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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

Call Center Recording Systems: A Profitable Investment

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Call monitoring can do more than improve call center efficiency and customer satisfaction – it can also boost profits as well. Here’s how:

Average Revenues Per Call: Call center recording software makes it easier to measure and improve the most important performance indicators, such as average revenues per call. With comprehensive records of what works and what doesn’t, training and agent-customer interaction can be adjusted accordingly to maximize these revenues based on past performances.

Reduced Paper Costs: VoIP records save space and cost over paper records, lowering the call center’s office expenses and saving a few trees as well.

Accelerating Change: By collecting and analyzing VoIP records of actual customer responses, the call center can adjust more quickly to issues as they arise and disseminate changes in tactics to agents and other key staff. When a successful new approach is discovered, it can be rapidly instituted company-wide, raising additional revenues in days, not weeks or months.


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Workforce Management Software Selection Guide for Call Centers

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Every call center has different needs. Size, structure, industry, type of calls and many other factors determine your unique requirements. However, there are some guidelines and key questions you should consider when selecting workforce scheduling software for your call center:

Key Functionality:

  • Forecasting: Ability to run simulations to calculate a precise forecast for future call volume, agent requirements and average handle time for any time interval of the day, based on historical data from your ACD.
  • Scheduling: The scheduling engine should incorporate all call types and other activities to generate staffing schedules that optimize a wide range of factors, including agent availability, skills, holidays, breaks and service levels.
  • Exception handling: Integrated exception calendar to simplify scheduling of agent exceptions such as time off and one-time or recurring training meetings.
  • Intra-day management: Graphical display of agents' schedules with drag-and-drop functionality to quickly manage breaks, lunches and other exceptions. Real-time updates can be made to required and assigned agents instantly, and display surpluses and shortages for each time period of the day.
  • Real-time adherence: Ability to compare planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, as well as real-time views of forecasted and actual call volumes, handle times and other key performance indicators.
  • Configuration & administration: Ability to set up unlimited number of center splits or agent groups, each with its own set of service objectives and guidelines. Management of multiple sites and time zones. Ability to set hours of operation by day of week, and service level goals down to 15-minute intervals if desired.
  • Metrics and reporting: Ability to report and analyze all agent activities including their schedule adherence and key performance indicators. Managers need to get actionable insights through tools such as call center dashboards, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and real-time alerts.

Implementation and user adoption -
Questions to ask when evaluating the implementation:
  • Implementation and setup: How long does it take to implement and configure the solution to your unique needs.
  • User setup: How much effort is it to set up users in different locations such as remote and home offices?
  • Training: How much effort does it take to learn and productively use the solution?
  • Usability: Is the solution easy to use so that users can leverage the full potential of the software?

Total cost of ownership -
Evaluate key cost drivers of the software:
  • Upfront cost: How much do you have to invest upfront for software licenses, hardware and other software?
  • Implementation cost: Costs for internal staff and consultants to implement the software and train the users.
  • Ongoing cost: Calculate the internal cost of operation, as well as external cost such as ongoing software maintenance fees, subscription and consultant fees.

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Call Center Scheduling Tips - Part 2

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This is part 2 of our list of call center scheduling tips (here is part 1 in case you missed it):

5. Compare ACD logon time to time-clock entries


Make sure agents are logged in and ready for calls coordinating with the clock time.
Consider using the ACD agent log-in and log-out times for payroll – dependent on the culture and procedures you have established


6. Include all activities in schedule

When developing your forecast and schedule make sure to include

  • Breaks and lunches
  • Multiple tasks (calls, email, etc.)
  • Training
  • Time-off
  • Realistic buffer for shrinkage

7. Rank agents and match teams by personality

Rank your agents
  • Creating a schedule by agent rank can be very effective in reducing costs and increasing sales
  • Rank according to call completion time, calls per hour or other performance measures including sales and order size
Match personality and team
  • Studies have shown that a good relationship with colleagues drives motivation and performance
  • Your schedule should leverage this by teaming up the “right people
For more information about call center scheduling, please also see our new and updated corporate website.
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Five Reasons to Add Call Recording Software to Your Contact Center

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Many contact centers have added software for call recording out of necessity rather than preference. Compliance with government and industry regulations is one of the most prominent reasons why companies may have to consider call monitoring software, but there are far more compelling reasons why contact centers should be eager to add this capability to their day-to-day business operations. Here are five important reasons why a call recorder program makes sense.

1. Training
The training and orientation applied before an agent is hired may provide adequate preparation, but after a few weeks on the job it will probably prove insufficient for every situation that agent will face. Call monitoring offers an ongoing means to continue agent training, by reviewing specific events and guiding that agent through best practices for each customer service opportunity.

2. Resolving HR Issues
Call centers, like other types of businesses, may be forced to cope with a smaller management staff. That means one manager may be assigned to a large number of agents, and personally monitoring the performance of each can be a daunting challenge. By reviewing records kept on call center call recording software, one manager can increase the effectiveness of his training and reduce supervision time. Plus, better-trained agents reduce employee turnover and the costs inherent in hiring and training new employees.

3. Random Quality Assurance
With call quality monitoring, managers can review any call at any time. There’s no better way to gain insight into a typical customer-agent conversation, and quickly correct any issues. Not every customer will file a complaint after a negative experience, which means some agents might otherwise persist in poor behavior for weeks or months before the situation is confronted and addressed. Call recording software identifies these problems before they can cause significant damage.

4. Lower Costs
Call center recording reduces the need for written evaluations and other materials that contribute to a costly paper trail. It’s also good for the environment.

5. Agent Self-Evaluation
While training is important, call monitoring allows agents to also review their own performances, and learn from their mistakes without the involvement of a manager. The best agents will realize where they need help and make corrections before being informed to do so by their employers.


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The Legalities of Call Monitoring

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Call center recording systems are subject to regulation from the FCC, specific industries and other governing bodies. It is each call center’s responsibility to be compliant with all specified standards and restrictions.

United States Law
The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 prohibits the interception of telephone communication by any means. However, an exception is allowed if one or both parties authorize the recording. For internal communication there is also a “Business Telephone” exemption. State law varies, however, and should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC)
The FCC similarly requires call monitoring to be revealed prior to a recording device being used. Verbal or written consent must be given. A beep tone, repeated at intervals throughout the call, is required as a reminder to both parties of the recording in process.

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard
When a credit card transaction is conducted over the phone, call monitoring is subject to compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Security is the primary concern here, as any time a credit card number is processed, transmitted or stored, there is a risk of identity theft. The PCI DSS requires file encryption, secure storage and the deletion of certain information, such as the credit card security code. More information can be found herehttps://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/documents/pci_dss_v2.pdf 

International Law
When a call recorder system is used on international calls, there are other and restrictions that must be observed. Countries such as Canada, Britain and Australia have separate regulations for call recording software.

The best way resolve any issues or questions is to bring legal counsel into the decision-making process of how call recording software will be used.


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Call Center Scheduling Tips - Part 1

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We have established a list of call center scheduling tips to keep your call center running efficiently, keep service levels increasing, and your customer base and revenues growing.

1. Use a flexible shift model


Fixed start times, lunch breaks, end times, etc. result in

  • Overstaffing = higher costs!
  • Understaffing = lower service levels and revenues!
Gradually implement a flexible shift model by introducing it to some of your agents (existing and/or new hires) first, and over time move the whole center to a flexible shift model.
Increase your service levels by 1 to 2 percent, and result in a similar percentage of savings in personnel costs


2. Track and minimize shrinkage

15 minutes shrinkage per day in a 25 agent center costs you $23,437 per year. How to improve:
  • Better match call volume with agent availability through a flexible shift model
  • Increase forecast and schedule accuracy by including all tasks into forecast and schedule
  • Monitor and improve schedule adherence

3. Track and improve schedule adherence

Inform and educate agents:
  • Agents need to understand the relevance of schedule adherence
  • Explain how a mere 10 minutes impacts the entire center performance.
Measure and manage adherence:
Provide incentives:
  • Reward agents (95% within adherence) – recognition and/or bonus.
  • Agents are aware of the consequences for out-of-adherence behavior

4. Cross train multi-skill agents

Multiple skills and use skill-based routing
  • Reduce # of agents needed to handle your call volume.
  • The productivity gains can be up to 10-15%.
Form overlapping groups
  • One group for call type A and B, and one group for C and D
  • Improve by adding a group that is able to handle B and C

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Apple iCloud surges past 100 million users. Lessons for call center software.

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A recent article in Forbes reports about the tremendous growth of Apple's iCloud. Here is a quote from the article: "That’s 100 million iCloud users in four months, or about 25 million per month—and that’s coming awfully close to 1 million new iClouders every single day". Well, that kind of user adoption is only possible through cloud-computing and its unique characteristics:

  • Easy to use (obvious, self-service)
  • Scalability (storage and performance)
  • Instant set up of an account (no software, not hardware to install)
  • Low cost (subscription based or even free)
  • Low risk (if you don't like it you can turn it off without a big upfront investment)
The same principles are true for enterprise software in the cloud. If you are in the process of selecting new call center software or are not getting the value you expected from your current software - think about how the cloud-based model could be the right alternative for your call center.
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What is advanced real-time schedule adherence?

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One challenge in tracking and monitoring schedule adherence is that agents can have so many different non-call tasks, exceptions and states that it is difficult to plan for and then monitor those states. That's where Advanced Agent Adherence comes into action. It allows the creation of custom states and rules to match the unique needs of your the call center, such as:

  • Create custom states for any number of activities, such as call wrap-up, special after call work, or outbound preparation
  • Set thresholds for each state, indicating how much time is considered “in adherence” so that time in a particular state can automatically be broken down into acceptable and unacceptable time
  • Define which states are included or not included in the agent adherence calculation
Exceptions and non-call activities will be added by default and will be considered “scheduled activities,” along with available, break, lunch, and logged out states. Call center managers can customize which statuses are allowed and not allowed for each scheduled activity.

Since every call center has unique agent activity types, this flexible approach to agent adherence monitoring gives centers a new level of accuracy in managing call center performance and the potential to dramatically reduce non-productive agent time.
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Call Center Scheduling in the Cloud: It's No Longer "If", It is "When"

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In 2012, "cloud computing" will continue to move full steam ahead. More and more call center software solutions such as CRM, PBX/ACD, and workforce management are delivered through the cloud, and call centers are adopting these solutions. And here are a few compelling reasons why companies move to the cloud:

  • Ease of use: Have you experienced enterprise software that gets hardly used or not used at all, because it is too difficult to learn/use? Think about ROI?! In comparison, cloud-based solutions are designed to be easy to use for fast adoption, without a lot of training.
  • Low investment: Traditional software requires a substantial upfront investment for software licenses, hardware and additional software. The cloud model eliminates or dramatically reduces that investment (and the the associated risk) and is typically based on a monthly subscription (pay-as-you-go model).
  • Fast implementation: Over the years, many companies experienced long and painful software implementation projects. Often, the business requirements have changed before the software was rolled out to the user community. Cloud again, has changed this paradigm. Web- based applications with instant account creation and easy configuration and self-service makes it possible to roll-out and use solutions in weeks.
  • No maintenance: Somebody in your company has to make sure that the software is working, servers are running, do back-ups, etc. - that requires resources and money. Again, with cloud, this is all done by the solution provider.
  • Always latest version: There are probably many companies out there that use an older software version simply because it is too expensive or too painful to upgrade to the latest version. Typically, cloud solutions automatically deploy new features and versions to their customers with minimal or no downtime. Customer can easily take advantage of new functionality.
  • Virtual call centers: Today, many call centers have multiple locations around the world and a higher percentage of flexible home agents. Providing a consistent infrastructure to all agents and centers is a challenge. Cloud computing helps deliver call center software to every agent over the Internet - it's easier to deploy, more consistent and typically easier to use and support.
And there is one more reason for increased interest in cloud-based offerings. Many cloud solutions offer a trial, so you can check out and evaluate the solution before you commit. That's something traditional on-premise software usually cannot provide.
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A Best Practices Guide to Call Recording

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A call monitoring program can pay significant dividends for a call center. But it’s not enough to merely install software for call recording, and review the data periodically. There are proven best practice solutions that can help a company get the most from its call recording systems.

Preparation
Establish metrics and quality standards before the call recorder program is installed. Identify the critical areas for your call center where training, efficiency, employee communication skills and accuracy can be improved. Typically, these areas would include the evaluation of each employee’s courtesy, troubleshooting skills, and execution of company policy.

Staff Briefing
If call recording software is installed with no advance notice given to employees, it is likely to generate a negative reaction. Communication, either written or at a meeting, is recommended to inform the call center team of what is happening, and to address their questions and concerns.

Legal Considerations
The Federal Communications Commission requires that notification be given to callers that their conversation will be recorded. Additionally, there are state guidelines and industry-specific regulations that require compliance from a call center recording system.

Training
Based on the results of the company’s call monitoring effort, training should be scheduled for employees to identify areas of improvement. The training program should be ongoing to review how employees respond to feedback and change their behavior accordingly.
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Schedule Adherence for Call Centers - A Strategy Whitepaper

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Schedule Adherence still seems one of the top challenges for call centers. This new whitepaper talks about the challenges and how to overcome those, helping call center managers and supervisors better manage adherence. The paper discusses the following topics:

  • How to identify the issues that cause out-of-adherence
  • How to monitor and measure adherence
  • How to work with your team on improving schedule adherence
  • How to establish an "adherence culture"
  • How to use tools to better monitor adherence
If you still struggle with out-of-adherence issues, or can’t reach and maintain your targeted adherence level, then this whitepaper is for you.
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Call forecasting and call center scheduling spreadsheets? A few considerations.

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Sometimes, spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling seem to be just fine. However, one of the biggest challenges in call centers - maintaining schedule adherence - is very difficult or almost impossible to manage using spreadsheets. In addition, there are other forecasting and scheduling tasks that can be very challenging with spreadsheets and might result in sup-optimal performance. And those tasks (listed below) are often key drivers to make your call center more productive and deliver better service to your customers.

Schedule adherence: Spreadsheets don't support this well. Studies have shown that tracking and monitoring agent adherence in real-time has a tremendous postive impact on call center performance.
Exception handling: This is a very manual process and complicated with spreadsheets. Automated exception handling of modern WFM solutions keep agents happy and results in higher productivity.
Schedule flexibility
: Spreadsheets are often limited to fixed schedules. You might not be able to take take advantage of schedules with flexible start-time, end-time & breaks to boost service levels.
Call history: Spreadsheets don't support real-time or automated data import of large amounts of data, potentially resulting in reduced forecast accuracy.
Skill-based routing and scheduling: Very complicated to manage with spreadsheets, therefore, call centers often can't realize productivity advantages of skill-based scheduling.

If you are still using spreadsheets, you should review the above list from the perspective of your call center needs and evaluate the potential for improving call center operation. You can also learn more about WFM by looking at automating forecasting, scheduling and adherence tracking.


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Important call center metrics: Service Level

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There is no "right" service level for a call center. The service level should be defined based on customer needs, behavior and expectation, aligned with the business goals and objectives of your company. Also, the service level is just one element that drives customer satisfaction and positive business outcome. If you answer calls very quickly but cannot address the customer issue, it might be worse than having customers wait a bit longer and get their issues resolved in one call. However, this post focuses on the service level component:

How is the service level calculated? It is defined as the percentage of calls that get answered within a specific time period. Example: 80% of calls should get answered within 20 seconds.

What causes service level issues? There are many reasons that have an impact on services levels, here are just a few:

  • Calls take longer than planned (product issues, training issues, unexpected events, etc.)
  • Forecast inaccurate (higher call volume or different call pattern)
  • Schedule sub-optimal (doesn't include all activities, lack of flexibility, etc.)
  • Call fluctuations during day that could not be planned for
  • Low schedule adherence (often the biggest problem of missed service levels)
  • Exceptions (unscheduled meetings, staff absenteeism, etc.)
How to improve service level?
  • Goal: First, it is important to define a realistic service level that is in line with your overall business objectives and the specifics and needs of your customers and their inquiries.
  • More accurate forecast: It all starts with an accurate forecast - both the overall volume and the arrival patterns throughout the day. Having call history data available, being able to run different scenarios and breaking it down to 15 or 30 minute increments helps to improve accuracy over time
  • Better aligned schedule: There are many aspects to consider when creating a schedule. A previous blog post about call center scheduling 101 talks about those in more detail.
  • Flexible schedule: Building in some flexibility into your schedule is not easy, but can help dramatically. Flexibility regarding start and end time, breaks, training, etc. helps cover periods of irregular call patterns, while still running a cost efficient operation.
  • Schedule adherence: Again, this is one of the biggest issues, but at the same time, has a big potential to improve service levels. You can read more about improving schedule adherence in this whitepaper.
  • Measure: As you know, you can only manage what you can measure. Add the service level as one of you key metrics to your "dashboard" and also track dependencies to discover the issues that have a negative impact on your service level.
  • Learn: As you measure and monitor you will learn more about what causes problems and over time, you will be able to better plan or even avoid service level issues.
  • Educate: Make service level discussions part of team meetings/training session and have your team share their experience. Compare the measured services level with the perception of customers; have agents share their experience of customer behavior and expectations. For example, a service level that looks great on paper might not be perceived well by customers, or the other way round, a presumed low service level might not be an issue with customers because they feel they get great service.

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Contact center scheduling and forecasting overview

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Scheduling contact center staff is the "art and science" of having the right number of employees, with the right skills at the right times to meet anticipated call volumes (and other communication channels such as email, chat , social media). And all this has to happen with a targeted service level and at minimal costs. Contact center forecasting and scheduling is a critical task and poor planning and execution can have a negative impact on revenues and cost, customer satisfaction and also employees motivation. Key tasks of contact center scheduling include the following activities:

1. Call Forecasting - Calculation of call volumes based on key parameters:

  • Call history data
  • Call patterns (day, week, season, etc.)
  • Special day patterns (holidays, etc.)
  • Other event or business drivers that might impact call volume/pattern (sales campaign)

2. Staffing requirements - Calculation of staffing needs based on:
  • Service level, ASA and average handle time
  • Type of calls (required skills)
  • Anticipated workload

3. Schedule - Creation of a schedule for every day based on your unique needs:
  • 15 or 30 minute increments
  • Consideration of all activities (call and non-call)
  • Flexibility regarding start/end times, breaks, etc.
  • Multi-skill routing

4. Schedule Adherence - Monitoring and managing adherence as team effort:
  • Inform and educate about adherence importance and impact
  • Measure and manage adherence throughout the day (real-time adherence)
  • Provide incentives for adherence

5. Exception handling - "Stuff happens", be prepared to manage exceptions and changes throughout the day:
  • Changes in call volume or arrival pattern (campaigns, external events, etc.)
  • Staffing or scheduling issues (training, sick, absenteeism, etc.)
  • Business related exceptions

6. Measure Success - Define what "success" means for you center and measure & adjust accordingly:
  • Analyze hourly/daily/weekly reports
  • What worked, what didn't? Investigate causes for under-performance
  • Apply "learnings" into future forecasting/scheduling process

Every contact center is different, but one of the most challenging tasks from the above list for every center is most likely schedule adherence. If you would like to learn more, please download our whitepaper "How to improve schedule adherence in your call center" and discover new ways that might work for your contact center.

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Welcome to Call Recording, Analytics and Quality Assurance for Call Centers

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Welcome to our new blog. Many call center managers are still challenged with having the right number of agents, with the right skills, ensuring that calls are handled in compliance with regulations and policies, while also delivering great customer service. This blog tries to help by providing practical information, tips and best practices on how to use call recording, quality monitoring and agent metrics to achieve better utilization of resources, better cost management and improved service levels.


Please let us know what you think or if you have questions or ideas for future blog posts.

Thanks

The Monet Software Team
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How to Evaluate Call Recording Software Solutions

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Companies considering the addition of call recording software will find a variety of options to choose from. While most call centers will have similar needs, there are specific challenges that will favor some solutions over others. The size and structure of the call center, the call volume and the type of industry served are just some of the factors that should be considered when selecting call recording software. Before making a decision, evaluate your company’s objectives in the following areas:

Implementation
No call recording software solution is effective if it can’t be implemented and configured to meet the company’s unique needs. Another key decision point to consider is the choice between traditional software, which requires the purchase and installation of hardware and software, and cloud-based solutions, that are delivered as a web-based service over the Internet. Evaluate not only set-up time in the main call center plus any remote locations and home offices, but also the training time that will be required for managers and agents to become familiar with everyday use.

Functionality
Functionality covers a wide range of services and capabilities such as:
  • On-Demand Recording
  • Live Monitoring
  • Search and Retrieval
  • Call Playback
  • Selective Recording
  • Look-Back Call Recording
  • Multi-Site Call Recording
  • Call Tagging/Exporting
  • Audit Trail
  • PCI Compliant
  • Secure Access
  • Auto-delete
  • File Management/archiving
  • Metrics and Reporting
  • Administration and Management
Prior to assessing call recording software, create a list of preferences and prioritize them by importance. That will make it easier to assess the choices available and achieve call center optimization. One of the most significant aspects of functionality is metrics and reporting. The key to workforce management is in knowing how personnel and assets are being utilized, where they are falling short and where there is room for improvement. Call recording software and call quality management should be the primary source for these insights.

Cost
With call recording software and any other enterprise software there are three major cost components to consider:

1. Upfront cost: Software, hardware, licenses, implementation and training
2. Ongoing costs: Maintenance, support and operation
3. Upgrade costs: New features, updated hardware, etc.

The differences in cost are particularly notable when comparing installed software with cloud-based solutions.
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Call Center Recording Software Explained

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The obvious function of a call center recording system is to create a record of conversations between customers and call center personnel. But the capabilities of call recording software now extend well beyond that simple task, and smart call centers are using the VoIP record to improve the safety, quality and effectiveness of their corporate communication.

Unlike the voice mail systems used by consumers, VoIP calls travel digitally on computer networks, and are captured by call recording software and the use of a network router, switch and hub (or a direct connection from PC to VoIP phone). Some call recording solutions capture only in- and outbound calls, but other VoIP recorders capture internal traffic as well.

Ideally, hosted call recording should be easy to install and use, with only minimal training required for call center employees. All primary functions – recording, archiving and retrieval – should be scalable and fully automated, and all calls should be stored on a secure server.

A call recorder program should have the capability to save analog, digital and VoIP calls, and to allow authorized users to add relevant notes to a call within the database. It should also be able to collect several calls from one client and replay them sequentially, so call center personnel can trace the history of that client relationship.

Benefits of Call Monitoring
Call recording systems provide several benefits for call center management, personnel and clients. Analysis of a VoIP record can expose flaws and prompt changes that improve the efficiency of customer interactions and the performance of call center staff. Recorded calls can be used for agent training, and to address marketing challenges.

A call recorder program also helps in setting disputes, and reduces liability exposure. Allegations of what was said or promised can be instantly verified – or abolished – by accessing the actual call record.
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Best call center forecasting & scheduling articles of 2011

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Happy New year! We just compiled a list of our top blog posts that got the most views by our readers in 2011. It is interesting to see that there was a lot of interest in "schedule adherence". This still seems to be one of the key challenges for call centers. In case you have missed those articles, please take a look:
  1. Important call center metrics: schedule adherence
  2. How to make a call center schedule work for your staff
  3. Workforce management software comparison: cloud versus installed software
  4. 7 tips for improved schedule adherence in your call center
  5. What is real-time schedule adherence and why is it important
  6. The importance of accurate call center forecasting
  7. How to improve call center forecasting with simulation tools

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Call Center Management New Year Resolutions

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As you work on implementing new plans and strategies to further improve call center management and operations for 2012, it might be a good idea to reflect on 2011: What has worked well, and what has worked not so well? Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What were the top 3 call center challenges in 2011?
  • How can you overcome those challenges for 2012?
  • What do you need to do to keep our agents happy and motivated?
  • What do you have to do to better serve your customer?
  • What new technologies and call center software do you need to make your work easier and more efficient?
  • Do you have online sources that provide you with practical tips, ideas and tools (blog, twitter, etc.) for your daily work?
  • What are the top 3 things you should focus on in 2012?

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Call Center Schedule 101 - tips, tools and best practices

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Every call center has different scheduling requirements. However, there are some tips and best practices that apply to most of them. Here you go:

And finally, if you are looking for a quick summary here is a document with 7 tips for improved scheduling you can download.
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Adherence to schedule - a big challenge for your call center?

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Managing adherence to call center schedule is one of the most challenging jobs related to running a call center - making sure there is the right number of staff with the right skills available at the right times of the day. Here are some helpful tips and considerations:

  • What does lack of schedule adherence cost a call center? A quick overview of the cost drivers and the potential impact on your center operation.
  • Why is schedule adherence an important call center metric? This article helps identify potential causes for out-of-adherence and ways for improvement.
  • Are you monitoring schedule adherence in your call center? 3 simple tips on schedule adherence: Inform - measure - manage.
  • What is real-time schedule adherence? Learn how real-time adherence can help you finally overcome your adherence challenge.
  • Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence: A more in depth whitepaper about schedule adherence and how Workforce Management software is a crucial tool to improve adherence. 


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Call Center Forecasting Methods & Techniques

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Accurate forecasting is critical to successfully managing your call center. In order to meet call demand and avoid under- or over-staffing, you need methods that precisely predicts how many agents are needed to handle the center's call volume, and also methods that help you "re-calculate" if the the call volume fluctuates more than anticipated. Here are 5 considerations and methods that should help you improve forecast accuracy:

  1. The importance of accurate forecasting: First, take a look why an accurate forecast is crucial. 

  2. How to improve forecasting with simulation tools: Anticipating the "future" is not easy, therefore, running simulations with different assumptions helps to better predict call volumes.

  3. How to forecast special days: There are certain days that are difficult to forecast, or are important for the business. Here are some tips on how to deal with those.

  4. How to do "intra-day" call forecasting: One of the biggest forecasting challenge is related to unpredictable call volume fluctuations - here are some "intra-day" tips.

  5. How to forecast for multiple channels: As more communication channels open up (phone, email, chat, social media) you have to add those to your forecasting scenarios.

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Spreadsheets for call center forecasting and scheduling?

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The overwhelming majority of ongoing call center expenses are related to staffing (up to 70%). Having the optimum number of staff at the right time in the right place is essential to call center success and profitability. Over-staffing results in needless spending for unnecessary staff, while under-staffing will lower service levels, increase staff turnover and impact your revenues. Two key questions to ask:

  • Can a call center really "afford" to use spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling, since there is so much at stake?
  • Does workforce management software provide measurable improvements resulting in savings that exceed the cost of the solution?

Here are three things to consider when you evaluate the situation in your call center:

1. More efficient scheduling and agent usage: The savings associated with more efficient scheduling includes reducing overall staff hours and need for overtime and identification of over-staffing. Call centers using WFM systems generally experience a minimum reduction of 2% for staff hours with an average potential savings in the 5 – 10% range.

2. Automation of scheduling tasks: Manual or Excel-based spreadsheet forecasting and scheduling consumes much of a supervisor’s time in many call centers. With WFM it is generally expected that at least 25% of the time currently devoted to manual input can be saved and used for coaching, training, etc.

3. Improved schedule adherence: Many hours of work time are wasted due to excessive non-productive interruptions. A WFM system can provide historical and real-time information on agent schedule adherence and exceptions, for better management and control of staff, reducing workforce shrinkage by 10 to 20 minutes per agent per day. Please read our whitepaper "Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence" to learn more. Also, there is a related blog post that talks about the "cost of out-of-adherence".


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How to Improve Agent Schedule Adherence in a Call Center

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Adhe
rence: Are You In or Out of It?

One of the biggest challenges of running a call center is making sure that employees stick to their schedules. A strategic approach to improving agent adherence is crucial for call centers struggling with the challenges of rising costs, lower revenues, and frustrated customers. The following whitepaper summarizes five strategies to help boost agent adherence in your call center.

In addition to the five strategies, the whitepaper also explains how WFM software helps call centers implement those adherence strategies more effectively.


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Important call center metrics: Shrinkage

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What's shrinkage?
Shrinkage is the time (or percentage of time) agents are not productive due to breaks, meetings, training, vacation, illness, absenteeism, etc. Most of these events can be build into the schedule, however there is one aspect of shrinkage that cannot be really planned for and it is related to adherence. Adherence is a measurement of the time agents are scheduled to work compared to the time they actually work. If agents leave early, start later or take longer breaks than specified in their schedule, it causes shrinkage that has an immediate impact on service levels and other call center metrics due to under-staffing.

How to reduce shrinkage?
Well, it's not realistic to totally eliminate "unplanned" shrinkage, however, in most cases in can be reduced to an acceptable level. One major reason for "unplanned" shrinkage is out-of-adherence. Often, call centers don’t have the necessary visibility into what happens at any moment in time and what is supposed to happen based on the published schedule. If you are still struggling with adherence issues, please read this educational whitepaper “Strategies for improving call center schedule adherence", and you will learn about proven practices on schedule adherence that have resulted in increased availability and reduced shrinkage.

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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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