Wednesday, September 16, 2015

6 Tips to Succssful Call Center Reporting

Successful reporting in your contact center is something that helps you improve productivity, increase revenue, manage agent performance and adherence and reduce or eliminate the daily challenges.  However, for most managers, part of the challenge is having the combined consolidated information that keeps you alert and aware of the contact center status.

Spectrum has been providing Call Center Reporting for over 20 years and has learned from customers the top recommendations to successful reporting.  As most already know there is a lot of data to sort through and there are a lot of call center applications to review.  So trying to get to the center of the problems is not always easy to do.
Agent wallboards
Six Tips:
  1. Define your problems as clearly and concise as possible.  Stating something general or too board reduces the value of the reporting.  What managers should do is define the problem and the results of that problem.  
  2. Define where you have the most to gain. By reducing the problem or solving it define what the results will be to the contact center and the business.
  3. Have reporting that is visible and will alert the right people at the right time.
  4. Manage the change in the Contact Center problems.  Challenges change so modify your reporting to follow the change. Good or Bad.
  5. Combine and consolidate the data.  
  6. What are your goals for the Call Center and be very specific and detailed not general. Select the most beneficial goal to the business or call center.  Think about this from Senior Management point of view.
Define your problems as clearly and concise and include as many details as possible.  Stating something such as Agents are not meeting their adherence schedules is too board of a statement.  State the group, the communications channel, the days of the week and times of the day.  Check the agents call transfers, aux code times, abandon rates, etc.  There are many problems in the typical call center day, by detailing the problem, resolutions can be found.

Are the challenges hard to find because they are always moving?  As an example, a mutual fund company had an issue with abandonment rates in one of their groups - existing customer Fund Transfers.  The abandon rates seem to increase Tuesdays through Thursday s and were normal on Mondays and Fridays.  The manager looked at the overall group and could not find an issue, she checked per agent and no single person had a higher than normal rating in the middle of the week.  The numbers just seem to increase and migrate around the Fund Transfers agent.

(There is much more to this story than what I am stating here.)  By reviewing the historical numbers and watching the daily interval numbers on her report the manager was able to learn that the agents in the group rotate the abandoned calls on a daily basis so each day a different agent had an easier day.  Problems in the call center can be hidden and the best way to find the problem is to dig deeper and get the details.  Again the point of this tip is to be clear, concise and find the real details of the problems.

Define where you have the most to gain. Or another way to look at this is to define where you have the least to lose.  Solving all of the daily problems is not going to happen in today’s contact center business.  So rather than trying to solve everything select the problems you would like to minimize and focus only on those problems.  Sometimes the problem has been caused by product or services changes within the business and they are directly affecting the contact center.

In a retail contact center there was a problem with a product family.  The product was unable to meet the expectations set in the on-line and live ads.  The product was just not as good as it was claimed to be.  The number of calls and emails coming in to cancel the orders and get returns was escalating.  Agents were being asked to try and help the customer use the product properly and follow the instructions to the letter.  AHT time was very high; service level was quickly dropping, call volumes increasing causing the manager to have to move agents around to the busy groups.  Sales and customer satisfaction ratings were dropping for other products and services. Agents were not taking the calls, transferring them or abandoning the calls after they answered them.

Senior management made the call to the manufacturer. The manufacturer tried to claim the problem was with the user and they were not willing to buy back the product. The retailer did not want to lose the customers who may come back to buy other products.  So senior management made the decision to stop trying to work with the customer and accept the order cancellations and requests for refunds.  This was a bold decision but when looking at the sales reports, the call volume had begun to drop, customer satisfaction ratings dropped, and the potential for future revenue did not look good.

This seems like an easy problem to solve but when talking about a retailer that has close to a million products and services these problems can appear small.  However, the reporting dashboard one of the managers had in place showed the results of not making the right decision.  A successful manager will always be thinking about what senior management and the details they will ask for when confronted with a major change.

Have reporting that is visible and will alert the right people at the appropriate time. Reports can be seen on dashboards, desktops, wallboards and in several other methods.  The purpose behind the multiple methods of report visualization is to ensure the correct audience sees the critical data at the right time.  Too often we just assume that a desktop reporting solution will alert the manager to the call center problems.

Problems in the contact center do not always follow the manager as she does her walk around management.  She may need remote reporting on her smartphone or tablet.  Or she may be reading the monitors that are hanging throughout the call center.  Part of the solution for reporting is to have a report(s) that are visible to you no matter where you are.

Reports that are visible to the agents, supervisors and managers seem like a simple process to complete.  However, we must also be aware the data that needs to be on the report and who can see this data.  What affect will the data have on the wrong audience or even the targeted agent?  These seem like easy questions to answer yet soon after new reports are provided to the agents there is disagreement, productivity degradation, status conflicts and many other problems.

Another situation that needs consideration is the type of reporting that you select may not work for everyone.  Some contact centers just want to add a wallboard to increase visibility of critical KPI’s.  But agents may be heads down, cannot see the boards, work remote, the wrong people walking through the call center can see agent performance information, and other potential conflicts for the call center and agents.

Change always occurs in business and the contact center.  Problems may follow the direction of the product and services being offered.  The time of year may diminish your problems only to have them come back again next year at the same time. Because challenges change your reporting may need to change as well.  Your reporting options need to have the flexibility to change and meet your needs.  The change may be nothing more than additional work load for the agents.  But your reporting still needs to change to understand the impact of the additional work load.

By keeping the same old reporting in place with no change to meet the challenges agents will become used to the inefficient reporting.  Agents will use the old reports as the justification of not being aware of the problems.  Changing the reports as the business changes is a way to keep everyone alert to the business cycles.

Consolidate the data from multiple applications into a single report to improve the quick turnaround speed of problem awareness.  The average contact center today has over five applications that are running and providing data to the manager.  Now consider the critical data from each application; as a manager you will have to click and scroll through each application to find out the status of that particular part of the contact center business. Going through multiple applications and sorting through the details takes time and is only one piece of information.  Beneficial reporting consolidates and combines the data into single reports.  This collaboration provides the report view busy managers require.

Define the problem and determine where the data is located.  Once located it can be consolidated and summarized on a single report.  You are now able to see the status and performance of the agents and contact center by a glance at the collaborative report.  To get to the details of the problem the application reports can be opened when needed and you are able to drill down to the further information that you need.

As an example of the consolidation the report shown below is consolidating voice email and chat into one dashboard.  The individual applications each have their own reporting which can provide you with the details when you need them. But in the middle of the day when you have a lot happening you no longer need to drill down to each separate application just to see that nothing serious is going on.  

Call center reporting, Dashboards

There are many options to report consolidation.  However, the challenges you are facing today should be used to determine what data is combined to a single report.

The goals for the contact center can also be used to determine what is to be included on your reports.  The report can include the actual and compare it against the goal.  The idea is to get agents to hit their numbers and what better way than to do the comparison.  By knowing your current status the agents will want to work harder to hit their numbers.

This report can also be used to see how well training has worked for the call center, or changes that have been made to the agent’s states or group(s) they are logged into.  There are many ways that showing the goal vs actual can help the contact center.  

Call Center Wallboards, Contact center wallboards, Agent desktop wallboards

A suggestion to solve problems is to target the goals of problem areas. Define the KPI’s within the challenge and include these on the report.  Show the comparison between goal and actual.  Are the variances changing as agents are made aware of the status / performance? Do the variances change during the day / week / month? Does the business cycle change the variance? There are many questions and showing the goal / actual variance with trends on the report will answer some of the questions.

These are some of the best tips that successful call centers are using for their reporting.  Please understand that your business and goals is not the same as other industries or businesses. So what others suggest may not work best for you and your agents.

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

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Dan Boehm
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

LCD screens or Agent Desktops

June is always a busy Call Center Trade Show / Conference month.  Whether it is a user group event or an across the industry conference June is the month for call center networking.  This year something that Spectrum noticed was the number of questions that were asked about which is better for the contact center: Should I have LCD Screens showing the group level content or agent specific details on the agents desktop?

The questions that were asked:
  • Which of these options will improve our agent performance?
  • We have low cubicle walls so we can see the screens so will that be better than desktops?
  • We have customers, vendors and partners coming through our call center so we have to be careful about what we can display, but our supervisors are always walking around helping the agents and need to be aware of something critical happening.  Should we use both or neither one?
  • Senior management is cutting budgets so which option is cheaper?
  • Work at home agents can’t see the LCD screens so how do we keep them in the loop?

These are very similar questions that we are asked during a conference call or webinar.  This write up is meant to explain what Spectrum has been told by customers about the direction that they have gone and the results they have had with their reporting decisions. 

Agent Desktops

Many agents are working the applications needed to do their jobs. They are not looking at the phone, they have high cubicle walls and the business applications they use keep them busy and constantly looking at their computer monitors. 

Having a desktop wallboard helps these agents be aware of key things throughout the day. They are made aware of incoming calls, the longest wait time, what the service level has been for the day, what is the current status of other agents, if they are in the customer service group they are aware of tickets that are logged and waiting.  There are many things that can be included in the agent desktop reporting.  The reporting depends on the call center business and trying to improve agent productivity and customer satisfaction.

These advantages to the desktop reporting are well known and are used for making the decision to use desktop reporting over LCD screens.  One of the disadvantageous is real estate and the need to see other information.  Being able to click on tabs that show other information or having the desktop wallboard cycle through data is extremely helpful. 

Agents all need to know the status of other agents in their group. If they are not aware of the status of others there can be a scheduling conflict or adherence issues.  Because real estate is vitally important to the agent there is no enough room to show critical KPI’s along with current status of other agents.  An LCD screen can rotate through multiple screens and display the status of other agents and help keep schedule adherence at the targeted goals. 

There are other issues to consider when looking at agent desktops: Real estate, agent specific critical KPI’s and messaging the agents.  Review the Desktop Best Practices for Agent Desktops to learn more about the benefits of using agent desktop reporting. 

Based strictly on customer reactions those customers that have opted to go for the agent desktops instead of LCD screens they are very pleased with their decision. These customers claim that agents are more productive, schedule adherence goals are met more often than not, customer satisfactions are improved and agents rarely complain about the desktop wallboards interfering with their jobs or desktop real estate.  However, these customers did not purchase the LCD screens or software applications so are biased about their decisions.

LCD Screens
Contact centers can be physically very large and accommodate hundreds of agents.  Multiple groups working in the same area seemingly doing the same tasks, but in reality managing many different daily functions.  Agents need support from supervisors and managers who will go to the agents to provide assistance.  And in some call centers there is walk through from vendors, customers, partners and senior management.  So LCD screens are used to help the call center with appropriate real time data that everyone can use.

The LCD screens display not only real time data but also content for the audience in the call center.  Current critical KPI’s as well as agent log-in status is displayed helping agents meet schedule adherence goals.  This content is followed by product and services information, company notices, up-coming events business and local, photos, daily images,  welcome messages and just about anything else that is appropriate for the walk through audience.  

If the call center is open with low cubicle walls and agents want data shared then the LCD screens meet the needs for the contact center. TCO can be less than the agent desktops because of the number of agents that can see the data on the screens.  If the content is not confidential and it improves the satisfaction of those in the call center or walking through then having the LCD screens in place is a wise decision.

Customers have told us how much the LCD screens help the call center improve productivity, increase customer satisfaction and get tremendous positive feedback from visitors. 

So is there a clear winner between the LCD screens and Agent Desktops for the call center?  No there is not. In fact, Spectrum has many customers that have opted to go for LCD screens only to come back later and ask for agent desktop wallboards as well.  And the opposite has occurred too when the call center starts out with agent desktops and adds LCD screens. 

The top five things to look at when trying to decide either LCD screens or Agent Desktops:
  • What challenges and problems are you trying to resolve or minimize;
  • Budget now and in the future for replacement and repairs;
  • Who is the audience;
  • Physical layout of the call center including work-at-home agents;
  • What will be the agents overall reaction to the desktops and / or LCD screens and the content being provided?

One suggestion that Spectrum provides to all potential customers who want to know the results and outcome of adding desktops and LCD screens to their contact center is to network with other call center managers. Share information and questions and you will be very surprised by what you can learn.

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.

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Dan Boehm
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Monday, May 4, 2015

Data Collection for contact center reporting

Reporting in the contact center begins with collecting the data from various sources.  All of us use these applications every day and therefore the data should be available to combine into another reporting application. Unfortunately that is not always accurate.  Data is often locked down or access is very limited by the data provider.

Another challenge with data collection is the method that is used to capture the data.  Data is stored in a certain fashion and collecting that data is going to be limited.  The reporting software that you use must be able to collect the data in the fastest and most secure method possible.  Some data can be captured using older technology which might be cheaper but it opens the door to problems.

Spectrum’s software, NeXorce, collects data using different methods.  Briefly these methods are:
  1. Delimited File Collectors
  2. ODBC Collectors
  3. Screen Scrape (Data Emulation) Collectors
  4. Socket Collectors
  5. Web Page Collectors
  6. XML File Collectors
Rather than get extremely technical the purpose of this overview is to go over the advantages and disadvantages of each collection method.    This article is meant for the call center manager and not for the IT department.  For that reason the explanations are kept to a basic level and do not go into details or complete explanations.  For further details on each of these collectors it is recommended that you search through

Delimited File Collectors
A delimited file stores numbers and text in plain text.  Plain text means that the file is a sequence of characters that is readable with a standard text editor.  Each line of the file is a data record and each record consists of one or more fields separated by a delimiter such as a comma, tab, colon or a pipe.
  • The files are easy to read so collecting the data and caching or storing the data shall not take software efforts.
  • The data can be parsed quickly.  The structure of the file allows for easy access of the specific data.  Collecting specific data from a delimited file can be very quick.
  • Access to the file requires local or a network share.  This can be a security issue for some companies.
  • Lockfile can occur. When the application is writing to the file and the collector is reading the file a collision can occur. These collisions or conflicts can result is a <NULL> value or a blank KPI.  
  • Some Excel Files are saved as delimited files and may contain formulas, date/time values, blank rows and columns or color coded text.  These Excel features cannot be read by most collectors. 

ODBC Collectors
Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) is a programming language API that is used for accessing database management systems.  An ODBC Driver is used as a transition layer between the application and the database management system.  Collectors are used to capture the data as defined by the specific query (data request).  Although not accurate, many beginners are told to think of a database as an Excel file with each tab being a table within a database.
  • Fast method of collecting the data from the database.  
  • Efficient ability to collect a single piece of data or all of the data requested.
  • Multiplatform collectors “joins” can capture data from multiple tables.
  • At times can be slow if the volume of data is very large.  
  • Large tables may require multiple collectors to improve on refresh rates.
  • Some ODBC’s require a driver that is not automatically included with the application.  

Screen Scrape (Data Emulation) Collectors
Screen Scrape (Data Emulation) is a phrase that describes the operation of obtaining data or text from a simple text file.  A program will monitor the text file and have a MAP defined that tells the application where each piece of data or text resides.  This application will then scrape this file and obtain whatever information is in each location (coordinates) that are defined in the “map”.

  • Easy to initially set up – usually very quick to setup and run when a canned report of file is used.  
  • Low impact on the system – Screen scrapes can be run on minimum PC requirements.
  • Cost – low cost third party applications can be used to capture the data.
  • Lockfile – the PBX/ACD refreshes its text file report; the screen scraping software (data emulation software) needs to scrape the data from the text file report and write it to its own file.  These two refreshes can happen at the same time and when it happens there can be a collision or a conflict.  The conflict will result in the screen scrape software not collecting some of the data or returning data as <null> values.  
  • Windows permissions are needed to write the text file to the local machine or creating the file somewhere on a network machine.
  • Screen scraping requires an actual screen report to be captured from a window.  This must be done from within a user launched application.  In a server environment this is not ideal as the application performing the capture will need to remain open and running under a user account with active session.  Security concerns and if the session is ever closed the reporting application will also close and the data will no longer be updated.
  • If the report has to change the screen scraping will no longer be accurate.  Something as simple as adding a new column or removing a row will immediately affect the accuracy of the data being collected and reported.
If you are using data emulation or screen scraping or do not know how the data is being collected your reports may show the following results: Missing data on the report.  The report may have a blank column or row or just a few of the KPI’s are blank.  This does not happen at the same time or day.  Screen scraping is very antiquated and because of security issues should no longer be used.

Instead of a numeric value you have <NULL>.  This is the same result of the screen scraping software expecting there to be a value but there is nothing there so the result is <NULL>.  Finally there may be times when the value is “0” when as a manager you know that value cannot be accurate.  What some data emulating software will do is if the value is a <NULL> it will exchange it for a “0”.

Socket Collectors
A socket is used for communications between programs.  However the data source application requires that the incoming application socket conforms if it does not the connection cannot be made between the two applications.
  • Fast method of collecting the data from the source. The data source could be a delimited file or database table.  
  • Efficient ability to collect a single piece of data or all of the data requested.
  • The collector may need to be restarted if the Port is closed.  Antivirus software may close the port.
  • Application compatibility.  

XML File Collectors
Extensible Markup Language “XML” defines a set of rules for encoding files that are readable.  The goal of XML is simplicity and easy to use across the internet.  XML format is used by many API’s such as RSS, MS Office, and Apple iWork.
  • The files are easy to read so collecting the data and caching or storing the data shall not take software efforts.
  • The data can be parsed quickly.  The structure of the file allows for easy access of the specific data.  Collecting specific data from an XML file can be very quick if you know the design structure of the file.
  • The file structure has its advantages and disadvantages. Knowing the file structure is a requirement and can also be a speed bump in the data collection process.  
  • A large file can be very slow to collect data from because of the data collection methods required.
There are other disadvantages to XML files which make collecting data from the file challenging.  If the amount of data is rather small then XML files can work. If the data is a large amount then staying away from an XML file is the best path to take.

Web page Collectors
HTML is the standard markup language that is used to create web pages.  Web pages are used for countless reasons from company information to traffic and weather.  The web page data is collected and shared with others that did not have the time to find that website.
  • You do not have to create the data it is already done for you.
  • A wide variety of “data” is available.
  • You are not responsible for maintaining the “data”
  • The data format can be changed or removed without any notification to your data collector.
  • The data can be locked down and future access denied.
  • The data access is no longer free.
Collecting data for Call Center Reporting can be challenging for the applications that are being used and for the manager who has to decide on the data to be collected.  One of the issues that are rarely thought of is the collection methods.  This seems like an IT issue but not selecting the right collection method can result in problems with the data or the access to the data. Security, reliable data, accurate data, easy access and fast replies are all issues that the call center manager must be made aware of before deciding on the data collection methods.

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

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Dan Boehm
VP Sales and Marketing
+1 713 986 8839

Monday, April 13, 2015

Call Center Manager Resume

Being the ideal or perfect call center manager is never easy.  Going beyond the years of experience that you need go through just to get to the management level; most require additional external education and training.  While talking to call center managers from different industries I created a list of skills and traits of the ideal call center manager.

This list is not conclusive and it may not contain some of the traits that you have available.  However, I have met some managers that need to review this list and consider taking on the challenge of gaining these personality qualities.

So here is the list that I have compiled.

The Ideal Call Center Manager – personality traits
  • Continuing to improve themselves
  • Easy to work with
  • Treat the call center as a business and not a job
  • Considerate of the agents – up to a certain point
  • Flexible
  • Has documented goals to focus on personally and professionally

Daily working qualities
  1. Competent
  2. Positive Person
  3. Creative alternative approaches to everyday challenges
  4. People skills
  5. Technical skills
  6. Goals
  • Scorecards, Reports, SLA’s met
  • Themselves and others
  • Set targets and drive the team

They have sufficient skills that are pertinent to the industry and corporate business.  They recognize what skills they are missing and endeavor to gain those skills. They are not afraid or embarrassed to admit a shortcoming or the skills they are lacking.  Education, break-out sessions at user group conferences, networking with others in the industry are ways that the ideal manager continues to improve.

Positive Person
All of us have experienced bad days. Projects did not go our way, people we work with are not seeing things our way or senior management has made s significant change to the business.  The perfect manager looks at most of these things in a positive manner.  They do not allow the negative challenges affect their emotional intelligence scores. The negative situations do not push the positive out of the ideal manager.  The perfect manager always seeks the positive image.

Creative alternative approach to everyday challenges
Problems and challenges occur in the contact center on a daily basis.  These challenges can be people, products, services, policies, procedures, industry, senior management, corporate direction, and many other problems.

When faced with these challenges the perfect manager explores ways to solve the problems.  They will communicate with others to find these solutions. Networking within the industry, the user groups they belong to, talking with their mentors, vendors and even talking with industry competitors.  People the network learn that they are not alone with challenges in the contact center.  They are able to discuss the problems and learn what others have done.  They can share what they have done to resolve other problems.  The ideal call center manager is always looking to network with others.

Managers do not always take the safe and easy route to problem resolution.  They are trying to reduce the outcome of the challenges in the call center.  Taking the easy way might be a simple explanation to senior management but it will not give them the better results.  The perfect manager goes outside the lines of ease and looks for the correct resolution for their challenges.

People Skills
The ideal manager is able to keep their emotions in check regardless of the situation.  If a very negative situation occurs the manager does not get verbally emotional, they keep those emotions in check and manage the situation.  If a very positive situation happens the manager will show some positive emotions but will not let it go too far.  The perfect manager stays emotionally balanced in both positive and negative situations.

In meetings with senior management or customers the manager will learn to adjust their personality to closely match the others in the meeting.  They are trying to become on the same level as the other and not be able to communicate with the others.  If the group is outgoing and very talkative the manager will join them but still keep confidential details out of the communications.  The manager can communicate at the appropriate level with others.

The manager is able to handle failure gracefully and not hide the cause and effect of their mistakes.  They acknowledge them as needed and talk about them openly so they can show others they are not perfect and help others learn from the mistakes they have made.

Technical Skills
A general understanding of the applications that are being used in the contact center today is a requirement.  All applications that are being used not just some that are critical to the business.  If the applications are new to them they take the time to learn them either from others or with the vendor.  They are aware of the high level positives and the negatives of the applications being used.  They are looking into the future to determine when they can use these applications to the business advantage.

The contact center industry is always changing and the manager recognizes this and continues to research and learn about these changes.  They do not wait until the industry has passed them by they lead.  They are not afraid to suggest contact center technology migration if it fits into their contact center business.

Documentation of the goals for the contact center, the groups and agents for both real time and historical targets are a standard practice for the manager.  The documents are scorecards, reports, and SLA’s.  The manager also selects the critical metrics to follow.  These are metrics that are able to show them the status and performance of the problem areas within the contact center.   The manager is able to define exactly what they need in the report and why.

The manager is able to define analytics and what data is needed to provide a report that has complete analytics surrounding the problem areas in the contact center.  This report definition is something that is constantly changing and the manager is on top of the changes.  The manager tracks specific KPI’s that show them the status and performance of the contact center, groups and agents.

In some industries SLA’s are required.  The perfect manager is aware of the SLA’s and is able to tract them as well as other KPI’s that can affect the SLA’s.

Trend reporting that shows both the goals and actual performance for historical data is being reviewed by the manager.  This trend reporting is vital to the documented goals for the manager and the contact center.

The perfect manager is able model the behavior they desire of the agents.  This behavior may not be their personality but they are able to mimic it at times when it is needed the most.

This manager is able to enforce policies and procedures when required and make difficult decisions.  They provide guidance and support of the agents that need help understanding these corporate rules. At times these corporate rules seem untimely but they continue to follow and explain the reasoning for the rules.

Recognition at the right time and provide the proper rewards when agents follow and exceed corporate rules and goals.  This is a trait of the ideal manager.  They are not looking for the rewards or recognition for themselves, they want others to have the recognition.

When goals are not met or thresholds repeatedly exceeded they do not publically attack the group or agents with verbal comments or broadcast messages.  They work confidentially with the team and agents to help them meet these goals.  If the motivation does not work they understand and are able to make the difficult changes in the contact center.

Courtesy of Call Centre Helper here are some great tips for motivating the team.

As with any ideal manager they are always looking to build the team up to meet the corporate goals and targets. They look first internally for the right people to advance up to the next level.  When they meet someone outside of their area and recognize talents and skills they work to advance that person to a new role within the business.

They act as a mentor to the new people as well as the long term agents.  The “I told you so” attitude is never used as a motivating tool with the ideal manager.

There are numerous traits to the perfect call center manager.  These listed above may not be what you are looking for in a manager, but they are a start in the right direction. The contact center industry has many directions and different goals.  The manager needs to meet these targets to be able to fit into the business.

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

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Dan Boehm
VP Sales and Marketing
+1 713 986 8839

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Third Party Applications for the Contact Center

For the contact center industry third party applications may refer to hardware manufacturers or software development companies or possibly a company that does both. It is a name that is given to a company that produces products for another company’s product, original equipment manufacturer, OEM.  Below is an example of an OEM supplier and just a few of the products from third party application providers.

Third party applications exist because:
  • It is almost impossible to develop hardware or software that meets all needs for all customers.  
  • The OEM does not have the features and/or benefits that third party application offers.
  • The third party application revenue is not worth the development and support costs to the OEM.  

The advantages and benefits of using a third party application:
  1. Your business needs are met.  All businesses are unique.  You have challenges in your call center that the OEM product cannot fulfill.  The third party applications can meet those needs and help reduce the challenges you have in the call center.
  2.  Your business requirements are met.  As a business you have requirements that must be met on a daily basis.  These requirements if not met can affect your SLA agreements, senior management demands and customer expectations.  
  3. Cost savings.  The third party application exists, does not need to be designed and developed by your business internally.  
  4. Long term business relationship.  By working with the third party vendor you are able to build a long term relationship with a company that will listen to your needs and can plan on future changes you might need.  
There are other advantages and benefits by deciding to use a third party company.  The concerns and options below address these.

There are concerns about using a third party application or hardware vendor.  These are real issues that must be addressed prior to working with the new vendor.  Do not overlook these concerns regardless of what the third party company says.  They are looking to make the sale; you should be looking out for your business.
  1. Compatibility – is the hardware / software fully compatible with your platform, security requirements, network, etc. Get documentation from the third party that fully answers your compatibility questions.  
  2. Compliance – is the hardware / software compliant with the platform, network, domain, etc. Have they done the compliance testing or are they avoiding the testing for some reason?  Compliance is not always needed but if your internal policies and procedures require compliance follow through with the third party vendor.  Have them explain why the compliance is not required and get that in writing for future discussions.
  3. Cost – the benefits of a third party vendor is the cost savings. However look into everything that you need both now and the future.  What happens when you need a new OS, or have migrated to a new platform or require a higher level of security? At what cost will this vendor be able to meet these changes.  Always talk about the future with any third party vendor before making the decision to purchase from them.
When investigating third party software / hardware do not be afraid to look at multiple vendors and do a comparison.  Consider all options not only cost! Just because one vendor is cheaper than another does not mean they are the right vendor.  Look at compatibility, compliance, features, benefits, your future requirements, cost, their business stability, their plans for future development, etc.

You have multiple options when it comes to your application requirements.
  1. If the application is not available from your OEM supplier do not look elsewhere. Explain to others internally that the application is not available and continue to deal with the internal business challenges you are having in the contact center.  This is not the best approach but it is an option.  The overall business revenue loss could be significant but you are also aware that you are not going outside your OEM provider.
  2. Wait for the OEM to create the application you are looking for that will solve or reduce the business challenges.  The delay is better than doing nothing at all.  You will need to find out what the schedule is from the OEM supplier regarding getting the application you require.  
  3. Contract with the OEM to produce the application you require. Some OEM’s will agree to a contract which keeps your business relationship with that supplier intact and growing.  You will need to consider the cost, future development of your application, will it be “your product” or can it be resold by the OEM, your future needs, flexibility of the application and stability.
  4. On the internet today there are low cost hardware and freeware applications that will meet most of your needs.  However, whenever something is free or very low cost you are opening your door to other challenges.  Will the application or hardware truly meet your needs, what support is available, future compatibility with your platform and your OS, virus and security issues, future development of this low cost of freeware, internal learning curve on the low cost hardware or freeware and long term internal support of this application?
  5. Work with a third party provider that is compatible with your platform, they have past compliance testing, the have on-going future development plans, they are a stable organization and they will support your business and future needs.

As a contact center manager you may not have enough time or software / hardware knowledge to be able to find the third party application provider.  You can use your internal IT department to help you find the best provider of the application. You can also work with a channel partner (reseller) and have them do the research and bring you multiple options.

Purchasing third party applications that will meet your needs is a cost effective, secure and wise idea.  It may have been nice if your OEM platform provider could have met your needs but that is not always possible.  Rather than continue to suffer the internal costs of not being able to reduce or eliminate daily challenges purchase the third party applications.  Working with a channel partner or doing the investigative research yourself is a personal business decision.

Be sure to do a true comparison of the third party applications and never view cost as the only decision maker.

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

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Dan Boehm
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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Unified Contact Center Reporting - Visual Options

As a manager of the contact center you are familiar with the many reporting options available to you today.  You have reports from your call accounting application to workforce management and everything in between.  There are many benefits to these reports and over the years Spectrum has heard from customers what they view as a benefit to their business. However, there is a difference between a specific application report and a unified report. 

The reporting options begin with the audience.  The person or people viewing the data will determine the type of reporting options you should use.  Combined multi-channel data that is summarized for the entire call center will probably be best seen on a dashboard for a manager or senior manager.  Specific status information would be ideal on an agent desktop. 

Selecting the reporting option is a business decision and one that is usually made by determining which challenges and problems in the call center are being eliminated or reduced. 

Dashboards are used by the manager for a current and daily view of the contact center status and performance.  The benefits to the manager:
  • Summary view of the entire contact center including multi-channel data. As a manager you no longer have to open reports from multiple applications (Voice, Email, Chat, CRM, IVR, WFM) and view the current status for those applications. 
  • Drill down to see the performance by the group and how the agents have performed.  See the contact volume, abandon rates, productivity and states for all of the agents in the group.
  • Drill down further to see agent specific performance and states.
The dashboard is your domain and you should take advantage of the benefits it can bring to you.  Design the dashboard based on your needs and requirements and gain the advantage of this knowledge.

Desktops help the agents be aware of the current contact center status.  The call center today may have high cubicle walls, or the agent is always “heads down” and not aware of the call/email/chat status.  Call center groups that have agents that are remote are unaware of the current state for the remote agents which affect the logged in status. There are many reasons why agents are not aware of their current group status.  Benefits to the agent and manager:
  • Critical KPI’s on the desktop but do not take real estate.  The desktop application can be resized and located where it will not interfere with important applications. The agent can acknowledge threshold alerts and messages and minimize the desktop report.
  • Thresholds and messages make the desktop report pop-up on the desktop in a safe location so it will not hide critical data. 
  • Data based on the agent log in provides the right data to the agent.  Not having to sort through reports to find critical metrics and KPI’s improves the agent performance, adherence and efficiency.

LCD Screens are for the manager, supervisors, agents, senior management and audience from outside of the call center.  There are many benefits to having an LCD screen displaying contact center information as well as corporate content, business messages and general information for everyone to appreciate.
  • Managers are always needed in the contact center helping others. But they also need to be aware of the current status and performance which LCD screens offer.
  • Agents with low cubicles or no cubicles are able to stay aware of critical KPI’s and other agent status.  Adherence problems can be reduced.
  • An audience that is not from the call center such as a loyal customer love to see their name in lights.  Call centers that display content that is not call center related improve the morale of the call center. 

Web Reports are for those that need to have real time and drill down to historical reports.  The benefits of web reports are tremendous to the contact center manager.  The options to web reporting are up to the manager to decide.  The data and time frame are entirely up to the manager.  As long as the data is being collected the web report can display it.  Selecting the time frame is outstanding benefit of showing the trends. Some additional benefits include:
  • Remote accesses to summary data via smartphone, tablet, remote PC or any other remote device as long as you have secure access.
  • Historical data by the time frame you need.

Email alerts and notifications are often undervalued. Emails can be sent to alert a manager when they are away of a multilayer threshold breech. Email notifications can send the manager daily and weekly summary reports giving them call center performance information. 
  • Remote alerts and notifications keep the manager aware of the call center status.
  • Internal security and support are aware of the software status so the call center always has its reporting.
Traditional Wallboards are still being utilized by those who only need to see text.  Call centers are not required to provide data in graphs and charts.  The agents can also see the content in text and be made aware of the current status and performance in this manner.
  • Total cost of ownership traditional wallboards.
  • Life expectancy and reliability of the wallboards.

The reporting style and type in the call center is up to the manager and budgets.  There are benefits to the contact center and to the customers of the organization.  The suggestion that Spectrum offers is to look at the challenges and problems that exist in the call center today and determine what reporting option will help reduce or eliminate the challenges you are facing.

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.

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Dan Boehm
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+1 713 986 8839 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Call Center Resolutions

When we see New Year’s resolutions for the call center are we to believe that there is something wrong with our call center today? I believe that in most call centers today there is nothing seriously wrong with your call center.  Sure there is room for improvements to be made but nothing so earth shattering that your call center will make the Top Ten list on this evening’s news.

The resolutions that I think are important are the ones that agents are considering in this New Year.
  • Look for a new job;
  • Change their role within the current contact center;
  • Work from home;
  • Change the schedule adherence;
  • Become more efficient and effective;
  • Become more involved in the contact center.
Depending on the contact center and the company agent turnover can be a challenge for the manager.  Agents can be looking for a new job and the second week of the New Year is the prime time that agents begin to look.  The new job may have nothing to do with the call center; it is a personal change the agent is looking to make.

The question that you the manager should be asking yourself is why are my agents looking to leave.  Here are five reasons why agents leave:
  1. Stress.  The calls they have to take with disgruntled customers who take out their anger on the agent can be very stressful.  The agent maybe taking calls for policy or order cancelations which to the business is lost revenue.  The pressure put on the agent to not lose the business is stressful.
  2. Pay. Agent pay in some contact centers can be slightly above minimum wage.  Agents that have been on board for more than a year can now start showing their job loyalty, knowledge and skills to others.  If they are able to find a higher paying job they will leave their current stressful position.
  3. Work load. What is the policy and procedure for the agent for each call/email/chat? Does the contact center change throughout the year adding more work to the agent?  In a call center that has turnover does that work fall into the hands of the remaining agents without the agent getting additional pay?  From the agent point of view the changes, the procedures and the pressure because of too few agents is causing a stressful position and enough to make them look for a new position.
  4. Schedule adherence. There are always two points of view to schedule adherence.  Agents believe in flexibility.  If they meet the adherence for the day, week or month they believe that they have done nothing wrong.  Yet the agent feels their supervisor is all over them because they were not meeting the call center schedule.  Even these minor differences are enough for agents to leave the call center.
  5. Not feeling valued by the company or manager.  Agents that do not believe they are getting paid what they should be paid will use this as a reason to leave. Not hearing from their supervisor that they have done a good job when they have done something over and above the typical standards for the call center.  Agents need to feel they are valued or they will leave the contact center.

Contact centers have many different roles to fill.  At the agent level the position can change based on the agents skills, flexibility, personality and desire.  Agents that believe they are in a stressful or lower paying position will be looking to make a change internally to an opening.  Allowing agents to make internal moves will help reduce the overall agent turnover ratio.

Managers should always consider filling positions with internal people rather than go outside to fill the role.  This may seem like a standard operating procedure yet today many companies still first look outside of the company to fill a position.  The managers are comfortable with the people they have and the roles they fill.  These managers do not want to move them around and create internal problems.  These same people do not understand the value of these moves and the overall cost reductions that come with it.

Agents look to move around for multiple reasons by allowing this happen the agent turnover ratio for the entire call center is reduced which saves time and profitability for the business.

Over the last 15 years the number of people working from home has increased by 41% according to Global Workplace Analytics.  There are many reasons for this change including business cost savings, employee flexibility, reduced employee turnover, employee loyalty, attracts and retain quality people and absenteeism reduction.

The challenge for the work at home agent depends on the business, industry and the calls/emails/chats the agent is managing.  Highly secure businesses such as financial do not use many at-home agents.  Other contact centers that do not require this security or confidentiality continue to explore ways to benefit from the at-home contact center.

Schedule adherence is a metric used by the call center to determine if the agents are working the amount of time they are scheduled to work. When agents do not meet their adherence the work falls onto others or negative results occur in areas that the manager does not want. Lack of adherence can result in higher abandon rates, lower service levels, a drop in CSAT and FCR rates.
Regardless, agents continue to look for changes to the schedule adherence because of the pressure that is put on them.  Agents often talk about work that they are required to do yet are not allowed to log out to do this work.  They have to multi-task on their job and turn in accurate results.

From a manager point of view this is common sense and expected of all agents.  But in some call center industries this creates a high turnover ratio.  Contact center industry standard suggest that agents should work between 60% - 80% on calls/email/chat per day.  Less than the 60% results in boredom and above 80% create a stressful working condition for the agents.  On a daily basis it has been recommended that the manager give agents their quiet time to help them relieve themselves of a stressful day.

New Year’s resolutions from agents can also be on the positive side where they look to improve their efficiencies and effectiveness at the job.  Some may say this has ulterior motives such as raises, promotions and job security.  However, there are people that actually want to do right by the company they love working for and managers should embrace these agents. 

Agents that have this in mind look for ways to do more for their group and become a go-to-person within the call center.  They want to help others and not just be thought of as the leader in the group.  There is a difference between the two.  The ones that want to help are loyal respectful agents they are not necessarily looking to move on to a new position or company.  Leaders on the other hand may be someone that is looking to move up or on to another company.  If, as a manager, you see these personality changes within an agent you might want to look into this further to learn the final goal of that agent.

Another piece of the efficient and effective agent is the desire to treat customers with respect and truly want to help them. These agents end up with high CSAT ratings but can have a longer than the norm AHT.  The manager must decide what is more important CSAT or AHT.

These same agents want to show more respect and empathy to the customer.  These agents understand the value of the customer and do not think about “just doing my job”.  When these agents take this approach it is important that the manager respond with appreciation to these agents as it will continue to improve their performance and value to the contact center.

Supervisors will also find these agents trying to learn more about the products and services offered by the company, ask more about the actual customer and show the customer they truly care.  These multiple levels of change have tremendous positive results within the call center.  When agents make New Year’s resolutions that have a positive result on their job efforts it is up to the manager to take advantage of these changes.

New Year’s resolutions can be positive and negative for the contact center.  This does not mean there is a problem with the call center goals and objective.  Typically these resolutions are personal goals for the agent and often the results are positive for the business.  It is up to the manager to see these changes and show the appreciation to the agents.

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.

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Dan Boehm
VP Sales and Marketing
+1 713 986 8839