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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

Three Types of Bosses that Resist Workforce Management – And How to Change Their Minds

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You know the tremendous positive difference a workforce management solution can make at your contact center. In fact just about everyone in the industry is aware of the benefits of WFM by now – except perhaps for your boss.

Sound familiar? Then your boss may be one of the following types: 

The “Spreadsheets Rule!” Boss

He’s the President of the Excel Fan Club. He uses spreadsheets for everything from his fantasy football team to keeping track of his relatives’ birthdays. He can’t imagine any online technology could be more convenient or easy to use.

What He Doesn’t Know

That spreadsheets make forecasting, scheduling and other everyday contact center tasks more difficult and time-consuming than they would be with WFM. That the hours he spends with his spreadsheets could be devoted to more constructive tasks – or taking some extra time off. 

The “You Get the Check, I Forgot My Wallet” Boss

When he takes a dollar out of his pocket, George Washington blinks because he hasn’t seen the light of day in weeks. This is a boss that hates to spend money, so the last thing he’d consider is investing in a WFM solution.

What He Doesn’t Know

That WFM actually saves money – on staffing, on labor costs, and by reducing costly shrinkage, among other benefits. And when WFM is delivered via the cloud, there is no large upfront investment.

The “I Like Things Just the Way They Are” Boss

She hates change and prefers to live in the past. She still has a rotary phone on her desk and a “Win With Nixon” bumper sticker on her car. She is certain that implementing WFM is going to be more trouble than it’s worth.

What She Doesn’t Know

That WFM in the cloud can be implemented in a matter of weeks, and with the right solution agents can quickly acclimate to the new system. That being behind the technology curve is costing her company money – and having a negative impact on customer service. 

Need help making the case for WFM? Monet has created an article that will prepare you for that meeting.  

Then, when you’ve convincingly made your case for WFM, which solution should you choose? Take a free online demo of Monet Workforce Management and discover all the benefits it has to offer. 

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The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of Quality Monitoring

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Ask any consumer why they choose one business over another and their first answer is likely to reference quality – of the product or service provided, of how they were treated, of the convenience and ease of the buying process. 

If you’re not delivering quality, you’re not going to have customers for long. 

At the contact center, Quality Monitoring is the term applied for steps taken to make sure quality goals are achieved. 

Why Do It?

Change is a constant at a contact center. Agents leave and new agents are hired; the company grows and more agents are added; new products are introduced and new promotions launched, both of which will generate more customer calls. Quality monitoring offers a way to measure how customers are being treated amidst all these variables. In particular, it encompasses the business processes in place before and after each customer experience, which can be just as important as what happens during a call. 

The objective is consistency from agent to agent, shift to shift, day to day. 

When it’s executed correctly, quality monitoring can correct problems, improve contact center efficiency, boost customer service and lower costs. 

How To Do It

There are several components to a quality monitoring program. 

Call Recording: For most contact centers, call recording is one of the most basic tools employed in the improvement of customer service, as well as the establishment of industry regulation compliance and protection against potential legal disputes. 

Screen Recording: This helps managers gain insight into how well agents navigate and interact with screens and applications, which impacts customer service. It also provides a way to learn what customers want most from the contact center or the company itself, while also improving the overall processes of application use and service delivery.

Agent Training: Review the processes used and the data collected from monitoring agent performance. 

Scorecards: Scoring calls – grading them on a number of criteria – provides the raw data that illustrates each agent’s virtues and faults. Quality monitoring scorecards can be a valuable reference tool for determining which agents are doing well, which are missing key components of their customer interaction, and which need additional training.

Using call recording and quality monitoring tools such as those included in Monet Quality, it is possible to capture not only the call itself but the activity that took place on the agent’s screen and score 100% of interactions, giving an accurate and comprehensive view of agent, team, and overall contact center performance. 

To find out more, download our free whitepaper Seven Strategies for Effective Quality Assurance in Your Call Center. 

You can find out more about Monet’s Quality Monitoring solution here

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The Role Contact Centers Play in Customer Loyalty

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The quest for new customers is never-ending at all types of businesses, but those efforts should never obscure the fact that your best customers are the ones you already have.

Contact centers can play a key role in encouraging customer loyalty, by delivering the level of service those customers have come to expect from a company they like. That means calls answered quickly, a minimum of hold time (if necessary at all), agents that can answer questions and take corrective action if needed, and an effort to make each customer feel valued and appreciated. 

It’s an important goal and there are two ways to achieve it: consistent agent training, and workforce management software. 

Agent Training

Training should begin with learning the contact center script and understanding contact center procedures – but it shouldn’t stop there. Agents should also be encouraged to show patience, understanding, and empathy. Role-play scenarios can test how well they respond to different situations. 

Workforce Management Software

All of the burden for customer service should not fall on the agent’s shoulders. The contact center must provide the tools necessary for an agent to do his or her job, as well as provide forecasting and scheduling that assures the presence of enough agents to efficiently handle incoming calls. 

That used to be handled with spreadsheets but can now be covered with a workforce management (WFM) solution. With the advanced functionality and the more accurate forecasting and scheduling made possible by WFM, as well as the data it delivers on agent performance, schedule adherence and KPIs, contact center managers can always be assured the contact center’s resources are being utilized in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. 

The benefits of the Monet WFM solution include:

  • Real-Time Adherence: Helps avoid overstaffing, understaffing and shrinkage
  • Skill-Based Routing: So customers connect with the agent best suited to help them

If it’s time for your contact center to consider WFM, we invite you to find out more about what Monet has to offer. 

Get the facts about Monet WFM 

Take a free online demo of our WFM solution

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How the Cloud Helps Contact Centers with Disaster Management

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Wildfires have dominated the headlines here in Southern California over the past few weeks. Many homes and businesses have been claimed by their destruction. 

These disasters are a reminder of how unpredictable life can be, and how companies need to be prepared for the worst at all times. 

Businesses that run on information, such as contact centers, may face severe consequences if that data is lost or compromised. Whether it’s a hurricane or an earthquake, a fire or anything that cripples your infrastructure, every precaution must be taken to ensure the security of data and a seamless business continuity. 

The best way to achieve this is by moving your contact center to the cloud.

In addition to the many other benefits of the cloud, from flexibility and scalability to easier implementation, automatic upgrades and lower costs, the cloud also offers the best protection against natural and man-made disasters. 

Even if the entire building that houses your contact center is destroyed, your data will be saved. That’s because it had already been uploaded to a one or more data centers located miles away from where the destruction is happening. These centers also employ multiple security perimeters, including electronic surveillance, 24/7 security staff and multi-factor access to keep physical intruders away. 

Is it time you experienced the peace of mind that comes from knowing your customers’ information will always be safe and secure, regardless of the weather outside? 

Discover more of the differences between hosted, on-premise and cloud solutions in our free whitepaper.

There are also significant cost and convenience benefits to implementing a workforce management solution in the cloud. Get the details here 

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Workforce Management: The Annual Review

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Annual reviews are a tradition at many companies. At contact centers, these reviews typically focus on KPI measurements and whether goals were achieved, assessing the performance of agents, and determining whether your forecasting, scheduling and staffing methods are sufficient to provide excellent customer service. 

If you are preparing your checklist, here are four items that should be on it.

1. Are You Up-to-Date on Versions?

With on-premise solutions, software is updated regularly with additional capabilities to improve functionality, and correct bugs detected in previous versions. Because of budgetary restrictions, some contact centers may not upgrade as soon as these new versions become available. 

Of course, if your WFM solution is delivered via the cloud, like Monet WFM, there’s no need to worry about upgrades because they are installed automatically as soon as they become available, at no additional cost. 

2. How Well Do Your Agents Work With Your Systems?

Technology is supposed to make your life easier, and make it easier for your agents to do their jobs. But if the system is too complex, or doesn’t deliver helpful data when it can still be useful, it may be time to consider a change.  

3. Cost

This is a big one for many contact centers, and perhaps one of the main reasons they are still relying on spreadsheets. But with a cloud solution WFM is affordable, and also saves money on hardware upgrades, ongoing maintenance and IT support. Will 2018 be the year you make the switch? 

4. Is It Getting the Job Done? 

Many contact centers have realized that spreadsheets are no longer sufficient for accurate forecasting and scheduling. They step up to a WFM solution to access real-time metrics and reports that improve accuracy and make it easier to handle unexpected changes in schedules. If you have an on-premise WFM system, it’s possible your needs have changed since it was implemented ¬– do you have more communication channels now? Can you current system scale with the expanding needs of your business? 

If your annual review uncovers issues that need to be resolved, Monet WFM may be the answer. Click here to find out more about how our WFM solution optimizes your workforce resources. Or, experience a free online demo of how the system works. 

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Coming Soon: A Way to Salute Your Top Contact Center Team Members

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Over the years we’ve created several blogs about the importance of recognizing the top performers at your contact center. 

There are several ways to do this – but we’re about to introduce one more, and we think it’s pretty special.

Why? Because this is recognition that not just benefits the individual employee, but also offers a way to share knowledge about Monet solutions that could help other contact centers across the country achieve better customer service results. 

We’ll announce the details soon. In the meantime, start thinking about the agents, managers, coaches and trainers that make your contact center a better place. 

In the meantime, if you’re looking for some other ideas on how to motivate and reward your top performers, this blog might be of interest to you.

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Workforce Management With a Telecommuting Workforce

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There is an assumption that it is easier to oversee contact center agent performance when agents report to work every day in the same facility as their managers. 

But more contact centers are also beginning to recognize the benefits of allowing agents to work from home. These include cost reductions, hiring from a larger field of potential agents (who would not have to drive a long distance to work), and more flexible scalability than what can be imposed at a brick and mortar contact center. 

The key to making it work is communication. That means regular meetings either in person or via conference call to keep everyone in the loop.

Workforce management software has also made this arrangement easier to sustain. Cloud software provides the same service capabilities to an agent’s home computer as they would enjoy at the contact center. No installation is required and data sharing remains secure. 

With an automated, cloud-based workforce management solution, managers receive the same detailed reports and real-time information on employee performance, agent activities, shift assignments, schedule adherence and other data, regardless of whether the agent is working from home or elsewhere.  

Helping work-from-home agents achieve acceptable performance standards also becomes much easier with a quality monitoring (QM) solution. The in-depth analysis and consistent reporting provided by a QM system exposes areas where improvement is needed, and provides accurate measurement on changes that occur as new standards are adopted. 

Managing a virtual workforce may seem like a challenge, but with a few common sense initiatives and the right technology, it’s an arrangement that can be beneficial to everyone involved. 

First time considering WFM? This blog will let you know what questions to ask as you begin exploring the options available. 

Or, check out a free online demo of Monet’s WFM solution. 

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Contact Center Service: Easy is Always Better

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Answering calls at a contact center is work – that’s why agents are paid to do it.

However, calling a contact center to place an order or settle a dispute should not feel like work. That’s why most contact centers try to make customer engagements as quick and easy as possible.

How well does your contact center succeed at this goal? Let’s look at three typical scenarios.

Product Information

At some contact centers this is the primary reason customers call. Is it easy for callers to get the information they need? Are your agents trained to answer questions, access part numbers and prices, and provide assistance without transferring the call or putting customers on hold to look something up?

Purchases and Payments

Today’s customers are used to the ease of buying stuff online. A few clicks of the mouse and items are dropped into a virtual shopping cart, credit card information is entered and shipping details are provided – sometimes all in less than a minute. When customers opt to handle such transactions over the phone, agents should be prepared to not just provide good service, but to also take advantage of upsell opportunities, as long as they do not significantly delay completion of the transaction.

Help and Support

Why isn’t my new computer working? Why can’t I access broadband on my new television? My car is making a funny noise – should I be concerned? Contact center agents must field a wide range of questions from customers that may already be upset at having to call in the first place. The last thing these customers want is to be put on hold multiple times, and to move through a chain of support personnel to find the right expert.

Here, a workforce optimization solution can help. It allows you to classify incoming calls by subject matter, and route them to the agent most qualified to handle them.

Easy is always better. What can you do at your call center to deliver this type of customer experience?

Take a free online demo of Monet’s workforce optimization solution

Find out how one Monet customer, Catalina Express, made life easier for its customers by reducing their wait times and boosting speed of answer by 25%

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Maintaining a Safe Environment for all Contact Center Agents

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The headlines have been everywhere lately – celebrities, Hollywood producers and politicians accused of sexual harassment. But such unacceptable conduct is hardly limited to movie studios and government offices.

In any professional situation there can be instances where those with power and position will use it to make inappropriate demands on employees and those seeking employment. That includes contact centers.

When is the last time you reviewed your company’s policy on how to deal with such incidents? Doing so will likely be on the New Year’s resolution lists of many companies. Here are some tips for how to get started.

Clear Guidelines

The fact that there are varying degrees and different definitions of what constitutes sexual harassment should not prevent your company from drafting guidelines on how you expect your employees to act at the office. Research the policies of the U.S. Department of State and other institutions to establish an appropriate basis on which to build.

Guidelines should not simply be a list of “don’t”s, but also specify what will happen to those who violate company policy, as well as establishing a safe way for employees to report concerns. An anti-harassment workshop is one way to get everyone on the same page.

Once the policy is in place, make sure it is posted in the office, and is part of every training session for new hires.

Vigilant Enforcement

A policy is only words on a page unless it is put into action. If an employee makes an accusation, it must be investigated immediately.

Put Office Romances in Writing

This one might seem awkward at first, especially considering how many people meet their significant others at work. Companies could simply forbid relationships between employees, but a better way to address couples that choose to date is by requesting that both parties sign a document stipulating that their relationship is consensual, and that both have read and understand company policy regarding sexual harassment. Yes, it’s the exact opposite of romantic, but in these contentious times it is best to take every measure to avoid issues later on.

How has your company addressed this issue? Tell us about it on our Facebook page

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2018: The Year of the Agent Experience

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An intriguing new report issued by Customer Contact Week listed several probable priorities for contact centers in 2018.

One of them is improving the agent experience. That makes sense, considering agents are on the front line of your customer service efforts. Your plans and strategies won’t achieve their goals if your agents do not carry them out. When they deliver outstanding performance, everyone benefits.

The real question is how to achieve this goal. The phrase “improve the agent experience” has a murky feel to it – as if it’s something managers always write down but never translate into concrete initiatives that might actually get the job done.

Over the years, we’ve offered several suggestions for creating better and happier agents. These include:

  • More authority – if agents feel empowered to make decisions to help customers without having to transfer calls to managers, it makes them feel more confident and more trusted by their employer.
  • Rewards – great performances should be acknowledged, and recognized with incentives. These could be anything from first choice of upcoming shifts to a gift card for a favorite store or restaurant.
  • A positive culture –That means a welcoming workplace with an appealing look, and managers and coaches that provide the support agents need to succeed.

Technology has a role to play here as well. A workforce management (WFM) solution streamlines and improves the accuracy of forecasting and scheduling, so agents can efficiently handle call volume. Agents can also serve customers better when they have the information they need to access each customer’s purchasing history and preferences.

First time considering WFM? This blog will let you know what questions to ask as you begin exploring the options available.

Or, check out a free online demo of Monet’s WFM solution.

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Investing Wisely in the Digital Transformation of Contact Centers

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The digital transformation is already well underway at contact centers. However, adding channels and options for customers also adds to the company budget, so the key is to pursue solutions that accomplish at least one of two objectives:

  1. Improve the customer experience
  2. Generate customer data that will impact future marketing, sales and outreach efforts

That first objective is achieved by offering the communication channels customers prefer, whether that is online chat, email or social media. Doing so carries the added benefit of reducing live agent call volume, which can also reduce staffing costs.

Contact centers may also believe they are helping customers by “qualifying” them through a series of recorded questions and responses, that ultimately route their call to the agent best qualified to handle each query. However, this process may prove more frustrating than helpful. Customer reactions to an IVR tend to be more negative than positive.

If you must use an IVR, make sure it is designed with the following features:

  • Brevity – do messages get customers to their destination as quickly as possible – or do they delay that journey with long marketing pitches?
  • Clarity – Are the menu options clear? Do they cover all reasonable possibilities?
  • Inclusion – Are recorded messages available in more than one language?

The second objective – generating beneficial customer data – can be achieved by linking your IVR to speech analytics.

Every call that comes in is a valuable source of data. Contact centers have long understood this and try to mine the elements from each conversation deemed most relevant to company performance and customer service.

Speech analytics allows this analysis to go deeper than ever before. Managers will gain more insight into the effectiveness of agent scripts, by the reactions customers provide with their words and the emotional nuances that sometimes suggest more than what they’re actually saying.

The digital transformation of contact centers will certainly continue into 2018 and beyond. Investing wisely in the myriad options available can deliver ROI faster while providing customers with the convenience they prefer.

Find out more about Monet’s Speech Analytics solution.

Or check out a free online demo of our Analytics

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Two Techniques for Training Better Agents: Motivation and Monitoring

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It takes a great many resources to make a contact center run efficiently. But despite the advances in workforce management and workforce optimization technology, your employees, especially your agents, are the most valuable resource of all.

That is why it is so important that agents are qualified, capable and motivated to deliver outstanding service. Fortunately, technology can help here as well, especially with the two most effective techniques for producing better agents: monitoring and motivation.


It’s possible to monitor agent performance manually, but it’s also time-consuming. Plus, if a manager is sitting right next to the agent as he or she takes a call, it’s possible they are not going to hear the agent conduct that call the same way as if management wasn’t around.

An automated call quality monitoring solution, such as that offered in Monet’s workforce optimization solution, delivers recordings of calls, as well as data that can help a contact center track agent performance (attention to KPIs, script compliance, etc.) over a long period of time, establish improvement goals, boost productivity and provide targeted guidance for training sessions.


Call monitoring also makes it easier to identify the best agents at your contact center, and to reward them for their efforts. Doing so will not only assure continued top performance, it can motivate the rest of the team to up their game and become eligible for similar compensation.

What’s the best way to motivate agents? There is no answer that will fit every contact center. The easiest way to find out is simply to ask your agents. What would they like (besides their paycheck) in return for improved performance? Some may respond to gift cards or movie passes or trophies and plaques; others may prefer first choice at future shift schedules, so they can work hours that are more convenient.

And while you’re asking agents about preferred rewards, why not also take that opportunity to solicit suggestions on what the contact center can do to help agents do their jobs, and deliver better service. These are the folks on the front lines of customer engagement – they may have ideas for creating a more effective work environment.

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Increasing Sales With Speech Analytics

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According to NewVoiceMedia, nearly 70% of consumers still prefer to resolve issues with product or service suppliers through a phone call.

That means even in this era of emails and social media and online chat, what customers tell you on the phone provides the best data on customer satisfaction and preferences.

And speech analytics is the most effective way to mine that data and turn it into actionable business intelligence.

A busy contact center will field hundreds – even thousands of calls every day. It’s unfair to expect agents to pick up on every verbal cue and every pattern of behavior during their shift. Speech analytics takes care of this automatically:

  • It tracks what words are used and what topics callers raise most often. 
  • It gauges customer satisfaction levels.
  • It boosts the effectiveness of quality monitoring.
  • It uncovers upsell opportunities. 
  • It identifies customers on the verge of switching companies, allowing agents a chance to keep them in the fold.

When all of this data is compiled and analyzed, it can reveal invaluable insights that can be forwarded to product development, marketing and sales.

Whether you are seeking to lower customer complaint rates or address compliance issues, speech analytics helps you to find the interactions you need, so you can spend less time searching and more time solving the problem.

With Monet WFO’s speech analytics capabilities, contact centers gain even more insight from their call recording solution. With automated alerts triggered by voice data, managers have access to critical business intelligence that boosts both agent performance and the customer experience.

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Performance Management: 6 Tips to Turbo-Charge Your Efforts

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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.

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

It is also a process that benefits from refined tactics and new strategies. If your procedures haven’t been revised in a while, here are six ideas that may be worth trying at your contact center.

1. Weekly Challenges

You pay attention to several KPIs – why not focus on one each week, and challenge your agents to improve performance? Start with first call resolution, for instance, and then move on to average handle time and average speed of answer.

2. An Email After Tough Calls

If a call did not go quite right, send an email to that customer (whether the issue was resolved or not). It’s an easy and free way to reinforce that customer relationship.

3. Brighten Things Up

How does your contact center look? A more appealing, colorful workspace almost always influences agent performance in a positive way.

4. Covert Espionage

Doesn’t that sound like fun? Your agents might enjoy it as well: have them pretend to be customers and call other contact centers to find out how they handle the same challenges you do every day. It’s a great way to measure your performance against the competition.

5. Friendly Competitions

Divide the agents from each shift into two groups – boys against the girls, newcomers against the veterans, fans of opposing sports teams – and have them compete for better performance on specific customer service goals.

6. Daily Team Meetings

A brief meeting every day can bring out for discussion issues that could impact customer service. This is also a good time to share customer feedback from emails or recorded calls.

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Creating Accurate Forecasts From Irregular Call Volume

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At some contact centers, call volume stability is an occasional luxury. At others, it may seem like an impossible dream.

Or is it? Sure, an ever-varying deployment of sales and special offers and store openings and closings will all impact customer response. But with a workforce management solution it is still possible to detect patterns and predict future outcomes. Try these tips for more accurate forecasts.

1. Unique events aren’t always unique

Sometimes we tend to overlook the fact that next week’s sale isn’t really that much different from one last February, or that the blizzard that shut down the streets around the store had the same impact as a thunderstorm did last summer. Bottom line: few events that affect contact center call volume are truly unique. By reviewing 1-2 years of call history, you should be able to anticipate the impact of an approaching event, based on what happened when a similar event occurred previously.

2. Run scenarios

Forecasting simulations based on 2-3 potential outcomes can help managers analyze routing policies and incoming call volume. That leads to more accurate forecasts and schedules.

3. Include all activities

Events don’t just vary outside the contact center. Agent breaks, training sessions, staff meetings and other variables should also be considered when preparing forecasts and schedules. This is much easier to do with an automated workforce management system (as opposed to spreadsheets).

4. Stay flexible

The more rigid the schedule, the more likely it will fall short of expectations. Built-in flexibility allows managers to be forecast in a way that prepares for unforeseen fluctuations. And, as with including all activities, this flexibility is easier to achieve with a workforce management solution.

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Dreamforce 2017: Monet Receives a Thumbs-Up From Salesforce

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It was a pleasure to meet so many clients and colleagues at last month’s Dreamforce event in San Francisco.

We were there, among 170,000 other attendees, primarily to launch Monet Workforce Management for Salesforce, which integrates with Salesforce’s case management system. Monet Workforce Management for Salesforce fills the gap and allows helpdesks to build accurate forecasts and optimal schedules.

We were delighted by the enthusiastic response this solution received from customers and partners, who told us how they look forward to using it to increase service levels while reducing operational costs.

Salesforce was pleased as well, and invited Monet to be a member of their Service Cloud Advisory Board.

If you missed this year’s event, these were the other two hot topics of discussion:

Artificial Intelligence For a Better Customer Experience

Improving and personalizing the customer experience remains a top priority for companies in attendance, and artificial intelligence is dramatically changing the game. At Monet, our product team has also been working on how AI can be leveraged in our solutions to help our customers deliver the best customer experience possible.

Humanity At the Heart Of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is reshaping the way we live and the way we do business. Dreamforce hosted several insightful conversations about equality, social justice, and human rights. Monet has always believed that companies must give back to society. As part of our corporate social responsibility initiatives, we are proud to sponsor 28 children and provide food, medical care and education through Compassion International

We look forward to seeing you at next year’s event!

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When Customer Complaints are a Good Thing

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No call center likes to hear complaints. But the sentiments of unhappy customers provide valuable data into a company’s products and services. 

Obviously, if a call center receives too many negative calls, it’s a sign that changes are needed. But if a call center receives almost no complaints, that’s not necessarily an indication that everything is wonderful. 

According to Lee Resource, for every customer complaint, there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent. And a Financial Training Services study found that 96% of unhappy customers will not share their frustration with a company – they’ll just take their business elsewhere. 

And while some customers may not give negative feedback to a company, they will write negative reviews on Facebook, and on other online review sites. 

Why do they stay quiet? At some companies, the process of filing a complaint is too complicated (perhaps by design?) to be worth the effort. 

Some people just don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves that way. Others believe complaining doesn’t really accomplish anything. And some worry that if they identify an employee who did not provide good service, it might result in that employee being out of work. They might be upset, but they don’t want to be responsible for someone else getting fired. 

The bottom line: call centers may be missing out on negative feedback that could result in positive changes and better service. That is why it is important to make it as easy as possible for customers to share feedback and complaints – and to be proactive and solicit their opinions, good or bad. This can be achieved anonymously online, through surveys sent via email, or on social media. 

Don’t be afraid to ask how a customer would rate the service he or she received, why they chose that rating, and whether they would be open to being contacted for more information. When a customer feels their opinion really matters to a company, they are more likely to remain a customer. 

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New Legislation Would Require Call Centers to Identify Their Location to Customers: Is This a Good Idea?

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Over the past few decades there has been continuous ebb and flow in the movement toward locating call center resources outside the United States.

When the economy falters and companies have to cut back on resources, they are more likely to shift their call center operations to India or the Philippines. Do customers receive the same level of service? That’s another story. There are also privacy and security issues that should make a company CEO think twice before making this decision.

And now, as more call center jobs continue to move overseas despite improving economic numbers, Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania has introduced the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, a bill designed to limit this practice. The bill would require that U.S. callers be told the location of the call center to which they’re speaking, and give them the right to request a transfer to a U.S. based call center.

In addition, the bill would also make U.S. companies that offshore call center jobs ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-funded loans.

Thus far there appears to be some bipartisan support for the bill, but whether it ultimately passes in this heated political climate is anybody’s guess.

Is it a good idea? Ask any customer who has been frustrated by a difficult experience with an offshore call center, and they’ll tell you the bill can’t pass fast enough.

But for some call centers, passage would force some challenging economic decisions.

Welcoming Call Centers Home With Workforce Optimization

If the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act becomes law, it will likely motivate several companies to return their call center operations to the U.S. after years, perhaps even decades, of being away. 

And when they return, they may realize that the spreadsheets they used before are no longer sufficient for scheduling, or analyzing statistics on call volume. This rudimentary system has now been surpassed by workforce optimization (WFO) software. 

From tracking call history, adherence and performance, to call recording capabilities, WFO makes almost every aspect of the supervisor’s job more efficient. WFO addresses quality management and performance management as well, regardless of the size of the call center or the number of agents employed. 

Find out more about Monet’s Workforce Optimization solution

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Five Tips To Transform Good Agents Into Superstars

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Your agents are on the front line of customer service, product promotion and brand awareness. Their job performance resonates throughout the entire company, impacting marketing, sales and client research. So it’s imperative to do everything possible to find and train agents who can surpass “good” and achieve superstar status.

Here are five tips that can help them along that path.

1. Competition

As long as it doesn’t turn nasty, healthy competition between agents for some type of reward can result in better service. Some call centers will even pit a team of agents against their managers, to see who fares better. The chance to outshine the boss can be a powerful motivator.

2. Empowerment

Show faith in your agents by allowing them to make some decisions for customers without having to check with a manager first. This will increase their sense of responsibility, and shorten many calls as well – a boost to average handle time.

3. Communication

Listen to your agents. Schedule informal meetings where they are free to express opinions on any aspect of their job. For those that may be uncomfortable sharing their views in an open forum, provide a good old-fashioned suggestion box when ideas can be offered anonymously. An agent who sees his or her ideas implemented is one that will feel more like a valued member of the company.

4. Support

Agents often perform better if they feel appreciated. That means providing flexible shift schedules so those attending school or dealing with outside responsibilities. Those that wish to advance into managerial positions should be encouraged, and perhaps even trained, for that eventuality.

5. Reward

It’s basic, but it still works: provide incentive and bonuses to agents that exceed expectations, and don’t be surprise if service improves.

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Schedule Exceptions: How Do You Handle Them?

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The shift begins like any other at your friendly neighborhood call center. And then – something goes wrong.

Usually it’s an unexpected absence – an agent calls in sick at the last minute. Now the scheduling you’ve done for that shift isn’t going to work – if it has been completed on a spreadsheet. 

But with the right workforce management (WFM) software, not only is the crisis averted, it never becomes a crisis at all. 

By using the “Exceptions” feature in WFM, the remaining roster of call center agents for that shift automatically adjusts to compensate for the one agent that will be missing. 

Of course, there are many other types of exceptions as well. Agents may need to miss part of their shift because of a training session or other work-related event. An agent may show up late for his shift, or return from lunch ten minutes after he should have started. If you’re lucky you may also have agents who work overtime to complete a project, rather than letting it sit until the next day. 

The Monet WFM Live Exceptions feature covers all of these scenarios, automatically recording the times work stops and starts, and making changes as needed to avoid a drop in customer service. 

And while this is happening, the software is also measuring productivity, and making sure the records accurately reflect how many agents were taking calls at any specific moment of any specific day. By getting those numbers right, it’s much easier to create forecasts and schedules that match caller demand and other call center needs. 

For instance – perhaps you have discovered that customers waited an average of 60 seconds longer for an agent between 1pm and 1:30 on Monday. A spreadsheet might just show 20 agents working that half-hour. But WFM data will show that two agents didn’t start their shift until 1:10, since the lunch service was slow at Olive Garden that afternoon. Now you know that only 18 agents were at their desks, which likely accounted for the delays. 

With a few clicks, a workforce management system delivers information about employee status and availability, and the schedule exceptions that are critical for accurate future planning. 

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Call Center Security Survey: Is Your Business Safe?

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A new survey of call center agents provides some intriguing data on a very important topic – the security of customer information. 

A company that provides data security solutions conducted the survey, which suggests they have a stake in exposing risky practices in customer interaction, data collection and fraud prevention. But that doesn’t mean these problems do not exist.  

Among the survey’s findings:

  • More than 70% of call center agents who collect credit card and debit card information read that information aloud during the call
  • As much as 30% of call center agents reported that they are able to access a customer’s financial information, even when they are not on the phone with that customer
  • While just 7% of agents said they were asked by someone else in the company to access a customer’s payment card number, at a large call center that still adds up to thousands of customers. And of those agents that were approached, more than 40% did not report the situation to management. Just one breach can do major damage, as several companies have already discovered

When is the last time you reviewed the security procedures and protocols in place at your call center? 

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The KPI Checklist, Part Two

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While every call center is different, it’s a safe bet that they share many common goals related to customer service. Managers rely on data, categorized into key performance indicators (KPIs) to address these service issues. 

Which are most important? The short answer is all of them. But different call centers excel at different things. So instead of selecting a top 5 or top 10 in this blog, we are going to provide a more wide-ranging selection of KPIs, to help managers pinpoint specific challenges at their call centers. 

Call Resolution

All calls do not have a happy ending. Call resolution measures the percentage in which the customer was able to achieve his or her objective (placing an order, getting a refund, having a question answered, etc.). The goal should always be First Call Resolution, measured alongside Repeat Calls to determine which types of issues are proving most difficult to handle – and/or which agents may need additional training to fix a problem. 

On-Hold Time

This one is pretty obvious – how long customers wait until greeted by an agent. By collecting data managers will be able to determine the average duration that would be considered acceptable waiting time. Keep in mind, however, that 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. 

Call Arrival Rate

How many calls come in every day? Every week? These numbers will identify seasonal and business trends that will improve the accuracy of agent forecasting and scheduling. 

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.

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? 

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The KPI Checklist, Part One

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While every call center is different, it’s a safe bet that they share many common goals related to customer service. Managers rely on data, categorized into key performance indicators (KPIs) to address these service issues. 

Which are most important? The short answer is all of them. But different call centers excel at different things. So instead of selecting a top 5 or top 10 in this blog, we are going to provide a more wide-ranging selection of KPIs, to help managers pinpoint specific challenges at their call centers. 

Average Handle Time

This is the average duration of one transaction. To get a handle on handle time, workforce management makes it easier for managers to determine if they have enough agents available to efficiently serve call volume. Then, employ skills-based routing: An agent that is adept at settling customer disputes will be able to handle these types of calls more quickly than someone without those skills. Also, as certain customer inquiries are bound to come up repeatedly, train your agents to anticipate these questions and answer them before they can be asked.

Call Abandonment

This is the number of callers that hang up or end an online chat before first contact with an agent. The cause is almost always a long wait time. This KPI is closely tied to Active Waiting Calls, a reference to how many customers are ‘on hold.’ More accurate forecasts and schedules can help agents get to those callers faster, and reduce call abandonment. 

Peak Hour Traffic

When is your call center busiest? Identifying the peak times and hours of traffic will play a key role in agent scheduling. 

After Call Work Time

When a customer engagement ends, there is still work for the agent to do before taking the next call. This metric provides a time measurement for those practices, allowing managers to set reasonable limits. 

Sales per Agent

For call centers that primarily exist to take customer orders, this is a significant and surprisingly oft-overlooked metric. Why do some agents, reading from the same script as everyone else, close more sales? Managers should identify these top performers, and find out how they’re succeeding. Those techniques can then be disseminated to other agents who may be missing upsell opportunities. 

Customer Satisfaction

That’s what it’s all about. Call recording will provide some idea of how customers would assess their call center engagement, but quality monitoring can also play an important role in determining quality of service. Monet’s Quality Management tool helps managers to monitor customer interactions and consistently deliver great service and improve customer satisfaction with integrated quality scorecards, dashboards and reports.

We will take a closer look at more KPIs in our next blog.

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The Agent Call-Back: Risks and Benefits

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During peak hours, or when forecasts and schedules prove inaccurate (an occurrence that can be reduced with workforce management), many call centers have introduced a call-back feature. This is a system in which callers are told that an agent will contact them at some future time based on their place in the queue. 

Is this an effective solution to long hold times? Let’s take a closer look from the perspective of both the call center and the customer.

The Customer

On the plus side, call-backs eliminate the annoying practice of sitting on hold for several minutes, listening to repetitive music and pre-recorded messages about how that customer’s call is important to the company, and how a representative will be with them shortly. 

The longer customers are forced to wait, the more likely some of them are to hang up, and take their business elsewhere. With call-back, that customer can go back to watching TV or doing some work at the computer, until being contacted by an agent. 

However, some customers might view the call-back as a rebuff: “Why are they taking other people’s calls and not mine?” Everyone is more impatient these days, and for some the offer to call a customer back just represents another unwelcome delay. 

The Call Center

For the call center, a call-back option provides a way to level out spikes in call volume that can increase the abandoned call rate. And when callers finally get to speak to someone after a long wait on hold, many will devote the first few moments of the conversation to complaining about the poor service, which also increases average handle time. 

However, the call-back still carries the inherent risk of losing that customer. As long as someone is on hold, they are still in contact with the company, and likely to follow through on whatever business inspired the call. When that connection is broken, there is no guarantee the customer will be around to answer the phone when the agent calls back. 

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Perfecting Your Performance Management

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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 – unfortunately, many still rely solely on an annual review to determine how well they are doing.

The success of call center performance management requires an ongoing effort and regularly scheduled meetings throughout the year. 

Yes, we know it can be a challenge to find the time when there are so many other responsibilities that need to be handled. But automated workforce management (WFM) can make a significant difference in collecting and analyzing employee data, so effective agent management can be achieved in less time. 

Once you have that program in place with the help of WFM, here are some tips to make it more effective. 

Set Specific Goals

“We want to improve customer service and experience.” “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. 

Provide Specific Feedback

Successful performance management relies on clear communication between managers and agents. This is particularly important when it comes to assessing performance and offering guidance for improvement. With the Performance Analysis component of WFM, managers have access to reports, statistics and analysis of all agent activities, including their schedule adherence and key performance indicators (KPIs). That will help to further target training sessions.  

Avoid Agent Burnout

Agents that are tired, bored, distracted or no longer engaged in their work are an issue faced at every call center. Replacement of such agents should be a last-ditch option, to avoid the cost of hiring and training someone new. Instead, try to accommodate agents with these issues as much as possible. 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) are streamlined, while holidays and other special events can be factored more efficiently into overall scheduling. 

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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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