Call Center Software Hints, Tips & Best Practices
The quest to improve call center productivity and customer service requires both experienced agents and the right call center software.
Many businesses opt for a workforce optimization or workforce management suite, for the efficiencies they deliver compared to using spreadsheets. It’s an investment that once required a large upfront cost, but with today’s cloud-based solutions that is no longer the case.
The following blogs and articles offer more information about the many benefits that can be derived from call center software. Interested in Monet’s WFO in the cloud solution?
Find out more here. Still have questions? Search for answers here.
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.
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.
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
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.).
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. Watch Demo
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.
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.
Read White Paper
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.
Are the menu options clear? Will a caller always know which selection will get them where they need to go?
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?
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)?
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.
We were so busy at the recent ICMI Contact Center Demo and Conference in Long Beach, California, we didn’t even have time to see the Queen Mary, docked just a short distance away.
But that’s not surprising when we’re gathered with thousands of contact center industry professionals, discussing what’s new in the industry, and helping managers realize the
benefits of automated workforce management, particularly when it’s delivered via the cloud. As always there were a number of sessions related to managing technology, operations and personnel, as well as fresh ideas for better strategy and leadership. There were also sessions on managing smaller contact centers with less than 50 agents. We had several discussions with managers at these smaller centers, who were looking for ways to achieve more accurate forecasts and schedules than what they were getting from spreadsheets. We offered demos of Monet WFM Live – Workforce Management in the Cloud, and they were always impressed by its capabilities. But was it worth the investment for a smaller business? We showed them how ROI could be achieved much more quickly with the cloud delivery model, and how they would never have to pay for another software update, as they would always be implemented automatically at no cost.
If you missed this year’s ICMI event, we hope to see you at the next one this fall, or at Contact Center Week next month in Las Vegas. Don’t miss these opportunities to find out more about new technology, new customer engagement channels, and new ways to recruit and train agents. Learn More
What happens when a business can no longer handle incoming call volume with the personnel they have? For some, it means the decision to create a contact center to make sure this important function is handled in a way that optimizes the customer experience.
If this seems like a difficult challenge, here is some advice on how to make the job a little easier. Even if you have a contact center in place now, this piece might offer some helpful advice on how to make it better.
Layout will obviously be determined by the space available – are you opening in a separate building, or devoting part of your current workspace to call center functions? Either way, the objective is to make it as conducive as possible to efficient service and teamwork. That means sufficient lighting and ventilation, work stations with comfortable chairs that make it easy for agents to communicate with each other, but not so close that they’re interfering with each other’s calls. For a quieter atmosphere add acoustic wall panels or carpeting. Don’t forget a nice break room.
If you already have contact centers and this is an additional location, the first place to look for agents, managers and coaches is within your organization. Perhaps some will want to move to a newer facility that might be located closer to their homes. Otherwise, follow the same practices you do when offsetting attrition at your current businesses. Make sure to hire bilingual agents, as well as those more adept at text, online chat and social media.
Obviously start with the essentials – a secure LAN, predictive dialers for outbound calls, VoIP, IVR, and an automatic call distributor that routes calls to specific agents. A call recording system is a must for legal protection and agent training. This can be acquired as part of a workforce optimization solution that includes
workforce management, quality management, screen capture, performance management and agent analytics. With this technology in place, you’ll be able to do a better job of forecasting and scheduling from day one, while providing your agents with everything they need to serve your customers. Learn More
The calendar says we’re closer to Easter than Halloween, but we have a few contact center horror stories to share, and they’re too good to keep until October.
A customer opened a web chat with a cable TV provider. The company responded only with pre-prepared template messages – until the customer was shocked to see the personal information of another customer pop up on his screen. When this was brought to the agent’s attention, she typed, “Oh, sorry… hehe… I am typing in 2 other windows, and got confused." Another cable TV customer called to cancel service that had originally been ordered in her husband’s name. Her husband had recently died. When she explained this to the agent, the agent responded that he would still have to contact them to cancel. A corporate customer called a computer company to report that the 12 laptops he had purchased were not working. The agent’s response: “What do you want me to do about it?” A customer with a billing question was transferred to an account specialist. As soon as the call picked up, the agent yelled, You, I told you not to call me again.” When the customer questioned what was going on, the call was disconnected. The customer of an Internet service provider called to ask about a company’s bundling offers with cable TV, and the agent tried for more than 30 minutes to sell that customer a home security system. After the call ended, during which the customer did order cable, a technician arrived a few days later to install the cable – and the home security system that was never ordered. Some of these sad-but-true anecdotes, like the now-famous tale of the customer that was on hold with Comcast for more than three hours, are clearly aberrations from normal procedure. But we live in a time when one bad experience gets shared on social media, repeated on industry blogs, and may even go viral. So when we ask the question of why customers hate contact centers, these exceptional examples of bad service cannot be ignored. And as a recent survey from analytics company ForeSee illustrates, customer satisfaction derived from the contact center is crucial to company reputation, brand loyalty and future sales. After receiving feedback from approximately 11,000 contact center customers, each asked to grade their experience on a 100-point scale, ForeSee found that most businesses achieved scores around 70. Those in the 80s are on the right track – but some only managed to edge into the 50s, indicating the need for significant changes to policies, procedures, or personnel. Service-based contact centers tended to receive lower scores, which is not surprising. These are the types of businesses that hear primarily from customers that are already angry or confused, making the agent’s task even more difficult. Two Solutions: Technology and Sensitivity
How is your contact center doing on the customer service scale? Would you hit that 70-range of average success, or is there work to be done?
If it’s time for a fresh look, there are two areas where changes are more likely to bring about better results. Let’s start with agent training, which should extend beyond learning a script or becoming familiar with contact center procedures, and should also stress empathy, patience and understanding. Scripted responses might be more efficient, but it makes customers feel better if they believe they are connecting with a person who acknowledges their frustration, and reassures them that they have come to the right place for the help they need. We’ve mentioned the CARP Method before but it’s worth acknowledging again. CARP is an acronym for “Control, Acknowledge, Refocus, Problem Solve.” It was created by Robert Bacal, who wrote the book If It Wasn’t for the Customers I’d Really Like this Job. His advice for handling complaints – “Control” the situation with polite but firm responses; “Acknowledge concerns in a way that takes them seriously; “Refocus” the conversation to solving the problem rather than complaining about its existence, then “Problem Solve” and wrap it up. However, to be fair to your agents, it is also appropriate to train them on the difference between angry callers open to best practices communication, and the acceptance of an apology when merited, and abusive callers who just want to vent. It may not be possible to salvage these encounters, and it’s acceptable to give up on them when the threats and profanities start flying. Workforce Management Software
All of the burden for customer service should not fall on the agent’s shoulders. The contact center must provide the tools necessary for that agent to do his or her job, as well as provide forecasting and scheduling that assures the presence of enough agents to efficiently handle incoming calls.
That used to be handled with spreadsheets but can now be covered with a workforce management (WFM) solution. With the advanced functionality and the more accurate forecasting and scheduling made possible by WFM, as well as the data it delivers on agent performance, schedule adherence and KPIs, contact center managers can always be assured the contact center’s resources are being utilized in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Among the benefits: Real-Time Adherence
Tracking and schedule adherence are difficult, if not flat-out impossible, with just a spreadsheet. Spot-checks are fine as far as they go, but without the real-time tracking provided by WFM there is a higher risk of over/under staffing, shrinkage and missed service levels.
You know what types of calls your contact center receives, and you know which agents are adept at handling those particular calls. But the process of routing calls to the best recipients is more complex given the number of calls expected in any shift, and the number of agents available to handle them. Skill-based routing becomes less challenging with a WFM solution.
Multi-Location and Multi-Channel Coordination
Companies with multiple contact center locations require a means to coordinate personnel, resources and schedules at each facility so the service they provide is consistent. There may also be agents working from home that must be accounted for. WFM delivers these multi-site capabilities.
Choosing the Best Solution
If you are considering the addition of
WFM, it can be a confusing process. The best way to be assured of choosing the right solution the first time is to be prepared. Have a list of capabilities that you’ll want from your system, such as: • The ability to coordinate in multi-skill, multi-contact environments
Support for email, phone and chat contact channels
The ability to run simulations based on required skills and personnel
The capability to analyze and report on a wide range of agent and scheduling data Next, have your questions ready for the vendors you contact. We’d suggest including these on your list: How will this system integrate with my business? The optimal WFM solution will improve a contact center’s procedures without requiring a complete overhaul of its current system. How much does it cost?
An obvious question but also one that, for many smaller and midsized contact centers, marks the end of the discussion – unless they choose a cloud provider.
How long will it take to set up?
Once again, advantage: Cloud. Set up can be completed in days, with secure access available to agents and managers in the call center and at remote locations.
Is the system easily usable/scalable?
Usability is a priority with most cloud-based solutions, so call center agents and managers can get started more quickly from any location.
No contact center has ever achieved a 100% perfect service record. However, it’s a worthy goal to pursue even if one is doing so with imperfect people – and that includes managers as well as agents. But armed with better training that emphasizes courtesy and customer empathy, combined with a workforce management solution that locates the gaps between the contact center’s available personnel skills and resources, the contact center that inspires customer derision can be transformed into a sales-building protector of the brand.
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 the contact center, but would also work for any number of professional pursuits. When we think WFO for our industry, the definition incorporates specific functionality 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 companies 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 contact 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.
How much can substandard customer service cost your business? Considering a recent Zendesk survey that reported 82% of customers stop doing business with a company that does not treat them well, we would guess the losses engendered by poor service are substantial.
As the contact center is the first point of contact for many customers, it’s a place where service must be constantly emphasized at both the agent and managerial levels. Here are some customer service trends that are gaining more attention in 2016, and may help to improve performance at your contact center. 1. Help Customers Help Themselves
At first “do it yourself” sounds like the antithesis of customer service, until you realize that many customers (more than 50% according to the Harvard Business Review) would prefer visiting a company’s website to having to call a contact center. By offering an array of self-service options, you serve customers better and eliminate many of the calls asking for basic information and services that could be addressed in another way.
But what exactly are those other channels referenced in our previous point? Web, online chat, email and texting are just some of the methods your customers would like to use – and sometimes an issue can be best resolved by switching from one channel to another, without having to close the first engagement. Make it easier for customers to transition from web to voice, and make sure you are tracking that customer journey for quality management purposes.
3. Social Media
Social media is still under-utilized as a business communication tool – but chances are your customers are already using it to discuss your business. It’s important to be represented there so you can respond to comments, positive or negative, as well as promote new offers and generate the types of discussions that will help you serve your customers better. There is an informal nature to Facebook chats that can produce more insight into what your customers are thinking.
4. Video Chat
This is not something you may have to think about yet, but some companies like Amazon have already incorporated this channel into their customer service strategy. Those who enjoy using various webchat services or Skype may wonder why they can’t order products and ask questions from companies the same way. Video chat won’t add much to a contact center budget, but some agent training will be required to acknowledge the differences between a phone conversation and a virtual face-to-face.
5. The Cloud Makes Everything Easier
Will 2016 be the year that the cloud becomes the top platform choice for contact centers? It’s too early to tell but the early returns are encouraging. We’ve covered the reasons for the cloud’s ascension before – lower costs, faster deployment, scalability, flexibility, ease of integration, user-friendliness, and the peace of mind of knowing that your business is always running the most recent and most secure version of the software you need.
If it’s time for your contact center to take a closer look at the benefits of the cloud, Monet WFM is a great place to start.
“It’s the way we’ve always done it.”
That is the explanation managers to use for why certain contact center business practices have not changed for years, if not decades. But while some contact centers stick with traditional solutions, others have been more cognizant of how technology offers better ways to achieve customer satisfaction goals – and how this functionality is now available to contact centers of all sizes regardless of budget, thanks to the cloud. If it’s time to consider an upgrade, here are some questions that you might wish to ask of your next technology provider. Can I get important information on customers to agents in real time? You may already be collecting data on customers, but is there a way to make that available to agents so they can customize their handing of a specific call – or route it to the agent best suited to handle it? Real time information is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity if agents are going to effectively meet a customer’s needs. Can we provide 24/7 access? Your team should be able to stay connected to the contact center wherever they are. Find a browser-based software solution that makes working from home as easy as working in the office. Will this be easy to adopt? A more sophisticated product won’t pay dividends if your agents can’t figure out how to make use of its capabilities. Choose a solution that will allow for a shorter acclimation period, and that will facilitate collaboration among your team members both on and off-site. Will this help our agents be more autonomous? Customers prefer only talking to one person at your contact center, rather than being put on hold or transferred to a supervisor and explaining their issue a second time. More and more, managers are trusting agents to make decisions that might otherwise have required executive approval. However, agents need access to the right data at the service level to make an informed decision.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Larry Elder It’s February – are all your New Year’s Resolutions broken by now? Hopefully not, but if the ones pertaining to your contact center didn’t materialize as you hoped, it’s never too early or too late to start again. This time, you’ll have a better chance of success if each goal is accompanied by specific ideas on how to make it happen. Here are five common contact center goals, and some suggestions of ways you can put them in motion. 1. Reduce Agent Attrition
There are several options available here, starting with sprucing up the office – new chairs, clean restrooms, fresh snack food items in the break room. Agents are more likely to stay when they can work in a clean and welcoming environment. Also, try to inject a little fun into the daily routine, either by launching customer service contests with small prizes for the best-handled calls, birthday celebrations, or more creative spins on casual Fridays – “Fancy Dress Fridays” or “Monday Night Football” days where agents can wear the jersey of their favorite team or player.
While these steps can make the work day more pleasant, some agents – and likely your best ones – will also want to know if their hard work is going to be rewarded with raises or internal promotion for those who have earned it.
Another reason agents leave is when they can’t reconcile the demands of their job with their home life, going to school or working a second job. You won’t be able to solve all these problems, but you can build more flexibility into your schedules to better accommodate agent preferences. For example, consider introducing a shift that finishes at 2pm to help those who need to pick up their children from school.
2. Improve Customer Service
That’s the main goal, isn’t it? And yes, there are countless ways to make it happen. But too often contact center teams will gather at the start of a new year and hear a rah-rah “This year we need to be committed to providing the best service we can” speech, and then it’s back to business as usual.
That’s not enough. If you want better service, you have to first define what that entails. A good place to start is by asking your customers. Have you surveyed them lately? Create a survey that asks questions about your contact center’s performance, its agents and processes, targeting the areas where you believe there is the most need for improvement. Also pay attention to what those customers are saying on social media if you communicate that way. When you have their responses, act on them.
What sort of complaints do contact center customers usually lodge? Too much time on the phone? Too much time on hold? Agents waiting for approvals to provide the caller with what he or she needs? Then perhaps another way to boost customer service is to empower your agents.
You’ll know best where implementing this policy would be most effective – perhaps provide agents with additional training so they can talk down angry callers without transferring them to a supervisor, or giving them the authority to approve returns or restoring funds to a customer’s credit card. Not only will this make your customers happier, it will also free up your managers and supervisors to focus on other matters, which should further boost contact center efficiency.
Here’s another thought – how are you assessing metrics? Is it all about hitting predetermined numbers, or is it about making sure callers are getting the assistance they need? Make sure your focus is more on effectiveness. It’s worth putting up with calls that stray outside your Average Handle Time target if they result in a satisfied customer.
3. Improve Your IVR
Having IVR can boost call center efficiency in several ways: calls are routed faster, questions can be answered without agent involvement, hold times are reduced, and for contact centers that are not open 24/7, IVR offers a means for customers to still obtain information.
However, for some customers IVR is not only inefficient, it’s downright annoying. Customers over 40 in particular may not be as willing to “talk to a machine,” and if they have to repeatedly “press 1” or tell that overly-friendly recorded voice what type of service they need, they are more likely to just hang up.
How can you tell if your IVR is helping business – or hurting it?
Analyzing calls and listening in to IVR interactions will provide the insight you need to make this determination. So it’s important to start your
call recording and quality monitoring at the IVR, not when the agent takes the call.
If you are losing too many calls during the IVR process, it’s time to make changes. Is there a way to explain the caller’s options more clearly? Is there a means for the caller to bypass the system quickly if they insist on speaking to an agent? In addition to reviewing call recording data, a caller survey that requests feedback on the IVR stage of the call can also yield insight into what customers like, and what they do not.
4. Better Communication
In this case, the challenge is not communication between agent and customer, but between agent and manager, and within the other employee tiers at your contact center. Internal communication is just as important as external communication, and should be encouraged. One way to make it happen is to have agents serve as managers or coaches for a shift. Or make sure that managers spend at least some time on the contact center floor every day.
5. Upgrade Your Technology
A 2015 survey found that 67% of industry professionals specified budget as the biggest barrier to improving their contact center. But with the evolution of
cloud workforce management tools, a business can upgrade to state-of-the-art technology without the large upfront costs of hardware and software investment. Depending on the system, an on-premise solution could run $100,000 or more.
Better still, once the
cloud solution is implemented it will always be upgraded regularly to new software versions as they are released, at no additional cost to the business. When a manual software upgrade is necessary, the cost can be prohibitive enough to be put off, which reduces a call center’s ability to operate at maximum efficiency. Conclusion
Motivated agents, upgraded technology, better communication and a renewed focus on customer service – now you’re ready to tackle those resolutions.
Scheduling mistakes are frustrating for managers and agents, and ultimately for your customers. You review your forecasts and you do your best, but if the numbers on paper are not matching up with what happens during a shift, here are some possible reasons why, and what you can do to achieve better results.
Historical data reveals patterns that should make scheduling easier and more accurate. But don’t just stay in the shallow end of the data pool and factor in the obvious peak calling times and slower portions of a day or a week. Account for holidays and seasonal shifts, new product introductions and weather impact. And make sure your schedule includes lunch breaks, training sessions and other times when agents will not be available to take calls. An
automated workforce management solution is the easiest way to collect and analyze this data, and then schedule accordingly. Shrinkage
The further out you create a schedule, the more you’ll have to account for
shrinkage. You can foresee sick days and vacations for the week ahead – but two months from now? It’s impossible – so consider shrinkage so the circumstances you can’t anticipate now will not result in an under-staffed contact center. Schedule Breaks as Well as Work Time
It’s one thing to account for breaks within a schedule – it’s another to actually affix them to a specific time, and expect your agents to adhere to it. Otherwise you may have too many agents taking breaks or heading out to lunch together at the same time, which will derail any schedule. WFM software can automatically assign breaks at the optimum time, so that impact on coverage and service level is minimized.
Work With Your Agents’ Needs When Possible
Agents are more likely to
adhere to a schedule when the contact center is open to their work preferences. At a typical business there may be full time and part time agents, some working for home and some for whom this is a second job. Taking these factors into consideration will require more flexibility in schedule creation, but there are definite benefits to having a range of shift solutions available. Full-Time vs. Part-Time
There is a stability to a full-time agent team that many contact centers find more desirable. But call patterns may result in too many agents collecting salary for doing nothing. That’s why some contact centers hire enough full-time employees to cover anticipated demand, and use part-timers to handle peak hours. The right mix will vary depending upon the business, but many find a 75% to 25% ratio of full-time to part-time agents will suffice.
When it is easier for agents to manage their preferences, it is easier for managers to create schedules that take into account their future availability. This should be a consideration when choosing a
WFM solution. Don’t Make Assumptions on Agent Preferences
“No one is going to want to work Saturday night.” Really? What about the agent who would rather attend his daughter’s soccer game on Saturday afternoon? Chances are you won’t need as many agents for the types of shifts generally viewed as undesirable, but you may be surprised at how many part-time or work from home agents will gladly take them. Don’t look for scheduling problems where they may not exist.
Regular Shift Reviews
Most veteran agents do not embrace shift reviews willingly. But contact centers should go through this process at least once or twice each year to confirm whether shift schedules are meeting customer service goals, and to determine if personnel changes might further optimize the agent skill sets available at any given time.
Equal Access to Preferred Shifts
One aspect of maintaining agent morale is making sure your team members believe they are being treated fairly, especially when it comes to the hours and shifts they are assigned. Scheduling that allocates more desirable shifts to the same agents week in and week out will alienate some employees, and that could impact their job performance and productivity. By distributing shifts equitably during the scheduling process, you can avoid such resentments before they are passed on to your customers.
Fill Vacant Positions as Quickly as Possible
This may be obvious but it still needs to be said. Few contact centers are immune to the challenges of agent attrition. The recruitment, hiring and training process to fill open positions is one that nobody enjoys, as well as one that places additional cost burdens on the contact center. However, the alternative is moving forward short-staffed, which inhibits scheduling flexibility and puts more stress on the agents you still have. It also limits your capacity to dismiss under-performing agents, as someone taking calls is better than no one at all. Resist the temptation to wait for peak season to begin your next recruitment campaign.
The Right Tool for the Job
Part of optimum scheduling is making sure the right agents are handling the right calls. With a tool like
Monet Record you’ll have insightful data on how different agents handle different calls. That gives managers a way to determine which team members are best suited for different customer engagements. Monet Quality makes it easier to retrieve calls by specific type, and provides additional reporting and analytics to further assess each agent’s skills.
Unfortunately, the status quo rarely remains the same in any call center, so all these calculations must be regularly updated and re-examined.
Monet Metrics delivers agent analytics, real-time alerts, scorecards and customizable reports, as well as data on key performance indicators such as agent adherence and service levels. This information can then be used in conjunction with workforce management to further refine the art and science of scheduling. Watch Demo
If there were a way to buy stock in
cloud computing, this would be a good time to do it. A 2015 Research and Markets report states that the cloud telecom industry, which includes cloud contact center ecosystems, is expanding at an annual growth rate of more than 25 percent. Perhaps you can’t invest in an entire industry, but you can certainly invest in a cloud-based solution for workforce optimization, which will also pay significant dividends in benefits to your contact center budget, day-to-day efficiency, and customer service levels. Hosting contact centers in the cloud has also been known to significantly reduce aspirin and other pain relief usage among managers, as it eliminates many of the headache causes that used to be unavoidable in this business, from hardware failures and networking issues to the budget-bursting costs of maintaining an IT department and keeping up with new software versions. Consider the change in just one everyday contact center capability – call recording. In the pre-cloud era, adding 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 for agents 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 call centers enjoy a tremendous cost savings and a lower upfront equipment investment. Smaller contact 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? Learn More
In looking back over a number of stories covering the contact center industry in 2015, certain themes quickly emerge. Putting aside those not relevant to this blog, such as the opening of new facilities and the trend toward insourcing, we selected two that merit renewed attention, as they will certainly be influential on the industry in this coming year as well.
Let’s start with the prediction that contact centers will be primarily digital within the next two years.
It’s not exactly a surprising trend, but one that emerged out of the gradual adoption and acceptance of other communication channels in response to customer preference.
Many stories on this topic came with dire forecasts about the demise of the traditional call center, as more people turn to email, Web chat, social media and mobile app interactions to get their questions answered. Instead, such capabilities have been folded into the contact center environment, where agents trained in these disciplines offer the same service they did on the telephone. And while these channels continue to gain in popularity, there are also strong indications that telephone agents will still be necessary for many years to come.
The other theme found throughout 2015 coverage is that of optimizing the customer experience, and indeed there is some crossover here with the multichannel approach. But another aspect of this is shortening the customer’s progression from point A to point B by finding out more quickly what that customer needs, and finding more efficient ways to provide it.
That responsibility falls primarily on the insight and experience of the agent, but can be aided immeasurably by analytics solutions that make it easier to determine the best course of action.
Typically deployed as part of a
workforce optimization (WFO) solution, analytics has become a primary driver of performance and quality monitoring improvements.
Such capabilities have long been limited to only the largest contact centers with the largest operations budgets. But the advent of
cloud-based WFO software has brought these sophisticated solutions within the reach of small and midsized facilities.
The Monet version of speech analytics and desktop analytics is part of our award-winning WFO Live product. Both new platforms deliver detailed, data-driven insight into daily call center operations and customer behavior, but without the significant investment that such benefits used to require. Learn More
Letters to Santa and holiday wish lists are a part of Christmas celebrations around the world. But if you could create a wish list for your contact center, what would you ask for?
This is not just a fanciful exercise. Writing down your goals for 2016 can be the first step toward achieving them. What is most important to the future success of your business right now – more accurate forecasts? A better way to create schedules? Call recording software? Finding improved ways to automate tasks? Different call centers will have different lists, but a Workforce Management (WFM) solution in the cloud may figure prominently in the answers to many of them. Santa can’t bring it, but Monet Software can. Here are a few more items that may be on your wish list. Screen Recording
Listening to recorded calls can boost the efficiency of your contact center. Listening to these calls while watching how agents relate to customers offers even more insight into employee performance, customer service and how technology is being leveraged for maximum benefit. With Monet Screen Capture, it is possible to review synchronized voice and video of your agents’ interactions. We’ve created a video demo that takes you through the process, from capturing customer interactions to the platform’s archiving and reporting capabilities.
Since 2/3 of customer interactions still take place over the telephone, speech analytics has become a more prominent source for customer insight. With Monet WFO Live’s speech analytics capabilities, contact centers gain even more insight from their call recording solution. With automated alerts triggered by voice data, managers have access to critical business intelligence that boosts both agent performance and the customer experience.
If you want even more transparency into how your contact center functions, what agents are doing at their desks, whether your business is in compliance with government or industry guidelines on information gathering, and where your procedures are falling short of expectations, desktop analytics may have the answers. Where speech analytics is primarily customer-focused, desktop analytics (DA) delivers insight on your agents and your processes. It captures and analyzes all agent desktop activities in real time, and it improves process automation and workflow.
Download our Free New Whitepaper
Technology plays a vital role in the contact center. Managers face a difficult choice when it comes to selecting a technology provider, as they must take into account not only the vendor but also the delivery method through which crucial contact center software will be accessed.
There are three options: an on-premise solution, where hardware and software must be installed, deployed and maintained at the contact center; a hosted system, where software is purchased but is installed at an outside service provider, and a cloud system, which converts such physical resources as processors and storage into Internet resources.
How should a manager decide which is best for his company? Our new whitepaper was created to answer the most common questions about the three systems, and to compare them based on several important factors, including:
Of course, for many businesses the most significant determining factor will be cost. That’s why the whitepaper analyzes the many different budget considerations associated with each delivery method.
Don’t invest in your next
workforce management or workforce optimization solution without downloading our new whitepaper: Cost and Benefit Comparison: Cloud vs. Premise vs. Hosted. It’s free!
Download White Paper
How can we deliver a better customer experience? That question is one faced by every contact center manager, especially after returning from a tradeshow full of new ideas, or reviewing last quarter’s numbers and not being happy with the results. New ideas are great, but they should be built from a solid foundation, and that means an older idea that always works – workforce optimization. This is the clearest way to make your business stand out when it comes to customer service. One good customer experience can have a very positive impact on loyalty, retention and word of mouth recommendations. Unfortunately, the same is true of one bad experience. WFO helps contact centers operate more effectively, by delivering the tools and data necessary for agents to do their jobs. When agents know what to do, and managers know what their agents are doing, the result is more satisfactory customer experiences. And to turbo-charge your WFO, employ it in conjunction with speech and desktop analytics. Now you have even more data on agent productivity and performance, and you gain faster insight into different types of customer questions and inquiries so they can be routed to the right agent. Monet’s WFO Live features workforce management and call recording, both essential for forecasting, scheduling and training. Plus you’ll find solutions for quality management and performance measurement, all delivered from the cloud, so you won’t be making a significant investment in hardware and software. For small contact centers with just a few dozen agents, or major contact centers with hundreds of personnel working round the clock, workforce optimization is a vital component of a successful business.
Hundreds of blogs, websites and magazines publish pieces about what a new year will bring. Not many of them go back later to review the accuracy of their predictions. So we found a piece from the beginning of 2014 featuring five technology trends believed headed for the contact center this year. Let’s see how it did. 1. Hybrid Cloud Adoption
It was anticipated that 2015 would see more contact centers with a hybrid environment, where some solutions were accessed from the cloud and others were installed on-site. While such businesses exist, the more prominent trend has been turning everything over to the cloud, because of the flexibility and cost-savings possible.
2. Virtual Agents
Would 2015 be the year of the virtual agent? Final stats aren’t in but thus far we are not seeing any indication of a significant increase in telecommuting, though this is a movement that has seen steady growth over the past decade. Cloud-based workforce management that allows agents to access the technology they need from any location will, if anything, expedite this trend.
3. Customer Service Apps
The smartphone, many predict, will change how customers interact with companies, and may even result in the extinction of the contact center. But while more companies have introduced customer service apps in 2015, contact centers are not going anywhere anytime soon.
4. Attack of the Big Data
Frost & Sullivan defines Big Data as volumes of data so large and moving at such a high velocity that they are difficult or impossible to work with using traditional database management tools. There has indeed been a growing influx of data from both traditional and new sources, including data logs, social networks, and clickstream data in web interactions. Monet Software has devised solutions to make this data more accessible and better organized, so it can be used to bring a new level of customer insight, and help drive real-time decisions on customer handling and workflow.
5. Multi-channel Access
This prediction was certainly accurate. Companies can no longer be content with traditional call center functionality. Customers now expect to reach out via other channels and receive the same quality response. For contact centers this means not just having qualified personnel in the right positions, but the ability to capture data across the channel spectrum that will help deliver better service in the future.
Change is never easy. Perhaps that is why many contact centers are still reluctant to make a switch from their software-based technology to the cloud. Even the prospect of no longer dealing with maintenance, storage or utility costs is not enough to offset concerns about whether a hosted contact center solution really delivers on everything it promises.
Here are some of the most common reasons why businesses hesitate, and how we address them with our clients – most of whom ultimately make the cloud transition, and now couldn’t be happier. 1. I’ll lose too much business during the transition!
Actually, you won’t. The cloud solution will be customized, prepared and tested before it is live, and can run parallel with your hardware solution during the actual conversion, so it can continue to function if an issue arises. Typically, however, the switch to cloud is quick and easy.
2. Is it really better?
Absolutely. It is more flexible, it is more scalable, there are no upfront costs, you pay only for what you need, you’ll receive software upgrades automatically as soon as they come available (without receiving a bill every time that happens) which makes it easier to work with home-based agents and other telecommuting personnel. These are just some of the benefits you’ll enjoy from day one.
3. I’m worried about turning over control of my data to a cloud
Maybe they should have found a better word when the technology was introduced, so it doesn’t seem like your data is traveling somewhere so distant. But the reality is you are still in control, just as you were when the hardware was sitting in your contact center. You can make changes as you need them, and with Monet you’ll also have the expertise of our dedicated support team to answer any questions.
4. It costs too much
Not at all. Hosted solutions cost 1/3 less than hardware solutions (and that is a conservative estimate on total savings). In fact, cost is one of the primary reasons why companies make the switch.
5. The cloud is unreliable
Once again, the opposite is true. Cloud solutions are actually 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.
According to a study sponsored in part by Oxford Economics, 69% of businesses surveyed expect to invest in the cloud either moderately or heavily over the next three years, migrating their core business functions as a result.
These findings are consistent with a Forbes magazine piece published in June of 2015, suggesting that 55% of enterprise predict cloud computing will enable new business models in three years.
Why are these transitions taking place, particularly at contact centers that seek the benefits of a comprehensive workforce optimization solution?
With the cloud, a call center can be up and running with new WFO software in just days. Traditional WFO can take weeks, and sometimes months, to install.
No upfront investment for hardware and software is required for WFO in the cloud. Instead, contact 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.
The cloud gives contact centers room to grow, and upgrade the functionality they need when they need it. With a server on-premises, a contact center is limited by what that server can handle. Many call centers also report better ease of use with a software as a service (SaaS) solution.
All upgrades are automatically delivered free with WFO in the cloud. Upgrades to traditional hardware and software are an important revenue source for their respective manufacturers, so they won’t be going away.
There is always some risk when a call center invests in new technology. But with a cloud system it is easier to cancel a service that is not satisfactory. This is not always the case with a substantial upfront hardware/software investment.
The annual Call Center Week Conference and Expo is one of the largest industry events of the year. Monet Software is proud to take part in the 2015 conference, which will be held at The Mirage in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 15-19. Please visit our booth (#609), where we look forward to meeting with customers and contact centers managers, and to exploring new trends in the industry. This year, the focus is on customer-centric service. Sessions and topics on the agenda include: “Value in the Voice of the Customer,” “Why the Customer Experience Matters and What you Can Do About It,” and “Customer Experience Journey Mapping in a Digital World.” But as always, there will be speeches from industry experts on a multitude of other subjects, from how to ignite employee engagement to advanced strategies in chat support and call center cloud strategies. If you have not registered yet, or would like more information about the 16 th annual Call Center Week Conference and Expo, visit their website at http://www.callcenterweek.com/.
Every year, the experts at CIO Review choose the top 20 contact center technology solution providers – those the publication believes are making a difference in this volatile market. Monet Software’s cloud-based workforce optimization solution appears on this year’s list. “Monet Software has been on our radar for some time for stirring a revolution in the Contact Center technology space, and we are happy to showcase them this year due to their continuing excellence in delivering top-notch technology-driven solutions,” said Harvi Sachar, CIO Review’s founder and publisher. At Monet we appreciate the recognition from such a prestigious source as CIO Review. The press release announcing Monet’s selection can be found here. Of course, our customers have known about the benefits of our unified WFO solution for some time. They have experienced how it has optimized the utilization of contact center resources, how it improves service levels and productivity, and how it can boost revenues with an investment much lower than what is required for an on-premise solution.
You can read the article on the top 20 solution providers on the CIO Review website. Learn More
If business patterns from the previous few years continue, 2015 will see more companies than ever making the choice to break away from the high cost and maintenance responsibilities of supporting their IT infrastructure in house. The alternative – moving to the cloud – offers a number of significant benefits for contact centers in technology, efficiency and cost. So far, so good. The challenge now for contact centers is choosing a provider that delivers an authentic cloud solution, rather than one attempting to exploit the benefits of the “cloud” name, while offering a product that is no different (and in some cases, worse) than a traditional hardware/software system. Buyer Beware If all hosted software offerings labeled as “cloud” are anything but, how can you tell the difference? It’s not enough to review the marketing collateral provided by vendors – do your homework first so you are already familiar with how a genuine cloud solution works, and which questions to ask to make sure you are getting the right product. A true cloud solution is built from the ground up with software coded to perform better as a fully hosted solution. Applications can be customized in a way that will not cause complications as new product enhancements are introduced. And since all updates and upgrades are automatic, and do not require additional cost, your contact center is always assured of operating with the most up-to-date functionality. If such product upgrades are delayed, it may mean you have been stuck with a fake cloud solution. Result? A system with all of the problems and costs associated with an on-premise solution. It won’t be as scalable as the cloud, or as efficient. In addition to delayed and difficult product upgrades, a fake cloud solution will entail other drawbacks that will have a negative impact on your business. Don’t be surprised if downtime increases as a result of the limited resources of the hosting set up. Security could also be an issue, as the provider may not have the most important industry certifications, such as PCI-DSS security compliance, EU Safe Harbor certification, and SSAE 16 (SOC1) Type II audit completions. Finally, any company that would misrepresent the most basic features of its product is one that will likely not be in business for the long haul. Imagine that worst case scenario – your service provider goes out of business, and you are forced to quickly find another vendor and make the switch, risking loss of data or data access. Or you can start over building an in-house solution, which will not be cheap. The Qualities (and Quality) of a True Cloud Provider True cloud solutions are typically more scalable and more reliable than hosting of traditional software, while offering the advantages that companies expect from a cloud delivery system, including: • Automatic upgrades to new software versions • Fast and secure system access from anywhere with web access • close to 100% guaranteed uptime • Advanced data privacy protection • Easy integration with other applications • No significant upfront investment Additional Resources For more information on the differences between fake clouds and true clouds, there are a number of third-party resources available online which specify industry standards, while highlighting additional benefits of the cloud computing model. Here are just some of the most popular: The Cloud Standards Consumer Council (cloudstandardsconsumercouncil.org) The CSCC is an end-user advocacy group established to address the lack of a customer driven prioritization and focus within the cloud standards development process. The Council separates the hype from the reality on how to leverage what customers have today, and has established a core set of client-driven requirements to ensure cloud users have the same freedom of choice, flexibility, and openness they have with traditional IT environments. Publications available on the website include The CSCC Practical Guide to Cloud Computing and The CSCC Practical Guide to Cloud Service Level Agreements. The Cloud Computing Use Cases Group (cloudusecases.org) While this site has not been recently updated, it offers two solid white papers on common use cases for cloud computing. It is also a helpful source for cloud information in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. The Open Group (opengroup.org) The Open Group is a consortium comprised of IT experts around the world who have developed several IT standards, while providing a number of assets related to cloud computing. These include The Open Group Cloud Computing for Businesses, a publication that can be downloaded for free, as well as several white papers including Building Return on Investment from Cloud Computing. Conclusion 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. However, with cloud computing growing so rapidly, many vendors are trying to position themselves as cloud providers by re-labeling and re-branding traditional on-premise software applications. This can lead to problems with upgrades, process integration and business viability. Customers need to be able to recognize a true cloud solution as one that was designed from a web-based, multi-tenant, self-service perspective, and provides secure and easy access over the Internet, so contact center agents can work from anywhere at any time.
A few simple questions about cloud-computing and some time spent on researching the background and reputation of the provider should quickly clear up any uncertainty about the type of product being offered, and whether it qualifies as genuine.
Monet Software picked up a little hardware during 2014, with two contact center awards from TMC.
Back in March, Monet WFO Live: Workforce Optimization in the Cloud was selected as a
2014 Product of the Year for exceptional innovation
, by TMC’s CUSTOMER magazine.
And last month, WFO Live was designated as a finalist for the
2014 Customer Experience Innovation Award
, presented by the same publication.
this season of good will, we would like to express our appreciation to
all of those that helped make this happen. Thank you to our customers
that trusted in Monet, and thank you to all of the managers, supervisors
and agents that use Monet software on a daily basis.
also like to thank all of our employees for their hard work and
dedication. As we look back on the achievements of 2014, they inspire us
to work even harder in 2015 and beyond to continue providing the best
contact center solutions to meet the needs of our clients.