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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

Free Webinar: join us and learn how to Fight the Adherence Monster

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Think Halloween is scary, with all those horror movies and little ghosts and monsters ringing your doorbell? 

That’s nothing compared to the frightening service problems that can result from adherence issues at your contact center. You’ll hear a lot of screaming this month, but you certainly don’t want to hear it from your customers. 

Thankfully, Monet has a free webinar for that. And you are invited. 

It’s called “Fighting the Adherence Monster,” and it is scheduled for October 28 2015 at 11 am PDT. 

If you have ever encountered the Adherence Monster, you know how it can seriously increase labor costs. Bullets won’t kill this beast – instead, you need a technology solution that has the capability to streamline schedule adherence goals and practices. 

How can you know that agent availability, holidays and breaks have all been accounted for? Can you make adjustments in real time? How do you know which agents are doing their part for schedule adherence and which may require additional guidance or training?

Fortunately, the Adherence Monster is no match for Monet solutions with real-time adherence. 

Don’t miss this informative webinar featuring tips and tricks to help you keep adherence issues away from your business. Spend 45 minutes with us, and you’ll save hours and hours of time lost to lapses in adherence. 

Register here, it's free!




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The Impact of Mobile Technology on Contact Centers

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The year 2020 once seemed so far away and now it’s just around the corner. And according to a Gartner survey, 85% of consumers will by 2020 prefer to manage their own relationships with companies, rather than interact with them via current methods such as the contact center. 

We’ve seen such surveys before, and no one can say for sure what technology or customers will be like five years from now. But there is no question that we are seeing changes in how contact centers deal with customers, as a result of omnichannel options that can be accessed anywhere through smartphones and tablets. Six billion mobile devices now in circulation tend to have that effect. Chances are your contact center has already felt some of these trends. 

Round the Clock Service

One of the many advantages of the Internet is that it’s always open. If customers want to reach out to a company in the middle of the night, they can now do so via email and social media, and some companies provides 24-hour access to online chat as well. More connection points are expected by customers, particularly millennials, at any time, day or night. However, smartphones are still phones even if they can do 100 other things. And we believe telephone interaction, even if restricted to traditional business hours, will still be important in 2020 and beyond, and should not be neglected in the race to embrace other options. 

Instant Access

No one has to take a number or wait 5 minutes before sending an email or posting on Facebook. As customers come to expect that type of instant communication via their mobile device, sitting on hold waiting to speak to a contact center agent will seem even more of an inconvenience than it does already. That will place more emphasis on improving calls answered and average wait time metrics. 

That said, there is still a delay between messages sent via email and left on Facebook, and a company response. The ultimate goal may be to integrate instant live service with a self-service mobile channel, such as chatting with a virtual agent. 

Whatever the future brings there is no reason to wait until 2020 to start reassessing your current processes and infrastructure technology, and find ways to make them compatible with current mobile tools. 



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WFO and Analytics: A Perfect Match

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Their functionality may be different but the objective of workforce optimization (WFO) and analytics, when employed in a contact center, is effectively the same: to provide customers with a more positive experience. 

And at a time when customer experience has become a greater differentiating factor in what separates one company from another, both WFO and analytics can play a vital role in maintaining customer loyalty, and attracting more customers from positive posts and responses viewed on social media. 

With workforce optimization, contact centers can automate such important functions as workforce management, call recording, quality management, screen capture, performance management and tracking key metrics. Analytics is more customer-centric, providing centers with insight into the customer types and the nature of each inquiry, so calls can be routed to the agent best suited to deal with them. 

As both tools work toward the same goal, doesn’t it make sense to acquire them in a way that assures they will efficiently work together? 

At Monet, our speech analytics and desktop analytics are incorporated into our WFO Live solution to help maximize agent productivity and performance. For basic call centers or contact centers that offer omnichannel interactions between agents and customers, this powerful alliance of WFO and analytics can better meet your customer needs, help you to better utilize your resources, and improve service levels.



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Run Your Contact Center like a Football Team

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Another football season is underway, and as always there will be teams that excel on their way to the playoffs, and teams that stumble and fumble their way to a high draft choice. 

Can we say the same about contact centers? Certainly there are a few similarities worth exploring. 

If you don’t have a good team on the field, you are not going to achieve your goals. The best football coach can make a good team great, but he can’t make a bad team into a Super Bowl champion. In the contact center, the right coaches and managers can inspire their agents to always improve their game, but they probably won’t be able to transform an unmotivated employee into “Agent of the Year” material. 

This also means that having 47 out of 50 well-performing agents is not sufficient. Just as one bad player can fumble away a game, one bad agent can turn customers away and lower the center’s performance standard. When you are drafting new agents, be careful to avoid a bust. 

In football, sometimes top players walk away because they don’t like their contract. You can lose agents in the same way as well. A competitive salary with incentives and a positive working atmosphere can help you keep your star players. 

And while we’re saying coaches can’t be miracle workers on the gridiron or at the contact center, they do bear some responsibility for team performance. In the NFL, winning coaches take time to get to know each of their players, to ask about their families and what is important to them. They provide ongoing support and encouragement. They know which plays to call that work to a player’s skills. 

Hopefully, if you are a contact center manager, you are doing the same things. 

Finally, NFL teams invest in training facilities and equipment to give their players the tools they need to excel. Do your agents have the technology tools they need to deliver service to customers, and match call types with the agents best equipped to handle them? Can you provide service via web chat and email and social media with the same professionalism?

In a sense, every call that comes into your contact center is a game in itself that can result in victory or defeat. Make sure you have the team and the technology in place for a winning season – this year and every year. 



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Hope to See You at ICMI!

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The 2015 ICMI Contact Center Demo and Conference (October 19-21) is just weeks away, and at Monet we are proud to be a sponsor of this popular annual event. 

If you haven’t made plans to attend yet it is certainly not too late – we hope to see you at the Rio Las Vegas. Monet Software will be located at Booth #420. 

While we think it’s worth the trip to Vegas just to come and see us and hear about some exciting plans we have for the future at Monet, there are many other good reasons why this conference is an excellent investment. 

This year’s workshops include such critical topics as: 

Conquering the Cross-Channel Customer Experience

Agent Optimization: Maximizing the Frontline’s Performance and Productivity

10 Essential Principles for Writing to Customers in a Multichannel World

Positioning Call Center Leaders for Success in a Sea of Change

Contact Center Technology 101: What Every Professional Needs to Know

Deriving Measurable ROI and Impact from your VOC Data and Tools

Secrets to Developing an Award-Winning Customer Service Team

From Common to Intelligent: Keys to “New” Self Service

At a time when so many aspects of the contact center industry are changing simultaneously, here is an opportunity to find out more about new technology, new customer engagement channels, and new ways to recruit and train agents. And maybe enjoy a great all-you-can-eat buffet and see a Cirque du Soleil at the same time. 



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Holiday Season Preparation: 5 Steps to Take Now at your Call Center

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Are you already seeing Christmas trees going up in stores? Sure, it might be too soon, but there’s no such thing as rushing the season when it comes to contact centers – especially if November and December is your busiest time of year. 

There are more than 100 shopping days until Christmas, but the time to make sure you are prepared to handle the holiday season is right now. Here are 5 ways to start: 

 

1. Create or consult your stand-by agent list

Many contact centers hire temporary agents to keep up with increased call volume. You may have a list of these agents who helped out in previous years, as well as qualified agents that were interviewed for positions, and did not get the job. Start contacting them now to check their availability. If you don’t have a stand-by list, start putting one together. 


2. Forecasting

With Workforce Management software it is easy to review call patterns from previous years so you’ll know what to expect in the months ahead. Run simulations based on this data and review the results so they can be as fine-tuned as necessary. 


3. Shift schedules

Have your best agents available during peak periods, and have a plan to make sure all holiday season schedules are easily accessible to all concerned parties so there’s never any confusion. Obviously there will still be some revisions along the way, but WFM should resolve any issues before they can impact performance. 


4. Streamline training

When adding temporary agents, you may need to train them in a more efficient way so they are prepared for what’s to come. If possible, streamline the desktop solutions available to temps so they can find the functionality they need without any confusion. When you have a mix of full-time and temporary agents on the floor, have a system in place to route the more complicated calls to experienced agents, leaving new hires free to handle more basic transactions. 

 

5. Monitor the new hires

Have personnel available for quality monitoring, focused in particular on your overflow workforce. Some will excel, and these are the agents you might want to keep on the payroll after January 1. If you don’t have a position available now, given the turnover rate in this business it’s only a matter of time before you will. Save their contact information. 



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The Connection Between Technology and Agent Training

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Customers aren’t thinking about your technology or your management or your coaching when they call your contact center. Their happiness or displeasure with your business will be determined to a great extent by the agent who takes their call. 

But while managers recognize the importance of front-line employees, they still contend with ongoing issues related to agent engagement and retention. 

According to Everest Group Research, the approximate financial loss for a 500-person contact center due to agent loss and recruiting can reach $2 million in one year. What do agents want and need to bring their ‘A’ game to work every day, and to stay with the company for years instead of months? 

One poll, conducted by Ventana Research, suggests they are not getting the personal attention and individualized training they desire. Just 37% of respondents reported that their contact centers have set targets for the amount of coaching time each agent should receive. 

Yes, it’s an investment, but when the agent knows you are investing in his or her success, it motivates them to better performance. 

Still hesitant? Consider also that this allocation of additional time and money is also an investment in improving the customer experience, and that’s what it’s all about. 

A renewed focus on training should also take into account the role that technology can play in making coaching sessions more effective. For instance, the optimal time to schedule training sessions is when agents are on-shift but may be idle due to lower call volume. By some estimates, if all of those idle minutes were added up, an agent spends five weeks out of every year between phone calls. 

The innovative contact center will treat that situation not as a problem but as an opportunity. An automated, real-time workforce management solution collects forecasting, scheduling and adherence data and delivers insight into moments where training can be safely scheduled without impacting customer service, as well as optimization opportunities to avoid overstaffing or understaffing. 

And when WFM is acquired via the cloud, the result is a better customer experience at a lower cost to the contact center. 


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How to Introduce Quality Monitoring to your Contact Center?

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It’s not that contact center agents are naturally suspicious. But when the company announces it is adding a quality monitoring tool, the obvious assumption will be that this is being done to keep a closer eye on agent conduct, and to catch people not doing their jobs. 

For this reason, the way in which quality monitoring is introduced can be critical in its acceptance by the contact center workforce. It is essential that agents recognize the benefits of quality monitoring, not only to the business and its customers but to agents as well. 

Here are three tips on how to achieve a stress-free transition into a quality monitoring program.

We’re all in this together

Calm fears over “Big Brother” right away, and emphasize that quality monitoring is a tool that is going to help everyone – agents, coaches, managers, and supervisors – be more efficient and deliver better customer service. Explain how everyone needs to be working together to achieve business goals, and how quality monitoring will provide insight into each employee’s performance – not to criticize them, but to help them get better through personalized training. 

Recognizing excellence

When managers have more insight into agent performance, they will have a way to identify and reward those who excel at their jobs. You may have agents now who don’t feel appreciated for the good work they do; quality monitoring offers a way to change that. 

Consult the vendor

Monet Software has worked with a number of call centers on quality monitoring implementation, and can provide not only technical assistance but also feedback on any work culture issues that may arise from its use. This is a positive step forward for your contact center, and we’ll work with you to make sure it is introduced in the right manner. 



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Performance Management and Quality Monitoring: A Checklist for Success

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Is there such a thing as a quick fix when it comes to more effective performance management? Can one little change in attitude or procedure make a big difference in quality monitoring?

The answer is yes – and no. 

Both performance management and quality monitoring require coordinated planning and execution throughout the contact center. 

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. Doing so will be more successful with a detailed plan of action. 

Likewise, creating an integrated quality monitoring program will take time and preparation, with particular focus on call recording, PCI compliance, quality scorecards and screen capturing

No quick fixes there. However, once the foundation for both programs is established, small changes can indeed pay significant dividends toward the ultimate goal of ensuring consistent, high quality service that meets or surpasses expectations. Here are a few that may help your performance management and quality monitoring endeavors.

Praise from the top

How often does your upper management team review calls? Have them listen to a few every week, and then contact the agents that did a great job and let them know their work is appreciated. 


Training doesn’t have to be boring

If training consists of the same procedures every week or month, agents will tune it out. Have trainers use varied methods to maintain a higher level of engagement. 


Quality monitoring starts (before) day one

While agents are still in the induction phase, introduce the QM system and expectations in place, and make sure they are aware of the criteria. 


Instant gratification

Praise and reward systems can be beneficial (more on some of these later) but there is no substitute for immediate positive feedback following a customer’s praise. If an email or a phone call contains that praise, don’t wait to share it with the group. 


Consistency

This is obvious, but bears repeating. These programs require consistency, not just in how they are carried out by agents but how they are presented and maintained by supervisors.


Who watches the watchers?

Your coaches are entrusted with maximizing agent performance – but who is making sure that the coaches are doing their best? Their work must be regularly monitored as well. 


Group therapy

Individual call monitoring is important, but occasional group meetings to review calls may also be beneficial. 


Clarity

Feedback won’t work unless it is clear and actionable. You can find out if this is the case by providing agents with feedback forms about coaches (they’ll love that anyway). Offer them a chance to confirm that they understand the assessment they received, and if the coach took their thoughts and opinions into consideration. 


Professionalism

Encourage a general climate of professionalism, not only in how agents communicate with customers but how they communicate with managers, coaches and their fellow agents. Once this becomes second-nature, performance will inevitably improve. 


Involve the QM team in agent recruitment

Your quality monitoring teams knows what to look for in outstanding agents. So why not involve them in the recruitment process? 


Positive reinforcement

Coaching and training sessions should not be dreaded by agents. If they are, something is wrong. Try starting each session with positive coaching – what the agent is doing well and how the call center is lucky to have them. Remind agents of the improvements they have already made. Then review areas where further improvement is possible and discuss ways to work together to get there. 


Include customers in performance management

Agents play a role in performance management, but customers do as well. Take their feedback into account. 


Prizes

A lot of contact centers give out prizes to agents for consistent performance or specific moments of excellence. A free meal, a spa day, or a cash bonus works better than a trophy or a “job well done” certificate. 


Encourage peer discussion

You know your agents already talk about their jobs and customers (and probably  you as well) with each other. Set some time aside to allow them to get together and also talk about improving quality. Some very smart ideas may emerge from these sessions. 


The big picture

When discussing performance management with agents, tell them about the center’s greater goals and over-arching customer service strategy. The more they understand the big picture, the more they might buy into the program. 


Public or private coaching?

Some contact centers conduct coaching sessions in a closed office; others have these discussions out on the floor within earshot of other agents. There is no sure formula for which will be more effective at your contact center – so why not try both and see what happens?


Watch your language

Does anyone still use words like “demerits” or terms like “marked down” in coaching sessions? Use positive, supportive language instead. 


Grade calls in sections

Break each call into different sections for review purposes, such as: call open, courtesy, technical skills and compliance, efficiency, and closing. 


Don’t ignore the longer calls

Short calls are always desirable but not always possible. Sometimes you can learn more about agent performance, contact center issues and your QM strategy by reviewing longer calls. 


It’s ok to ask for help

If an agent is having difficulty answering a customer’s questions, he or she might be hesitant to forward that call to a supervisor if it reflects badly on their performance. But if that is the best way to keep that customer relationship, make sure the agent knows that doing so is the right step. 


Never stop improving

Did you achieve your quality goals? Great! Now, set new ones. Complacence is the enemy of every contact center. 


Learn More

How Much do Agents Need to Know about Analytics?

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Analytics is one of the primary drivers for measuring contact center performance. With the remarkable range of data now available through workforce management and workforce optimization solutions, as well as speech analytics and desktop analytics tools, managers now have the information they need to find out where the business is excelling, and where improvement is possible. 

However, in most cases any change in performance starts at the agent level. And agents are not likely to be familiar with the way analytics work. Does this need to change?

First Option: Crash Course in Analytics

Should a contact center consider adding an understanding of analytics to agent training? One could argue that knowing the reasons behind call center policies on how agents engage with customers might lead to a greater understanding of why these techniques are important. 

However, many agents may not have the background or education that would help them grasp the intricacies of analytics. Generating and interpreting data may be best left to managers and executive-level staff.  

Second Option: Training Based on Analytics

When a person starts a new job, whether it’s in a contact center or a fast food franchise, a manager will familiarize the new hire with the way their job should be performed, and how to follow company procedure. It’s not necessary for the employee to know why these procedures are in place. 

This may be a better way to incorporate analytics into initial training and regular coaching sessions. Agents are often instructed to provide upsell opportunities to customers; analytics can provide insight into which customers should receive which offers. The results of this analysis is shared with agents so they will know how to proceed when these opportunities arise – but it is not compulsory for them to know why Customer A is offered an extended warranty, while Customer B receives a different pitch. 

What if an agent asks questions about how these decisions were made, and shows a genuine curiosity in the way analytics work? Encourage these interests – this might be someone who could be groomed for a management level position.  



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Hosted and Cloud WFM Solutions: What’s the Difference?

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When the first cloud service providers emerged more than 10 years ago, there was some confusion as to what differentiated them from the hosted services that have been around since the early years of commercial computing. 

As a pioneering provider of workforce management solutions through the cloud, Monet Software salespeople and other personnel were accustomed to answering questions on how the two solutions were different. 

However, with more contact centers and other types of businesses discovering the cost and convenience benefits that the cloud provides, it’s surprising that questions still persist about whether a hosted solution can be rebranded as a cloud solution, when nothing else changes besides the product description. 

Let’s put this issue to rest. 

Hosted services are technology services offered to you or your company by a provider that hosts the physical servers running that service somewhere else. Web hosting is the business of providing server space, web services and file maintenance for websites controlled by companies or individuals that do not have their own web servers. 

Cloud solutions are distinguished from hosted products by a distributed delivery model. This is a multi-tenant solution that provides guaranteed service levels and up times, full scalability, and easily allows for frequent updates. 

With client-server (hosted) Workforce Management, it’s the vendor that controls the product from a hosted facility, where such virtualization and scalability are simply not possible. 

If a vendor’s product does not provide continuous and instantaneous access to the latest product upgrades, it is not a true cloud solution.  Product upgrades are free and automatic in the cloud – with a non-cloud solution, customer upgrades are handled by the vendor in a way that could delay implementation by months. 

To make certain you are getting a true cloud solution, ask the right questions:  does it use multi-tenant architecture? Are upgrades automatic? Will all customizations and integrations work with future upgrades? Is your service level uptime 99.5% or higher? 

At Monet Software, the answer to all of these questions is yes. 


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Content or Emotion: How Do you Route Calls?

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Routing calls to the agent best suited to handling them is a proven strategy for boosting service levels and customer satisfaction. But how do you determine which agent is the right one? 

Most contact centers employ a content-based approach. If a caller has a highly technical question, there should be an agent with the product insight necessary to understand the problem. If a customer wants more information about a seasonal promotion, agents trained on the details would be the appropriate recipients of these queries. 

However, emotion can be an equally pivotal consideration when routing agent calls. Customers who want to conduct their business as quickly as possible without a lot of chit-chat will be happier with an agent who moves the call along more efficiently. Senior citizens, who remember a less-hurried time and may enjoy some pleasant conversation during their calls, will prefer an agent with a more genial personality. 

Behavioral analytics studies suggest that emotions might be a more important factor than content in call routing. Given that most calls will consist of basic questions and transactions, pairing a customer with a like-minded agent is a strategy that may deliver better results. 

To do this, of course, it would help if a call center had speech analytics and other related tools available to quickly identify they type of a caller by their reactions or emotions. It would also need to know which agents are more naturally empathetic to problems, which are able to maintain a calm demeanor when confronted with anger, and which have the patience to deal with customers that do not express themselves in a concise manner. 



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Performance Management and Quality Monitoring: A Checklist for Success

Posted: by:

Is there such a thing as a quick fix when it comes to more effective performance management? Can one little change in attitude or procedure make a big difference in quality monitoring?

The answer is yes – and no. 

Both performance management and quality monitoring require coordinated planning and execution throughout the contact center. 

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. Doing so will be more successful with a detailed plan of action. 

Likewise, creating an integrated quality monitoring program will take time and preparation, with particular focus on call recording, PCI compliance, quality scorecards and screen capturing. 

No quick fixes there. However, once the foundation for both programs is established, small changes can indeed pay significant dividends toward the ultimate goal of ensuring consistent, high quality service that meets or surpasses expectations. Here are a few that may help your performance management and quality monitoring endeavors.

Praise from the top

How often does your upper management team review calls? Have them listen to a few every week, and then contact the agents that did a great job and let them know their work is appreciated. 

Training doesn’t have to be boring

If training consists of the same procedures every week or month, agents will tune it out. Have trainers use varied methods to maintain a higher level of engagement. 

Quality monitoring starts (before) day one

While agents are still in the induction phase, introduce the QM system and expectations in place, and make sure they are aware of the criteria. 

Instant gratification

Praise and reward systems can be beneficial (more on some of these later) but there is no substitute for immediate positive feedback following a customer’s praise. If an email or a phone call contains that praise, don’t wait to share it with the group. 

Consistency

This is obvious, but bears repeating. These programs require consistency, not just in how they are carried out by agents but how they are presented and maintained by supervisors.

Who watches the watchers?

Your coaches are entrusted with maximizing agent performance – but who is making sure that the coaches are doing their best? Their work must be regularly monitored as well. 

Group therapy

Individual call monitoring is important, but occasional group meetings to review calls may also be beneficial. 

Clarity

Feedback won’t work unless it is clear and actionable. You can find out if this is the case by providing agents with feedback forms about coaches (they’ll love that anyway). Offer them a chance to confirm that they understand the assessment they received, and if the coach took their thoughts and opinions into consideration. 

Professionalism

Encourage a general climate of professionalism, not only in how agents communicate with customers but how they communicate with managers, coaches and their fellow agents. Once this becomes second-nature, performance will inevitably improve. 

Involve the QM team in agent recruitment

Your quality monitoring teams knows what to look for in outstanding agents. So why not involve them in the recruitment process? 

Positive reinforcement

Coaching and training sessions should not be dreaded by agents. If they are, something is wrong. Try starting each session with positive coaching – what the agent is doing well and how the call center is lucky to have them. Remind agents of the improvements they have already made. Then review areas where further improvement is possible and discuss ways to work together to get there. 

Include customers in performance management

Agents play a role in performance management, but customers do as well. Take their feedback into account. 

Prizes

A lot of contact centers give out prizes to agents for consistent performance or specific moments of excellence. A free meal, a spa day, or a cash bonus works better than a trophy or a “job well done” certificate. 

Encourage peer discussion

You know your agents already talk about their jobs and customers (and probably  you as well) with each other. Set some time aside to allow them to get together and also talk about improving quality. Some very smart ideas may emerge from these sessions. 

The big picture

When discussing performance management with agents, tell them about the center’s greater goals and over-arching customer service strategy. The more they understand the big picture, the more they might buy into the program. 

Public or private coaching?

Some contact centers conduct coaching sessions in a closed office; others have these discussions out on the floor within earshot of other agents. There is no sure formula for which will be more effective at your contact center – so why not try both and see what happens?

Watch your language

Does anyone still use words like “demerits” or terms like “marked down” in coaching sessions? Use positive, supportive language instead. 

Grade calls in sections

Break each call into different sections for review purposes, such as: call open, courtesy, technical skills and compliance, efficiency, and closing. 

Don’t ignore the longer calls

Short calls are always desirable but not always possible. Sometimes you can learn more about agent performance, contact center issues and your QM strategy by reviewing longer calls. 

It’s ok to ask for help

If an agent is having difficulty answering a customer’s questions, he or she might be hesitant to forward that call to a supervisor if it reflects badly on their performance. But if that is the best way to keep that customer relationship, make sure the agent knows that doing so is the right step. 

Never stop improving

Did you achieve your quality goals? Great! Now, set new ones. Complacence is the enemy of every contact center. 








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2015: The Year of the Back Office Solution

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The Workforce Management market continues to evolve and transform, especially when it comes to the back office.

In 2014, back-office WFM solutions sales increased more than 16%. Why is this happening? More contact center executives have started to appreciate the need for more data and more control over their back office. It also helps that the solutions themselves have improved.

Back-office tasks are often manual and complex, making it difficult to automate, manage and forecast workload. But with the WFM now available, contact centers can improve service levels. It’s possible to:

Improve forecast accuracy of manual back-office tasks and activities

Deliver more efficient resource planning and scheduling to consistently meet service levels and control costs

Increase employee productivity by monitoring adherence, backlog and other metrics in real-time, allowing for more immediate actions

Track and analyze key metrics to optimize service quality and back-office performance

All of these capabilities can make a critical difference in back office operations, as long as companies select the right solution. If you are exploring the market, find a WFM product that will integrate easily into your current ACD or PBX system, and one that offers  multi-channel efficiencies, clear and organized dashboards and intra-day visibility. 



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Can You Keep your Agents Healthier?

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You’ve probably read articles and blogs (including some here) about steps that can be taken to keep your agents happier. It’s a noble gesture that is also good for business, and can pay dividends in the quality of your customer service. 

 But can you actually keep your agents healthier as well? 

This can be a stressful business at times and there is no way to avoid the pressure generated by angry callers, strict scheduling requirements and job performance expectations. However, a contact center manager that is sensitive to these challenges can create a healthier work environment. 

Trainers and supervisors can play a key role. Beyond their normal function of reviewing job performance, coaching and review sessions also provide an opportunity to ask questions about physical and emotional health. How is the agent handling the pressure? How do agents feel like they are treated by the business and the boss? Do they feel valued for their good work? Recognition and reward can make an agent feel better – and perform better. 

Contact centers that enjoy the advantage of workforce management software can employ more flexibility in forecasting and scheduling. That makes it easier to accommodate special requests for taking shifts off or swapping shifts with another agent. Such allowances reduce the tendency in some contact centers to treat agents like children and not adult employees without outside interests and priorities. That lowers stress levels. 

Since a sick agent is one that won’t be showing up for work, contact centers can also offer free flu shots, or help agents monitor health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis or asthma, by fostering relationships with local clinics and other care providers. Some of these agents might be good candidates for working from home, which can also keep them healthier. 

Some extra investment may be necessary to take these steps, but if the result is healthier employees, fewer under-staffed shifts and lower attrition rates, it’s an investment worth considering. 



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7 Contact Center Trends Happening Right Now

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There are two types of people – those that set trends and those that follow them. Here are 7 trends that are currently taking place in the contact center industry – are you keeping up, or is it time to play catch-up?

1. Moving to the cloud

Why is this a trend? Lower upfront costs, more flexibility, more scalability, quicker reactions to changes in customer behavior, no need to build complex and costly hardware and software systems, less downtime, automatic software upgrades as they become available, deployment in weeks, not months…shall we go on?

2. The omnichannel approach

It’s not just offering different customer contact channels besides the telephone, it’s making sure that all of them deliver a seamless customer experience. If you’re on top of this trend, you are ahead of the curve – a Deloitte survey shows that less than 20% of contact centers have fully integrated their channels. 

3. There’s an app for that

Self-service apps are becoming more popular with customers who prefer to resolve issues without speaking with an agent. If your company doesn’t have one in development yet, it’s something to start thinking about. 

4. Fielding the tough questions

Customers who opt for email and live chat and other communication means will still use the phone for complex issues and difficult questions. Agent training must take this into account so your team is prepared for interactions that involve more than taking an order. 

5. Telecommuting

Work from home opportunities are becoming more prevalent in the contact center industry, and workforce management software helps make telecommuting possible. This may be a preferable situation for some of your team members, and because of the lower overhead and churn rate, it’s good for the contact center as well. 

6. More emphasis on compliance

Security breaches and headline-making hacker stories have more companies thinking about regulatory compliance, especially with the handling of customer credit card information. When was the last time you reviewed your compliance needs and security measures? 

7. Likes and tweets

Social media was something that businesses and contact centers of previous generations never had to worry about. But these new online channels should be viewed as an opportunity, not a problem. Incorporate social media engagement into the company’s overall communication strategy. A Facebook ‘like’ will be read by thousands of other customers and prospects. 




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The Top 5 Excuses for Not Adopting Performance Management - and Where They Go Wrong

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Performance management provides a clear direction and a shared understanding of what is to be achieved, the leadership approach required and support for the continual development of the individuals to ensure it is delivered. 

It is both a process and an application. And for contact centers it’s a way to approach data-driven management and apply it to correct adherence issues. However, even as other technology solutions and best practices habits have been embraced by the contact center industry, performance management continues to lag behind. 

The question is, “Why?” While there are unique qualities to running a contact center as opposed to some other type of business, measuring the performance of quantifiable business activities  is no less important here than in any corporate operation. Or to put it simply, find out what’s not working right, and correct it. 

A company called DMG Consulting did a survey of contact center managers to find out why so many are still reluctant to invest in a performance management solution. 

These are five of the most frequent responses: 

“I'm not sure what it is or what it will do for my contact center.”

“I already have too much reporting; I don't need another reporting package.”

“It's not worth the effort.”

“It requires too many integrations.”

“My management won't approve the investment.”

What these answers suggest is not any deficiency in a performance management solution, but a disconnect when it comes to understanding how it works and the benefits it provides. 

Let’s look at these objections one by one.

“I’m not sure what it is or what it will do for my contact center”

A vendor should always have a ready answer for this question. At Monet, we tell our customers than performance management is a critical part of managing call centers and is essential to help you align your people, processes and systems to your goals and objectives, such as customer satisfaction and cost control. 

Monet Metrics, our PM solution, offers a number of significant benefits, including: 

Managers can make better and faster decisions through actionable intelligence

Contact centers can move from reactive to proactive management to better meet service and efficiency goals

Agents can improve productivity and team motivation

Supervisors can refocus their time from data collection to coaching, training and planning 

“I already have too much reporting”

Performance management is more than just reporting. As stated earlier, it is both a process and an application. Contact center managers that truly understand the mission of their business recognize that delivering an outstanding customer experience is critical, but it’s not the only consideration. The goal should also be to optimize the performance of every aspect of the business. 

The overwhelming majority of ongoing call center expenses are related to staffing – as much as 70% of the budget. Even slight improvements in agent productivity and motivation can have a big impact on performance and cost management of your contact center. Performance management provides powerful tools to identify trends and potential issues that might have gone undetected, and delivers business insights to improve overall performance.

“It’s not worth the effort”

This is the same objection that contact centers used to have to workforce management (WFM). Some still do, but their continued reliance on spreadsheets has these centers lagging behind their competition, and wasting countless hours on forecasts and schedules that are not as accurate as those generated more quickly via WFM. 

Performance management has a strong value proposition for managers who are quantitatively oriented and appreciate the importance of managing by numbers. Is it worth the effort? Only if real time and historical performance data at the agent, group and center level is important. Only if optimizing all aspects of the workforce with one solution is important. Only if better utilization of resources, better cost management, and improve service levels are important. 

We think they are – how about you?

“It requires too many integrations”

This objection is easily overcome with a system like Monet Metrics that is already incorporated into our larger workforce optimization solution. Standalone performance management can make a positive difference, but it’s even better when purchased with a full WFO suite, where the functionality arrives fully integrated. Now you not only enjoy the benefits of performance management, but also workforce management, call recording, quality management, screen capture, and archiving and reporting capabilities. 

“My management won’t approve the investment”

Fortunately, PM solutions can be delivered via the cloud, which eliminates the large upfront investment that used to be required for such sophisticated analysis. 

Cloud services and software are provided for a low monthly subscription fee, usually pay as you go, without an upfront investment required. Any upgrades or customizations are handled by the vendor at no additional cost – over the long haul (given how often software upgrades are unveiled) this results in considerable savings. In addition, contact centers can also avoid the cost of a full-time employee devoted to maintaining software; with the cloud, these tasks are handled more efficiently at the source by the cloud application vendor. 

The cloud offers other advantages as well. Specific customer configuration can take less than two hours; with an on-premise system, that same task can take up to two months. 

Actual installation is also faster, and the site acceptance testing required with a traditional solution is not necessary with a cloud delivery system, as compatibility is already achieved with multiple modern web browsers. 

Finally, user training can be completed in as little as two weeks. With traditional software systems, it can take several more weeks before agents and managers are comfortable with the new technology. 

The verdict? A cloud delivery system can not only be implemented for less money, it can also be set up with fewer headaches as well. 



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The Benefits of Workforce Optimization

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How can we deliver a better customer experience?

That question is one faced by every contact center manager, especially after returning from a tradeshow full of new ideas, or reviewing last quarter’s numbers and not being happy with the results. 

New ideas are great, but they should be built from a solid foundation, and that means an older idea that always works – workforce optimization. This is the clearest way to make your business stand out when it comes to customer service. 

One good customer experience can have a very positive impact on loyalty, retention and word of mouth recommendations. Unfortunately, the same is true of one bad experience. WFO helps contact centers operate more effectively, by delivering the tools and data necessary for agents to do their jobs. When agents know what to do, and managers know what their agents are doing, the result is more satisfactory customer experiences.

And to turbo-charge your WFO, employ it in conjunction with speech and desktop analytics. Now you have even more data on agent productivity and performance, and you gain faster insight into different types of customer questions and inquiries so they can be routed to the right agent. 

Monet’s WFO Live features workforce management and call recording, both essential for forecasting, scheduling and training. Plus you’ll find solutions for quality management and performance measurement, all delivered from the cloud, so you won’t be making a significant investment in hardware and software. 

For small contact centers with just a few dozen agents, or major contact centers with hundreds of personnel working round the clock, workforce optimization is a vital component of a successful business. 







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Five Signs Your Agents Don’t Care – and What to Do Next

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Agents have good days and bad days just like the rest of us. But when the bad days become prevalent, action should be taken. An agent that has lost interest is one that may be costing you customers with every call. 

Recognize the warning signs of impending agent apathy – then decide if this is an employee that can be re-inspired, or should be let go. 

1. Showing up Late

With a workforce management solution it’s easy to identify agents who start their shifts late, and add a few extra minutes to their lunch and other breaks. The more difficult assessment is identifying those agents who don’t maintain focus even when they are at their desks. Call recording will be useful here. Once the problem is known, it may call for more than just coaching – usually these agents know what to do, they just don’t care enough to do it. Is there an underlying issue, such as trouble at home? Having someone to talk to might be the first step to reinvigorating performance. 


2. Excessive Sick Leave

This can be tricky, but when the days missed become excessive the situation must be confronted. A meeting here can be used to remind the agent of how valuable he or she is to the company, as well as how absenteeism has a negative impact on the business and on other agents. 


3. Finding Reasons Not to Take Calls

There are more ways to avoid picking up the phone than you might imagine – and some agents know them all. “Oh, it’s the last call of the day and I’ve already put my stuff away”; “I’ve had an IT issue accessing our service department all day – might as well wait until that’s fixed in case this customer needs that information,” etc. Gently call out such behavior as you find it, or hold a team meeting expressing concern about this issue without naming names. The guilty parties will know who they are. 


4. Transferring Too Many Calls

Patience is a virtue in call center work, but some customers exhaust that patience more quickly than others. Agents who lack the initiative to tackle these issues will pass such calls on to a supervisor. When this happens too often, the supervisor should have a chat with that agent to find out why. Once again, just identifying the problem may be enough to resolve it. 


5. Lowering Team Morale

That old saying about one bad apple spoiling a whole bunch is, unfortunately, true. If one agent becomes lax in his or her efforts, other team members will pick up on this behavior. And if they don’t see that agent disciplined, they’ll stay at it. No resting on this one – private direct confrontation is required, followed by a general “It has come to our attention…” announcement. After that, it’s time to employ another old saying – shape up or ship out. 


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Why Scheduled Breaks are Still Preferable

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Workplaces have become more casual over the past ten years. The millennial generation is accustomed to less structure, and many businesses have tried to accommodate that preference in a way that does not impact productivity. 

In the contact center, this has prompted some discussion as to whether agent breaks should be strictly scheduled just like training sessions and other activities, or if more flexibility is feasible. There is even some documentation out there about agents being more efficient if they can take an unscheduled break as needed. 

However, at this point we believe that scheduling breaks is still the right way to go. The very idea of workforce management is built on methods of data analysis and numbers crunching that tells managers when breaks can be scheduled based on capacity. The WFM tool populates breaks when it deems them appropriate given the workload forecast. If adherence slips, it is then up to supervisors to reschedule breaks based on call volume, which can be done with the right WFM provider (such as Monet WFM Live). 

While it sounds more restrictive, there are still ways in which an agent’s preference can be accommodated. Indeed, once agents grasp the most common call volume patterns for days and shifts, they are able to request breaks and other time-off requests at times when such requests stand a greater chance of being approved. 

If everyone works from the same data, the process becomes easier. And as long as that remains the case, unscheduled breaks should be discouraged. When agents can change their own schedules, it makes it far more difficult, if not impossible, to gain any value from forecasting or measuring adherence. 



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Multi-Channel Forecasting: Dedicated Agent Pools vs. The Universal Queue

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We live in an era of specialization. 

Look up any listing of doctors in your city and try to find one general practitioner. They used to be commonplace, but today it’s the rare physician that does not graduate medical school with one specific field of interest, whether it’s pediatrics or cardiology or sports medicine. 

The contact center has also witnessed the encroachment of specialization; in the way certain calls are routed to certain agents, and in multi-channel centers where customers also communicate via email and online chat. 

But is specialization really the best option? Or is there still a place in our industry for a good general practitioner agent? 

Dedicated Agent Pools

Multi-channel forecasting typically begins with a specification of service goals based on the types of channels the call center must handle, followed by agent skill assessment within each of these channels. 

Once these standards are set, forecasting will require accurate calculation of the Average Handle Time (AHT) for each contact channel. This is easier to do with calls than with emails, but a workforce management system can make volume forecasting easier. With this information, the contact center manager has two options to choose from – dedicated agent pools or the universal queue.

In the first scenario, once an agent’s skill sets are determined, he or she is assigned to a dedicated group that focuses solely or primarily on their best channel, whether that is inbound calls, emails or web chat. 

Such specialization also exists within call centers that only handle incoming telephone calls, as agents are assigned to specific areas such as handling complaints, closing sales on high-ticket items, and solving the problems no one else can solve. Over time, through the use of call monitoring and call recording software, managers discover these special talents within certain agents, and funnel calls to them where their skills can be deployed. 

The Universal Queue

With this simpler method, all contacts are routed to agents based on order and availability – first come, first serve. In a call center, that means the same agent should be able to handle a billing question and a technical support question, without having to transfer the call (or put the customer on hold while they find someone who knows the answer). 

In a multi-channel contact center, universal queue agents might first respond to an email, then resolve a customer’s issue via web chat, and then take a phone call.

The advantage to this method is how it facilitates cross-training and forces agents to become adept at handling the various methods of customer communication in a shorter time span. Cost is another advantage. If agents can support multiple channels, less staff will be required. 

Not every agent will have the skill set to become a “universal” agent. In addition to product, service and support knowledge, these agents must be talented, motivated and able to command a wide range of technologies. 

As a result, contact centers that opt for the universal queue approach will inevitably devote more time and effort to coaching and training on multiple customer touch points. Some people have a natural inclination to communicate verbally, and may need more help with the written word. Others will arrive with an inverse set of abilities. Thus, managers need to determine if the additional time and capital investment in agent evaluation and preparation will be more than offset by the advantages that universal agents provide. 

The Role of Technology

Whether a contact center opts for dedicated agent pools or a universal queue, it is also necessary to have the right technology platform in place, and agents fully trained on the platform. For agent pools, that means routing various methods of customer contact to the right agent. For the universal queue, it means integrating data from all communication modes, and scheduling agents to maximize productivity. 

Conclusion

In a corporate era where specialization is the goal, some contact centers are re-discovering the benefits of universal agents. Team members who can perform multiple tasks and communicate through different channels provide a valuable resource. It requires additional time and investment to train these agents, but ultimately their knowledge and efficiency add value to the contact center. Universal agents drive customer loyalty through the quality service they provide, while lowering costs to the company. 



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Turning Contact Centers into 'Insight Centers'

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When companies seek to gather more information about what their customers like and don’t like about products and services, they often turn to the contact center. This is the front line of customer communication, where calls deliver feedback that becomes data than can be analyzed to improve performance. 

What does it take for a contact center to become an ‘insight’ center? 

Start with the right agents and managers, working with the right technology, within a system that incorporates analytics, performance management and coaching. When the system works right, it identifies issues quickly so they can be solved, limiting any damage. 

One large communications company with 45 call centers discovered that average handle time was four times longer at one center. The issue – agents having trouble answering questions about a new device – was discovered within a few hours. Without the actionable insight provided by the company’s workforce management technology, it might have taken days –  or even weeks. 

Boosting Insight with Speech Analytics

Since 2/3 of customer interactions still take place over the telephone, speech analytics has become a more prominent source for customer insight. Contact centers are incorporating this capability into WFM solutions, as well as using the identification of repeated words and phrases to identify emerging trends. 

How? One payment processing company used speech analytics to discover that a growing number of customers were on the verge of finding another company for the service its provides. It then began flagging those calls and scheduling immediate follow-up contacts to keep those at-risk accounts. Result? Almost 600 accounts saved, worth more than $1.5 million. 

When a contact center is able to identify customers that are thinking of leaving before they actually do so, that is what being an ‘insight’ center means. Sometimes it might be as simple as tagging calls where the word ‘cancel’ is used; other times the indications are subtler. But when qualified agents have the tools they need, and managers can access vital data and analytics, the transition to insight center becomes less challenging. 



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Last year's Contact Center Predictions: How Did They Do?

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Hundreds of blogs, websites and magazines publish pieces about what a new year will bring. Not many of them go back later to review the accuracy of their predictions. So we found a piece from the beginning of 2014 featuring five technology trends believed headed for the contact center this year. Let’s see how it did. 

1. Hybrid Cloud Adoption

It was anticipated that 2015 would see more contact centers with a hybrid environment, where some solutions were accessed from the cloud and others were installed on-site. While such businesses exist, the more prominent trend has been turning everything over to the cloud, because of the flexibility and cost-savings possible. 

2. Virtual Agents

Would 2015 be the year of the virtual agent? Final stats aren’t in but thus far we are not seeing any indication of a significant increase in telecommuting, though this is a movement that has seen steady growth over the past decade. Cloud-based workforce management that allows agents to access the technology they need from any location will, if anything, expedite this trend. 

3. Customer Service Apps

The smartphone, many predict, will change how customers interact with companies, and may even result in the extinction of the contact center.  But while more companies have introduced customer service apps in 2015, contact centers are not going anywhere anytime soon. 

4. Attack of the Big Data

Frost & Sullivan defines Big Data as volumes of data so large and moving at such a high velocity that they are difficult or impossible to work with using traditional database management tools. There has indeed been a growing influx of data from both traditional and new sources, including data logs, social networks, and clickstream data in web interactions. Monet Software has devised solutions to make this data more accessible and better organized, so it can be used to bring a new level of customer insight, and help drive real-time decisions on customer handling and workflow. 

5. Multi-channel Access

This prediction was certainly accurate. Companies can no longer be content with traditional call center functionality. Customers now expect to reach out via other channels and receive the same quality response. For contact centers this means not just having qualified personnel in the right positions, but the ability to capture data across the channel spectrum that will help deliver better service in the future. 


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(Re) Introducing Desktop Analytics

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Speech analytics has been a hot topic within the contact center industry over the past 2-3 years. But desktop analytics, which has actually been around longer, does not always get the attention it deserves. Monet offers speech and desktop analytics solutions, and both can play a pivotal role in the efficiency of your contact center. 

Perhaps this technology needs a new introduction to a market this is flooded with analytics ideas and solutions. This is one that merits your attention. 

Where speech analytics is primarily customer-focused, desktop analytics (DA) delivers insight on your agents and your processes. It captures and analyzes all agent desktop activities in real time, and it improves process automation and workflow. 

What makes (DA) unique is not just the capability of turning a spotlight on system, operational, or staff-related issues; it is the system’s ability to provide guidance and improved process automation, so these problems can be solved without scheduling meetings and taking time away from the day-to-day challenges of running a contact center. 

Desktop analytics is available as a standalone product, but our DA solution is one that works within and enhances our WFO suite. It is yet another tool available to managers trying to figure out why some processes have slowed and where issues need to be fixed. It also provides a way to confirm findings collected from other means.  

Are you Ready for Desktop Analytics? 

If you want more transparency into how your contact center functions, what agents are doing at their desks, whether your business is in compliance with government or industry guidelines on information gathering, and where your procedures are falling short of expectations, desktop analytics may have the answers. 



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The 7 Most Significant Contact Center Metrics

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Metrics deliver the data that keeps your contact center on track. And with an advanced workforce management solution like Monet’s WFM Live, metrics that were once only attainable with the most costly and advanced solutions are now within the reach of smaller and midsized contact centers. 

Of course, it’s not enough to compile data; that material must be reviewed and analyzed to measure performance and inspire beneficial changes. Looking for a place to start? Try these seven top performance measurements. 

1. Schedule Adherence and Efficiency

Are your agents working when they should? When that doesn’t happen, the center may be understaffed, leading to missed calls or delayed responses. Improving adherence will have an immediate impact on productivity and customer service. With WFM it’s easier to always have the right number of agents in place for each day and each shift.

2. Call Answer Time

What is the average speed of answer (ASA) at the call center? Most centers have a defined wait threshold that should be met consistently. 

3. Agent Occupancy

Finding the balance between keeping agents busy but not overworking them is the challenge of agent occupancy. It’s a key element in schedule efficiency where the goal is to avoid having too many agents sitting at their desks doing nothing, while also having enough available personnel so that each call is promptly answered. 

4. First Call Resolution

Customers want to resolve issues with one call, which makes a call center’s first call resolution rate critical to customer satisfaction. Sometimes it’s not possible, but if an agent consistently lags behind established goals, he or she should be scheduled for additional training. 

5. Transfer Rate

Few situations are more frustrating for a customer than explaining an issue to one agent, and then being transferred to a supervisor and having to do so a second time. While this may still qualify as a first-call resolution if questions are ultimately answered and the problem is solved, it should still be kept to a minimum whenever possible.

6. Abandon Rate

When a customer hangs up, it will not always be the fault of the contact center or the agent. Some people just have shorter fuses than others. However, abandon rates can be reduced by shorter wait times and courteous agents. 

7. Blocked Calls

Blocked calls never even make it to a call center agent, because of insufficient network capabilities. Obviously, the only possible result becomes a frustrated customer. Are some blocked calls inevitable at peak times? Or can these calls be taken with better scheduling, expanded trunks or other corrective measures? 




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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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