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Quality Management

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

Quality Assurance Hints, Tips & Best Practices

Quality Assurance introduces a grading component into the call monitoring process. Recorded calls are randomly selected and measured against call center guidelines and KPIs, such as how quickly the caller can reach an agent, how quickly their issue is resolved, and how long they wait on hold.

Additional quality issues include agent courtesy, empathy with a dissatisfied customer, and the ability to follow procedures. While these will be more subjective, they are just as important. Best practices should be clearly defined in the quality assurance process so they can be graded consistently.

The following blogs and articles offer more information on quality assurance. Still have questions? Search for answers here. Or, contact us for more information on Monet’s quality assurance solutions.

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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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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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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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 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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Call Recording - What to Do Before and After System Installation

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While many call centers have enjoyed the benefits of call recording for decades, there are always businesses preparing to add this functionality for the first time. What the technology does is obvious – where first-time users sometimes err is in making sure that agents make the most of its potential. 

For contact centers preparing for call monitoring system implementation, here are five best practice tips before and after installation. 

Before the System is Installed

1. Don’t spring this on the team. Announce the decision to add call recording software in advance and clarify the reasons for the implementation. An agent’s first response might be concern over how every word they say will now be part of the company’s permanent record. Reassure them that this isn’t a “Big Brother” spying technique, but a way to improve performance for both managers and agents. Schedule time to listen to any feedback, questions or issues. 

2. Now that you’ll have the data from recordings, what do you want to do first? Create a priority list of which areas will receive the most attention. Explore how this information will impact how you presently determine quality standards and customer satisfaction. There’s a good chance the old guidelines will have to be updated, or replaced. 

3. There are legal issues that impact call recording. Clarify how recordings will be logged and saved, who will have access to this stored data, and whether the call monitoring software is compliant with the Federal Communication Commission and other government and industry organizations. 


After the System is Installed

1. Call monitoring will have a huge impact on your agent training. Live monitoring of agent calls does not always tell the full story of any employee’s skills. Take advantage of the access you now have to every agent-customer conversation, and create a system for how to incorporate recorded calls into training sessions. Many supervisors break calls into sections and review each one, along with the time it takes to interact with each customer, and how each agent fulfills the procedures established at the time of his/her hiring. Schedule regular reviews to maintain consistency. 

2. Use the data and reports generated by a call monitoring system to review scheduling of agents, whether at one or multiple call centers. Make adjustments accordingly to reduce the wait time on incoming calls, or any situations where agents are sitting at their phones with extended periods of non-activity. Finding the right formula to avoid either overworked or idle employees can have significant impact on the call center’s efficiency and its bottom line. 

 


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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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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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What to Do if a Negative Customer Engagement Goes Viral?

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Last summer, a man called his cable television provider to cancel his service, and was subjected to a 20-minute unwanted conversation* in which the company’s call center agent repeatedly badgered him like a district attorney trying to get a murder conviction. 

Unfortunately for the cable company, the beleaguered customer recorded the conversation and released it on social media, where it quickly went viral. 

Situations like this may become more common, as contact centers are certainly not the only ones capable of recording calls, and with social media providing an easy and instant platform for an angry customer to exact revenge. The question is, how should the contact center respond?

In this case, the cable company issued a public apology, promising to investigate the situation. They also contacted the customer to offer a personal mea culpa. 

The more important question is,  how can such embarrassing moments be avoided in the first place?

Agents are almost certainly instructed to try and retain customers in cancellation calls, but there comes a point where the practice becomes abusive. These situations can be avoided with quality monitoring, in which calls are recorded and scored based on preset criteria (which should certainly include the attitude of the agent and adherence to a script). 

Where agents fall short in these disciplines, it creates the potential for a marketing disaster. Quality monitoring identifies these agents so retraining can take place. 

Speech analytics can also play a role in helping agents determine when a customer account might be maintained, and when all the resistance in the world will not make any difference. That will help agents decide which situations require more aggressive persuasion (within reasonable limits, of course), and which can be abandoned more quickly. 



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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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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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You Record Calls, but Do You also Score them?

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Recording calls is important, but it’s only the first step. Additional benefits from this technology can be derived from the efforts made to review and analyze recorded calls for information that can benefit customers, agents and company sales and marketing plans. 

Call scoring provides a systematic means to conduct these reviews, so they can be optimally used to improve quality management, agent performance and training.  

Scoring furnishes a means to identify the weakest areas of agent performance and, combined with a review of call recordings, paints a more precise picture of where agents need to improve, and the steps necessary to get there. 

The first step is to determine what elements are important in each customer engagement, and how each effort should be scored against these pre-determined criteria.

Most scorecard elements are fairly standard, and are derived from dividing a call into segments. Many contact centers use a basic open-middle-close format (how is the customer greeted, how is the problem or question resolved, how does the call end). Of course, most of the action takes place in the middle segment, so additional scrutiny here may be helpful – was the agent able to answer all questions? Was the agent friendly when the caller was hostile? Were any upsell opportunities missed? 

Calls can be scored on a 1-10 scale, or with the type of A-F letter grades we used to receive in school. Once grading is complete, the results can be shared with each agent, and additional training scheduled if needed. 

Of course, it is also beneficial to have a unified call recording/call scoring WFO solution that will automate the review and evaluation process. That means faster results, more accurate results in the form of reports and statistics, and a reliable blueprint for necessary revisions and updates based on the data provided. 


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Exploring Trends in Quality Assurance and Quality Monitoring

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Recently, we’ve been speaking to some contact center managers about what is happening in their centers. This feedback is important to us as we develop new products and services, and upgrade our existing solutions. 

Quality Monitoring (QM) and Quality Assurance (QA) are two of the challenges that clients have mentioned most frequently. We have covered these topics in several previous blogs and articles, as well as the white paper Seven Strategies for Effective Quality Assurance.  

“Yes, this is helpful,” they responded. “But is anything new going on in this field?” Are there any new ideas or trends that are working that we could try?”

The answer is yes – and no. Here we will cover some of the most recent developments in the quality monitoring and quality assurance field; however, these should not be implemented in a way that replaces the proven tools and techniques that have worked for more than a decade. The best solution would be to incorporate the new methods as an enhancement to your current strategy – assuming it is based on solid ideas and principles. More...


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