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Quality Management

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

Call Center Performance Hints, Tips & Best Practices

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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How ACD Improves the Impact of Call Recording

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There are many reasons why call recording should be standard operating procedure at any contact center. These include ensuring compliance, agent training and for protection against he-said-she-said customer disputes. 

But one of the biggest benefits of call recording is visibility. You have a 100% accurate record of exactly what each caller said and how your agent responded. And one way to leverage that visibility is with the addition of automatic call distribution (ACD) reporting. Now you can distribute calls to the agent most qualified to handle that customer’s inquiry. 

Both systems complement each other. With call recording you’ll discover very quickly which agents are adept at calming angry customers, which show more patience with seniors who may need some extra moments to provide information, and which are good at explaining technical information to those who don’t have a technology background.

When these agent profiles are assembled, the ACD provides information on call types through graphical screens that make routing faster and easier. 

Best of all, this happens without the caller’s awareness. For all he or she knows, they were just lucky enough to have their call picked up by an agent who knew exactly how to solve their problem. 

In this business we all recognize the importance of first call resolution (FCR) as a metric for tracking efficiency. It’s one of the best indicators of a well-run contact center, and one of the stats most closely associated with customer satisfaction scores. In fact, according to a study by The Ascent Group, FCR is listed as one of the five most important metrics tracked by call centers. Organizations that have low FCR rates also tend to have low employee satisfaction and high turnover rates.

So what better way to boost FCR than by using call recording paired with ACD to deliver fast service and optimal customer interaction? 


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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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The Trust Issue

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We are in the midst of a particularly heated presidential campaign, with allegations flying in every direction. But when it comes time to cast a ballot, many Americans make up their minds based on the answer to one simple question – which candidate do I trust?

For contact center managers, the trust issue is also central to the agent hiring and training process. These are the people engaging with your customers – what they say reflects on the entire company. There may also be additional personnel at the company, such as legal and compliance, who are cognizant of agent-customer interactions and may want to participate in reviewing recorded calls and agent scripts. 

Trust starts when all company personnel are on the same page as to what constitutes a quality engagement – this will likely be based on traditional compliance metrics and customer service data gathered through surveys and performance management reviews. 

But the real key here is communication, to alleviate suspicion over agents sticking to the script, doing their jobs even if they are working from home, and being motivated to deliver good service from the first call of their shift to the last. 

It’s important that everyone understands how quality management and customer experience are related – and this can be achieved by getting reps from all departments together for a roundtable discussion. Discuss quality, discuss trust, and figure out the best way forward. 



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Contact Center Service: Getting it Right the First Time

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Any expert in business or marketing will tell you that it’s easier to keep the customers you already have than to get new customers. But how can you convert first-time customers into reliable repeat business? 

Often, this responsibility falls on the contact center – and the agent that picks up the phone may have just one chance to get it right. 

This was the conclusion of a survey of more than 2,200 Americans by the PH Media Group. Almost 60% stated that if a first call to a company’s customer service line isn’t handled properly, they will not be calling again – or buying any more products from that company. 

If you are a business with products or services geared toward seniors, the news is even worse – 63% of those surveyed said you get one call to provide good service, and if you don’t they look elsewhere. And since seniors are still the group that is far more likely to contact a business via telephone rather than an online platform, it puts even more pressure on your agents. 

Millennials are slightly more forgiving, but more than half will leave as well after a negative call handling experience. That’s a more difficult loss, since with 18-24 year olds these could be customer relationships that will last decades. 

A Renewed Commitment to Service

The challenge is how to make certain that first-time callers are always treated right. That responsibility falls first on the agent, but managers have a role to play as well. They should have a reliable forecasting and scheduling system in place so there are always enough agents available to deliver quality service. They should be utilizing call recording for performance management, and making sure regular coaching and training sessions are scheduled to keep your team engaged. 

Well-trained agents and quality technology, working together, improve the likelihood of a successful resolution. 


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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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Speech Analytics and Compliance

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Compliance is – let’s be honest – a pretty dull topic. 

But in our continuing quest to avoid what is boring, we cannot neglect the laws and regulations now in place that help to keep business transactions stable and secure. This can also be a costly topic to ignore, given the penalties that may be imposed on businesses that do not keep accurate, up-to-date records of telephone transactions. 

Recorded call records must be kept accessible for a minimum of six months, and that timeframe may increase with new legislation on its way. 

Is your contact center keeping up? Do you have transactions saved across multiple platforms? 

Speech Analytics Can Help

In addition to its many other benefits in customer service and cost savings, speech analytics also play an important role in your compliance effort. 

Should you ever need to demonstrate how your contact center is meeting established criteria for keeping credit card information safe, speech analytics can quickly search through thousands of calls and highlight any in question by locating the precise language used in each call. Even single words can be flagged and calls brought up for review. 

Having ready access to calls subject to compliance not only saves time, it reduces risk of exposure, as it now becomes easier for managers to check compliance during internal reviews. Doing so regularly can help your contact center avoid fines and negative publicity, at a time when the public remains concerned about secure transactions. 



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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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The Connection Between Technology and Agent Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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How to Introduce Quality Monitoring to your Contact Center?

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

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

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

We’re all in this together

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

Recognizing excellence

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

Consult the vendor

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



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Content or Emotion: How Do you Route Calls?

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

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

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

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

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



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Performance Management and Quality Monitoring: A Checklist for Success

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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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Top 3 Call Center Quality Assurance Best Practices

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We’ve devoted several previous blogs to the importance of Quality Assurance (QA). If you have already introduced a QA program into your contact center, here are three ideas related to best practices that can improve its impact on efficiency and customer services. 

1. Focus on High Value Calls

While every customer is important, some customer calls are more valuable than others when it comes to quality assurance. Focus on those that expose potential issues with new products or marketing campaigns, or those from the type of customers that are vital to your company’s success. Desktop analytics software can make it easier to locate these calls. 


2. Include the Customer in the Process

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


3. Refine Coaching and Training

Make certain new agent hires are on board with QA from day one. Give them the skills they need to prioritize the goals of the program, and make sure they have the technology that makes it easier for them to deliver a positive customer experience. Quality assurance should also be part of ongoing coaching efforts for all agents. A Gallup poll found that targeted coaching programs improve customer loyalty by more than 50%, and achieve 27% greater profitability, in part by cutting average handle time in half. 


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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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Fine-Tuning Your Quality Assurance Program

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Quality Assurance (QA) provides the bridge between call monitoring and quality monitoring. It introduces a critical grading component into the call monitoring process, so captured calls can be measured against call center guidelines and procedures. Indeed, the process of quality monitoring begins with the creation of a quality assurance scorecard used to measure agent demeanor and performance as related to KPIs. 

It’s an easy term to define, but a more difficult one to put into practice. Unfortunately, too many contact centers view quality assurance like it was one of those rotisserie ovens that used to be advertised on late-night informercials, where the pitchman says all you have to do is “set it, and forget it.” 

That won’t work here – QA is a program that requires frequent monitoring and adjustment. It’s also a company-wide process where agents, coaches, customer input and technology must be coordinated to achieve optimal results. 

If your contact center is not getting the most from its Quality Assurance efforts, here are some fine-tuning tips that may help identify and resolve any issues. 

The Role of Agents

If your agents have not bought into the goals of the QA program, its chance of success has already been compromised. It is vital for managers to create the perception that QA is a program that requires their participation, and not a program created just to catch them making mistakes. This is often a problem with new agents, or when QA evaluation is first considered.

The more managers can solicit agent input, the more they will feel like part of a process, rather than being singled out as the cause of service issues. Toward that end, keep the lines of communication open on the call selection process, and ask for agents’ help in writing the best questions to rate each call. It’s also helpful to encourage self-evaluation of each agent’s recorded calls. 

Another approach that works, especially with millennials, is to present aspects of the QA program as a game or company-wide contest. Offer prizes to agents for flagging their best calls, worst calls, funniest calls, and most unusual customer engagements. Not only will this make agents more attentive to QA during their shifts, it often collects the calls that will be most helpful in training current and future agents. 

One more tip – give agents the opportunity to view QA from the reviewer’s perspective. For agents accustomed to the receiving end of QA evaluation, this provides a chance to review the performances of their peers, and perhaps learn something in the process. Those that are most perceptive should be considered candidates for your permanent QA team. 

The Role of Customers

Customers provide the raw data used in Quality Assurance measurement. It’s essential to know what they’re telling you, in some cases what they are not telling you, and to make sure that customer survey scores are correlated with QA scores. If they are not, it’s possible you are not measuring what is most important to your customers.

When you are setting up your call selection criteria and creating QA forms, focus on the most significant type of customer feedback for this exercise, which is the content of their conversation with agents. The contact center can do little about other types of customer complaints (such as faulty products or confusing advertising) outside of noting patterns and passing that data on to other departments. For quality assurance purposes, only the conversation between the agent and the customer should be analyzed. 

The Role of Coaching 

Many contact centers schedule one coaching session per agent per month – then fall behind and wind up rushing through the last few on the 30th and 31st. Set up a reasonable schedule of weekly sessions that covers the full agent roster, and provides consistent feedback. This also makes it easier for proper advance planning prior to each session, which should include granting agents advance access to their QA evaluation and recorded calls. That gives them time to review the data and provide feedback, which results in a more productive session.

Some other helpful coaching tips:

Follow-up with under-performing agents to confirm that recommendations from the last evaluation is being implemented

Recruit consistently high-scoring agents to conduct peer-to-peer coaching 

Provide regular “job well done” feedback between evaluations to celebrate successful calls that stand out

Finally, and this should be obvious, coach agents that really need the coaching more frequently than those who deliver consistently. 

The Tools of the Trade – and How to Use Them

Start with the QA form: confirm that the qualities that constitute a successful call are clear and well defined. Provide definitions and examples so there is no uncertainty.  Make sure each part of the form is linked to a specific business goal or objective. Also keep in mind that there is something to be said for brevity – a form with 50 questions is not using anyone’s time efficiently. Like the express lane at the supermarket, keep it to 15 items or less. 

Evaluating a random selection of calls will deliver valuable results, but the more you can target specific types of calls for review (by tagging them), the more insight you will gain into how these calls are being handled. 

From a technology standpoint, analytics can increase the effectiveness of any Quality Assurance program. Speech analytics and desktop analytics can reveal problems that may otherwise go unnoticed, identify trends, and uncover solutions to better serve high value customers and high value accounts. 

Should every call be monitored with speech analytics? Why not? As long as every call consists of the same components – greeting, closing, information verification, upsell opportunity, etc., it provides a way to analyze customer responses for a variety of factors, and further analyze agent performance on product knowledge, empathy and adherence to script. 

Conclusion

For call centers, a Workforce Optimization solution that incorporates Quality Assurance, speech analytics and desktop analytics can play a significant role in boosting customer satisfaction and productivity, while reducing costs. But as the old song says, it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. Make sure your QA program and its personnel are striving toward the same goals. 



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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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Monitoring Every Channel For Best Service

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Star Trek fans are familiar with the phrase “open all hailing frequencies.” On the show, that means making sure all communication channels are open and being monitored, so no messages are missed. 

For decades, call centers only had to worry about one communication channel. Every customer used the telephone to ask questions or place an order or to yell about something that wasn’t working. And call recording has been around since the 1980s to save, review and analyze these customer encounters, with the goal of improving service and efficiency. 

But today, quality monitoring must also consider forms of digital communication – emails, social media, web chat – while keeping pace with breakthroughs in call monitoring solutions such as speech analytics. 

Why do so many customers opt for online communication over the telephone that is likely always in their hand or in their pocket? Most perceive it to be faster, and with agent responses in writing the customer now has a record of what was said, and any assurances given about prices, delivery time or refunds. 

Contact centers need to monitor these channels as well, preferably via a single platform. The evolution of online communication has, if anything, only amplified the need for quality monitoring so that customers are receiving optimal service, agents that provide outstanding service can be recognized and rewarded, and contact centers are able to eliminate unnecessary processes and improve best practices. 

Are all of the hailing frequencies open – and being monitored – at your contact center? 


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What are the Two Pillars of Quality Management?

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Call recording has long been recognized as an essential element in quality management. Many contact centers have an effective quality monitoring system already in place that collects and scores recorded calls. It’s a system that works – but now there is a way to make it even better. 

The advent of speech analytics offers the possibility of gaining even more insight from every customer communication. When call recording is combined with speech analytics, the result is a strategy that increases the value and effectiveness of the contact center’s quality management program. 

Merging call recording with speech analytics can significantly boost lead conversion rates, as well as increase customer retention levels. At the same time, it’s a way to be 100% assured that agents are always in compliance with federal and industry regulations. 

Any opportunity to add or keep customers that is not acknowledged is one that, in effect, ignores potential sales and profits. With speech analytics, contact centers are assured of gathering all of the valuable data contained in every incoming call. 

Using the Tools Available

Call recording and speech analytics are indeed the two pillars of quality management. However, at most contact centers quality monitoring practices have not evolved for 10 or 15 years. 

With all the different touchpoints now available to customers, and with call content changing as a result of these communication options, is it really still enough to just evaluate a handful of randomly-selected calls every month? How many sales opportunities may be missed? How many customer service issues will remain unnoticed?

The technology is here – now – to track and evaluate the entire customer experience, and use that data to improve contact center efficiency. And thanks to the cloud, that technology has never been more affordable. 



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