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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

Missed our WFO Live in Action Webinar? Check it out Online

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Sometimes the best descriptions fall short. That is frequently the case with a contact center solution that offers as many features as Monet WFO Live. 

We could talk about all of the ways that this workforce optimization solution can make the management and operation of any contact center easier, and how these benefits are multiplied when they are offered via cloud, and how many problems and challenges can be eliminated when WFO replaces spreadsheets, but there’s really no substitute for taking a few moments to watch the system in action. 

This was the inspiration for our webinar, “Monet WFO Live in Action.” Monet Account Manager Nate Welsh and WFO Application Consultant Rich O’Farrell provide a guided tour of the product’s many features and benefits – ACD, WFM, forecasting, scheduling, call recording, quality, performance management and analytics, as well as how all these functions work in sync with each other. 

You’ll also find out how easy the system is to implement and use, which not only shortens ROI time but will make your agents happier as well. 

If you missed this webinar the first time around, it is now available for viewing free on the Monet website. Just click the link below, and get ready to discover what 21st century contact center efficiency looks like. Sometimes, seeing is believing.

Access the Webinar here 



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Skill Based Scheduling with Spreadsheets?

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Customers appreciate when their calls are received by the agents most qualified to handle them. 

And this is certainly one of those instances where what is good for the customer is good for the contact center as well. Skill-based scheduling results in higher productivity, higher first call resolution and shorter call times. It plays to agents’ strengths and boosts their confidence. 

Implementation of skill-based scheduling begins by establishing a clear tier system that ranks agents by skills based on call type. Ultimately, the goal is to have only agents that are capable of handling every type of customer call. Thus, performance remains consistent no matter how schedules may fluctuate.

Such scheduling based on specific skill sets is easily manageable with Workforce Management. Inclusion of skills is handled automatically by WFM, so it’s easier to fill each shift with fewer agents – those who have the requisite specialties to handle every customer encounter. Now, try to achieve the same results with spreadsheets, when each of your agents has 3-5 different skills. How would you even begin to take all of them into account and run various scenarios? Even if it could be done, it would take many, many more hours that could be devoted to other challenges. 

Based on a recent call center industry analysis, approximately 20% of call centers still use spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling. Those that do are missing out on the convenience, efficiency and flexibility of workforce management, particularly when it comes to this vital function.

Workforce management plays a prominent role in engendering employee and customer satisfaction through skill-based scheduling. Spreadsheets just can’t keep up. To learn more, please read this whitepaper about Spreadsheets vs. Workforce Management Software.


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How to Implement Desktop Analytics

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We have covered the benefits of desktop analytics in previous blogs; it’s one of the best ways to analyze how people, processes and technology work together. But what is the best way to implement a desktop analytics solution? 

If you have specific questions, contact us and we’ll talk you through the process. But if you’re not sure yet, two recent blogs provide a helpful primer on creating the right configuration to capture the necessary data. More...


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The Art and Science of Service Levels

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There are many challenges to success and improvement at the contact center, and one of the most persistent is stagnation. The best contact center managers are never satisfied; they are always in search of ways to improve every aspect of their business. 

One factor that should always be part of such discussions is the contact center’s service level goal. Anything that can be done to raise service levels should be explored, though too often this requires additional investment that might not be possible. Still, such considerations should not be a barrier to exploring options. 

As always, the process begins by asking the right questions. 


Do you know what your service level costs?

How would higher or lower service levels impact your costs?

How would a change impact customer satisfaction?

How did you decide on your service level goal? 


All good questions, but the last one may be the place to start. Was the contact center’s service level defined before you joined the company, and that is the way it has always been? Was it set because the competition is trying to hit the same level? There are times when assumptions take on the guise of decrees, and that puts them beyond questioning. It’s a trap that no contact center manager should fall into. 


The Myth of the Service Level Standard

What are the variables that will impact the optimum service level? Start with the so-called seven factors of caller tolerance, which include the customer’s expected service level, available time, motivation for the call and whether other options exist for achieving what the customer wishes to do. 

To these, we can add contact center labor costs, equipment costs, and the relative value attached to different calls. It would be impossible for one standard service level to meet all these criteria across different contact centers, meeting all customer needs and expectations while maximizing revenue and minimizing expenses. 

Perhaps that is why so many contact centers settle on the 80/20 objective (80% of calls answered in 20 seconds) as a reasonable balance between staffing and customer expectations. Others will tweak those numbers as they investigate how low they can be adjusted before they start losing business. The problem here is the assumption that if a caller will stay on the line for five minutes, acceptable service has been provided. Abandonment rates, of course, don’t tell the whole story. 

Customer surveys are another popular method for reviewing and adjusting service level. However, when some calls are answered immediately and other takes 90 seconds or more, responses are likely to vary based on individual experience. 

Perhaps the best option is to combine elements from all of these methods – track what others are doing, review customer feedback, and run calculations based on current staffing and scheduling capabilities. Then, set a service level target based on the result. 


Cutting Costs without Cutting Service

Once an appropriate service level has been established, contact center managers can explore options for reducing costs.  That means asking how long customers are willing to wait, and how busy you want agents to be. This is known as the occupancy rate: the busier your agents, the lower the service level.  

Once that rate has been set, an equivalent service level goal can be determined by reviewing historical data. Look for instances where the new occupancy rate goal was achieved, and collect the corresponding service level data – that will serve as your new service level target.

The right occupancy rate also bolsters service by making shifts less stressful for agents, which allows them to deliver better, more consistent customer engagements. 


Most Budget Reducing Tips

Here are some additional ideas for reducing costs while maintaining a practical service level. Some will not be appropriate for every type of contact center, but implementing just one or two could result in significant savings. 


The Audit: Make it call center-wide. Review metrics, productivity, revenue generation and potential process improvements.


Full, Part or Flex? What makes the most economic sense for your contact center – full time agents, part time or a flexible staff with a mix of both? 


Attrition: Cutting attrition and its associated recruiting and training costs is one of the most direct ways to save money.  Review training techniques as well to make sure agents are learning when they should, and not ‘on the job.’ 


Quality Assurance: A QA review can uncover inefficient processes and other shortcomings that impact customer service. 


Adherence: Service levels cannot be maintained if agents are not at their desks when they should be. 


Workforce Management Software: Much of the data on forecasting, staffing, adherence and KPIs can be delivered more quickly and accurately with a workforce management solution. And with WFM in the cloud, a contact center can avoid the large upfront cost traditionally associated with such a technology upgrade. 


Telecommuting: Agents that work from home reduce the contact center’s occupancy costs, and can also boost employee morale. 


Reduce Call Volume: Does the contact center receive a lot of calls on subjects that could be addressed another way? Find out why customers are calling and see if some of those unneeded calls can be cut down. 


Conclusion

Because contact centers are different in size and scope, it can be difficult to provide a general approach to improving service level, especially when attempting to lower cost at the same time. But the challenge of creating a positive change is no excuse for not taking a fresh look at service level status at your contact center, and questioning whether the standard that was determined or the methods used to maintain it should not be open for discussion. 


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Contact Center Leadership: Easy as 1-2-3

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Leadership is an often-overlooked trait in any business, including the contact center. Every company has a boss, but not every boss is a natural leader. 

One way to establish leadership, according to this article, is to adopt a set of best practices that help managers lead agents and achieve goals. But with so many other responsibilities (coaching, preparing management reports, dealing with unexpected occurrences), doing so can be a challenge. 

Here is one three-step process for cutting through the clutter and focusing on what is most important. More...


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Speechless? Step Up to Speech Analytics

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Many organizations have told us about the difference that Monet Speech Analytics has made in the efficiency of their contact centers, and how many customer relationships have been improved or saved by the rapid response to real-time situations that it makes possible. 

If you haven’t considered adding speech analytics to your call center intelligence tools, here are just a few ways it can enhance the experience you provide your customers. More...


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2014: A Record Year for Contact Centers

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Exploring Trends in Quality Assurance and Quality Monitoring

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Recently, we’ve been speaking to some contact center managers about what is happening in their centers. This feedback is important to us as we develop new products and services, and upgrade our existing solutions. 

Quality Monitoring (QM) and Quality Assurance (QA) are two of the challenges that clients have mentioned most frequently. We have covered these topics in several previous blogs and articles, as well as the white paper Seven Strategies for Effective Quality Assurance.  

“Yes, this is helpful,” they responded. “But is anything new going on in this field?” Are there any new ideas or trends that are working that we could try?”

The answer is yes – and no. Here we will cover some of the most recent developments in the quality monitoring and quality assurance field; however, these should not be implemented in a way that replaces the proven tools and techniques that have worked for more than a decade. The best solution would be to incorporate the new methods as an enhancement to your current strategy – assuming it is based on solid ideas and principles. More...


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Gamification = Motivation

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“This is an office – not a playground!” Such words were frequently uttered for generations at companies, where the employees seemed more interested in having fun than doing their jobs. 

More recently, however, studies have shown that finding the element of fun in every job that must be done (to paraphrase Mary Poppins) can actually improve productivity and customer satisfaction. 

It’s called gamification, and it means redesigning everyday routines and tasks to be more game-like and interactive, resulting in experiences that are more engaging, more fun, and (hopefully) more productive. 

Can this work to motivate employees in the contact center? Possibly – as long as there are not any negative consequences to the activities devised. 

At some Target stores, cashiers compete in on how quickly they can ring up purchases. Something like this could be tried in a contact center, as long as agents are not rushing through scripted responses to end the call faster. Likewise, a challenge among agents on who can achieve the most upsells of a certain product could backfire if agents resort to more aggressive techniques that exacerbate the customer experience. 

Managers must introduce a gamification program with care – specifying guidelines for competitions and stressing the ultimate goal of improving not just worker morale but customer service. In the contact center environment where so much of the workday is spent in repetition of basic tasks, the right kinds of games can add excitement to the team, and might even help the company retain its best agents. 

If you have created any activities that have proven successful, let us know


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Defining – and Improving First Call resolution

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In the old days it was simpler – first call resolution (FCR) at the call center was a simple measurement of how often a customer’s issue was settled within one call. No standard definition was required. 

Today it’s a little more complicated. If a caller is transferred from an agent to a technical support expert, that’s still one call but two separate conversations – does that still qualify? What if a call is made after an attempt to resolve the issue via web chat proves unsuccessful? That’s just one call as well, but it was also the customer’s second effort to achieve a goal. 

While definitions might change, one thing is certain – FCR is the most highly correlated metric to customer satisfaction. A CFI Group study surveyed customers whose issues were not resolved in one call; it found that 43% said they would take their business elsewhere. 

Keep These Customers with WFM

An automated workforce management (WFM) solution is one way to improve first call resolution and encourage customer loyalty. 

With WFM it’s easier to implement a skills-based schedule so calls are answered by agents with the talent and experience to resolve them. It also allows managers and agents to use recorded calls to learn from mistakes and train new agents in proven company procedures. 

These recordings can subsequently play a role in your quality monitoring efforts. Score each one based on specific criteria and overall success, and it’s easier to discover the best way to address different types of customer questions and concerns. 

Finally, if you have a WFO system with speech analytics, you can use this resource to identify important recurring words and phrases, and how an agent should react when receiving a call that fits their criteria. 

However you choose to define FCR, one fact is certain: the better prepared your agents can be for any eventuality, the more likely they will be able to end a call knowing they have just said goodbye to a satisfied customer.


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Incentivizing Your Contact Center Agents

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“Incentivizing” is something of a buzzword now in business. It refers to ways to acknowledge and reward employees to build a sense of loyalty and encourage outstanding performance. 

If you are thinking of introducing an incentive program to your contact center, here are a few tips that might help. 

1. Clarity

Make sure agents understand the goals you wish them to achieve, and make sure you have an accurate, objective means to measure their performance. Workforce optimization software can play a key role here. 


2. Divide and Inspire

Don’t make your program one-size-fits-all. A new hire should not be incentivized in the same way as a 5-year veteran. Your top performers are already highly motivated – the program should reward them in a way that inspires those just under that top 5% or 10% tier to up their game. Likewise, strive to incentivize “average” agents into stars, and those that are struggling to achieve a more consistent performance. 


3. Offer the Right Rewards

Perhaps you think dinner for two at the neighborhood steakhouse is a great reward, but your vegan agents won’t be inspired. And while everyone appreciates money, it doesn’t have the same tangible impact as a gift. Try this – acknowledge achievement with a point-reward system. Once points are accrued they can be traded in for a reward selection of the agent’s choice. 


4. Recognize Everyone that Improves

Contests can be motivating, but if awards are only bestowed on the top 3 performers in a month, that won’t do much for the agent who also improved his job performance but finished fourth. Make sure everyone who is getting better is sharing in the accolades for doing so. 


5. Keep it Fun

An incentive program should not turn into a cutthroat competition between agents. It should be a unifying program that focuses on celebrating both individual and collective achievement. 



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Social Media and Contact Centers

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Customer Loyalty Starts with Agent Loyalty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Reducing Churn with Motivated Agents

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In every type of business there are unfortunate realities that seem inevitable. With contact centers, one of these pitfalls has always been agent churn, or agent attrition.