Web-Based Workforce Management Solutions for the Contact Center

Modern workforce management (WFM) solutions allow contact center managers to integrate Web-based scheduling and resource planning, enabling real-time connections with team leaders and Communicators. This sort of visibility into contact center operations helps managers make every second count as business requirements change.

WFM tools also facilitate certain work-life balance options, such as working from home. Empowering remote Communicators is one way that today’s contact centers are creating workforces that can more easily scale up and down as business fluctuates.

The latest Web-based tools, previously sold as add-on modules, are now being included as part of WFM packages. They are designed to perform on a range of browsers, encouraging collaboration and promoting transparency among managers and Communicators.

Let’s look at the ways these new WFM solutions are benefitting contact centers:

Agility: Operationally, the latest Web-based resource planning and scheduling tools put team leaders and resource planners in control of their contact centers at all times, even across time zones. They can modify team schedules on the fly to accommodate seasonal peaks and valleys—or daily unforeseen shifts in traffic volume. Managers have the ability to compare actual Communicator status against schedules and contracted hours to make better-informed decisions to improve workflow.

Skills-based routing: Using the powerful search functionality embedded in Web-based solutions, team leaders can group Communicators by various criteria, e.g., location or expertise. This allows someone like a resource planner to search cross-company for Communicators with a specific skill, such as the ability to translate Spanish to English. Features include the option to group by multiple criteria, such as performance rating, which allows managers to resolve issues or make improvements more quickly.

Collaboration: The entire operations team gains clear and accurate visibility into Communicator activity at all times. Advanced search, sort and editing functionality enables team leaders to alter shift times and allow substitutions when Communicators request a swap. Daily workforce activities and requests can be managed with quick clicks in a single, integrated platform.

Performance improvements: Web-based WFM tools support development of a winning front-line workforce. Managers can track schedule adherence, and monitor individual and team performance, which allows them to easily identify training gaps and set up relevant coaching sessions. All this can be done from the desktop in real time.

Contact centers still relying on paper-based manual processes, or even using non-integrated WFM modules, for forecasting and scheduling are missing an opportunity to excel in customer service delivery. Both over- and under-staffing costs money: overpayment for idle Communicators, and missed revenue opportunities and customer dissatisfaction, respectively.

For contact centers that mean to look after their customers’ needs at the highest level, centralized resource planning and visibility into workforce activities is the new ideal. With a Web-based workforce management solution, it’s easy to keep tabs on staff and keep Communicators engaged and happy by reducing inefficiencies.

Optimize Your Call Center With The Right Technology Solutions

It’s quite likely that you’ve set some lofty goals for 2016. Perhaps you want to improve your overall call resolution or decrease your call abandonment score.  Whatever your goal may be, it’s important that you provide employees with the right set of technology tools to help them succeed.

After all, even the most skilled and productive team of Communicators could improve with the assistance of truly innovative customer care technology. Below are three technologies that will help you reach your 2016 goals and take your business to the next level.

  • Call blending: In the past, Communicators would have to log out and enter a specific code to make outbound or inbound calls, which was highly inefficient. With call blending, however, employees have the ability to make outbound calls while also being able to receive inbound calls, using one easy-to-use technology system. Call blending assures that employees are always making the most of their time even when inbound activity slows down.
  • Skills-based routing: Not all Communicators are created equal. Some have specific skills in which they excel. Skills-based routing is a strategy in which certain incoming calls are routed to the most suitable agent, rather than assigning the call to the next available agent. This technology ensures that the most knowledgeable and experienced Communicators are available to tackle complex situations.
  • Remote call monitoring: Are you confident that your Communicators are adhering to company policies and providing customers with the best experience? Remote call monitoring allows managers to listen-in on and monitor calls. In doing so, supervisors gain a 360-view of how well their employees are handling in-the-moment problem solving as well as insight as to how the customers are responding.

If you’re not already using these three technologies, than you might want to consider adding them to your technology suite, as it can help improves both your Communicators’ and customers’ experiences.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Starbucks’ New Drive-Thru Technology Exemplifies Customer Care

Starbucks has always been on the cutting edge of customer care. Though some of the famed coffee brand’s initiatives have caused a bit of controversy—for example, the #racewithme campaign of which I’ve previously discussed—in general, the company has done a great job in ensuring its customers feel valued and appreciated.

Recently, Starbucks demonstrated how marrying genuine customer care with sophisticated technology creates game-changing results. Indeed, the company considered the difficulties the hearing impaired might have when ordering via a drive-thru, and implemented a solution by installing video screens at their drive-up locations.

The video screens enable those with hearing disabilities to be greeted with a live video of a barista so that they, too, can order at a drive-thru. Rebecca King, a deaf woman, who experienced the new video technology first-hand was so moved that she came back the next day and recorded the experience on her phone, which has since gone viral.

What Starbucks has done to cater to its specific segment of customers shows just how willing the company is to go the extra mile to deliver a better overall customer experience. Any businesses would be wise to take a page out of the brand’s book and implement technologies that would better service their customers.

One such place where technology can make a huge difference is the call center. Adopting call center technology can help your Communicators provide an improved quality of customer care, while also reducing costs and boosting revenue. For example, call blending technology allows Communicators to make outbound calls when inbound activity dips.

What’s more, skills-based routing technology matches Communicators with inbound and outbound calls based on the program-specific training they receive and the proficiency they show for particular types of calls. This technology ensures that customers are routed to only the most qualified Communicator, boosting customer satisfaction.

Technology and customer care are a match made in heaven. Take a hard look at your current technology suite to determine if there’s room for improvement.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

So You Identified Your Customer Care Problem…Now How Do You Fix It?

We’ve all been there at some point in our lives…that moment when you realize you aren’t living up to your potential–perhaps on an important work project–but you’re so stuck in your ways that you can’t seem to gain any perspective on how to improve your strategy.

In fact, a number of contact center leaders are currently experiencing this troubling situation. During the recent webinar “Why Delivering Exceptional Customer Experiences Proves Elusive For Most,” Ian Jacobs from Forrester Research, Inc. revealed that 36 percent of surveyed organizations admitted to knowing that they deliver poor customer care.

And while admitting there is a problem is the first step, organizing and putting a brand new approach into action is easier said than done. So if you’re stuck in the mud and are struggling to pull yourself out, here are a few tips and tricks to help improve your customer care strategy:

  1. Put customer experiences first: Agents should be treating each phone call with the sensitivity, trust and understanding they’d exude when speaking with friends or family members. To create a comfortable and memorable experience for your clientele, agents must be able to communicate something beyond the scripted words. At InfoCision, agents are called Communicators to emphasize their critical role communicating with customers. They must create an experience for the customer and be malleable enough to pivot with differing personality types.
  2. Provide in-depth agent training: A major pitfall for many contact centers is the lack of agent training. In fact, one of the most noted complaints about customer care is dealing with unknowledgeable agents that cannot properly address problems and inquiries. As such, leaders must thoroughly vet their potential hires to ensure they are dedicated, quick studies who can learn in-depth information about a business’s products, services and customer care goals efficiently. More importantly, contact centers should provide ongoing training in professional development skills so that every agent is continuously performing to the best of his or her ability.
  3. Audit your services regularly: The only surefire way to know if you are continuing on a successful customer care journey is to audit your procedures along the way. Take advantage of call reporting and recording features that allow you to gain actionable insights about agent performance. Additionally, enlisting the help of third-party quality assurance auditors is a great way to receive unbiased feedback on your quality of customer care. But doing so sporadically won’t help you gain the best-rounded view of your progress. Instead, you must regularly conduct audits to ensure consistency across the board.
  4. Expand on your employees’ strengths: One way to guarantee higher instances of customer satisfaction is by pairing your agents with the groups of consumers that make most sense based on the agents’ knowledge-base, personality, and problem solving skills. For example, if there is a particularly perplexing service issue that customers have been calling  about—in a very displeased manner at that—it’s best to put your most quick-witted agent with the highest level of expertise in this area. This way, a confident agent will  handle the call smoothly  and customers will have a favorable brand impression.

It takes time and a refreshing perspective to break away from comfortable habits. But, if you’re having trouble crafting a new strategy, refer to these four tips and tricks and you’ll surely experience improvement in no time.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

How to Keep Your Communicators Cool This Summer

While we long for the balmy summer months during the dead of winter, we oftentimes yearn for a blast of cool air once the humidity and the scorching heat finally arrives. And even though summertime brings to mind careless days relaxing on the beach and cookouts in the backyard, sometimes the sun’s glare can become downright bothersome.

And when any circumstance becomes vexing, be it the weather or a conversation with a particularly difficult customer, it’s important to our relationships with others that we stay cool, calm and reasonable. So, besides bumping up the AC, how are you going to ensure that your frontline Communicators keep fresh and breezy with your callers this summer?

After all, “keeping cool” means more than regulating your body temperature in the contact center space. The phrase implies knowing how to take a breath and handle each and every situation with tact, poise and respect.

So, no matter how heated up your Communicators become this summer, due to the humidity or an overwhelming call queue, here a few tips and tricks to heed to ensure that your employees provide superior customer care regardless.

  • Make strategic Communicator and customer pairings: It’s important to ensure that your Communicators never feel that they are in a situation that’s over their heads. That is, it’s vital that you take note of the areas in which certain Communicators excel and others are a bit weak. In doing so, you can gain actionable insight about each individual employee’s skill set. Furthermore, expand upon their strengths and avoid giving them work that exploits their weaknesses by employing a practice such as skills-based routing, which routes customer inquiries to the Communicators who are most experienced in the particular subject matter.
  •  Provide positive reinforcement: Don’t let great instances of customer care go unnoticed. Make time to pause and congratulate Communicators for their moments of excellent customer care so your employees feel a sense of accomplishment from their jobs. Any job can become unfulfilling when you don’t feel you are making a difference or noticeably progressing. By acknowledging successes, your employees are likely to feel more secure and satisfied in their positions. And a happy Communicator’s attitude will translate well over the phone.

So don’t let the summer heat or an overwhelmed Communicator diminish your quality of customer care. Heed these important tips and it’ll be smooth sailing for you all season long.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

The Key Ingredient to Call Center Success

It may sound sentimental at first, but an important variable in contact center services is empathy. Think about your best customer care experience; the agent probably conveyed genuine engagement and concern regarding your service inquiry—that is, he or she was empathetic towards your situation.

As well, your company can’t afford to omit such an important customer care initiative as poor customer relations cost companies nearly $41 billion each year. Preserve your contact center services ROI by providing the utmost compassion for your customers.

When empathy is missing from a contact center’s mission, unfavorable scenarios ensue. For example, we’ve recently discussed on this blog the unpleasant American Airlines customer care blunder that involved a woman spending six hours on hold. It’s clear the customer care representative lacked empathy for the woman’s needs as she was neglected for several hours. As a result, American Airlines’ reputation suffered, for instance the company has received a multitude of unfavorable comments on its Twitter page.

But expressing empathy means more than shortening your hold times. Rather, this characteristic should touch all of your business’s customer care best practices, down to dealing with instances of bad reviews. For example, one hotel went so far as to fine its customers $500 for posting negative reviews on Yelp. Rather than fight fire with fire or try to cover up negative press, businesses should use poor reviews as a learning experience and motivation to improve their customer care strategy. Businesses that receive unfavorable assessments can redeem their reputation by expressing compassion for customers’ unpleasant experiences. For example, turn around a bad experience by offering up an honest apology and making a commitment towards bettering future services.

How can you ensure your contact center staff—from supervisor to agent—is poised to provide the highest level of empathy? Here a few ways:

  • Audit calls more frequently to maintain consistent quality
  • Supervisors: provide your agents with positive reinforcement for above and beyond quality of customer care
  • Use technology such as skills-based routing to ensure highly proficient agents and subject matter experts answer related customer calls, which will improve first call resolution.
  • Hire the right staff, i.e., make sure your potential candidates exhibit maturity, experience and dedication to their line of work.

The bottom line is this: Never underestimate the power of empathy; it might be the most powerful tool in improving your contact center services ROI.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several University boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Leverage Big Data to Make a Customer-Agent Match Made in Heaven

In the not-too-distant past, customers were randomly matched with contact center agents based on the order in which their call was received—essentially like rolling the dice.

Suffice it to say, this system was less than ideal as it often resulted in mismatches between callers and agents. Research shows callers have many different preferences that need to be addressed to create positive interactions. For instance, according to the help desk comparisons firm Software Advice, an overwhelming 67 percent of customers over the age of 65 prefer communicating at a slower pace over the phone, while just 57 percent of 18 to 24 year olds do. Furthermore, urban residents are the most likely to want to speak with an agent who is close to their own age.

The study also shows that customers have varying preferences in terms of tone, with some preferring formal and others preferring more casual deliveries, as well as in regard to the geographical location of agents. For instance, just 48 percent of 18 to 24 year old Americans prefer U.S.-based agents, while 78 percent of those aged 55 to 64 do.

So, how can you play matchmaker and ensure higher quality of customer service in your contact center? It’s entirely possible by combining an advanced skills-based routing platform with the power of big data. Using these next-generation business intelligence solutions, your contact center phone system will be able to identify key demographic information at the time of a call and automatically pair customers with appropriate agents. For instance, callers over the age of 65 can be paired with older agents or those trained to speak at a slower pace.

Click here to learn more about how your business can augment its match making skills by using best-in-class business intelligence solutions.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several University boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

The Importance of Making On Hold a Last Resort in the Contact Center

There are some unbelievable stories about companies that don’t put a concerted effort towards their quality of customer service. In fact, just recently a woman spent six hours on hold with American Airlines trying to rebook her cancelled flight due to weather-related issues. Instances such as this not only frustrate customers on an individual level, but they also damage a company’s reputation on a greater scale.

Contact centers have plenty of resources available that giant brand-name businesses, such as American Airlines, should be using to establish themselves as customer service experts. One such resource, which tends to have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction, is simply the attentiveness and personality demonstrated by the Communicator on the call.

For example, in contrast to the American Airlines story, a customer service representative of online retailer Zappos once stayed on the line with a customer for an incredible 10 hours. The length of the interaction was not due to hold time or conflict; rather, the Communicator was expressing out of this world service and social skills.

Zappos exhibited quality customer service through the skills exhibited by its contact center Communicator, while American Airlines call didn’t even make it to the point of contact with an agent. So, what kind of tools can businesses leverage to ensure that putting their customers on hold is a last resort? Here are some tools that should be implemented within every contact center for success:

Skills-based routing: This tool will automatically transfer a customer’s inquiry to the available Communicator with the greatest amount of experience in the subject matter.

Comprehensive IVR: Your auto-attendant should offer comprehensive menu options to meet the satisfaction of your customers upon first impression—otherwise the customer will already have grown frustrated by the time they are greeted by an agent.

Predictive Models: This technology allows for the better preparation of contact center agents. Data is collected in order to outline consumers and creates a model based on past consumption behaviors in order to predict the problem ahead of time.

Make sure putting your customers on hold is your last resort. Learn more about the ways business can implement stronger resources to improve their quality of customer service.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the American Teleservices Association (ATA). He also donates his time to serve on several University boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Social Media Spend Increasing, Along With its Importance

Social media is now a valuable part of any successful multichannel marketing solution—the evidence is in the numbers. For example, an amazing 92 percent of marketers now believe social media is important for their business, according to Hubspot.

Considering the above stat it should come as no surprise that social media spending is on the rise among businesses; in fact, a new Business Insider study found that spending in the US increased from $6.1 billion in 2013 to $8.5 in 2014 and will reach $14 billion by 2018. Social sites are marketing and customer service vehicles unto themselves, as organizations can use them to answer product questions, promote new offerings and better mitigate service issues. But social media acts as a common consumer touch point that drives interactions across a wide variety of other channels, as well.

For instance, a customer may tweet a question to an organization that is too complex to answer in 140 characters. But, just like on any other channel, consumers don’t prefer or expect to wait for a response from a vendor, especially regarding pressing customer service issues. So, having an employee dedicated to monitoring a social account for these questions is critical to ensure the consumer is redirected to the appropriate channel to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

Of course, once that redirection occurs, it is imperative that the first agent that picks up the phone, answers the email or responds to the text message is able to resolve the issue without transferring the consumer to another channel or employee. To meet that challenge, companies must keep current with advanced interactive technology like:

  • Skills-based call routing that ensures calls are directed to a Communicator with the skills and training to resolve a problem or answer an inquiry both quickly and effectively
  • Email and fax on-demand that integrates email, chat and fax into a contact center at the touch of a button
  • IVR solutions that increase the likelihood that a call is handled optimally

No matter how your organization currently uses social media, you should keep in mind that its impact goes beyond the social sites themselves. Click here for more information about InfoCision’s interactive call center technologies.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the American Teleservices Association (ATA). He also donates his time to serve on several University boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s higher honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Improving Contact Center ROI Starts at the Top

With the NFL season wrapping up, many teams are reflecting on why their seasons ended early. This evaluation process starts at the top with ownership and management, as these higher-ups look at acquiring the right coaches and players—leading to the team’s future success.

Along the same lines in a contact center, it’s essential that agents and managers are supported with the leadership and tools they need to thrive. Rather than the C-suite simply telling agents to “step up their games,” the C-suite has to provide contact center agents and managers with top-notch solutions. In other words, a commitment to improving contact center services ROI has to be made at every level of an organization, especially including the C-suite.

After the C-suite agrees to place a stronger emphasis on enhancing its contact center, the next logical step involves identifying where they should turn to for help. Thankfully, there are some all-inclusive solutions available to help companies maximize the ROI of their contact center services. For instance, there are one-stop-shop contact center vendors that help streamline operations from initial strategizing to ongoing maintenance and management.

InfoCision, for example, provides solutions that free businesses from the hassle of relying on numerous providers for the capabilities they need. All of our facilities are equipped with the latest software and hardware to enable our Communicators to make the highest quality calls and, thus, maximize results. Here are only a few of the sophisticated call center technologies and solutions that we provide—significantly helping an enterprise’s bottom line:

  • Call blending: This system maximizes call center productivity, allowing agents to effectively make outbound calls when inbound activity dips.
  • Skills-based routing: Our skills-based routing system matches our Communicators with inbound and outbound calls based on the program-specific training they receive and the proficiency they boast for particular types of calls.
  • Email and fax on-demand: Our multimedia blending capabilities allow us to integrate channels such as email, chat and fax into our call center activities. As a result, agents can respond to customers’ needs far more quickly and efficiently.

Will your C-suite start to focus on improving contact center services ROI? Like the NFL team revamping its roster for a new season, your company’s future may depend on whether the C-suite gives agents and managers the cutting-edge solutions they need.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the American Teleservices Association (ATA). He also donates his time to serve on several University boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s higher honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.