, and makes certain everyone is on the same page so there is no confusion on the part of the agent or management.

Find out more about Monet Software Workforce Management



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When Helpdesks Need Efficiency Help, Where Should They Turn?

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The cases never stop coming at a busy helpdesk, posing a challenge for even the most dedicated teams.

Part of meeting that challenge is staying ahead of the technology curve. Solutions are available that can boost agent visibility while also providing consistent customer service. Is your helpdesk taking advantage of them?

One may already be familiar to you: Salesforce™ Service Cloud™. But you may not be aware that Salesforce™ Service Cloud™ can be integrated with Monet’s award-winning workforce management solution, WFM Live. 

When that happens, you’ll instantly achieve greater visibility into the day-to-day operations of the service desk, resulting in: 

  • Improved case and chat management
  • Better forecasts
  • Real-time insight that corrects service issues quickly
  • Greater customer satisfaction

The best part? With one solution you’ll have the confidence of knowing you are on the cutting edge of business software. And once you’re there, you’ll stay there. Any new updates, versions or changes are automatically installed at no additional cost. 

Find out more about integrating Monet Workforce Management and Salesforce™ Service Cloud™


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Did You Know: Monet Workforce Management Integrates With Salesforce™ Service Cloud™

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Helpdesks know that the best customer service happens when the right number of agents are doing the right job at the right time. 

But without workforce management (WFM), it can be difficult for managers to maintain service levels given their limited visibility into what agents are doing, and how they are doing it. 

Thousands of companies have already discovered how Salesforce™ Service Cloud™ delivers faster service at a lower cost, while streamlining communication between customers, employees and partners. But for all of its outstanding features, it can’t deliver the WFM that eliminates guesswork and time-consuming processes. 

The Solution: combining Monet’s award-winning workforce management solution with Salesforce™ Service Cloud™. 

Seamless integration between the two efficiency solutions is easily achieved with no required hardware. Data passes to Monet Live, WFM for Salesforce™ Service Cloud™ through a widget atop a console via a streaming API. 

Now, with data that clearly shows what is working what is not, new methods can be implemented (such as matching employee skills to specific tasks) to optimize agent productivity. 

If you’re a Salesforce™ Service Cloud™ customer, isn’t it time you find out what you’ve been missing?

Learn more about integrating Monet WFM Live with Salesforce™ Service Cloud™


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Managing PTO and Call Center Agent Vacations

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The warmer weather outside means summer is coming – and what is it that comes with summer?

In the call center business, the answer is summer vacations. If paid time-off (PTO) requests from agents haven’t already started to escalate, it’s probably going to happen any day now. And while your agents look forward to those welcome respites from customer complaints, their days off can cause headaches for call center managers. 

If it’s your job to coordinate schedules and agents on different shifts with different skills, PTO is just another variable in a process that is already difficult – at least, at those call centers without a workforce management (WFM) solution. 

WFM streamlines PTO processes, and take some of the pressure off both managers and agents. 

Monet WFM Live can be used to plan and track PTO accruals. The system automatically enters all necessary information into the contact center’s schedule and staffing roster. It is also possible to integrate the WFM system into the company’s human resources system to track and manage all related data.

Once the system is in place and procedures are established, Monet WFM Live can also allow agents to schedule their own PTO. That results in happier agents, which is not only great for their peace of mind, it could keep them on the job longer. 

Given the rising costs of hiring and training new agents, any action that boosts agent satisfaction should not be ignored. 

If time-off planning is too time-consuming at your call center, call us to find out how you can start handling PTO more efficiently.


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Call Center Workforce Management: One Solution, Five Problems Solved

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The best thing about adding workforce management (WFM) to a call center is not how efficiently it solves one workplace issue – it’s how it solves several challenges simultaneously.

We’ve selected five of the most common call center problems that WFM can help resolve – but there is plenty more where that came from.

1. Forecasts

Forecasting is all about having the right number of agents with the right combination of skill sets in place every shift, every day. When that happens, call centers eliminate wasteful situations that result from overstaffing, and customer service issues that result from understaffing. Workforce management automatically collects, reviews and processes the data that delivers accurate forecasts, both in the short term and long-term.

2. Schedules

Scheduling should take both calls and non-call activities into consideration. Some scheduling methods fall short here, but a WFM solution considers all of the variables throughout the forecasting and scheduling process.

3. Adherence

Creating schedules is one thing – making sure agents adhere to those schedules is something else entirely. Usually you can figure out what happened after the shift is over, but what good does that information do when it’s too late to act on it? With workforce management, a call center can monitor and record the schedule adherence status of all agents in real-time – that includes log in time, log out time, lunches and breaks. If a problem is discovered it can be handled quickly.

4. Intraday Forecast/Schedule Management

Intraday management is always a challenge due to particularly complex resource considerations. An integrated WFM solution should be able to monitor intraday workload information (planning, controls, deployment strategies) that will produce pre-emptive rather than reactive actions for managers.

5. Exception Handling

Workforce management will manage and process exceptions in a way that communicates all necessary information to all parties concerned. It accepts or rejects each exception instance based on company criteria, and makes certain everyone is on the same page so there is no confusion on the part of the agent or management.


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Transform your COST center to a Call Center

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It’s expensive running a COST Center. But it’s possible to convert your business back into a quality call center by cutting costs that don’t impact customer service.

How? Here are a few tips: 

Ditch the Spreadsheets

When spreadsheets are replaced by a workforce management solution, a cost savings will immediately result from improved schedule adherence and optimization of daily agent rituals like breaks and lunches. Savings? As much as 10-20%. 

Speech Analytics

Speech analytics delivers better marketing intelligence in other areas at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. It also recognizes trends in what customers are asking about – that could influence new product development or changes to existing products and ultimately boost sales. 

Switch to the Cloud

No upfront investment for hardware and software is required for workforce management or workforce optimization in the cloud. Instead, call 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.

Monet has created a more detailed explanation of how to save money through workforce management in the cloud. The numbers don’t lie – here you’ll find a formula that will let you calculate the specific cost savings that can be achieved when WFM makes schedules more efficient, automates the forecasting and scheduling process, and reduces shrinkage. 

Click here to read How to Calculate WFM Savings – it may be the first step toward converting your COST Center back to an efficient call center.


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Transform your COST center to a Call Center

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It’s expensive running a COST Center. But it’s possible to convert your business back into a quality call center by cutting costs that don’t impact customer service.

How? Here are a few tips: 

Ditch the Spreadsheets

When spreadsheets are replaced by a workforce management solution, a cost savings will immediately result from improved schedule adherence and optimization of daily agent rituals like breaks and lunches. Savings? As much as 10-20%. 

Speech Analytics

Speech analytics delivers better marketing intelligence in other areas at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. It also recognizes trends in what customers are asking about – that could influence new product development or changes to existing products and ultimately boost sales. 

Switch to the Cloud

No upfront investment for hardware and software is required for workforce management or workforce optimization in the cloud. Instead, call 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.

Monet has created a more detailed explanation of how to save money through workforce management in the cloud. The numbers don’t lie – here you’ll find a formula that will let you calculate the specific cost savings that can be achieved when WFM makes schedules more efficient, automates the forecasting and scheduling process, and reduces shrinkage. 

Click here to read How to Calculate WFM Savings – it may be the first step toward converting your COST Center back to an efficient call center.


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Too Busy To Improve? Why WFM Should Be Your Top Priority

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There is an anecdote in Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that would apply to many call center managers.

It’s about two lumberjacks working side by side, both trying to cut down massive trees with dull saws. Finally, one of them decides to stop and get his saw sharpened, and returns an hour later to finish the job. Now that he has discovered how much easier the work has become, he encourages his coworker to follow his example. But the other lumberjack replies that his job is taking so long that he doesn’t have time to stop and sharpen his saw.

The takeaways here are obvious: It’s always better when work can be completed faster, and those who never change their work regimen will never see improved results.

This is, sadly, a common occurrence at busy call centers, where managers spend so much time calculating daily forecasts and schedules, dealing with staffing issues and trying to track agent adherence that there are not enough hours in the day to explore how these inefficient systems can be upgraded.

The WFM Difference

Sooner or later, however, most managers realize at last that changes are necessary. And when they do they can look to workforce management to sharpen their collective call center saw, so all of their work can be completed faster and with more accuracy. 

In the area of management discipline, WFM addresses:

  • Intraday Reviews, Adherence and Exception Management 
  • Forecasting and Scheduling Best Practices 
  • Quality management and Performance Management Coaching, Training and Role Playing

In the area of process design and improvement, WFM helps with:

  • Call Handling Analysis 
  • Benchmark Analysis
  • Activity Summaries and Details 
  • Work Standards 
  • Quality Form Review and Feedback
  • Evaluation of Coaching Techniques and Calibration
  • Staff Flexibility 

That’s a lot of change from just one solution. And when WFM is delivered in the cloud, it can be implemented without a large upfront cost. That makes efficiency more cost-effective as well. 

Tired of sawing with a dull saw? Find out more about Monet WFM Live


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Lower Call Center Labor Costs with Workforce Management

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This year more than 20 states will be required by law to raise their minimum wage. From Florida to Alaska, Massachusetts to Arizona, call centers that hire entry-level agents at a minimum wage will have to pay anywhere from ten cents to two dollars more per hour, every day. 

While agents will certainly be delighted with the raise, call center managers will need to budget for these payroll hikes. 

One way to do so is with a switch to workforce management software. 

Several Monet WFM clients have been able to reduce the number of agents required per shift, without sacrificing customer service. The achievement of more accurate forecasting and scheduling allowed one insurance call center to go from 119 agents to 87 agents. A financial services call center reduced agent headcount fro 550 to 510, while also reducing costly overtime by 25%. That equates to an annual savings of more than $350,000.

Yes, workforce management does require an additional investment. But with WFM Live, Workforce Management in the Cloud, there is no need to buy servers or other IT equipment, or IT resources required to set up and operate the system. There is also no large upfront cost for the software – call centers pay an affordable per user license. 

And in addition to cost savings, WFM delivers more accurate skill-based scheduling, the ability to track adherence in real time, and improve agent productivity. 

So if minimum wage is not as minimum as it used to be in your state, workforce management provides a way to reduce escalating labor costs – and improve service at the same time. 

Find out more about Monet WFM Live


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Love Excel? Then you’re going to really Love WFM!

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Many small and midsized contact centers still rely on Excel for daily forecasting and scheduling instead of workforce management software. 

The question is why? Do they really just love spreadsheets that much? Or have they grown so accustomed to this system that they no longer realize there is a better way?

Excel was a time-saver – once. Today, it’s an imperfect system that is likely costing your call center money. How?

Two of the key drivers for cost savings are schedule adherence and optimization of daily agent rituals like breaks and lunches. Excel spreadsheets are extremely limited in the impact they can have on these crucial challenges. 

Schedule Adherence

With spreadsheets only limited spot-checking is possible. Without real-time adherence, shrinking will increase, and shifts are more likely to be over-staffed or under-staffed. When that happens resources are wasted and service levels are missed. But where Excel falls short, workforce management delivers real time adherence and monitoring. Result? Consistent, accurate service levels, and shrinkage cut by as much as 15 minutes per agent day.

Optimizing Downtime

The scheduling of lunches and breaks, and how well agents adhere to these schedules, can have a tremendous impact on ROI. At most call centers shrinkage rates can be greatly reduced with an effective WFM solution, depending on the size of the business. And when shrinkage rates fall, productivity and profits increase. 

The More Agents You Have, the More You Save

While Excel is more commonly found in smaller call centers, we’ve also discovered that many of those with 100 agents or more are also using spreadsheets. Here, the inefficiencies of the system are multiplied, resulting in much lower customer service and higher costs. 

When an increase as low as 1% in productivity can significantly impact the call center budget, it is imperative to identify areas where efficiency can be improved. 

One of these areas is flexibility – the limitations of Excel result in fixed schedules that can produce higher shrinkage and overstaffing. But with WFM it is easier to manage start times, end times and breaks with an ease of flexibility that dramatically improves service levels. 

Managers can also consult more detailed and accurate call histories with WFM, resulting in better forecasts. 

Scheduling? Also much faster. Some managers can save as much as 25% of the time once devoted to filling in spreadsheets – time that can now be used for additional agent training or to attend to other matters. 

Still love Excel? Perhaps it’s time to look for a new relationship.


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Maximizing Casework Efficiency With WFM for Service Cloud

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Call centers receive calls and emails. Helpdesks receive cases. The difference is often one of complexity. Some calls can be handled quickly, but most cases require more time and effort to be resolved. 

Knowing this makes the challenge of efficiency even more important. Thankfully there is a solution, and in its basic functionality it’s the same as the one now being employed at thousands of call centers – workforce management.

Think of what is required for casework efficiency:

  • Adequate staffing
  • Accurate forecasts
  • Providing a customized experience for every customer
  • Schedule adherence
  • Intra-Day management
  • Tracking workload 

It sounds like a lot to have to get right. But all of these challenges can be effectively managed with Monet’s WFM for Service Cloud. It represents a significant step for helpdesks wishing to increase customer satisfaction, customer experience and service levels. 

This is cutting-edge technology that has not always been available to the helpdesk market, where agent adherence visibility and casework tracking has been more dependent on educated guesswork than hard numbers. 

Monet’s WFM for Service Cloud is the result of years of researching into the easiest and most reliable technology solutions that would allow a helpdesk to build accurate forecasts and optimal schedules in real time. 

Using knowledge picked up over more than 15 years of serving the helpdesk market, we’ve found a solution that maximizes casework efficiency by delivering more insight into how cases are managed, and the time investment required to address them. 

Find out more about WFM for Service Cloud


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The Name Game - Should Call Center Agents Participate?

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“Hello, Mr. Smith – how can I help you?”

“Certainly, Mr. Smith, let me take care of that.”

“Before we go, Mr. Smith, is there anything else I can help you with today?”

It’s a decision every call center has to make when creating the script and communication guidelines for agents to use: how much emphasis should be placed on addressing the customer by name?

One of the goals of a call center is to make every customer feel valued. But how can this be achieved on a telephone call with a stranger? The circumstances make it more difficult to establish a rapport than with a face-to-face discussion.

Using the customer’s name is one strategy for creating a friendlier, personal response within a limited timeframe. But if it’s overdone, it can have the opposite effect of seeming artificial and over-scripted.

The best approach may be to advise agents to speak with a customer as they would speak with a friend, referring to them by name as often as they would in that situation.

Once that has been decided another question waits – should agents refer to customers as Mr. or Ms., or address them by their first name?

Traditionally in any business communication using a title denotes respect and professionalism – but we live in a more informal world now.

The most important variable in this scenario is the customer. Some will react more favorably to an agent who says, “Sure, Sandra, let’s get this done.” This is where speech analytics comes into play. By analyzing word usage, tone of voice and previous calls from that same customer, agents can adjust their approach accordingly, and engage with each customer in the manner most likely to deliver a positive result.


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The Ascent of Analytics at Call Centers

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For decades, “analytics” at a call center consisted of reviewing recorded calls to assess outcome and agent performance. But the ascent of speech analytics solutions has taken that process to another level.

The recordings are still the same – the difference is how much information each one can reveal.  

For example, what words do callers use to describe their issue? What is the tone of their voice when they explain why they are calling? By analyzing vocabulary and emotion, a speech analytics solution can improve the routing of calls to agents best suited to handle them, and provide additional insight into how products and marketing campaigns are being received.

This affects agent training as well, as once certain repeated speech patterns and word choices are identified, agents can be prepared in advance for them, and be ready to respond in a way that improves the odds of a successful outcome.

There is also a predictive quality to speech analytics that can detect where a conversation is going before it gets there. By combining data mined from previous calls from the same customer, specific word choices and tone of voice, it may be possible to mitigate an angry tirade before it starts – or detect an attempt at a fraudulent transaction before any damage is done.

And while analytics has traditionally focused on calls, the same strategy can be used for social media (now the first choice for millennials), as well as self-service and digital channels. You may not be able to sense mood from a customer’s voice this way, but contact patterns and word choice can be analyzed to determine the most appropriate next step. 

Today, however, more than half of call centers lack any social media capabilities, much less the analytics that make these channels important sources of customer data. 

Is it time for your call center to discover the benefits of analytics?


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The Three “Musts” of a Call Center Customer Relationship

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Customer expectations have changed over the past decade. Business moves faster now, which is great, but it has also become more impersonal, which presents another set of potential challenges.

Call centers dedicated to improving customer service and customer retention understand that it all starts with creating a relationship. Here are three things that must happen for that to be successful.

1. You Must Make the Process Easy

Let’s face it – no one looks forward to calling a call center. Customers dread the recorded prompts and the minutes spent on hold, and having to provide their phone number or order number more than once. It is vital for call centers to make the process of speaking with an agent as efficient as possible, while also providing other options such as email and chat and social media.

2. You Must Strive to Create a Connection

Whatever means a customer uses to contact a business or a call center, there is an opportunity to make that customer feel valued. Whether that’s an expression of appreciation for their business at the end of a call, or a personalized response to a social media post, the objective is to build a relationship with that customer so they are more likely to return. Automated responses have their uses but won’t get you there alone.

3. You Must Collect Data From Every Customer Engagement

Through call recording, speech analytics and performance management, a contact center can learn a lot about a company’s customers – what they like, what they don’t like, what they want from the company that they’re not getting and what they hope will never change. 

Much of this analysis will be after-the-fact, which certainly still makes it valuable. What you learn today can pay dividends tomorrow. But sometimes a contact center can go one better – with real time analytics, it can identify a moment within an ongoing customer engagement in which action can be taken immediately to bring about a positive result. 

Such moment-driven data is already being generated by workforce optimization and speech analytics. Agents must then be trained to recognize these moments and proceed accordingly. 


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Four Call Center Customer Support "Musts"

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Look at any survey about customer service and you’ll find that billions of dollars are lost each year when it is not handled efficiently.

Service is at the core of every call center function, and toward that end managers invest time and capital into a wide array of technology and employee training efforts.

There are many steps that can be taken to boost service. But some of them are really no longer options given the state of the industry and customer expectations. Here are four ‘musts’ that should be part of any call center operation.

1. You must allow customers to switch channels

According to the Harvard Business Review, more than half of all call center customers will at some point attempt to get something done online, but will have to switch to a phone call to make it happen. That transition should not only be possible, but also be actionable in a way that all information provided online is transferred to the agent so it does not have to be repeated.

2. You must provide self-service options

Not every customer issue requires a phone call. Self-service customer portals are not only convenient; they will also reduce call volume.

3. You must answer calls promptly

Everyone is less patient now because we’re accustomed to the instant responses technology provides online. Call centers cannot always provide that same instant response, but that won’t prevent customers from expecting it. Keep people on hold too long and they won’t be customers anymore. The forecasting and scheduling tools in a workforce management solution make this goal much easier to accomplish.

4. You must be able to handle service requests via mobile app

A Salesforce survey predicts that the number of inbound customer service requests via mobile app will increase by 38% over the next year. If your company does not provide this capability, there’s a good chance your competition does.


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Five Technology Solutions Found at State-of-the-Art Call Centers

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In technology, as in many other aspects of business, there is a need to keep up with what the competition is doing, so as not to fall behind and risk losing customers.

As we continue to get up and running in 2017, where are state-of-the-art call centers focusing their time, attention and budget allocations? Here are five solutions you’ll find at most of them. How does your call center measure up?

1. Speech Analytics

Real-time speech analytics is being used to improve agent training (and encourage self-training), track compliance, and gauge customer needs and emotions in a way that improves the likelihood of a successful engagement.

Call recording is still important, of course. But speech analytics turbo-charges the value that can be attained from these calls. The software automatically processes and identifies important keywords and phrases, allowing you to quickly find calls related to specific issues and challenges. It also provides automated alerts when a new relevant call is received. 

2. Closer Ties to Marketing

When the call center and the company’s marketing division share technology and customer data, the result is an end-to-end view of each customer’s journey. Such insight can deliver improved customer service and retention.

3. Availability Scheduling

Some call centers have found that providing agents with more flexible scheduling options results in less attrition, which leads to costly recruiting, hiring and training of new employees. With a workforce management solution, it is much easier to fit flexible and even self-scheduling options into accurate forecasts.

4. Chatbots

They are nowhere near the mainstream yet, but 2017 may be the year that more call centers embrace chatbots to handle more basic calls and queries. They will not replace agents, but they should lighten an agent’s workload so he or she can focus on the more difficult or complex customer issues.

5. The Cloud

Last but certainly not least, there is continued acceleration in the trend toward call centers moving into the cloud to avoid significant infrastructure investment. Workforce optimization in the cloud delivers all of the data a manager needs for accurate forecasts and schedules, but at a fraction of the cost of an on-premise system.


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Five Questions to Ask if Call Center AHT is a Problem

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Average handle time (AHT) is a call center metric for the average duration of one transaction, typically measured from the customer's initiation of the call and including any hold time, talk time and related tasks that follow the transaction.

 If AHT is a persistent problem at your call center, here are five questions to ask. The answers might result in positive change.

 1. Have you streamlined your script?

Too many questions and too much verbiage can add precious seconds to calls, while accomplishing little in the way of customer satisfaction. Review your call scripts for any ways to trim the fat.

 2. Are you routing calls effectively?

A workforce management solution can route specific types of calls to the agents most qualified to handle them efficiently.

 3. Are your agents receiving the best training?

Ongoing coaching and training is essential, but if AHT is still a problem then more of these sessions should be geared toward solving this specific problem.

 4. Do you have an ‘anti-babble’ strategy?

Sometimes callers just won’t get to the point. Have you come up with ideas on how agents can politely but firmly take charge of the call and keep them on track?

 5. Have you asked agents for their input?

Your agents are on the front line of any AHT initiative. They may have ideas on where too much time is being spent, and how to handle some types of calls more efficiently.


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More Call Center Quality Monitoring Tips

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We’ve covered quality monitoring (QM) before, but it’s such an important topic that there is always more to say, and more good ideas worth exploring. If your call center is still not getting the results you desire, try some of these tips.

A New Focus Every Month

Complacency can result from following the same quality monitoring formula every month. Rather than repeat the same procedures, review recorded calls and select the one issue where correction is needed most. Focus only on that one for the next 30 days, and then review the results at the next QM session. If positive changes have been made, move onto the next most pressing problem.

Role-Playing

Recording customer calls will give you all the raw data you need for effective quality monitoring. But some call centers still find it beneficial to test agents, especially new ones, with specific challenges in a role-play scenario. These calls are then monitored just like an actual customer call, to determine if the agent is capable of handling these situations when the real thing comes along.

Agent Involvement

Your call center agents know it is their performances that are being scrutinized in QM sessions. They’ll feel better about this, and more responsive to its conclusions, if they are invited to be part of the process. That starts with the preparation of the QM checklist on what areas to review and where improvement is needed. If they are consulted in this effort they will be more invested in the result.

Agents can also be involved in the review process. Have them listen to calls from other agents and offer feedback. This also provides excellent preparation for listening to and reviewing their own calls. Some call center coaches have taken to not offering specific feedback, instead letting agents draw their own conclusions on how they can sharpen their skills. 

Equal Monitoring?

There is an inherent fairness in treating every call center agent equally, and devoting the same amount of time to reviewing their performances via quality monitoring. But given the limited time and personnel resources available, it makes more sense to spend less time with agents who are excelling, and more time bringing those that are struggling up to speed.

What is ‘Quality’?

Before starting a QM program, a call center needs to define a quality customer interaction, and set benchmarks and standards for getting there. When everyone is in agreement on what constitutes a “good” call, this will make it easier to achieve the goals of the program.

Agent Reassurance/Rewards

Another benefit of including agents in the process, as described previously, is how it can ease tensions over QM sessions, and fears that they are being used as a way to get rid of slackers.

Quality management should be introduced in positive terms, as a way to improve both individual performance and that of the entire call center. Managers and trainers should place equal emphasis on great experiences, by saving the best calls and using them in training sessions. The agents responsible for those engagements should be rewarded for their fine work.

How is Your Competition Doing?

With QM you regularly measure call center performance internally, comparing this month’s results to last month’s and adjusting accordingly. For a fresh perspective, compare your call center to a similar operation for another company. This type of external benchmarking may yield useful ideas on how to get better.

Dispute Resolution

What happens if an agent believes his or her evaluation was unfair? Have a system in place to review results – perhaps bring in a second manager or an experienced agent to provide another opinion.

Don’t Forget Customer Feedback

As your team prepares its monitoring process and quality definitions, some effort should be made to incorporate the views of the most important people in this equation – the customers you are trying to serve better. This information can be gathered from phone surveys or comment cards or social media, or by inviting customers in to attend focus groups. Following the initial implementation, customer feedback should remain an ongoing part of your QM strategy.

Review Evaluation Forms and Agent Scripts

When actors get stuck in a bad play they always say, “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.” That works with call centers as well. The evaluation form is a key cog in your QM routine, so review it and refine it to make sure the right questions are being asked, the scoring results are consistent and accurate, and the answers are prompting the right form of training. Similarly, make sure that any quality issues with agent performance are not coming from the script read to each customer.

Focus on High Value Calls

While every customer is important, some customer calls are more valuable than others when it comes to quality assurance. Focus on those that expose potential issues with new products or marketing campaigns, or those from the type of customers that are vital to your company’s success. Desktop analytics software can make it easier to locate these calls. 

Don’t Wait a Month

It’s not that quality monitoring can’t be effective with monthly meetings – but there are still things that can be done between those sessions to improve call center service. Some managers start each day reviewing the last five calls of a handful of agents from the previous day. Those notes can then be presented at the start of their shifts, or saved for the next QM meeting.


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Performance Management: What Not to Do

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There is a lot of advice out there on what to do to improve performance management (PM). We’re going to approach that question differently, with three tips on what not to do. Why? Perhaps by framing the advice this way, it will be easier for some call centers to realize that these mistakes are all too common. If you want to set a new goal for this challenge, the place to start might be in breaking some long-standing bad habits.

Don’t Do This: Set General Goals

Why try to hit specific numbers and performance targets?

“As long as things seemed headed in the right direction, that’s good enough.”

The problem with this approach is it doesn’t last. Without clearly defined goals agents tend to be less vigilant. The targets on KPIs should be established and disseminated to all personnel, with those who get there receiving acknowledgement and reward, while those who do not receive additional coaching and training. With the data delivered by a workforce management solution, call centers can know exactly where they are, and where they need to be.

Don’t Do This: Subjective Scores

Some performance management systems rate an agent on average handle time or quality of greeting on a 1-10 scale. The problem is what constitutes a ‘4’ or an ‘8’ or any other score in that range. One manager’s ‘6’ might be another’s ‘9.’ Scoring must be consistent, or agents will not buy into the program.

Don’t Do This: Deal With PM When It’s Convenient

When performance management reviews are not built into a weekly or monthly schedule, they are easily delayed when other business pops up and takes precedence. Scoring sessions and agent meetings and reviews should not be rescheduled unless a genuine crisis arises. If they are postponed regularly, agents will eventually realize they’re not that important to management – which suggests that performance itself is not a priority. That will impact how some agents do their jobs.


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The Three Worst Calls Contact Center Agents Receive – and How to Handle Them

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Every so often you run across a study that produces results so obvious you wonder why a study was necessary in the first place. 

That was what most of us felt after the University of British Columbia announced that customers with bad attitudes are less likely to be satisfied with the service they receive. 

Most call center agents already know this – and yet it is their job to try and make each customer happy, no matter how difficult the challenge. 

These are the three customer behaviors cited by the survey. Agents encounter all of them regularly. 

1. The Angry Caller

These customers are mad from the time you say hello. They’ve saved up a lot of complaining and are eager to let it rip. The best alternative for agents in these situations is to counter aggression with calm, steady responses. Convey empathy even if you don’t actually feel it – “I understand your frustration. I’m sure that was difficult. Let me try to take care of that for you.” Return negative words with positive words, and hope the caller calms down or responds accordingly. 


2. The Abusive Caller

These customers are not just angry, they’re itching for a fight. They want to let someone from the company know just how lousy they are, and they don’t care if it’s the CEO or a poor agent just starting her daily shift. The difference between angry and abusive is the attack becomes personal. The challenge is to remain calm and try to reduce the caller’s hostility level. A reminder that the call is being recorded may change their attitude, but if it doesn’t it should be permissible for the agent to tell the abusive caller that their call will be terminated if he or she does not calm down. The agent should then inform that manager of what has happened. 

3. The Interrupting Caller

Very few issues are unique – agents have heard them all before, and managers have prepared company responses that usually rectify the situation. But what is an agent to do when he or she can’t express the proper response because of constant interruptions? Though it won’t do much for average handle time, the best option here is to let the caller blow off steam, and at the first pause politely ask “Is there anything else about this situation I need to know?” Once the caller has vented sufficiently, he or she might be ready to accept the agent’s response. 



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Ten Ideas for Encouraging a Positive Call Center Culture

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There are enemies at the door every day at a call center – inaccurate forecasts, average handle time numbers headed in the wrong direction, angry callers, employee turnover.

Workforce management software can get the forecasts and the KPIs under control. Angry callers will always be with us, and they may be one of the reasons why agents leave. Since disgruntled customers can never be completely eliminated, the best way to reverse those high turnover numbers is to give agents a reason to stay. 

What is the culture like at your call center? How does the workspace look? How do agents feel when they start their shift every day? There are steps that can be taken to boost workplace culture and morale and help to keep spirits up, even when the work itself can be tedious and challenging. 

Try some of these ideas at your call center! 

1. Family Social Events

You know your agents – but have you met their spouses and kids? By arranging family events throughout the year – bowling tournaments, visits to local attractions or amusement parks – agents will get to know each other better and you’ll meet their families in a relaxed setting. Socializing in this way contributes to a positive culture, and encourages agents to think of their coworkers as a second family – and that will keep them around longer. 

2. Special Days Off

Many companies allow agents to treat their birthdays as a paid day off. It’s a nice gesture that makes them feel appreciated, and since these days can be planned for, it makes it easier to forecast and schedule around them. Some call centers take this concept a step further, allowing additional time off for special events such as a wedding in the agent’s family that requires out-of-town travel, or even something less momentous like a day off to go Christmas shopping. And for the ultimate in agent appreciation, offer one or two “Duvet Days” each year; these are days that can be taken off at short notice, with no explanation required. 

3. Rewards

We’ve mentioned this before but it’s always worth repeating – agents like to feel appreciated, especially when that is expressed through some reward for their consistent work. It encourages healthy competition among shifts and gives struggling team members a goal toward which to strive. Bottles of wine, restaurant gift cards, movie passes and extra days off are all worthy incentives, and perhaps a special annual prize could be reserved for your best performing agent each year. Trophies and certificates are nice too – but in this era when everyone gets a trophy just for participation, they are no longer enough. 

4. Breakfast

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not help your morning shift agents get off to a positive start with a free breakfast? A few fresh pastries, or dry cereal, coffee, tea and juice won’t break the company budget, and will be appreciated. It can also help agents start their shift feeling more alert and more focused. At some call centers in England, a tea trolley serves tea and toast to agents at their desks. Classy – but potentially messy. 

5. Volunteer Projects

Encouraging agents and other employees to participate in community projects is not just good for morale – it’s the right thing to do. It allows agents to help organizations that are important to them and it can generate some positive media coverage for your company as well. Depending on the size of your team, giving each agent 3-5 days a year of paid leave to pursue these projects will have a positive effect on morale and on the community. 

5. Extra Help for Agents That Need It

Ongoing training should already be a part of your call center regimen – but there may be times when agents still require additional help on hitting performance targets. Keep in mind that the extra hours devoted to discussing these issues, working with them on improvement, and encouraging them throughout the process are a bargain compared to costs incurred in recruiting, hiring and training new agents. 

7. A Positive Start

Any new job is stressful. Chances are your call center has some sort of orientation program that follows initial training, but why not take this a step further? Spend some extra time with a new agent in his or her first week. Give them some welcome aboard gifts to further ease the transition. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. 

8. A Break Room Makeover

Company break rooms should be places agents can relax, clear their heads and tend to personal matters before returning to their desks. If the place looks worn-down and dreary, it won’t have that positive effect. A fresh coat of paint (preferably bright colors), some plants (real, not plastic), snacks, a fish tank, an ATM machine (so agents won’t have to stop at the bank after their shift), happy photographs, comfortable furniture – these are the ingredients for an appealing break room. 

9. Fitness Classes

Call center agent work is sedentary – and let’s face it, most of us aren’t getting the exercise we should even when we’re not at our desks. Experts recommend 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week to help stay in shape. Call centers can encourage this positive lifestyle with onsite fitness classes. These can be created with the help of a local health club, or you might even find someone on your team that can lead a yoga, Zumba or aerobics class. 

10. Advancement Opportunities

Even your agents who are content in their work may not envision doing the same thing for the next 20 or 30 years. Resources should be made available for those interested in a career path to management – these can include meeting and training with current management personnel, sponsoring agents who wish to take business courses at local community colleges, and establishing a company policy of promoting from within whenever possible. 


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Call Center Workforce Management Solutions: Forecasting Separates ‘Good’ from ‘Great’

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The selection of a call center workforce management solution should not be entered into lightly. 

It’s a decision with the potential to revolutionize how your business handles forecasting, scheduling, staffing and many other tasks that can boost KPI results and customer service. Do your homework, ask questions, and make sure you get it right the first time. 

There are good qualities in almost every WFM solution available. But good is not good enough for your call center. 

What you want is “great.” And great starts with the forecasting tool. If the forecasts generated by WFM are not accurate, it creates a domino effect that will throw the rest of your numbers off as well. Result? Overstaffing, understaffing, missed sales and angry customers. 

What To Demand in a Forecasting Tool?

A WFM review of forecasting capabilities begins with the compilation and analysis of historical data. This is not just what happened at the call center on this day last year or five years ago, but also takes into account other variables that impact call volume – holidays, special promotions, annual events, weather conditions. Anything that can cause a fluctuation in workload should be considered. 

Now that call centers are now contact centers encompassing multiple communication channels, forecasting must provide an integrated view of all channels and the capabilities of the multi-skilled workforce, as this will be essential for proper scheduling

Most WFM solutions rely in part on forecasting based on averages. It’s effective, but not sufficient by itself. Find a forecasting tool that goes beyond that, one that can process every piece of data you provide and use it to deliver more accurate forecasts. 

The more you put into forecasting, the more you’ll get out of it. When WFM does most of the work, the result is more accurate forecasts, generated faster than spreadsheets. With the right system performing these critical functions that can grow with your call center’s needs, you can invest with confidence and achieve ROI faster. 


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These are just some of the real-world benefits experienced after implementing Monet WFM software.

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