Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Employment - CSI seeks experienced call center applications developers

We are actively seeking programmers to join our development team.

Positions are available for Application Developers.

Experience in call center and IP telephony is required.

These exciting positions are located in our corporate office in East Hartford, CT. Interested candidates can fill out our employment inquiry form.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Ghost of Christmas Post

Just a corny play on words to end the christmas season and get back to work. We've added a nifty little news script in our sidebar that will bring you the latest call center news in real time. Check it out, and check back with us after the new year. If you've subscribed, you'll be notified when we write our next blog post.

In the meanwhile, let's start thinking about our New Years resolutions and goals for 2007. Remember, even Ebeneezer Scrooge was able to change for the better...

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Maverik leverages VoIP technology to build a world class call center

Customer service in the convenience store business isn't just about serving the people that walk in and buy a fountain soda or a gallon of gas -- indirectly, it's about servicing the managers and assistants who are running the stores. Keeping them operating at a high level will affect the direct customers. Maverik wanted to improve how they handled incoming service calls internally, from store to corporate.

What they had in the beginning was not quite a call center -- they had 4 people answering the phones, 4 computers, and 4 phone lines. Maverik then hired John Patterson to be the call center manager. Coming over from Continental Airlines, John had a distinct vision for how he could improve things. He knew the owners wanted to reach 300 stores in the next five years. He knew if he could build them a world class call center, he would be doing his part towards meeting that goal.

His first task was to leverage technology to bring his call center up to date in terms of the phone system. He upgraded to a new 3com VoIP phone system. He then visited another industry contact center to study how far ahead they were of where he wanted Maverik to be. He wanted to understand how they were using technology to differentiate themselves. He found that their quality monitoring and agent evaluation system seemed to allow them to fine tune agents' performance. John then contacted a former co-worker at Continental to get another opinion, and hopefully a referral, on a call recording and quality monitoring system.

The Continental contact told John to contact one of the largest quality monitoring system providers -- a company that had recently acquired a large workforce management company. He had left a message with them to contact him about call recording and quality monitoring for Maverik. After weeks had passed without a response, he decided to do some web searching for other vendors. He found a midsize company out of Connecticut named Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI) and he read their website. Their product, Virtual Observer (VO), seemed to match every requirement he was looking for. Easy to use, yet robust, compatible with his 3COM VoIP system, and a modular feature set so he wasn't forced to purchase every feature -- he could "start small and think big".

He had found his quality monitoring and call recording system. The sales process with CSI had been highly consultative in nature -- no traditional sales pressure, and John was very comfortable every step of the way. The price was affordable enough to capture every call. Approximately 2/3 of his calls are internal, from the Maverik stores themselves -- store personnel requiring support or help with timely matters. The other third of his calls are external -- from customers and card holders. Maverik's branding efforts include a popular "Adventure-themed" prepaid purchase card program. Now he would be able to lift the customer service performance levels to world class here to read the entire story

Virtual Observer

Maverik Inc.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Employment - CSI seeks call center solution sales professionals

We are actively seeking solution sales professionals to join our exciting sales team.

Positions are available for National Sales Account Representatives.

These exciting positions are located in our corporate office in East Hartford, CT. Experience in call center solution sales is preferred. Interested candidates can fill out our employment inquiry form.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

CSI continues to deliver new, innovative QM features

Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI), of East Hartford, CT, is pleased to announce a series of functional enhancements to the latest release of Virtual Observer (VO) 3.0, a complete call center quality monitoring and call recording solution. Many of the enhancements are included with the base solution and will be deployed to the current customer base over the next few months. Other value added enhancements are available as add-on modules at a nominal cost for customers with active support agreements.

The most anticipated and exciting addition to the VO line up is “VO Live” – “VO Live” gives supervisors and managers a toolset to reach out and interact with agents on the fly and control agent desktops. “VO Live” includes three distinctive features: VO Live Desktop, VO Live Chat and VO Live Panel.

“VO Live Desktop” allows you to pop open an agents desktop on your screen to view or interact with them.

“VO Live Chat” allows instant messaging between you and your agents for textual conversation. Managers now can chat with an agent in real time and provide an agent with real time strategic consulting as they assist a caller.

“VO Live Panel” is a powerful tool that allows supervisors to view thumbnails of multiple agent desktops on one screen, and with a click they can view a full screen size of any thumbnail.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Upcoming Call Center Trade Shows

February, 21-23, 2007
Miami, FL

May 21-23, 2007
Dallas, TX

Call Center Summit
Jan. 22-25, 2007
Atlanta, GA

Will you be attending these call center industry trade shows?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Call Center Trade Magazines

I use this great new feature in Internet Explorer 7's tabbed browsing (of course Firefox did it first) - it allows you to store groups of bookmarks that you can open up all at once. For example, once such group I use is called "Call Center Trade Rags". This brings up my favorite news sources for the call center industry:

- Contact Professional

- Contact Center World


- CrmXchange

- TMCnet

- Call Center Magazine

Friday, December 01, 2006

My Bad Customer Behavior with

This post is just a simple note wishing everyone a safe and happy holidays. The holidays are often a time of heightened stress, and we need to remember we're all on the same team.

Next time you're calling up support, remember that the customer service rep is there to help you. Often times if you start off the conversation with an attitude, it will put them in an uneasy situation where they may not be able to help you as best they can.

I know this to be true because I was very mad at Amazon for charging me for shipping, given that their website said "free shipping for orders over $25". That was pretty clear, I thought.

What the rep pointed out to me was that my items were coming from 3 different sources. My items from Amazon only accounted for about $ 18. The fine print was missed. I hung up the phone, embarrassed at the hard time I had given the rep. Amazon's website still should be made more clear. Also, I had to delete and redo my order three times because my bank card had expired. Again, my own operator error.

Still, it's frustrating. Amazon rep, I am truly sorry for sharing my frustration with you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Off Topic: A Simple Explanation of SPAM

There is an increasing number of spam messages getting through corporate email servers and into your inboxes.

This happens because:

- the server side spam filter does not recognize (haven't caught up with yet) the new messages. (Think of Steroids in major league baseball - as soon as they figure out how to detect the latest steroids, the labs are already working on next generation drugs - same as evil spam-doers)

- same goes for client side (your PC) spam filters. They may be up to date, but the spam-doers may be ahead of them.

It's important to know:

- Outlook allows us to identify (tag) email as "junk" or "not junk". If we do this, it begins to learn what is junk mail and what is not.

- Some 3rd party client side spam filters work better than Outlook. One of the recommended ones is $ 30 after the trial:

Other options:

Individually: Sign up for a spam blocking service such as SpamArrest - this will require any sender to verify their identity (once)

Server Side:

- You can reduce the tolerance level on the server side spam filter - thus increasing the number of good mails that will be trapped in the spam box, which we then have to "whitelist" so it doesn't happen again, so it's a time constraint either way, whether you are checking Outlook or someone else is checking the spam folder.

Other tips:

- never sign up for online forms, surveys, prizes, contests, downloads, anything with your corporate email address. That's what gmail is for!

- some evil websites will try to install Spyware on your pc. Spyware are programs that run on your pc, collect info, creates popup ads, and sends out messages to people in your address book. You know who deploys the spyware?

You guessed it - the evil spam-doers!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thinking Outside the Cubicle: Fantasy Call Center, The Game?

A smart web developer could create an online version of "Fantasy Call Center" - a game where you can draft a team of agents, and based on their performance, you earn points towards prizes.

Like Fantasy Football, you would track about 10 statistics (as they occur in real time, of course). Among the statistics could be call saves, new orders, upsells, resolutions per minute, calls per hour, etc.

Perhaps the online players draft companies instead of agents - for example, I draft proctor and gamble, netflix and aol (ouch). The combined scores of all three contact centers factor in to determine my own score.

Companies would have to feed their call center statistics into a universal database. They could think of it as participating in a global benchmark study. Think of all of the statistical trends that could be established. The managers of the call centers would certainly be held accountable as their performance is now publicly monitored in an open market.

Users and visitors to the website could learn more about the companies by clicking over to the corporate websites. A little extra web visibility is always appreciated.

Would this have the same appeal as fantasy football - where there are millions of active players on free and paid sites? Not likely, but it sure sounds fun to me.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Call Centers in the Blogosphere

Besides this blog, there are many other blogs out there covering the call center industry. I've compiled a list:

Call Centre Confidential - Call Centre Confidential is my diary as a Team Manager. Next stop Bombay (and back).

Call Center Purgatory - Exploring the mind numbing insanity and childish corporate culture of an unknown call center employee.

CallCenterScript - Call Center lessons and knowledge I've learned from owning a Top 50 Inbound and Outbound Call Center for 12 years.

Medical Insurance Call Center/Customer Service Reps

The Off Shore Call Center Invasion

Asterisk VoIP News

Friday, October 13, 2006

Call Center Openings and Closings

This week we found 3 openings stories and no news stories announcing call center closings. It's a good week!

* Bank of America opens new Witchita Call Center

Bank of America announced today the opening of its new customer call center at 4509 East 47th Street South. The bank has invested more than $10 million to renovate and equip the new call center, which is approximately 50,000 square feet. Read More...

* Infinity Resources call center opening soon

Infinity Resources announced that it had selected Ottawa as the site of its next call center. According to a statement from the company and the city of Ottawa, the Itasca-based Infinity will set up shop within the former home of Reliable Business Products, 421 E. Stevenson Road, on Ottawa's North Side. Once operational in mid-October, the call center is planned to employ 25 full-time customer service representatives, as well as an additional 100 part-time and 60 seasonal operators. Read More...

* Seasonal Jobs Readily Available

Lindsay Curry wants something a little better than seasonal. But if that is all she can find, she will take it. For the last few weeks, Curry, 21, of Marseilles, has been seeking a job. However, after applying at a local temporary staffing agency and at a local restaurant, Curry decided she would take a stab at landing a job as a phone order-taker at the Infinity Resources call center, opening this month on East Stevenson Road in Ottawa. "I thought it sounded like it could be interesting," said Curry, who attended Infinity's job fair Tuesday. "Something a bit different." However, she hoped that she would be among those offered one of the call center's 20 full-time permanent job -- not among those landing one of the 60 temporary seasonal jobs, which Infinity will add to boost its staff to meet the demands of the upcoming holiday season. Read More...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Quality monitoring company updates breakthrough call logging software with encryption and unlimited storage

Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI), of East Hartford, CT, is pleased to announce the latest update to the Virtual Observer (VO) 3.0 Call Logger, a total recording solution, can now be bolstered with virtual unlimited storage, enhanced playback and media encryption. The VO Logger is expandable to include a full featured quality monitoring suite. The VO Call Logger works in most VoIP, traditional TDM, and hybrid digital/analog/IP environments.

There are many call loggers on the marketplace today. Many of the more affordable solutions offer basic recording and limited playback features. Many are simple hardware recorders requiring managers to physically visit the unit to view recordings. Many offer extended features at a much higher price and will often force feature purchases that are neither necessary or in the future plans of the customer.

CSI's approach is a bit different. As with their Virtual Observer 3.0 random sample recording edition, they pack all the important features into the core model and allow customers to pick and choose what other functionality they need. The VO Logger is priced for the mid-market, yet easily extends to the enterprise for multi-location logging to a centralized database. The VO Logger can also capture SMDR or CTI data for additional intelligence - as an optional add-on module. Certain configurations also allow for screen capture in a logger environment.

Similar to the aggressive pricing model for new customer solutions, the upgrade path for current customers of CSI is clear and inexpensive. Full upgrade releases are free for actively maintained customers and the only fee is the labor for the actual server conversion. This contributes to CSI's 97.5% customer retention rate.

The VO Logger comes optionally equipped with two significant features: Auto-Archiving and Media Encryption. With Auto-Archiving, companies can achieve virtual unlimited storage using automated storage and purging rules combined with a DVD recorder, NAS or SAN device. Events can be stored to any network-enabled device.

The Media Encryption module automatically encrypts all recorded events - protecting your important customer information. This also is a mandate enforced by Visa's new Payment Card Industry standard. The VO Logger with Media Encryption complies with this standard. Calls are de-crypted during playback for authenticated users. The VO Logger includes granular-level security controls to further ensure system data protection.

Virtual Observer supports a large variety of VoIP and TDM/Legacy phone systems: Cisco, Avaya, 3COM, Siemens, Nortel, Mitel, as well as any SIP-enabled VoIP systems.
Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI) has been in business since 1972. CSI employs a "Start Small, Think Big" philosophy that allows call centers to use a phased approach and still receive a high impact return on investment when implementing voip call recording and quality monitoring technology.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Almost half of users dissatisfied with Workforce Management Software

From a CallCenter Magazine article:

41 Percent Dissatisfied With WFM

A new study by Dr. Jodie Monger's Customer Relationship Metrics, L.C. and others finds some good news, some bad in the workforce management field. Customer Relationship Metrics, L.C., a specialist in call center industry research, has the results of a 3-month study into Contact Center Workforce Management Practices sponsored by Aspect, Witness Systems and Pipkins, Inc.

The research was performed in partnership with Mike Trotter (Purdue University), Dr. Jodie Monger (President, Customer Relationship Metrics) and Scott Davis (Principal, Customer Cubed, LLC).

The study asked participants questions about performance metrics, WFM resources utilized, processes, tools utilized, and satisfaction. It was the satisfaction question that drew the most negative response -- 41% surveyed were not pleased with their workforce management software.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Phone System Vendor Matrix

Gartner Group's latest study on the phone systems market clearly places Avaya and Cisco in the leader roles. Not coincidentally, this study was found on Avaya's website.

Customer Service Initiatives Annoying?

Hounded by customer service, an article by Liz Pulliam Weston, speaks loudly against technology-based feedback strategies.

An excerpt:
"Enough already with the surveys and polls and follow-up calls. What's the point if you ignore what consumers tell you?

This summer, I had a little glitch with my e-mail service -- a glitch that consumed several days of my time and a few hundred dollars of my hard-earned cash trying to fix.

Sure, that was annoying. But what came next was almost worse.

Each of the three companies with whom I dealt pelted me with phone calls and e-mail surveys demanding to know how they performed." read more here.

Is this really worse? I see this as a passive way to get my attention, to let me know that you have a system in place to foil the foul ups that often fall through the gaping cracks in customer service.

I went to a Subway recently and the cashier chatted on her cell phone while I inconveniently expected her to ring up my six inch turkey on whole wheat. She seemed annoyed that I stuck my money in front of her face. Now, my action may have been a little aggressive, but she clearly was having a personal cell phone interaction while she working the register.

I never said anything.

If I had received a follow up email, I definitely would've vented.

My sandwich was very good, by the way. I usually add Chipotle sauce, lettuce, tomato and always double-meat the turkey.

Good product, poor service.

Monday, August 21, 2006

IP Phone Sales Up

This article is located at VoIP News but was discovered via Digg on the first page.

Here is an excerpt:

While Gartner warns that companies considering large scale IP phone acquisition programs need to temper their desires, Synergy Research has released statistics that show a sequential 28 per cent increase in unit shipments for the second Quarter.

The worldwide Enterprise IP Telephony market (more than just phones) was up 30.4 year-over-year driven strongly by IP Phone sales.

Synergy says global revenue for enterprise VoIP was a shade under US$1.2 billion with the third quarter expected to reach US$1.3 billion on the way to a US$5 billion year.

For the first time, the APAC region outperformed the U.S. and EMEA regions in Enterprise Telephony sales.

Cisco, Nortel, Avaya and Alcatel secured the bulk of the sales, with the top three hitting double digit Quarter on Quarter increases. Cisco and Avaya both shipped more than 1 million IP phones in the Quarter.

Cisco had a tremendous quarter enabling them to grab the number one market share ranking in worldwide IP Telephony, said Synergy.

"IP Phone growth drove the quarter," said Ryan Olsen, Analyst at Synergy Research Group. "This significant growth was recognised by all of the large players. A highlight for the quarter was the historic benchmark that was achieved by Cisco who shipped over one-million IP Phones as well as Avaya who shipped over one-million Converged Lines."

Read more of this article on the source...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Multiple recording methods to capture calls

CSI's Product Development manager speaks about the various recording methods used to bring interaction voice data into the Virtual Observer engine...

An Interview with CSI's Product Development Manager - Coordinated Systems, Inc.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Opinion by Peter Post : Satisfactory customer service is largely up to the customer | �

Opinion by Peter Post : Satisfactory customer service is largely up to the customer | �

Is this article indicative of a larger trend in poor customer service? Not sure, but at the end of the article, the author poses some good suggestions on how to behave from the consumer side...create positive energy and you just might get it back!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Virtual Observations # 4 - Call Center News, Tips and Strategies

Virtual Observations - a newsletter featuring call center tips, strategies, and news.

* Best Practices - Why Use Random Sample Call Recording?

In the TDM/Analog phone system world, many companies still prefer to randomly record calls rather than record all calls. The main benefit with most systems is the cost savings - less hardware, less channel licenses, less storage space required, etc. For an example, let's look at a 30 person call center. If you were to record all calls, you would need to have 30 different recording channels to ensure capacity to record 30 simultaneous conversations. Typically there is a per-channel license charge. You'd probably require more of a work horse server to handle the call volume and storage requirements.

With random sampling, you could tell the system you'd like to have ten calls per month per agent, and using SMDR, you'd be able to grab 300 full-length calls per month (as opposed to a "block of time" recording method). That would be a generous sampling of events for your supervisors to evaluate, wouldn't it?

In the VoIP recording world, there is less of a cost savings, but perhaps more of a sanity savings...instead of sorting through thousands of calls to choose some for evaluation, your supervisors need only evaluate the 300 calls that have been recorded.

* Call Center Knowledge Share

What are some of the benefits of implementing a VoIP phone system?

Cost reduction - multiple offices can all exist on the same phone system and reduce long distance costs, without regard to physical distance between locations.

Improved productivity and collaboration - integrated voice and data applications allow for unheard of productivity gains and unlimited enterprise-wide capabilities

Mobility - call center agents using VoIP phones can work from anywhere with a sufficiently fast Internet connection

Convergence - receive your faxes, emails, and phone messages all in the same place

* Tips for improving customer service performance

How do you defuse an increasingly hostile customer?

Every company has their own policies and procedures. Here's one in particular that works:
You start by making sure you listen!
Let them speak without interruption
You then reiterate what they said, in the form of a question. This tells them that you did in fact listen
Next, tell them you want to make sure they're completely comfortable after you've resolved their situation

If you don't have a resolution immediately, assure them you are going to take it to the next level, without them having to repeat their story again
Restate the fact that your goal is to turn them into a referenceable customer
Ask them if overall, besides this specific issue, service has been acceptable
Offer them something

Close with how much you truly appreciate their business. If the issue isn't resolved, ask them how often they'd like to be called with an update...that's the line that'll blow their socks off!

* Demystifying Common Acronyms:

These acronyms are examples of call record data, typically retrieved via a computer:

SMDR - station message-detail recording
CDR - call detail recording

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A New Standard for Call Recording Security

The Virtual Observer (VO) VoIP call quality monitoring suite offers a heightened level of security and payment card industry (PCI) compliance.

Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI), of East Hartford, CT, is pleased to announce that Virtual Observer can now encrypt your recorded customer interactions, helping you to meet PCI compliance. VO also allows for enhanced granular security control, agent auditing, as well as automatic archiving, purging, and 24/7 support for mission critical incidents.

Media Encryption allows companies to comply with the PCI publications by encrypting all audio and screen recording for mass storage. Events are stored in 256-bit “Advanced Encryption Standard” data files. Playback is only allowed for authenticated users of Virtual Observer. Authentication must pass through multiple security stops on its’ own: Windows authentication, PC/System authentication, and Virtual Observer user authentication.

PCI Compliance is a complete enterprise wide initiative within the "Payment Card Industry", started by Visa and other credit card companies, to create secure operating environments for companies that handle sensitive credit card information. Similar to ISO 9000, PCI compliance uses a published list of standards that must be met for certification. The standard covers many different touch points throughout the enterprise and Virtual Observer now contains the elements necessary to be considered PCI Compliant. Virtual Observer's Media Encryption covers many aspects of PCI compliance, one small piece being that stored copies of credit card info (Either spoken or visual) must be encrypted and who has accessed that info must be tracked.
VO’s Agent Auditing functionality is another crucial component of PCI compliance. The feature offers complete data and program audit tracking to know who has viewed, changed or deleted which media / data.

Auto-Archiving will automatically store events to DVD-ram, network drive, network backup utility or network attached storage . This allows VO administrators the ability to flag specific calls that are to remain in the event log, and not to be purged or archived. VO can also automatically purge events based on parameters such as date, type, size, etc.., allowing you to maintain a virtually unlimited size hard drive of VO recorded events, evaluations and reports.

VO allows administrators the ability to determine security settings for all users, from feature access to button display. This kind of granular security, combined with Media Encryption, Agent Auditing, Auto Archiving and Auto Purge combines to deliver an intensely secure solution.

Recent enhancements to the core Virtual Observer quality monitoring solution include many new quality assurance features, such as “Voice and Screen Annotation”, which allows supervisors to insert voice notes or screen notes into any recorded event. VO is an industry-leading quality monitoring solution which enables customers to record audio via VoIP, Analog/TDM, or a hybrid version of both. VO can record either all calls or a random sampling of calls using any of the aforementioned recording methods.

Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI) has been in business since 1972. CSI employs a “Start Small, Think Big” philosophy that allows call centers to use a phased approach and still receive a high impact return on investment when implementing voip call recording and quality monitoring technology. Virtual Observer supports a large variety of VoIP and TDM/Legacy phone systems: Cisco, Avaya, 3COM, Siemens, Nortel, Mitel, as well as any SIP-enabled VoIP systems.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Excellent Article On Fast Fixes For Your Call Center

From ICMI/Call Center Magazine Network

Call Center Mag's Keith Dawson wrote:

1. Use the exit interview to capture short-cuts. There's no way around turnover, but just because people leave doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the enhanced knowledge agents have collected over time. Put in place a formal system for asking them what short-cuts they've created to deal with thorny or repetitive issues, then document them so others can share.

2. Extend benefits to part-time reps. Many call centers treat part-timers as less valuable than full-time reps. In many ways this does not make sense. Part-timers are the glue that allows a call center to handle peaks and valleys in volume at odd hours and during critical seasons. Along the same lines as paying fair wages goes extending things like flextime, health insurance, and vacations to part-timers. One call center highlighted at the show mentioned that they were able to offer part-timers a 401k plan - without a company match. Low cost, but it still creates a sense of ownership that ties a rep to the company.

3. Create an advancement system, whereby reps know that if they succeed and add value to the company, they will be rewarded with more responsibility and better pay. You might pay them, for example, to help in training others. You might reward them with specialty training in other areas of the company, or even with trips to industry trade shows and seminars. But most of all there must be some provision made for people to advance in the company. Reps can advance to become supervisors, perhaps to become managers themselves in time. But the progression must be obvious to the reps.

4. Train reps not just in the art of articulate customer service. Train them in how the call center works. That is, explain to them exactly what's involved in call routing, screen pop, and how that call was chosen to arrive at their desktop. The more they know of queuing, hold times, and how decisions are made, the more reasonable the demands you make on them seem. Of course some may see the downside here: if you do this you are going to have a lot of call center managers in training running around. And of course, if they know all this, they are certainly not going to be satisfied making $10 an hour.

5. Measure something different than your traditional metrics. Just for fun, concoct some crazy value/outcome/profit based metric and see if it makes your center look good.

6. Have lunch with a marketing person. Get to know the things the marketing department measures. Tell them about the impact marketing programs have on call volumes. Tell them about what your reps know about customers and their desires. Can it be anything other than enlightening?

7. Take calls yourself - visibly, in front of the staff. And critique your own performance mercilessly. You will instantly show your reps that mistakes are okay as long as you learn from them, and that you understand the kinds of things they cope with every day.

8. Simulate a disaster scenario and take stock of the results. If Katrina has taught us anything, it's that the unthinkable happens, and not just to some other guy. It happens to everyone. Somewhere on a shelf lies your business continuity plan. Read it, update it, drill on it, and hope you never have to implement it.

9. Ask agents specifically what kinds of rewards motivate them. And what they don't care about. You may be spending money on an incentive program that means nothing to people. Pizza parties versus catalog shopping; gift cards versus shift trading. Different people want different rewards and the only way to find out what will work is to ask. Ask them what they don't care about.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Google To Set Up Call Center In Michigan

Google To Set Up Offices In Michigan

Could this be a call center for their new high speed wireless broadband access network? Just speculating because it's not as if any of their other services require phone interaction.

Most everything is routed through email for their AdWords operation, which generates 95% of their revenue. It certainly may be for "Checkout", their paypal-ish system. People like to talk about their money.

Google owns blogger, where I write this blog. Can't see them answering support calls for this.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

CE Pro � AOL Customer Rep Shows Service Contract Providers What Not To Do

CE Pro � AOL Customer Rep Shows Service Contract Providers What Not To Do

I think everyone's experienced at least a little bit of A-O-HELL frustration, haven't they? I haven't had an AOL account in eight years, but I still remember what it was like to try and cancel...and those disks in the mail....memories...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

VoIP news blog

I recently found an excellent news blog for VoIP industry happenings:

As we find more industry blogs, we'll post them here and start to assemble a blog roll (like everyone else does...) of call center news and related topic blogs.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Top Ten Ways A Call Center Quality Monitoring Solution Creates Better Trained Agents

This is an overview of how to use Quality Monitoring to improve the performance of your call center team.

1) A quality monitoring solution provides the ability for agents to hear themselves speak
Even the best agents make mistakes. Most don’t even realize when they’re making them. Playing back recorded interactions will enlighten them. When an agent first hears themselves going “Uhmmmm…”, you can see the funny look on their face as they think, “that’s what I sound like?”. Chances are after they realize that there IS room for improvement, they will embrace the opportunity to do just that.

2) A quality monitoring solution’s screen capture functionality allows for greater understanding of how agents use their applications
Screen Capture technology isn’t only for nabbing solitaire players or web surfers during business hours – it can also be used to watch an agent navigate through a crm while helping a customer on the phone. Often time-saving process improvements can be made after observing CRM usage. Screen capture, and especially video-mode screen capture (where every on screen movement is captured, not just stills), can have a huge impact on ROI.

3) Evaluation functionalities speed up the learning curve
This one seems rather obvious – before the evaluation process was automated, supervisors had to sit side-by-side with employees, take notes, fill out spreadsheets, develop training material and provide feedback to employees and compile reports for management. If this process took three hours, the automated process takes three minutes. That’s not an exact calculation, of course, but you get the picture. Even worse, recording calls without an evaluation element keeps you from improving at the rapid pace that is available to you.

4) Quality monitoring reports make it easy to identify employee strengths and weaknesses, and to identify where agents need training
Typical quality monitoring systems come with agent performance reports that can identify where employees are struggling, even where entire groups falter across the board. This is key in developing relevant training materials that focus on specific problems.

5) E-learning features allow supervisors to send targeted training materials to agents
Once you’ve completed some evaluations and identified where employees need training, you then will have to set out to work on the areas they need help on. Once you’ve created your training materials, deployment of the appropriate content to the specific employee can be automated via “E-Learning” functionality. Confirmation of completion is then sent back to the supervisor after the employee has viewed his training material.

6) Quality Monitoring “packaging” features enable you to create a "greatest hits" list of the best and worst call examples
If your system has a “packaging” feature you have the ability to grab your recorded events and organize them together for training purposes. You can then publish your package to the web, a shared network drive, or burned to cd. You can create a group of events related to a similar training theme, or even a “greatest hits” collection of stellar service calls sure to impress the executives.

7) Quality monitoring can reduce turnover and stagnation by providing a measurable means of improvement
A good quality monitoring system can provide managers with the ability to focus in on skill areas where employees need help. Implemented properly, a quality monitoring program can provide a continuous improvement of agent performance. Agents will grow less frustrated and stagnant. As their skills improve, so will their ability to get to the next level.

8) A successful quality monitoring implementation enables teams to work to common goals and expectations
No QA program should be implemented without first having everyone on board with both the concept and the goals. Both management and employees should have common goals, expectations and metrics – the momentum of a cohesive team effort will often empower the ability to exceed those goals.

9) Quality monitoring can affect your entire organization. Customized reports can allow you to determine if training needs are for individuals, teams, or the entire organization
Having the ability to focus in on training requirements for individual agents is one benefit of a solid reporting mechanism, but quality monitoring reports should also allow you to examine your teams’ deficiencies, and organizational problems across the board. This will allow you to deploy individual, team and company-wide training programs and improve overall call center performance.

10) Quality monitoring can rapidly deliver a return on investment
Once a quality monitoring program has been implemented, the return on investment can be realized very quickly. This translates to the bottom line via more upsells, saves and new sales, less turnover, faster training cycle time for new hires, and much more. For tips on how to maximize the implementation process for quality monitoring, please view the article “Top ten tips for implementing a call center quality monitoring solution

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Unique Approach to VoIP Call Recording and Quality Monitoring Allows Call Centers to “Start Small and Think Big”

East Hartford based software development firm enables call centers to use a phased approach and still receive a high impact return on investment when implementing voip call recording and quality monitoring technology.

Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI), of East Hartford, CT, is pleased to announce that the latest release of Virtual Observer (VO) 3.0, a complete call center quality monitoring and VoIP recording suite, can provide call centers with the ability to implement their solution with a phased approach, rather than forcing customers to purchase features they’re not ready for or bells and whistles they will never use.

When purchasing the Virtual Observer call center quality monitoring suite, customers have the option to record selective calls instead of recording all calls, which requires many more channel licenses, and a corresponding higher budget. CSI differentiates themselves from the rest of the industry by providing "big budget" features at "small budget" prices, thus establishing the middle ground between low-end recording devices that simply record calls and allow for playback and high end complete call center suites that can overwhelm buyers with features they will never even use.

VO provides tremendous value to the call recording process by adding powerful evaluation and E-learning features. Using VO, call center managers have the capability to produce training media for burning onto cd, web playback, or automatic email distribution to agents who require specific help. Packaged training material can also be used to reduce the training cycle time for new agents.

Virtual Observer supports a large variety of VoIP and TDM/Legacy phone systems: Cisco, Avaya, 3COM, Siemens, Nortel, Mitel, as well as any SIP-enabled VoIP systems. CSI can implement Virtual Observer within a traditional TDM environment, on a hybrid TDM/VoIP system, or on a pure VoIP network.

VO’s strength has always been in delivering full-featured functionality at a significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO). One of the reasons VO is able to achieve the lower TCO is by allowing customers to record a sampling of calls for quality purposes, rather than forcing them to log every call. Now these same cost savings can be applied for VoIP recording on Cisco, Avaya, 3com, Siemens and any SIP VoIP system.

As more and more companies choose to implement VoIP, for both cost savings and value-added functionality, they can now acquire a more affordable quality monitoring solution that will record a select number of calls needed to produce the quality assurance target goal for number off evaluations.

This also means that companies can now implement the full featured technology of an enterprise class quality monitoring system without worrying that they will be left behind when transitioning to VoIP.

In the recent call recording marketplace, you used to be able to only buy basic, feature-deprived VoIP recorders OR expensive, feature-crammed, high TCO products. Just as CSI approached the traditional analog recording world, the marketplace is revolutionized by making available a complete Call Center Quality Monitoring and VoIP Recording suite, packed with features that companies will use, for a palatable price.

Another differentiating area that separates CSI involves annual maintenance agreements. With VO, annual support renewals are not complete system re-buys, but instead a nominal percentage of the original software cost. Superior customer service at an affordable price will yield a mutually satisfied long-term relationship.

Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI) delivers enterprise-ready, random sample VoIP call recording and 100% call logging with quality assurance functionality at an incredible value. CSI specializes in providing solutions to mid-size and large customer service centers recording a sampling of agent calls in single or multiple locations. Virtual Observer can be up and running and creating better trained employees in rapid time.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Top 5 Motivational Quotes for Call Center Agents

1) “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

2) “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier” – Mother Theresa

3) “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” – John Quincy Adams

4) "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." – Charles Darwin

5) “You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." – Steve Jobs, Apple

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Virtual Observations # 3 - Call Center News, Tips and Strategies

* Best Practices - Six Sigma
There is a big movement underway to adopt Six Sigma philosophies within the call center industry. Six Sigma is mostly known in the manufacturing world, relative to quality and process improvement techniques. "Six Sigma" can be defined as a quality measurement and improvement program originally developed by Motorola that focuses on the control of a process to the point of ± six sigma (standard deviations) from a centerline, or put another way, 3.4 defects per million items. A Six Sigma systematic quality program provides businesses with the tools to improve the capability of their business processes. You can find out more about Six Sigma from the following resources:

* More VoIP recording system compatibilities announced!
We are pleased to announce Virtual Observer (VO) random sample VoIP recording for call centers with 3COM, Cisco, Avaya as well as any SIP-enabled phone systems. This allows call centers to "Start Small and Think Big" when purchasing a call recording system by enabling them to record select calls instead of recording all calls, which requires many more channel licenses.

VO is one of the first solutions that will be able to randomly record calls off of 3COM (NBX and VCX (SIP) phone systems) VoIP phone systems for quality purposes. "This will allow us to enter many new markets," said CSI Vice President of Development Dan McGrail. "We already are established as the leading vendor of choice for this process in the legacy recording world. Now we're extending the same lower cost of ownership and rapid return on investment to customers who have invested in VoIP technology."

We also provide 100% call logging for VoIP, as well as random sample recording and 100% call recording for legacy/TDM phone systems. Other supported phone systems include Nortel, Mitel and Siemens.

* Customer upgrades should NOT be a complete RE-BUY of the system...
CSI has long focused on keeping our customers happy via excellent, beyond-the-call service levels. When it comes time to upgrading Virtual Observer, we charge only nominal fees for the labor and time to implement the new software and train employees on new functionality. Many of our higher-priced competition charge more for an upgrade than what we have for an initial sticker price. This contributes to our extremely high customer retention rate. We have a similar philosophy in regards to annual support and maintenance. Our standard annual support fees are only a fraction of the original purchase price of our software. You would think this would be standard, but some companies charge almost as much as the customers' initial investment. With CSI, you can rest assured our pricing policies are always going to be customer-friendly, like our software.

* Call Center Knowledge Share
In this section, we will share tips, techniques and data used by successful call center managers. This month we look at the "Call Center Networking Group".
The Call Center Networking Group (CCNG) is an international organization, built around the sharing of knowledge, best practices, and being an advocate for call center managers. One of the benefits of belonging to this group are the open tours of call centers. They offer programs for local, national, global and virtual access. Benchmarking has never been easier!

* Tips for Improving customer service performance
Allow your agents to hear themselves. Often, they will be more critical of themselves than even their supervisors would be. Make a playlist of all of their recordings available to them to listen to when they have downtime. Give them a goal of self-evaluating eight calls a month. Run a contest for "most improved agent" each month.

* Customer service issues that occur and the resolutions that solve them
There is nothing quite as aggravating as being stuck in an endless e-mail support loop. If a customer has account information with you, imagine their delight when you receive an email support question from them, but instead of replying with a status report, you called them back to make sure there are no other issues, and you will have squashed any further questions that may have ended up in a frustrating email loop.

* Demystifying Common Acronyms:
ANI/DNIS: Automatic Number Identification (ANI) and Dialed Number Identification System (DNIS)
ANI and DNIS are the part of your telephone system that provides the call information. ANI presents the caller id and DNIS presents the called id.

* How to maximize your use of VO 3.0
This is relevant to customers using block of time recording -- In 3.0, the item that really blows supervisors away is the ability to select an event, and then package a portion of the event from the block of time recording into its own sub-folder. You would then name that file, repeat the process for multiple calls, and you will end up with a media list. For example, "Gary's Greatest Hits" would include Gary's last five stellar calls. Each call would be free of dead air because you were able to extract only the call itself.

* Top VO 3.0 Support FAQs
Question: Can I see what calls are being recorded this very minute?
Answer: Yes.
Open the Application Launcher.
Select the Event Log.
When you are in the Event Log, click on the eyeglass icon (mouseover will show "Record Server Status").
This will bring up a list of current calls being recorded.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Skype's Master VoIP Plan

Yesterday I tested Skype's new 2.0 version, mainly because they just announced they will allow Skype-to-Landline (US and Canada) calls for free.

I tried it by calling the office. They said I sounded very clear. I then tried it by calling one of our remote sales reps. They said I was choppy at best.

Will I be throwing out my landline at home and using Skype for VoIP calling at home? Not likely, as my fiancee holds on to the main telephone for dear life, as if we'd be wiped off the grid if we got rid of it. If it were up to me alone, I'd say sayonara to Cox.

Skype shows a lot of commitment by offering this service for free. I was a bit afraid they'd get swallowed by the Ebay consumer commerce monster and be used exclusively as a conduit for buyers and sellers.

Here's an excellent article I found on

Skype's Net Neutrality gamble: we'll be so big, they can't stop us

James Bilefield, head of Skype's European operations, has a plan for combating telecommunications companies eager to do away with Net Neutrality: get big. As companies such as AT&T think about cashing in on a "tiered Internet," which would include "opportunities" for consumers to pay extra for the "guaranteed delivery" of data, companies such as Skype are worrying if their business models can withstand an assault from the commercial Internet infrastructure.

But that's not the only concern. What if Internet Service Providers decide to just block Skype altogether? More than a few companies are working on commercial solutions to block Skype and other VoIP-traffic, hoping to find early adopters among state-run telecommunications companies and security-conscious businesses.

Skype's battleplan is simple. If their user base is large enough, companies will think twice about tampering with Skype traffic. When Brazil's biggest telecom pulled the plug on Skype, the outcry in the country was big enough that the decision was soon reversed. Bilefield said, "The community has the power to change things."

Nancy Gohring's report from VON Europe conference in Stockholm indicates that worries about VoIP aren't going anywhere. While VoIP may be great for consumers' pocketbooks, it's not great for the corporate purse. "Our existing cash flow is being challenged," said Joacim Damgard, VP for broadband and fixed services at TeliaSonera. It's not hard to see why. VoIP calls are considerably cheaper than land-line alternatives in almost every case, sometimes by an astounding margin. In the United States and Canada, a new Skype promotion will even see free calling throughout the region for the rest of the calendar year.
..end excerpt.

Author: Ken Fisher

Monday, May 08, 2006

Demystifying Call Center Buzz

I found a great article which spells out the meanings behind all of the acronyms you see floating around. While some are obvious, I am sure there are some that even the most knowledgeable reader will say, "oh, that's what that means...".

Here is an excerpt:

COmpressor-DECompressor, COder-DECoder, or 'Compression/DECompression: A device or program capable of performing Encoding and Decoding on a data stream or signal. CODECs can also be used to compress and decompress data to allow for smaller data file transmission.

Customer Relationship Management: The group of systems and practices (methodologies, strategies, software and web-based capabilities) that encompass a business's management of its customers.

Computer Telephony Integration: Technology that allows interactions on a telephone and a computer to be integrated or coordinated. CTI encompasses all contact channels (voice, email, video, fax etc.)

Interactive Voice Response: A computerized system that allows a person to select an option from a voice menu or otherwise interface with a computer system by speaking.

Session Initiation Protocol: A protocol and standard for initiating, modifying, and terminating a multimedia (voice, video, etc) interactive session. SIP was accepted in 2000 as the 3GPP signaling element and a permanent element of IMS architecture.

eXtensible Markup Language: A W3C-recommended general-purpose markup language for creating special-purpose markup languages, capable of describing different types of data. In other words, XML is a method of describing data that is primarily used to facilitate data sharing across different systems. Programs can modify and validate documents based in XML without prior knowledge of their form.

The rest can be found in this referenced article from VoIP News

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Interesting call center market stats

On the The Taylor Reach Group's website, they have listed an amazing list of fascinating call center industry trends, including:

Workforce Optimization Technologies (WOT\'s) are growing at the rate of 12.1% CAGR
Datamonitor- April 2005

92% of customers form their opinion about a company based on their call center.
Purdue University

68% of Customers will switch brands based on a poor service experience.
Gartner Group

A Yankee Group study of 350 US and Candaian call centers has found that 24% of agents or 672,000 workers, work from their homes.

This number is expected to grow by 24% per year through 2010.
Yankee Group

Looking for workforce optimization content

One of our technology partners is seeking workforce optimization content for their website. They are looking for an article on emerging trends, software comparisons, maintenance costs, differentiating features, and integration.

Feel free to submit your article here in the comments area of this blog.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Top Ten Ways a Quality Monitoring Program Can Improve Agent Performance

Actually, we're looking to build a top are the first ones that have been sent in:

* Hear What I sound Like - The ability for an agent to 'hear themselves speak' can be very enlightening. Frequently, a dedicated agent is more critical of themselves than an evaluator is. "I didn't know I always use that phrase", Why do I say 'uh, so much?", "I can hear myself chewing gum!", etc.

* See What I am Doing on the Screens - To be able to follow the 'process flow' taken while on a call can greatly assist in streamlining how the agent responds to questions, gathers information and updates client records.

* Call Evaluation - The ability to listen to a call, watch the screen-flow, evaluate the call and provide feedback to agent can be instrumental in helping an agent improve as quickly as possible. The ability to 'package' a call and let the agent listen to the call, read the evaluation and utilize any e-learning tools available can speed up the agent's learning curve.

* Measurable Standards - The ability to produce reports that display the agent against a group, or to analyze the group as a whole, provides an enterprise with the ability to determine if they have an individual training need, an organizational training need, or a process (procedure or system) development need. For example, one customer watched the listened to the agent get the customer's charge card number at the appropriate time, confirm the charge card number, and then follow the screen-flow correctly. However, the charge card number did not appear until screen number 8. It was then entered, long after it had been confirmed with the customer. The very next day, the charge card number was part of screen 1, so it could be entered and verified immediately. This was a Process/System improvement, as the agent had followed all rules.

....Please comment back with your own list!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Setting a tone of excellent customer service

From the top of your organization down, everyone must be on board with providing excellent customer service. One place where customer service skills often get overlooked is when dealing with co-workers. Rather than viewing a peer's request as an extreme nuisance, you should treat them as if they were your most valuable customer. Great customer service can be contagious.

Imagine if your co-worker asked you to review an important document she was preparing. Let's concede that normally you would sigh internally, but verbally offer up a "sure, no problem", skim it, and then hand it back, declaring the document as "fine". Your co-worker would wonder if you actually read it at all. Instead, you could actually read through it, offer a few corrections, and then ask if your review was satisfactory. Your co-worker would be amazed at your level of service and she would most likely carry that back with her in her own actions.

One of the best quotes I've ever heard is "Never let anyone come to you who doesn't leave happier than when they first arrived".

If every call center agent in the world echoed that philosophy, customer service would be at an all time high, globally.

Just a thought for the day!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Top ten tips for implementing a call center quality monitoring solution

Top ten tips to conducting a successful quality monitoring implementation in a customer service call center:

1) Write a clear outline of the reasons behind bringing a call recording system into your call center’s work flow:
o Benefits to agents
o Benefits to customers
o Benefits to company

2) Introduce the concept of quality monitoring well in advance and initiate tasks to empower agents to participate in the process
o The purpose of call quality monitoring is NOT to catch employees slacking off, but to help improve customer service and meet overall performance metrics.
o Employees can help define the quality assurance metrics and play a significant role in continuous performance improvement

3) Reiterate company customer service goals
o Customers are the ones who actually pay salaries and wages
o It is often much easier to retain customers than get new ones
o Treat all co-workers as customers and good habits will form

4) Create a “team” atmosphere for your agents
o Set up a team recognition and rewards program
o Highlight stellar service examples via internal emails and newsletter articles/photos
o Sub-teams should be formed to make task management easier

5) Make sure the Telephony and IT sub-teams know their roles and responsibilities in carrying out their end of the plan
o All part of the same larger team along with the agents, managers and supervisors
o Create detailed project plans for each sub-team

6) Educate your call center agents on their sub-team’s specific quality improvement goals
o Increase upsells
o Increase saves
o Increase new sales
o Call time to resolution
o Caller time on hold
o Ask them for other ideas

7) Include agents in coming up with evaluation criteria and forms
o once the metrics are defined, your agents can help you define evaluation criteria, in essence, creating the forms

8) Appoint a few agents to a “system review sub-team” to represent agent feedback on what could be improved with the quality monitoring program.
o System improvements wish list
o Team goal review
o Evaluation criteria review

9) Throw a great kick off party
o Announce weekly performance goals and prizes
o At the party, allow your agents to evaluate supervisors’ calls

10) Schedule a benchmarking session with another call center that has been quality monitoring for over a year and seen improvements
o Exchange discoveries, stats, tips

Friday, March 03, 2006

What's the difference between VoIP and IP Telephony?

We found the answers from several different sources....

From Avaya:

VOIP and IP Telephony are closely related. IP Telephony is DEPENDENT upon VoIP.

VoIP delivers conversations over an IP network. IP telephony services can provide the means to manage the traffic, assure the quality of the conversation, enable the end user to control the calls with advanced business features that they have grown accustomed to using at work, then the enterprise will not be pleased with the VoIP experience.

IP Telephony facilitates the delivery of voice packets across the network with speed, plenty of options, and gives the caller control over the experience.

IP Telephony unites an organization's many locations - including mobile workers - into a single converged network. It provides cost savings by combining voice and data on one network that can be centrally maintained, as well as by eliminating toll expenses for calls between locations. Avaya Services help companies select the right solutions, assess the readiness of their LAN or WAN to carry voice traffic, implement the solutions, and maintain them after installation.

We also posed the question in the newly relaunched Here was the top response, a post on a bulletin board on a student's website:
Voice over IP and IP telephony are terms used generally to describe the same type of technology; passing packetized voice traffic over IP networks. IP telephony can also represent the practice of passing traditional voice service traffic over packet networks, such as call centers, voice mail, caller ID and ANI, and others.

Lastly, we posed the question on Yahoo's new "Answers" service. We'll post the answers as we receive them in our email...

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New Call Center Industry Search Engine

If you look to the right of this post, you will see a search field. This belongs to a new call center industry search engine. You will also see a "cloud" of frequently searched terms that is updated based on actual search volume. If you conduct a search, you will see that you can send feedback on the results that will affect future rankings. I'm not sure how this will be safeguarded against people who unethically try to influence search engine rankings. Anyway, give it a test run....

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Crutchfield turns up the volume in its' call center

Crutchfield turns up the volume in its' call center quality assurance

Sharing a commitment to provide exceptional customer service, it might be fate that renowned electronics cataloger Crutchfield Inc. would implement Coordinated Systems, Inc.'s (CSI) Virtual Observer call center quality assurance solution.

Initially looking for a quality assurance product that would help develop consistency in phone staff interactions, increase phone sales and eliminate the need for manual recording, Crutchfield found that Virtual Observer (VO) delivered much more than that. VO provides a mechanism for not only improving agent performance, but also in training new agents.

"With a canned event, we can go over it with a new hire, pausing to identify each important statement or mistake. We can train them on what should be said," said A.J. Miller of Crutchfield's IT department.

In researching call recording vendors, Crutchfield investigated three or four competitors of CSI. CSI was more affordable than the other vendors, but Crutchfield wanted to make sure all of their main requirements would be included in the CSI base product, Virtual Observer. They went through their list: call recording, evaluation, extensive reporting, ease of use, compatibility with their phone systems. VO covered all of that. In terms of comfort level, "we were comfortable with them. They were the least expensive and offered all of the critical features. The agents who tested it and saw the demos liked VO" AJ added.

Upon installation, the CSI team trained Crutchfield's call center managers, who were then relied upon for training the rest of the team. The agents accepted VO favorably, as they had been used to manually being recorded, with the added benefit of recognizing the chance to improve their skills.

"As a Sales Team Leader, VO has helped the folks on my team see, hear, and feel their calls, and has allowed us to pinpoint things they could improve upon. Sometimes it's things they could say differently, sometimes its different things they could do on the PC to make them more efficient. Reviewing a recorded VO event is like reliving the call, a great coaching tool," says Adam Stoffel, of Crutchfield's Sales department.

Crutchfield has recently upgraded from Virtual Observer version 2.1 to version 3.0. AJ was assertive about the upgrade stating, "the upgrade has made a big performance improvement. In particular, the auto-purge feature saves us time and the new visual playback feature allows us to pinpoint call activity easier."

Crutchfield's main priority has always been providing exceptional customer service beyond expectations. They see CSI as a similar natured partner further stating, "when we call them with suggestions, they respond rapidly. Their support is proactive - they often have identified the few system hiccups that occur before we even notice."

As a catalog company that once featured primarily car audio equipment, Crutchfield has expanded into every type of consumer electronics device that exists. Their website offers secure online ordering, and of course, extensive customer service options.

CSI has installed other Virtual Observer at other catalog company call centers. "Virtual Observer has evolved into the perfect call center quality assurance solution for catalog companies. The time-to-improvement after implementing our VO solution, when agents are making more upsells, saves and new sales compared to pre-VO, is realized so much sooner with each new functional enhancement - making it a compelling solution and a logical choice," stated Rich Marcia, Director of Marketing at CSI.

Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI) is a leading software development company. Established in 1972, they have consistently evolved their products over time and grown their business by building high quality long term partnerships. The CSI flagship product, Virtual Observer (VO), is a call recording and quality assurance solution for call centers. VO is making inroads against major competition by offering robust, user friendly feature sets that exceeds client requirements and enhances client satisfaction.

Crutchfield sells consumer electronics and has grown from humble beginnings to the ecommerce giant they are today. Founder Bill Crutchfield states that "My customers told me they didn't know much about car stereos and were intimidated by the thought of installing one by themselves. Listening to my customers, I decided to fill the Crutchfield catalog with information so readers would be comfortable with car stereo. And I decided to take good services and make them even better. That seemed to work well."

"Emphasizing complete information and exceptional customer service were what it took to get this company off and running, and these values continue to define our company culture today. Now we're a thriving organization located in Charlottesville, Virginia, with a satellite facility in Norton, Virginia as well."

Virtual Observations # 2 - call center monitoring newsletter

Virtual Observations - a newsletter featuring call center tips, strategies, and news.

* Best Practices - Customer Service

Make your customer service goals highly visible throughout your entire organization. Well-placed banners with a colorful mantra such as "Make everyone who talks to you feel better than they did before they talked to you!". Think about it - do people generally leave your presence extremely happier, generally the same, or worse?

* Crutchfield turns up the volume on call center quality assurance...

Sharing a commitment to provide exceptional customer service, it might be fate that renowned electronics cataloger Crutchfield Inc. would implement Coordinated Systems, Inc.'s (CSI) Virtual Observer call center quality assurance more!

Initially looking for a quality assurance product that would help develop consistency in phone staff interactions, increase phone sales and eliminate the need for manual recording, Crutchfield found that Virtual Observer (VO) delivered much more than that. VO provides a mechanism for not only improving agent performance, but also in training new agents.

* Call Center Knowledge Share

In this section, we will share tips, techniques and data used by successful call center managers. This month we look at "call performance" statistics.

From - Typical call center performance criteria that can be measured quantitatively are:

- The average delay a caller may experience while waiting in a queue

- Average Talk Time (ATT)

- Average Handling Time (equal to ATT plus wrap up time)

- The percentage of calls answered within a determined time frame (referred to as a Service Level or SL%)

- The percentage of calls which completely resolve the customer's issue (if the customer does not call back about the same problem for a certain period of time, it is considered a successful resolution).

Some more practical reporting metrics would be similar to those in Virtual Observer's "Call Performance Report", where the system digs deep to reveal agent performance histories, including but not limited to, "# of scheduled recordings", "# of successful recordings", "# of high scored events", "# of low scored events", etc. Looking at such a report for all of your agents would quickly show which agents require additional training.

* Tips for Improving customer service performance

Conduct a customer survey and learn what your customers really think about your service. You can even have survey functionality integrated with your phone system. When a customer has completed their call, they are then given the option to answer a few questions. The data is then compiled and reported. Another way to conduct customer service is via an email campaign. Allow your customers to fill out the survey anonymously online using a form on your website. Gathering customer feedback is invaluable in shaping any changes in your customer service methodoligies, with the goal of continuous performance improvement.

* Call issues that occur and the resolutions that solve them

Customer call volumes can swell based on public relations...good or bad. Your ability to entertain or inform customers while they are on hold is paramount to keeping their aggravation levels at a minimum. Some companies use music on hold, and others fill the dead air with promotional campaigns. What about using something more educational, such as industry statistics, or an audio news feed? If you were a customer calling that was upset, would you want to hear about a "blowout sale...this weekend ONLY! ONLY! ONLY!" or would you rather hear classical music...or maybe an audio feed with some sports news...?

* Demystifying Common Acronyms:

CTI: Computer Telephony Integration


Computer telephony integration (CTI) is technology that allows interactions on a telephone and a computer to be integrated or co-ordinated.

Common functions:

  • Calling Line Information Display (Caller's Number, Number Called, IVR Options)
  • Screen Population on answer, with or without using calling line data.
  • On Screen Dialing. (Fast dial, preview and predictive dial.)
  • On Screen Phone Control. (Ringing, Answer, Hang-up, Hold, Conference etc)
  • Coordinated phone and data transfers between two parties
  • Call Center phone control (logging on; after call work notification)
  • Advanced functions such as call routing, reporting functions, automation of desktop activities, or multi-channel blending of email or web requests

* Day-Timers, Inc. selects Virtual Observer...

Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI) , a leading provider of call center quality assurance solutions, proudly announces that Day-Timers, Inc. has selected CSI's Virtual Observer solution. Virtual Observer will be installed in the Lehigh Valley, PA call center and will allow Day-Timers, Inc. the ability to record customer interactions, evaluate the events, deliver relevant training content to employees and generate powerful more!

* How to maximize your use of VO 3.0

  • Do you forget to run the auto-scheduler some months? Don't you wish it simply ran on its own?

    Well, in version 3.0 of Virtual Observer it does. A new enhancement will automatically run the auto scheduling process a few days before the next month or week depending on your normal auto scheduling period.
  • Did you ever want to simply take a call (audio and screens) from within an event and be able to email it to someone without having to send the entire event? With VO 3.0, you can do this. - it allows you to select a call (audio, screens and evals) and send it as an email attachment that when opened, will play on any pc which has Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player.

    * Top VO 3.0 Support FAQs

    Question: How can I use on-demand recording if I do not have an "On-Demand" Channel?

    Answer: Go to Schedule Editor, enter an event dated in the past (make sure it is a scheduled workday). VO always goes to the "oldest event in the schedule" so a backdated event will be the "next event recorded", which will get you pretty close to "On-Demand".
  • Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    Are you encrypting your recorded calls?

    If you process credit card transactions, it is most likely that customer credit card information is being stored in their account record in your customer relationship management (CRM) software. Most web based CRMs use Secure Socket Layer encryption to protect your valuable date. Most companies use some form of customer quality assurance - for example, call monitoring and recording. Often these QA systems are also capturing screen data during the calls.

    Capturing the call as well as the screen activity, as well as any chats or emails sent during the call, comprises a "recorded event". Events are typically stored in a database for later playback or for archiving. This process is usually tagged as Media Encryption.

    Events should definitely be encrypted to protect customer data. Visa requires it now("Payment Card Industry - Data Security Standard"). Encryption should be 256-Bit and all media should be stored and archived in encrypted format. Files are decrypted locally to prevent network exposure.

    ...more on Visa security standards

    Tuesday, January 31, 2006

    Top Five Call Center Openings and Growth

    Being a bit tired of all of the stories of call center closings and jobs being eliminated, we decided to gather a handful of positive news stories regarding call centers that have announced job growth or new locations. Our source is Google News:

    # 1: 300 employees.
    New Call Center coming to Denison -

    Hundreds of new jobs will soon be available in Grayson County. A call center just announced they'll set up their customer care base in Denison.

    This morning Client Services Incorporated announced they'll open a call center at the Eisenhower Business Center in Denison. They'll use the space to house their customer care base. They plan to open in March and eventually employ 300 people.

    # 2: Several Hundred jobs.
    New call center to hold job fair

    Hundreds of new jobs will soon be available in Grayson County. A call center just announced they'll set up their customer care base in Denison.

    This morning Client Services Incorporated announced they'll open a call center at the Eisenhower Business Center in Denison. They'll use the space to house their customer care base. They plan to open in March and eventually employ 300 people.

    # 3. 100-500 new jobs.

    Silver City to Get New Call Center

    A new call center here expects to have hired 100 people by February and will employ more than 500 once the center is in full operation.

    Teleperformance USA of Salt Lake City, one of the largest contact center outsourcers in the country, said its call center will provide customer services for telecommunications giant Sprint.

    "We have already hired some managers,'' said Roy J. Prasad, vice president of human resources. Hiring for customer service agents will begin in January.

    # 4. 80 new jobs.

    New Albany call center to add 80 jobs

    Good news for job hunters, a new call center will bring about 80 jobs to Albany this spring. Hamilton Relay plans to put a call center in this strip mall on Dawson Road.

    The Nebraska company says the center could expand to include more workers. Those workers will help deaf, hard of hearing, or speech disabled people use the telephone by relaying their typed messages to hearing people on the other end of the line.

    # 5. 30 new jobs.

    New Call Center to add 30 jobs

    The promise of telephones ringing 24 hours a day sounds like progress to residents in Halstad, Minn.

    The northwestern Minnesota town was recently selected by Onvoy, a Minneapolis-based telecommunications company, as the site for a new operator services call center.

    Scheduled to open by early summer, the business will create up to 30 new jobs in the city of 600 people.

    Monday, January 30, 2006

    Spoke Software Adds 54 New Customers for On-Demand Information for Lead Generation and Sales Prospecting

    From an article on

    "Tuvox, an enterprise speech applications provider for call centers, also just recently joined the move to on-demand information for sales prospecting. Before selecting Spoke, Tuvox used an outsourcing account profiling firm which proved to be costly and required significant time investments. A more agile and successful marketing and sales process has been possible for Tuvox upon becoming a Spoke network user. Nick Ezzo, marketing manager noted that Spoke made it easy to find the right names, instantly add the contacts into the system and receive the detailed background information the company needs to personalize their marketing efforts."

    While many companies regard "on demand web services" as a model for the future, many consider it to be a vital part of doing business today. In call center terms, customer databases could always contain live, real-time updated information. In a predictive dialing scenario, on demand data would ensure a much higher accuracy rate.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Day-Timers, Inc. selects CSI for call center monitoring

    Day-Timers' contact center implements quality assurance solution

    Day-Timers, Inc. selects Coordinated Systems, Inc. to provide call center quality assurance and call recording solution.

    Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI) , a leading provider of call center quality assurance solutions, proudly announces that Day-Timers, Inc. has selected CSI's Virtual Observer solution. Virtual Observer will be installed in the Lehigh Valley, PA call center and will allow Day-Timers, Inc. the ability to record customer interactions, evaluate the events, deliver relevant training content to employees and generate powerful analytics.

    Virtual Observer (VO) is in its 3.0 release, and includes random sample call recording, screen capture and evaluation in the professional version. Day-Timers also opted for the E-learning module, which will be key in accelerating the performance improvement of the call center team. VO will also integrate with SMDR to allow for further data reporting capabilities.

    Steve Addy of Day Timers understands the importance of call evaluation and was eager to bring call recording into their call center. After CSI demonstrated the E-learning functionality of Virtual Observer, Steve knew he had to make the decision to purchase a solution. He performed his due diligence and looked at several other call recording vendors, many whom were much more expensive and included many extra features that seemed beyond what was really needed. Read more here...

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    Good customer service does happen - CNET reviews

    This was an article that came across my desk today. Always looking for the positive stuff:

    From CNET --

    "Pardon me while I faint. I just finished experiencing good customer service. And it was with Apple. It had to do with a difficulty downloading one of its new video versions of the TV series Lost.

    My wife recently started watching the series off the TiVo, but I hadn't seen all the episodes. So I figured I'd give it a whirl, and I bought a couple of episodes from iTunes to help me catch up. They aren't the greatest quality at full screen on my laptop, but they're tolerable. And at two bucks a pop for three episodes, they're cheaper than a microbrew--and lasted longer.

    However, I had not accounted for the circa-September 1940 electrical wiring in my house. Occasionally when I have the dimmer at the wrong level on my lights, it interferes with the DSL. Needless to say, I had a download of one episode interrupted when I switched on the lights. I had lost an episode of Lost" more on Cnet

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