Monet Software - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog Page 3
Every so often you run across a study that produces results so obvious you wonder why a study was necessary in the first place.
That was what most of us felt after the University of British Columbia announced that customers with bad attitudes are less likely to be satisfied with the service they receive.
Most call center agents already know this – and yet it is their job to try and make each customer happy, no matter how difficult the challenge.
These are the three customer behaviors cited by the survey. Agents encounter all of them regularly.
1. The Angry Caller
These customers are mad from the time you say hello. They’ve saved up a lot of complaining and are eager to let it rip. The best alternative for agents in these situations is to counter aggression with calm, steady responses. Convey empathy even if you don’t actually feel it – “I understand your frustration. I’m sure that was difficult. Let me try to take care of that for you.” Return negative words with positive words, and hope the caller calms down or responds accordingly.
2. The Abusive Caller
These customers are not just angry, they’re itching for a fight. They want to let someone from the company know just how lousy they are, and they don’t care if it’s the CEO or a poor agent just starting her daily shift. The difference between angry and abusive is the attack becomes personal. The challenge is to remain calm and try to reduce the caller’s hostility level. A reminder that the call is being recorded may change their attitude, but if it doesn’t it should be permissible for the agent to tell the abusive caller that their call will be terminated if he or she does not calm down. The agent should then inform that manager of what has happened.
3. The Interrupting Caller
Very few issues are unique – agents have heard them all before, and managers have prepared company responses that usually rectify the situation. But what is an agent to do when he or she can’t express the proper response because of constant interruptions? Though it won’t do much for average handle time, the best option here is to let the caller blow off steam, and at the first pause politely ask “Is there anything else about this situation I need to know?” Once the caller has vented sufficiently, he or she might be ready to accept the agent’s response.
Publish Date: February 14, 2017 5:00 AM
There are enemies at the door every day at a call center – inaccurate forecasts, average handle time numbers headed in the wrong direction, angry callers, employee turnover.
Workforce management software can get the forecasts and the KPIs under control. Angry callers will always be with us, and they may be one of the reasons why agents leave. Since disgruntled customers can never be completely eliminated, the best way to reverse those high turnover numbers is to give agents a reason to stay.
What is the culture like at your call center? How does the workspace look? How do agents feel when they start their shift every day? There are steps that can be taken to boost workplace culture and morale and help to keep spirits up, even when the work itself can be tedious and challenging.
Try some of these ideas at your call center!
1. Family Social Events
You know your agents – but have you met their spouses and kids? By arranging family events throughout the year – bowling tournaments, visits to local attractions or amusement parks – agents will get to know each other better and you’ll meet their families in a relaxed setting. Socializing in this way contributes to a positive culture, and encourages agents to think of their coworkers as a second family – and that will keep them around longer.
2. Special Days Off
Many companies allow agents to treat their birthdays as a paid day off. It’s a nice gesture that makes them feel appreciated, and since these days can be planned for, it makes it easier to forecast and schedule around them. Some call centers take this concept a step further, allowing additional time off for special events such as a wedding in the agent’s family that requires out-of-town travel, or even something less momentous like a day off to go Christmas shopping. And for the ultimate in agent appreciation, offer one or two “Duvet Days” each year; these are days that can be taken off at short notice, with no explanation required.
We’ve mentioned this before but it’s always worth repeating – agents like to feel appreciated, especially when that is expressed through some reward for their consistent work. It encourages healthy competition among shifts and gives struggling team members a goal toward which to strive. Bottles of wine, restaurant gift cards, movie passes and extra days off are all worthy incentives, and perhaps a special annual prize could be reserved for your best performing agent each year. Trophies and certificates are nice too – but in this era when everyone gets a trophy just for participation, they are no longer enough.
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not help your morning shift agents get off to a positive start with a free breakfast? A few fresh pastries, or dry cereal, coffee, tea and juice won’t break the company budget, and will be appreciated. It can also help agents start their shift feeling more alert and more focused. At some call centers in England, a tea trolley serves tea and toast to agents at their desks. Classy – but potentially messy.
5. Volunteer Projects
Encouraging agents and other employees to participate in community projects is not just good for morale – it’s the right thing to do. It allows agents to help organizations that are important to them and it can generate some positive media coverage for your company as well. Depending on the size of your team, giving each agent 3-5 days a year of paid leave to pursue these projects will have a positive effect on morale and on the community.
5. Extra Help for Agents That Need It
Ongoing training should already be a part of your call center regimen – but there may be times when agents still require additional help on hitting performance targets. Keep in mind that the extra hours devoted to discussing these issues, working with them on improvement, and encouraging them throughout the process are a bargain compared to costs incurred in recruiting, hiring and training new agents.
7. A Positive Start
Any new job is stressful. Chances are your call center has some sort of orientation program that follows initial training, but why not take this a step further? Spend some extra time with a new agent in his or her first week. Give them some welcome aboard gifts to further ease the transition. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
8. A Break Room Makeover
Company break rooms should be places agents can relax, clear their heads and tend to personal matters before returning to their desks. If the place looks worn-down and dreary, it won’t have that positive effect. A fresh coat of paint (preferably bright colors), some plants (real, not plastic), snacks, a fish tank, an ATM machine (so agents won’t have to stop at the bank after their shift), happy photographs, comfortable furniture – these are the ingredients for an appealing break room.
9. Fitness Classes
Call center agent work is sedentary – and let’s face it, most of us aren’t getting the exercise we should even when we’re not at our desks. Experts recommend 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week to help stay in shape. Call centers can encourage this positive lifestyle with onsite fitness classes. These can be created with the help of a local health club, or you might even find someone on your team that can lead a yoga, Zumba or aerobics class.
10. Advancement Opportunities
Even your agents who are content in their work may not envision doing the same thing for the next 20 or 30 years. Resources should be made available for those interested in a career path to management – these can include meeting and training with current management personnel, sponsoring agents who wish to take business courses at local community colleges, and establishing a company policy of promoting from within whenever possible.
Publish Date: January 31, 2017 5:00 AM
The selection of a call center workforce management solution should not be entered into lightly.
It’s a decision with the potential to revolutionize how your business handles forecasting, scheduling, staffing and many other tasks that can boost KPI results and customer service. Do your homework, ask questions, and make sure you get it right the first time.
There are good qualities in almost every WFM solution available. But good is not good enough for your call center.
What you want is “great.” And great starts with the forecasting tool. If the forecasts generated by WFM are not accurate, it creates a domino effect that will throw the rest of your numbers off as well. Result? Overstaffing, understaffing, missed sales and angry customers.
What To Demand in a Forecasting Tool?
A WFM review of forecasting capabilities begins with the compilation and analysis of historical data. This is not just what happened at the call center on this day last year or five years ago, but also takes into account other variables that impact call volume – holidays, special promotions, annual events, weather conditions. Anything that can cause a fluctuation in workload should be considered.
Now that call centers are now contact centers encompassing multiple communication channels, forecasting must provide an integrated view of all channels and the capabilities of the multi-skilled workforce, as this will be essential for proper scheduling.
Most WFM solutions rely in part on forecasting based on averages. It’s effective, but not sufficient by itself. Find a forecasting tool that goes beyond that, one that can process every piece of data you provide and use it to deliver more accurate forecasts.
The more you put into forecasting, the more you’ll get out of it. When WFM does most of the work, the result is more accurate forecasts, generated faster than spreadsheets. With the right system performing these critical functions that can grow with your call center’s needs, you can invest with confidence and achieve ROI faster.
Publish Date: January 27, 2017 5:00 AM
In general, what do people think of call centers?
Maybe we shouldn’t use that kind of language.
Within the industry we see the efforts that have been made to upgrade technology and improve the quality of service, but too often these are not recognized by customers and by other divisions of the business. Is this important? Yes – because false perceptions undermine the services call centers provide, and may even limit their ability to make a positive contribution to their company.
Here are three opinions that are still far too common – and why they are inaccurate.
1. Call Centers Cost Money
Well, of course they do – someone has to pay agent salaries and buy the software solutions like workforce management that allow them to fulfill their function. But the data they generate through that software, and other solutions such as speech analytics, can be used in a variety of ways to generate revenue for the company.
Call centers boost customer loyalty. They provide direct customer feedback on which products and promotions succeed and which do not. They generate positive social media posts after a good experience that boosts brand reputation.
2. They Will Soon Be Obsolete
Who uses phones anymore to contact a company? That’s so last century now that we have apps and websites and Facebook.
Sounds good, but visit any call center and you’ll realize we’re nowhere near that point yet – and may never get there. According to a New Voice Media survey, 59% of customers still prefer to contact a business by phone, and 75% believe it’s the most effective way of getting a response.
Perceptions that call centers are on the way out may result in a company hesitating before investing in the technology resources that allow them to be successful.
3. Cost-Per-Call is the Only Metric That Matters
For companies that view call centers as a necessary evil, the objective is to keep costs as low as possible. One way this is measured is in cost-per-call. It’s a number deserving of attention – but it’s not the most important metric anymore. The focus instead should be on customer satisfaction, and that sometimes takes a little more time and creativity to achieve. Besides, lowering cost-per-call the wrong way can result in lowering customers as well.
Publish Date: January 24, 2017 5:00 AM
Here’s a question: who is the most prominent voice for your company’s brand or products?
Is it your president or CEO? Sometimes the man or woman in charge likes to be out front, appearing in TV commercials or giving a lot of interviews. Or perhaps it’s your marketing manager, who creates the ads that run in newspapers and magazines, as well as your social media campaigns.
But there is another voice that is also representing your brand that can be overlooked – that of the call center agent.
Each one of your agents may speak directly to dozens of your customers every day. For companies that sell primarily online, theirs may be the only voice a customer will associate with your brand. And according to a survey conducted by a company called Mattersight, 70% of consumers will cut ties with a brand after just one bad experience.
That places a lot of responsibility on agents – but it is also a great opportunity.
It doesn’t mean that every agent must be trained in marketing, but they should be made aware of the marketing tenets that customers associate with good service.
That starts with making a customer feel valued. Personalized marketing campaigns attempt this by crafting messages designed to appeal to a consumer’s specific needs. But that kind of personalization is easier to achieve in a one-to-one conversation.
With a workforce management solution, agents can pull up past purchases, the caller’s location and previous contacts. With speech analytics, agents will be in a better position to tailor each call to a customer’s preferences. And by using analytics, raw call data such as recordings can be fashioned into actionable insight.
By providing experienced agents with the right technology solutions, your call center can serve as one of your most effective marketing outreach efforts.
Publish Date: January 24, 2017 5:00 AM
The short answer to the question posed in the title of this blog is yes.
Perhaps there are still some regional businesses with a homogeneous customer base that can be effectively served in one language, but that type of company is clearly a vanishing breed.
Today, especially in this era of online retail, even smaller businesses may attract customers from anywhere in the U.S. or around the world. Obviously it would be impractical to have agents that speak every global language, but hiring bilingual agents should be a priority when possible.
This will be more essential in some industries than others. In these types of call centers it should be a priority:
Your order history will tell you where your customers live. If you only get one order a year from Germany it’s not necessary to have a German-speaking agent available. But if you receive a thousand orders from Mexico or China, you should have someone there to serve those customers.
Here you may not be dealing with clients from 20 different countries, but if your health care facility is located in a large city near various ethnic and immigrant populations, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for them to make appointments, get answers to billing questions and order prescriptions.
This one is so obvious that we probably don’t need to include it. Companies focused on international tourism know how important it is to be able to provide information on hotels, sights, and other travel arrangements in the language of the caller.
Publish Date: January 19, 2017 5:00 AM
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.
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
Publish Date: December 8, 2016 5:00 AM
Want to be a great baseball player? Study Kris Bryant’s swing.
Want to run a great call center? Study how the best ones are getting things done.
Maybe you don’t have time to travel the country visiting these successful businesses in person. That’s why we’ve collected some of their best advice and tips for better results. Hopefully they will work for you as well.
Start with this: Make things as easy on the customer as possible. Some customers may appreciate exceptionally friendly service, but for most the top priority is getting an answer, placing an order (or whatever prompted the call), and then moving on with their lives. So emphasize speed of answer, technology that rapidly delivers the customer’s information to the agent, and allowing agents to provide what is needed without putting someone on hold or transferring the call.
Are your communication channels fully integrated? That means knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each channel (ordering, conflict resolution etc.) and making sure well-trained and cross-trained agents are handling each interaction.
Next, make sure your agents are engaged. That starts with measuring attrition and absenteeism to weed out those that aren’t cutting it, and perhaps using speech analytics to track performance. But if you demand great performance from agents, you need to give them something in return besides a paycheck – flexible working hours, extra help when they need it, and a path to advancement for those seeking something better.
Is Net Promoter Score one of the KPIs you measure? It is at many top call centers. This gauges the likelihood of an average customer recommending or criticizing a business’s service. And it’s not enough to collect the data – you have to act on it.
Finally, don’t look for answers outside the business when they might be available from your own teams. Companies routinely hire outside consultants to tell them what their customers are thinking, what they want, which products should be introduced and which should be discontinued. Before paying someone else a fee to deliver this data, investigate whether your agents and managers already have this information, and put them in charge of putting it together.
By doing so, the company saves money while getting better answers, and offers an opportunity for agents to take on some executive-level business analysis, which may provide them with a path to career advancement.
Publish Date: December 6, 2016 5:00 AM
Call centers expect agents to be alert, engaged, up to date on company policy, and ready to give 110% every day.
That’s fair – but is your call center helping them to achieve such consistent performance?
Here are two areas where actions can be taken that will boost productivity, and make your business more efficient.
1. Information: Where they want it, when they need it
Technology and data drive successful call centers. Usually that refers to the KPIs measured to gauge customer service, but it also applies to the optimized knowledge base that makes it easier for agents to deliver great service by being able to quickly access each customer’s information.
Training materials should also be easily retrievable, so agents can review proper procedure on their own if a question arises. This encourages the healthy habit of self-monitoring of performance.
And since call centers are typically part of much larger organizations, agents and managers benefit from online collaboration platforms where documents can be shared, and everyone can be kept up to date on new projects. This also encourages consistency and cooperation between departments.
2. Stress relief
Breaks are necessary in the agent workday, but can and should consist of more than leaving one’s desk, stretching one’s legs, and perusing the leftover pastries in the break room. This is the time to de-stress. Since different agents achieve that goal in different ways, why not cater to both of them?
For those who prefer to burn off tension while burning off calories, a small workplace gym would be greatly appreciated. Those who prefer a quiet, peaceful respite would enjoy a relaxation room that might even offer sleeping quarters for a quick nap.
Bonus benefit: These steps will make your call center the type of place where agents feel valued, and that means they’ll stay with you longer.
Publish Date: November 29, 2016 5:00 AM
What do you look for most when you hire call center agents? Experience is obviously important, along with a clear speaking voice (and/or writing and spelling skills for communication channels like video chat). It’s also beneficial to have someone who takes guidance well, is punctual and gets along well in a team environment.
But there are some skills that are equally important but not always evaluated during the interview process. Pay attention for signs of them in your next recruitment drive:
An Even Temperament
It’s not easy being yelled at by strangers several times a day. Hopefully that is not a regular occurrence at your call center, but when hostile customers need to vent it’s important to have an agent who is cool under pressure. It might mean the difference between keeping and losing those customers.
Winning isn’t Everything – It’s the Only Thing
I know we live in an era where everyone gets a trophy for just showing up, but you want agents that don’t take such consolation prizes seriously. They want to be the best – especially if there are real rewards attached to that status. You don’t want to encourage cutthroat competition, but friendly rivalries between ambitious agents can be healthy.
Yes, the script is important, but you can hire anyone to read words off a computer screen. It’s what happens between and around those scripted directions that make the difference between good agents and great ones. Find someone who will listen – who can project empathy in a difficult situation, and who can get creative to solve a problem, even if it adds a few minutes to average handle time.
One more idea: When you find these outstanding agents, give them the technology they need to really succeed – such as Monet WFM Live. When you make it easier for them to do their jobs, they are likely to keep doing them longer.
Publish Date: November 22, 2016 5:00 AM
For all the beautiful photos you’ll see of leaves changing color in Vermont and harvest festivals and pumpkin pies, the fact remains that autumn can be a depressing time. The summer is over, the days are shorter, and in some parts of the country the temperatures are already dipping below freezing.
Coping with such changes can cast a pall over your call center, and affect agent performance – but only if you let it. Here are some ideas that can result in a more productive fall.
Daylight Savings Time
The one part of autumn that no one likes is setting the clocks back, which throws everyone’s internal clock off for a while, and offers one more hour of darkness at the end of the day. If the transition was rough on your agents this year, next year try to make it more gradual, by adjusting shifts incrementally – say, 15 minutes a day for the four days preceding the change. Lighting adjustments in the call center – especially those that mimic natural light – can help as well, and even prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Breaks are part of every call center shift, but can be more beneficial if agents are encouraged to spend at least part of that time outside. The crisp fall air is stimulating and will boost alertness for when they return to work, especially in the afternoon when attention to detail often begins to slip.
Emphasizing the fun parts of fall can make the season less depressing. Have a costume contest in the days leading up to Halloween. Offer free turkeys or pumpkin pies to agents who perform the best in November.
Autumn holiday decorations can make a call center more festive. Some new furniture, a fresh coat of paint and some plants (real ones, not the plastic variety) also contribute to a more pleasant work environment.
Plan Ahead for Cold and Flu Season
This tip benefits your agents and your customers as well. More of your employees will get sick this time of year. Recognize that it’s coming, give them the time off, and call upon your holiday file of backup and temporary agents to fill in before the Christmas season starts.
Publish Date: November 17, 2016 5:00 AM
There has in recent years been a significant push – some would say one that’s long overdue – toward cultural diversity in business. And call centers are no exception.
It’s a result that can occur naturally through a process of hiring the most qualified agents and management personnel for the job. But in geographic areas where the talent pool is more homogeneous, it can still be a goal worth pursuing.
Why? These are just some of the benefits:
People from the same place often tend to view challenges or opportunities in the same way. A diverse workforce almost always results in a wider range of ideas being generated, and new ways to look at old problems.
Different types of employees often bring different skill sets to the business, resulting in greater efficiency.
Better Customer Connections
With few exceptions your business will be (or is at least trying to be) appealing to customers of different ages, genders and races. There’s no telling which of these customers will want to reach out to your call center. With a diverse hiring policy you’ll be prepared for customers that speak different languages, or have different questions and concerns that will be recognizable to someone on your team. The more your call center looks like your customer base, the better than chances of optimizing the customer experience.
Studies have shown that diverse workplaces contribute to employee engagement and are happier places to work – and that’s certainly good news in an industry where employee turnover is traditionally among the highest.
Publish Date: November 10, 2016 5:00 AM
October means Halloween and Halloween means scary stuff.
As you probably know, call centers can generate as many frightening situations as a haunted house, and they aren’t nearly as much fun.
Do you begin to shiver at the very thought of customer service problems caused by adherence issues?
Monet Software has a free webinar for that. It’s called “Fighting the Adherence Monster.”
Like most monsters, this one can do a lot of damage, but it isn’t very smart. That’s why it is no match for the real-time adherence solutions available in Monet WFM Live. In this webinar, you’ll learn exactly how to use this solution to keep adherence issues at bay – it works even better than garlic does with vampires.
Question: How much would you estimate a 25-agent call center could save just by improving staff adherence by 2%, and reducing shrinkage by 15 minutes per agent per day?
The answer: more than $30,000. That’s a lot of candy corn.
Considering how much money lack of adherence can cost your business, anything that can be done to get a handle on this deterrent to efficiency should be worth a look – especially if it takes just 45 minutes. That’s our webinar.
Don’t miss this opportunity to find out how Monet Software can save you hours and hours of time lost to lapses in adherence. You’ll discover how WFM Live streamlines your scheduling goals and practices, and lets you keep a close, real-time watch on agent availability, holidays and breaks.
“Fighting the Adherence Monster” can be accessed at your convenience here.
Publish Date: October 31, 2016 5:00 AM
When agents talk about the different call center jobs they’ve had, they will always compare managers and managerial styles, and which one they prefer.
Which type of manager are you? Adopting a specific “style” is not necessary, and in fact most managers perform their duties in a way that is an extension of their personalities. But sometimes it can be helpful to consider whether a change in approach might be beneficial.
For instance, some call center teams respond better to a supportive manager that downplays the distinction between management and labor for a “we’re all in this together” philosophy. With a responsible team the results may be impressive – but there must be some oversight to make sure agents are not taking advantage of an informal managerial style.
At the other end of the spectrum is the taskmaster. He or she drives the team like a college football coach, with inspiring motivational speeches and continuous urging to go the extra mile for the company. Some agents will respond to this more aggressive approach, but others may fold under the pressure or be worried about falling short of expectations. Just remember that the best coaches always make time for their players, to help them be the best they can be.
Enthusiasm is another positive trait in a manager, as long as it is channeled the right way. It becomes a problem when every idea suggested in a meeting is implemented with expectations of success, and then quickly discarded when it doesn’t perform as planned right away. This leads to inconsistent performance and frustrated agents.
Change can be good; too much change too quickly often has the opposite effect.
Not sure if you need to change your style? Talk to your agents. Ask them if there is something they are not getting from you, whether that’s guidance or support or even criticism. The more you can match your approach to the temperament of your agents, the better the odds of a successful call center.
Publish Date: October 22, 2016 5:00 AM
Time, and how we use it, is one of the most important call center resources. We need agents to show up on time. We need calls to be completed quickly while still maintaining great service. Managers have to create forecasts and schedules, while still leaving time for other important tasks.
Workforce management software can help with all of this. But it won’t help agents who either don’t own a watch or don’t pay attention to it. The efficiency of your call center demands team members that are organized, and possess reliable time management skills.
Coaches can help where needed. They can encourage agents to set goals for how many calls they should complete in on day, and reinforce the importance of start times, end times and break times. Monitor progress and reward those that are able to change their habits.
At first the coach or trainer may have to set up a goal schedule for these agents. But ideally this is a habit they should begin to pick up themselves. Suggest that it become customary to take 10 or 15 minutes at the end of a shift to review performance for that day, and to plan a schedule for tomorrow (or the next active day). The more they can plan ahead, the easier it will be to adhere to the schedule.
Publish Date: October 11, 2016 5:00 AM