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.

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