Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Workforce Management for the Helpdesk

Accurate forecasting, scheduling and staffing for a Helpdesk can be a more difficult challenge than doing so for standard contact center traffic.

Many calls to contact center agents cover basic ordering, returning, questions etc. that can be handled in a few minutes. But the typical helpdesk call may incorporate several complex activities that must be handled by different people with different skill sets.

An effective workforce management solution is the key to making a helpdesk run smoothly and efficiently, so cases get closed as quickly as possible with a positive outcome.

Forecasting, scheduling and assigning activities more effectively can optimize case resolution. WFM makes this possible. Managers can match available resources to the specific requirements of each case. By integrating workforce optimization in the WFM solution, case and activity assignment is further optimized, and managers will always be confident that their resources are being allocated in the best way possible.

Best of all, the data is available in real-time, so managers will always have insight into case handling and activity assignments as they occur. Make adjustments as needed, whether that involves adding or reassigning agents, to improve turnaround time.

A helpdesk is there to take on the tougher challenges. With a Workforce Management system in place that support helpdesks, even the most difficult cases can be resolved in a way that customers will appreciate.

You can learn more about Workforce Management for Helpdesks on our website, or just contact us and we are happy to show you how it works.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Intra-day Workforce Management? It’s as Easy as “Drag and Drop”

Wouldn't it be nice to check your contact center status and quickly review agent activities on a single color-coded dashboard? If you see green, you know everything is as it should be. If you see red, you know that action has to be taken, and you are then able to make real-time schedule changes that have an immediate impact on contact center performance.

Thankfully, this isn’t one of those scenarios like “Wouldn’t it be nice if chocolate was good for you?” In this case such quick and easy status checks and schedule adjustments are certainly possible, with a technology solution like Monet WFM Live.

When changes need to be made, the graphical schedule generated by Monet WFM Live allows managers to drag and drop breaks, lunches and other changes. The real-time updates provide an up-to-the-minute picture for agent surpluses and shortages throughout the day.

In addition, reports, organized as easy to read charts, provide managers with the data necessary to create individualized shifts for a particular agent (based on exceptional skills, special needs or other variables), as well as extensive employee-level configuration options for non-call work assignment.

Find out more about WFM Live.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Call Center Jobs are Coming Back: Is your Contact Center Ready?

It can be one of the most frustrating experiences a caller to a contact center may encounter: the call is answered by an agent in a far away country with a different culture and language.

But 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.

Companies considering a similar move should make certain they have the right technology in place before they start hiring. Thankfully, with the rising popularity of cloud solutions it’s not as daunting as it used to be to equip managers and agents with workforce optimization and other tools that make it easier to deliver the service customers expect.

From Here to There

Why did so many companies outsource? One word – money. No one will ever argue that the customer service is better when it is delivered from India or the Philippines. With the lower cost of manpower, overseas call centers have been able to provide outsourcing services at a cost that is 50% less than in the U.S or U.K.

But there are inevitable consequences to doing business this way, and none of them reflect favorably on a company’s customer service reputation.

This doesn’t mean that the people in these countries are somehow inferior or incapable of answering a telephone. But when a customer places a call to a company to question a billing charge or place an order, and after waiting several minutes is greeted by a distant-sounding voice with an indistinguishable accent, that customer knows that resolving this matter is going to take longer than it probably should.

While it may seem insensitive to complain about someone speaking with an accent, it’s also frustrating to be unable to explain your situation to an overseas agent, or understand his or her responses.

There are privacy and security issues as well. Many telephone calls require the customer to provide a social security number or credit card information. Some of us are reticent about sharing this data in the U.S., where privacy laws have already been passed. These laws do not exist internationally. Hacking and security breaches are also more commonplace overseas. If you become a victim, you might not find out about it for several days, or even weeks.

From There to Here
But today, thousands of these jobs are coming back home, and for the same reason they originally left – money. Wages abroad have gone up anywhere from 10-20% a year, reports USA Today.

According to the Fort Worth-based outsourcing firm Novo 1, at one point 30 percent of call center jobs for high-tech firms were offshore; now, thanks to insourcing, it’s more like 12 percent.

Paul Stockford, the director of research for the National Association of Call Centers in Hattiesburg, Miss., said the nonprofit membership group estimates there are about 66,000 call centers in the U.S., with that number expected to grow. By one estimation, about 180,000 contact center jobs were created nationally in 2012 and 2013.

While economics was the primary motivator for this reversal, there has also been an admission by some firms that the service their customers receive via long distance has not been sufficient. So it’s not surprising that airlines and automobile companies are among those industries leading the way, given the higher value of each customer sale.  General Motors began repatriating many of its contact center positions last year.

Technology has also expanded and improved to the point where many of the simpler issues that used to provoke a phone call can now be handled via the company’s website or some other automated means. As a result, a higher percentage of calls to contact centers focus on more complex issues, that require agents with better training and communication skills.

Meeting Customer Expectations
So now, after the sigh of relief many callers will express at reaching a US-based agent, they will expect a higher degree of customer service. That starts with qualified, well-trained agents, but even the most talented personnel need the right tools to deliver a positive customer interaction.

After years of outsourcing, companies gearing up for a larger domestic contact center presence may quickly realize that spreadsheets are no longer sufficient for scheduling, or analyzing statistics on call volume. This rudimentary system has now been surpassed by workforce optimization (WFO) software.

From tracking call history, adherence and performance, to call recording capabilities, WFO makes almost every aspect of the contact center supervisor’s job more efficient. WFO addresses quality management and performance management as well, regardless of the size of the call center or the number of agents employed.
Of course, the last thing these companies want is a significant investment in new hardware and software that may not be able to grow and adapt with the business. But now the benefits of unified workforce optimization can be delivered from the cloud. Users pay only a low monthly subscription fee with no upfront investment, a huge savings from an on-premise solution that could cost $100,000 or more.

The cloud model provides additional benefits as well. Set-up can be completed in days or weeks, with secure access available to agents and managers in the contact center and at remote locations. With a traditional hardware/software system, complete installation and configuration can take several months, if not years, which adds additional costs and inconvenience to the conversion process.

A cloud platform also provides maximum scalability, and all software upgrades are delivered automatically at no additional cost. When a manual software upgrade is necessary, the cost can be prohibitive enough to be put off, which reduces a call center’s ability to operate at maximum efficiency.

As the provision of customer service becomes more sophisticated, and as costs continue to rise overseas, companies that outsource their customer contact centers are shifting their focus to centers within the U.S., which can provide a higher quality of care. This means they are willing to pay a little more to have their outsourced customer contact centers back onshore. But that investment can quickly escalate if a large technology investment is required.

Cloud computing can reduce these costs. It is provided as a subscription service, so there is no need to invest in additional hardware and software for such vital capabilities as workforce optimization. In this model, contact centers pay only for the time and capacity that they need.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to be a Proactive Workforce Management Analyst

Proactive contact center managers focus on staying ahead of the curve. That means careful, strategic planning, calculating all of the variables and delivering accurate forecasts and schedules that are flexible enough to accommodate last minute changes.

Sounds like a challenge, but with Monet WFM, the process becomes easier, more precise and more flexible. Managers now have the capability to track intra-day trends for immediate adjustments, and for optimal schedule creation, which helps contact centers consistently meet service levels and control costs.

Here are a few additional tips that will help managers striving to become proactive.
  • Enter time off exceptions, meetings and training before the roster is generated to close gaps in roster assignments or shift placement; but if you must enter them afterward, the WFM system can automatically optimize them in a way that reduces manager overhead
  • Impromptu training sessions are easier to schedule with little to no impact by using the meeting planner function
  • Wider lunch and break windows are made possible by flexible shift profiles
  • Enter the maximum allowable time in the Exception Calendar/Time off Manager – this provides more visibility for agents and prevents schedulers from over-committing to time-off, which could impact contact center operation
These and other tips make staffing more efficient and more reliable through better results for agents, supervisors and administrators.

Can Monet help you get more from your WFM solution? Contact our Customer Success team and let’s talk.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Workforce Management Software: Cloud or Hosted?

As many companies have discovered in recent years, the Cloud model of delivery has numerous advantages over the traditional hosted or ASP models of the past. These offerings are often confused but, not addressing the fundamental differences, have a huge impact on your call center business.

The traditional hosted model is simply hosting a client server or web application on a server at the vendor’s or 3rd party data center. The vendor then provides an application that was not originally designed to be hosted, over the web, with a few changes, and delivers it to each customer via a single, dedicated server. It lacks a multi-tenant architecture and requires separate servers and installations for each customer. Much more costly and less scalable, it also requires support for multiple releases, which is very resource intensive. Typically, vendors who sell on-premise software may offer a hosted model for on-demand options and sometimes misleadingly call it SaaS or Cloud.

The Cloud-based model uses a totally new multi-tenant architecture that was designed to efficiently and securely deliver web-based applications at the lowest possible cost. It focuses on fast set up, low operating costs through shared services, highest security for web-based deployment and high performance and scalability through instant and seamless scaling of computer resources (also called “elastic cloud computing”). This ensures available computing capacity when you need it and only when you need it, at the lowest possible cost.

Both models are offered through subscriptions and often seem to be similar, but they are not. In previous blog post about the true cloud we list key questions you should ask vendors before making a decision.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Questions to Ask Before Selecting a Contact Center Cloud Software Vendor

Contact centers across the country, of all sizes and types, have discovered the economic and technological benefits of converting from an on-premises software solution to a cloud system. If your business is considering a similar transition, here are 10 questions to ask prospective vendors, so you will be assured of receiving a true cloud solution.

Multi-tenant Architecture
Does the application use multi-tenant architecture? Follow the link if you would like to learn more. If the answer is ‘no,’ it’s not a true cloud.

With a cloud solution, all future upgrades should work, and be accessible without extra cost, regardless of how your system is configured and/or customized.In addition, upgrades should be automatically managed and provisioned by the vendor.

Does the vendor provide a managed integration platform? This is important, as such a platform is built from the ground up, and is easier to execute than a full manual integration.

Security and Compliance
Make sure the provider offers world-class security and data privacy, as well as full back-up and disaster recovery (SSAE-16 compliance)
Anything less than 99.5% uptime, with full transparency, is an indication that you may not be dealing with a true cloud solution.

Time and Cost of Implementation
If you recall how long it took to install and configure your on-premises software, the ETA on the cloud solution for installation and configuration to your specific business needs should be much faster, typically 30 to 60 days.

Ongoing Costs
None-cloud solution often have unexpected or hidden costs that emerge later. You should receive a firm quote on total cost of ownership (TCO), including implementation/installation fees, training, subscription, upgrades, maintenance and other components.

With a cloud solution, a contact center should achieve tangible business value much more quickly than with an on-premise or fake cloud solution. Ask for reference customers to better understand expected ROI.

If you have questions, please contact us and we are happy to explain the benefits and features of a true cloud solution.

How effective is your call center forecasting and scheduling process?

Forecasting and scheduling are vital components in the success of every call center management. Achieving consistent results requires a little art and a little science, but is impossible without concrete data.

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 staffing issues.

An automated workforce management (WFM) and optimization (WFO) solution can help you to implement Best Practices. You can easily improve forecast accuracy and in turn, optimize schedule assignment, making sure all the necessary resources are always in place. An integrated WFO solution allows a manager to check KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) against historical data. In a typical call center a manager will ask such questions as:

“When I see that my agents’ Average Talk Time has exceeded the target, does this result in more abandons and a poor service level?”

“If a longer talk time is causing more abandons, are there agents that are still able meet all of their quality monitoring goals while keeping a low talk time?”

By analyzing data in an integrated WFO tool, a manager can then reference what processes allowed some agents to have a lower talk time while meeting their quality targets, and then train the rest of the workforce using these processes.  At that point, a lower Average Talk Time goal may be set for the entire center, resulting in happier customers getting their calls answered more quickly and less overall abandons.

“Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling: Best Practices” details how WFO improves the likelihood of creating reliable forecasts and accurate schedules. There are also sections on how WFM impacts agent productivity, and which criteria are most important when selecting a WFM solution.

Click here to download Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling: Best Practices.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Can You Reduce Contact Center Staffing Costs by 20%?

Staffing is the most expensive resource in the call center budget, so any improvement in productivity can have a significant impact.

What if there was a way to cut your staffing costs by as much as 20%, while also reducing the amount of time you now devote to forecasting and scheduling?

It’s possible – just by switching from spreadsheets to a Workforce Management solution.

Spreadsheets were a great idea for call center staffing, forecasting and scheduling – last century. Today, there are faster, easier ways to handle these vital functions that are also more accurate, more agent-friendly, and more economical for call centers of all sizes.

With a WFM solution such as Monet WFM Live, managers have the flexibility to adjust to unexpected events, manage exceptions more efficiently, and reduce shrinkage by as much as 15 minutes per agent per day.

WFM Live offers a number of additional benefits as well, including:

•    Easier skill-based scheduling
•    Real-time adherence monitoring and analysis
•    Less time required for scheduling
•    Improved service levels

Isn’t it Time For a Better Solution?
Monet WFM Live represents a quantum leap forward from spreadsheets, at a cost within reach of any size call center. We invite you to watch a short workforce management video so you can see yourself how the solution might help you reduce costs in your contact center.