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Verint Monet - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog Page 12

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Test Drive Your Holiday Preparation Plan

It’s December, so chances are you’ve already outlined and implemented your strategy for handling the increased call volume caused by the holidays. 

Is it working? Great! But if it’s not, it may be time to take a closer look at the plan and see if something was missed. 

Here’s an idea for the next time you anticipate a call spike: take the contact center for a test drive. There is no substitute for practice, not only to confirm that you have the right resources in place, but to allow your agents (particularly the newer hires) to acclimate to the pressures of a more hectic work environment. 

The objective is to recreate real-world conditions, which means you’ll need personnel to take on the role of callers, and agents and managers reviewing results as they happen. 

Perform multiple drills. The idea is to reveal unforeseen hurdles that can impact customer service. It may also be a good idea to add an unexpected challenge to observe how your team responds. Let’s face it: you can’t plan for everything, so this is a chance to find out if you have agents and managers in place who can adapt under fire. 

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

That is the question. A test drive will deliver the kind of insight that can detect and prevent problems before they occur at the worst possible moment. 

Try a few practice runs before your next busy weekend or special event – it will improve your odds of keeping the contact center running smoothly. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/test-drive-your-holiday-preparation-plan

Publish Date: December 3, 2015 5:00 AM


What are the Real Differences Between On-Premise, Hosted and Cloud Solutions?

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:

Security

• Start-up Time

• Scalability

• Upgrades

• Integration

• Flexibility

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!

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/what-are-the-real-differences-between-on-premise-hosted-and-cloud-solutions

Publish Date: November 30, 2015 5:00 AM


What are the Real Differences Between On-Premise, Hosted and Cloud Solutions?

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:

• Security

• Start-up Time

• Scalability

• Upgrades

• Integration

• Flexibility

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!

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Optimization/post/what-are-the-real-differences-between-on-premise-hosted-and-cloud-solutions

Publish Date: November 30, 2015 5:00 AM


Workforce Management Trends in 2016

It’s never too early to start looking ahead to next year (as you may have noticed from all the news coverage about the 2016 presidential election). 

When the topic is workforce management, there are already signs of trends that will likely continue into next year and beyond. As 2015 winds down, here is what is happening at contact centers throughout the U.S. – how are you approaching these issues?

Higher Investments in Personnel

When employees are viewed as an asset instead of a cost center, it impacts how they are recruited, hired, trained and maintained. This takes into account management and contact center procedures as well, but workforce management can contribute to agent satisfaction by making flexible scheduling possible, and making it easier for agents to work the hours and shifts they prefer.

Hiring Millennials

This is a natural generational occurrence happening at all types of businesses, including contact centers. Millennials have grown up with technology and will know the difference on day one between WFM that makes them more efficient, and systems that fall short. 

The Infusion of Analytics

WFM is bolstered by speech and desktop analytics tools that deliver more insight into customers and their needs. 

Changing Platforms

More mobile devices, more social media prominence, and gamification are just some of the overarching technology trends that may impact the evolution of WFM software suites. Consumer devices now set the pace, so contact centers may anticipate the adoption of their features and functionality in the workplace. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/workforce-management-trends-in-2016

Publish Date: November 25, 2015 5:00 AM


The True Definition of Quality

When you think of quality, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the efficiency of a contact center that is meeting its customer service goals? Is it the quality monitoring solution that helps managers identify issues and resolve them?

These are important, yes. But quality is more basic than that. It begins as a mindset, an approach to work and achieving goals that must be shared by every contact center manager, coach, trainer and agent. Yes, there are quality processes that can and should be put into place, but if the people behind them are not dedicated to making the best decisions for the business and its customers, these processes will not be sufficient by themselves. 

How can we take that quality mindset and put it into action? It starts by being proactive. The goal is to spot problems and solve them when there is still time to do so, even if it requires above-and-beyond effort. Stories of this abound in the business world – hotel managers who drive two hours to return a credit card to a guest about to board an international flight; the gift-wrap employee at the department store who adds an extra bow and the more expensive ribbon to make every package look special. 

That type of quality doesn’t exist solely at the top or the bottom of the organization – it must be present at all levels. It must be so prevalent that those agents or other personnel who lack the quality mindset will find themselves engulfed by it from every direction, so they must either rise to meet the same expectations or seek employment somewhere else. 

Author Amitava Kar, one of the world’s leading experts on quality management, once said “The quality of an organization will not improve unless, and until, we have (people) with a caring mindset…leaders must embrace quality as their personal responsibility and must demonstrate quality in their behaviors and actions before they can expect people to trust or follow them.” 

When this is achieved, then you may be confident that your contact center will maximize the great potential inherent in a quality management solution. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Quality-Management/post/the-true-definition-of-quality

Publish Date: November 24, 2015 5:00 AM


Workforce Management and Labor Costs

We’ve discussed the convenience, efficiency and customer service benefits of workforce management software in previous blogs. We’ve also covered the cost benefits, but there is one aspect to this topic that perhaps isn’t as prominent as it should be – the positive impact WFM can have on labor costs. 

In the contact center, labor costs can amount to more than hourly wages. Overtime is becoming a common occurrence as businesses struggle to cope with more flexible shifts and schedules. Managers may not like it but they accept it as an unavoidable cost of doing business. 

With WFM, these same managers can achieve detailed insight into labor issues and agent schedules. That visibility results in more optimized schedules that proactively minimize overtime and can trigger alerts on when overtime thresholds are approaching, so action can be taken to prevent it. 

Ironically, one of the main reasons smaller and midsized contact centers hesitate to invest in a workforce management solution is how much it costs. But WFM in the cloud alleviates most of those concerns, and will be a wise investment for everything it delivers in return: 

• Reduced administrative costs from manually scheduling employees

• Lower overstaffing costs through more accurate schedules

• Less productivity loss due to unplanned absences

• Better agent adherence with real-time monitoring

Administrators who believe workforce management technology is beyond their budget would do well to examine the costs of doing nothing. The benefits of greater productivity, lower costs and better labor decisions provide ample evidence suggesting that this is one investment that contact centers can’t afford not to make.

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/workforce-management-and-labor-costs

Publish Date: November 23, 2015 5:00 AM


Three Reasons Customers Get Stuck on Hold – and How to Address Them

In 2014, a Comcast customer tried to cancel his service. He was placed on hold…for three-and-a-half hours. After enduring that wait, the customer finally hung up and tried again, only to find that the service center had closed. 

At about the three-hour mark, our exasperated customer began recording his reactions. That video (“Comcast put me on hold until they closed”) has been viewed more than 1.8 million times on YouTube. 

It’s an amusing story, as long as you’re not the customer or Comcast. But putting callers on hold is nothing to laugh about, even when it cannot be avoided. 

Average Handle Time – and the Scourge of the Hold Button

One of the most important of the contact center’s key performance indicators (KPIs) is Average Handle Time (AHT), which records how much time an agent spends with one customer. It has been described as the bedrock for all contact center planning systems, which makes sense; if you guess wrong with this metric, it is difficult to plan anything else correctly. 

Most contact centers calculate AHT by added Total Talk Time, Total Hold Time and Total Wrap-Up Time. Some contact centers cheat by figuring hold time as a separate stat (Average Hold Time) but they are just kidding themselves. The agent is still working on that same caller’s needs. Every time a customer is put on hold, the handle time just keeps growing. 

How Do Your Customers Feel? They Hate It

The text message service TalkTo recently concluded that the average American spends about 13 hours on hold every year. Over the course of a typical lifespan, that adds up to 43 days of listening to “Thank you for your patience – your call is important to us”. No wonder they are upset. 

And while these numbers are not any worse than they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago, callers today may not have the same patience as their parents did. Anyone that grew up with the instant gratification of an online purchase or finding answers to questions by typing a few words into a search engine is now accustomed to getting what they want and not having to wait for it. 

If you put these customers on hold, some will understand that you are trying to find the information you need to help them – but most will think you are just wasting their time. Among customers who feel they have waited too long on hold, 1/3 will hang up and never call back. Relationship over. 

Let’s take a closer look at the three reasons most customers are placed on hold, and what can be done to shorten those waits – or eliminate them altogether. 

1. Not Enough Agents Available

When there are too many calls and not enough agents, it results in the especially frustrating “ABC industries, please hold.” The call is answered but the customer is immediately relegated back to the limbo of hold. 

The Solution: Better Forecasting and Scheduling

Forecasts are made to anticipate caller demand and to make certain the contact center will never be short-handed. Many contact centers use spreadsheets to create forecasts, but the results are always time-consuming and often inaccurate.

A workforce management solution delivers automated workload forecasting and schedule generation. Managers can run simulations to calculate a precise forecast for future call volume, agent requirements and average handle time. Peak calling times can be identified based on trends and patterns in historical data. Once you know when incoming calls will be heaviest, it’s easier to readjust agent schedules as needed to handle the demand. 

Workforce optimization is the art and science of having the right number of employees, with the right skills at the right times to meet accurately forecasted volumes of work, and to do all that at a predetermined service level. With Monet WFM Live, you are able to forecast incoming work based on historical patterns, with the added ability to schedule and track employees based on preferences, skills and availability. 

2. The Agent Does Not Have the Information Necessary to Address the Caller’s Question or Situation

Callers expect answers. If a customer has to be placed on hold while the agent asks someone else, or needs to get an approval before authorizing a return (or whatever the situation may be) that caller will wonder why the company didn’t do a better job of training its employees. Yes, that is unfair in many cases, but perception is often reality, and customers will certainly be happier if their business can be conducted quickly by the person who answered the phone – without any on-hold delays. 

The Solution: Agent Training and Trust 

Most of these hold scenarios fall into two main categories: the agent either does not have the necessary information, or the agent could handle the situation but is forced to speak with a manager or supervisor before proceeding. By expanding the agents’ authority to make decisions, many of the latter instances can be eliminated. 

If an agent cannot answer a caller’s question, it’s possible the question is so unique and unexpected that no amount of training could prepare for it. But those situations are rare. More often, callers are placed on hold in these situations because the agent is still new and learning on the job. Better training might prepare new agents to answer the full array of common customer queries, without resorting to the ‘hold’ button so they can ask a co-worker or manager for help. Managers can also help avoid these situations by created an online knowledge base that can be accessed quickly and easily (and is updated regularly to include new offers, promotions, etc.). 

3. Insufficient Contact Center Resources

Resources, in this case, can refer to either personnel or technology. Forecasting and scheduling can optimize agent allocation, but if there are not enough agents on the payroll, customers will have to wait longer to be addressed. And technology exists to further refine data collection and improve agent preparation and performance, but it must be implemented to do so.

The Solution: Do What You Can

There’s no universal cure for this one. If the budget allows for hiring more agents, most contact centers will do so. If it doesn’t, it’s imperative to maximize the human resources available, and here once again WFM can be critical. When it’s delivered via the cloud like Monet WFM Live, there is no large upfront investment, so these capabilities are now within reach of small and midsized contact centers as well. 

What else might help? Some contact centers are using speech analytics to analyze call patterns and identify more frequently asked questions. By doing so, agents can be better prepared to handle specific situations so those callers do not have to be put on hold while answers are sought. 

Bonus Tip: Maximize Hold Time

Regardless of preparation and resources, there will always be times when a customer has to be placed on hold. Is there anything that can be done during this time to make it more tolerable – or to reduce abandoned call rates? 

Statistics shows that more customers hang up if their hold time is spent in silence. Music is preferable, but even better would be pre-recorded messages of relevant information about the company, that may not address their particular situation but might be helpful to them anyway. Another option is offering to call the customer back when the agent is available. 

Conclusion

Reducing the amount of time your customers stay on hold will not only result in shorter handle times, but will make your customers and agents happier.

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Optimization/post/three-reasons-customers-get-stuck-on-hold-and-how-to-address-them

Publish Date: November 16, 2015 5:00 AM


Where is the Next Contact Center Revolution Taking Place?

This industry has seen revolutions before. The introduction of automated workforce management solutions to replace spreadsheets; the maturation on online communication channels that forced call centers to evolve into contact centers; the outsourcing of agent jobs overseas, and then the reversal of that trend in response to customer frustration. 

But it appears the next revolution will take place in the cloud – and it’s already underway. 

A 2014 North American Call Center Survey found that 78% of contact centers were premises-based, but an astounding 70% of those planned to move into the cloud. By now many have already done so, and the rest should be ready to go soon.   

When you look closer at previous industry revolutions, it makes sense for the cloud to be embraced as it has. As customers’ needs and communications preferences change, contact centers have to be more sophisticated, more multi-faceted, and more flexible. 

Where capital investment is not an issue, there are on-premise solutions to meet these demands. But without the cloud, smaller and mid-sized contact centers would struggle to keep up with such challenges as leveraging multichannel communication, and managing customer and contact center data. The cloud brings these capabilities within their reach through a subscription-based model without a large upfront investment. 

With the cloud, every call center regardless of size or type can have the technology it needs to provide excellent customer service, improve policies and procedures, anticipate call volume spikes and plan accordingly, and provide agents with the tools they need to engage with customers. 

The cloud revolution is upon us. And those contact centers that are using the cloud environment for integrated workforce management, workforce optimization and multichannel capabilities are those most ready for the challenges of 2016 and beyond. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/where-is-the-next-contact-center-revolution-taking-place

Publish Date: November 12, 2015 5:00 AM


Five Reasons to Be Thankful for Speech Analytics

With Thanksgiving coming up, November is a time to be thankful for many things that make our lives easier and better. Many contact centers would count a speech analytics solution in this category. If you haven’t yet added a speech analytics tool to your business, here are five reasons you might be saying ‘thank you’ for it next year – or even sooner. 

1. It Turbocharges Customer Data Collection

Speech analytics delivers critical business intelligence that boosts both agent performance and the customer experience. Traditionally the same type of data was collected by call recording. But caller patterns that would take weeks to learn with that effort can now be achieved in minutes. 

2. Real Time Reactions

Speech analytics generates automated alerts triggered by voice data, whether that’s the use of profanity, use of the word “cancel,” or the mention of a specific new product or service. By being alerted to these calls in real time, managers can react to impact their outcome, which could mean the difference between keeping and losing a customer.

3. Better Compliance

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

4. Improved Procedures

Speech analytics also delivers additional customer service benefits that impact agent training and overall efficiency. By exploring not just what is said on a call but how it is said – specifically the customer’s demeanor and choice of words – it is easier to discover which contact center policies and procedures might need to be changed. 

5. Cutting Costs

One public utility in Las Vegas, Nevada used speech analytics to deliver insights on delinquent customers. The data generated led to a change in procedure on how and when these customers should be notified. The result? More customers paying their bills. In one year the savings in cost avoidance in having to pursue these delinquent accounts reached $3.6 million. Speech analytics also delivers better marketing intelligence in other areas at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Analytics/post/five-reasons-to-be-thankful-for-speech-analytics

Publish Date: November 10, 2015 5:00 AM


Keeping Up with Contact Center Tech

Good customer experiences often start at the contact center. To achieve those positive results, contact centers are active in the data acquisition business, using KPIs and analytics to take a closer look at every customer interaction.  

Sometimes, however, a company’s reach can exceed its grasp. Innovation often comes slow to the contact center, so while there are now a multitude of effective tools available to transform a wealth of data into real-time solutions, managers may not have the means to maximize this potential. 

Downtime is one area where this gap is especially noticeable. When agents experience downtime, it should be leveraged to enhance productivity by making good use of that time. 

Speech analytics provides another example. Here is a system telling you important information about a customer while he or she is still on the phone – can you react to that information in time? If not, all this technology is buying is a lost opportunity. 

Does your contact center have intraday automation that triggers real-time workforce adjustments during a shift? Can you change staffing levels when there’s a decrease in demand, freeing agents to begin a training session? 

The goal of all of this is providing excellent customer service. When customers are happy, the business thrives. One study by the Harvard Business Review found a whopping 240% annual revenue difference between customers who rate their experience as “great” and those who said it was “poor.” 

Data can deliver more “greats.” But it must be used in real time, and that may be the most essential aspect of contact center technology. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/keeping-up-with-contact-center-tech

Publish Date: November 6, 2015 5:00 AM


Quick Tips to Boost Contact Center Performance

The thing about improving contact center performance is you’re never really done. Stats that are already improving can always get better. Good agents can become great agents. A change to a script can enhance customer service.

As you continue to refine and fine-tune performance at your contact center, here are some quick tips that may help. 

Role Play

Put yourself in the customer’s position and try various types of calls to discover what kind of service you receive. There is no faster, easier way to find out how your agents are treating your customers. 

Agents Reviewing Agents

Schedule time for agents to monitor other agents at work, and then have them get together and provide feedback and suggestions on how to get better. 

Think Positive

A positive attitude is always beneficial – encourage it by creating a display board with positive words and expressions that can be used during calls. 

Share Success Stories

By giving agents a chance to describe a situation where they shined, it provides both information and motivation to the rest of the team. 

Open House

Invite customers to visit your contact center. It’s a way to build a closer relationship, and they might have some ideas that prove useful in improving performance. 

Celebrate Courtesy

Good manners do make a difference. Remind agents of the importance of saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ 

Lighten up on AHT

Of course average handle time is an important stat. But if agents feel comfortable spending a few extra minutes with a customer to make sure they are satisfied or to answer questions, it makes their job easier and helps performance as well. 

Speech Analytics

Use speech analytics in conjunction with quality monitoring and customer surveys to better understand what is important to your customers. 

Recruit from Within

Have an opening for a new coach? Hire an experienced agent from within your contact center. It’s good for company morale, and you’ll have an employee that knows exactly what agents go through, and how they can adapt their performance to handle different types of calls and customers. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/quick-tips-to-boost-contact-center-performance

Publish Date: November 3, 2015 5:00 AM


Managing the Telecommute Switch

The evolution of technology has made it easier than ever for call center agents to work from home. And if you believe the “What work will look like in the future” articles all over the Internet, we are still at the beginning of a transition to a time when virtual workplaces may outnumber traditional offices. 

However, if your contact center is considering a work-for-home arrangement, it’s important to realize that there may be some bumps in the road throughout the transition process. 

The benefits are there – lower overhead, happier employees, reduced attrition rates, access to a larger potential workforce (since a daily commute to the contact center is no longer necessary), but here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you embark on this brave new virtual path:

Choose the Right Agents

When you offer your current agents a work-from-home option, many will leap at the opportunity, eager to “go to work” every day in their family room and watch TV when they should be focusing on calls. Present this as a privilege, not a right, and tie it to the set of performance standards they are currently meeting in the office. If those numbers slip, it’s back to the cubicle. Remind them that the requirements of the position are the same – only their surroundings will change. 

Choose the Right Technology

Telecommuting only works if agents can do everything at home that they can do in the office. Obviously a computer with high-speed broadband is essential, but the only way to be assured of the efficiency of a virtual workplace is through cloud-based technology. 

This way, you will always know that these agents are working with the current software versions, as with the cloud they are uploaded automatically (and at no cost) upon availability. Managers can access real-time and historic reporting so they will always be aware of current activity no matter where it is taking place. And remote agents can have their calls recorded and monitored for future training purposes.

Choose the Right Policies

During this time new rules will have to be written and new procedures learned. Will telecommuting agents have to come in to the office for coaching sessions, or should those be handled virtually as well? Will additional training be required for the home agent to interact with the office, receive shift assignments or schedule breaks remotely? 

The key to all of this is communication. As you begin your transition into a partially or fully virtual workplace, make certain there is an end-to-end communication plan in place so that agents have the knowledge, the tools and the guidance they need to deliver outstanding customer service, wherever they may be. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/managing-the-telecommute-switch

Publish Date: October 26, 2015 5:00 AM


Empowered Agents are Successful Agents

There is a true story about a business traveler, returning home after a long and difficult trip, who tweeted Morton’s Steakhouse with a request to meet him at the Newark Airport with a porterhouse. It was a fantasy that he thought would be good for a few laughs at the restaurant.

So imagine his surprise when Morton’s actually sent one of its waiters to the terminal to greet this weary traveler with the steak he ordered, plus all the trimmings. As gestures to engender customer loyalty go, this was as effective as it gets. 

What does this have to do with contact centers? The goal, just as in a restaurant, is satisfied customers. Getting there involves creating a set of guidelines for employees to follow intended to achieve that goal. It also means that sometimes employees should be able to break those rules and go above and beyond to make a customer happy, even if it doesn’t always conform to company policy. 

Zappo’s, the online shoe store, has become famous for this. One woman ordered several pair of shoes for her mother, who had undergone a medical procedure that left her feet numb and sensitive to pressure. However, none of the shoes ordered helped with her condition. The woman explained this to a Zappo’s call center agent. 

A good company would have gladly accepted the return. Zappo’s went further – they sent the woman’s mother a bouquet of flowers with a note saying they hope she felt better soon. Then they upgraded both the mother and daughter to VIP status, so they would receive free shipping on all future orders. 

Result? Two new loyal customers, great publicity, and a happy Zappo’s employee who felt free to bring this idea up to management, and represent the company in a positive way. 

The Empowered Agent

Special moments like this can only happen when agents feel empowered to “go outside the box,” come up with creative solutions, and implement them without fear of being fired. 

Of course most customer-agent communications won’t require such grand gestures. But sometimes even smaller exceptions are not greeted warmly by supervisors. There are contact center environments where rules are enforced with military precision, and these are not the most comfortable places for agents to work. Rules are necessary, but the key to building a successful team of agents is to provide not just training, but confidence; not just correction, but encouragement; not just guidance, but support. 

Here are some suggestions for how to empower your contact center agents. 

The GROW Method

GROW is an acronym for Goal, Reality, Options and Will. It refers to a method of coaching that has proven successful at improving agent performance and encouraging agents to solve problems through their own creativity. 

Goal: Specify the goal of each coaching session, as well as the goals that the agent wants to achieve.

Reality: What is the current situation like at the contact center, and what aspects of that reality are getting in the way of achieving these goals? 

Options: What needs to change to make these goals a reality? Is there a business policy standing in the way? Or does the agent have to change his or her behavior or approach? Does management need to provide something different? 

Will: Include the agent in the decision on the best option to get to the desired goal. Better yet, let the agent actually make the decision, assuming it is viable (“We can get there if you double my salary” would not be acceptable). When agents devise the solutions they become more empowered, and they also have fewer excuses for not getting the job done. 

Avoid Sandwich Feedback

What’s the best way to deliver constructive criticism? “Sandwich feedback” suggests positioning that criticism between two instances of praise. Others believe this is a lazy option used in place of a properly structured coaching session. We think sandwiches are for lunch – there are more productive options available. 

Ask Questions

Perhaps the shortest distance to correction is simply for a coach or manager to tell an agent what is not being done right and how to fix the problem. But it’s worth the investment of extra time, and perhaps even a short trial and error process, to instead ask the agent how an issue can be resolved. This encourages the habit of solving problems without guidance, which will carry over into conversations with customers. 

Make Decisions as a Team

When decisions have to be made at the management level, it’s still a good idea to include agents in that process. Gather their input even if it is not ultimately accepted when the final choices are made. Just knowing their opinions matter can be empowering, while also boosting agent loyalty and hopefully cutting down on attrition.  

Use Mistakes as a Teaching Moment

Mistakes are unavoidable. Still, we all try to evade them as much as possible. But empowering agents sometimes means letting them make mistakes so they figure out what went wrong and why, and then learn from the experience. For reasons best left to medical professionals, our mistakes seem to stand out in our memories more than our triumphs. That creates fuel for change, and is the best incentive against making the same error again. 

Conclusion

If an employee is happy to come to work, he or she is far more likely to do a better job. This can be more of a challenge given the repetitious nature of contact center work, and having to deal with angry and impatient callers. But morale can be maintained through open communication between agents and managers, employee empowerment, and plenty of positive feedback. 

Managers set customer service policy, but agents put that plan into action. Make sure they have the capability to solve customer problems quickly. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/empowered-agents-are-successful-agents

Publish Date: October 22, 2015 5:00 AM


Words, Actions and Acknowledgements: The Tools of the Trade for Contact Center Agents

In the old Captain Marvel comic books, young hero Billy Batson was able to “summon awesome forces at the utterance of a single word.” 

Few words have that kind of power – but the words your contact center agents use when speaking with customers certainly can have a powerful impact, for better or worse.

For this reason it’s never a bad idea to review the scripted statements used by your agents and look for ways that they might be improved. Also, in those situations where going off-script is necessary, agents must be constantly coached to use the right words to deal with volatile situations, and to communicate with customers in a way that expresses regret for their problem and encouragement that a solution is possible. 

We’ve discussed empathy in previous blogs. For most of us it’s an easy emotion to conjure when we’ve actually done something we regret, or when a friend tells us about something that has gone wrong in their life. But since contact center agents were not directly responsible for the customer’s problem, an attempt to generate empathy from nothing may not be successful. 

I Feel your Pain

Empathy is expressing feeling – does that come through in your script? “I understand how you feel, that must be very frustrating…” “Many of our customers felt better after trying…” etc. 

One coaching method that has worked in the past is to ask agents about a time when they received poor service, or bought a product that didn’t work. Encourage them to remember how that experience made them feel, then channel those feelings into their responses.

The Name Game

It’s easier to establish a rapport between agent and customer when both are addressed by name. Using “sir” or “ma’am” is more formal and used to be a means to convey respect, but at this point there is no distinguishing the ‘sir’ you get at an executive board meeting from the ‘sir’ you get at the Burger King drive-thru window. 

Better to opt for “Thank you, Mr. Walker, let me take care of that for you.” And the agent should also introduce him- or herself at the beginning of each call. “Thank you for calling ABC Industries, my name is Robert, how can I assist you today?” 

Sincerity

The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made. 

--Jean Giraudoux ‘’

Sincerity is important – but it must be authentic. That involves not only the words used but also the tone of voice in which they are expressed. Customers are too smart now not to recognize over-scripted expressions of support delivered in a monotone voice for what it is – someone just doing their job:

“Thank you for calling ABC Industries. This is Jennifer – how can I brighten your day today?”

“How can I provide you with excellent service today?”

“How can I make you feel valued and be of help for you today?”

These lines were taken from actual contact center scripts. It takes the right type of agent to deliver them and make it work. 

Reassurance

Next to empathy, reassurance may be the most important message an agent can communicate. It lets the caller know that they are on their way to having their issue resolved. 

Reassurance + Empathy? That is the key to success:

“I am sorry to hear that this happened to you. I will be more than happy to assist you today and get this issue fixed.” 

“I am sorry you had to deal with this inconvenience. Let’s get this taken care of.” 

“I understand why this is upsetting – I would feel the same way. Here’s what we are going to do to get this resolved.” 

Note the use of “Let’s (let us) and “we” – that puts the caller and the agent on the same side of the issue, rather than the agent coming across only as a representative of the company that disappointed the caller. It’s a subtle change but it does make a difference. 

The Dreaded ‘Hold’ Button

Sometimes putting a call on hold is unavoidable. And if that caller has already had to wait once to speak with an agent, the request to put them back on hold may not be greeted enthusiastically. 

When it must be done, some call centers use the “ACT” Method. 

A – ask permission

C – create a timeline 

T – thank the customer

Ask Permission

Don’t tell them you’re going to put them on hold, ask them, “Do you mind waiting for a moment while I get that answer for you?” Very few will say ‘no’ because they want to get this over with as well.

Create a Timeline

Let them know how long you’ll be away. “This should only take a minute or two.” 

Thank the Customer

When the agent picks up the call again, his or her first words should be “Thank you for holding. I appreciate your patience.” 

Final Impressions

Once the crisis is passed, do not close the call without two essential elements: first, a suggestion on what to do should the problem return – preferably one that will not force the caller to repeat the same process they just experienced. Then, close on a note of appreciation for their business: “Thank you for choosing ABC Industries,” etc. 

Finding the Right Matches

While all of these tips can be helpful to any agent, a contact center increases the likelihood of their success by matching certain types of calls (or callers) with the agent best suited to handle them. A workforce optimization solution is essential for such call routing, particularly if it is equipped with a speech analytics solution capable of providing the data that will determine the optimal agent for each call. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/words-actions-and-acknowledgements-the-tools-of-the-trade-for-contact-center-agents

Publish Date: October 20, 2015 5:00 AM


Speech Analytics and Compliance

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

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

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

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

Speech Analytics Can Help

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

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

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

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Quality-Management/post/speech-analytics-and-compliance

Publish Date: October 15, 2015 5:00 AM

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