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

Agent Performance Hints, Tips & Best Practices

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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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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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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How Reliable is Your Quality Management System?

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“Of course we have a quality management system,” most contact center managers say. “Does it work? Of course! It has ‘quality’ right in the title!”

If that’s true, congratulations. But here’s the problem – quality is not a fixed goal that, once achieved, can be maintained by repeating the same steps that got you there in the first place. Even if everything looks good, and you’d rather spend that time on other priorities, the objective here is continuous improvement, and that means ongoing attention. 

Insight is the key to building the type of reliability that maintains quality year in and year out. Think of it as shining a light in every corner of the contact center, to illuminate what is being done right and to catch issues before they become serious.

Where You Are vs. Where You Want to Be

Gap assessment is the practice of identifying gaps between existing conditions and the quality processes you want to put in place.  Start by comparing your quality management actions against what is referred to as standard operating procedure. 

Where there are gaps at your contact center? Find out where and when they occur, define the problem that needs to be solved, and what control can be put in place to make sure the problem doesn’t come back. Chances are you won’t be able to answer these questions right away. Set time aside to interview key personnel, to observe processes over time, and to analyze the results. 

If this results in change, be sure to give those changes time to work. Every time a new procedure is added, it will take agents time to adjust. And don’t change too many things at the same time, as it will make it more difficult to discern which new processes are working and which are not. 

Avoid Silo Processes

Any kind of business is more successful when all of its divisions and employees are working together toward the same quality goals. 

With larger companies, including contact centers, this can be easier said than done. Different divisions have different priorities, and while all of them may be similar in conception (better customer service, improved efficiency, lower costs, etc.), these efforts can always be improved (and can occasionally be hindered) by the data and employee input from other parts of the organization. 

This is particularly true of quality management at a contact center. Such businesses are comprised of managers devoted to forecasting and scheduling, executives who review recorded and monitored calls to gauge customer service, and others who set goals for the organization based on agent and customer feedback. All of the functions are important for quality, but may be monitored separately. 

Rather than take a siloed approach, where each system works independently without reciprocal operation with other divisions, having the right workforce optimization systems in place can provide easy access to cross-functional data that helps align teams, so they can work more effectively on common objectives. And access is immediate regardless of employee location, just one of the many benefits of a cloud delivery system. 

With the centralized administration provided by unified WFO, there is no need to devote additional time and budgeting to costly integration projects, which can be effective but may not be scheduled more than once a month, if that. The fully integrated WFO framework automatically delivers important call center insights, metrics and alerts on an ongoing basis. Now managers can make more informed decisions and react more quickly to internal or external trends. Result? More consistent quality management. 

Improvement Every Day

A lean quality management system is one that is intolerant to waste in all its forms by creating a culture that expects daily improvement. If there is something at your contact center that is not making a contribution, get rid of it, along with any other non-value-added steps in your processes. 

Usually when organizations think about getting leaner it means cutting  – less agents, less hours. And while that may be feasible, there are ways to add instead of subtract that can also contribute to a lean enterprise. These may include adding more flexibility and empowerment to the agent position, so that can deal with customer issues without additional assistance. 

How the Right System Helps

As stated earlier, proactive quality management is made easier with an automated workforce optimization solution in place. Now you can quickly and accurately measure the metrics that are most critical to your quality system, analyze real-time data across different departments, and generate reports that help to share the knowledge faster. 

Conclusion

Optimization and lean, continuous improvement programs are not just one-time projects, but a continuous cycle for improving your quality management system. It’s a worthy goal, as doing so can achieve a number of ROI benefits, from knowing you are always making the most efficient use of your resources, to the adoption of successful, sustainable processes, and the ultimate achievement of higher quality customer service delivered at a lower cost. Once you have the basics in place, introduce a maintenance program that can add modest refinements as needed for further optimization. You may be surprised at how much time and money can be saved by even the smallest change. 


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What Happens if a Call Isn't Answered in One Minute?

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One minute doesn’t seem like a very long time. But try this: get a stopwatch or a watch with a second hand, and time out one full minute while sitting and doing nothing else. It will probably seem much longer than you think. 

Now, imagine one of your customers waiting on hold that long. 

If this is happening often at your contact center, you might want to consider some changes. According to the advertising analytics company Marchex, 62% of callers will abandon a call if they’re not speaking to an agent after one minute. And no, those “your call is important to us” pre-recorded messages aren’t doing much to change their minds. 

Marchex then translated that abandoned call rate into economic impact, using the cable TV industry as an example. If just 10% of abandoned calls were turned into new customers, it adds up to an additional $15 million in revenue per year. 

Don’t Stop There

Of course, just picking up the phone quickly won’t result in a happy customer. It’s what agents do next that also counts. Reading a scripted greeting that launches the information gathering process is a fairly common practice: “Thank you for calling ABC Industries, where the customer always comes first. My name is Bob, can I have your account number please?”

Nothing really wrong with that, but the Marchex survey also found that something simpler, more personal and more courteous can also be more effective. A greeting as basic as, “Hello, how are you today?” can put a customer at ease, and add a personal touch to a professional call. 

The ultimate goal is always more sales, more conversions, and more customer satisfaction. If too many minutes are going by without calls being answered, it may be time to look at a workforce management solution that will help you make better forecasting and scheduling decisions, so you’ll always have enough agents available to promptly pick up calls. 



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The Importance of the Greeting

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What are the first words your agents say to customers? According to one recent industry study, that greeting may be worth as much as $20 million to a business.

The study, “America’s Call Centers Revealed” analyzed conversations, hold times and call outcomes from more than two million contact center calls in 2015. Several interesting findings were uncovered, including:

Open-ended questions from agents (such as “Why are you calling today?” can boost conversion rates

Offering additional incentives works, as long as it is done in a ‘no pressure’ way

Hold times are critical; if the wait is longer than three minutes, 50% of callers hang up

About 10% of callers hang up if they hear an IVR

But it’s the revelations regarding the greeting that should raise eyebrows the

highest. Turns out there is still a lot to be said for courtesy, and treating each customer with respect. The study reports that when calls are answered this way, a consumer is 22 percent more likely to buy a product or service. 

What would a 20% increase in sales mean to your business? Another $1 million? Perhaps another $20 million? 

And the best part is, this is a change that doesn’t cost the business or the contact center anything at all. 

Take a second look at your scripted greeting, and review call recordings to examine if it is being used and how it is being communicated. Tell your coaches and trainers to pay more attention to this part of the call. The benefits can be substantial. 



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IVR and the Smartphone: A Perfect Match

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A 2012 poll found that 80% of consumers would stop doing business with a company after a bad experience with an interactive voice response (IVR) system. Some consumers can’t imagine any encounter with an IVR that doesn’t end in frustration or shouting “Operator!” (among other choice words) as the recording rambles on about options available by pressing 1, or 2, or 9. 

Is there any way to make the IVR more appealing? Or are companies forced to use this technology doomed to the prospect of an angry customer base?  

Enter the Smartphone

The problem with the IVR is customers have to wait for audio instructions before following a series of steps that (hopefully) gets them to the answers they need. But when those options are provided via visual representation on a smartphone, those same customers don’t seem to mind. 

All of us when we’re online are used to clicking on the links that will get us the answers we need. We’re so accustomed to it that navigating a visual IVR menu can be completed much more quickly than waiting to hear the full list of options from a recorded message. If waiting for an agent still proves inevitable, a visual IVR can offer video presentations that may be helpful, and at the very least are more informative and entertaining than the musical selections that play while we’re stuck on hold. 

Best of all, this self-service technology is not expensive – an important consideration for companies that opted for the IVR to avoid the cost of a full-service contact center. 

So if you must resort to an IVR, a smartphone version provides a new way to access the cost and convenience benefits of the system, without the obstacles that drive customers away. 


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10 Tips to Improve your Quality Scores

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Quality scores still an issue? That’s not good. This is the feedback that illuminates how customers are being treated by your agents, and if they are getting the help and information they need. Here are a few steps you can take to start those numbers trending in the right direction. 

1. Identify the Agents that Need the Most Help

All of your agents should receive ongoing training and coaching. But with a quality management system you’ll know which agents need extra help. 

2. Target Negative Feedback

This may seem obvious, but many contact centers still base assessments on random samples of calls and surveys, rather than those with negative customer feedback. That’s where the problems are, so that is where training should start. 

3. Real-Time Analysis

When VoC data is added to quality scorecards, agents get real-time performance feedback, which can encourage self-correction. 

4. Screen Recording

Screen recording provides an added dimension to call recording and scoring, and gives you a much better idea of how every agent is performing his or her job. 

5. Schedule Training in Quieter Moments

Training sessions are too important to be subject to interruptions. With a workforce management solution, you can pinpoint activity lulls and schedule accordingly. 

6. Review Feedback on All Channels

Call centers are contact centers now. Review performance analytics for online chat and email as well, and incorporate these into training. 

7. Use After-Call Surveys

Surveys initiated immediately after the customer engagement are one way to accurately capture the respondent’s reaction. Given time to cool down, a customer may be more charitable when they fill out a form a week later. That’s nice of them, but it doesn’t help you identify where help is needed. 

8. Dump the IVR

This may not be possible, but if it is, it can only help. Routing calls directly to a live agent or the appropriate department is always preferable from the customer’s perspective. 

9. Improve Scheduling

When staff shifts are optimally scheduled to call demand patterns, calls are efficiently answered and customers have one less reason to be upset. 

10. Speech Analytics

Real-time speech analytics tools can allow you to start raising performance levels and quality scores immediately. It will be easier to detect when agents are not following the script or using language that is not compliant with company policy. 



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The True Definition of Quality

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When you think of quality, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the efficiency of a contact center that is meeting its customer service goals? Is it the quality monitoring solution that helps managers identify issues and resolve them?

These are important, yes. But quality is more basic than that. It begins as a mindset, an approach to work and achieving goals that must be shared by every contact center manager, coach, trainer and agent. Yes, there are quality processes that can and should be put into place, but if the people behind them are not dedicated to making the best decisions for the business and its customers, these processes will not be sufficient by themselves. 

How can we take that quality mindset and put it into action? It starts by being proactive. The goal is to spot problems and solve them when there is still time to do so, even if it requires above-and-beyond effort. Stories of this abound in the business world – hotel managers who drive two hours to return a credit card to a guest about to board an international flight; the gift-wrap employee at the department store who adds an extra bow and the more expensive ribbon to make every package look special. 

That type of quality doesn’t exist solely at the top or the bottom of the organization – it must be present at all levels. It must be so prevalent that those agents or other personnel who lack the quality mindset will find themselves engulfed by it from every direction, so they must either rise to meet the same expectations or seek employment somewhere else. 

Author Amitava Kar, one of the world’s leading experts on quality management, once said “The quality of an organization will not improve unless, and until, we have (people) with a caring mindset…leaders must embrace quality as their personal responsibility and must demonstrate quality in their behaviors and actions before they can expect people to trust or follow them.” 

When this is achieved, then you may be confident that your contact center will maximize the great potential inherent in a quality management solution. 



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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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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. 








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5 Words that Describe the Best Customer Service

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Recently, one LinkedIn group related to contact centers conducted an interesting experiment by asking, “In one word, how would you describe the best customer service?”

How would you respond to that question? The words that were selected were revealing, as they forced contact center professionals to express the most important aspect of their service effort in a single word. These are the five words selected most frequently by those that responded. Do you agree with them?

1. Empathy/Understanding

In this context these two words refer to the same thing – an expression of support related from the agent to the customer, that goes beyond the words in the script or the service provided. Is this being emphasized enough at your business?

2. Satisfaction

That’s the ultimate goal, so it’s not surprising that many would choose satisfaction. Different contact centers may try to achieve consistent customer satisfaction in different ways, but it should be the inspiration for every change in personnel, approach and technology. 

3. Listen

Contact centers devote a great deal of time and energy to writing a script, but it’s what happens when the agent isn’t speaking that is even more important. Customers don’t want to be read the company policy; they want someone who hears their issue and responds accordingly. 

4. Patience

This was an interesting choice. Average handle time is an important call center metric, but customers don’t care about that. Sometimes a few extra minutes are necessary to work through a customer’s issue, and to make certain they are happy with the result. It’s worth the extra time. 

5. Caring

Caring seems closely tied to the #1 result. But it goes one step further. It’s not just that the agent is sorry the customer is having an issue and can identify with the frustration it caused – it’s making sure the customer is happy with the resolution, and then asking if there is anything else that the company can do at that time. It’s expressing appreciation for the business, and not just because that line is in the script. 

If you agents have these five qualities, your contact center is poised for greatness. 


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The Most Important Metric: Customer Satisfaction

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A poll in 2014 found that more than 20% of businesses did not measure any contact center metrics. That approach is the equivalent of trying to build a bookcase without a set of assembly instructions. 

At the other end of this spectrum, a workforce optimization solution delivers a wealth of data covering nearly every aspect of customer engagement. All of these metrics are important and can contribute to a more efficient business. But managers should never lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal of information gathering is to improve customer satisfaction.

This should have an impact on how managers approach the data they have gathered. Advances in technology and the opening of other communication channels have only increased expectations among customers for faster responses and attentive service. 

Without proper focus on quality monitoring, it’s possible to improve the efficiency of a contact center without achieving the same improvement in customer service. The most important metrics are those that link directly to making your customers happier. 

That starts with customer service scores gathered through surveys and other means, followed by stats on service level and first-call resolution rate. Another figure that is trending upward is return on investment at the contact center. At first this seems out of place, but a spokesperson for the company behind the poll found that these four metrics are more closely related than one might think. 

“Customer satisfaction and loyalty is directly tied to ease of service,” the survey says. “First-call resolution has the greatest effect on people’s willingness to return to a company and recommend it to others. This is good news for merchants because the solution that improves loyalty also reduces costs.”

With workforce optimization in the cloud, ROI is achieved much faster than through a traditional solution. And with Monet Software, WFO delivers the data that makes quality monitoring easier and improves your most important metric – 



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The Power of Positive Language

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Can changing a word or two in the script your agents use, or in the IVR, have a significant impact on contact center performance? 

Sometimes, the little things can indeed make a big difference. If you have not reviewed your script or IVR in a while, take the opportunity to do so with these three tips in mind. 

1. Be Informal

Formal business language sounds scripted and impersonal. Try a more conversational tone within shorter sentences that get to the point. The faster callers know what to do, especially with an IVR, the faster they can conclude their business and you can boost average handle time. 

2. Choose Words Carefully

Many customers, faced with the prospect of corresponding with an IVR, will simply wait until the ‘speak to an agent’ option is presented. But by using more effective words and offering more specific options, some of these call transfers can be avoided. However, you have to give the script a chance to work. If the caller hears “talk” or “speak” too early in the engagement, he or she is more likely to wait out the system rather than try to get results before that. 

3. Website Promotion

Many questions that prompt customer calls can be answered instead with a visit to the company’s website. If your script or IVR tries to encourage this transition, don’t just provide the URL – offer a reason for customers to try it. Words like ‘fast’ and ‘convenient’ and ‘instant’ can sway people toward trying an online channel. Emphasize the benefit, not just the option.  



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The Challenge of Monitoring Bilingual Agents

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For decades, contact centers in Europe and Asia have recognized the need for bilingual agents. Many of these businesses are required to support as many as 14 different languages. 

Such considerations have been slower to arrive in the United States, but they are here now. Spanish-speaking agents have become essential, and as companies expand their global reach it is important to have agents who can speak to these customers in their native language. 

Why Bilingual Agents are Necessary

Reducing call time is always a contact center priority. If calls can be routed quickly to an agent that speaks the customer’s language, call time is reduced and customer satisfaction will increase. 

The inclusion of bilingual agents is particularly beneficial at 24-hour contact centers, making it possible for different customers from different countries and time zones to call when it is convenient for them, and have their query resolved. 

However, while agents may be hired for their fluency in a different language, that is not always the case for managers, coaches and trainers. How can they monitor an agent’s performance on a customer conversation in a language they do not understand? 

Bilingual Quality Monitoring Strategies

Effective quality monitoring (QM) for bilingual agents starts with a confirmation that the quality monitoring system in place at the contact center is performing up to expectations. 

Before factoring in the additional challenges of second and third languages, review that status of your quality management program: Have the goals for this program been clearly defined, based on how your customers would define excellent service? Are agents, managers and coaches on the same page when it comes to interpreting data, and how calls should be scored? Do you have sufficient data to reach accurate conclusions? 

These are just some of the questions that should be answered. Here are a few more: 

Have you set performance goals and rewarded achievement?

Are you starting with agents from day one?

Who monitors the monitors?

Are you testing before implementation?

Make sure that you also have the right technology in place. Measuring quality manually is a long and arduous process, that is made much more efficient when relevant data is accurately compiled and analyzed automatically. 

Monitoring of customer interactions should be simple for agents, and the intelligence gathered through the system should be easy to analyze for managers. 

Once the call center is effectively achieving quality-monitoring results in English, managers can focus on bringing that same level of insight to customer engagements in other languages. 

Hiring Qualified Management

The most obvious solution to this challenge is hiring or training bilingual personnel to assume the quality monitoring responsibilities for calls in the language in which they are fluent. However, if the contact center has agents that speak 5, 7, 10 or more different languages, it may not be feasible to have management on staff for each of them. 

Recruit Your Customers

If a certain percentage of your calls come from customers in Japan, and you have Japanese-speaking agents but no Japanese-speaking managers, try gathering quality data from the customers handled by these agents. 

This can be achieved through a customer satisfaction survey with questions on how their situation was addressed and whether the agent was helpful. Don’t make the survey too long, or customers may not take the time to respond. However, simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, or “on a scale of 1-10” assessments may not be enough for effective performance evaluation. Provide customers with an opportunity to describe what they liked and what they did not. 

Of course, the survey results will also have to be translated, and you’ll have only qualitative data from which to draw conclusions. But this is valuable feedback that can be obtained in a relatively easy way. 

Speech Analytics

Speech analytics is now in use at dozens of contact centers, and is capable of analyzing customer speech in up to 44 different languages. This data when translated can work alongside scorecards to improve quality assurance practices. 

Promote From Within

Once a bilingual agent has established a consistent track record in customer service, appoint that agent to your quality assurance team, and have him or her monitor other agents’ calls in their second language. Even better, train them to not only score calls but also to provide appropriate training and coaching. 

Reassure Bilingual Agents of QM goals

Managers may hire agents for their native fluency in Spanish, French etc. Often these agents also speak English, but perhaps not as well. That may provoke a sense of alienation in a contact center where everyone else is speaking English on his or her calls and to each other. Those feelings may be exacerbated when a second party is brought in to monitor bilingual calls – agents may feel that they are not trusted by their employer, or suspected of making personal calls on company time (which will look and sound the same to someone who does not speak the language). 


An effort should be make to educate these agents about the procedures of a quality assurance program, why it is important to evaluate performance, and how this benefits not just the company but the agent as well. The objective is not to catch them doing something wrong, but to acknowledge what they are doing right, provide incentives for continued exemplary performance, and identify areas where some additional training may be necessary. 

Another way to make QM more palatable is to involve these agents in the action plan that will help them improve their performance. 

Conclusion

Call centers that offer more personalized communication through the employment of bilingual agents are already ahead of the curve. Diversity in language and meeting the needs of customers, regardless of their location, bolsters a company’s reputation for outstanding customer service. However, management must be cognizant that these customer engagements are just as important as those in the primary language of the contact center’s country of origin. Quality monitoring, though more difficult in bilingual situations, must be maintained to keep the standard of service consistent regardless of language. 


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Quality Monitoring: A New Contact Center Coaching Strategy

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There are many different methods of coaching contact center agents and, as you may have already discovered, some are more effective than others.  

Using a coaching session only to point out what an agent is doing wrong may eventually generate better results, but it might not be the most efficient way to get the most from that particular agent. Coaching should be more than training – it should, at its best, also provide encouragement and build an agent’s confidence.

If you don’t believe you are maximizing the impact of your coaching, perhaps it’s time for a change of tactics. 

One method that has proven successful at some contact centers starts with recognizing what an agent is doing right, and praising the agent for outstanding performance on these particular traits. 

The coach begins by playing a recorded call, and then asking the agent for his or her feedback. It is human nature in these situations for most of us to focus on the negative – “I missed an upsell opportunity,” “I could have explained that policy better,” etc. 

If this happens, the coach should respond by asking, “Which parts of that engagement are you most happy about?” In most cases, the conclusion will be that the agent did many more things correctly that incorrectly on that call. By acknowledging this, it creates a more positive atmosphere, and boosts the confidence of that agent in their performance. 

Once this has been achieved, the agent will be more receptive to discussing any issues and how these problems can be addressed. It will also elicit less stressful reactions to scheduling coaching sessions. 

Try it – and let us know how it works. 



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