Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September 2016           Reporting Total Cost of Ownership

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is an investigation of the lifetime cost for owning an asset(s).  TCO shall include the software and hardware but may also bring cost for installation, implementation, product management, operations, maintenance, training and upgrades.  TCO investigations can expose a significant difference between the initial purchase cost of the software and hardware and the lifetime ownership costs.  TCO may include many different costs that most would not have thought of when considering new hardware or a software application. 

Virtual Machines today have replaced the need for dedicated servers for contact center applications.  When doing the TCO investigation adding the partition cost is required.  We must also look at any future OS upgrades and their specific costs.  What happens to the application if the server OS is upgraded? 
  • Is the application compatible? 
  • Does it need to be upgraded and at what cost?  
  • What is the corporate policy regarding OS upgrades on servers? Corporate security may have a deciding factor in this policy.
  • Is there other hardware that works in conjunction with each other and how do these upgrades affect the other hardware? 
There are other factors when it comes to TCO for hardware, such as installation, deployment, maintenance, replacement and operating costs.  We often do not look at the entire hardware picture when considering the ownership and upgrades of hardware. 

There are many factors to look at when determining the TCO for software.  Hardware is just one piece of the puzzle for Software TCO.  Software costs should include the main software engine, the additional options and the user licenses that come with those options, data migration (if needed), installation and implementation (there is a difference between the two), lab environment, maintenance and training.
Main software engine is the required application. Perhaps, we should look at all of the options and the user license fees that are needed to meet the target and or goals for this software application.  
  • Will the software be connecting to another application and is a license fee needed for this application option? 
  • What about the other application and the connection between the two applications; does the other application have a fee to allow this type of connection?
  • Do the other applications need to be upgraded and does the upgrade affect this application connection?
Data Migration:
Data migration is often included in the vendor proposal, but sometimes there are other costs associated with the migration of the data from one location to the next.  

For example; what if there is a latency issue when data is sent from one location to the next?
  • What if the latency is due to internally required hops such as routers, firewalls and servers?
  • Who wins that battle of reducing the hops; the new software or the corporate security? What is the cost of reducing hops? 
  • If the new software wins, what is the cost? 
User Licenses:
User licenses are typically included in the vendor proposals so including them is not difficult to do; however, are there additional costs to consider for the users? 

Implementation, training, hardware changes such as OS upgrades or the need for additional third party applications to ensure functionality of the user application. If the number of application users begins to decrease are there any cost reductions? Unless it is a cloud or hosted based application chances are there is no cost reductions available. 

Installation and Implementation:

Installation and Implementation are two different functions.  Installation is the loading and configuring of the software on the server. Installation may also include data migration and user applications.  Implementation is administration of the software for the users and their specific needs.  
  • Will installation have to follow corporate rules and are there costs associated with these rules?
  • Will the implementation bring up security issues that need to be tested prior to the final implementation of the software?
Lab Environment:

Lab environment is used for many purposes.  Most often it is to test the application(s) to make certain they function as stated as well as see the ramifications to the network, other applications, hardware, etc.  product patches are and should be tested in the lab prior to being loaded in production. The lab environment costs need to be added to the TCO. 

Product Upgrades:

Product upgrades, changes and enhancements happen with software.  Some of these changes occur that affect other third party software applications. These changes could be security requirements, OS changes, business regulations, or business growth through acquisition.  Has project management costs been included with these upgrade changes? 


Training is needed on a few levels.  Not only those that use the software but those that monitor it.  There can be multiple levels of functionality for any software.  This also means training for each level needs to be done. What needs to be thought about is the future training?  All companies have turnover and one of the results of this turnover can be the need for additional training.  Is this new training included in the software cost?

Software and Hardware Maintenance:

Maintenance coverage is needed for all applications.  Understanding what is included with the maintenance is fairly easy to find out.  What is not easy to determine is what is NOT included and what those costs shall be.  Asking the vendor what is not included is one of the right questions to ask.  But, what if maintenance is not purchased what are the costs associated with the lack of maintenance?
There are costs for not having maintenance. Future support will usually be hourly with a minimum amount of hours required.  However, what if you do not have maintenance and the software application has gone end of life (EOL) and now you need support? 

  • Will the provider support the old software or require an upgrade? 
  • Will they require you to purchase previous years of no maintenance?  
  • What else is affected by the lack of maintenance such as training, product upgrade costs, product patches, user licenses and data migration changes?
Never forget to investigate the costs of not having maintenance.  

TCO costs that have not been mentioned are failover, high availability, product depreciation, data centers, downtime and future migration to another software.   If you are looking into TCO of hardware or software that you currently have you can ask the current vendor about these costs mentioned.  If you are comparing multiple vendors and trying to determine what the TCO will be for each vendor be sure to compare all costs mentioned but also look at the outcome of the product features. Be sure to investigate the costs of not including options in the original or on-going yearly purchase.

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting. Contact Spectrum today to discuss best practices for call center reporting. For more examples of reporting visit our website and the products page. 
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Dan Boehm 

VP Sales 


+1 713 986 8839

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Contact Center Decisions                                                            July 2016

As the leader of your contact center you are under constant pressure to improve agent performance. 
But is it really about improved performance or is about meeting and exceeding goals that senior management has put in place for the contact center.  Depending on the industry it could be incoming increase revenue or reduce outgoing payments. 

What we come to realize, in the contact center, is that agents, team leaders and even you the manager are caught, off guard and unaware of the jump in customers contacting the business.  Fifteen, twenty years ago customers called us and we were quickly alerted by the flashing red light mounted to the cubicles in the call center.  In today’s world customers are emailing, sending chat messages or going out to social media.  This is how the contact center can be thought of as unaware and not taking care of the customer.  

How do we eliminate this “not aware” problem?  What can we do to provide agents, supervisors and even ourselves with the information we need to be made aware?  We have choices that we need to make to improve, maintain or exceed our business goals. 

Digital Signage in the Contact Center:

Large LCD screens showing calls, emails, chats, or social media information can be very valuable to the contact center.  Questions that you need to answer:
     1.       Who is the audience for the LCD Screens?
a.       How many will you need to have for your audience to see the screens?
b.      Do the supervisors and managers walk the floor and need to see this content because they are not at their desks?
c.       Is mobile not allowed in your contact center?

     2.       What content is needed to improve performance and can that content be displayed?

     3.       Weather, traffic, social content is needed do your internal policies allow for this content?

     4.       Will your budget cover the software, hardware and hardware installation? 

Data can be combined together showing the agents that current status of critical KPI’s such as the emails and chats waiting to be answered.  The positive or negative social media posts that need addressing. 

Going beyond the usual contact center data having the LCD screens to communicate with the agents provides added value to the daily job the agents must endure.


Data from multiple sources combined together into a single report makes it quick and easy for anyone to see the current status.  It does not matter the method in which the customer is trying to contact you because you are now immediately aware of the status.  Questions that you need to answer:      1.       Can you combine the data together into a single dashboard?
      2.       Will the right people have access to the dashboard?      3.       Can you segregate the data to the correct audiences?Dashboards if properly designed will provide the best information for its audience.  The design of the dashboard must also meet the audience’s personality. Some people are unable to review a lot of data and want critical stats in graphs and charts.  Others do not want graphic input they only want data.  Dashboards are able to eliminate, solve and or reduce problems for just about every call center.  Are you willing and able to combine data together in a format that works for you?



Real estate!  Agents have limited room on their desktops for a dashboard with a lot of data on it.  So the resolution is to have only the critical data on the desktop wallboard.  Display Calls, Emails, Chats waiting to be answered and you will see an improvement in contact center performance.  Yes, each of these applications show this status but are they combined together so the agent does not have to look at three separate reports or notifications?  Questions that you need to answer:

1    1.       If the agents have this desktop wallboard will they read it and react to it?

      2.       Will the desktop wallboard have the proper data for the agents?

      3.       Will one more application on the agents desktop overwhelm the agent?

Agents are always working heads down.  They are focused on the current customer and the applications they are working.  Having an alert on the phone works only if it is for calls waiting and the agent is looking at the phone for a blinking LED light.  Giving the alert notice to the agent who is looking at their screen will improve performance.

Mobile Web Reporting:

In today’s world we are mobile.  We are out working with the team leaders, agents, in meetings, traveling, checking on status from home, or providing senior management access to the critical statistics.  If we are a BPO our customers need to see the reports.  Mobile web reporting is crucial in the contact center today.  Questions that you need to answer:

1. Do you have access to your desktop 100% of the time while you are working? 
     Of course not. You are mobile so having access to the critical data at all times manages the performance of the contact center.

     2. While being mobile do you need to know the status of the contact center?
     3. Do you need quick drill down access to multiple layers of data?

Web based reporting allows for easy mobility for key team members.  The reporting may not be pretty pictures with graphs and charts but it does contain the crucial data that offers team members quick solutions to the daily challenges. 

In the real estate industry it is all about location, location, location.  For the contact center industry we have decisions, decisions, decisions.  Which direction you should go is funded by the budget and anticipated outcome.  If the direction needs to be contact center improvement in daily functionality then reporting is the proper direction for you to go.

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to discuss difficult contact center reporting decisions.  For more examples of reporting visit our website and the products page.

Follow Spectrum Corporation:
Dan Boehm
VP Sales and Marketing

+1 713 986 8839

Voice, Chat and Email Wait Times                                  June 2016 

What is an acceptable wait time?  The answer to this question is a whole list of questions. Which industry? What department within the business? What product or service? Paying customer or customer looking for free support? What time of day? What day of week? What time of the year?  A simple question generates potentially troubling replies from the targeted audience.  Next we want to know the wait times for the different contact methods.  Should chat and email wait times be same as voice? Should they be different from voice but the same as each other? Or should all three be different? The answer to the wait time questions really is from the business itself.  Because there will be different targets and goals within the business the wait times will vary.  Let’s take for example a call center that sells consumer products.  A buyer is calling, sends a chat or an email for a product they wish to purchase.  The business would like that contact to be replied to as quickly as possible or the potential customer will go somewhere else.  Wait times for any customer contact method should be very short.  According to Spectrum customers ten to thirty second wait times for voice, chat and email would be ok for most businesses.  If this customer wants to return something they have purchased does the business have the same urgency?  Of course not, the wait times can be considerably longer and it would not change the customer business decision.  However, an argument can be made that if the business reacts quickly regardless of the transaction that business will earn a very highly positive reputation that can build their business.  Spectrum works with many contact centers around the world that have voice, email, chat and social media as ways of contacting an agent.  We have seen wait time thresholds set at many different levels for each of these contact channels.  There is not an entire industry by industry set level.  However, there are some good parameters that businesses use. 

Voice:  On average the old 80 / 20 and 70 / 30 rule still seems to apply for most businesses.  Please note this is not true for incoming new business where the 90 / 10 rule is demanded by the managers.  I recall a meeting that I had with the head of a large contact center at a mutual fund company.  We were talking about the wait times for incoming new customer calls.  The IT manager has suggested and hoped that a 10 second wait time was ok for incoming calls.  The contact center managers reply “To our business ten seconds is historical not real time. The lost revenue from potential customers in one day would be enough to pay for this phone system.” Now I know this was somewhat of an exaggeration but the point was well made.


Contact centers have changed over the years and voice is no longer the sole contact method by customers.  However, it is still a primary contact method that most people use today and quick response rates are not only preferred they are required. 

Chat:  As stated above the wait times can, will and should vary by industry.  Yet there is a trend that occurs depending on the age of the customer; the younger the customer the shorter the expected wait time.  Of course that is not always the rule but it does tend to happen.  An overall call center wait time for chat has been set at two minutes.  This is not the time that the chat reply begins it is the time the chat is sent to the customer.  

A problem that has been building and continuing to happen with both chat and email to customers is the reply delay set up by the business. The delay is the auto reply and then followed by simple single level questions that could have been combined together to save time. 
                As an example: The potential customer is on line at a specific product or service page and the chat box has appeared.  The customer asks a very specific question and the auto reply is: “How can I help you?” or “Which product are you interested in?”
                The customer is pleased they are working with an “agent” but frustrated by the delays.  Had the auto reply been more specific about the product they were interested in it would have saved time.  These very similar type of auto replies extend the time needed before a real agent can join the chat.  And the results can hurt the overall customer satisfaction.  Of course conflict can also occur. But from the call center point of view it allows the agent to continue to work with other customers until they are able to end the chat.

Spectrum has customers who use chat but do not use auto replies and they push the agents to respond within 30 seconds.  But these are revenue generating chat contacts and quick response time is heavily desired.

Email:  The reply time to emails is difficult to truly track.  However, as a general overview Spectrum customers look for a 5 minute response rate.  There are so many reasons why the five minutes may not happen that it is difficult to judge an agent for not meeting the threshold. 

A financial customer had mentioned to me that they reply to all emails as quickly as possible.  If the email the agent has received is complex and difficult to clearly reply to the agents are guided down a quick to reply path.  The response idea is to let the customer know they received the email, they are working on it and briefly explain what they are doing to answer the customer questions.  

A services provider customer has an auto reply that always suggests to the customer that they log in to the website and check their account online for faster support.  Then after waiting 30 minutes they respond again asking if they can be of service.  If the customer does not reply the email is closed and considered handled.  

Social Media: There is no response time for social media unless there is an agent who is responsible for the replies.  A positive message about your business does not require an immediate response.  A negative message may require an immediate response but it depends on the negative message.  If the message is clear, concise and very specific about the problem then an immediate response can and will improve customer satisfaction.  If the message is a generally negative message with foul language then a reply is not needed because any reply can build the negative view of the business. 

There are times when customers resort to social media to get their problems resolved.  This is being seen more often in the utilities sector, some government and consumer retail.  Customers that see a problem let the world know about it through social media.  Call centers are following this and posting this information for the managers and agents to see and be able to react appropriately with the customers they are communicating directly to. 

A word of caution about posting social media messages, many messages that are captured and displayed for the agents to see contain foul language and can be very upsetting to some agents.  Language filters do not always work.  So prior to agreeing with the idea of posting all social media messages investigate the outcome of a very negative social media message. 

One challenge that happens in most call centers that offer the multichannel customer contact is the conflict.  Customers call, go to the website and start a chat session and may send an email as well.  A customer looking for fast answers can and do cause overall delays while agents multitask to reply to the customer. 

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to discuss reporting for wait times.  For more examples of reporting visit our website and the products page.

Follow Spectrum Corporation:
Dan Boehm
VP Sales and Marketing
+1 713 986 8839

Friday, May 13, 2016

Searching for a Dashboard

   Searching for a Dashboard                                                        March 2016

Almost every contact center software application now has a dashboard option available to you.  So the question is why you need another dashboard. Why are managers and senior management looking for dashboards when they already have them at their fingertips?  Here are the top five reasons why:
1.      Consolidation of data from multiple applications; (platforms, internal data, other CC apps)
2.      Drill down capabilities to see the details; (from summary to group to agent detail)
3.      Dynamic Dashboard to meet your needs; (Out of the box, one size fits all)
4.      Visual appearance of critical metrics; (Grids vs graphics, data in the right place, delete certain data)
5.      Easy to implement, use, and make changes.

Consolidation of Data
Consolidating data from multiple sources is the most important feature of any dashboard.  The benefit to you is your time and outcome from seeing collaborated data cause and effect to your call center.

Dashboards that come with your contact center platform do not allow for consolidation of the data. The data in the dashboard is restricted to the ACD that you have in place today.  The ability to combine data from other sources is not allowed.  There is a realistic reason for this restriction; combining data from outside sources will overload the server processor for the ACD causing it to shut down. 

Today’s contact center has agents taking calls, answering emails and having chat sessions with customers.  The agent performance is no longer limited to calls.  As a manager you need to see performance across multiple platforms.  However, you do not have the time to look at three dashboards to see the status and performance of the agents. Also looking at one report does not give you the combined performance metrics you need.  

consolidated data

There is other data that may need to be combined in your dashboard.  Information from WFM, IVR, CRM, Call Accounting or your outbound dialer data may need to be added to you dashboard.  Your selection of the critical KPI’s should all be on the dashboard so at a glimpse you are aware of the call center status and performance. 

Senior management requires a dashboard as well but with a different level of data.  These dashboards combine internal financial data to the overall contact center metrics.  The drill down to business level specifics is also needed but not available from a single source dashboard. 

Drill Down
The manager dashboard needs to have multiple layers of content.  The primary page is summary information.  It might start with group level information from multiple data sources and then have tabs that can be clicked on that goes into more detail such as specific group with agent information.  Every call center is different and manager goals are unique.  So the dashboard content should meet the manager needs and requirements. 

For example, start the summary main page with overall contact center numbers.  It might have voice, email, chat and ticketing system data.  The second tab could have specific group data for voice showing all of the agent performance.  The third tab could be a combination of email and chat data per agent for each group.  The dashboard can be set to meet your needs and show you contact performance by the agents.  If your dashboard cannot combine this data you will be required to open three dashboards just to see the overall performance by group for voice, email and chat.  This is a tremendous time consumer.  

As a manager you decide what data is critical to you and integrate that data into your dashboard.  If you are unable to combine and collaborate data you should begin looking for a new dashboard.

Dynamic Dashboard
A dynamic dashboard is one that will allow you to decide what your dashboard content will be and not restricted to the application or platform that you utilize today.  A dynamic dashboard allows you to:
·        Collect different data from multiple sources;
·        Allows you to move the data around in the dashboard. Rows and columns of data do not remain fixed;
·        Data formulas are not restricted.  The formulas can change as needed.
·        Data in the dashboard is based on your login.  A different manager login will have different content. 
An out-of-the-box, one size fits all type dashboard does not allow you to combine data, make fundamental changes to the dashboard layout, is static in design and content collaboration. 

Visual Appearance
What is more important to you how good it looks or having all of the content on the dashboard that you need?  Your dashboard needs to meet your needs and should be able to do what you require.  Maybe your dashboard has very little data and the critical content is in graphs and charts.  Or maybe your dashboard has a lot of data and space would be wasted having charts take up real estate.  The decision really needs to be yours and not the out-of-the-box application.  

call center dashboards

    A text filled dashboard with agent specific data. 

Call Center Wallboard

A general overview dashboard for senior management, combines data from multiple sources but does not go down into details that the contact center manager might need.  Secondary tabs would allow management to see financial details. 

Easy Implementation
The dashboard needs to be something that is easy to implement and utilize.  However, caution is needed here because something that is too easy may not give you the features and benefits that you are looking for in a dashboard. 

When looking at dashboards be sure to see how:
·        They are installed;
·        Data is selected for the report;
·        Changes can be made to the dashboard layout, if using graphs and charts;
·        Messages are created and who they can be sent to;
·        Remote access can be provided.

When searching for dashboards do not be afraid to go outside of your ACD provider.  Finding a product that allows for data collaboration and drill down capabilities will help save time and improve manager and senior management performance.  Never be satisfied with a dashboard that has restrictions that do not allow you to see the data you need to see on a single report. 

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to discuss best practices for call center dashboards.  For more examples of reporting visit our website and the products page.

Micro Data in the Contact Center

Micro Data in the Contact Center                                       February 2016

Not to be confused with microdata for content on websites, Micro Data in the Contact Center refers to the agent and their states and performance.  However, some larger contact centers also refer to group level states and performance as Micro Data.  The purpose behind micro data within the contact center reporting is to be fully aware of the agent and group level status and performance.

Micro data for the contact center has multiple functions and those will vary depending on the person viewing the data or the group and audience that can read the content.  Micro Data reports typically are for the:
·       Manager
·       Agents
·       Groups
·       Mobile

Managers view the macro level data to see the overall group level status and performance.  For a general view the macro level data is sufficient.  However, managers also need to be aware of the group and agent level states and performance.  If, as a manager, you are not fully aware of the agent state you are not doing your job.  Let me be clearer about this topic.  Managers must be able to immediately determine what state the agent is currently in and how they have performed for the day.  This data should not be focused solely on voice because today’s agents also handle chat and emails. 

Call Center Dashboard

The dashboard should also show group level states and duration.  Some people might view this as macro data however in a very large contact center the group level dashboard can be considered micro data. 

Call Center Dashboard

Throughout the day there are many changes that occur that can and do affect the aggregated performance within the contact center.  Different industries can be affected by time of year, weather, sports, government regulations and many other issues.  The agents need to be aware of the other agent status that their own performance is not negatively affected. 

A desktop report that shows the agent within their group the states of the others will have a tremendous positive impact on the group and agent level performance. The interesting point of this topic is how often Spectrum still meets with call centers that are not offering this option to the agents. 

Call Center Dashboard

For the micro data report for the agent the size of the dashboard can be a problem so smaller reports showing the same data but with scroll bars solves this real estate challenge. 

Call Center Desktop

Group reporting is a wallboard or LCD screen that displays the content for everyone in the group to see.  There are many reasons for wallboards being used in the contact center.  Agents are not always “heads down” throughout the day.  They can be mobile as part of their job function and they take breaks, go to lunch, etc.  So having a group level report on the wallboard helps keep the agents alert to the overall status and other agent states.

Call Center Dashboard

Key contact center people are mobile yet still need to be aware of the micro level of the contact center.  This report can be from a group level real time report down to an agent level historical report.  The purpose of this type of reporting is to provide the remote manager complete details when they are working on annual performance reviews for all agents. They could also be away from the office and just need to be aware of the overall status of the groups. 

Call Center Dashboard

Call Center Dahboard

Call Center Dashboard

The key benefit of micro level reporting is the aggregation of data from multiple data sources and selecting only the critical metrics for the reporting.  But do not stop there drill down on the macro data and get to the details for the group and agent level.  Almost all applications today have reporting but the value of micro reporting is the ability to combine data from across these applications.  KPI’s from this data can be manipulated to meet your critical goals 

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to discuss best practices.  For more examples of reporting visit our website and the products page.