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Workforce Optimization in the Cloud

Follow the latest trends on cloud-based contact center software and workforce optimization

Featured Whitepapers

Featured Blog Posts

Workforce Optimization Hints, Tips & Best Practices

Workforce Optimization: A 21st Century Idea

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While we all eagerly await the arrival of our flying cars and tourist excursions into outer space, it’s nice to know that some 21st century triumphs have indeed become part of our everyday lives. One of them is workforce optimization (WFO).

Wait, we hear you say – WFO is a concept that has been around for decades. 

It’s true that the idea of WFO – creating a more successful outcome by focusing on how a company’s workforce can achieve optimal productivity – is not new. But truly shifting a company’s focus to embrace this philosophy, backed by the WFO tools that make it easier to achieve, is a more recent phenomenon. That’s why some have described it as the next frontier in the evolution of business. 

Technology vs. People

Given how rapidly technology has evolved, at the contact center and elsewhere, companies have tended to amass greater technological processes and resources, without devoting the same attention to helping its human resources also reach their full potential. 

But that is changing now, perhaps as a result of the Millennial outlook that work is important, but people are more important, and a job should be just one aspect of a full and enriching life. Today’s workforce wants a job that will not only give them a paycheck, but also make them feel valued, and a part of the future of the company. 

Workforce optimization is the key to providing that employee engagement at the contact center. It empowers agents to make more decisions. It makes it easier to adopt a flexible shift schedule so agents can balance home and work demands. It tracks performance so top agents are rewarded for their achievement. 

Making this transition is easier than ever with the right WFO platform. Monet Live is an affordable and easy to use cloud-based workforce optimization software solution that includes workforce management, quality monitoring, analytics and performance management. Call centers will start improving service levels and reducing center costs without the upfront expenses and IT requirements of traditional workforce software.

Take a free online demo of Monet’s workforce optimization solution

Find out how one Monet customer, Catalina Express, made life easier for its customers by reducing their wait times and boosting speed of answer by 25%


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Cloud Excellence Award

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We are very pleased to announce that Monet WFO, Workforce Optimization in the Cloud, has received the 2017 Cloud Computing Excellence Award from TMC. 

“Monet Software was the very first to offer a true multi-tenant cloud WFM solution. Today, we are the industry’s cloud leader, and we continue to enhance our suite with new technologies such as Monet WFM for Salesforce”, said Chuck Ciarlo, Monet CEO. “This award is the acknowledgment that Monet WFO makes a real difference for contact centers and help desks to deliver a better customer service experience while reducing operational costs."

While we have received many awards for our contact center solutions, this one is particularly gratifying, given the ever increasing importance of cloud computing at contact centers. 

Cloud computing arrived not a moment too soon, as the demands on data centers had already grown to near capacity with no sign of slowing down. In the pre-cloud era, adding something as basic as call recording required the installation of an onsite PBX system with a VoIP packet that recorded calls onto a separate onsite platform. With the cloud? Installation can be achieved with the click of a button. 

Cloud computing will continue to gain a larger percentage of the contact center industry because it offers benefits for businesses of every size and type. Large contact centers enjoy a tremendous cost savings and a lower upfront equipment investment. Smaller call centers can achieve the same technological sophistication of bigger companies on a smaller budget. And call centers with agents working from home or in multiple centers can tie everyone in to the same workforce management system regardless of location. 

For these reasons and more, it seems likely that the popularity of cloud-based systems will continue to grow. Is it time you considered making the switch?

Monet WFO, Workforce Optimization in the Cloud is a complete suite for contact centers and help desks to automate workforce management, quality management and performance analytics. 

Read our whitepaper comparing costs and benefits of cloud, premise and hosted solutions

Take a free online demo of Monet’s workforce optimization solution


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How to Shorten Every Customer Call By One Minute

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What can you do in one minute? 

Cook Minute Rice? Play Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” on the piano?

At the contact center very few calls will be completed in less than one minute. But add the number of the calls received during one shift, and consider how much time reducing the length of each call by a minute could save. What could be done with all that extra time? 

It’s an achievable goal – here are some ideas on how to get there. 

1. Shorten Your Greeting

Does your script ask agents to start with something like “Hello, this is Bobby from ABC Industries. It is my pleasure to assist you today. How can I be of service?” Why not cut that down to “This is Bobby from ABC, how may I help you?” It’s just as courteous, and you’ve already trimmed a few seconds from handle time before the customer says anything. 

2. Agent Incentives

Offer a small reward to agents who improve their average call handle times. Just make certain that any increase in speed is not detrimental to customer service or bringing each call to a successful outcome. 

3. Information Access

Keep customer profiles up to date, and make sure agents have immediate access to caller information (especially anything already verified through IVR) and answers to questions, on well-organized displays. 

4. Call Recording

By recording and monitoring agent interactions with callers, it is much easier to identify areas where calls can be shortened. 

5. No Cell Phones

If an agent has access to his cell phone or social media during a shift, he or she will inevitably be distracted, and it may result in customers having to repeat themselves, which is both frustrating and time wasting. 

6. Skills-Based Call Routing

Use scheduling to create tiers of employees for specific types of calls based on skills. Try to make sure calls are routed by subject to agents with the skill set to handle them most efficiently. Leave the easier calls for new agents and those with less training on complex issues. 

A workforce optimization solution can also help shorten calls, by making it easier to monitor customer interactions through call recording. Find out more

Watch a demo of Monet Workforce Optimization in action



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Contact Center Service: Easy is Always Better

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Answering calls at a contact center is work – that’s why agents are paid to do it.

However, calling a contact center to place an order or settle a dispute should not feel like work. That’s why most contact centers try to make customer engagements as quick and easy as possible.

How well does your contact center succeed at this goal? Let’s look at three typical scenarios.

Product Information

At some contact centers this is the primary reason customers call. Is it easy for callers to get the information they need? Are your agents trained to answer questions, access part numbers and prices, and provide assistance without transferring the call or putting customers on hold to look something up?

Purchases and Payments

Today’s customers are used to the ease of buying stuff online. A few clicks of the mouse and items are dropped into a virtual shopping cart, credit card information is entered and shipping details are provided – sometimes all in less than a minute. When customers opt to handle such transactions over the phone, agents should be prepared to not just provide good service, but to also take advantage of upsell opportunities, as long as they do not significantly delay completion of the transaction.

Help and Support

Why isn’t my new computer working? Why can’t I access broadband on my new television? My car is making a funny noise – should I be concerned? Contact center agents must field a wide range of questions from customers that may already be upset at having to call in the first place. The last thing these customers want is to be put on hold multiple times, and to move through a chain of support personnel to find the right expert.

Here, a workforce optimization solution can help. It allows you to classify incoming calls by subject matter, and route them to the agent most qualified to handle them.

Easy is always better. What can you do at your call center to deliver this type of customer experience?

Take a free online demo of Monet’s workforce optimization solution

Find out how one Monet customer, Catalina Express, made life easier for its customers by reducing their wait times and boosting speed of answer by 25%



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New Legislation Would Require Call Centers to Identify Their Location to Customers: Is This a Good Idea?

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Over the past few decades there has been continuous ebb and flow in the movement toward locating call center resources outside the United States.

When the economy falters and companies have to cut back on resources, they are more likely to shift their call center operations to India or the Philippines. Do customers receive the same level of service? That’s another story. There are also privacy and security issues that should make a company CEO think twice before making this decision.

And now, as more call center jobs continue to move overseas despite improving economic numbers, Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania has introduced the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, a bill designed to limit this practice. The bill would require that U.S. callers be told the location of the call center to which they’re speaking, and give them the right to request a transfer to a U.S. based call center.

In addition, the bill would also make U.S. companies that offshore call center jobs ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-funded loans.

Thus far there appears to be some bipartisan support for the bill, but whether it ultimately passes in this heated political climate is anybody’s guess.

Is it a good idea? Ask any customer who has been frustrated by a difficult experience with an offshore call center, and they’ll tell you the bill can’t pass fast enough.

But for some call centers, passage would force some challenging economic decisions.

Welcoming Call Centers Home With Workforce Optimization

If the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act becomes law, it will likely motivate several companies to return their call center operations to the U.S. after years, perhaps even decades, of being away. 

And when they return, they may realize that the spreadsheets they used before are no longer sufficient for scheduling, or analyzing statistics on call volume. This rudimentary system has now been surpassed by workforce optimization (WFO) software. 

From tracking call history, adherence and performance, to call recording capabilities, WFO makes almost every aspect of the supervisor’s job more efficient. WFO addresses quality management and performance management as well, regardless of the size of the call center or the number of agents employed. 

Find out more about Monet’s Workforce Optimization solution


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The KPI Checklist, Part Two

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While every call center is different, it’s a safe bet that they share many common goals related to customer service. Managers rely on data, categorized into key performance indicators (KPIs) to address these service issues. 

Which are most important? The short answer is all of them. But different call centers excel at different things. So instead of selecting a top 5 or top 10 in this blog, we are going to provide a more wide-ranging selection of KPIs, to help managers pinpoint specific challenges at their call centers. 

Call Resolution

All calls do not have a happy ending. Call resolution measures the percentage in which the customer was able to achieve his or her objective (placing an order, getting a refund, having a question answered, etc.). The goal should always be First Call Resolution, measured alongside Repeat Calls to determine which types of issues are proving most difficult to handle – and/or which agents may need additional training to fix a problem. 

On-Hold Time

This one is pretty obvious – how long customers wait until greeted by an agent. By collecting data managers will be able to determine the average duration that would be considered acceptable waiting time. Keep in mind, however, that 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. 

Call Arrival Rate

How many calls come in every day? Every week? These numbers will identify seasonal and business trends that will improve the accuracy of agent forecasting and scheduling. 

Transfer Rate

Few situations are more frustrating for a customer than explaining an issue to one agent, and then being transferred to a supervisor or other agency personnel, and having to do so a second time. While this may still qualify as a first-call resolution if questions are ultimately answered and the problem is solved, it should still be kept to a minimum whenever possible.

Blocked Calls

Blocked calls never even make it to a call center agent, because of insufficient network capabilities. Obviously, the only possible result becomes a frustrated customer. Are some blocked calls inevitable at peak times? Or can these calls be taken with better scheduling, expanded trunks or other corrective measures? 



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The KPI Checklist, Part One

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While every call center is different, it’s a safe bet that they share many common goals related to customer service. Managers rely on data, categorized into key performance indicators (KPIs) to address these service issues. 

Which are most important? The short answer is all of them. But different call centers excel at different things. So instead of selecting a top 5 or top 10 in this blog, we are going to provide a more wide-ranging selection of KPIs, to help managers pinpoint specific challenges at their call centers. 

Average Handle Time

This is the average duration of one transaction. To get a handle on handle time, workforce management makes it easier for managers to determine if they have enough agents available to efficiently serve call volume. Then, employ skills-based routing: An agent that is adept at settling customer disputes will be able to handle these types of calls more quickly than someone without those skills. Also, as certain customer inquiries are bound to come up repeatedly, train your agents to anticipate these questions and answer them before they can be asked.

Call Abandonment

This is the number of callers that hang up or end an online chat before first contact with an agent. The cause is almost always a long wait time. This KPI is closely tied to Active Waiting Calls, a reference to how many customers are ‘on hold.’ More accurate forecasts and schedules can help agents get to those callers faster, and reduce call abandonment. 

Peak Hour Traffic

When is your call center busiest? Identifying the peak times and hours of traffic will play a key role in agent scheduling. 

After Call Work Time

When a customer engagement ends, there is still work for the agent to do before taking the next call. This metric provides a time measurement for those practices, allowing managers to set reasonable limits. 

Sales per Agent

For call centers that primarily exist to take customer orders, this is a significant and surprisingly oft-overlooked metric. Why do some agents, reading from the same script as everyone else, close more sales? Managers should identify these top performers, and find out how they’re succeeding. Those techniques can then be disseminated to other agents who may be missing upsell opportunities. 

Customer Satisfaction

That’s what it’s all about. Call recording will provide some idea of how customers would assess their call center engagement, but quality monitoring can also play an important role in determining quality of service. Monet’s Quality Management tool helps managers to monitor customer interactions and consistently deliver great service and improve customer satisfaction with integrated quality scorecards, dashboards and reports.

We will take a closer look at more KPIs in our next blog.


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Benefits of the Cloud in a Natural Disaster

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The devastating images coming out of Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma have already moved Houston and Hurricane Harvey off the front page. The recovery process is still just beginning in both places, but there has also been a ripple effect to these natural disasters that will impact businesses and customers that are thousands of miles away.

These are the times when uploading data to a cloud is critical, and another reason why so many call centers are switching to the cloud for benefits such as workforce management, workforce optimization and analytics.

The cloud has always offered numerous advantages, among them flexibility, accessibility through any computer or device, cost savings, simplification of IT infrastructure and seamless integration with existing systems. But when a natural disaster strikes, and workplaces and equipment are damaged or destroyed, the cloud makes certain that no data is lost.

The data uploaded to a cloud resides in one or more data centers that are also protected by multiple security perimeters, including electronic surveillance, 24/7 security staff and multi-factor access to keep physical intruders away. Data is stored in multiple geographic regions to avoid compromise from a fire, flood or hurricane at one facility.

Network architecture is also protected with firewalls and intrusion detection systems. Systems and applications are frequently tested to confirm adherence to industry-standard security requirements. Cloud providers also verify their security controls through third-party certifications such as ISO 27001 or ISO 27002, standards recognized globally as the most comprehensive framework for establishing security best practices.

We wish the best to all those dealing with the aftermath of Harvey and Irma. And we hope that many of the companies you rely on for payment processing have their call centers and other operations in the cloud – as that will be one less part of your life you’ll have to rebuild from scratch.


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Monet WFO Live Receives Communication Award

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Just a few months after receiving an award as one of the industry’s most innovative call center solutions, we’re pleased to announce that Monet WFO Live has been named a Communications Solutions Product of the Year by TMC, the publisher of Cloud Computing magazine.

“Congratulations to Monet Software for being honored with this award,” said Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC. “Monet WFO Live is truly an innovative product and is amongst the best solutions brought to market that facilitates business-transforming voice, data and video communications. I look forward to continued excellence from Monet in 2018 and beyond.”

Those who have tried Monet WFO Live already know how it earned this reputation for excellence. It delivers a unified workforce optimization suite that transforms call center management from a reactive to a pro-active approach. Customers can create accurate forecasts, efficient schedules, record and monitor calls for quality, training and compliance purpose, and track cross-functional performance metrics, all with one integrated cloud-based platform.

It’s not surprising that a company that focuses on cloud computing would recognize the benefits of WFO Live. As with all of our cloud solutions WFO Live is more flexible and more scalable, there are no large upfront costs, customers pay only for what they need, and software upgrades are installed automatically as soon as they come available. 

Cloud solutions are also more reliable than hardware-based technology because of their built-in fail-safes and redundancies. When all of your equipment is in one place and something goes wrong, you are out of luck. With the decentralized nature of the cloud, even a power outage won’t shut you down.


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The Basics: Workforce Optimization Solutions

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Adding a workforce optimization solution to a call center environment can seem like a daunting task – so many options, so much to learn and adjust to. But with the right system, the transition will not take long and the ROI benefits will quickly be realized through improved efficiency, and possibly reductions in labor costs.

But which WFO system should you choose? 

Obviously we are partial to WFO Live, our award-winning software product. But as you peruse the market keep in mind that you are not buying just one solution – WFO should deliver a suite of automated services all designed to help your call center achieve its business goals and compliance requirements.

Those features should include:

• Workforce Management

• Call Recording

• Quality Management

• Screen Capture

• Performance Management

• Speech Analytics 

Workforce Management

Forecasting, scheduling, intra-day management and exception planning are all part of workforce management. Make sure the software allows for real-time adherence, so adjustments can be made quickly before they can impact service levels. 

Call Recording

A call recording solution is invaluable in agent training, coaching and troubleshooting and establishing best practices. It also helps to resolve transaction disputes and determine regulatory compliance. You’ll want to invest in a solution that archives and retrieves calls quickly for review.

Quality Management

The quality management process incorporates dashboards, scorecards, agent analytics, customized reports and key performance indicators, to improve service levels, optimize utilization of resources and enhance cost management.

Screen Capture

Screen capture adds video to the voice recording of an agent’s interactions, providing a visual record of how agents employ the technology at their disposal. This aids in agent training, and can help call center staff improve their performance in such key areas as first-call resolution.

Performance Management

By analyzing the scorecards and reports produced by workforce optimization software, call centers can become more proactive in their quest for improving customer service, rather than reacting to events that have already occurred.

Speech Analytics

Simply put, speech analytics takes call recording to the next level by digging deeper into the content of each call, identifying patterns and key words and phrases that can help to further refine customer service efforts and agent training opportunities. 

Find out more about Monet WFM Live

 

 

 


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Christmas in July? Start Preparing Now for Busy Holiday Calling Season

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Christmas in July gets bigger every year, as more retailers and companies take time out from another scorching summer to think about Santa and winter wonderlands. 

You might wish to consider a Christmas in July party at your call center. Have everyone wear their favorite reindeer sweater, serve some eggnog and sing a few holiday carols.

But here is one other way to mark the occasion that could pay significant dividends as the actual holiday gets closer – start planning now for the year-end rush. 

For many call centers, November and December are the busiest time of year. So July is a better time to be sure you are prepared to handle the oncoming tidal wave of customer orders, returns and questions. 

Too early? Perhaps. But the days have a way of going by faster than you might think – we can’t believe it’s July already! So why not start on your forecasting, which is easy to do with a workforce management solution. You can review the call patterns from last year’s holiday season, and those before, 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. 

How is your agent stand-by list? It’s probably been more than six months since it has been updated. Start contacting those agents now to check their availability. Some might have other jobs and will not be available in a few months. And if you don’t have a stand-by list, start putting one together. 

How did the training sessions go on your holiday season hires last year? This is a good time to refine those efforts. If you’re handling this well, there’s a good chance that some of those temp agents are now engaged full-time with your call center. 

We don’t want to rush the season either – but some stores will be putting up their Christmas tree displays in less than two months. If they can get ready early, you can as well. 


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The Three “Musts” of a Call Center Customer Relationship

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Customer expectations have changed over the past decade. Business moves faster now, which is great, but it has also become more impersonal, which presents another set of potential challenges.

Call centers dedicated to improving customer service and customer retention understand that it all starts with creating a relationship. Here are three things that must happen for that to be successful.

1. You Must Make the Process Easy

Let’s face it – no one looks forward to calling a call center. Customers dread the recorded prompts and the minutes spent on hold, and having to provide their phone number or order number more than once. It is vital for call centers to make the process of speaking with an agent as efficient as possible, while also providing other options such as email and chat and social media.

2. You Must Strive to Create a Connection

Whatever means a customer uses to contact a business or a call center, there is an opportunity to make that customer feel valued. Whether that’s an expression of appreciation for their business at the end of a call, or a personalized response to a social media post, the objective is to build a relationship with that customer so they are more likely to return. Automated responses have their uses but won’t get you there alone.

3. You Must Collect Data From Every Customer Engagement

Through call recording, speech analytics and performance management, a contact center can learn a lot about a company’s customers – what they like, what they don’t like, what they want from the company that they’re not getting and what they hope will never change. 

Much of this analysis will be after-the-fact, which certainly still makes it valuable. What you learn today can pay dividends tomorrow. But sometimes a contact center can go one better – with real time analytics, it can identify a moment within an ongoing customer engagement in which action can be taken immediately to bring about a positive result. 

Such moment-driven data is already being generated by workforce optimization and speech analytics. Agents must then be trained to recognize these moments and proceed accordingly. 


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Three Inaccurate Views of the Call Center

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In general, what do people think of call centers? 

Maybe we shouldn’t use that kind of language. 

Within the industry we see the efforts that have been made to upgrade technology and improve the quality of service, but too often these are not recognized by customers and by other divisions of the business. Is this important? Yes – because false perceptions undermine the services call centers provide, and may even limit their ability to make a positive contribution to their company.

Here are three opinions that are still far too common – and why they are inaccurate. 

1. Call Centers Cost Money

Well, of course they do  – someone has to pay agent salaries and buy the software solutions like workforce management that allow them to fulfill their function. But the data they generate through that software, and other solutions such as speech analytics, can be used in a variety of ways to generate revenue for the company. 

Call centers boost customer loyalty. They provide direct customer feedback on which products and promotions succeed and which do not. They generate positive social media posts after a good experience that boosts brand reputation. 

2. They Will Soon Be Obsolete

Who uses phones anymore to contact a company? That’s so last century now that we have apps and websites and Facebook. 

Sounds good, but visit any call center and you’ll realize we’re nowhere near that point yet – and may never get there. According to a NewVoiceMedia survey, 59% of customers still prefer to contact a business by phone, and 75% believe it’s the most effective way of getting a response. 

Perceptions that call centers are on the way out may result in a company hesitating before investing in the technology resources that allow them to be successful. 

3. Cost-Per-Call is the Only Metric That Matters

For companies that view call centers as a necessary evil, the objective is to keep costs as low as possible. One way this is measured is in cost-per-call. It’s a number deserving of attention – but it’s not the most important metric anymore. The focus instead should be on customer satisfaction, and that sometimes takes a little more time and creativity to achieve. Besides, lowering cost-per-call the wrong way can result in lowering customers as well. 



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The Three Essentials of Workforce Optimization

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What makes workforce optimization such an effective call center solution is how all-encompassing it can be. 

There are so many moving parts that must be harnessed to deliver a favorable customer experience, but according to several industry analysts there are three that emerge as the most significant – the actual work that needs to be done at the call center, the people charged with that responsibility, and the processes put in place to help them achieve the goals of the business. 

Workforce optimization (WFO) helps with all three. 

The Work

Calls are received. In multi-channel environments so are emails and webchat requests and social media posts. Orders have to be filled, returns have to be processed, questions have to be answered. With the workforce management capabilities of WFO, accurate forecasts and schedules are generated so there are always enough agents ready to handle customer demand. 

The People

They make be working in the call center or from home. They all go through the same training but gradually develop specific skills that should be leveraged. They have different needs and preferences when it comes to shifts and schedules. And unfortunately, too many of them leave too soon, necessitating another round of recruiting, hiring and training. With WFO calls and other communications can be automatically routed to the personnel best suited to handle them. It provides flexibility to scheduling, making it easier to accommodate agent requests. And it provides the data agents need to make the job easier – which might induce them to stick around longer. 

The Process

What WFO provides here is visibility. No manager can be everywhere, particularly in a call center with 50 or more agents. Workforce optimization provides quality monitoring of customer interactions, and the ability to track and analyze how well processes are working through real-time alerts. It also provides more insight into every customer interaction through speech analytics.  

Monet's workforce optimization solution is cloud-based and delivered as a service, making it easy, fast and affordable to get started without the usual risk of software implementations. Find out more



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Don’t Be Scared of the Adherence Monster

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October means Halloween and Halloween means scary stuff. 

As you probably know, call centers can generate as many frightening situations as a haunted house, and they aren’t nearly as much fun. 

Do you begin to shiver at the very thought of customer service problems caused by adherence issues? 

Monet Software has a free webinar for that. It’s called “Fighting the Adherence Monster.” 

Like most monsters, this one can do a lot of damage, but it isn’t very smart. That’s why it is no match for the real-time adherence solutions available in Monet WFM Live. In this webinar, you’ll learn exactly how to use this solution to keep adherence issues at bay – it works even better than garlic does with vampires. 

Question: How much would you estimate a 25-agent call center could save just by improving staff adherence by 2%, and reducing shrinkage by 15 minutes per agent per day? 

The answer: more than $30,000. That’s a lot of candy corn. 

Considering how much money lack of adherence can cost your business, anything that can be done to get a handle on this deterrent to efficiency should be worth a look – especially if it takes just 45 minutes. That’s our webinar. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to find out how Monet Software can save you hours and hours of time lost to lapses in adherence. You’ll discover how WFM Live streamlines your scheduling goals and practices, and lets you keep a close, real-time watch on agent availability, holidays and breaks. 

“Fighting the Adherence Monster” can be accessed at your convenience here



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10 Tips for Reducing Average Handle Time

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Average handle time? Still important, we’re afraid. It’s a constant challenge but there are ways to cut it down while still providing the quality of customer service that your company and your customers expect. Try these tips and let us know if they work!

Skills-Based Routing

Agents that specialize in certain types of calls will almost always be able to handle them more quickly. 

Automated Processes

Made the switch from spreadsheets to workforce management? Then you’ve taken a significant step forward toward reducing AHT – now review any other manual processes and discuss whether they can be automated as well. 

Interview New Agent Candidates By Phone

One way to determine whether an agent can communicate efficiently is by interviewing them over the phone. You’ll find out how they respond to questions and unexpected situations, skills that contribute to AHT reduction. 

No Cold Transfers

If a call must be transferred, always make sure the customer’s relevant data is transferred as well, so the same questions won’t have to be asked a second time.

Prepare for the ‘Top 5’

Use WFM and agent feedback to determine the top five reasons customers call. Focus on a streamlined response to these in training and equip agents with the authority to address them. 

Anticipate Questions

Similar to the previous tip, the more agents can anticipate what the caller may ask, the faster those answers can be provided. 

Route Repeat Calls to the Same Agent

First call resolution is important as well, but when a customer has to call back, route his or her call to the agent that responded the last time. Familiarity with the situation should expedite the call. 

No Interruptions

This sounds counter-productive at first, as agents may want to get to their scripted procedure and move things along. But AHT benefits from listening as well, especially if the caller is not in a good mood. Interruptions will only make angry callers more irritated, and further decelerate the process. 

Put Agents in Charge

Not of everything, of course, or they’ll pay themselves a lot of bonuses. But give them as much authority as needed to solve customer issues, investigate problems, and provide a solution. Transferring calls, even without excessive hold time, is never good for AHT. 

Reward Top Performers

Give an agent a special prize for reaching the maximum number of accepted calls per shift – as long as they’re achieving this goal in a way that also provides courteous and attentive service. 



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One Formula for Calculating Call Center Service Levels

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A lot of us choose the careers we want based on one simple premise: whether or  not there is math involved. 

Unfortunately, math cannot be entirely avoided, even at jobs that seem to work more with words than numbers. 

Take the task of providing great service at a call center. You need an effective script, and agents that know how to relate to customers, and a workforce optimization system that deliver forecasts and schedules that keep the business running at optimal efficiency. 

But how can you prove that service is where it needs to be? Here is one system that may help. And yes, some math is involved. Sorry. 

First, you need to define the terms that will impact how service is assessed, starting with abandoned calls. Do you count the ones that hang up before an agent responds as a “call offered”? Or ignore them entirely since there was no opportunity offered to achieve a successful result? 

Next, select a service level objective, and the service level formula that works best for your business. There are several to choose from:  

Once you have your formula, select a time interval and clearly define exactly when a call starts (when the phone rings, or when the caller selects the IVR option that links them to a live agent, or after the recording opening message completes). Then, decide on a measurement interval (by hour, shift, day, etc.). 

An automated workforce optimization solution will be invaluable here, as it will gather the data necessary to calculate your service level. Analyze the data, review the results, and make appropriate adjustments in procedure or technology that could help you reach your service goals. Then start the process all over again. At least the second time, the math will be easier. 



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Helping Customers Receive Better Service

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Your goal is to deliver outstanding customer service any time, any day. But there are days and times when achieving that goal is easier.

Should you share that information with callers that ask? Or offer a few recommendations on the company website or Facebook page? Why not? By doing so you're not only lightening the workload at peak calling time, you're also improving the likelihood that every call receives the personal attention and positive experience it deserves.

Yes, the public is more demanding now. They want what they want when they want it. But not everyone is like that, and most will appreciate any help that you are willing to provide. 

Think of it this way - the next time you go to the DMV, would you like them to let you know the wait time could be three hours if you arrive at noon, but if you get there by 9am you will be in and out in an hour? Most people would be delighted to know the fastest way to resolve their solution.

How you do this, of course, depends on the calling patterns and hours of operation at your call center. For some business, a warning to avoid Mondays might be in order; but for call centers in the travel industry, Fridays might be busier as couples plan weekend getaways. 

If there is a day that is typically lighter in call volume, let customers know. If there's a time when calls are answered faster, let them know. The first hour of operation may work, unless you have an issue with late-arriving agents.

You might also consider explaining IVR options in advance and in more detail, so customers will know which options to use before the call. Also, let them know what information you'll likely need for them, so they won't have to start searching for it after the call is initiated.

Finally, offer other options for finding the information they need - make sure business hours are clearly posted on your website, and that you have a FAQ page that explains common solutions to common problems.      


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Are You Paying Attention to Your Customers?

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A lot of lip service is paid to listening to customers. But there is a difference between actual listening and just hearing what they have to say.

The best call centers focus all of their efforts on gaining insight into every customer on every call. Comments made even in passing can offer valuable insight into satisfaction with a product or service, and should influence business development and marketing. There is no such thing as a routine transaction.

Are you really and truly paying attention to your customers? Here are a few ways to find out.

"You again?"

If you are getting too many repeat calls from the same customers about the same issue, something isn't right. Either your agents are not able to resolve the issue, or there is a problem with a product that cannot be solved. Whatever the reason, this is a communication breakdown that must be corrected. When possible, provide agents with the information they need to deal with the issue. Or inform a brand manager about the situation so action can be taken at that level.

"We don't have that service available"

Why not? If callers are repeatedly inquiring about something they want that you don't have, look into whether it's possible to provide it. Especially if it's a product or service already provided by other companies in your industry.

"Tell us how we're doing"

The fastest and easiest way to find out what customers want is simply to ask them. Sometimes it can be tempting to let analytics do the work for you - and with the right system in place you will certainly collect valuable, relevant data. But there's also nothing wrong with the direct approach. Ask for feedback, and incorporate that feedback into the entire organization, not just the call center.


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Call Center Don'ts: Live Agent Coaching

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For contact centers that have yet to install the type of advanced software that provides real-time insight into agent activity, the only viable option for coaching is to do so during live customer calls.

However, this method presents a number of challenges for both the agent and the coach. The most obvious is the necessity to communicate information to the agent while the agent is speaking with a customer. This is achieved through "call whispering," which is exactly what it sounds like.

Call whispering puts the agent in the unfortunate position of listening to a customer and his supervisor at the same time. Even experienced agents may find this difficult. For new agents, it is next to impossible, and often leads to distracted agents and frustrated customers. 

Call whispering also makes it impossible for agents to communicate with a supervisor during a coaching session. During these one-sided conversations, an agent may wish to ask a question or seek clarification on a point raised by the supervisor, but there is no way to do so without putting the customer on hold. Such feedback must be saved until after the call - and by then it might be too late to deliver the type of service that customer deserved.

Another limitation of live coaching is the inadequate sample sizes it generates to accurately assess how an agent is performing. The supervisor is present for a few calls but has no way of knowing how that agent is performing during the rest of his or her shift. Many critical coaching opportunities are missed as a result.

Fortunately, there is a better way. An advanced workforce optimization solution provides greater visibility and insight into agent performance, and records calls that can be reviewed later during more substantive coaching sessions. It can also provide a means for two-way communication between agent and supervisor in a way that is not as distracting, so the agent can stay focused on the customer.

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The Benefits of Workforce Optimization

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Workforce Management (WFM) is important; Workforce Optimization (WFO) takes WFM to the next level.

With WFM, your agent scheduling will become much easier, and much more accurate. You'll always feel confident that the right numbers of agent are serving your customers. 

But why stop there? With WFO, you'll learn something from every one of those customer engagements. Call recording protects your company from legal action and provides a valuable resource for agent coaching and training; quality monitoring helps you assess levels of customer satisfaction with your speed and service quality; speech analytics delivers more insight into what your customers want, so you can sometimes anticipate their needs before they even express them.

With WFO, managers have everything they need to attack key performance indicators and bring them into acceptable levels. And it helps your agents do a better job as well.

Once you've made the decision to explore workforce optimization options, it will become clear that, given the impact WFO will make on your business as well as the costs involved, it's important to choose the right solution the first time.

Monet's WFO Live makes it possible for companies of any size to scale IT quickly and efficiently, and to make changes without business interruption.

But what about security? Monet currently has customers with dozens of agents - and thousands of agents - successfully using Monet Live in a secure, scalable cloud.

Still have questions? Monet is always available to help address the concerns of companies considering a cloud solution, and to identify the many ways in which the cloud can benefit your contact center. 


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What Will Insurance Contact Centers Look Like in 2020?

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For those of us still waiting for our jetpacks, the promise of the future hasn't always lived up to its potential.

But the future always brings other changes, and that will be the case at the insurance contact center as well. The question is, will you be ready to embrace those changes, and perhaps even get ahead of the curve, or be stuck playing catch-up when the competition gets there first - and starts taking some of your policyholders?

Here is what we think is coming....sooner than you might expect.

Human Resources

As contact centers embrace multiple channels for customer communications, agents will have to be skilled in more than one discipline - email, online chat, texting and social media. At the same time, managers will transfer out of a primarily operational role and adopt a more "big picture" outlook on the organization.

Customers

Customers will still need insurance and will still have policy and claim questions that they'll want answered yesterday. Answers to many of the most basic are now provided on company websites, so that helps reduce some of the call volume. But Millennials coming of age in a technology-driven world will the answer to every question available on their smartphones. Thankfully, tomorrow's agents will have grown up with the same technology. 

Workforce Management

Workforce management (WFM) will play a more prominent role in tomorrow's insurance contact centers, as the drive to optimize resources will always be key in this highly competitive industry. Efficient contact centers rely on accurate forecasting, analytics, skill-based routing and capturing important policyholder data. There is no faster or more efficient way to do this than with an automated WFM solution.

And there's no need to wait for the future - Monet WFM Live can do all of that now. Plus, as workforce pattens change, and more employees opt for flexible scheduling to balance their jobs with their personal responsibilities, WFM will have to keep up with even more accurate resource planning, and by making it easier for agents to bid on shifts in a way that does not negatively impact customer service.


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Is it Time to Move Your Insurance Contact Center to the Cloud?

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Six months ago, Fortune magazine published a story with the headline "Why Contact Centers Are Moving to the Cloud." It's just one of many such stories tracking what has become a mass migration. 

Insurance companies have been part of this phenomenon, as they begin to recognize the numerous financial and technological advantages of switching from on-premise hardware and software installation to a cloud delivery model. 

One of the most important of these is cost. By handling WFM in the cloud a call center doesn't have to budget for the purchase of hardware, software, database or data center infrastructure. With a subscription-based cloud system there is no large upfront cost and no licensing fees. Operating expenses are lower as well. The money that is saved can be re-invested in other parts of the company.

The ability to make a fast and trouble-free transition has also helped to grow the cloud market. Traditional solutions take a great deal of time to install - how would an insurance call center be impacted during this long transitional period, when customers may not conveniently stop having policy questions until it's finished? Cloud solutions also provide a more intuitive end-user experience, which shortens the learning curve for call center agents. With the cloud, downtime is reduced and ROI is achieved faster. 

Flexibility? Scalability? These attributes are more easily achieved the cloud as well. Cloud service providers allow companies to increase or decrease existing resources as needed to accommodate changing demand. Plus, with the cloud it's easier to operate multiple contact centers from one facility, to accommodate agents working from home, and to make it more convenient for those that wish to access applications from a mobile device. 

If there has been one lingering concern with this technology, it has been security. For insurance companies and healthcare providers where the protection of customer information is paramount, any perceived vulnerability would be enough to steer clear of cloud adoption. 

But if that concern was ever justified, it certainly is not anymore. The cloud now offers a range of security measures to protect data, communications and the physical data centers where information is stored. Several layers of security measures and processes are built into the cloud infrastructure, platform and services. All client access endpoints are secured, with alerts for password brute-force attacks that prevent those accounts from being compromised. Built-in firewalls provide additional protection, and many clouds also offer encrypted data storage.

If your insurance call center has still not investigated the numerous advantages of cloud computing, what are you waiting for? Monet can help. 


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Medical Contact Centers: What is Workforce Optimization?

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Perhaps you know the answer to that question. Or perhaps you just think you do.

There are two definitions for workforce optimization (WFO) – one that provides a general assessment and one specific to the contact center industry.

The general definition, or at least the one offered by Technopedia, is: “A strategy used in business with a focus on maximum customer satisfaction and benefits with minimal operational costs and supported by integrated technologies, cross-functional processes and shared objectives.”

All of these qualities would certainly apply to a healthcare contact center, but would also work for any number of professional pursuits. When we think WFO for our industry, the definition incorporates specific functionality that helps deliver better patient care, such as call recording, workforce management, quality management and speech analytics. 

We’re exploring this topic because of a recent Gartner report predicting that by the end of 2018, 70% of organizations with more than 300 contact center agents will be working with an integrated workforce optimization solution, either on-premise or in the cloud. 

That’s about 20 months away. If you have not yet explored the possibilities of WFO, there is a real risk of falling behind other healthcare organizations committed to maximizing efficiency and customer service. It’s a big decision that will impact every aspect of your company, even beyond the confines of the call center itself. 

When you’re ready, start with a list of priorities and then seek out the solution best suited to meet them. Also, as so many business processes will be affected, look for a WFO application that can be implemented and integrated in a way that reduces the learning curve, while working toward ROI from day one. Price will also be a likely consideration, so a cloud solution may be the answer to achieving your technology goals at a cost you can afford.



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Take a Fresh Look at Your IVR

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The IVR at a contact center is like the drill in a dentist’s office. It has to be there, but no customer ever wants to experience it. 

Still, this may be the first involvement a customer may have with your company, so it’s important to make the best first impression possible. Given most people’s reactions to recorded messages, that may be an uphill battle. 

When is the last time you reviewed your IVR, and whether it is helping or hindering customer relations? If it’s time for a checkup, here are some tips to help. 

1. Brevity

The faster the IVR gets customers the answer they seek, or to an agent, the less intrusive it will appear. Long marketing messages incorporated into caller options are usually perceived as annoying, not informative.

2. Clarity

Are the menu options clear? Will a caller always know which selection will get them where they need to go?

3. Anticipation

Have all of the most prominent reasons for customer contact been taken into consideration? Are most callers hitting the ‘0’ to speak to an agent right away because the IVR does not present them with a better option? 

4. Inclusion

Have your customer demographics changed? Are recorded messages available in more than one language? Does the recording use phrases that may be familiar to some but not to others (slang)?

5. Automation

Can your IVR be tied to speech analytics for even faster and more accurate call routing?

With these assessments, you should be able to arrive at a better assessment of what the IVR is supposed to achieve, view the system from the perspective of your customers, create a message that is clear and simple, and measure rates of IVR abandonment (and where they occur) to further fine-tune the end result. 



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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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