Thursday, December 18, 2014

Still Scheduling with Spreadsheets? Put WFM on Your Holiday List

Scheduling is a vital component in the success of every call center. And concrete, reliable data is vital to achieve accurate, consistent scheduling results.

For decades, that data was gathered through spreadsheets, and would take hours to compile. Even then, the results were not always accurate, or flexible enough to accommodate last minute changes or other issues.

And yet, hundreds of contact centers continue to handle forecasting and scheduling the same inefficient way they did 20 years ago, which is why the data generated sometimes proves insufficient.

It’s time for a change, and technology has made that change possible. An automated workforce management (WFM) solution can improve scheduling accuracy, making sure all the necessary resources are always in place.

A WFM system provides the flexibility to automatically manage start times, end times and break times. Spreadsheets cannot match this speed and efficiency, which results in unhappy agents and higher shrinkage. And wouldn’t you rather spend the hours now devoted to compiling schedules to focusing on other aspects of your business – or just getting out of the office on time for a change?

If so, perhaps it’s time to add a WFM solution to your holiday list. To find out more about this important investment, read “The Real Cost of Spreadsheet Based Scheduling” to find out if you should put WFM on your holiday wish list.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Contact Center Performance Webinar: You’re Invited!

You've probably heard how Monet's cloud-based WFO can help gain more insights and improve the performance of your contact center. But have you taken the time to see Monet’s Performance Management in action?

Now is your chance: you are cordially invited to a free webinar on Thursday December 18, at 11am PST (2pm EST) entitled “How to gain more insights into the performance of your contact center.

Topics will include how visibility at the agent level can make a critical difference at your contact center, how it helps managers learn what is happening at any moment in real time, and how it helps agents to improve their performance. 

We’ll also cover the benefits of real-time data and alerts of key metrics and activities. These provide the insight to act quickly and make certain that adequate performance and service levels are always maintained. Automated data aggregation from different systems lets you view all of the key data on the same dashboard to make faster and better decisions.

We look forward to seeing you at this event.

Register for the webinar now!

Best of Workforce Management 2014

While different contact centers have different needs, it’s hard to imagine a call center that could not benefit from a workforce management (WFM) solution. Whatever the specific goals of your business – lowering costs, improving efficiency, better customer service – workforce management can help to achieve them.

If you missed any of these 2014 posts about contact center workforce management, here’s another chance to review them.

1. Video: Workforce Management and Optimization in the Cloud

With this video you can see for yourself how Monet’s cloud-based solutions can help gain more insights and improve the performance and service quality of your contact center. 

2. Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling Best Practices with WFO
The quality of call center customer service is largely dependent on accurate forecasting and scheduling. So why do so many call centers still rely on spreadsheets for this most important of daily tasks?

3. 15 Tips on Contact Center Scheduling
The right workforce management system streamlines the process and provides more consistent, accurate data.

4. The Call Center Choice: Cloud or Software?
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between a cloud-based delivery model, and one that requires on-premises hardware and software installation.

5. Six Steps to Improved Call Center Staffing
Out of every dollar spent in call center costs, about 75 cents is related to labor. That makes staffing decisions pivotal to the operation of the business.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Contact Center Cloud: 2015 and Beyond

workforce management in the cloud
At the dawn of the 21st century, many of us wondered where all of the technological breakthroughs promised to us in science fiction over the past 100 years would finally arrive.

While we still await for many of them, the new century did bring a new paradigm in IT delivery, that has been growing in popularity and acceptance ever since.

Cloud computing arrived not a moment too soon, as the demands on data centers had already grown to near capacity with no sign of slowing down. By 2015, over 2.5 billion people with more than 10 billion devices will access the Internet. And they will all be able to connect with a cloud infrastructure requiring one billion virtual servers.

The potential in this system for contact centers and other types of businesses was immediately apparent. Cloud computing represented a major sea change in the design, development and deployment of technology, through a pay-as-you-go business model that transformed the future of computing, even as it was already evolving through the emergence of mobile platforms.

As 2015 approaches, it seemed like a good time to analyze the current state of cloud-based contact center solutions, and where they are headed next year – and beyond.

Rave Reviews
The seventh edition of the Cloud-Based Contact Center Infrastructure Market Report, recently published by DMG Consulting, evaluated the performance of eight leading and contending cloud vendors. It found that the majority (61.5%) of satisfaction scores fell into the “highly satisfied” range for in all 12 major categories surveyed:

•    Product
•    Implementation
•    System availability/up-time
•    Professional services
•    Training
•    Ongoing service and support
•    System upgrades
•    Product innovation
•    Responsiveness to product enhancement requests
•    Communication
•    Product pricing
•    Overall satisfaction level

In addition, 31.2% of the average ratings were in the satisfied range (3.0 to 3.95); 5.2% were in the somewhat satisfied range; and 2.1% were completely satisfied.

These numbers suggest that end users are now comfortable and confident in leveraging a cloud solution in a contact center, and prefer this system to the traditional on-premise alternative.

Steady Growth
From a user base of just 269,000 in 2008, the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market has picked up momentum year after year. According to DMG Consulting, seats grew by 12.8% in 2013. While that rate is down from the 32.5% jump in 2012, the slower adoption rate is actually a positive indicator of market maturity, as vendors are more accurately tracking sales.

Escalating adoption rates point toward increasing awareness of the benefits of the cloud model, including increased flexibility in resource management, lower costs, easier access to upgrades, less burden on internal IT resources, and improved automation, scalability and operational efficiency.

Where We Are Now
DMG expects adoption of cloud-based contact center infrastructure solutions to continue, and predicts that the number of cloud-based seats will grow by 20% in 2014 and 2015, 18% in 2016 and 2017, and 16% in 2018.

This is significant because of the nature of the change that is taking place. The switch from an on-premise solution to a cloud solution at a contact center is not the equivalent of a company switching from one hardware provider to another. Instead, this is a fundamental shift in IT services delivery, which can seem daunting to businesses that have utilized the same systems for decades.

As DMG writes, “Never before have we witnessed an all-out rebirth of an entire industry due solely to a new delivery model.” Clearly, the promises of large gains in efficiency and flexibility have been big enough to overcome any misgivings.

These developments are happening both in public clouds (deployed by Internet companies, hosting service providers and others) and private or enterprise clouds (deployed by enterprises behind a firewall for an organization’s internal use). The latter may be growing more rapidly given the increased acceptance of the cloud model by enterprise IT, as limitations in server capacity and network bandwidth would no longer be an issue.
 
2015 and Beyond
While the growth of cloud computing has been impressive, it has not yet reached its full potential. Customers will continue to demand more from cloud computing infrastructures and solutions, and the industry is already making strides toward overcoming challenges.

One of these is the emergence of federated systems, in which communications, data and services can move more easily across cloud infrastructures. While contact centers can now move data between data centers, the industry should evolve to a point where data will securely scale into public and private clouds as needed, between service providers and to vendors, partners and clients.

Improving efficiency is always a worthy goal, especially when it is generated from current infrastructure and processes. But as providers ramp up power, capacity and operations investments, it is also important to continue to make cloud use as simple as possible for the end contact center user. As systems tend to become more complex as they grow, this will certainly be a challenge in the years to come.

Security is another vital area, especially in the movement of data outside of traditional physical boundaries. Privacy must be maintained, while maintaining the stability of applications as they are transferred into a cloud environment.

The continued evolution of cloud computing will also require open standards for solutions, hardware, software, integration and processes.

Conclusion
The cloud has already made profound changes in the way contact centers interact with their customers. This is particularly true at smaller and midsized centers that had previously been unable to afford world-class technology. Today, any contact center regardless of size, location, budget or IT expertise can leverage the cloud’s array of benefits, including flexibility, scalability, ease of use and cost-savings.

While the future of the cloud looks promising, evolving the infrastructure to realize its full potential will require cooperative development and specific focus by many providers and customers across the IT landscape. To learn more, please download our cloud software whitepaper.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Contact Center Jobs are Coming Back Home

Contact Center Jobs are Coming Back Home. The trend of outsourcing contact center jobs that has been prevalent for more than a decade now seems to be reversing itself. Thousands of these jobs are coming back to the United States, for reasons that have as much to do with economics as customer service.

Monet CEO Chuck Ciarlo has written an article on this important subject, which has been published by Contact Professional. It analyzes the five most significant factors that have led to contact center jobs coming home, from customer frustration to privacy and security.

When outsourcing is replaced by “insourcing,” it’s great news for U.S. workers and for the customers of these contact centers, as they will now be treated to a better level of service.

Of course, the last thing these companies want is a significant investment (in some cases $100,000 or more) in new hardware and software, on top of the other costs involved with insourcing. But with a cloud WFM system, a unified solution can be implemented quickly without a large upfront cost. Instead, users pay only a low monthly subscription fee.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Contact Centers in 2014: The Year in Review and Outlook for 2015

What changes did 2014 bring to the contact center?

This past year, workforce optimization and the cloud based model were priorities at many contact centers, as most of the major trends were related in one way or another to how these capabilities are delivered and utilized.

Here are three significant developments from 2014 that should continue into 2015 and beyond.

1. Cloud Adoption

More contact centers made the switch to the cloud in 2014 than in any previous year.

Spending on cloud computing reached $100 billion this year, according to a CRN survey. It’s a trend that continued from 2012, and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, DMG Consulting projects that the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market will grow between 35-45% every year through 2015.

There are a number reasons for this movement. The cloud model offers all of the advantages of call recording, workforce management and workforce optimization without the upfront investment in hardware and software. System flexibility and ease of implementation are also benefits. And since all data is stored “in the cloud,” it can be accessed from the office, from home and from a mobile device.

Those that make the transition have no regrets, according to the 2014-2015 Cloud-Based Contact Center Infrastructure Report. This is an independent survey that tracks end-user satisfaction with vendors, products, service, support, training and innovation. In 2014, 61.5% of all responses fell into the “highly satisfied” range, and 31.2% were “satisfied.” Factor in the 2.1% listed as “completely satisfied” and that adds up to a nearly 95% satisfaction rate.

2. Enterprise and the Cloud

The misconception that cloud computing is best suited only for small and medium-sized contact centers began to dissipate in 2014. More larger businesses discovered that the cloud is not only ready for the enterprise, it is also now the preferable option over traditional on-premise software.

A recent survey of 1,000 IT professionals by Forrester Research found that they are turning to cloud products as a way to offload management of non-mission-critical applications such as WFO. A Gartner survey projects that nearly 50% of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by 2017.

Even traditional hardware firms are jumping on the cloud bandwagon. Hewlett-Packard recently announced it would spend $1 billion over the next two years to develop and offer cloud-computing services. The company’s most prominent competitors, IBM and Cisco, have also accelerated their cloud initiatives.

The rapid rise and success of the Salesforce enterprise cloud ecosystem is further testament to the security, scalability and acceptance of cloud applications among the world’s largest corporations, including Coca Cola, Wells Fargo, Delta Airlines, Sprint and NBC Universal.

The cloud offers many of the same benefits to contact centers of any size, among them flexibility, accessibility through any computer or device, cost savings, simplification of IT infrastructure, seamless integration with existing systems. However, enterprise adoption has been impeded by concerns over scalability and security.

This perception has started to change, as enterprise recognizes how cloud now offers a much higher grade of security than most internal IT departments. Network architecture is protected with firewalls and intrusion detection systems. Systems and applications are frequently tested to confirm adherence to industry-standard security requirements. Cloud providers also verify their security controls through third-party certifications such as ISO 27001 or ISO 27002, standards recognized globally as the most comprehensive framework for establishing security best practices.

Scalability concerns were always somewhat baffling, since the ability to scale on demand is one of the most intrinsic and significant benefits of cloud computing.
A cloud service tailored precisely to customer needs can be seamlessly integrated into the existing enterprise IT infrastructure. Changes can be made quickly without business interruption, and overloading is never a concern as long as the system is managed properly. The same capability could not be accomplished through an on-premise solution without a significant investment of time and planning, as well as costly changes to existing IT systems.

What may have been a concern for enterprise businesses is the question of whether applications, session information, uploads, data etc. can keep up in a scale-on-demand environment. However, with auto-scaling and scale-up capabilities, such issues have been resolved with current cloud-engineering techniques.

3. Unified Workforce Optimization

A contact center will always be more successful when all of its divisions and employees are working together toward the same goal.

There are a number of customer service metrics that must be monitored, and acted upon if there is an issue. However, the approach of analyzing these metrics irrespective of related issues or factors (the so-called “silo” approach) has fallen out of favor.

Instead, more managers in 2014 began taking a more holistic view of the business, of how different teams impact these metrics, and how collaboration between teams provides a better means to improve results.

For years this was easier said than done, as different divisions focused on different priorities, even though their main goals were usually the same – better customer service, improved efficiency, lower costs, etc.

Take workforce optimization. A contact center may have one manager in charge of 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.

Rather than take a siloed approach, where each system works independently without reciprocal operation with other divisions, WFO can provide easy access to call recording, performance management, analytics, workforce management and other cross-functional data, to help teams work more effectively on common objectives. And with a cloud delivery system, access is immediate regardless of employee location.

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. Now managers can make more informed decisions and react more quickly to internal or external trends. Result? A more optimized call center performance.

Conclusion
What new business developments and technology trends will 2015 bring? No one can say for certain. But it’s probable that cloud adoption, enterprise cloud adoption and unified workforce optimization will continue to escalate in popularity and acceptance. Contact centers now considering whether such actions would be right for them are encouraged to not get left behind. If you want to see Cloud-based WFO in Action, please click the link to watch our on demand webinar.

Metrics that Matter in your Contact Center

Do you know what metrics are most important for your contact center?

While every business is different, these are the KPIs that are likely on your list:

•    Average Handle Time
•    Calls per Hour
•    First Call Resolution
•    Abandoned Calls
•    Average Wait Time
•    Completion Rate
•    Forecasted Call Load vs. Actual
•    Scheduled Staff vs. Actual
•    Waiting Calls
•    Average Call Value

Knowing what to monitor is a good first step. But obtaining the necessary metrics and reports on these KPIs, while there is still time to improve them, is even more important.

Effective monitoring requires a workforce optimization solution that delivers operational data, preferably in real time. The more information you receive – KPIs, scorecards, alerts, dashboards, reports – the better equipped you will be to take effective action to better meet the customer service goals of the contact center.

No wonder so many contact centers have adopted WFM solutions from Monet. Our systems are designed to optimize the utilization of your resources, which makes all the difference in improving service levels, making forecasts and schedules more efficient, and lowering costs.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Successful Contact Center = Successful Company

The challenge for any contact center is making every customer engagement, whether it is conducted by telephone, email or live chat, a successful one.

Yes, it’s difficult, especially when some callers are in a bad mood even before the agent says hello. But when customers are satisfied, it can make a huge difference in the company’s bottom line.

One survey, by an analytics company called ForeSee, gauged customer satisfaction with contact center services to find out how each customer’s experience impacted the company’s future success.

They found they satisfied customers are far more likely to remain customers, and to make a similar purchase again from the same company. Even more significant, however, is the willingness of a happy customer to recommend the company to a friend, family member of colleague. Thus, one customer who has a positive experience with your agents may create many new customers.

While the focus is typically on calls, equal attention should be paid to email responses, so they are prompt and helpful, and live chat sessions, to make sure participants are getting the answers they need.

“A satisfied customer,” the survey concludes, “is the key to maintaining and growing sales and profitability regardless of channel.”

The prospects of delivering those happier customers become much easier with the right technology tools in place. And now that these sophisticated solutions are available via the cloud, even smaller and midsized contact centers can provide optimal service without a huge upfront investment.

Find out more about Monet’s workforce management solutions.