Monet Software - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
One need only to look at the attrition rates among call center agents to appreciate the pressures and challenges that come with the job.
Where employee turnover for all industries is approximately 17%, the range for call centers is typically between 30-45%. If you're dealing with those numbers you know how time-consuming and expensive it is to constantly find and train new agents to replace those that leave.
That makes agent retention a priority. What can you do to help these valued employees avoid symptoms of burnout? Try these tips:
Everybody likes to feel appreciated. When agents excel at their work they deserve to be recognized and rewarded. Such rewards can be straight up - a salary bonus - or something customized for each agent - an extra paid day off, movie theater tickets, or dinner at a nice restaurant (one without a drive-thru window).
Scripts are important, but reading the same text hundreds of times a day can certainly contribute to burnout. By allowing agents some flexibility you'll not only make the job less repetitive, you'll be boosting customer service - most callers appreciate an agents who speaks and listens to them over one reading words off a computer screen. Also, when possible, give agents the responsibility of handling some issues without the approval of the supervisor or manager. That will shorten the call length, and make the agent feel more valued as a company team member.
There are ways to make a call center a more enjoyable place to work without sacrificing efficiency or customer service. Ask for feedback on ideas for special themed days, or schedule a reception on the last day of every month with snacks and entertainment.
One of the best ways to avoid agent burnout is to provide your team with the technological tools they need to make their jobs easier. That starts with a workforce management solution that delivers caller data, easily automates everyday processes, and monitors schedules so agents handle an appropriate amount of calls in each shift.
Publish Date: August 9, 2016 5:00 AM
For contact centers that have yet to install the type of advanced software that provides real-time insight into agent activity, the only viable option for coaching is to do so during live customer calls.
However, this method presents a number of challenges for both the agent and the coach. The most obvious is the necessity to communicate information to the agent while the agent is speaking with a customer. This is achieved through "call whispering," which is exactly what it sounds like.
Call whispering puts the agent in the unfortunate position of listening to a customer and his supervisor at the same time. Even experienced agents may find this difficult. For new agents, it is next to impossible, and often leads to distracted agents and frustrated customers.
Call whispering also makes it impossible for agents to communicate with a supervisor during a coaching session. During these one-sided conversations, an agent may wish to ask a question or seek clarification on a point raised by the supervisor, but there is no way to do so without putting the customer on hold. Such feedback must be saved until after the call - and by then it might be too late to deliver the type of service that customer deserved.
Another limitation of live coaching is the inadequate sample sizes it generates to accurately assess how an agent is performing. The supervisor is present for a few calls but has no way of knowing how that agent is performing during the rest of his or her shift. Many critical coaching opportunities are missed as a result.
Fortunately, there is a better way. An advanced workforce optimization solution provides greater visibility and insight into agent performance, and records calls that can be reviewed later during more substantive coaching sessions. It can also provide a means for two-way communication between agent and supervisor in a way that is not as distracting, so the agent can stay focused on the customer.
Find out more about the benefits of workforce optimization
Publish Date: July 16, 2016 5:00 AM
Another Call Center Week has come and gone, and once again Monet was proud to attend, to interact with industry professionals, and to provide demos of our advanced software solutions that improve contact center efficiency.
Beyond the opportunity to network and catch up with old friends, the days we spent in Las Vegas also provided insight into one topic that emerged as the most talked-about, by both the event's speakers and attendees mingling on the convention floor: Analytics.
We have talked about analytics in previous blogs, and no doubt other companies have as well. At Call Center Week, the opportunity was there to move beyond discussion and actually watch how analytic solutions function. Seeing is believing, as they say, and demos to Monet's analytics directly addressed the theme of this year's event: "From Personalizing to Predicting the Needs of the Customer."
Contact center professionals that visited our booths were able to discover first-hand how Monet could help them achieve a more personalized customer experience, and gain additional insights through analytics that helped maximize the effectiveness of every customer engagement.
At this point there isn't any debate about the benefits of analytics: any hesitancy about adding these capabilities came mostly from smaller call centers that were concerned about the cost, or worried that so much additional data might be confusing to collect and decipher.
We explained to these company reps how our analytics solutions are incorporated into a workforce optimization suite. This way, it's easier to place the information in an appropriate context, so it yields the type of intelligent insight that helps companies improve service quality and save money.
At a time when customers have become more demanding given the technology options available, contact centers need every tool they can find to meet these demands, and even to anticipate them when possible. That is one of the advantages analytics provides.
Publish Date: July 14, 2016 5:00 AM
Automation has changed the day-to-day operations at call centers around the world, and has made the job of the agent easier.
But will the non-stop advance of technology also make the job of the agent obsolete?
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, many of the 1.2 million call center positions in the Philippines may soon be replaced by customer service robots. This is happening primarily with non-agent positions - such as monitoring the performance of digital networks. But the article suggests that the robot agent revolution may be as close as five years away.
Will it happen in the U.S. as well? Certainly some companies may embrace the prospect if it means cutting costs - but no matter how it is implemented, these companies also run the risk of cutting customers as well.
In this political season rife with rob-calls, consider the frustration most of us experience in listening to recorded message that cannot be altered. Now apply that same principle to a contact center customer trying to ask a question or place an order.
An automated voice cannot make a customer feel appreciated. No matter how sincere the "We appreciate your business" recording is, many will think, "If you really appreciated my business, you'd hire someone to let me know in person."
And no matter how much foresight is applied to anticipating customer requests, there is no way to have an answer programmed to every question. Thus, several customers will still be forwarded to a live agent, and wonder why they couldn't receive that kind of attention in the first place.
We have all come to embrace cutting-edge technology as a boom to our businesses and our lives. But at some point it's wiser to take a step back, and understand that just because something is technologically possible, it doesn't mean it's better than what has gone before.
Publish Date: July 14, 2016 5:00 AM
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.
Publish Date: July 12, 2016 5:00 AM
Six months ago, Fortune magazine published a story with the headline "Why Contact Centers Are Moving to the Cloud." It's just one of many such stories tracking what has become a mass migration.
Insurance companies have been part of this phenomenon, as they begin to recognize the numerous financial and technological advantages of switching from on-premise hardware and software installation to a cloud delivery model.
One of the most important of these is cost. By handling WFM in the cloud a call center doesn't have to budget for the purchase of hardware, software, database or data center infrastructure. With a subscription-based cloud system there is no large upfront cost and no licensing fees. Operating expenses are lower as well. The money that is saved can be re-invested in other parts of the company.
The ability to make a fast and trouble-free transition has also helped to grow the cloud market. Traditional solutions take a great deal of time to install - how would an insurance call center be impacted during this long transitional period, when customers may not conveniently stop having policy questions until it's finished? Cloud solutions also provide a more intuitive end-user experience, which shortens the learning curve for call center agents. With the cloud, downtime is reduced and ROI is achieved faster.
Flexibility? Scalability? These attributes are more easily achieved the cloud as well. Cloud service providers allow companies to increase or decrease existing resources as needed to accommodate changing demand. Plus, with the cloud it's easier to operate multiple contact centers from one facility, to accommodate agents working from home, and to make it more convenient for those that wish to access applications from a mobile device.
If there has been one lingering concern with this technology, it has been security. For insurance companies and healthcare providers where the protection of customer information is paramount, any perceived vulnerability would be enough to steer clear of cloud adoption.
But if that concern was ever justified, it certainly is not anymore. The cloud now offers a range of security measures to protect data, communications and the physical data centers where information is stored. Several layers of security measures and processes are built into the cloud infrastructure, platform and services. All client access endpoints are secured, with alerts for password brute-force attacks that prevent those accounts from being compromised. Built-in firewalls provide additional protection, and many clouds also offer encrypted data storage.
If your insurance call center has still not investigated the numerous advantages of cloud computing, what are you waiting for? Monet can help.
Publish Date: June 30, 2016 5:00 AM
One of the duties of the insurance business is to help customers protect themselves from liability claims, and the high costs associated with them.
But as we accept that responsibility, we also need to protect ourselves as well, particularly at the contact center. Let's face it - no matter how carefully you select your agents, or how satisfied customers are with your company's policies and service, disputes are still inevitable.
When this happens, having a recording of the conversation between agent and customer will be invaluable. And it's not just enough to have it - you should also have the ability to locate and retrieve specific customer interactions, not just to settle disputes but as a way to improve the quality and performance of your insurance call center.
This can be easily achieved through call tagging, a capability that should be incorporated into a call recording or workforce management solution.
Tags are like bookmarks - they designate certain calls by whatever criteria the agent or manager chooses. Typical tags might be dates, times, phone numbers, customer reference or case numbers; at insurance call centers, tags can be used to track disputed claims, late payments or customers with lapsed policies.
More than one tag can be applied to a call, and an efficient WFM system will allow managers to combine categories for more specific search results. For instance, if a manager wanted to access how a new agent handled disputed claims, he or she should be able to have the system access those types of calls from that specific agent so they can be reviewed all at once.
Tags can also help an insurance contact center improve KPIs. If average handle time is becoming an issue, have the system collect all of the calls that lasted more than 10 minutes. That may reveal some potential changes in procedure that will expedite those conversations.
Publish Date: June 30, 2016 5:00 AM
In the highly competitive insurance industry, every customer contact counts. That places even greater pressure on insurance call center environments, where agents are expected to deliver exceptional customer service, whether it's claims support, answering policyholder questions, setting appointments for agents or promoting new insurance products.
That challenge - to provide quality service every day at a cost within the budget, is the most significant one we face. So what's the best way to achieve this goal?
Let's start with this: your agents cannot deliver excellent service unless they have the customer information they need, and when they need it. When John Smith calls with a question about his auto insurance policy, the agent should have all the pertinent details on that policy on their computer screen so questions can be answered and changes made if necessary.
But now let's take it one step further, by providing managers with historical data so they can run various scenarios before a shift begins, to prepare for contingencies. As the shift progresses, managers should see real-time insights delivered via dashboards and reports on KPIs, as well as alerts so they can adjust forecasts and schedules when the unexpected occurs.
Information: what you need, when you need it - that is how the determination to provide great customer service must begin.
Unfortunately, you won't get it from spreadsheets. It takes an automated workforce management solution to provide the actionable insights necessary to be proactive in decision-making, so every shift of every day will be prepared to deliver the kind of customer service that keeps your policyholders loyal and happy. And when the contact center is running at peak efficiency, that reduces costs as well.
Publish Date: June 29, 2016 5:00 AM
Your agents are on the front line of your customer service efforts. When policyholders call with questions or concerns, the agent they reach becomes the voice of your entire company. No pressure there.
Obviously it is incumbent on your insurance call center agents to do their jobs well. But that process starts with managers hiring the best candidates for these crucial positions.
What skills should you be looking for when hiring an agent? Here are some of the most important:
Courtesy always sets the right tone for a customer engagement. And when that customer is stressed or frightened or angry, as is often the case with insurance issues, it’s up to the agent to maintain a professional tone and stay calm and focused throughout the conversation.
This doesn’t mean just showing up for work every day, but showing up on time. Customer service suffers when agents show up five minutes late and leave five minutes early. Agents should be willing to adhere to a strict shift schedule.
Intelligent verbal communication is one of the most basic requirements of this job, but as insurance call centers evolve into contact centers, it is advantageous to hire agents that can also communicate effectively in writing, so they can handle webchat or even social media.
While you want to recruit agents that can be positive team players, it’s also important for agents to feel confident enough to work independently – especially if you hire those that telecommute. When agents can solve customer claim issues without putting customers on hold and having to track down a supervisor, it improves average handle time and makes the customer happy as well.
Monet’s Workforce Management solution can play a key role in helping agents to achieve optimal performance, by giving them the information they need to succeed.
Publish Date: June 27, 2016 5:00 AM
For some contact centers, such as those in retail, business slows in the summer months while customers go on vacations or find more enjoyable things to do than shopping.
If you know this slow-down is coming, why not make the most of the opportunities it provides, before back-to-school sales and the holidays return call volumes to higher levels? Now that your hours are a little less busy, this is the ideal time to reassess business practices, experiment with new procedures, and brainstorm ways to improve customer service, so you’ll be ready when business picks up.
Here are some ideas to get started.
Freshen your Stand-By List
Many contact centers hold on to contact information for promising agent applicants, to fill in during peak periods or to consult when current agents leave. Typically you may not review this information until additional personnel are needed. But why not use this time to check in with these agents-in-waiting, to see if they are still available?
Agent training should be an ongoing activity, but when things are busy these sessions tend to get squeezed into shorter windows, and may not be as effective. If the phones are not ringing as often, this is a chance to take a closer look at the data you have on each agent (assuming you have a workforce optimization solution) and provide customized training on specific areas of concern.
Use the summer lull to get to know your team better. Ask them about their families and outside interests. Find out what they like about their job and what is causing them problems. By taking an interest you may build that relationship in a way that keeps that agent around longer. Their feedback may also contain good ideas that can be implemented throughout the contact center.
Spend your summer with these objectives, and you’ll be better prepared for the busier times ahead.
Publish Date: June 22, 2016 5:00 AM
Customer service at medical contact centers is often determined by forecasting, and forecasting is often determined by data. With a workforce management (WFM) solution you are on your way to better forecasts. But are you making the most of the information at your disposal? Here is a short three-point checklist that will help.
1. The Holistic Approach
Sometimes in medicine a holistic approach is favored in patient care. The same can be said for a healthier medical contact center. Numbers, whether they are good or bad, do not happen in a vacuum. While it can be helpful to analyze different KPIs individually, it is better to review them in tandem as well, while also taking a closer look at the conditions under which they are generated.
Of course you should review average handle time (AHT) and call volume, but you should also determine how one impacts the other. Is AHT better in the morning than overnight? Is that just a result of less calls coming in? Perhaps, but you may also have fewer agents working in the wee hours as well, so the answer may not be that simple. Maybe your night-shifters are dealing with lonely folks looking for someone to talk to after midnight – or maybe they need a little more training.
2. Timing is Everything
Review monthly and weekly service levels, but understand that within those longer time periods there are a thousand variables that influence how the numbers worked out. To gain more insight, shorten the timespan to as little as 30 minutes – perhaps even 15 minutes for a busy contact center or for peak calling periods. You’ll receive a more accurate view of what you’re doing right and what needs work.
3. Who is Messing With Our Numbers?
Sometimes the reasons your forecasts miss the mark have nothing to do with internal operations. You can adjust your staffing and shift numbers, but in a larger organization you have no control over when marketing announces a 24-hour sale, or how customer-billing cycles (that trigger billing inquiries) are structured.
Improved communication between departments can make it easier for contact center managers to anticipate the effect of such anomalies, and adjust accordingly. The WFM system will do most of the work for you, as long as you have the data in time to act upon it.
Publish Date: June 22, 2016 5:00 AM
The capabilities of call recording software have advanced rapidly over the past ten years. Metrics that were once luxuries at finance contact centers are now standard, and call center software is now capable of compiling and analyzing so much information, it is possible to become overwhelmed, or to lose focus.
Certainly all the information collected by such call recording systems is beneficial, but here are seven of the top performance measures that can most directly trigger improved results at banking contact centers, whether directed at management, agents or customers.
1. Schedule Adherence and Efficiency
Do agents scheduled to work specific hours actually do so? If not, are calls being missed or delayed before they are addressed? Corrections of deficiencies here can have an immediate impact on productivity. Once schedule adherence has been clarified, schedule efficiency refers to assigning the right number of agents for each day and each shift, to avoid the problems caused by overstaffing or understaffing.
2. Call Answer Time
What is the average speed of answer (ASA) at the call center? Most centers have a defined wait threshold that should be met consistently.
3. Agent Occupancy
Closely related to schedule efficiency is the time agents spend on the clock but not answering calls. When staffing and scheduling is handled correctly, agents should be busy but not overworked. The goal is to avoid too much idle time, while also having enough available personnel so that each call is answered in an acceptable time frame.
4. First Call Resolution
Customers want to resolve their issues with one call, which makes a call center’s first call resolution rate critical to customer satisfaction. While it will not always be within the agent’s power to resolve all calls the first time, agents who are consistently unable to achieve this objective should be scheduled for additional training.
5. Transfer Rate
Few situations are more frustrating for a customer than explaining an issue to one agent, and then being transferred to a supervisor or other agency personnel, and having to do so a second time. While this may still qualify as a first-call resolution if questions are ultimately answered and the problem is solved, it should still be kept to a minimum whenever possible.
6. Abandon Rate
When a customer hangs up, it will not always be the fault of the call center or the agent. Some people just have shorter fuses than others. However, abandon rates can often be reduced by shorter wait times and courteous agents.
7. Blocked Calls
Blocked calls never even make it to a call center agent, because of insufficient network capabilities. Obviously, the only possible result becomes a frustrated customer. Are some blocked calls inevitable at peak times? Or can these calls be taken with better scheduling, expanded trunks or other corrective measures?
Publish Date: June 22, 2016 5:00 AM
Change is never easy, but it is also unavoidable. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has placed increased demands on insurance providers to offer support, answer questions, and achieve an operational efficiency necessary to handle increased call volume.
One way to be better prepared for the current and future challenges of our industry is by making a switch from software-based technology to the cloud. And yet, many contact centers remain hesitant. Here are some of the most common reasons why, 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 installed, and can run parallel with your hardware solution during the actual conversion, so it can continue to function if an issue arises and your policyholders will never know the difference. 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) and you’ll have automatic routing capabilities 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 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.
Publish Date: June 22, 2016 5:00 AM
Customer care is a crucial aspect of performance at the contact center, particularly for those affiliated with the automotive industry. This is a process that begins before the first call is picked up every day, with the policies, procedures, and technology in place to meet the goals of the center. Accurate forecasting and scheduling and adherence are important factors, and are easier to achieve with an automated workforce management (WFM) solution.
Here are four tips on establishing policies that boost customer service, and how WFM can help.
1. Setting Specific Goals
“We want to improve customer service.” “We want to improve our training.” Great – now how are you going to do it? The more specific you can get with your objectives, the more likely you will be to accomplish them. When you set more precise goals (“We want to lower our average handle time”), WFM will provide the data that can be used to make it happen.
2. Targeted Training
Once basic training has been completed, business development center agents should be regularly guided toward and tested on their abilities to meet service goals. With the Performance Analysis component of WFM, managers have access to reports and analysis of all agent activities, including their schedule adherence and key performance indicators. That will help to further target training sessions.
3. Set Quarterly Goals
Don’t make a list of goals for the year and wait until December to review them. With quarterly targets, you’ll know sooner if your efforts are working, and can make beneficial changes – which is certainly better than going another 6-7 months with a less than optimal system in place. The real-time monitoring and work history data delivered by WFM allows managers to track progress toward quarterly goals.
4. Avoid Agent Burnout
Agents are employees but they are people first, with families and outside interests and holiday plans they would like to keep. Flexible scheduling makes it easier for agents to work shifts that are more convenient, and when they have that option they are likely to be more productive and provide better service. With WFM, shift-bidding and shift-swapping (with a manager’s approval) is streamlined, while holidays and other special events can be factored more efficiently into overall scheduling.
Publish Date: June 22, 2016 5:00 AM
What’s in a name?
William Shakespeare had some thoughts on that, as do the people who think referring to used cars as “pre-owned” will make them more desirable.
At the call center, agents are agents, and most don’t have a problem with that job description. But what if we tried to look upon them as service professionals?
It’s not just doublespeak – when you really look at the tasks performed by contact center agents every day, it is obvious businesses are placing a great deal of trust in them, in making sales, in customer care, and in dispute resolution, among other responsibilities. Call centers are now viewed as revenue-generating operations, and while managers provide the tools and the guidance, it’s the agents that are on the front lines of this effort.
There is no such thing as a “typical” agent, just as there is no such thing as a typical contact center. But we would guess that the call centers that are most successful are those that are already treating agents like service professionals, even if they haven’t adopted that term.
That doesn’t mean the new job description has to come with a higher salary and a parking place with the agent’s name on it. This is still (and likely always will be) an entry-level position, but it is one that provides access and insight to many other departments such as marketing, sales, and product development. Agents who are paying attention can, in the course of their daily duties, gather actionable information that can be valuable to the company and their own careers.
That starts with hiring and training. Don’t just look for people with good telephone voices that can read a script. Treat the process as a recruitment of not just today’s agents but also tomorrow’s managers. Let them know there’s a path to advancement available, and provide incentive compensation to identify your best candidates. If you focus on hiring professionals, you’ll stand a better chance of inspiring professional job performance.
Publish Date: June 17, 2016 5:00 AM