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Quality Management

Practical information about call center recording software, call monitoring and quality assurance for contact centers

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Four “Must Have” Qualities in a Quality Management System

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“Quality,” that elusive attribute for which a contact center strives, is always a challenge to achieve consistently.
But maintaining quality is critical in every aspect of a company’s operation, and especially in the contact center where thousands of people have their first experience with how that company treats its customers. A positive impression can lead to a long and profitable relationship; a bad one can end it before it has a chance to start.

Do you have a quality management (QM) program? If so, when was the last time you reviewed its success (or lack thereof)? Whether you are starting a new QM effort, or giving the old one a makeover, here are four attributes that must be handled correctly.

Call Scoring

This is perhaps the most critical aspect of quality management, so it is best decided with the participation of as many employees as possible. Divide each call into sections – greeting, closing, speed, issue resolution, courtesy, empathy, etc. – and then score each segment. This could be done with a letter grade like in school, or on a 1-10 scale. Then, compare results. Don’t be surprised if assessments vary – you are still early in the process and this is how you will determine what qualifies as a great call, a good one, and one that was not well-handled. The more participants become acclimated to the QM system, the closer the scores should get. 

Training

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. And as much as you trust your coaches and trainers to maximize agent performance, their work must be regularly monitored as well. 

Customer Involvement

Serving your customers better is the reason to introduce QM – so it makes sense to include their feedback instead of just assuming what they want from your business. Review customer satisfaction scores against QM results, and address any gaps or discrepancies. Update customer surveys frequently. 

Technology


Without the right software, a quality management program is going to struggle. Monitoring of customer interactions should be simple for agents, and the intelligence gathered through the system should be easy to analyze for managers. Also, consider future growth – the software you select should be able to grow with your company, and meet your needs not only today but tomorrow.

Find out more about Monet’s Quality Management Solution

Or, take our QM system out for a test-drive in this free online demo


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Five Things Customers Demand From Your Call Center – Do You Provide Them?

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By the time your average customer has punched in the ten-digit phone number for your contact center, he or she has already established expectations for what is about to happen. Customers know what to anticipate from an efficient and successful engagement, and that is what they want you to deliver.

This is what is on their minds. Is your contact center up to the task?

1. Someone Says Hello Within Three Rings

If a real person answers the phone, you may hear an audible sign of relief from the customer expecting a trying-too-hard-to-be-friendly recorded greeting, followed by a series of menu options that may or may not eventually get them to where they want to be.

2. Manners

Yes, they seem to be disappearing a little more each day, but most of your customers will still be delighted to hear a courteous greeting, an appreciation for their business, “please” and “thank you” when it’s appropriate, and conversation that doesn’t sound like it is being read off of a page.

3. Less Talk – More Listening

Many of your contact center customers are calling with a question. And they will quickly grow frustrated if they’re not allowed to ask that question because the agent keeps asking them questions first. Obviously an agent will have to collect some information, but every effort should be made to keep it to a minimum. And if a call has to be transferred, make sure the information collected is transferred with it, so the customer doesn’t have to say it again.

4. Knowledgeable Staff

When the customer finally gets to ask his or her question, they will expect an answer. As most will relate to the company’s products, services and policies, agent training should prepare call center personnel for responding to these queries. Occasionally, when a more unexpected question is asked, an agent should have access to communication with other agents or a manager who can deliver an answer quickly. Putting the customer on hold to obtain this is not a great option, but if an answer is forthcoming the customer will understand.

5. A Successful Resolution

Ultimately, the most important result to strive for with each customer call is a successful outcome – an order placed, a question answered, or a problem solved. Well-trained agents and quality call center technology, working together, improve the likelihood of a successful resolution.

A Quality Management solution can help your contact center deliver great service and improve customer satisfaction. Find out how

Call recording is an integral part of quality management. Check out this free online demo of Monet’s call recording solution.


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Cut Agent Training Time in Half

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Training is the critical step that prepares new agents before they are ready to serve your customers. Obviously it’s important to get it right, but it’s also true that the time devoted to training is time when that agent is being paid, but not yet doing the job for which he or she was hired.

How much time are we talking about? As much as one month at some contact centers, and sometimes even longer.

While companies may be hesitant to cut training time, it is possible to do so responsibly – here are some ideas for how to make it happen.

Homework Content

Prepare materials that the agent-in-training can take home to study. Not just the script, but also a list of best practices and frequently asked questions. You can also create an audio file of successful customer engagements, so new hires can hear exactly what is expected of them.

Peer-to-Peer Training

Some contact centers have found that agents respond faster to training when it comes from another agent, rather than a manager or call center executive. There is less pressure in a peer-to-peer situation, and the new agent may feel more comfortable asking questions about the job and about why certain procedures are in place.

Get to That First Call Faster

It has to happen sometime – but do some agents really need four or more weeks of training and instruction before taking their first customer call?

It’s a big sink-or-swim moment, and should be closely monitored by a trainer who can jump in and take over if there’s an issue. But if the rest of your training regimen is sound, it’s worth trying to accelerate the pace to this training stage. It also gives you an actual call that can now be reviewed and scored using the quality management techniques already in place at your contact center.

Before providing this feedback, however, ask the new agent to assess his or her own performance – how did they handle the greeting? Was there a selling opportunity missed? How would that customer rate that service experience? Self-coaching should be an important part of the agent’s job, so it’s helpful to get a head start here as well.

Do you have any coaching techniques that have worked at your call center? Share them on our Facebook page

Would your new agents benefit from a better quality management solution? Here’s what Monet has to offer


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Maintaining Optimal Service at the End of Each Shift

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If one of your contact center shifts ends at 5pm, have you ever noticed what happens starting around 4:30?

Often, average handle time drops – which sounds good until you realize that it’s happening not because agents are being more efficient, but because they have one foot out the door already and are rushing through their last few calls.

That’s a problem. The customer that calls at 4:50pm deserves the same amount of time and attention as the one who called near the beginning of the shift.

Here are some suggestions to help make that happen.

A “Last Man (or Woman) Standing” Contest

Offer a small incentive to the last agent still on the phone when the shift ends. If there’s a healthy competition between agents, you may find more of them sticking around longer not just for the prize, but also for bragging rights.

Encourage a Culture of Professionalism

This starts in training. Be clear on an agent’s responsibilities, and how the job should be approached. Praise good performance regularly throughout each shift, and reinforce the values of the company and the importance of each customer at every training session. If the groundwork has been laid correctly, agents won’t need as much outside encouragement to maintain their professionalism through the end of every shift.

Select More Late-Shift Calls for Quality Management Scores

Let your agents know that future training sessions and quality management assessments will utilize a higher percentage of calls taken from the last half-hour of their shifts. When agents know they will be judged on their performance and on the outcomes of these calls, they will give them the attention they deserve.

Close the Phone Lines Early

Some contact centers have elected to close phone lines a half-hour before the shift ends, allowing agents to use that time to wrap up and post-call work, or perhaps even switch over to online chat, a less stressful means of customer communication.

Do you have any other ideas for stopping advisors from rushing through calls at the end of the day? Share them on our Facebook page

Would your new agents benefit from a better quality management solution? Here’s what Monet has to offer


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Four Factors Found In Every Successful Contact Center

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Take a closer look at successful people and successful companies, and you’ll often find they share the same positive traits.

At the contact center, success is measured by how well customers are treated. What are some of the factors you’ll find in common at the best of these businesses? These four come to mind.

  1. Accessibility
    For decades, call centers only had to worry about one communication channel. But today, customers may prefer to reach out through other means – emails, social media, web chat. The contact center should facilitate these connections.
  2. Consistency
    The same approach to customer service, and the same answers to customer questions, should be delivered consistently from agent to agent, and from service channel to service channel. Learning that lesson starts in training and is reinforced throughout your quality management efforts.
  3. Communication
    In this case, it’s a reference not to communication between agents and customers, but between agents and managers. Everybody likes to feel appreciated. When agents excel at their work they deserve to be recognized and rewarded. And when agents have questions or suggestions, they should not be reluctant to share them.
  4. Understanding
    The job of an agent is not to listen to a customer until he or she hears a key word (order, return, complaint) that triggers a pre-scripted response. It is to actively listen to what is being said, and respond within the framework of call center policy, but in a way that acknowledges each customer individually by giving him or her the respect of the agent’s full attention. And, when necessary, offering support or empathy that goes beyond the words in the script or the service provided. Is this being emphasized enough at your business?

Would your new agents benefit from a better quality management solution? Here’s what Monet has to offer

Watch a demo of our call recording and monitoring solution in action


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Call Recording Challenges: How to Avoid Them

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There are many different call recording software solutions available. While their essential purpose remains the same, there are variations in functionality, implementation and cost that should be reviewed by contact center management so that an informed purchasing decision can be made.

The objective is to add all the advantages that call recording provides, without introducing new challenges. Like these:

1. Finding Specific Calls

The data stored on call monitoring software won’t be as useful if it takes forever to find it. If a manager needs to locate a specific call or series of calls, and the effort proves frustrating and time-consuming, the system is useless. The system should carry out the call retrieval function based on any number of “tags” that can be affixed to a specific call. Typically, the response to a command such as “Find Alan Martin’s most recent call” should be done in seconds.

2. Protecting Customer Information

At a time when there are too many news stories about security breaches, and customer data falling into the hands of hackers, it has never been more essential to utilize a call recording solution that is safe. It should assist in the prevention of information theft, and restrict information access to specific individuals or groups. Make sure data collected is secure, encrypted if necessary and protected from hackers and other threats.

3. It Should Integrate Into Your Current Technology

Conversion to new call recording software will inevitably involve some business disruption, but it should be minimal. Find out how long it takes for initial set-up of the system, as well as how long it will take to train contact center staff on its proper usage. Another important element is the integration to other workforce systems. It is always beneficial to have call recording working with workforce management, as you’ll find in Monet’s Workforce Optimization solution. 

4. It Shouldn’t Cost Too Much

Is there an initial upfront equipment/hardware investment and software license fee? Are there any costs that may be necessary for call center staff training, as well as internal operation costs and any future maintenance and subscription fees? Are there any other costs for implementation and integration with other systems? By investigating cloud solutions, even smaller call centers with limited budgets and resources can afford a system with the same benefits and advantages traditionally enjoyed by companies with much larger IT budgets. 

Find out more about the benefits of Monet’s call recording solution here

Call recording can build a valuable knowledge base for your contact center. This blog explains how


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Is Your Contact Center Prepared for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

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In May of 2018, the European Union will officially adopt the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), new legislation created to provide consumers with enhanced safeguarding of their personal data. 

There has been a greater volume of media coverage about the new regulations in Europe, but GDPR also affects American companies; Contact centers deal with personal data and many of them serve global markets, including Europe. Personal data is used to identify and assist customers, and businesses handling this type of information should pay attention to the new law as well. 

Here’s what you need to know: 
  • GDPR will be effective on May 25, 2018, and applies to all organizations handling personal data in the 28 countries of the European Union.
  • Any information relating to “an identified or identifiable natural person” is considered personal data. This includes not just names but online identifiers and data that track a person’s location.
  • Customers now have the right to have their data erased or transferred from one data controller to another.
  • Contact center agents have access to customer personal data to be able to assist them and they need to be compliant to the new regulation.
  • Compliance with GDPR is mandatory; failure to comply is punishable by fines as high as 20 million EUR or 4% of a company’s annual revenue.
Concerns about being compliant? Here’s how to get started: 
  • Perform a complete data inventory to identify the information currently being collected and used. 
  • Monitor and adopt officially approved/sanctioned best practices to enjoy any safe harbors regulators afford.
  • Consider, where applicable, creating a limited-liability establishment in the EU jurisdiction that offers regulatory oversight. 

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Five Questions to Ask Before Investing in Quality Management (QM)

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Ready to take your quality management efforts to the next level? Great! Obviously this is an investment you only want to make once, so here are five questions that will help you get it right the first time. 

1. Will this system record all of our calls?

For many years, selective call recording has been deemed sufficient for determining if agents are performing up to expectations, and whether customers are getting the service they need. But contact centers rise and fall on data, and today’s top quality management solutions can record every call so you get a true picture of how your business is performing. And with every call recorded, you can use the software to analyze the data for patterns (call wait time, content, issue resolution, etc.). 

2. Will the solution be easy to install?

Concerns over implementation and ease of use have kept too many contact centers from acquiring the technology solutions they need. But there are quality management solutions that will ease the transition from any previous technology, allow for easy customization as needed, and generate reports that provide the necessary data in a clear and concise manner. The objective is a minimal transition period for your personnel. 

3. Is there an easy way to find the data we need?

Every quality management solution will collect data ¬– but what if you need to analyze all the calls about one specific product, or all of the calls from one particular customer demographic? The data stored on call monitoring software won’t be as useful if it takes forever to find it. Effective call recording also means effective call retrieval from the server to the system, from any location. Deleting calls and adding comments to records should also be an efficient process. 

4. Will the solution grow with our business?

Technology upgrades are beneficial. Repeatedly upgrading the same technology to keep up with your contact center’s needs is not. Call recording software should have the flexibility to grow with your business. Review all features listings and compare them with the features most important to your call center. 

5. Will our data be protected?

Call monitoring introduces a number of internal and external security issues. Effective call recording should always be safe, and implemented with the proper restrictions regarding employee access. Make sure data collected is secure, encrypted if necessary and protected from hackers and other threats.

See Monet’s Quality Management solution in action in this demo
How important is call recording to the success of your business? Read our free whitepaper


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Should Contact Centers Be Forced To Reveal Where They are Located?

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It happens almost every year: A bill is introduced in Congress to address contact center outsourcing. 

The 2018 version comes from Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who has proposed legislation requiring contact center employees in India and other foreign locales to reveal their location during each call, and offer customers the option of being transferred to an agent within the United States. If that offer isn’t made, customers can request it. 

If you polled the average consumer about this, they’d probably be delighted. There’s nothing quite so frustrating as calling a company to request information about one of their products, question a billing charge or place an order. After waiting (and waiting, and waiting) on hold for a customer service representative, your call is finally answered by a distant-sounding voice with an indistinguishable accent. 

But companies that outsource argue that it’s an economic necessity. No one argues that the service is better when it comes from the other side of an ocean; but by doing so agents can be hired for a fraction of the salary they would make at home. 

Senator Brown’s bill would also create a public list of companies that outsource call center jobs, and give preference in federal contracts to companies that haven't shipped these jobs overseas.

The good news for companies that outsource is that such legislation has not passed when previously proposed. But, there’s always a first time. 

Do you believe contact centers should be forced to reveal their location? 

Share your thoughts on our Facebook page 


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Seven Tags to Use in Call Recording

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A call recording system should do more than maintain a record of all incoming customer calls – it should make it easy for you to retrieve specific calls and types of calls for quality management and training purposes.

This is achieved through tagging, which acts as a ‘bookmark’ to identify calls that may be useful for these and other reasons. Every contact center assigns different tags to sets of calls. Here are some of the most common. 

1. Issues with a specific product or service

If too many customers are having the same problem, this is important information that should be passed on to those responsible for its creation and execution. The recordings will let them know exactly what is wrong. 

2. Questions that can’t be answered

It is the agent’s job to answer customer inquiries, but it’s not uncommon for questions to arise for which the agent is unable to respond. These should be tagged and reviewed later, so answers can be put forth. 

3. Angry customers

There is a difference between dissatisfied customers and those who start yelling as soon as the agent says “How may I help you?” Tag these calls so agents will have some advance warning if that customer calls again. These are also contacts that can be routed to an agent that specializes in handling bad-tempered individuals. 

4. Compliments

Why not put together a feel-good file that includes praise for the company, its products, and (hopefully!) even the call center? Agents like to occasionally be reminded that they are doing a good job.

5. Threats

Any call that contains threatening language against the company or any of its personnel must be tagged, and perhaps even passed on to law enforcement. In these dangerous times there is no such thing as being too careful. 

6. Suggestions

Sometimes the best ideas come from outside the company. Tag these calls for both quantitative (how many suggestions did we get?) and qualitative (what did customers suggest?) analysis later. 

7. New customers

The objective with new customers is to turn them into frequent customers. Tag first-time callers/buyers so it is easier to track their progress. 

With Monet Record, an agent or supervisors can tag content as it happens and label it accordingly. Management may then (or later) assign access restrictions to that tag. Reviewing tags should then be as simple as visiting the recording detail page and clicking on the appropriate view link for the desired tag. 

Find out more about Monet Record

Watch a demo of Monet Quality Management in action


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Quick and Easy Contact Center Quality Monitoring

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We all know the importance of quality management. But we also know there are only so many hours in the day, and that a quality monitoring program can sometimes take too many of them.

If you find you’re up against time constraints, however, do not abandon quality monitoring entirely. Instead, streamline your efforts by streamlining the checklist you use for monitoring calls and agent performance. 

How many questions are on your current form? Some have as many as 25 – and they’re probably all important. But for those seeking a faster and more efficient approach, this is the place to start. 

Limit your form to seven questions. If they are the right questions (speed of answer, effectiveness of script, clarity of agent communication) they should be sufficient to pinpoint issues and suggest corrections. 

A shorter form may deliver bigger dividends for the agent as well. Facing a checklist of 25 potential hurdles may seem daunting. But with just seven areas to focus on, agents are more likely to understand what they need to do, memorize best practices techniques, and understand what is most important. 

Finally, since any quality monitoring effort must include customer feedback, keeping your inquiries to a minimum will increase the likelihood of more responses. Did you ever start taking an online “How did we do?” survey and give up halfway through because there were too many questions? By requesting responses to just 5-7 questions, you stand a better chance of getting the data you need. 

Also Helpful: The Right Call Monitoring Software

Without the right software, a quality monitoring program is going to struggle. Monitoring of customer interactions should be simple for agents, and the intelligence gathered through the system should be easy to analyze for managers. Also, consider future growth – the software you select should be able to grow with your company, and meet your needs not only today but tomorrow. 

Want more great ideas about quality monitoring? Download our free whitepaper Seven Strategies for Effective Quality Assurance in Your Call Center. 

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


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Turning Angry Customers Into Loyal Customers

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At what point do you give up on a customer?

The right answer, of course, is “never.” 

Of course mistakes will happen, and products that should work won’t, and service calls will arrive late. Customers on the receiving end of such problems have a right to be upset. But a contact center agent has a chance to pull that relationship back from the brink with the right approach. 

The Walt Disney Company, one of the most successful in the world, is not immune to angry patrons, even if they’re wearing personally embroidered mouse ears. They try to keep those customers through a method called HEARD:

H – Hear

E – Empathize

A – Apologize

R – Resolve

D – Diagnose

Here’s how it works:

Hear

The first step toward bringing an angry customer back to the fold is listening, not talking. Contact centers want to keep average handle time low, but sometimes you need to allow those few extra minutes for a customer to vent before beginning the relationship rebuilding process.

Empathize

This means validating the customer’s feelings – “I understand why you’re angry.” Create an emotional connection with the customer. It’s a trait that should be more highly prized at contact centers. 

Apologize

Many businesses start here, and sometimes that’s all a customer really wants. But when it’s time to get to the “I’m sorry,” it should be said in a way that sounds authentic, and not read off a script – “ABC Industries apologizes for your inconvenience. Your business is very important to us….etc.” Have your agents say it like they mean it. 

Resolve

What can the agent do to correct the problem? Here, contact centers that allow agents more autonomy have an advantage, as these agents can take it on themselves to offer appropriate compensation without having to consult managers or put the angry customer on hold (which will not improve his or her mood).

Diagnose

Whatever the outcome of each call like this, use it as a learning experience for both the agent and the company. How can similar issues be avoided? What worked and what didn’t in making that customer feel valued?

Does your contact center have any techniques that have worked to turn customers’ frowns upside down? Share them on our Facebook page

Read more tips on how to spoil your customers in our Quality Management blog


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The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of Quality Monitoring

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

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

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

Why Do It?

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

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

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

How To Do It

There are several components to a quality monitoring program. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Two Techniques for Training Better Agents: Motivation and Monitoring

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

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

Monitoring

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

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

Motivation

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

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

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


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Call Monitoring Collects Critical Data About Your Agents – and Your Customers

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As the value of data continues to rise, more and more companies are recognizing the importance of their call centers, and are increasing their investments in technology and infrastructure so these call centers can continue to learn more about their customers. 

At the same time, it has become obvious that as much as we rely on technology to collect and analyze data, it’s still the agent that is on the front line of customer communication, and plays a critical role in that data gathering process. Great technology without great agents is not an effective recipe for success – and neither are great agents without great technology. 

How can you make sure your workforce management solution is getting the job done, while also making sure your agents are delivering the type of service your customers expect?

The answer is call monitoring. 

The primary function of call monitoring software is to capture and store every (or selected) call center transaction, and to provide insights based on the information compiled in these calls (on such topics as length of call and outcome of customer engagement). Data should be organized and stored in a manner that makes it easy for management to retrieve and review individual calls based on specific criteria, including phone number, agent, date and time of day.

There are several features call centers should expect from a call center recording system, including on-demand recording, selective recording, filtering and auto-delete. Affordability, ease of set-up and training, and security should also be factors in product selection. Some means of call recording is also now essential to demonstrate adherence to industry regulations and policies.

With call monitoring you will always be able to track agent performance, and use that knowledge to improve productivity through coaching and training opportunities.


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Call Center Quality Monitoring: How Do You Assess Calls?

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Quality monitoring starts with call monitoring. You can’t assess how well your call center is doing without knowing how agents are relating to your customers.

To gather this information call centers opt for one of two methods. Either they utilize call recording software, or they evaluate performance by sitting next to the agent as he or she handles a call. Of course, with the latter method they are more likely to encounter agents on their best behavior, without knowing for certain that calls would be handled the same way if the manager were out to lunch.

However, that is not the only drawback of in-person monitoring. An automated solution is more efficient, more effective, and offers additional dividends beyond the measurement and improvement of agent performance.

If you haven’t switched yet, here are three reasons why you probably should.

Speed and Volume

Which method sounds like it will deliver more comprehensive results: monitoring one call center agent for a shift, or setting up call recording for the entire call center, and accessing every customer encounter from every agent? Plus, if you wish to review a specific call from yesterday or two weeks ago, a recording is preferable to relying on your notes or your memory.

Auditing

While customer encounters that result in legal action are rare, if one emerges you’ll be grateful to have a recording of that call. Without that record, liability protection becomes much more difficult. While a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of a business transaction is still possible, a recording eliminates nearly all disputes that arise from the contents of a verbal exchange.

Training

Both forms of monitoring are helpful in training. But recorded calls offer the additional benefit of moving agents toward self-assessment and self-improvement. In most call centers, an agent won’t be hired without demonstrating the basic job skills required to deal with customers. That means they should be qualified to judge their job performance. By listening back to customer encounters, these agents may discover that they have drifted away from best practices.


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With Quality Monitoring, One Call = That’s All

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We’ve written several blogs about the importance of first-call resolution (FCR). If there were a Mount Rushmore of KPIs, this one would make the cut, because a customer that has to call back a second time to get an issue resolved may not be a customer much longer.

What’s the solution to better FCR? We believe it is quality monitoring.

Once you’ve established the FCR level for your call center (obviously this will vary depending on the product or service utilized by your customers), set a goal for, say, improving that number by 5%.

Then, let the two-step quality monitoring process of call recording and call scoring take it from there 

Call Recording

Review recordings of successful calls where issues were resolved, and those that were not. The latter category will likely be divided into two sub-categories: calls where an FCR result was unlikely from the start, and those where it could have been achieved if not for one particular variable.

Call Scoring

Score calls based on agent performance in bringing the call to a successful conclusion. This will provide the raw data that illustrates each agent’s approach to achieving FCR, and where additional training can help to correct mistakes.

This approach does not mean that agents are always culpable when FCR suffers. They may be working from a script that doesn’t adequately address certain situations. There may be a company policy that requires calls be transferred, which can cause delays and customer frustration.

Whatever the cause, quality management will reveal it. Make changes as needed, give those changes time to work, and then reassess. An improved first-call resolution rate is just one of many benefits derived from this effort.


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The Three Worst Calls Contact Center Agents Receive – and How to Handle Them

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Every so often you run across a study that produces results so obvious you wonder why a study was necessary in the first place. 

That was what most of us felt after the University of British Columbia announced that customers with bad attitudes are less likely to be satisfied with the service they receive. 

Most call center agents already know this – and yet it is their job to try and make each customer happy, no matter how difficult the challenge. 

These are the three customer behaviors cited by the survey. Agents encounter all of them regularly. 

1. The Angry Caller

These customers are mad from the time you say hello. They’ve saved up a lot of complaining and are eager to let it rip. The best alternative for agents in these situations is to counter aggression with calm, steady responses. Convey empathy even if you don’t actually feel it – “I understand your frustration. I’m sure that was difficult. Let me try to take care of that for you.” Return negative words with positive words, and hope the caller calms down or responds accordingly. 


2. The Abusive Caller

These customers are not just angry, they’re itching for a fight. They want to let someone from the company know just how lousy they are, and they don’t care if it’s the CEO or a poor agent just starting her daily shift. The difference between angry and abusive is the attack becomes personal. The challenge is to remain calm and try to reduce the caller’s hostility level. A reminder that the call is being recorded may change their attitude, but if it doesn’t it should be permissible for the agent to tell the abusive caller that their call will be terminated if he or she does not calm down. The agent should then inform that manager of what has happened. 

3. The Interrupting Caller

Very few issues are unique – agents have heard them all before, and managers have prepared company responses that usually rectify the situation. But what is an agent to do when he or she can’t express the proper response because of constant interruptions? Though it won’t do much for average handle time, the best option here is to let the caller blow off steam, and at the first pause politely ask “Is there anything else about this situation I need to know?” Once the caller has vented sufficiently, he or she might be ready to accept the agent’s response. 



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Automate Quality Management for Better Results

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How do you manage – and measure – quality?

Different companies have different methods – spreadsheets, worksheets, or relying on whatever outdated capabilities came with the software they’ve had for decades. If that sounds like your call center, here’s a question: How is that working out?

If we were to guess we’d say probably not that well. Gathering information from different parties can be difficult. You may not be getting enough visibility into quality events to assess them accurately. Keeping up with industry regulations may pose another challenge. 

An automated quality management solution solves these issues. Workflow, visibility and best practices become much easier to manage. For more details, check out Monet’s Quality solution here

In fact, there’s really no debate about the benefits these solutions provide. Any hesitation to adopt this technology and leverage its many advantages usually stems from cost concerns. For new companies or smaller call centers without a large IT budget, that used to be a legitimate reason for getting by with the old-fashioned methods. Used to be.

What has changed is the availability of flexible, secure cloud-based quality management solutions, such as Monet Quality, that can be obtained without the large upfront cost. With no servers, no network switches, no full-time IT staff and no other hardware to purchase, install and maintain, ROI is achieved a lot faster. 

Quality is important. With the right quality management solution, you’ll always know that customers are experiencing the best your business has to offer.  


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Tips for Customer Engagement

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Call centers exist to serve the needs of a business, but their top priority is serving the needs of that company’s customers. 

The challenge of doing so has changed drastically, especially over the past two decades, as questions that used to require a call can now be answered on the company’s website or Facebook page. Standard business transactions also now get conducted online, so your customers may only call when they need a faster answer, or with a unique issue. 

They won’t all be ‘last resort’ communications, but call center managers must realize that each call represents a chance to keep a customer or lose them forever. That makes customer engagement essential. If a caller doesn’t get the information he or she needs, they might be lost. And even if a caller gets answers, he or she may not like an agent’s attitude, or how long they had to wait on hold. There’s a lot more that can go wrong than go right every time an agent picks up the phone. 

Here are some engagement tips that help to engender customer loyalty.

Personalize Every Encounter

This involves more than addressing the customer by name (though that is important as well). With workforce management software agents will find it easier to access details of the customer’s most recent transaction, as well as all previous contacts and their purchase history. 

Two Answers to Avoid

When a customer calls with a question, the last thing they want to hear from an agent is “I don’t know.” Of course, there will be times when that may be the case, but a better response is “Let me find that answer for you.” If the answer cannot be found within a few minutes, apologize and schedule a time when the caller can be contacted and provided with that information. 

Also not recommended – “yes” and “no” answers, when they stop there. Such abrupt responses signal disinterest on the part of the agent. There should be scripted responses that express the same sentiments in a more courteous way. 

Less is Not More

The expression “less is more” doesn’t work at the call center. Positive customer experiences are those in which the caller receives additional assistance and other useful information related to their order or issue. This doesn’t mean just ‘upsell’ opportunities, but making sure any other questions they have are answered. In fact, that’s not a bad way to close out the call.

Hire ‘People Persons’ as Agents

There are many qualities that a great call center agent should possess, but one that is often overlooked is curiosity.  A people person meets someone and just naturally wants to know more about what is happening in his or her life. They like to talk to strangers and help them out when it’s possible. The best agents do this. They’ll ask questions that generate information that provides greater insight into each customer. They will make the caller feel valued. 

Another valuable skill for an agent is the ability to predict questions and anticipate problems before they happen. Some of this will evolve naturally. One way to train new agents is to have them take a tour of a local museum or tourist attraction. The tour guides have their script down pat, know what questions are likely to be asked and always have answers at the ready. Part of the guide’s job description is also to be cheerful, upbeat and enthusiastic – traits that are also important in an agent. 

Finally, your agents should feel 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. This status is not bestowed on day one. After an agent has been with the call center for a while 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. 

Mention Self Service Options – But Don’t Push Them

Well-intentioned as they are, recorded messages on menu screens are typically received more with hostility than gratitude. Automation is important, but not when it stands in the way of a caller speaking with a live agent, if that is his or her desire. 

Engaged Agents

You cannot engage customers without engaging agents. That goes beyond the hiring and training efforts previously described. Engagement is an ongoing challenge that affects agents after six weeks, six months or six years on the job. 



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Complaining About Customer Complaints? Take Action Instead

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The call center business would be a lot more agreeable, if it weren’t for all those customers and their problems.

No matter how well a company is run, some complaints are inevitable. The challenge is not just keeping them to a minimum, but handling them in a way that salvages a customer relationship that, at that point, could go either way. 

Complaints, like any other type of call, also deliver raw data on what the company is doing right and what could be better. Paying attention to that feedback and making adjustments accordingly is one of the most important contributions a call center can deliver. 

Here are a few ideas that can make one of the most unpleasant parts of your job less difficult – and perhaps even beneficial.  

On the Front Line

Whether a complaint is registered via telephone, online chat or social media, your agents will be the first to hear it, and their responses are the ones that matter. How much authority do your agents have to handle these issues? 

Customers with a product issue may call requesting a refund. Can your agents provide it, along with the requisite apology? If so, that customer may not be lost for good. But if that customer has to be put on hold and transferred, or is required to fill out a form that goes through a formal complaint procedure, he or she is probably done with your company. 

Also keep in mind that with that latter, more complicated procedure, all of the time invested by multiple employees means that complaint was more costly to the call center. With smaller purchases in particular, cut your losses quickly by letting the agent take care of it. 

That objective ties into the always-important challenge of First Call Resolution (FCR). When agents feel they have been given enough autonomy to provide customer satisfaction, they can usually achieve a better result all the way around. 

However, some agents simply don’t want the responsibility. “Hold, please” becomes a standard response even in situations that should be resolved without that referral. 

With an workforce management solution, it becomes much easier to target agents on such metrics as FCR, and to monitor unnecessary referrals. 

Here’s another unpleasant thought: sometimes it is the agent that inspires the complaint in the first place: “too rude,” “too abrupt,” “left me on hold for ten minutes,” “promised me something that was not delivered,” etc. With the data collected and reports generated by WFM and more specifically Quality Monitoring, managers will also gain insight into which agents are generating the most complaints, and require additional training – or a lesson in manners. 

Hopefully such instances are minimal. If you used good judgment in the hiring and training process, your agents are your greatest assets for customer retention. Are you using them that way? That means listening when they tell you about recurring situations that are generating a negative response. 

Perhaps a limited-time offer is worded in a way that is confusing to some customers. Agents will not only be the first to know, they may in listening to callers be able to provide a solution to the problem. Make sure their feedback is getting to the management team. 

Communication is Key

The answer to almost every call center challenge is better communication – between agent and customer, agent and manager, manager and other department personnel. 

A customer-centric approach starts at the top and filters down to the front line. Hitting performance targets and monitoring metrics should enhance this approach, and not dilute it by making average handle time more important than a satisfied customer. 

Schedule regular meetings, company wide if possible, to review complaints. And when it’s time to present them, a personalized approach may induce a better response. For instance, a manager could report, “We’ve seen a 10% increase in customers upset about our new teddy bear not arriving on time.” Or, he could say “We had a call from Barbara in Texas who ordered the teddy bear in time for her little girl’s birthday, but it still arrived two days late.” That paints a more vivid picture of the problem than a dry statistic. 

How are complaints logged at your call center? An internal audit can be beneficial, as sometimes general inquiries or a customer closing an account may be classified as a complaint. Not only does this falsely inflate the volume of incoming complaints, it clutters the system in a way that may prevent genuine service issues from being resolved faster. 

Consistency

One more objective that helps with complaint handling is consistency. That starts again with agents. Are the new hires handling customer problems with the same skill as those who have been there for years? Monitor them more closely to make sure they are on the same page.

A monthly review involving agents, managers, coaches and trainers can help with keeping track of complaints, detecting trends, and making sure appropriate responses are going out. The longer an issue is undetected, the more complaints it is going to generate.  

Consistency across channels is equally imperative. If a social media message is not answered, that customer may resort to calling – now you have two complaints from one customer, which doesn’t look good on the balance sheet. 

One More Tip – Though It Probably Sounds Strange

Here is one last piece of advice that may seem counterproductive at first – make it as easy as possible for your customers to provide negative feedback. 

There’s no use trying to avoid complaints so you won’t have to deal with them. And yet some websites still try to bury the ‘contact us’ link where it won’t be easily noticed. There are just too many channels available now to try to duck angry consumers. By encouraging feedback, you remove one more frustrating obstacle from the customer’s path, and avoid multiple contacts from the same source.

Ultimately, complaints deliver content that can make your company better. Handling them efficiently is the most effective way to reduce them.  


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Encouraging the Customer Shift to Self-Service Options

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For several years, as the Internet and social media emerged as new communication methods, there were several call center industry stories speculating on whether live agents would soon be an endangered species. 

The prospect now seems less likely than it once did, as there is still a need and often a preference for customers to actually speak with another person to resolve their issues. 

But there is no question that agents are a more costly and complex service option than automated online responses or social media interaction. Two hundred agents? That’s a big investment. 500? Those call centers moved offshore to save money – and paid a different kind of price. 

Industry estimates vary on how many customer interactions can and should be handled without live assistance. But it’s at least 40% on the low end – some have it as high as 90%. 

The technology is in place now to make it happen – not just on the company end but from the customer side as well. Today almost all of us carry smartphones that plug us into a portable digital ecosystem. We now expect 24/7access to order information, return policies, special offers, store hour listings and other subjects that used to require a phone call. 

Now is the time to encourage your customers to explore the other options available. Self-service has reached the point where it can be just as quick and responsive (in many cases faster), so you’re not risking a customer relationship by doing so. 

The numbers show that about 30% of U.S. consumers have tried voice self-service to get things done. That number can and should go higher, with your help. 

Let them know that for the most complex situations, or when there is a real need to speak with an agent, you’ll be ready. But if behavior can be changed to the point where these are the only types of calls received, you’ll be able to get by with less staff, and lower costs. 


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Caring and Confidence: Two Essential Call Center Agent Traits

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Imagine going out to lunch with a friend. You tell him that your doctor said you need to have surgery, and your friend replies, “Oh well, that’s life – are you going to finish those fries?”

This is one of those situations when a person expects some expression of concern or sympathy. Another is when a customer has a problem and contacts a call center. The best agents are those that recognize when a customer is angry or disappointed, and respond accordingly. 

It’s not difficult, it doesn’t add a lot of time to each call, and it doesn’t require changing company policy – all it takes is a few kind words – “I’m sorry this happened, I understand how frustrating this must be. But you’ve come to the right place – let me see what I can do for you.” 

And it helps if they sound like they mean it, and are not just reading those words off a script. 

Caring is the first essential trait of a successful call center agent; confidence is also important. It’s a quality that some possess naturally, but for those that don’t it can be taught – at least within the confines of the call center job. 

A trainer may not be able to instill enough self-assurance in an agent to ask someone for a date, but for customer calls confidence emanates from knowledge about the company and its products or services. 

It is particularly critical in outbound call centers, at a time when telemarketing-weary customers are likely to be less receptive to a marketing message. The successful agent is one who can break through those barriers, by explaining that this call is not an annoyance but an opportunity. When you speak to someone who really believes in the cause he supports, you are likely to be more receptive to what they have to say. 

Caring and confidence – look for both of them when it’s time to hire new agents. As a bonus you’ll not just gain a quality employee that will boost your customer service, you may hire someone who can have a positive impact on your other agents as well. When these traits are encouraged, they can be contagious. 


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Quality Monitoring: The Never-Ending Quest for a Better Call Center

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Maintaining quality, particularly in the customer experience, is critical in every aspect of call center operation. It’s at the heart of everything we do, from technology to agent screening to script creation. 

Quality monitoring is how call centers identify what is working and what isn’t. It is primarily a problem-solving system, but it also recognizes areas where things are going well, so those practices can be maintained. 

How can you get the most from your quality monitoring efforts? Here are a few tips that may help. 

Define “Quality”

It seems obvious, but still worth noting: You can’t assess which calls are successful until you have a standard for what constitutes a quality customer interaction. That takes into account not just the outcome of the call, but the manner of the agent, the total time required for the engagement, and how it met service levels and KPIs. This process is easier with a quality-monitoring tool that provides a comprehensive view of agent and call center performance. 

Review a wide range of calls before setting the benchmark for future success. The objective is to find the very best calls – ones that everyone involved agrees could not possibly have gone any better. Hopefully they won’t be too difficult to find!

Getting Agents Onboard

Initially some agents may view quality monitoring suspiciously, which is not only bad for morale, it could negatively impact the results of your efforts. Make it clear that monitoring is a company-wide necessity designed to make everyone – including managers – more successful at their positions. Make the process collaborative instead of authoritarian. 

A Reliable Process

Evaluation forms will likely be part of your QM program. These must be developed correctly, or every subsequent step might be impacted. Make sure you are asking the right questions and getting optimal results from them – that means the kind of responses that dovetail naturally into training and procedural changes to generate better results. 

The personnel assigned to head up QM will also be critical to the program’s success. Recruit a team to handle monitoring, evaluating and training, and make sure they have the expertise and the resources to do the job right. 

Call Scoring

This is another critical aspect of quality monitoring, so it is best decided with the participation of as many employees as possible. Divide each call into sections – greeting, closing, speed, issue resolution, courtesy, empathy, etc. – and then score each segment. This could be done with a letter grade like in school, or on a 1-10 scale. Then, compare results. Don’t be surprised if assessments vary – you are still early in the process and this is how you will determine what qualifies as a great call, a good one, and one that was not well-handled. The more participants become acclimated to the QM system, the closer the scores should get. 

Feedback and Dispute Resolution

Feedback is important throughout the process. At the outset you need feedback from your customers, which can be obtained through an advocacy survey. Don’t assume you know what they want or expect from your call center before asking them. 

Once monitoring has started, feedback may be handled through individual contact with agents, trainers and other personnel, or through group sessions where findings can be shared, and discussions can take place on how to best achieve whatever milestones were set. The more agents can be involved in this, the more likely they will be to buy into the process, and feel that their input is valued. 

Sometimes disputes may arise within a performance evaluation. If this happens, do not just dismiss the objection – schedule a re-evaluation conducted by another member of the team. 

Can you trust your agents to self-evaluate? Not at the beginning perhaps – but once they grasp how the process works many may be trusted to assess for themselves how well they are meeting the quality expectations of the call center. 

Check QM Against Other Call Centers

How does your call center fare compared to other call centers of similar size and function? Finding out via an outside agency that specializes in external benchmarking can provide a new perspective on how your business is performing. 

Recognize and Reward Success

When the quality numbers start trending in the right direction, make sure this is not unnoticed by all of your call center staff. Find a way to reward agents, coaches, trainers and other personnel for their contributions. 

The Right Technology 

Measuring quality manually is long and arduous process, that is made much more efficient when relevant data is accurately compiled and analyzed automatically. 

And yet, many contact centers have still not implemented an automated call monitoring solution, and are thus not gathering the measurable metrics that can only be garnered through effective call monitoring and evaluation. 

Before selecting a technology solution to be used in a quality monitoring effort, three questions should be asked: 

1. Will it improve agent performance?

2. Will the data we collect improve efficiency?

3. Will our call center monitoring solution protect us from a legal challenge?

Choose the Right Call Monitoring Software

Without the right software, a quality monitoring program is going to struggle. Monitoring of customer interactions should be simple for agents, and the intelligence gathered through the system should be easy to analyze for managers. Also, consider future growth – the software you select should be able to grow with your company, and meet your needs not only today but tomorrow. 



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Recorded Conversations Provide Insurance for Call Centers

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One of the duties of the insurance business is to help customers protect themselves from liability claims, and the high costs associated with them.

But as we accept that responsibility, we also need to protect ourselves as well, particularly at the contact center. Let's face it - no matter how carefully you select your agents, or how satisfied customers are with your company's policies and service, disputes are still inevitable.

When this happens, having a recording of the conversation between agent and customer will be invaluable. And it's not just enough to have it - you should also have the ability to locate and retrieve specific customer interactions, not just to settle disputes but as a way to improve the quality and performance of your insurance call center.

This can be easily achieved through call tagging, a capability that should be incorporated into a call recording or workforce management solution.

Tags are like bookmarks - they designate certain calls by whatever criteria the agent or manager chooses. Typical tags might be dates, times, phone numbers, customer reference or case numbers; at insurance call centers, tags can be used to track disputed claims, late payments or customers with lapsed policies.

More than one tag can be applied to a call, and an efficient WFM system will allow managers to combine categories for more specific search results. For instance, if a manager wanted to access how a new agent handled disputed claims, he or she should be able to have the system access those types of calls from that specific agent so they can be reviewed all at once.

Tags can also help an insurance contact center improve KPIs. If average handle time is becoming an issue, have the system collect all of the calls that lasted more than 10 minutes. That may reveal some potential changes in procedure that will expedite those conversations.


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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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