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Performance Management

Best Practices on using contact center metrics, reports, dashboard and key performance metrics (KPI) to optimize customer service

Customer Experience Hints, Tips & Best Practices

As call centers become contact centers, customer experience now encompasses a wider range of touch-points– email, website, store, chat, reps.

It doesn’t take a Business major to recognize that treating customers right is always a priority, but one could argue that it has never been more important than it is now. A bad customer experience may be mentioned on Facebook, Twitter, a blog and in emails to friends and associates. Result? Not just one lost customer, but several.

However, once a strategy is developed to track, measure and improve customer experience, a call center has a road map to identify any systems and programs that need to be revised for optimal customer satisfaction. The following blogs and article can help with that strategy.

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Robot Agents - Just Five Years Away?

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Automation has changed the day-to-day operations at call centers around the world, and has made the job of the agent easier.

But will the non-stop  advance of technology also make the job of the agent obsolete?

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, many of the 1.2 million call center positions in the Philippines may soon be replaced by customer service robots. This is happening primarily with non-agent positions - such as monitoring the performance of digital networks. But the article suggests that the robot agent revolution may be as close as five years away.

Will it happen in the U.S. as well? Certainly some companies may embrace the prospect if it means cutting costs - but no matter how it is implemented, these companies also run the risk of cutting customers as well.

In this political season rife with rob-calls, consider the frustration most of us experience in listening to recorded message that cannot be altered. Now apply that same principle to a contact center customer trying to ask a question or place an order.

An automated voice cannot make a customer feel appreciated. No matter how sincere the "We appreciate your business" recording is, many will think, "If you really appreciated my business, you'd hire someone to let me know in person."

And no matter how much foresight is applied to anticipating customer requests, there is no way to have an answer programmed to every question. Thus, several customers will still be forwarded to a live agent, and wonder why they couldn't receive that kind of attention in the first place.

We have all come to embrace cutting-edge technology as a boom to our businesses and our lives. But at some point it's wiser to take a step back, and understand that just because something is technologically possible, it doesn't mean it's better than what has gone before. 

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Performance Management: Time to Think Outside the Box?

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Change for its own sake rarely produces positive results. 

In a recent survey on performance management, more than three out of every four responses indicated that the performance management procedure in place at their respective companies could use some changes. 

But one-third of these respondents also admitted that they’re not just making the usual tweaks to the system – they’re going to try something bigger. 

For many, this involves shifting the focus to company culture and management. Rather than concentrate on ranking employee performance, which can be a prelude to firing those at the bottom of the list, businesses are looking instead at boosting employee feedback, making sure managers are more engaged in day-to-day activities, and instilling greater transparency. 

Transparency is particularly important, given that more than 60% of employees do not believe the performance management rating they receive is accurate. If those employees are receiving feedback, coaching and encouragement throughout the year, rather than in one annual assessment, it may help to eliminate some of these conflicts. 

And when managers are more involved in the activity on the contact center floor, it creates a nurturing environment for agents at the contact center, which contributes to a more positive culture. Sophisticated software such as workforce optimization can create the temptation to let technology do all the work and deliver data to the manager’s office. But it is not a substitute for face-to-face communication. 

The performance management of the future will be based on such communication, as well as annual goals that will be presented not as an ultimatum to employees, but a shared challenge that will be met with everyone working together. 

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Four Tips to Improve Contact Center Performance – and What They Have in Common

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We won’t bury the lead ¬– the common thread in all of the tips presented below is how much easier they are to achieve with forecasting and scheduling software. An automated workforce management (WFM) solution provides insight into contact center operations and will play an integral role in establishing policies that boost customer service. 

1. Setting Specific Goals

“We want to improve customer service and experience.” “We want to improve our training.” Great  – now how are you going to do it? The more specific you can get with your objectives, the more likely you will be to accomplish them. When you set more precise goals (“We want to lower our average handle time”), WFM will provide the data that can be used to make it happen. 

2. Targeted Training

Once basic training has been completed, agents should be regularly guided toward and tested on their abilities to meet the contact center’s service goals. With the Performance Analysis component of WFM, managers have access to reports, statistics and analysis of all agent activities, including their schedule adherence and key performance indicators (KPIs). That will help to further target training sessions. 

3. Set Quarterly Goals

Don’t make a list of goals for 2015 and wait until December to review them. With quarterly targets, you’ll know sooner if your efforts are working, and can make beneficial changes – which is certainly better than going another 6-7 months with a less than optimal system in place. The real-time monitoring and work history data delivered by WFM allows managers to track progress toward quarterly goals. 

4. Avoid Agent Burnout

Agents are employees but they are people first, with families and outside interests and holiday plans they would like to keep. Flexible scheduling makes it easier for agents to work shifts that are more convenient, and when they have that option they are likely to be more productive and provide better service. With WFM, shift-bidding and shift-swapping (with a manager’s approval) is streamlined, while holidays and other special events can be factored more efficiently into overall scheduling. 

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Gamification = Motivation

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“This is an office – not a playground!” Such words were frequently uttered for generations at companies, where the employees seemed more interested in having fun than doing their jobs. 

More recently, however, studies have shown that finding the element of fun in every job that must be done (to paraphrase Mary Poppins) can actually improve productivity and customer satisfaction. 

It’s called gamification, and it means redesigning everyday routines and tasks to be more game-like and interactive, resulting in experiences that are more engaging, more fun, and (hopefully) more productive. 

Can this work to motivate employees in the contact center? Possibly – as long as there are not any negative consequences to the activities devised. 

At some Target stores, cashiers compete in on how quickly they can ring up purchases. Something like this could be tried in a contact center, as long as agents are not rushing through scripted responses to end the call faster. Likewise, a challenge among agents on who can achieve the most upsells of a certain product could backfire if agents resort to more aggressive techniques that exacerbate the customer experience. 

Managers must introduce a gamification program with care – specifying guidelines for competitions and stressing the ultimate goal of improving not just worker morale but customer service. In the contact center environment where so much of the workday is spent in repetition of basic tasks, the right kinds of games can add excitement to the team, and might even help the company retain its best agents. 

If you have created any activities that have proven successful, let us know

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The “New” Service Level Metric: Customer Experience

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Measuring service level is an obvious and necessary exercise for every call center manager. But service level should not be confused with the more comprehensive examination of customer experience. Once you’ve developed a strategy to track, measure and improve customer experience, you’ll have a road map to identify any systems and programs that need to be revised for optimal customer satisfaction.

The challenge comes from the reality that customer experience encompasses a wide range of touch-points within the company that a customer may encounter – email, website, store, chat, reps.

While telephone engagements are just one piece of the puzzle, they are a particularly important piece. They provide an opportunity to find out about the other channels and aspects of customer experience, and to fix any problems. It’s also the time and place when most customers expect to be queried about the company, and may be more open to providing honest, direct and detailed feedback. 

If your call center has not yet expanded its data collection to cover customer experience, it is time to do so. 

The first step is to create a strategy – determine you customer experience goals, and how to analyze where you are in achieving them. Then make sure your agents have the training, the tools and the motivation to meet your call center’s customer service and customer experience initiatives.

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What are your Contact Center Resolutions for 2015?

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Even if New Year’s Resolutions aren’t always kept, they should be attempted. At the very least, they focus our attention on the areas of our lives that require the most improvement.

That same philosophy can be applied to your contact center as well. As 2015 approaches, where could your business get better? And what will be required to bring about a positive change?

If we were to survey a number of contact centers of all sizes and types, these are the resolutions we’d be most likely to hear.

1. Improve the accuracy of forecasts and schedules
Is it time for a change from spreadsheets to an automated workforce management (WFM) solution?

2. Improve adherence tracking
Tracking adherence at the end of a shift or a day is a missed opportunity to correct any issues more quickly. Such improved tracking is practically impossible with just a spreadsheet.

3. Improve quality monitoring
A call recording system is invaluable. But call recording software without integrated quality monitoring is not helping contact centers make the most of the technology.

4. Getting data in real-time
Spot-checking schedule adherence can be beneficial, but without the real-time tracking provided by WFM there is a much higher risk of over/under staffing, shrinkage and missed service levels.

5. Key metric alerts

Through real-time alerts of call center metrics such as average handle time, abandoned calls and first call resolution, agents and managers gain the data necessary to address the most important customer service issues.

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Customer Experience Tip: Empower your agents

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Your contact center has policies and procedures in place that you expect your agents to follow. They have been trained in your way of doing business, and receive periodical reviews and coaching to make certain they are adhering to the system. 

So is it then counterproductive to suggest that you also allow agents to stray from that system, and to exercise some flexibility when it comes to doing the right thing for your customers? 

It may sound that way, but contact centers that recognize there’s not a textbook answer to every customer engagement are those that are doing more for customer service than marking items on a checklist. Your agents should be empowered to make decisions, to stay on a call a few extra moments, even to break a rule every now and then, to preserve a customer relationship. 

To be clear, this is discretion that should be earned, and not bestowed on day one. After an agent has been with the contact center for awhile and has shown good judgment, he or she should then be given the latitude to sometimes take action that may not be in the script. 

The online shoe store Zappos is often lauded as an example of this type of customer service, and with good reason. The company seems to have located the right balancing point between efficient and consistent procedures, and thinking outside the box. 

“Never take your customers for granted,” said Scott Klein, manager of the company’s Customer Loyalty Team. “Never settle. Many companies get to a point where they hit cruise control, because things are going well. Zappos realizes that customers are our lifeblood — they're keeping us in business. The moment we take our customers for granted and stop listening is the moment that a competitor steps in and pushes us out of the way.”

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Customer Experience, Easier is Always Better

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Ask call center customers to describe what they want from a call center in one word, and you will probably hear the word “easy” more than once.

Many customers are eager to share horror stories of being trapped on hold or having a 15 minute conversation to resolve a simple issue. A satisfied customer is one that can conclude his or her business quickly and resume their regularly scheduled life. This is a goal that should be shared by the call center, as shorter customer engagements are an effective means of reducing wait time.  More...

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What Do Customers Experience When they Call?

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Capturing the customer’s perspective is vital to outstanding service. Finding the best way to achieve this insight will put any call center on the right path to efficiency and success. 

The best place to start is with call recording. When you can listen to the customer in his or her own words expressing their satisfaction with or objections to a call center engagement, you’ll know very quickly which agents are doing their jobs, and which part of your scripted copy is achieving the desired results. 

Call recording software allows for random call monitoring, so managers can listen in on calls without agents knowing which discussions are being reviewed. That provides a more accurate reflection of a typical customer engagement. Review a cross-section of calls from each agent, from each shift and from each of the common call categories (order placement, order cancellation, questions, complaints, etc.) to get the full picture. 

You can also significantly boost the impact of call recording by adding a Quality Management (QM) component. Start by creating a quality assurance scorecard to measure agent demeanor and performance as related to KPIs. Then score each call based on the scorecard and your preferred grading system. These scorecards provide a clear picture of how well each agent and the call center as a whole are doing, and where additional training is needed. You may discover, after repeating this process periodically, that even a small change in greeting or the insertion of a positive phrase or upsell effort can make a big difference. 

Quality monitoring works best when all the tools deployed for its achievement are both automated and integrated, as they are in Monet Quality. We invite you to watch a short Quality Monitoring video that illustrates how it works.

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Customer Experience is Key

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What are the key business trends in 2014? Creating the optimal customer experience would be high on that list, just as it was in 2013.

It doesn’t take a Business major to recognize that treating customers right is always a priority, but one could argue that it has never been more important than it is now.

In the past, if a customer did not like the way he was treated, he would take his business elsewhere. Today, that same customer can post the details of his negative experience on Facebook, Twitter, a blog and in emails to friends and associates. Result? Not just one lost customer, but several. That’s just one conclusion illustrated in a new infographic created by Zengage.  More...

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A Christmas Wish: Better Customer Experiences

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If your wish for the holidays is to provide a better customer service experience for your call center customers, congratulations – you have captured the spirit of the season. After all, it’s better to give than to receive, and this way you are giving your customers something they will appreciate all year long.

Of course, as this article on TMCnet observes, some customers have high expectations and are still accustomed to not having them met. What do they want from you? Here are three ideas you can implement for 2014 that will deliver on your Christmas wish:  More...

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How to deliver a great customer experience

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It shouldn’t be a secret for companies that it is crucial to truly understand customer needs and then deliver products and services that meet or exceed those needs. However, you have probably noticed first-hand in your own consumer and buying experience that a lot of companies are still too much product instead of customer-focused. As the CEO of my company, Monet Software, I have established a one-word mission statement and that is “Customer”.  There is the old saying which still rings true: “take care of your customers and they will take care of you”. It’s easy to say, but often hard to implement and execute. In this article, I will share with you five simple but effective recommendations that have worked for us and other successful companies. More...

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Call Center Software for a Better Customer Experience

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The call center publication TMCnet is featuring an interview with the CEO of Monet Software as part of its launch of a new magazine called "Customer", which launches in September. The interview addresses topics such as:

  • How to improve the customer experience and customer interactions
  • Key developments in customer interactions over the last few years
  • Impact of CRM on the customer experience
  • Impact of workforce management, call recording, quality management and call center metrics on the customer experience
  • Impact of cloud-computing on the delivery of software

You can read the whole interview called "Monet Software Paints a Picture of the New Customer Experience" on TMCnet's website.

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

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