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Workforce Management

Tips for more effective call center forecasting, scheduling and agent adherence

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Workforce Management Hints, Tips & Best Practices

Managing PTO and Call Center Agent Vacations

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The warmer weather outside means summer is coming – and what is it that comes with summer?

In the call center business, the answer is summer vacations. If paid time-off (PTO) requests from agents haven’t already started to escalate, it’s probably going to happen any day now. And while your agents look forward to those welcome respites from customer complaints, their days off can cause headaches for call center managers. 

If it’s your job to coordinate schedules and agents on different shifts with different skills, PTO is just another variable in a process that is already difficult – at least, at those call centers without a workforce management (WFM) solution. 

WFM streamlines PTO processes, and take some of the pressure off both managers and agents. 

Monet WFM Live can be used to plan and track PTO accruals. The system automatically enters all necessary information into the contact center’s schedule and staffing roster. It is also possible to integrate the WFM system into the company’s human resources system to track and manage all related data.

Once the system is in place and procedures are established, Monet WFM Live can also allow agents to schedule their own PTO. That results in happier agents, which is not only great for their peace of mind, it could keep them on the job longer. 

Given the rising costs of hiring and training new agents, any action that boosts agent satisfaction should not be ignored. 

If time-off planning is too time-consuming at your call center, call us to find out how you can start handling PTO more efficiently.


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Call Center Workforce Management: One Solution, Five Problems Solved

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The best thing about adding workforce management (WFM) to a call center is not how efficiently it solves one workplace issue – it’s how it solves several challenges simultaneously.

We’ve selected five of the most common call center problems that WFM can help resolve – but there is plenty more where that came from.

1. Forecasts

Forecasting is all about having the right number of agents with the right combination of skill sets in place every shift, every day. When that happens, call centers eliminate wasteful situations that result from overstaffing, and customer service issues that result from understaffing. Workforce management automatically collects, reviews and processes the data that delivers accurate forecasts, both in the short term and long-term.

2. Schedules

Scheduling should take both calls and non-call activities into consideration. Some scheduling methods fall short here, but a WFM solution considers all of the variables throughout the forecasting and scheduling process.

3. Adherence

Creating schedules is one thing – making sure agents adhere to those schedules is something else entirely. Usually you can figure out what happened after the shift is over, but what good does that information do when it’s too late to act on it? With workforce management, a call center can monitor and record the schedule adherence status of all agents in real-time – that includes log in time, log out time, lunches and breaks. If a problem is discovered it can be handled quickly.

4. Intraday Forecast/Schedule Management

Intraday management is always a challenge due to particularly complex resource considerations. An integrated WFM solution should be able to monitor intraday workload information (planning, controls, deployment strategies) that will produce pre-emptive rather than reactive actions for managers.

5. Exception Handling

Workforce management will manage and process exceptions in a way that communicates all necessary information to all parties concerned. It accepts or rejects each exception instance based on company criteria, and makes certain everyone is on the same page so there is no confusion on the part of the agent or management.


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Transform your COST center to a Call Center

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It’s expensive running a COST Center. But it’s possible to convert your business back into a quality call center by cutting costs that don’t impact customer service.

How? Here are a few tips: 

Ditch the Spreadsheets

When spreadsheets are replaced by a workforce management solution, a cost savings will immediately result from improved schedule adherence and optimization of daily agent rituals like breaks and lunches. Savings? As much as 10-20%. 

Speech Analytics

Speech analytics delivers better marketing intelligence in other areas at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. It also recognizes trends in what customers are asking about – that could influence new product development or changes to existing products and ultimately boost sales. 

Switch to the Cloud

No upfront investment for hardware and software is required for workforce management or workforce optimization in the cloud. Instead, call centers pay a monthly subscription fee that, in many cases, will also cover training, support, maintenance and upgrades. Operating costs are lower as well, as there is no need for backups or hardware replacement.

Monet has created a more detailed explanation of how to save money through workforce management in the cloud. The numbers don’t lie – here you’ll find a formula that will let you calculate the specific cost savings that can be achieved when WFM makes schedules more efficient, automates the forecasting and scheduling process, and reduces shrinkage. 

Click here to read How to Calculate WFM Savings – it may be the first step toward converting your COST Center back to an efficient call center.


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Too Busy To Improve? Why WFM Should Be Your Top Priority

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There is an anecdote in Steven Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that would apply to many call center managers.

It’s about two lumberjacks working side by side, both trying to cut down massive trees with dull saws. Finally, one of them decides to stop and get his saw sharpened, and returns an hour later to finish the job. Now that he has discovered how much easier the work has become, he encourages his coworker to follow his example. But the other lumberjack replies that his job is taking so long that he doesn’t have time to stop and sharpen his saw.

The takeaways here are obvious: It’s always better when work can be completed faster, and those who never change their work regimen will never see improved results.

This is, sadly, a common occurrence at busy call centers, where managers spend so much time calculating daily forecasts and schedules, dealing with staffing issues and trying to track agent adherence that there are not enough hours in the day to explore how these inefficient systems can be upgraded.

The WFM Difference

Sooner or later, however, most managers realize at last that changes are necessary. And when they do they can look to workforce management to sharpen their collective call center saw, so all of their work can be completed faster and with more accuracy. 

In the area of management discipline, WFM addresses:

  • Intraday Reviews, Adherence and Exception Management 
  • Forecasting and Scheduling Best Practices 
  • Quality management and Performance Management Coaching, Training and Role Playing

In the area of process design and improvement, WFM helps with:

  • Call Handling Analysis 
  • Benchmark Analysis
  • Activity Summaries and Details 
  • Work Standards 
  • Quality Form Review and Feedback
  • Evaluation of Coaching Techniques and Calibration
  • Staff Flexibility 

That’s a lot of change from just one solution. And when WFM is delivered in the cloud, it can be implemented without a large upfront cost. That makes efficiency more cost-effective as well. 

Tired of sawing with a dull saw? Find out more about Monet WFM Live


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Lower Call Center Labor Costs with Workforce Management

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This year more than 20 states will be required by law to raise their minimum wage. From Florida to Alaska, Massachusetts to Arizona, call centers that hire entry-level agents at a minimum wage will have to pay anywhere from ten cents to two dollars more per hour, every day. 

While agents will certainly be delighted with the raise, call center managers will need to budget for these payroll hikes. 

One way to do so is with a switch to workforce management software. 

Several Monet WFM clients have been able to reduce the number of agents required per shift, without sacrificing customer service. The achievement of more accurate forecasting and scheduling allowed one insurance call center to go from 119 agents to 87 agents. A financial services call center reduced agent headcount fro 550 to 510, while also reducing costly overtime by 25%. That equates to an annual savings of more than $350,000.

Yes, workforce management does require an additional investment. But with WFM Live, Workforce Management in the Cloud, there is no need to buy servers or other IT equipment, or IT resources required to set up and operate the system. There is also no large upfront cost for the software – call centers pay an affordable per user license. 

And in addition to cost savings, WFM delivers more accurate skill-based scheduling, the ability to track adherence in real time, and improve agent productivity. 

So if minimum wage is not as minimum as it used to be in your state, workforce management provides a way to reduce escalating labor costs – and improve service at the same time. 

Find out more about Monet WFM Live


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Love Excel? Then you’re going to really Love WFM!

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Many small and midsized contact centers still rely on Excel for daily forecasting and scheduling instead of workforce management software. 

The question is why? Do they really just love spreadsheets that much? Or have they grown so accustomed to this system that they no longer realize there is a better way?

Excel was a time-saver – once. Today, it’s an imperfect system that is likely costing your call center money. How?

Two of the key drivers for cost savings are schedule adherence and optimization of daily agent rituals like breaks and lunches. Excel spreadsheets are extremely limited in the impact they can have on these crucial challenges. 

Schedule Adherence

With spreadsheets only limited spot-checking is possible. Without real-time adherence, shrinking will increase, and shifts are more likely to be over-staffed or under-staffed. When that happens resources are wasted and service levels are missed. But where Excel falls short, workforce management delivers real time adherence and monitoring. Result? Consistent, accurate service levels, and shrinkage cut by as much as 15 minutes per agent day.

Optimizing Downtime

The scheduling of lunches and breaks, and how well agents adhere to these schedules, can have a tremendous impact on ROI. At most call centers shrinkage rates can be greatly reduced with an effective WFM solution, depending on the size of the business. And when shrinkage rates fall, productivity and profits increase. 

The More Agents You Have, the More You Save

While Excel is more commonly found in smaller call centers, we’ve also discovered that many of those with 100 agents or more are also using spreadsheets. Here, the inefficiencies of the system are multiplied, resulting in much lower customer service and higher costs. 

When an increase as low as 1% in productivity can significantly impact the call center budget, it is imperative to identify areas where efficiency can be improved. 

One of these areas is flexibility – the limitations of Excel result in fixed schedules that can produce higher shrinkage and overstaffing. But with WFM it is easier to manage start times, end times and breaks with an ease of flexibility that dramatically improves service levels. 

Managers can also consult more detailed and accurate call histories with WFM, resulting in better forecasts. 

Scheduling? Also much faster. Some managers can save as much as 25% of the time once devoted to filling in spreadsheets – time that can now be used for additional agent training or to attend to other matters. 

Still love Excel? Perhaps it’s time to look for a new relationship.


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Maximizing Casework Efficiency With WFM for Service Cloud

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Call centers receive calls and emails. Helpdesks receive cases. The difference is often one of complexity. Some calls can be handled quickly, but most cases require more time and effort to be resolved. 

Knowing this makes the challenge of efficiency even more important. Thankfully there is a solution, and in its basic functionality it’s the same as the one now being employed at thousands of call centers – workforce management.

Think of what is required for casework efficiency:

  • Adequate staffing
  • Accurate forecasts
  • Providing a customized experience for every customer
  • Schedule adherence
  • Intra-Day management
  • Tracking workload 

It sounds like a lot to have to get right. But all of these challenges can be effectively managed with Monet’s WFM for Service Cloud. It represents a significant step for helpdesks wishing to increase customer satisfaction, customer experience and service levels. 

This is cutting-edge technology that has not always been available to the helpdesk market, where agent adherence visibility and casework tracking has been more dependent on educated guesswork than hard numbers. 

Monet’s WFM for Service Cloud is the result of years of researching into the easiest and most reliable technology solutions that would allow a helpdesk to build accurate forecasts and optimal schedules in real time. 

Using knowledge picked up over more than 15 years of serving the helpdesk market, we’ve found a solution that maximizes casework efficiency by delivering more insight into how cases are managed, and the time investment required to address them. 

Find out more about WFM for Service Cloud


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Four Call Center Customer Support "Musts"

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Look at any survey about customer service and you’ll find that billions of dollars are lost each year when it is not handled efficiently.

Service is at the core of every call center function, and toward that end managers invest time and capital into a wide array of technology and employee training efforts.

There are many steps that can be taken to boost service. But some of them are really no longer options given the state of the industry and customer expectations. Here are four ‘musts’ that should be part of any call center operation.

1. You must allow customers to switch channels

According to the Harvard Business Review, more than half of all call center customers will at some point attempt to get something done online, but will have to switch to a phone call to make it happen. That transition should not only be possible, but also be actionable in a way that all information provided online is transferred to the agent so it does not have to be repeated.

2. You must provide self-service options

Not every customer issue requires a phone call. Self-service customer portals are not only convenient; they will also reduce call volume.

3. You must answer calls promptly

Everyone is less patient now because we’re accustomed to the instant responses technology provides online. Call centers cannot always provide that same instant response, but that won’t prevent customers from expecting it. Keep people on hold too long and they won’t be customers anymore. The forecasting and scheduling tools in a workforce management solution make this goal much easier to accomplish.

4. You must be able to handle service requests via mobile app

A Salesforce survey predicts that the number of inbound customer service requests via mobile app will increase by 38% over the next year. If your company does not provide this capability, there’s a good chance your competition does.


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Five Technology Solutions Found at State-of-the-Art Call Centers

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In technology, as in many other aspects of business, there is a need to keep up with what the competition is doing, so as not to fall behind and risk losing customers.

As we continue to get up and running in 2017, where are state-of-the-art call centers focusing their time, attention and budget allocations? Here are five solutions you’ll find at most of them. How does your call center measure up?

1. Speech Analytics

Real-time speech analytics is being used to improve agent training (and encourage self-training), track compliance, and gauge customer needs and emotions in a way that improves the likelihood of a successful engagement.

Call recording is still important, of course. But speech analytics turbo-charges the value that can be attained from these calls. The software automatically processes and identifies important keywords and phrases, allowing you to quickly find calls related to specific issues and challenges. It also provides automated alerts when a new relevant call is received. 

2. Closer Ties to Marketing

When the call center and the company’s marketing division share technology and customer data, the result is an end-to-end view of each customer’s journey. Such insight can deliver improved customer service and retention.

3. Availability Scheduling

Some call centers have found that providing agents with more flexible scheduling options results in less attrition, which leads to costly recruiting, hiring and training of new employees. With a workforce management solution, it is much easier to fit flexible and even self-scheduling options into accurate forecasts.

4. Chatbots

They are nowhere near the mainstream yet, but 2017 may be the year that more call centers embrace chatbots to handle more basic calls and queries. They will not replace agents, but they should lighten an agent’s workload so he or she can focus on the more difficult or complex customer issues.

5. The Cloud

Last but certainly not least, there is continued acceleration in the trend toward call centers moving into the cloud to avoid significant infrastructure investment. Workforce optimization in the cloud delivers all of the data a manager needs for accurate forecasts and schedules, but at a fraction of the cost of an on-premise system.


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Five Questions to Ask if Call Center AHT is a Problem

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Average handle time (AHT) is a call center metric for the average duration of one transaction, typically measured from the customer's initiation of the call and including any hold time, talk time and related tasks that follow the transaction.

 If AHT is a persistent problem at your call center, here are five questions to ask. The answers might result in positive change.

 1. Have you streamlined your script?

Too many questions and too much verbiage can add precious seconds to calls, while accomplishing little in the way of customer satisfaction. Review your call scripts for any ways to trim the fat.

 2. Are you routing calls effectively?

A workforce management solution can route specific types of calls to the agents most qualified to handle them efficiently.

 3. Are your agents receiving the best training?

Ongoing coaching and training is essential, but if AHT is still a problem then more of these sessions should be geared toward solving this specific problem.

 4. Do you have an ‘anti-babble’ strategy?

Sometimes callers just won’t get to the point. Have you come up with ideas on how agents can politely but firmly take charge of the call and keep them on track?

 5. Have you asked agents for their input?

Your agents are on the front line of any AHT initiative. They may have ideas on where too much time is being spent, and how to handle some types of calls more efficiently.


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Ten Ideas for Encouraging a Positive Call Center Culture

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There are enemies at the door every day at a call center – inaccurate forecasts, average handle time numbers headed in the wrong direction, angry callers, employee turnover.

Workforce management software can get the forecasts and the KPIs under control. Angry callers will always be with us, and they may be one of the reasons why agents leave. Since disgruntled customers can never be completely eliminated, the best way to reverse those high turnover numbers is to give agents a reason to stay. 

What is the culture like at your call center? How does the workspace look? How do agents feel when they start their shift every day? There are steps that can be taken to boost workplace culture and morale and help to keep spirits up, even when the work itself can be tedious and challenging. 

Try some of these ideas at your call center! 

1. Family Social Events

You know your agents – but have you met their spouses and kids? By arranging family events throughout the year – bowling tournaments, visits to local attractions or amusement parks – agents will get to know each other better and you’ll meet their families in a relaxed setting. Socializing in this way contributes to a positive culture, and encourages agents to think of their coworkers as a second family – and that will keep them around longer. 

2. Special Days Off

Many companies allow agents to treat their birthdays as a paid day off. It’s a nice gesture that makes them feel appreciated, and since these days can be planned for, it makes it easier to forecast and schedule around them. Some call centers take this concept a step further, allowing additional time off for special events such as a wedding in the agent’s family that requires out-of-town travel, or even something less momentous like a day off to go Christmas shopping. And for the ultimate in agent appreciation, offer one or two “Duvet Days” each year; these are days that can be taken off at short notice, with no explanation required. 

3. Rewards

We’ve mentioned this before but it’s always worth repeating – agents like to feel appreciated, especially when that is expressed through some reward for their consistent work. It encourages healthy competition among shifts and gives struggling team members a goal toward which to strive. Bottles of wine, restaurant gift cards, movie passes and extra days off are all worthy incentives, and perhaps a special annual prize could be reserved for your best performing agent each year. Trophies and certificates are nice too – but in this era when everyone gets a trophy just for participation, they are no longer enough. 

4. Breakfast

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not help your morning shift agents get off to a positive start with a free breakfast? A few fresh pastries, or dry cereal, coffee, tea and juice won’t break the company budget, and will be appreciated. It can also help agents start their shift feeling more alert and more focused. At some call centers in England, a tea trolley serves tea and toast to agents at their desks. Classy – but potentially messy. 

5. Volunteer Projects

Encouraging agents and other employees to participate in community projects is not just good for morale – it’s the right thing to do. It allows agents to help organizations that are important to them and it can generate some positive media coverage for your company as well. Depending on the size of your team, giving each agent 3-5 days a year of paid leave to pursue these projects will have a positive effect on morale and on the community. 

5. Extra Help for Agents That Need It

Ongoing training should already be a part of your call center regimen – but there may be times when agents still require additional help on hitting performance targets. Keep in mind that the extra hours devoted to discussing these issues, working with them on improvement, and encouraging them throughout the process are a bargain compared to costs incurred in recruiting, hiring and training new agents. 

7. A Positive Start

Any new job is stressful. Chances are your call center has some sort of orientation program that follows initial training, but why not take this a step further? Spend some extra time with a new agent in his or her first week. Give them some welcome aboard gifts to further ease the transition. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. 

8. A Break Room Makeover

Company break rooms should be places agents can relax, clear their heads and tend to personal matters before returning to their desks. If the place looks worn-down and dreary, it won’t have that positive effect. A fresh coat of paint (preferably bright colors), some plants (real, not plastic), snacks, a fish tank, an ATM machine (so agents won’t have to stop at the bank after their shift), happy photographs, comfortable furniture – these are the ingredients for an appealing break room. 

9. Fitness Classes

Call center agent work is sedentary – and let’s face it, most of us aren’t getting the exercise we should even when we’re not at our desks. Experts recommend 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week to help stay in shape. Call centers can encourage this positive lifestyle with onsite fitness classes. These can be created with the help of a local health club, or you might even find someone on your team that can lead a yoga, Zumba or aerobics class. 

10. Advancement Opportunities

Even your agents who are content in their work may not envision doing the same thing for the next 20 or 30 years. Resources should be made available for those interested in a career path to management – these can include meeting and training with current management personnel, sponsoring agents who wish to take business courses at local community colleges, and establishing a company policy of promoting from within whenever possible. 


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Call Center Workforce Management Solutions: Forecasting Separates ‘Good’ from ‘Great’

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The selection of a call center workforce management solution should not be entered into lightly. 

It’s a decision with the potential to revolutionize how your business handles forecasting, scheduling, staffing and many other tasks that can boost KPI results and customer service. Do your homework, ask questions, and make sure you get it right the first time. 

There are good qualities in almost every WFM solution available. But good is not good enough for your call center. 

What you want is “great.” And great starts with the forecasting tool. If the forecasts generated by WFM are not accurate, it creates a domino effect that will throw the rest of your numbers off as well. Result? Overstaffing, understaffing, missed sales and angry customers. 

What To Demand in a Forecasting Tool?

A WFM review of forecasting capabilities begins with the compilation and analysis of historical data. This is not just what happened at the call center on this day last year or five years ago, but also takes into account other variables that impact call volume – holidays, special promotions, annual events, weather conditions. Anything that can cause a fluctuation in workload should be considered. 

Now that call centers are now contact centers encompassing multiple communication channels, forecasting must provide an integrated view of all channels and the capabilities of the multi-skilled workforce, as this will be essential for proper scheduling

Most WFM solutions rely in part on forecasting based on averages. It’s effective, but not sufficient by itself. Find a forecasting tool that goes beyond that, one that can process every piece of data you provide and use it to deliver more accurate forecasts. 

The more you put into forecasting, the more you’ll get out of it. When WFM does most of the work, the result is more accurate forecasts, generated faster than spreadsheets. With the right system performing these critical functions that can grow with your call center’s needs, you can invest with confidence and achieve ROI faster. 


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Use Your Call Center Agents as Marketing Agents

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Here’s a question: who is the most prominent voice for your company’s brand or products?

Is it your president or CEO? Sometimes the man or woman in charge likes to be out front, appearing in TV commercials or giving a lot of interviews. Or perhaps it’s your marketing manager, who creates the ads that run in newspapers and magazines, as well as your social media campaigns. 

But there is another voice that is also representing your brand that can be overlooked – that of the call center agent. 

Each one of your agents may speak directly to dozens of your customers every day. For companies that sell primarily online, theirs may be the only voice a customer will associate with your brand. And according to a survey conducted by a company called Mattersight, 70% of consumers will cut ties with a brand after just one bad experience. 

That places a lot of responsibility on agents – but it is also a great opportunity.  

It doesn’t mean that every agent must be trained in marketing, but they should be made aware of the marketing tenets that customers associate with good service. 

That starts with making a customer feel valued. Personalized marketing campaigns attempt this by crafting messages designed to appeal to a consumer’s specific needs. But that kind of personalization is easier to achieve in a one-to-one conversation. 

With a workforce management solution, agents can pull up past purchases, the caller’s location and previous contacts. With speech analytics, agents will be in a better position to tailor each call to a customer’s preferences. And by using analytics, raw call data such as recordings can be fashioned into actionable insight. 

By providing experienced agents with the right technology solutions, your call center can serve as one of your most effective marketing outreach efforts. 



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Does Your Call Center Have to Be Bilingual?

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The short answer to the question posed in the title of this blog is yes. 

Perhaps there are still some regional businesses with a homogeneous customer base that can be effectively served in one language, but that type of company is clearly a vanishing breed.

Today, especially in this era of online retail, even smaller businesses may attract customers from anywhere in the U.S. or around the world. Obviously it would be impractical to have agents that speak every global language, but hiring bilingual agents should be a priority when possible. 

This will be more essential in some industries than others. In these types of call centers it should be a priority:

Online Retail

Your order history will tell you where your customers live. If you only get one order a year from Germany it’s not necessary to have a German-speaking agent available. But if you receive a thousand orders from Mexico or China, you should have someone there to serve those customers.

Health Care 

Here you may not be dealing with clients from 20 different countries, but if your health care facility is located in a large city near various ethnic and immigrant populations, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for them to make appointments, get answers to billing questions and order prescriptions. 

Travel/Tourism

This one is so obvious that we probably don’t need to include it. Companies focused on international tourism know how important it is to be able to provide information on hotels, sights, and other travel arrangements in the language of the caller. 



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Brushing up on the Basics for 2017

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Every so often it’s a good idea to go back to basics: what is it that makes a call center successful, and what are the goals that should be strived for in the New Year? 

Here are some of the factors to consider. 

Key Performance Indicators

Track them – not sometime but all the time. It’s a tough job without a workforce management (WFM) solution, but with WFM the appropriate data is automatically collected and delivered so you always know how you’re doing. There are several KPIs – the most important to watch are how quickly calls are answered (less than 20 seconds is a good benchmark), average handle time, and lost calls. 

Agents

Many companies have outsourced their call center operations, but several of them have reversed course after too many customer complaints about agents that could not be clearly understood. When someone calls a U.S.-based business, they expect to speak to someone who is proficient in English. If you encounter agent applicants without this trait who are otherwise qualified (smart, courteous, understanding), your call center can still use their skills on another communication channel, such as email or online chat. 

Script

How specific do you want your script? Some call centers give agents word-for-word opens, closes and question responses, while others set a more general tone and allow agents the freedom to engage in conversation. The latter is generally considered the better option, but you’ll need agents you can trust to make it work. 

Technology/Software

As referenced earlier, a workforce management solution makes everything more efficient. But if you installed one several years ago, it might be time for an upgrade. Each new WFM product adds additional capabilities, improves existing functionality, and corrects issues with previous versions. With traditional software, these upgrades can also be expensive, which is why many companies delay implementation. But call centers that get their WFM in the cloud will always be on the most recent version, as it is automatically installed at no additional cost. 


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What Will the Workforce Management Market Look Like in 2022?

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The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of workforce management is expected to remain strong through the year 2022, according to a new comprehensive market research report. 

In many ways this simply continues a trend that has persisted for more than a decade. As more call centers realize the inefficiencies inherent in the conventional methods of keeping track of and maintaining their workforce, there is increased interest in WFM as an alternative. By automating these processes, workforce management software can reduce labor expenses, improve workforce utilization and streamline call center performance. 

Plus the complex analytics on workforce processes delivered by WFM make it easier to spot problems and correct them, thus ensuring an optimal use of existing resources.

The technology has already found acceptance in such industries as banking financial services and insurance, healthcare, government, retail, transportation and manufacturing. But according to the study, the main driver of future WFM growth will be in its adoption by small and medium sized businesses, who may have thought in the past that WFM was out of their price range. 

That has changed as a result of cloud-based solutions – the same kind being used by corporations with hundreds of call center agents. The analytics are just as sophisticated, the conveniences just as apparent – but both can now be acquired without the large upfront cost and recurring costs of system and software updates. 

Of course, nothing says you have to wait until 2022 to start enjoying these benefits. Check out Monet Software’s cloud-based WFM Live here


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Giving Agents What They Need to Succeed

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Call centers expect agents to be alert, engaged, up to date on company policy, and ready to give 110% every day. 

That’s fair – but is your call center helping them to achieve such consistent performance? 

Here are two areas where actions can be taken that will boost productivity, and make your business more efficient. 

1. Information: Where they want it, when they need it

Technology and data drive successful call centers. Usually that refers to the KPIs measured to gauge customer service, but it also applies to the optimized knowledge base that makes it easier for agents to deliver great service by being able to quickly access each customer’s information. 

Training materials should also be easily retrievable, so agents can review proper procedure on their own if a question arises. This encourages the healthy habit of self-monitoring of performance. 

And since call centers are typically part of much larger organizations, agents and managers benefit from online collaboration platforms where documents can be shared, and everyone can be kept up to date on new projects. This also encourages consistency and cooperation between departments. 

2. Stress relief

Breaks are necessary in the agent workday, but can and should consist of more than leaving one’s desk, stretching one’s legs, and perusing the leftover pastries in the break room. This is the time to de-stress. Since different agents achieve that goal in different ways, why not cater to both of them?

For those who prefer to burn off tension while burning off calories, a small workplace gym would be greatly appreciated. Those who prefer a quiet, peaceful respite would enjoy a relaxation room that might even offer sleeping quarters for a quick nap. 

Bonus benefit: These steps will make your call center the type of place where agents feel valued, and that means they’ll stay with you longer. 


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Three Irreplaceable Call Center Agent Skills

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What do you look for most when you hire call center agents? Experience is obviously important, along with a clear speaking voice (and/or writing and spelling skills for communication channels like video chat). It’s also beneficial to have someone who takes guidance well, is punctual and gets along well in a team environment. 

But there are some skills that are equally important but not always evaluated during the interview process. Pay attention for signs of them in your next recruitment drive: 

An Even Temperament

It’s not easy being yelled at by strangers several times a day. Hopefully that is not a regular occurrence at your call center, but when hostile customers need to vent it’s important to have an agent who is cool under pressure. It might mean the difference between keeping and losing those customers. 

Winning isn’t Everything – It’s the Only Thing

I know we live in an era where everyone gets a trophy for just showing up, but you want agents that don’t take such consolation prizes seriously. They want to be the best – especially if there are real rewards attached to that status. You don’t want to encourage cutthroat competition, but friendly rivalries between ambitious agents can be healthy. 

Independent Thinking

Yes, the script is important, but you can hire anyone to read words off a computer screen. It’s what happens between and around those scripted directions that make the difference between good agents and great ones. Find someone who will listen – who can project empathy in a difficult situation, and who can get creative to solve a problem, even if it adds a few minutes to average handle time. 

One more idea: When you find these outstanding agents, give them the technology they need to really succeed – such as Monet WFM Live. When you make it easier for them to do their jobs, they are likely to keep doing them longer. 


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Seasons Change: Make Sure Your Call Center Changes With Them

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For all the beautiful photos you’ll see of leaves changing color in Vermont and harvest festivals and pumpkin pies, the fact remains that autumn can be a depressing time. The summer is over, the days are shorter, and in some parts of the country the temperatures are already dipping below freezing. 

Coping with such changes can cast a pall over your call center, and affect agent performance – but only if you let it. Here are some ideas that can result in a more productive fall. 

Daylight Savings Time

The one part of autumn that no one likes is setting the clocks back, which throws everyone’s internal clock off for a while, and offers one more hour of darkness at the end of the day. If the transition was rough on your agents this year, next year try to make it more gradual, by adjusting shifts incrementally – say, 15 minutes a day for the four days preceding the change. Lighting adjustments in the call center – especially those that mimic natural light – can help as well, and even prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

Fresh Air

Breaks are part of every call center shift, but can be more beneficial if agents are encouraged to spend at least part of that time outside. The crisp fall air is stimulating and will boost alertness for when they return to work, especially in the afternoon when attention to detail often begins to slip. 

Celebrations

Emphasizing the fun parts of fall can make the season less depressing. Have a costume contest in the days leading up to Halloween. Offer free turkeys or pumpkin pies to agents who perform the best in November. 

Redecorate

Autumn holiday decorations can make a call center more festive. Some new furniture, a fresh coat of paint and some plants (real ones, not the plastic variety) also contribute to a more pleasant work environment. 

Plan Ahead for Cold and Flu Season

This tip benefits your agents and your customers as well. More of your employees will get sick this time of year. Recognize that it’s coming, give them the time off, and call upon your holiday file of backup and temporary agents to fill in before the Christmas season starts.


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How Cultural Diversity Benefits Call Centers

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There has in recent years been a significant push –  some would say one that’s long overdue – toward cultural diversity in business. And call centers are no exception. 

It’s a result that can occur naturally through a process of hiring the most qualified agents and management personnel for the job. But in geographic areas where the talent pool is more homogeneous, it can still be a goal worth pursuing. 

Why? These are just some of the benefits: 

New Perspectives

People from the same place often tend to view challenges or opportunities in the same way. A diverse workforce almost always results in a wider range of ideas being generated, and new ways to look at old problems. 

Productivity

Different types of employees often bring different skill sets to the business, resulting in greater efficiency. 

Better Customer Connections

With few exceptions your business will be (or is at least trying to be) appealing to customers of different ages, genders and races. There’s no telling which of these customers will want to reach out to your call center. With a diverse hiring policy you’ll be prepared for customers that speak different languages, or have different questions and concerns that will be recognizable to someone on your team. The more your call center looks like your customer base, the better than chances of optimizing the customer experience. 

Workplace Harmony

Studies have shown that diverse workplaces contribute to employee engagement and are happier places to work – and that’s certainly good news in an industry where employee turnover is traditionally among the highest.  


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Have You Put Your Holiday Staffing Plan in Action?

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Oh, the weather outside is…still pretty warm, actually. But it won’t be long before the temperatures drop as the holidays approach. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get started on making sure you have the seasonal staffing place to handle increased call volume.

Hopefully you can consult a list of stand-by agents already in place. These are the folks that are accustomed to working a couple of months for you and then moving on until you need them again. If they have already spent time at your call center they will just need a refresher rather than the full training regimen, and can get up to speed very quickly. 

Of course, some of these temp workers will have moved on to full-time positions elsewhere in the interim, or for whatever reason may not be available this year. That means new recruiting, hiring and training, all of which take time. Even though you are hiring temporary, likely part-time help, use the same procedures you would to qualify a full-time agent hire. 

Since you’ll have so many new faces on the floor, it’s a good idea to also have your best agents available during peak periods. They can pick up the slack and help the newcomers as well. When you have a mix of full-time and temporary agents on the floor, have a system in place to route the more complicated calls to experienced agents, leaving new hires free to handle more basic transactions.

As busy as you’ll be, don’t stop quality monitoring throughout this time. That’s how you’ll discover which of your new agents are thriving, and which may not be invited back next year. 


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Have You Put Your Holiday Staffing Plan in Action?

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Oh, the weather outside is…still pretty warm, actually. But it won’t be long before the temperatures drop as the holidays approach. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get started on making sure you have the seasonal staffing place to handle increased call volume.

Hopefully you can consult a list of stand-by agents already in place. These are the folks that are accustomed to working a couple of months for you and then moving on until you need them again. If they have already spent time at your call center they will just need a refresher rather than the full training regimen, and can get up to speed very quickly. 

Of course, some of these temp workers will have moved on to full-time positions elsewhere in the interim, or for whatever reason may not be available this year. That means new recruiting, hiring and training, all of which take time. Even though you are hiring temporary, likely part-time help, use the same procedures you would to qualify a full-time agent hire. 

Since you’ll have so many new faces on the floor, it’s a good idea to also have your best agents available during peak periods. They can pick up the slack and help the newcomers as well. When you have a mix of full-time and temporary agents on the floor, have a system in place to route the more complicated calls to experienced agents, leaving new hires free to handle more basic transactions.

As busy as you’ll be, don’t stop quality monitoring throughout this time. That’s how you’ll discover which of your new agents are thriving, and which may not be invited back next year. 

Forecasting will be different from a typical week as well. Thankfully, Workforce Management software makes it easy to review call patterns from previous holiday seasons so you’ll know what to expect in the months ahead. Run simulations based on this data and review the results so they can be as fine-tuned as necessary. 

With the call center running at peak efficiency, you may actually get your holiday shopping completed on time this year! 



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Managing a Call Center: What’s the Best Approach?

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When agents talk about the different call center jobs they’ve had, they will always compare managers and managerial styles, and which one they prefer. 

Which type of manager are you? Adopting a specific “style” is not necessary, and in fact most managers perform their duties in a way that is an extension of their personalities. But sometimes it can be helpful to consider whether a change in approach might be beneficial. 

For instance, some call center teams respond better to a supportive manager that downplays the distinction between management and labor for a “we’re all in this together” philosophy. With a responsible team the results may be impressive – but there must be some oversight to make sure agents are not taking advantage of an informal managerial style. 

At the other end of the spectrum is the taskmaster. He or she drives the team like a college football coach, with inspiring motivational speeches and continuous urging to go the extra mile for the company. Some agents will respond to this more aggressive approach, but others may fold under the pressure or be worried about falling short of expectations. Just remember that the best coaches always make time for their players, to help them be the best they can be. 

Enthusiasm is another positive trait in a manager, as long as it is channeled the right way. It becomes a problem when every idea suggested in a meeting is implemented with expectations of success, and then quickly discarded when it doesn’t perform as planned right away. This leads to inconsistent performance and frustrated agents. 

Change can be good; too much change too quickly often has the opposite effect. 

Not sure if you need to change your style? Talk to your agents. Ask them if there is something they are not getting from you, whether that’s guidance or support or even criticism. The more you can match your approach to the temperament of your agents, the better the odds of a successful call center. 


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Workforce Management and Personnel Time Management

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Time, and how we use it, is one of the most important call center resources. We need agents to show up on time. We need calls to be completed quickly while still maintaining great service. Managers have to create forecasts and schedules, while still leaving time for other important tasks. 

Workforce management software can help with all of this. But it won’t help agents who either don’t own a watch or don’t pay attention to it. The efficiency of your call center demands team members that are organized, and possess reliable time management skills. 

Coaches can help where needed. They can encourage agents to set goals for how many calls they should complete in on day, and reinforce the importance of start times, end times and break times. Monitor progress and reward those that are able to change their habits. 

At first the coach or trainer may have to set up a goal schedule for these agents. But ideally this is a habit they should begin to pick up themselves. Suggest that it become customary to take 10 or 15 minutes at the end of a shift to review performance for that day, and to plan a schedule for tomorrow (or the next active day). The more they can plan ahead, the easier it will be to adhere to the schedule. 



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Do Your Agents Have the Freedom and Confidence to Go Above and Beyond for Customers?

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Every so often the media will pick up on a story of something unique that happened at a call center. Many of these feel-good tales feature a call center agent who decided to do something special for a customer. 

We came across this one that is worth sharing: an agent at Capital One received a call from a woman whose credit card was shut down due to “suspicious activity.” This was triggered by her attempt to purchase furniture and have it shipped to an address that was not the one the credit card company had listed for her.

Customers who get their cards shut down are usually in a shouting mood, but this woman had recently separated from her fiancé and was in the process of moving to a new place – hence the different address. She seemed more sad than angry, and when the agent found out what was happening in her life, she gave the woman 4,500 free airline miles to help her feel better. 

And that’s not all – the agent then sent flowers to the customer, with a note saying “Please know that you are in my thoughts and I hope these can brighten your day.”

Why is this important?

Two reasons: First, the story went viral. The customer related the experience on a Facebook post, and the agent was heralded as a hero on dozens of websites and message boards, all of which mentioned that she worked for Capital One. 

Capital One is a company that spends a lot of money on advertising (you’ve doubtless seen the TV commercials with Samuel L. Jackson). What did all this great positive publicity cost them? The 4,500 airline miles are really only worth about $45, plus whatever the going rate is on a nice flower arrangement. That’s a pretty solid return on investment.

Second, it raises the question of whether your agents believe they have the freedom to offer a similar gesture of kindness to one of your customers. Would they be appreciated or criticized for doing something that is not company policy? 

These stories make the news because they don’t happen every day, and they shouldn’t – but when the circumstances are right, encourage your agents to go above and beyond. 



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A More Efficient Call Center in One Minute?

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

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