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Verint Monet - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog Page 9

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Beneficial Technologies for Virtual Contact Centers

Virtual contact centers operate differently from their brick-and-mortar counterparts – but they face many of the same challenges in resource planning and customer service. 

If your contact center is considering the move to a virtual environment, or you’ve already made the transition, here are some of the technology solutions that will help make the business a success. 

Workforce Management

Whether all your agents are in the same room or working from homes and offices throughout the U.S., the ability to create accurate forecasts and schedules to achieve adequate staffing levels remains vital. In a virtual situation managers sometimes have the luxury of more flexibility, which creates additional part-time and split-shift opportunities. But sometimes more options can also mean more headaches. Workforce management software automates these tasks so they get done faster and with greater precision. 

Automated Call Routing

The process of matching customer inquiries with the agents best suited to handle them can be achieved with the same efficiency in a virtual contact center with an integrated contact routing solution. Incoming contacts can be routed not only by topic but by communication channel as well, since most centers have agents better qualified for online chat and email. 

Automated Training

In a brick-and-mortar contact center, training sessions are often conducted in person. That would be impractical in a virtual environment, so training must be delivered online via one-on-one chat or other means of getting agents, trainers and managers together to review past calls and discuss concerns. 

Gamification

Studies have shown that gamification – redesigning everyday routines and tasks to be more game-like and interactive, results in a work experience that is more engaging, more fun, and (hopefully) more productive. As a motivating technique this is even more important when agents are outside an office where other direct means of support and encouragement are not present. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/beneficial-technologies-for-virtual-contact-centers

Publish Date: May 26, 2016 5:00 AM


Victory at the Contact Center: Should Managers Run The Business with Military Precision?

All business managers pursue exemplars of quality, efficiency and success that may serve as a model for how to run their company better. Usually these are sought out within their respective industry, or elsewhere in the private sector. But what if we looked outside those traditional channels and selected another inspiration – the military?

For the contact center that seems like a less than ideal fit – but is it? When you take a closer look, there are some common traits that benefit a platoon of call center agents as much as a platoon of soldiers. 

Grace Under Pressure

Sure, the average contact center agent won’t face a life-or-death situation on the job, but there is no shortage of pressure as he or she deals with angry callers and emotionally charged situations. Soldiers rely on their training when faced with a stressful situation, and agents should be able to do the same. There is a process in place for handling heated moments, and the best way to get through them is to stay calm and follow that process, with the agent controlling his or her reactions to whatever is hurled against them. 

When these processes are automatically and consistently applied, it’s easier for the agent to keep a cool head and keep the engagement from spiraling out of control. 

Clear Communication

Knowing how to communicate clearly is one of the most important job requirements for the contact center agent, whether addressing customers via phone, text, email or online chat. Such skills cannot always be expected from customers, who may be furious, confused or introverted. Military personnel are often called upon to communicate with people from other countries and cultures, so they know it’s important to choose their words carefully and be specific in their message to avoid any misunderstanding. The agent who is able to do the same, while maintaining a calm, courteous demeanor, is one that any business would wish to keep. 

Discipline

What does it take for a contact center to meet its customer service goals? It starts with a commitment to excellence. Some agents walk in the door with that level of dedication, but many will need to acquire it through training, during which this ability can be instilled through instruction, repetition, and an awareness of what constitutes quality. Perhaps it won’t be as strenuous as the basic training the army provides but the end result should be the same – a disciplined team member who is part of a group with one shared objective. 

Armed for Battle

Just as an officer would never send his men into war without the proper gear, a contact center agent cannot be expected to win the customer service battle without the right technology. In this case, that includes cloud contact center solutions that help analyze data, deliver more accurate forecasts and schedules, route calls to the agent best suited to handle them, and provide insight into which practices are working and which need attention. 

Rifles, grenades and bulletproof vests? Not this time. Successful contact center agents will benefit from a different set of tools, skillfully wielded by sharp managers: 

Call Recording

Workforce Management

• Quality Monitoring

• Performance Management

• Speech Analytics

• Desktop Analytics

• Screen Capture

Each in their own way can improve service levels and reduce call center costs, without the upfront expenses and IT requirements of traditional workforce software.

A New Challenge for Veterans

If there are this many common qualities between soldiers and contact center agents, doesn’t it make sense to consider veterans when hiring? 

Comcast Corp. certainly thinks so. Last year the company announced plans to hire 10,000 military veterans, reservists and spouses over the next three years. Since 2012, the company has hired more than 4,200 veterans. Many of them now work at Comcast’s contact centers. 

This is not only an admirable effort, especially with Memorial Day fast approaching, it is also a proven method for finding better agents that are more likely to provide excellent service, and to stay in their positions longer. 

Consider these additional attributes managers look for in a contact center agent, and how they also correspond with those in military service. No wonder this transition is one that works:

Accelerated learning curve: veterans can quickly learn new skills and concepts

Teamwork: the military encourages both individual and group productivity

Following orders: Military men and women are used to accurately following procedures

Integrity: Veterans are familiar with the concept of an honest day’s work, and will bring their ‘A’ game to their job every day. 

There are many qualities that are desirable in a contact center agent, and most of them have already been acquired by men and women who have served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Something to keep in mind next time your contact center is hiring. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/victory-at-the-contact-center-should-managers-run-the-business-with-military-precision

Publish Date: May 26, 2016 5:00 AM


Using Speech Analytics for Agent-Customer Personality Matches

In previous blogs we have discussed how speech analytics makes it easier for contact centers to route calls to the agents best suited to handle them, based on the nature of the customer’s inquiry. Some agents are better at dealing with returns, for instance, or explaining how a product works, or leveraging an upsell opportunity.

But there is another benefit to speech analytics that can also improve customer engagements, and that is to match calls to agents based on personality. 

We all have different traits as people and usually we gravitate toward others who share those traits. This works in business as well. People who are more quiet and contemplative are not going to be as receptive to a loud, aggressive salesperson. Such traits are obvious in a retail environment, but over the phone finding the right match requires the type of insight that only speech analytics can provide. 

Before we even get to that step, however, you need to know what types of personalities you have available to you on each agent shift. Hopefully, a good mix will occur naturally – some will be more outgoing and friendly; others will be more reserved and “all-business.” You don’t want to have too many gradations here – start with simple introvert and extrovert classifications. 

Now you’ll need to route calls appropriately based on the customer’s personality. With call recording you can review past engagements and gather enough insight into each customer to place them in one of these behavioral categories. Then, the next time he or she calls, you’ll know which agents have a better chance of making them happy.

Why is this important? The improved likelihood of a rapport between agent and customer may result in faster calls, high call resolution and more sales. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Analytics/post/using-speech-analytics-for-agent-customer-personality-matches

Publish Date: May 16, 2016 5:00 AM


Insurance Company Contact Centers – Four Ways WFM Can Improve Performance

Customer care is a crucial aspect of performance at the contact center, particularly for those affiliated with insurance companies. 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, insurance contact 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. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/insurance-company-contact-centers-four-ways-wfm-can-improve-performance

Publish Date: May 6, 2016 5:00 AM


A Three Point Plan for a Better Forecast

Customer service 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

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 for awhile 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. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Optimization/post/a-three-point-plan-for-a-better-forecast

Publish Date: April 30, 2016 5:00 AM


Moment-Driven Data

One of the less heralded attributes of a technologically proficient contact center is its ability to deliver insight into customer behavior – how to identify it, and how to change it. 

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

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

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

Every call, even those that start as complaints or the cancellation of an order, is an opportunity to create a better customer relationship. 

This will only become more challenging as contact centers embrace omnichannel opportunities, but once those channels are in place they will begin generating data from day one. When contact centers can target customers across devices, and identify moments based on previous predictors to deliver an upsell or special offer with a higher likelihood of success, that is next-generation marketing. And you don’t need to wait for next-generation technology to start – check out Monet WFO Live. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Analytics/post/moment-driven-data

Publish Date: April 29, 2016 5:00 AM


Millennial Agents, Millennial Customers: Keeping Them Happy

It’s possible that no generation in history has come under more scrutiny – and attack – than Millennials. They’re rude; they’re entitled; they want everything free. 

Of course, there are overgeneralizations. Every generation has had its achievers and failures. But there is no question that Millennials approach work and communication differently than those that preceded them, and this is important for contact center managers. These are your current and future employees (Millennials are already almost 35% of the American labor force), as well as your current and future customers. 

How can you make them happy? Try thinking like they do.

Agents

Statistics show that Millennials often leave jobs in three years or less. In the contact center industry where high agent attrition is already an issue, three years might be seen as an improvement. Still, each new employee is an investment in training; so the longer you keep them around the better your bottom line will look. 

Perhaps it’s time to think differently, by shortening the initial ramp-up phase of preparation (lowering associated costs) and then relying on more context-sensitive refreshers in the days and weeks that follow. 

Millennials grew up with technology, and have a comfort level with instant communication and instant feedback shared by no previous generation. Every Facebook post they make generates “likes” and responses within seconds. Millennial contact center agents are more open to the same type of instant feedback. Monthly training sessions are fine, but with the real-time data generated by a workforce optimization solution, managers can offer ongoing coaching and assessments based on performance. 

Sure, it may take a little more time. But if that coaching is immediately integrated into performance, it results in better customer service right away. 

You’ll also find Millennials are often adept at self-evaluation – why do you think they take so many selfies? With WFO generating data on each call, these agents can review how each interaction fared while the details are still fresh, and figure out if something could have been handled more efficiently. 

If you still doubt that Millennials communicate differently than previous generations, just check out their emoticon-fueled texts. It is practically a different language. Texting is a comfort zone, certainly more so than traditional face-to-face communication. The closest comparison to this in a professional contact center environment is the webchat application. As this channel becomes more popular among customers, managers will find no shortage of agents adept as chatting online.

Can chat be used for coaching or training as well? Certainly it wouldn’t seem to be as effective as meeting with an agent in person, but times are changing. 

Customers

The Millennial customer will share the same preferences as the Millennial agent, starting with a fondness for webchat. Perhaps that is why there has been so much recent refinement in the “chat with an agent” option, with even more sophisticated solutions on the horizon. 

All webchats are already not the same. Some are still what you’d expect – one agent typing messages in response to customer questions. But at some companies the human element has been replaced by coded auto-response software that interacts with customers the way Siri responds to you on your iPhone. 

Most customers are savvy enough to spot the difference. But the next-generation virtual assistants will be able to respond in sentences that sound more authentic than the overly formal speech programmed by technology. Facebook is leading the way on this with an intelligence “Facebook Bot Engine Development Tool” that learns by interacting with current Facebook-based communication. 

Yes, this can be an advantage or a lawsuit waiting to happen, based on some of the Facebook pages we’ve seen. 

We may be at the point one day soon when a customer will not be able to tell the difference between a live agent and a program on webchat. This will make it easier for companies to switch back and forth during a customer engagement as needed – the bot can be relied up to answer basic, common questions and offer standard responses to everyday transactions. When the conversation turns to something more specialized, the agent can be alerted to step in. 

This will happen without the customer’s knowledge and, given what we’ve already said of the Millennial comfort level with technology, it likely won’t matter to them whether the responses they receive are human or machine-driven. 

As this technology becomes mainstream, it can be used at the contact center for coaching as well. Think of it – a virtual coach communicating via webchat, linked to all previous customer and agent data, providing real time reminders (“Ask this customer if he wants the extended warranty”) and feedback on a customer engagement. 

Regular coaching sessions would still be helpful ¬– but now coaches will have even more specific data for each agent.   

There are additional benefits to webchat coaching as well: it is equally accessible for remote agents as for those in an office; and it takes some of the intimidation factor out of coaching, and that might make the sessions more effective.  

Conclusion

Whether one is more likely to condemn Millennials or defend them, there is no question that they are likely to change the structure of the workplace more than any previous generation. 

It is natural for those who came up through the ranks with different rules and procedures to be resistant to new ideas, but that presumes that anyone has a choice. It is those entering the job market who have options – and if they find a contact center that is open to providing a professional environment more accommodating to their preferences, that is where they’ll direct their Nike Jordan Instigators. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/millennial-agents-millennial-customers-keeping-them-happy

Publish Date: April 29, 2016 5:00 AM


Choose the KPIs That Matter Most

Every contact center strives toward the same operating efficiency and customer service goals. However, each one is also unique, and faces its own specific operating challenges. 

The establishment of key performance indicators (KPIs) is the first step toward consistent performance. KPIs, which are optimally monitored and measured by a workforce management solution, provide the data that fuels analytics, testing, development, efficiency, and productivity. 

There are standard KPIs for every contact center, and they are all important. It is the manager’s job to focus on those where improvement is needed most, so discussions can begin on how to make that happen. 

Common contact center KPIs include:

• Hold times

• Calls made per agent, per day

• Call response times

• Leads generated per hour

• Average handle times

• Agent talk times

• Average wait time for agents

Once again, the main purpose of KPI establishment and analysis is to create clearly defined goals for improving efficiency and service at the contact center. It is much more difficult to achieve cost reduction or boost sales without knowing how many calls are taken per hour or per shift, how long they last, and how many result in a sale. 

When you have your goals established, don’t keep them a secret. They will be created by managers but must be disseminated to every agent to keep them on task throughout their shift. 

And of course, KPI tracking becomes much easier, as well as more accurate, with a workforce management solution in place – preferably one that is cloud-based, so there is no issue with monitoring remote agents, and the contact center can avoid maintenance costs, hardware costs and software upgrade costs. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Analytics/post/choose-the-kpis-that-matter-most

Publish Date: April 26, 2016 5:00 AM


The Contact Center in 2020

If you’re old enough you may remember the television series Lost in Space, in which the Robinson family blasted off earth en route to Alpha Centauri, but went off course and couldn’t find their way home. The series debuted in 1965, but was set in the year 1997, a time when the show’s creators apparently envisioned interstellar space travel but not GPS.

That’s the thing about the future – it always catches up and eventually becomes the present. So when predictions begin appearing online about what the contact center will look like in 2020, it might be wise to pay attention, especially as 2020 is less than four years away. By preparing now for the changes to come, your contact center can get ahead of the technology curve, and provide better customer service than other companies in your industry. 

Let’s take a closer look at what the future holds.

The Role of Contact Center Agents

As contact centers embrace multiple channels for customer communication, agents will have to be skilled in more than one discipline. Companies that have already incorporated email, online chat, texting and social media may have agents trained in one of these channels. But in 2020, most agents will have the knowledge and skills to shift from one assignment to another. 

As customers embrace more self-service options, find answers to basic questions and handle simple orders and returns on their own, they will not have a need to reach out to a contact center unless the situation calls for more extensive information. That means agents will need to be prepared to handle a wider range of product and service issues. Obviously this impacts training – and may manifest in prospective agents going through a more in-depth orientation that includes spending a day or two with different business departments within the company.

However, even with all of this additional knowledge and instruction, agents will also need to retain the qualities that companies require of them now – strong communication skills and listening skills, courtesy and empathy, and the ability to make decisions and resolve issues through their own initiative. Management, of course, will have to bestow the freedom on these agents to rely on their training and intelligence to act.   

Given all the demands on the agent, this is a job that will no longer be classified as an entry-level position. A higher investment will be needed in qualified professionals. The hope is this will not just pay off in improved customer service, but also lower attrition rates. 

The Role of Contact Center Managers

While agents will become more intimately involved in operations, managers will transfer out of a primarily operational role and adopt a more “big picture” outlook on the organization, and the strategic role of the contact center. Rather than monitoring KPIs, managers will be meeting with executive teams from other divisions on how departments can successfully work together to deliver a more efficient end-to-end customer experience. 

To make sure agents receive the training they need to prosper in the contact centers of the future, managers will also have to make sure the contact center is recognized as a profit-boosting segment of the organization, and worthy of the additional investment necessary to make sure it functions at optimal efficiency. 

The Role of Customers

The term “contact center” has already replaced that of “call center.” By 2020, we may be referring to these entities as “customer interaction centers.” That’s because customers want more options for communication, as well as the ability to switch from one to another if it might get them on their way faster. 

Most customer contacts are still conducted by the telephone. Some experts believe that dominant role will gradually shift to webchat, as Millennials and subsequent generations come of age in technology-driven world where the answer to every question can be found on one’s smartphone. Fortunately, tomorrow’s agents will have grown up with the same technology and will be equally adept at these interactions. 

The Role of Workforce Management

Workforce management will play a more prominent role in tomorrow’s contact centers, as the drive to optimize resources will always be key to running a successful business. In the contact center that means accurate forecasting, as well as analytics, skills-based routing and capturing important customer data. 

Some WFM solutions, including Monet WFM Live, can do that now. As workforce patterns change, and more employees opt for flexible scheduling to balance their jobs with their personal responsibilities, WFM will have to keep up with even more accurate resource planning, and by making it easier for agents to bid on shifts in a way that does not negatively impact customer service. 

The Role of Analytics

Analytics already plays an important role in tactical decision-making. That figures to increase as the contact center plays a more prominent role in delivering actionable business intelligence. Customer data will become even more specific, providing guidance toward new customer-centric services. 

The Roles We Can’t Yet See

Speculating about future technology is always risky, as we learned from Lost in Space. But we do have some indicators about where contact center-related systems are headed. 

We have video chat now but we’re probably going to have a lot more of it by 2020, a result of easier access, more bandwidth and customer comfort with the video webchat they already use through Skype and other services. 

So if more customers opt for video, what channels will that replace? Some might say the phone, but according to a recent survey by Call Centre Helper it is email that is most likely to fall out of favor. 

As speech analytics is already improving the depth of data derived from every customer call, a voice biometrics component may be added to this functionality. With it, agents can authenticate a caller’s identity instantly, without the repetition of a social security number, account numbers or other personal information. That results in both a faster and more secure transaction. 

Speaking of faster – that’s what customers want, both now and in the future. The next-generation WFM solutions will strive to shorten average handle time by being even more intuitive in anticipating how calls should be routed and how issues can be resolved. The concept of “self-learning” functionality is no longer relegated to science fiction. The contact center of 2020 will be staffed by better agents working with better data, to drive customer satisfaction and retention, and deliver better value at a lower cost. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/the-contact-center-in-2020

Publish Date: April 18, 2016 5:00 AM


Boosting Conversion Rates with a Better Customer Experience

From the “easier said than done” department is the advice that works for just about every type of contact center – listen to your customers and respond to their needs. When contact centers develop this habit, customer conversion rates go up. 

The way to get there is not through some sophisticated formula – it’s the basic business practices that we know we should be doing every day, but sometimes fall short amidst the day-to-day challenges that running a business entails. 

Here’s a refresher course on the some of the most prominent of these practices.

Accurate Forecasts

Part of responding to customer needs is answering calls quickly – 30 seconds or less is a reasonable goal. Accurate forecasting and scheduling through a workforce management solution that predicts call volume is the key to developing consistency in this critical skill. 

Recurrent Training

After initial agent training is complete, the process of learning and improving really begins. Reviews of recorded calls, positive reinforcement and coaching, and the flexibility to go off-script are just some of the ways that you can help agents sharpen their skills and instincts.

Adding Additional Channels

We’ve covered this before – webchat, email and mobile apps offer customers other options for placing orders or having questions answered. 

Use Analytics Wisely

Data generated by workforce management and quality monitoring can point managers toward efficiency goals – but people are always more important than numbers, and agents should feel confident in the freedom to take some extra time with a difficult customer to bring about a successful result. 

Never Stop Listening

You can’t turn full control over to your customers, but the more you listen to their preferences, the better you’ll be able to meet them. Don’t be afraid to test new procedures and experiment with script changes or other variables that might improve the customer experience. Not every test will be successful, but you’ll never know which ones will make your business better until you try them. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Management/post/boosting-conversion-rates-with-a-better-customer-experience

Publish Date: April 13, 2016 5:00 AM


How ACD Improves the Impact of Call Recording

There are many reasons why call recording should be standard operating procedure at any contact center. These include ensuring compliance, agent training and for protection against he-said-she-said customer disputes. 

But one of the biggest benefits of call recording is visibility. You have a 100% accurate record of exactly what each caller said and how your agent responded. And one way to leverage that visibility is with the addition of automatic call distribution (ACD) reporting. Now you can distribute calls to the agent most qualified to handle that customer’s inquiry. 

Both systems complement each other. With call recording you’ll discover very quickly which agents are adept at calming angry customers, which show more patience with seniors who may need some extra moments to provide information, and which are good at explaining technical information to those who don’t have a technology background.

When these agent profiles are assembled, the ACD provides information on call types through graphical screens that make routing faster and easier. 

Best of all, this happens without the caller’s awareness. For all he or she knows, they were just lucky enough to have their call picked up by an agent who knew exactly how to solve their problem. 

In this business we all recognize the importance of first call resolution (FCR) as a metric for tracking efficiency. It’s one of the best indicators of a well-run contact center, and one of the stats most closely associated with customer satisfaction scores. In fact, according to a study by The Ascent Group, FCR is listed as one of the five most important metrics tracked by call centers. Organizations that have low FCR rates also tend to have low employee satisfaction and high turnover rates.

So what better way to boost FCR than by using call recording paired with ACD to deliver fast service and optimal customer interaction? 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Quality-Management/post/how-acd-improves-the-impact-of-call-recording

Publish Date: April 12, 2016 5:00 AM


Setting up a New Contact Center: the Basics

What happens when a business can no longer handle incoming call volume with the personnel they have? For some, it means the decision to create a contact center to make sure this important function is handled in a way that optimizes the customer experience. 

If this seems like a difficult challenge, here is some advice on how to make the job a little easier. Even if you have a contact center in place now, this piece might offer some helpful advice on how to make it better. 

Layout

Layout will obviously be determined by the space available – are you opening in a separate building, or devoting part of your current workspace to call center functions? Either way, the objective is to make it as conducive as possible to efficient service and teamwork. That means sufficient lighting and ventilation, work stations with comfortable chairs that make it easy for agents to communicate with each other, but not so close that they’re interfering with each other’s calls. For a quieter atmosphere add acoustic wall panels or carpeting. Don’t forget a nice break room. 

Staffing

If you already have contact centers and this is an additional location, the first place to look for agents, managers and coaches is within your organization. Perhaps some will want to move to a newer facility that might be located closer to their homes. Otherwise, follow the same practices you do when offsetting attrition at your current businesses. Make sure to hire bilingual agents, as well as those more adept at text, online chat and social media. 

Technology

Obviously start with the essentials – a secure LAN, predictive dialers for outbound calls, VoIP, IVR, and an automatic call distributor that routes calls to specific agents. A call recording system is a must for legal protection and agent training. This can be acquired as part of a workforce optimization solution that includes workforce management, quality management, screen capture, performance management and agent analytics. With this technology in place, you’ll be able to do a better job of forecasting and scheduling from day one, while providing your agents with everything they need to serve your customers. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Optimization/post/setting-up-a-new-contact-center-the-basics

Publish Date: April 11, 2016 5:00 AM


How Reliable is Your Quality Management System?

“Of course we have a quality management system,” most contact center managers say. “Does it work? Of course! It has ‘quality’ right in the title!”

If that’s true, congratulations. But here’s the problem – quality is not a fixed goal that, once achieved, can be maintained by repeating the same steps that got you there in the first place. Even if everything looks good, and you’d rather spend that time on other priorities, the objective here is continuous improvement, and that means ongoing attention. 

Insight is the key to building the type of reliability that maintains quality year in and year out. Think of it as shining a light in every corner of the contact center, to illuminate what is being done right and to catch issues before they become serious.

Where You Are vs. Where You Want to Be

Gap assessment is the practice of identifying gaps between existing conditions and the quality processes you want to put in place.  Start by comparing your quality management actions against what is referred to as standard operating procedure. 

Where there are gaps at your contact center? Find out where and when they occur, define the problem that needs to be solved, and what control can be put in place to make sure the problem doesn’t come back. Chances are you won’t be able to answer these questions right away. Set time aside to interview key personnel, to observe processes over time, and to analyze the results. 

If this results in change, be sure to give those changes time to work. Every time a new procedure is added, it will take agents time to adjust. And don’t change too many things at the same time, as it will make it more difficult to discern which new processes are working and which are not. 

Avoid Silo Processes

Any kind of business is more successful when all of its divisions and employees are working together toward the same quality goals. 

With larger companies, including contact centers, this can be easier said than done. Different divisions have different priorities, and while all of them may be similar in conception (better customer service, improved efficiency, lower costs, etc.), these efforts can always be improved (and can occasionally be hindered) by the data and employee input from other parts of the organization. 

This is particularly true of quality management at a contact center. Such businesses are comprised of managers devoted to forecasting and scheduling, executives who review recorded and monitored calls to gauge customer service, and others who set goals for the organization based on agent and customer feedback. All of the functions are important for quality, but may be monitored separately. 

Rather than take a siloed approach, where each system works independently without reciprocal operation with other divisions, having the right workforce optimization systems in place can provide easy access to cross-functional data that helps align teams, so they can work more effectively on common objectives. And access is immediate regardless of employee location, just one of the many benefits of a cloud delivery system. 

With the centralized administration provided by unified WFO, there is no need to devote additional time and budgeting to costly integration projects, which can be effective but may not be scheduled more than once a month, if that. The fully integrated WFO framework automatically delivers important call center insights, metrics and alerts on an ongoing basis. Now managers can make more informed decisions and react more quickly to internal or external trends. Result? More consistent quality management. 

Improvement Every Day

A lean quality management system is one that is intolerant to waste in all its forms by creating a culture that expects daily improvement. If there is something at your contact center that is not making a contribution, get rid of it, along with any other non-value-added steps in your processes. 

Usually when organizations think about getting leaner it means cutting  – less agents, less hours. And while that may be feasible, there are ways to add instead of subtract that can also contribute to a lean enterprise. These may include adding more flexibility and empowerment to the agent position, so that can deal with customer issues without additional assistance. 

How the Right System Helps

As stated earlier, proactive quality management is made easier with an automated workforce optimization solution in place. Now you can quickly and accurately measure the metrics that are most critical to your quality system, analyze real-time data across different departments, and generate reports that help to share the knowledge faster. 

Conclusion

Optimization and lean, continuous improvement programs are not just one-time projects, but a continuous cycle for improving your quality management system. It’s a worthy goal, as doing so can achieve a number of ROI benefits, from knowing you are always making the most efficient use of your resources, to the adoption of successful, sustainable processes, and the ultimate achievement of higher quality customer service delivered at a lower cost. Once you have the basics in place, introduce a maintenance program that can add modest refinements as needed for further optimization. You may be surprised at how much time and money can be saved by even the smallest change. 

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Quality-Management/post/how-reliable-is-your-quality-management-system

Publish Date: April 5, 2016 5:00 AM


Why are Customers Frustrated with Contact Centers – and How to Change Their Minds

The calendar says we’re closer to Easter than Halloween, but we have a few contact center horror stories to share, and they’re too good to keep until October. 

A customer opened a web chat with a cable TV provider. The company responded only with pre-prepared template messages – until the customer was shocked to see the personal information of another customer pop up on his screen. When this was brought to the agent’s attention, she typed, “Oh, sorry… hehe… I am typing in 2 other windows, and got confused."

Another cable TV customer called to cancel service that had originally been ordered in her husband’s name. Her husband had recently died. When she explained this to the agent, the agent responded that he would still have to contact them to cancel. 

A corporate customer called a computer company to report that the 12 laptops he had purchased were not working. The agent’s response: “What do you want me to do about it?”

A customer with a billing question was transferred to an account specialist. As soon as the call picked up, the agent yelled, You, I told you not to call me again.” When the customer questioned what was going on, the call was disconnected. 

The customer of an Internet service provider called to ask about a company’s bundling offers with cable TV, and the agent tried for more than 30 minutes to sell that customer a home security system. After the call ended, during which the customer did order cable, a technician arrived a few days later to install the cable – and the home security system that was never ordered. 

Some of these sad-but-true anecdotes, like the now-famous tale of the customer that was on hold with Comcast for more than three hours, are clearly aberrations from normal procedure. But we live in a time when one bad experience gets shared on social media, repeated on industry blogs, and may even go viral. 

So when we ask the question of why customers hate contact centers, these exceptional examples of bad service cannot be ignored. And as a recent survey from analytics company ForeSee illustrates, customer satisfaction derived from the contact center is crucial to company reputation, brand loyalty and future sales. 

After receiving feedback from approximately 11,000 contact center customers, each asked to grade their experience on a 100-point scale, ForeSee found that most businesses achieved scores around 70. Those in the 80s are on the right track – but some only managed to edge into the 50s, indicating the need for significant changes to policies, procedures, or personnel.

Service-based contact centers tended to receive lower scores, which is not surprising. These are the types of businesses that hear primarily from customers that are already angry or confused, making the agent’s task even more difficult. 

Two Solutions: Technology and Sensitivity

How is your contact center doing on the customer service scale? Would you hit that 70-range of average success, or is there work to be done?

If it’s time for a fresh look, there are two areas where changes are more likely to bring about better results. 

Let’s start with agent training, which should extend beyond learning a script or becoming familiar with contact center procedures, and should also stress empathy, patience and understanding. Scripted responses might be more efficient, but it makes customers feel better if they believe they are connecting with a person who acknowledges their frustration, and reassures them that they have come to the right place for the help they need. 

We’ve mentioned the CARP Method before but it’s worth acknowledging again. CARP is an acronym for “Control, Acknowledge, Refocus, Problem Solve.” It was created by Robert Bacal, who wrote the book If It Wasn’t for the Customers I’d Really Like this Job. His advice for handling complaints – “Control” the situation with polite but firm responses; “Acknowledge concerns in a way that takes them seriously; “Refocus” the conversation to solving the problem rather than complaining about its existence, then “Problem Solve” and wrap it up. 

However, to be fair to your agents, it is also appropriate to train them on the difference between angry callers open to best practices communication, and the acceptance of an apology when merited, and abusive callers who just want to vent. It may not be possible to salvage these encounters, and it’s acceptable to give up on them when the threats and profanities start flying. 

Workforce Management Software

All of the burden for customer service should not fall on the agent’s shoulders. The contact center must provide the tools necessary for that agent to do his or her job, as well as provide forecasting and scheduling that assures the presence of enough agents to efficiently handle incoming calls. 

That used to be handled with spreadsheets but can now be covered with a workforce management (WFM) solution. With the advanced functionality and the more accurate forecasting and scheduling made possible by WFM, as well as the data it delivers on agent performance, schedule adherence and KPIs, contact center managers can always be assured the contact center’s resources are being utilized in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. 

Among the benefits:

Real-Time Adherence

Tracking and schedule adherence are difficult, if not flat-out impossible, with just a spreadsheet. Spot-checks are fine as far as they go, but without the real-time tracking provided by WFM there is a higher risk of over/under staffing, shrinkage and missed service levels. 

Skill-Based Routing

You know what types of calls your contact center receives, and you know which agents are adept at handling those particular calls. But the process of routing calls  to the best recipients is more complex given the number of calls expected in any shift, and the number of agents available to handle them. Skill-based routing becomes less challenging with a WFM solution. 

Multi-Location and Multi-Channel Coordination

Companies with multiple contact center locations require a means to coordinate personnel, resources and schedules at each facility so the service they provide is consistent. There may also be agents working from home that must be accounted for. WFM delivers these multi-site capabilities. 

Choosing the Best Solution

If you are considering the addition of WFM, it can be a confusing process. The best way to be assured of choosing the right solution the first time is to be prepared. Have a list of capabilities that you’ll want from your system, such as: 

The ability to coordinate in multi-skill, multi-contact environments

• Support for email, phone and chat contact channels

• The ability to run simulations based on required skills and personnel

• The capability to analyze and report on a wide range of agent and scheduling data

Next, have your questions ready for the vendors you contact. We’d suggest including these on your list: 

How will this system integrate with my business? 

The optimal WFM solution will improve a contact center’s procedures without requiring a complete overhaul of its current system. 

How much does it cost?

An obvious question but also one that, for many smaller and midsized contact centers, marks the end of the discussion – unless they choose a cloud provider. 

How long will it take to set up?

Once again, advantage: Cloud. Set up can be completed in days, with secure access available to agents and managers in the call center and at remote locations. 

Is the system easily usable/scalable?

Usability is a priority with most cloud-based solutions, so call center agents and managers can get started more quickly from any location. 

Conclusion

No contact center has ever achieved a 100% perfect service record. However, it’s a worthy goal to pursue even if one is doing so with imperfect people – and that includes managers as well as agents. But armed with better training that emphasizes courtesy and customer empathy, combined with a workforce management solution that locates the gaps between the contact center’s available personnel skills and resources, the contact center that inspires customer derision can be transformed into a sales-building protector of the brand.  

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Optimization/post/why-customers-hate-contact-centers-and-how-to-change-their-minds

Publish Date: March 30, 2016 5:00 AM


Why Customers Hate Contact Centers – and How to Change Their Minds

The calendar says we’re closer to Easter than Halloween, but we have a few contact center horror stories to share, and they’re too good to keep until October. 

A customer opened a web chat with a cable TV provider. The company responded only with pre-prepared template messages – until the customer was shocked to see the personal information of another customer pop up on his screen. When this was brought to the agent’s attention, she typed, “Oh, sorry… hehe… I am typing in 2 other windows, and got confused."

Another cable TV customer called to cancel service that had originally been ordered in her husband’s name. Her husband had recently died. When she explained this to the agent, the agent responded that he would still have to contact them to cancel. 

A corporate customer called a computer company to report that the 12 laptops he had purchased were not working. The agent’s response: “What do you want me to do about it?”

A customer with a billing question was transferred to an account specialist. As soon as the call picked up, the agent yelled, You, I told you not to call me again.” When the customer questioned what was going on, the call was disconnected. 

The customer of an Internet service provider called to ask about a company’s bundling offers with cable TV, and the agent tried for more than 30 minutes to sell that customer a home security system. After the call ended, during which the customer did order cable, a technician arrived a few days later to install the cable – and the home security system that was never ordered. 

Some of these sad-but-true anecdotes, like the now-famous tale of the customer that was on hold with Comcast for more than three hours, are clearly aberrations from normal procedure. But we live in a time when one bad experience gets shared on social media, repeated on industry blogs, and may even go viral. 

So when we ask the question of why customers hate contact centers, these exceptional examples of bad service cannot be ignored. And as a recent survey from analytics company ForeSee illustrates, customer satisfaction derived from the contact center is crucial to company reputation, brand loyalty and future sales. 

After receiving feedback from approximately 11,000 contact center customers, each asked to grade their experience on a 100-point scale, ForeSee found that most businesses achieved scores around 70. Those in the 80s are on the right track – but some only managed to edge into the 50s, indicating the need for significant changes to policies, procedures, or personnel.

Service-based contact centers tended to receive lower scores, which is not surprising. These are the types of businesses that hear primarily from customers that are already angry or confused, making the agent’s task even more difficult. 

Two Solutions: Technology and Sensitivity

How is your contact center doing on the customer service scale? Would you hit that 70-range of average success, or is there work to be done?

If it’s time for a fresh look, there are two areas where changes are more likely to bring about better results. 

Let’s start with agent training, which should extend beyond learning a script or becoming familiar with contact center procedures, and should also stress empathy, patience and understanding. Scripted responses might be more efficient, but it makes customers feel better if they believe they are connecting with a person who acknowledges their frustration, and reassures them that they have come to the right place for the help they need. 

We’ve mentioned the CARP Method before but it’s worth acknowledging again. CARP is an acronym for “Control, Acknowledge, Refocus, Problem Solve.” It was created by Robert Bacal, who wrote the book If It Wasn’t for the Customers I’d Really Like this Job. His advice for handling complaints – “Control” the situation with polite but firm responses; “Acknowledge concerns in a way that takes them seriously; “Refocus” the conversation to solving the problem rather than complaining about its existence, then “Problem Solve” and wrap it up. 

However, to be fair to your agents, it is also appropriate to train them on the difference between angry callers open to best practices communication, and the acceptance of an apology when merited, and abusive callers who just want to vent. It may not be possible to salvage these encounters, and it’s acceptable to give up on them when the threats and profanities start flying. 

Workforce Management Software

All of the burden for customer service should not fall on the agent’s shoulders. The contact center must provide the tools necessary for that agent to do his or her job, as well as provide forecasting and scheduling that assures the presence of enough agents to efficiently handle incoming calls. 

That used to be handled with spreadsheets but can now be covered with a workforce management (WFM) solution. With the advanced functionality and the more accurate forecasting and scheduling made possible by WFM, as well as the data it delivers on agent performance, schedule adherence and KPIs, contact center managers can always be assured the contact center’s resources are being utilized in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. 

Among the benefits:

Real-Time Adherence

Tracking and schedule adherence are difficult, if not flat-out impossible, with just a spreadsheet. Spot-checks are fine as far as they go, but without the real-time tracking provided by WFM there is a higher risk of over/under staffing, shrinkage and missed service levels. 

Skill-Based Routing

You know what types of calls your contact center receives, and you know which agents are adept at handling those particular calls. But the process of routing calls  to the best recipients is more complex given the number of calls expected in any shift, and the number of agents available to handle them. Skill-based routing becomes less challenging with a WFM solution. 

Multi-Location and Multi-Channel Coordination

Companies with multiple contact center locations require a means to coordinate personnel, resources and schedules at each facility so the service they provide is consistent. There may also be agents working from home that must be accounted for. WFM delivers these multi-site capabilities. 

Choosing the Best Solution

If you are considering the addition of WFM, it can be a confusing process. The best way to be assured of choosing the right solution the first time is to be prepared. Have a list of capabilities that you’ll want from your system, such as: 

The ability to coordinate in multi-skill, multi-contact environments

• Support for email, phone and chat contact channels

• The ability to run simulations based on required skills and personnel

• The capability to analyze and report on a wide range of agent and scheduling data

Next, have your questions ready for the vendors you contact. We’d suggest including these on your list: 

How will this system integrate with my business? 

The optimal WFM solution will improve a contact center’s procedures without requiring a complete overhaul of its current system. 

How much does it cost?

An obvious question but also one that, for many smaller and midsized contact centers, marks the end of the discussion – unless they choose a cloud provider. 

How long will it take to set up?

Once again, advantage: Cloud. Set up can be completed in days, with secure access available to agents and managers in the call center and at remote locations. 

Is the system easily usable/scalable?

Usability is a priority with most cloud-based solutions, so call center agents and managers can get started more quickly from any location. 

Conclusion

No contact center has ever achieved a 100% perfect service record. However, it’s a worthy goal to pursue even if one is doing so with imperfect people – and that includes managers as well as agents. But armed with better training that emphasizes courtesy and customer empathy, combined with a workforce management solution that locates the gaps between the contact center’s available personnel skills and resources, the contact center that inspires customer derision can be transformed into a sales-building protector of the brand.  

Source: http://www.monetsoftware.com/blog/Workforce-Optimization/post/why-customers-hate-contact-centers-and-how-to-change-their-minds

Publish Date: March 29, 2016 5:00 AM

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