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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Contact Center Cloud – What are you Waiting For?

With every new survey that comes out, it seems as if more and more companies are making the switch to a cloud-based technology. This is also consistent with what is happening in contact centers, from those with less than 50 agents to the enterprise with thousand of agents.

We’ve listed the reasons before, but perhaps it’s time for a refresher course in the many benefits of contact center cloud software solutions.

Cost
With a subscription-based cloud system there is no large upfront cost and no licensing fees. Operating expenses are lower as well. The money that is saved can be re-invested in other parts of the company.

Scalability
The ability to scale on demand is one of the most intrinsic and significant benefits of cloud computing. Cloud service providers allow clients to increase or decrease existing resources as needed to accommodate changing needs on demand.

Flexibility
With the cloud it’s easier to operate multiple contact centers from one facility, to accommodate agents working from home, and to make it more convenient for those that wish to access applications from a mobile device.

Simplification of IT Infrastructure
Since the cloud provider manages all updates and upgrades, there are no patches to download or install. The cloud provider also manages availability, so there’s no need to add hardware, software, or bandwidth as the user base grows.

Security
The cloud is safer than ever before, thanks to a range of security measures to protect data, communications and the physical data centers where information is stored.

If you still haven’t investigated the numerous advantages of cloud computing, what are you waiting for? Monet can help, talk to us.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cloud Based Workforce Optimization for the Enterprise

Larger companies typically have higher security and scalability requirements. That may be why cloud solutions are more prominent among smaller and midsized contact centers. But is this perception that cloud solutions are less secure and scalable really accurate?

The answer is an unequivocal “no.” The evolution of cloud solutions and cloud security has reached a point where their convenience and cost-saving benefits can now be shared by enterprises with thousands of agents.

Let’s focus on workforce optimization; a solution such as Monet’s WFO Live makes it possible for companies of any size to scale IT quickly and efficiently, and to quickly make changes without business interruption.

And since larger contact centers often operate out of more than one facility, WFO Live makes it easy to operate multiple centers around the world through one solution that is easy to install, operate and back up.

But what about security? Monet currently has customers with thousands of agents successfully using Monet Live in a secure, scalable cloud. The success of Salesforce.com offers additional evidence that larger-scale enterprises can make the transition with confidence.

And those that do so will not be alone. According to a Gartner survey, nearly 50% of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by 2017.

It’s a big decision and one that should be researched thoroughly. That’s why Monet is always available to help address the concerns of companies considering a cloud solution, and to identify the many ways in which the cloud can benefit your enterprise. Talk to us and learn how we can help your company.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Contact Center Staffing for the Holiday Season: Are you Ready?

The holiday season means good food, good friends and good will toward men. But at some contact centers, it also means a significant increase in the need for customer service support. And by the way, your customers are busier during this season as well, and they expect the same response time and personalized service they receive at any other time of year.

If your contact center is about to get deluged with call volume that may be five times higher than usual, the time to start planning is now (especially if you haven’t been anticipating this for the last 1-2 months).

Increased staffing means more job interviews. The pace will be accelerated but the objective here is not just to fill empty seats. These new hires must be as motivated and as qualified as the agents you’ve had for years. Some contact centers maintain a database of potential hires so there is always a supply of qualified candidates that can step in with less training and get the job done.

Forecasting and scheduling are also crucial components to achieve adequate service levels and provide great customer service. Reviewing historical data is the best place to start this process, and then take a moment to think about what has changed since the holiday seasons of last year and the year before. These variables must also be taken into account.

Finally, with so many new faces in the contact center and so many more calls pouring in, quality monitoring and control will be more difficult, but must be maintained. That means assigning more veteran team members to the quality control effort, so you have enough agents monitoring calls, emails and chats.

By taking these steps, you’ll have a much better chance to deliver a positive and memorable holiday shopping experience.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Drilling Down for Better Schedule Adherence Tracking

Schedule adherence plays a significant role in the efficiency of your contact center. It is a time saving and money-saving practice that impacts both agent performance and customer service.

To be effective, however, it must be executed correctly.

That starts with real-time schedule adherence, which gives you the opportunity to react immediately to address problems. A workforce management system monitors agents in real time, and delivers instant alerts when adherence is not achieved. It also provides a means to analyze KPIs and compare forecasted, scheduled and actual contact center statistics.

Still, even with these capabilities, the cause of an adherence lapse is not always apparent at first glance. But the answers are there, all that is needed is a few moments to run the appropriate drill down reports. This allows the contact center manager to view different aspects of a workday in isolation, which makes it easier to identify where the schedule is not lining up with the reality of the situation.

Perhaps a certain time of day always seems to have lower adherence. By drilling down it’s possible to measure where goals are not being met, and communicate this to the team. Whether the issue is not enough schedule flexibility, or agents simply taking too many unscheduled breaks, there is now a chance to implement a satisfactory solution.

One may also discover that the adherence breakdown is centered on specific departments, sites or skill teams. Once the issue has been identified, it is incumbent on the manager to educate the agents involved on the importance of adherence on service levels, and how even a minor deviation can have a significant negative impact.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cloud Security in Contact Centers: The Questions to Ask, The Answers to Expect

The cloud is about to get a lot more crowded.

That is the conclusion reached by a new research report that projects the cloud-based contact center market to grow from $4.15 billion this year to $10.9 billion in 2019, at a compound annual growth rate of more than 20 percent.

There are a number of reasons why contact centers are moving away from environments where data is centrally accessed and stored, and into a distributed, virtualized system. These include lower upfront cost, scalability, ease of upgrade, speed of implementation, and many others covered in previous blog posts and articles.

Security, however, remains a point of contention with some companies. The Cloud Industry Forum surveyed 250 senior IT and business decision-makers on what they view as key challenges to cloud adoption. More than 60% identified security as a leading issue.

Is the Cloud Secure?
The short answer is yes. The cloud offers a much higher grade of security than most internal IT departments, and at a much lower cost. However, contact centers should also be aware of the differences between cloud providers, and the right security-related questions to ask.

What Constitutes Security?
Achieving an adequate level of security at a contact center requires the coordination of many systems and applications, as well as vigilance on the part of agents. There are five layers in all, each of which plays a vital role:

Physical Security
The data uploaded to a cloud resides in one or more data centers. These centers should be protected by multiple security perimeters, including electronic surveillance, qualified 24/7 security staff and multi-factor access to keep physical intruders away. The centers should also be equipped with state-of-the-art environmental systems that make certain that operations are not disrupted. To avoid any data compromise from a fire or natural disaster, data should be stored in multiple geographic regions.


Network Security
Network security is perhaps the most significant threat to contact center data. Network architecture must be protected from a wide array of outside threats. A firewall is usually the first line of defense, while anchoring additional security measures, such as web application firewalls and intrusion detection technologies. This firewall is a barrier between the public Internet and the cloud infrastructure, that controls traffic between trusted and untrusted networks.

An intrusion detection system provides an alert when someone is attempting to compromise systems or data, and responds quickly to minimize the possibility of a security compromise. Before such systems are triggered, regular vulnerability assessments identify any weaknesses in a cloud system that can be exploited by hackers.

The web application firewall blocks non-essential traffic to the application layer and protects poorly coded applications. It can block both SQL injection attempts and XML-RPC Exploit attacks.

Also, while many may be aware of load balancers as they relate to application availability, they have a security component as well, as they allow for termination of SSL traffic, provide centralized certificate management, central restriction of weak SSL ciphers and HTTP and HTTPS session persistence.

Finally, log management helps protect, detect and respond to security incidents by identifying unauthorized access attempts.


Systems and Application Security
The focus here is on how contact center platforms and applications are designed and built. Security should be a priority at each stage of the development cycle. Cloud software that was designed from the ground up has built-in security optimized for the cloud. Traditional on-premise software that is offered as a hosted solution might have some more security challenges, because the solution was not designed and optimized to be delivered over the web.

Frequent testing is required to confirm adherence to industry-standard security requirements. All code releases should undergo both automated and manual reviews, as well as in-depth penetration testing prior to release.


Information Security
Cloud providers 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.

As many contact centers field orders from customers where credit card information will be provided, the cloud system should be compliant with the 12 security domains of PCI-DSS standards. The PCI DSS requires file encryption, secure storage and the deletion of certain information, such as the credit card security code. Contact centers affiliated with the healthcare industry should also be HIPAA compliant.

Agent Security
Of course, the client must accept some of the responsibility for security as well. This includes using complex passwords and limiting access to online data within your organization.

The flexibility and scalability of the cloud model makes it easier for contact centers to employ remote and home-based agents. These agents must be held to the same standard as those that work within the contact center, and that extends to security concerns. Agent-customer interactions should be monitored regularly.  Call recording should be used for security compliance, and providers should have visibility into data collected by these agents. Desktops used by remote agents must be secured in a way that ensures compliance and data encryption.

Asking the Right Questions
To make an informed decision, here are some of the most important questions to ask a potential cloud provider.
  • How long have you been providing a cloud-based contact center platform?
  • How many security perimeters are in place around your data centers?
  • Do your data centers have 24/7-staffed security?
  • What types of security measures have you taken to protect your network?
  • What security measures were taken throughout the development of your platform and applications?
  • Are you compliant with established third-party security standards?
Conclusion
The protection of information is vital to corporations in the digital age, and while no system is 100% secure, current technology is more than a match for any outside attempt at a data breach. Partnering with the right provider is the best way to achieve confidence in the transition to the cloud.

Several layers of security measures and processes are built into the cloud infrastructure, platform and services. All client access endpoints are secured, with alerts for password brute-force attacks that prevent those accounts from being compromised. Built-in firewalls provide additional protection, and many clouds also offer encrypted data storage.

As organizations become more experienced in cloud security options and best practices, cloud security will become less of a concern. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about cloud security in contact centers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Workforce Optimization Webinar

Our recent webinar about cloud-based workforce optimization received a great response. Amidst the shared information and productive discussions, those in attendance learned a great deal about the role of cloud-based WFO in improving workforce management, quality monitoring and performance management.


Watch Webinar Now
If you were not able to attend, Monet invites you to see what you missed by viewing the recorded webinar in its entirety at your convenience.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

How Accurate are your Call Volume Forecasts?

When it comes to forecasting, past activity is always the best predictor of future activity, especially when broken down via workforce management data analysis into ever-smaller increments of time. This makes it easier to identify anomalies and prepare accordingly.

The challenge, of course, is factoring in all of the variables to which forecasts are subject – it’s no wonder that creating consistently accurate contact center forecasts is both an art and a science.

But with the right workforce management system, one capable of predicting future call volume and agent staffing needs, you have everything you need to make the tasks of forecasting and scheduling more accurate and more efficient.

Here are some additional tips to get the most from your WFM solution.
  • Detailed Data Analysis: Use work history data to anticipate future call volume, agent requirements, average call handling time and other performance indicators.
  • Flexibility: Gather necessary data through analysis of call types and routing policies, and review updates throughout the day so you’ll always know when changes are necessary.  
  • Testing: Generate and analyze alternative scenarios based on changes in staffing or call volume, so you can better anticipate issues before they arise.
When forecasting is done right, the result is the right number of agents at their desks, handling call volume without long wait times. For more tips on call forecasting, please also visit our blog post from last week.