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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

How to Boost Productivity at your Call Center?

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Efficiency and productivity – that’s what it’s all about at the call center. 

The challenge with maintaining these attributes is that they don’t stop working all of a sudden. Productivity rarely drops suddenly – instead it slides, gradually, over a period of weeks and months until, left unchecked, a lower standard becomes the new normal. 

If this is happening at your call center, or you just want to be vigilant so it doesn’t occur in the future, here are some tips to keep your business on the right track. 

Consistent Training

Agent attrition is an ongoing concern at most call centers, and one of its most important components is the training of new agents to replace those that depart. If that training effort falters, a business will exchange qualified agents with less-qualified substitutes, and productivity is certain to suffer. A fresh look at both initial and ongoing training efforts may uncover the source of reduced efficiency. 

Goals

Does every agent know the numbers he or she is expected to achieve? Benchmarks should be clearly defined and reinforced. Rewards for those who get there consistently also encourage consistent productivity. 

Meetings

Meetings are important – but when they happen too often, or run too long, they can also interfere with a call center’s ability to serve its customers. Hold them only when necessary, keep them on a strict time limit, and make sure they are attended only by those employees that need to be there. 

Speech Analytics

Among other benefits, speech analytics can expedite how customer information is updated, reducing wrap-up time on every call. 


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Use Your Call Center Agents as Marketing Agents

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Here’s a question: who is the most prominent voice for your company’s brand or products?

Is it your president or CEO? Sometimes the man or woman in charge likes to be out front, appearing in TV commercials or giving a lot of interviews. Or perhaps it’s your marketing manager, who creates the ads that run in newspapers and magazines, as well as your social media campaigns. 

But there is another voice that is also representing your brand that can be overlooked – that of the call center agent. 

Each one of your agents may speak directly to dozens of your customers every day. For companies that sell primarily online, theirs may be the only voice a customer will associate with your brand. And according to a survey conducted by a company called Mattersight, 70% of consumers will cut ties with a brand after just one bad experience. 

That places a lot of responsibility on agents – but it is also a great opportunity.  

It doesn’t mean that every agent must be trained in marketing, but they should be made aware of the marketing tenets that customers associate with good service. 

That starts with making a customer feel valued. Personalized marketing campaigns attempt this by crafting messages designed to appeal to a consumer’s specific needs. But that kind of personalization is easier to achieve in a one-to-one conversation. 

With a workforce management solution, agents can pull up past purchases, the caller’s location and previous contacts. With speech analytics, agents will be in a better position to tailor each call to a customer’s preferences. And by using analytics, raw call data such as recordings can be fashioned into actionable insight. 

By providing experienced agents with the right technology solutions, your call center can serve as one of your most effective marketing outreach efforts. 



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Three Inaccurate Views of the Call Center

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In general, what do people think of call centers? 

Maybe we shouldn’t use that kind of language. 

Within the industry we see the efforts that have been made to upgrade technology and improve the quality of service, but too often these are not recognized by customers and by other divisions of the business. Is this important? Yes – because false perceptions undermine the services call centers provide, and may even limit their ability to make a positive contribution to their company.

Here are three opinions that are still far too common – and why they are inaccurate. 

1. Call Centers Cost Money

Well, of course they do  – someone has to pay agent salaries and buy the software solutions like workforce management that allow them to fulfill their function. But the data they generate through that software, and other solutions such as speech analytics, can be used in a variety of ways to generate revenue for the company. 

Call centers boost customer loyalty. They provide direct customer feedback on which products and promotions succeed and which do not. They generate positive social media posts after a good experience that boosts brand reputation. 

2. They Will Soon Be Obsolete

Who uses phones anymore to contact a company? That’s so last century now that we have apps and websites and Facebook. 

Sounds good, but visit any call center and you’ll realize we’re nowhere near that point yet – and may never get there. According to a NewVoiceMedia survey, 59% of customers still prefer to contact a business by phone, and 75% believe it’s the most effective way of getting a response. 

Perceptions that call centers are on the way out may result in a company hesitating before investing in the technology resources that allow them to be successful. 

3. Cost-Per-Call is the Only Metric That Matters

For companies that view call centers as a necessary evil, the objective is to keep costs as low as possible. One way this is measured is in cost-per-call. It’s a number deserving of attention – but it’s not the most important metric anymore. The focus instead should be on customer satisfaction, and that sometimes takes a little more time and creativity to achieve. Besides, lowering cost-per-call the wrong way can result in lowering customers as well. 



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Does Your Call Center Have to Be Bilingual?

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The short answer to the question posed in the title of this blog is yes. 

Perhaps there are still some regional businesses with a homogeneous customer base that can be effectively served in one language, but that type of company is clearly a vanishing breed.

Today, especially in this era of online retail, even smaller businesses may attract customers from anywhere in the U.S. or around the world. Obviously it would be impractical to have agents that speak every global language, but hiring bilingual agents should be a priority when possible. 

This will be more essential in some industries than others. In these types of call centers it should be a priority:

Online Retail

Your order history will tell you where your customers live. If you only get one order a year from Germany it’s not necessary to have a German-speaking agent available. But if you receive a thousand orders from Mexico or China, you should have someone there to serve those customers.

Health Care 

Here you may not be dealing with clients from 20 different countries, but if your health care facility is located in a large city near various ethnic and immigrant populations, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for them to make appointments, get answers to billing questions and order prescriptions. 

Travel/Tourism

This one is so obvious that we probably don’t need to include it. Companies focused on international tourism know how important it is to be able to provide information on hotels, sights, and other travel arrangements in the language of the caller. 



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Brushing up on the Basics for 2017

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Every so often it’s a good idea to go back to basics: what is it that makes a call center successful, and what are the goals that should be strived for in the New Year? 

Here are some of the factors to consider. 

Key Performance Indicators

Track them – not sometime but all the time. It’s a tough job without a workforce management (WFM) solution, but with WFM the appropriate data is automatically collected and delivered so you always know how you’re doing. There are several KPIs – the most important to watch are how quickly calls are answered (less than 20 seconds is a good benchmark), average handle time, and lost calls. 

Agents

Many companies have outsourced their call center operations, but several of them have reversed course after too many customer complaints about agents that could not be clearly understood. When someone calls a U.S.-based business, they expect to speak to someone who is proficient in English. If you encounter agent applicants without this trait who are otherwise qualified (smart, courteous, understanding), your call center can still use their skills on another communication channel, such as email or online chat. 

Script

How specific do you want your script? Some call centers give agents word-for-word opens, closes and question responses, while others set a more general tone and allow agents the freedom to engage in conversation. The latter is generally considered the better option, but you’ll need agents you can trust to make it work. 

Technology/Software

As referenced earlier, a workforce management solution makes everything more efficient. But if you installed one several years ago, it might be time for an upgrade. Each new WFM product adds additional capabilities, improves existing functionality, and corrects issues with previous versions. With traditional software, these upgrades can also be expensive, which is why many companies delay implementation. But call centers that get their WFM in the cloud will always be on the most recent version, as it is automatically installed at no additional cost. 


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Automate Quality Management for Better Results

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How do you manage – and measure – quality?

Different companies have different methods – spreadsheets, worksheets, or relying on whatever outdated capabilities came with the software they’ve had for decades. If that sounds like your call center, here’s a question: How is that working out?

If we were to guess we’d say probably not that well. Gathering information from different parties can be difficult. You may not be getting enough visibility into quality events to assess them accurately. Keeping up with industry regulations may pose another challenge. 

An automated quality management solution solves these issues. Workflow, visibility and best practices become much easier to manage. For more details, check out Monet’s Quality solution here

In fact, there’s really no debate about the benefits these solutions provide. Any hesitation to adopt this technology and leverage its many advantages usually stems from cost concerns. For new companies or smaller call centers without a large IT budget, that used to be a legitimate reason for getting by with the old-fashioned methods. Used to be.

What has changed is the availability of flexible, secure cloud-based quality management solutions, such as Monet Quality, that can be obtained without the large upfront cost. With no servers, no network switches, no full-time IT staff and no other hardware to purchase, install and maintain, ROI is achieved a lot faster. 

Quality is important. With the right quality management solution, you’ll always know that customers are experiencing the best your business has to offer.  


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Tips for Customer Engagement

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Call centers exist to serve the needs of a business, but their top priority is serving the needs of that company’s customers. 

The challenge of doing so has changed drastically, especially over the past two decades, as questions that used to require a call can now be answered on the company’s website or Facebook page. Standard business transactions also now get conducted online, so your customers may only call when they need a faster answer, or with a unique issue. 

They won’t all be ‘last resort’ communications, but call center managers must realize that each call represents a chance to keep a customer or lose them forever. That makes customer engagement essential. If a caller doesn’t get the information he or she needs, they might be lost. And even if a caller gets answers, he or she may not like an agent’s attitude, or how long they had to wait on hold. There’s a lot more that can go wrong than go right every time an agent picks up the phone. 

Here are some engagement tips that help to engender customer loyalty.

Personalize Every Encounter

This involves more than addressing the customer by name (though that is important as well). With workforce management software agents will find it easier to access details of the customer’s most recent transaction, as well as all previous contacts and their purchase history. 

Two Answers to Avoid

When a customer calls with a question, the last thing they want to hear from an agent is “I don’t know.” Of course, there will be times when that may be the case, but a better response is “Let me find that answer for you.” If the answer cannot be found within a few minutes, apologize and schedule a time when the caller can be contacted and provided with that information. 

Also not recommended – “yes” and “no” answers, when they stop there. Such abrupt responses signal disinterest on the part of the agent. There should be scripted responses that express the same sentiments in a more courteous way. 

Less is Not More

The expression “less is more” doesn’t work at the call center. Positive customer experiences are those in which the caller receives additional assistance and other useful information related to their order or issue. This doesn’t mean just ‘upsell’ opportunities, but making sure any other questions they have are answered. In fact, that’s not a bad way to close out the call.

Hire ‘People Persons’ as Agents

There are many qualities that a great call center agent should possess, but one that is often overlooked is curiosity.  A people person meets someone and just naturally wants to know more about what is happening in his or her life. They like to talk to strangers and help them out when it’s possible. The best agents do this. They’ll ask questions that generate information that provides greater insight into each customer. They will make the caller feel valued. 

Another valuable skill for an agent is the ability to predict questions and anticipate problems before they happen. Some of this will evolve naturally. One way to train new agents is to have them take a tour of a local museum or tourist attraction. The tour guides have their script down pat, know what questions are likely to be asked and always have answers at the ready. Part of the guide’s job description is also to be cheerful, upbeat and enthusiastic – traits that are also important in an agent. 

Finally, your agents should feel empowered to make decisions, to stay on a call a few extra moments, even to break a rule every now and then, to preserve a customer relationship. This status is not bestowed on day one. After an agent has been with the call center for a while and has shown good judgment, he or she should then be given the latitude to sometimes take action that may not be in the script. 

Mention Self Service Options – But Don’t Push Them

Well-intentioned as they are, recorded messages on menu screens are typically received more with hostility than gratitude. Automation is important, but not when it stands in the way of a caller speaking with a live agent, if that is his or her desire. 

Engaged Agents

You cannot engage customers without engaging agents. That goes beyond the hiring and training efforts previously described. Engagement is an ongoing challenge that affects agents after six weeks, six months or six years on the job. 



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What Will the Workforce Management Market Look Like in 2022?

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The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of workforce management is expected to remain strong through the year 2022, according to a new comprehensive market research report. 

In many ways this simply continues a trend that has persisted for more than a decade. As more call centers realize the inefficiencies inherent in the conventional methods of keeping track of and maintaining their workforce, there is increased interest in WFM as an alternative. By automating these processes, workforce management software can reduce labor expenses, improve workforce utilization and streamline call center performance. 

Plus the complex analytics on workforce processes delivered by WFM make it easier to spot problems and correct them, thus ensuring an optimal use of existing resources.

The technology has already found acceptance in such industries as banking financial services and insurance, healthcare, government, retail, transportation and manufacturing. But according to the study, the main driver of future WFM growth will be in its adoption by small and medium sized businesses, who may have thought in the past that WFM was out of their price range. 

That has changed as a result of cloud-based solutions – the same kind being used by corporations with hundreds of call center agents. The analytics are just as sophisticated, the conveniences just as apparent – but both can now be acquired without the large upfront cost and recurring costs of system and software updates. 

Of course, nothing says you have to wait until 2022 to start enjoying these benefits. Check out Monet Software’s cloud-based WFM Live here


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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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A More Efficient Call Center in One Minute?

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

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