Call Center Workforce Management Blog
Your goal is to deliver outstanding customer service any time, any day. But there are days and times when achieving that goal is easier.
Should you share that information with callers that ask? Or offer a few recommendations on the company website or Facebook page? Why not? By doing so you're not only lightening the workload at peak calling time, you're also improving the likelihood that every call receives the personal attention and positive experience it deserves.
Yes, the public is more demanding now. They want what they want when they want it. But not everyone is like that, and most will appreciate any help that you are willing to provide.
Think of it this way - the next time you go to the DMV, would you like them to let you know the wait time could be three hours if you arrive at noon, but if you get there by 9am you will be in and out in an hour? Most people would be delighted to know the fastest way to resolve their solution.
How you do this, of course, depends on the calling patterns and hours of operation at your call center. For some business, a warning to avoid Mondays might be in order; but for call centers in the travel industry, Fridays might be busier as couples plan weekend getaways.
If there is a day that is typically lighter in call volume, let customers know. If there's a time when calls are answered faster, let them know. The first hour of operation may work, unless you have an issue with late-arriving agents.
You might also consider explaining IVR options in advance and in more detail, so customers will know which options to use before the call. Also, let them know what information you'll likely need for them, so they won't have to start searching for it after the call is initiated.
Finally, offer other options for finding the information they need - make sure business hours are clearly posted on your website, and that you have a FAQ page that explains common solutions to common problems.
A Deloitte 2015 Global Contact Center Survey reports that the number of customer interactions by telephone continues to decline, as other options become more prevalent.
But while the volume of customer calls may be shrinking, the importance of each of those engagements has been elevated. More people may be reaching out via email or web chat or social media, but if these channels prove insufficient the next step is a phone call - and for the company this may be the final hope for keeping that customer's business.
This happens more than you might think. A recent report showed that more than one-third of customer engagements that started online or through a self-service channel eventually escalated to voice.
This doesn't necessarily mean that the company is doing something wrong - there is real, proven value in
omnichannel. But some issues are just too complex for anything other than direct contact with a real agent or supervisor. This is how customers still expect questions to be answered, and results to be achieved.
Knowing this, what can you do?
First, forget all those predictions about fully automated contact centers. Agents will always be needed to provide service that machines cannot.
Next, understand that a customer that has already failed to get results from another channel may be more frustrated or impatient when he or she calls. Agent training should focus on being calm and courteous when confronted with hostility.
Finally, make sure agents have the technology they need to deliver an efficient and satisfying customer experience, especially if this is the last opportunity to do so.
A lot of lip service is paid to listening to customers. But there is a difference between actual listening and just hearing what they have to say.
The best call centers focus all of their efforts on gaining insight into every customer on every call. Comments made even in passing can offer valuable insight into satisfaction with a product or service, and should influence business development and marketing. There is no such thing as a routine transaction.
Are you really and truly paying attention to your customers? Here are a few ways to find out.
If you are getting too many repeat calls from the same customers about the same issue, something isn't right. Either your agents are not able to resolve the issue, or there is a problem with a product that cannot be solved. Whatever the reason, this is a communication breakdown that must be corrected. When possible, provide agents with the information they need to deal with the issue. Or inform a brand manager about the situation so action can be taken at that level.
"We don't have that service available"
Why not? If callers are repeatedly inquiring about something they want that you don't have, look into whether it's possible to provide it. Especially if it's a product or service already provided by other companies in your industry.
"Tell us how we're doing"
The fastest and easiest way to find out what customers want is simply to ask them. Sometimes it can be tempting to let
analytics do the work for you - and with the right system in place you will certainly collect valuable, relevant data. But there's also nothing wrong with the direct approach. Ask for feedback, and incorporate that feedback into the entire organization, not just the call center. Learn More
One need only to look at the attrition rates among call center agents to appreciate the pressures and challenges that come with the job.
Where employee turnover for all industries is approximately 17%, the range for call centers is typically between 30-45%. If you're dealing with those numbers you know how time-consuming and expensive it is to constantly find and train new agents to replace those that leave.
That makes agent retention a priority. What can you do to help these valued employees avoid symptoms of burnout? Try these tips:
Everybody likes to feel appreciated. When agents excel at their work they deserve to be recognized and rewarded. Such rewards can be straight up - a salary bonus - or something customized for each agent - an extra paid day off, movie theater tickets, or dinner at a nice restaurant (one without a drive-thru window).
Scripts are important, but reading the same text hundreds of times a day can certainly contribute to burnout. By allowing agents some flexibility you'll not only make the job less repetitive, you'll be boosting customer service - most callers appreciate an agents who speaks and listens to them over one reading words off a computer screen. Also, when possible, give agents the responsibility of handling some issues without the approval of the supervisor or manager. That will shorten the call length, and make the agent feel more valued as a company team member.
There are ways to make a call center a more enjoyable place to work without sacrificing efficiency or customer service. Ask for feedback on ideas for special themed days, or schedule a reception on the last day of every month with snacks and entertainment.
One of the best ways to avoid agent burnout is to provide your team with the technological tools they need to make their jobs easier. That starts with a
workforce management solution that delivers caller data, easily automates everyday processes, and monitors schedules so agents handle an appropriate amount of calls in each shift. Learn More
For contact centers that have yet to install the type of advanced software that provides real-time insight into agent activity, the only viable option for coaching is to do so during live customer calls.
However, this method presents a number of challenges for both the agent and the coach. The most obvious is the necessity to communicate information to the agent while the agent is speaking with a customer. This is achieved through "call whispering," which is exactly what it sounds like.
Call whispering puts the agent in the unfortunate position of listening to a customer and his supervisor at the same time. Even experienced agents may find this difficult. For new agents, it is next to impossible, and often leads to distracted agents and frustrated customers.
Call whispering also makes it impossible for agents to communicate with a supervisor during a coaching session. During these one-sided conversations, an agent may wish to ask a question or seek clarification on a point raised by the supervisor, but there is no way to do so without putting the customer on hold. Such feedback must be saved until after the call - and by then it might be too late to deliver the type of service that customer deserved.
Another limitation of live coaching is the inadequate sample sizes it generates to accurately assess how an agent is performing. The supervisor is present for a few calls but has no way of knowing how that agent is performing during the rest of his or her shift. Many critical coaching opportunities are missed as a result.
Fortunately, there is a better way. An advanced
workforce optimization solution provides greater visibility and insight into agent performance, and records calls that can be reviewed later during more substantive coaching sessions. It can also provide a means for two-way communication between agent and supervisor in a way that is not as distracting, so the agent can stay focused on the customer.
Find out more about the benefits of workforce optimization Learn More
Another Call Center Week has come and gone, and once again Monet was proud to attend, to interact with industry professionals, and to provide demos of our advanced software solutions that improve contact center efficiency.
Beyond the opportunity to network and catch up with old friends, the days we spent in Las Vegas also provided insight into one topic that emerged as the most talked-about, by both the event's speakers and attendees mingling on the convention floor:
We have talked about analytics in previous blogs, and no doubt other companies have as well. At Call Center Week, the opportunity was there to move beyond discussion and actually watch how analytic solutions function. Seeing is believing, as they say, and demos to Monet's analytics directly addressed the theme of this year's event: "From Personalizing to Predicting the Needs of the Customer."
Contact center professionals that visited our booths were able to discover first-hand how Monet could help them achieve a more personalized customer experience, and gain additional insights through analytics that helped maximize the effectiveness of every customer engagement.
At this point there isn't any debate about the benefits of analytics: any hesitancy about adding these capabilities came mostly from smaller call centers that were concerned about the cost, or worried that so much additional data might be confusing to collect and decipher.
We explained to these company reps how our analytics solutions are incorporated into a
workforce optimization suite. This way, it's easier to place the information in an appropriate context, so it yields the type of intelligent insight that helps companies improve service quality and save money.
At a time when customers have become more demanding given the technology options available, contact centers need every tool they can find to meet these demands, and even to anticipate them when possible. That is one of the advantages analytics provides.
Automation has changed the day-to-day operations at call centers around the world, and has made the job of the agent easier.
But will the non-stop advance of technology also make the job of the agent obsolete?
According to a recent
Wall Street Journal article, many of the 1.2 million call center positions in the Philippines may soon be replaced by customer service robots. This is happening primarily with non-agent positions - such as monitoring the performance of digital networks. But the article suggests that the robot agent revolution may be as close as five years away.
Will it happen in the U.S. as well? Certainly some companies may embrace the prospect if it means cutting costs - but no matter how it is implemented, these companies also run the risk of cutting customers as well.
In this political season rife with rob-calls, consider the frustration most of us experience in listening to recorded message that cannot be altered. Now apply that same principle to a contact center customer trying to ask a question or place an order.
An automated voice cannot make a customer feel appreciated. No matter how sincere the "We appreciate your business" recording is, many will think, "If you really appreciated my business, you'd hire someone to let me know in person."
And no matter how much foresight is applied to anticipating customer requests, there is no way to have an answer programmed to every question. Thus, several customers will still be forwarded to a live agent, and wonder why they couldn't receive that kind of attention in the first place.
We have all come to embrace cutting-edge technology as a boom to our businesses and our lives. But at some point it's wiser to take a step back, and understand that just because something is technologically possible, it doesn't mean it's better than what has gone before.
When call centers became contact centers, the telephone suddenly became just one of several options available for customers to take care of business.
This evolution has been taking place over the course of more than ten years. Email was added, then web chat, then social media. Video chat has become yet another possibility. And when people are able to communicate through Google Glasses, and other futuristic devices that probably aren't that far away, it will be up to the call center to accommodate these customers as well.
Has your call center embraced multichannel? Great! Now it's time to get ready for the next challenge: omnichannel.
The difference is interactivity. In a multichannel environment every communication option is a separate one, and the objective is to deliver consistent, quality service across the entire spectrum. Omnichannel introduces an additional option, of moving a customer from one channel to another within the same engagement.
Of course, it's important to not just provide the capability of switching from email to phone or from phone to web chat, but to also be able to track quality throughout these interactions through recording and agent performance managements. This is important to make certain you are delivering a consistent customer experience form one channel to another.
There will still be decisions: should the same agent follow the customer from one channel to the next? Or should an agent specializing in phone communication hand off the call to an agent better suited for web chat? Different contact centers employ different degrees of agent specialization, so there is no one-size-fits-all correct answer.
If you are ready for omnichannel, one place to start is with an analysis of your current customer base. Which multichannel options do your customers use most often? What are the most likely transitions from these channels based on the reason for their contact?
Next, make sure you are able to provide the same service with each channel. For instance, a switch from voice to text-based communication should not infringe on upsell opportunities that an agent would have described over the phone. Finally, be certain to evaluate the performance of your agents across all channels - this is made easier with a
workforce optimization solution that delivers call recording and quality management. Learn More
Workforce Management (WFM) is important; Workforce Optimization (WFO) takes WFM to the next level.
With WFM, your
agent scheduling will become much easier, and much more accurate. You'll always feel confident that the right numbers of agent are serving your customers.
But why stop there? With WFO, you'll learn something from every one of those customer engagements.
Call recording protects your company from legal action and provides a valuable resource for agent coaching and training; quality monitoring helps you assess levels of customer satisfaction with your speed and service quality; speech analytics delivers more insight into what your customers want, so you can sometimes anticipate their needs before they even express them.
With WFO, managers have everything they need to attack key performance indicators and bring them into acceptable levels. And it helps your agents do a better job as well.
Once you've made the decision to explore workforce optimization options, it will become clear that, given the impact WFO will make on your business as well as the costs involved, it's important to choose the right solution the first time.
Monet's WFO Live makes it possible for companies of any size to scale IT quickly and efficiently, and to make changes without business interruption.
But what about security? Monet currently has customers with dozens of agents - and thousands of agents - successfully using Monet Live in a secure, scalable cloud.
Still have questions? Monet is always available to help address the concerns of companies considering a cloud solution, and to identify the many ways in which the cloud can benefit your contact center.
For those of us still waiting for our jetpacks, the promise of the future hasn't always lived up to its potential.
But the future always brings other changes, and that will be the case at the insurance contact center as well. The question is, will you be ready to embrace those changes, and perhaps even get ahead of the curve, or be stuck playing catch-up when the competition gets there first - and starts taking some of your policyholders?
Here is what we think is coming....sooner than you might expect.
As contact centers embrace multiple channels for customer communications, agents will have to be skilled in more than one discipline - email, online chat, texting and social media. At the same time, managers will transfer out of a primarily operational role and adopt a more "big picture" outlook on the organization.
Customers will still need insurance and will still have policy and claim questions that they'll want answered yesterday. Answers to many of the most basic are now provided on company websites, so that helps reduce some of the call volume. But Millennials coming of age in a technology-driven world will the answer to every question available on their smartphones. Thankfully, tomorrow's agents will have grown up with the same technology.
Workforce Management Workforce management (WFM) will play a more prominent role in tomorrow's insurance contact centers, as the drive to optimize resources will always be key in this highly competitive industry. Efficient contact centers rely on accurate forecasting, analytics, skill-based routing and capturing important policyholder data. There is no faster or more efficient way to do this than with an automated WFM solution.
And there's no need to wait for the future -
Monet WFM Live can do all of that now. Plus, as workforce pattens change, and more employees opt for flexible scheduling to balance their jobs with their personal responsibilities, WFM will have to keep up with even more accurate resource planning, and by making it easier for agents to bid on shifts in a way that does not negatively impact customer service. Learn More
Six months ago, Fortune magazine published a story with the headline "Why Contact Centers Are Moving to the Cloud." It's just one of many such stories tracking what has become a mass migration. Insurance companies have been part of this phenomenon, as they begin to recognize the numerous financial and technological advantages of switching from on-premise hardware and software installation to a cloud delivery model. One of the most important of these is cost. By handling WFM in the cloud a call center doesn't have to budget for the purchase of hardware, software, database or data center infrastructure. With a subscription-based cloud system there is no large upfront cost and no licensing fees. Operating expenses are lower as well. The money that is saved can be re-invested in other parts of the company. The ability to make a fast and trouble-free transition has also helped to grow the cloud market. Traditional solutions take a great deal of time to install - how would an insurance call center be impacted during this long transitional period, when customers may not conveniently stop having policy questions until it's finished? Cloud solutions also provide a more intuitive end-user experience, which shortens the learning curve for call center agents. With the cloud, downtime is reduced and ROI is achieved faster. Flexibility? Scalability? These attributes are more easily achieved the cloud as well. Cloud service providers allow companies to increase or decrease existing resources as needed to accommodate changing demand. Plus, with the cloud it's easier to operate multiple contact centers from one facility, to accommodate agents working from home, and to make it more convenient for those that wish to access applications from a mobile device. If there has been one lingering concern with this technology, it has been security. For insurance companies and healthcare providers where the protection of customer information is paramount, any perceived vulnerability would be enough to steer clear of cloud adoption. But if that concern was ever justified, it certainly is not anymore. The cloud now offers a range of security measures to protect data, communications and the physical data centers where information is stored. Several layers of security measures and processes are built into the cloud infrastructure, platform and services. All client access endpoints are secured, with alerts for password brute-force attacks that prevent those accounts from being compromised. Built-in firewalls provide additional protection, and many clouds also offer encrypted data storage.
If your insurance call center has still not investigated the numerous advantages of cloud computing, what are you waiting for? Monet can help. Learn More
One of the duties of the insurance business is to help customers protect themselves from liability claims, and the high costs associated with them.
But as we accept that responsibility, we also need to protect ourselves as well, particularly at the contact center. Let's face it - no matter how carefully you select your agents, or how satisfied customers are with your company's policies and service, disputes are still inevitable.
When this happens, having a recording of the conversation between agent and customer will be invaluable. And it's not just enough to have it - you should also have the ability to locate and retrieve specific customer interactions, not just to settle disputes but as a way to improve the quality and performance of your insurance call center.
This can be easily achieved through call tagging, a capability that should be incorporated into a
call recording or workforce management solution.
Tags are like bookmarks - they designate certain calls by whatever criteria the agent or manager chooses. Typical tags might be dates, times, phone numbers, customer reference or case numbers; at insurance call centers, tags can be used to track disputed claims, late payments or customers with lapsed policies.
More than one tag can be applied to a call, and an efficient WFM system will allow managers to combine categories for more specific search results. For instance, if a manager wanted to access how a new agent handled disputed claims, he or she should be able to have the system access those types of calls from that specific agent so they can be reviewed all at once.
Tags can also help an insurance contact center improve KPIs. If average handle time is becoming an issue, have the system collect all of the calls that lasted more than 10 minutes. That may reveal some potential changes in procedure that will expedite those conversations.
In the highly competitive
insurance industry, every customer contact counts. That places even greater pressure on insurance call center environments, where agents are expected to deliver exceptional customer service, whether it's claims support, answering policyholder questions, setting appointments for agents or promoting new insurance products.
That challenge - to provide quality service every day at a cost within the budget, is the most significant one we face. So what's the best way to achieve this goal?
Let's start with this: your agents cannot deliver excellent service unless they have the customer information they need, and when they need it. When John Smith calls with a question about his auto insurance policy, the agent should have all the pertinent details on that policy on their computer screen so questions can be answered and changes made if necessary.
But now let's take it one step further, by providing managers with historical data so they can run various scenarios before a shift begins, to prepare for contingencies. As the shift progresses, managers should see real-time insights delivered via dashboards and reports on KPIs, as well as alerts so they can adjust forecasts and schedules when the unexpected occurs.
Information: what you need, when you need it - that is how the determination to provide great customer service must begin.
Unfortunately, you won't get it from spreadsheets. It takes an
automated workforce management solution to provide the actionable insights necessary to be proactive in decision-making, so every shift of every day will be prepared to deliver the kind of customer service that keeps your policyholders loyal and happy. And when the contact center is running at peak efficiency, that reduces costs as well. Learn More
Your agents are on the front line of your customer service efforts. When policyholders call with questions or concerns, the agent they reach becomes the voice of your entire company. No pressure there. Obviously it is incumbent on your insurance call center agents to do their jobs well. But that process starts with managers hiring the best candidates for these crucial positions. What skills should you be looking for when hiring an agent? Here are some of the most important: Professionalism
Courtesy always sets the right tone for a customer engagement. And when that customer is stressed or frightened or angry, as is often the case with
insurance issues, it’s up to the agent to maintain a professional tone and stay calm and focused throughout the conversation. Attendance
This doesn’t mean just showing up for work every day, but showing up on time. Customer service suffers when agents show up five minutes late and leave five minutes early. Agents should be willing to adhere to a strict shift schedule.
Intelligent verbal communication is one of the most basic requirements of this job, but as
insurance call centers evolve into contact centers, it is advantageous to hire agents that can also communicate effectively in writing, so they can handle webchat or even social media. Self-Sufficiency
While you want to recruit agents that can be positive team players, it’s also important for agents to feel confident enough to work independently – especially if you hire those that telecommute. When agents can solve customer claim issues without putting customers on hold and having to track down a supervisor, it improves average handle time and makes the customer happy as well.
Monet’s Workforce Management solution can play a key role in helping agents to achieve optimal performance, by giving them the information they need to succeed.
One minute doesn’t seem like a very long time. But try this: get a stopwatch or a watch with a second hand, and time out one full minute while sitting and doing nothing else. It will probably seem much longer than you think.
Now, imagine a hotel customer service or call center travel agent customer waiting on hold that long.
If this is happening often at your hospitality contact center, you might want to consider some changes. According to the advertising analytics company Marchex, 62% of callers will abandon a call if they’re not speaking to an agent after one minute. And no, those “your call is important to us” pre-recorded messages aren’t doing much to change their minds.
Don’t Stop There
Of course, just picking up the phone quickly won’t result in a happy customer. It’s what agents do next that also counts. Reading a scripted greeting that launches the information gathering process is a fairly common practice: “Thank you for calling ABC Industries, where the customer always comes first. My name is Bob, can I have your account number please?”
Nothing really wrong with that, but the Marchex survey also found that something simpler, more personal and more courteous can also be more effective. A greeting as basic as, “Hello, how are you today?” can put a customer at ease, and add a personal touch to a professional call.
The ultimate goal is always more customer satisfaction. If too many minutes are going by without calls being answered, it may be time to look at a workforce management solution that will help you make better forecasting and scheduling decisions, so you’ll always have enough travel agents available to promptly pick up calls.
Customer care is a crucial aspect of performance at the contact center, particularly for those affiliated with the automotive industry. This is a process that begins before the first call is picked up every day, with the policies, procedures, and technology in place to meet the goals of the center. Accurate forecasting and scheduling and adherence are important factors, and are easier to achieve with an automated workforce management (WFM) solution.
Here are four tips on establishing policies that boost customer service, and how WFM can help.
1. Setting Specific Goals
“We want to improve customer service.” “We want to improve our training.” Great – now how are you going to do it? The more specific you can get with your objectives, the more likely you will be to accomplish them. When you set more precise goals (“We want to lower our average handle time”), WFM will provide the data that can be used to make it happen.
2. Targeted Training
Once basic training has been completed, business development center agents should be regularly guided toward and tested on their abilities to meet service goals. With the Performance Analysis component of WFM, managers have access to reports and analysis of all agent activities, including their schedule adherence and key performance indicators. That will help to further target training sessions.
3. Set Quarterly Goals
Don’t make a list of goals for the year and wait until December to review them. With quarterly targets, you’ll know sooner if your efforts are working, and can make beneficial changes – which is certainly better than going another 6-7 months with a less than optimal system in place. The real-time monitoring and work history data delivered by WFM allows managers to track progress toward quarterly goals.
4. Avoid Agent Burnout
Agents are employees but they are people first, with families and outside interests and holiday plans they would like to keep. Flexible scheduling makes it easier for agents to work shifts that are more convenient, and when they have that option they are likely to be more productive and provide better service. With WFM, shift-bidding and shift-swapping (with a manager’s approval) is streamlined, while holidays and other special events can be factored more efficiently into overall scheduling.
For some contact centers, such as those in retail, business slows in the summer months while customers go on vacations or find more enjoyable things to do than shopping.
If you know this slow-down is coming, why not make the most of the opportunities it provides, before back-to-school sales and the holidays return call volumes to higher levels? Now that your hours are a little less busy, this is the ideal time to reassess business practices, experiment with new procedures, and brainstorm ways to improve customer service, so you’ll be ready when business picks up.
Here are some ideas to get started.
Freshen your Stand-By List
Many contact centers hold on to contact information for promising agent applicants, to fill in during peak periods or to consult when current agents leave. Typically you may not review this information until additional personnel are needed. But why not use this time to check in with these agents-in-waiting, to see if they are still available?
Agent training should be an ongoing activity, but when things are busy these sessions tend to get squeezed into shorter windows, and may not be as effective. If the phones are not ringing as often, this is a chance to take a closer look at the data you have on each agent (assuming you have a workforce optimization solution) and provide customized training on specific areas of concern.
Use the summer lull to get to know your team better. Ask them about their families and outside interests. Find out what they like about their job and what is causing them problems. By taking an interest you may build that relationship in a way that keeps that agent around longer. Their feedback may also contain good ideas that can be implemented throughout the contact center.
Spend your summer with these objectives, and you’ll be better prepared for the busier times ahead.
The capabilities of call recording software have advanced rapidly over the past ten years. Metrics that were once luxuries at finance contact centers are now standard, and call center software is now capable of compiling and analyzing so much information, it is possible to become overwhelmed, or to lose focus.
Certainly all the information collected by such call recording systems is beneficial, but here are seven of the top performance measures that can most directly trigger improved results at banking contact centers, whether directed at management, agents or customers.
1. Schedule Adherence and Efficiency
Do agents scheduled to work specific hours actually do so? If not, are calls being missed or delayed before they are addressed? Corrections of deficiencies here can have an immediate impact on productivity. Once schedule adherence has been clarified, schedule efficiency refers to assigning the right number of agents for each day and each shift, to avoid the problems caused by overstaffing or understaffing.
2. Call Answer Time
What is the average speed of answer (ASA) at the call center? Most centers have a defined wait threshold that should be met consistently.
3. Agent Occupancy
Closely related to schedule efficiency is the time agents spend on the clock but not answering calls. When staffing and scheduling is handled correctly, agents should be busy but not overworked. The goal is to avoid too much idle time, while also having enough available personnel so that each call is answered in an acceptable time frame.
4. First Call Resolution
Customers want to resolve their issues with one call, which makes a call center’s first call resolution rate critical to customer satisfaction. While it will not always be within the agent’s power to resolve all calls the first time, agents who are consistently unable to achieve this objective should be scheduled for additional training.
5. Transfer Rate
Few situations are more frustrating for a customer than explaining an issue to one agent, and then being transferred to a supervisor or other agency personnel, and having to do so a second time. While this may still qualify as a first-call resolution if questions are ultimately answered and the problem is solved, it should still be kept to a minimum whenever possible.
6. Abandon Rate
When a customer hangs up, it will not always be the fault of the call center or the agent. Some people just have shorter fuses than others. However, abandon rates can often be reduced by shorter wait times and courteous agents.
7. Blocked Calls
Blocked calls never even make it to a call center agent, because of insufficient network capabilities. Obviously, the only possible result becomes a frustrated customer. Are some blocked calls inevitable at peak times? Or can these calls be taken with better scheduling, expanded trunks or other corrective measures?
Customer service at medical contact centers is often determined by forecasting, and forecasting is often determined by data. With a
workforce management (WFM) solution you are on your way to better forecasts. But are you making the most of the information at your disposal? Here is a short three-point checklist that will help. 1. The Holistic Approach
Sometimes in medicine a holistic approach is favored in patient care. The same can be said for a healthier medical contact center. Numbers, whether they are good or bad, do not happen in a vacuum. While it can be helpful to analyze different KPIs individually, it is better to review them in tandem as well, while also taking a closer look at the conditions under which they are generated.
Of course you should review average handle time (AHT) and call volume, but you should also determine how one impacts the other. Is AHT better in the morning than overnight? Is that just a result of less calls coming in? Perhaps, but you may also have fewer agents working in the wee hours as well, so the answer may not be that simple. Maybe your night-shifters are dealing with lonely folks looking for someone to talk to after midnight – or maybe they need a little more training.
2. Timing is Everything
Review monthly and weekly service levels, but understand that within those longer time periods there are a thousand variables that influence how the numbers worked out. To gain more insight, shorten the timespan to as little as 30 minutes – perhaps even 15 minutes for a busy contact center or for peak calling periods. You’ll receive a more accurate view of what you’re doing right and what needs work.
3. Who is Messing With Our Numbers?
Sometimes the reasons your forecasts miss the mark have nothing to do with internal operations. You can adjust your staffing and shift numbers, but in a larger organization you have no control over when marketing announces a 24-hour sale, or how customer-billing cycles (that trigger billing inquiries) are structured.
Improved communication between departments can make it easier for contact center managers to anticipate the effect of such anomalies, and adjust accordingly. The
WFM system will do most of the work for you, as long as you have the data in time to act upon it.
Sometimes with accurate scheduling it’s not about what you do right, but what you do wrong. Here are six examples where scheduling elements can be overlooked or mishandled, resulting in problems that can impact customer service.
Not Scheduling Breaks
If agents take their breaks when they feel like it, that might result in too many going off to lunch or the break room at the same time, leaving a shift under-manned. Avoid this by scheduling breaks – it may not be popular, but by providing agents some input in when they can take some time off, the transition might be made more easily.
Not Enough Part Time Help
If all of your agents work full time, they will always be there whether they are needed or not. Sometimes you’ll have too many people on the floor – occasionally there may still not be enough. By mixing in some part-time agents you can add more flexibility to your scheduling, and initiate split shifts. This will make it easier to cover peak hours, while not having to pay agents for sitting and waiting for the phone to ring.
Not Accounting for Shrinkage
Almost every public sector call center takes shrinkage into consideration, but the calculations are complicated without an automated workforce management system. With WFM and attendance reports, managers are more likely to get the numbers right.
Not Measuring Efficiency Properly
Schedule efficiency is a measure of how accurately and consistently the planned number of agents on staff matches the required staffing over the evaluation period.
WFM produces a more accurate picture, but make sure to use weighted averages when producing consolidated figures, while not neglecting outside business hours.
Assuming Everyone Wants the Same Shift
There is a tendency to struggle with filling evening and weekend shifts. But with a flexible and part-time work force this should not be an issue. Students may want to work weekends, and agents with outside obligations during the day may prefer an evening shift. Don’t look for a problem where none might exist.
Obviously this is the least excusable mistake, and yet there are still government call centers out there that just hope for the best. And to make it worse, they put off the hiring and training of new agents to replace those lost by attrition, and muddle through with a reduced roster that is even more vulnerable to unexpected schedule changes.
It takes both art and science to staff a public sector call center. Next to hiring the right personnel, scheduling plays the key role in maximizing resources and making sure calls are handled in a courteous and efficient manner. The faster mistakes are corrected, the faster a contact center is delivering the level of service that customers deserve.
Change is never easy, but it is also unavoidable. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has placed increased demands on insurance providers to offer support, answer questions, and achieve an operational efficiency necessary to handle increased call volume.
One way to be better prepared for the current and future challenges of our industry is by making a switch from software-based technology to the cloud. And yet, many contact centers remain hesitant. Here are some of the most common reasons why, and how we address them with our clients – most of whom ultimately make the cloud transition, and now couldn’t be happier.
1. I’ll lose too much business during the transition!
Actually, you won’t. The cloud solution will be customized, prepared and tested before it is installed, and can run parallel with your hardware solution during the actual conversion, so it can continue to function if an issue arises and your policyholders will never know the difference. Typically, however, the switch to cloud is quick and easy.
2. Is it really better?
Absolutely. It is more flexible, it is more scalable, there are no upfront costs, you pay only for what you need, you’ll receive software upgrades automatically as soon as they come available (without receiving a bill every time that happens) and you’ll have automatic routing capabilities which makes it easier to work with home-based agents and other telecommuting personnel. These are just some of the benefits you’ll enjoy from day one.
3. I’m worried about turning over control of data to a cloud
Maybe they should have found a better word when the technology was introduced, so it doesn’t seem like your data is traveling somewhere so distant. But the reality is you are still in control, just as you were when the hardware was sitting in your contact center. You can make changes as you need them, and with Monet you’ll also have the expertise of our dedicated support team to answer any questions.
4. It costs too much
Not at all. Hosted solutions cost 1/3 less than hardware solutions (and that is a conservative estimate on total savings). In fact, cost is one of the primary reasons why companies make the switch.
5. The cloud is unreliable
Once again, the opposite is true. Cloud solutions are actually more reliable than hardware-based technology because of their built-in fail-safes and redundancies. When all of your equipment is in one place and something goes wrong, you are out of luck. With the decentralized nature of the cloud, even a power outage won’t shut you down.
What’s in a name?
William Shakespeare had some thoughts on that, as do the people who think referring to used cars as “pre-owned” will make them more desirable. At the call center, agents are agents, and most don’t have a problem with that job description. But what if we tried to look upon them as service professionals? It’s not just doublespeak – when you really look at the tasks performed by contact center agents every day, it is obvious businesses are placing a great deal of trust in them, in making sales, in customer care, and in dispute resolution, among other responsibilities. Call centers are now viewed as revenue-generating operations, and while managers provide the tools and the guidance, it’s the agents that are on the front lines of this effort.
There is no such thing as a “typical” agent, just as there is no such thing as a typical contact center. But we would guess that the call centers that are most successful are those that are already treating agents like service professionals, even if they haven’t adopted that term.
That doesn’t mean the new job description has to come with a higher salary and a parking place with the agent’s name on it. This is still (and likely always will be) an entry-level position, but it is one that provides access and insight to many other departments such as marketing, sales, and product development. Agents who are paying attention can, in the course of their daily duties, gather actionable information that can be valuable to the company and their own careers.
That starts with hiring and training. Don’t just look for people with good telephone voices that can read a script. Treat the process as a recruitment of not just today’s agents but also tomorrow’s managers. Let them know there’s a path to advancement available, and provide incentive compensation to identify your best candidates. If you focus on hiring professionals, you’ll stand a better chance of inspiring professional job performance. Learn More
It’s a challenging time to be in business. Economic, technological and political factors are driving companies to make difficult decisions in order to maintain productivity and increase (or, at the very least, safeguard) profits.
Some of this activity is concentrated on the contact center, where the quest is always to improve productivity. The first step to achieving that goal may be to improve workforce visibility.
This is just one of the benefits of
workforce management (WFM).
Consider how much time both managers and agents may be spending on tasks not related to their core job function, which cannot help but impact customer service. Consider how much costly overtime is entailed by improper allocation of time during regular shifts. Consider the time that could be spent on imagining ways to improve efficiency, or new ideas to generate profits, if that time was not occupied by hours spent forecasting and scheduling with spreadsheets.
WFM does entail another investment. But in this time when there is pressure on all areas of an organization to implement solutions that reduce costs and increase revenues, it’s an investment that accomplishes both goals while quickly achieving ROI.
A common misconception is that
WFM software is associated with a large upfront cost. That may indeed have been the case with the on-premise solutions of the past. But a cloud-based WFM solution provides the highest ROI and savings of any WFM strategy due to its low upfront investment and low operating costs.
With WFM managers can achieved total, real-time contact center visibility, empowering them to enhance schedule flexibility, an important step in employee engagement, and increase agent productivity. Managers can react to changing conditions, so problems are detected and solved before they impact service.
Challenging times call for effective solutions – like
workforce management. Learn More
Perhaps you know the answer to that question. Or perhaps you just think you do.
There are two definitions for
workforce optimization (WFO) – one that provides a general assessment and one specific to the contact center industry.
The general definition, or at least the one offered by Technopedia, is: “A strategy used in business with a focus on maximum customer satisfaction and benefits with minimal operational costs and supported by integrated technologies, cross-functional processes and shared objectives.”
All of these qualities would certainly apply to a healthcare contact center, but would also work for any number of professional pursuits. When we think
WFO for our industry, the definition incorporates specific functionality that helps deliver better patient care, such as call recording, workforce management, quality management and speech analytics.
We’re exploring this topic because of a recent Gartner report predicting that by the end of 2018, 70% of organizations with more than 300 contact center agents will be working with an integrated workforce optimization solution, either on-premise or in the cloud.
That’s about 20 months away. If you have not yet explored the possibilities of
WFO, there is a real risk of falling behind other healthcare organizations committed to maximizing efficiency and customer service. It’s a big decision that will impact every aspect of your company, even beyond the confines of the call center itself.
When you’re ready, start with a list of priorities and then seek out the solution best suited to meet them. Also, as so many business processes will be affected, look for a
WFO application that can be implemented and integrated in a way that reduces the learning curve, while working toward ROI from day one. Price will also be a likely consideration, so a cloud solution may be the answer to achieving your technology goals at a cost you can afford.
The IVR at a contact center is like the drill in a dentist’s office. It has to be there, but no customer ever wants to experience it. Still, this may be the first involvement a customer may have with your company, so it’s important to make the best first impression possible. Given most people’s reactions to recorded messages, that may be an uphill battle. When is the last time you reviewed your IVR, and whether it is helping or hindering customer relations? If it’s time for a checkup, here are some tips to help. 1. Brevity
The faster the IVR gets customers the answer they seek, or to an agent, the less intrusive it will appear. Long marketing messages incorporated into caller options are usually perceived as annoying, not informative.
Are the menu options clear? Will a caller always know which selection will get them where they need to go?
Have all of the most prominent reasons for customer contact been taken into consideration? Are most callers hitting the ‘0’ to speak to an agent right away because the IVR does not present them with a better option?
Have your customer demographics changed? Are recorded messages available in more than one language? Does the recording use phrases that may be familiar to some but not to others (slang)?
Can your IVR be tied to
speech analytics for even faster and more accurate call routing?
With these assessments, you should be able to arrive at a better assessment of what the IVR is supposed to achieve, view the system from the perspective of your customers, create a message that is clear and simple, and measure rates of IVR abandonment (and where they occur) to further fine-tune the end result.