Friday, December 28, 2007

From the Virtual Observer "Did you know" files...

Did you know...
Virtual Observer (VO) can be used to record screens in a dual-screen environment. Dual-Screen can be very effective, doubling the desktop landscape, for example, enabling supervisors to playback screens on one monitor and open evaluations on another.

Did you know....
Many customer implementations have seen VO replace many of the "big name" recording solutions. Customers have detailed to us how VO has performed better than the the system we replaced. Often customers are able to spend considerably less for equal or greater value, so the end result is rapid return on investment and an extremely low cost of ownership.

Did you know...
VO is able to record screens in a Citrix environment. Citrix allows Windows apps to run in a Linux environment. Linux is gaining popularity with enterprises because of their reliability and performance.

* FYI, check out Xandros to see one of the emerging Linux OS environments. Xandros powers some models of the new sub-$400 mini-laptop, such as the Asus EEE.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Featured Resource: IP Telephony, VoIP and Broadband blog from ZDnet

There is always good stuff to read on this VoIP blog, written by Russell Shaw. Recently they've been recapping the year's most popular posts, which include "a VoIP provider flames out", detailing the sudden shut-down of VoIP provider SunRocket, leaving 200,000+ subscribers in the lurch.

Another popular posting helped stage a serious turnaround in Sprint policy regarding soldiers and cell phone roaming charges. Read more about "Sprint spits on our fighting men and women".

"CompUSA is closing for good. Good" was able to draw over 90 comments, as people ranted about the departure of the retail computer chain.

ZDnet overall has been a player in the technology news and content world since the very beginning, springing from the print world, like so many other online portals have, like TMCnet, which is from the publishers of "Customer Interaction Solutions" as well as other telecom publications.

We'll feature more online news resources in the future. A recommended method of filtering all of the news sources you'll encounter is to grab the RSS feed from them and add them to your RSS reader. Personally, I find Google Reader to be the easiest to use.

Here's the link to the RSS feed for the IP Telephony, VoIP and Broadband Blog from ZDnet.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A very special call center Christmas

As this is truly a global industry, I thought this year's christmas post would be done using Google's translation tool, I am pleased to present you with "Happy Holidays! This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes." in nine languages:

Spanish: "Happy Holidays! Esta llamada puede ser registrada de calidad y de formación."

French: "Joyeuses fêtes! Cet appel peut être enregistré pour la qualité et la formation."

Russian: "Happy Праздники! Этот призыв может быть отчет по качеству и учебных целей."

German: "Happy Holidays! Dieser Aufruf werden für die Qualitätskontrolle und Ausbildung."

Japanese: "楽しい休暇をお過ごしください。このコールのかもしれないと訓練の目的を記録し、品質を向上します。"

Chinese: "节日快乐!这一呼吁可能会被录音质量和训练目的。"

Arabic: "اعيادا سعيدة! هذه الكلمه قد تكون مسجلة لاغراض التدريب والجوده."

Portugese: "Happy Holidays! Este convite pode ser gravadas para fins de formação e de qualidade."

Italian: "Buone Feste! Il presente invito possono essere registrate per scopi di qualità e la formazione."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Introducing VO Live: It's a difference-making quality monitoring benefit

We are pleased to introduce a groundbreaking new feature suite. It's called VO Live, and it really sets the bar high for quality monitoring features, especially when you consider it is included at no additional charge with the base Virtual Observer Professional package.

VO Live provides supervisors with the ability to monitor agent screen activity in real time and provide instant intervention.

Some Quick Highlights:

· Presents an overview of agent screen activity

· Allows for instant supervisor to agent chat

· Enables supervisors to take control of an agent’s desktop – remotely!

· Provides instant assistance to agents during calls

Ask your account manager for more information about VO Live today!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Announcing Reliable Call Recording for Shoretel

Shoretel is an emerging player in the VoIP phone system market.

We've heard from quite a number of Shoretel customers who have stated that the existing call recording systems available for Shoretel are not getting the job done.

Based on the market's demand for a reliable, robust call recording system for Shoretel phone systems, we are pleased to announce that we have a Shoretel Logger which is ready-to-implement today and we are committed to having a fully integrated Virtual Observer Professional (with quality assurance features) with Shoretel compatibility released by Q2 2008.

Virtual Observer Professional for Shoretel is a call logger with robust quality monitoring features: Evaluation, Performance Reporting, E-Learning, Screen Capture, Supervisor-Agent Chat, and much more.

Businesses can implement the Shoretel Logger today and turn on the quality monitoring features when they become available.

The system is modular, so they will be able to start small and think big, which is important to us.

We want all customers to be able to buy the right system for their requirements, and be able to add functionality as needed.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Virtual Observer customers in the news

Salvation Army West USA found in The Long Beach Press Telegram:
The Grand Prix Association is assisting The Salvation Army with its "Operation Christmas Adopt-A-Family" program, providing warehouse space for gift distribution, as well as adopting a local family by giving them food for Christmas dinner and gifts for the children. The association's warehouse will be open on Tuesday for companies and individuals that have adopted a family to drop off donations. More than 150 families are expected to be "adopted" in Long Beach.
The back portion of the association's warehouse, normally used to house materials and equipment to build race grandstands, will be stocked with holiday items including toys, games, sports equipment and bicycles. On Wednesday, the families will pick up their Christmas baskets and gifts at the Grand Prix offices and warehouse at Pacific Avenue and Spring Street.
About 40 volunteers, many from Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe Springs, will help with the distribution. The Grand Prix staff also assists with the effort by transporting gifts to families without cars. This holiday season The Salvation Army will assist more than 1,200 families with more than 5,000 children in Long Beach, according to the organization.

Day-Timers, Inc. as discovered on PRweb:
DayTimers, the premier company and leader in time management and organization tools, is celebrating its 60th anniversary year in Times Square from November 5, 2007 - January 1, 2008. Throughout the height of the holiday season, DayTimers will display 15-second spots in the "mecca" of American advertising, designed to captivate the millions of eyes passing the crossroads of Broadway and 7th Avenue at 44th Street each day of this critical two-month period. "We are excited to join traditional New York City celebrations such as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and New Year's Eve to show our appreciation for being in business for the past 60 years," commented Joe Winters, DayTimers President.

Gordian Health Solutions, as featured in TMCnet:
Gordian, an industry leader in health and productivity improvement, has adopted CosmoCom’s IP-based contact center platform. Gordian was using a traditional phone system to connect its nurses, dietitians, exercise physiologists, and other professionals with clients in need of healthy lifestyle coaching. The capabilities of CosmoCom’s CosmoCall Universe (CCU) platform exceed those of traditional phone systems. Moreover, it integrates e-mail and online chat into the traditional telephone call center. Gordian helps employers, health plans and government entities identify, control and manage health risk factors and their associated costs through targeted and tailored programs and sophisticated informatics and reporting capabilities.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Does Virtual Observer support T1 recording?

While we have been selling a great deal of digital and VoIP systems in the last two years, often as an alternate method of recording, we are asked to record trunkside or T1.

This especially comes into play when we are asked to record a system which we don't have a compatible audio recording board for, and random sample or extension side logging becomes a non-option.

Virtual Observer can passively record audio from t1 or trunks . In this environment, SMDR or CTI integration is required for agent identification.

T1 recording available for VO customers who wish to capture every call.

VO Logger with QA is also packed with many of our quality assurance features, creating a powerful quality monitoring tool, which when combined with CTI, can deliver a robust business intelligence tool....even without direct phone system integration.

T1 logging is limited in that you aren't able to capture full video screen capture of your agents' pcs. However, recently we've introduced "VO Live", a suite of interactive features included with the base VO package. "VO Live" provides supervisors a look at thumbnail views of all agent desktop activity - allowing them to click and enlarge a desktop thumbnail to full screen, and even take control of the agent's computer. "VO Live" also allows the supervisor and agent to communicate via chat, enabling the supervisors to provide assistance or guidance when needed.

Monday, November 19, 2007

CSI selected for Avaya DevConnect Program

We're pleased to announce we have been selected by Avaya Inc., a leading global provider of business communications applications, systems and services, for membership in the Avaya DevConnect program.

The Avaya DevConnect program promotes the development, compliance-testing and co-marketing of innovative third-party products that are compatible with standards-based Avaya solutions.

This membership will also help us build our business by enabling us to leverage tight Avaya integration and a greater option of recording methodologies. We can build on Avaya resources and work more closely with them to deliver compliance-tested solutions to the market. We'll be able to reduce network complexity, improve security and reliability, and speed time to deployment so businesses can quickly realize a benefit to their bottom line.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How flexible is the Virtual Observer UI?

Virtual Observer's user interface presents evaluators with a single unified screen that includes audio and screen capture playback as well as the evaluation form.

Virtual Observer delivers a “dynamic” screen layout in that it can be modified to create a customized look and feel that is most comfortable to each system user. Users can easily saved their preferred layouts, and the next time they login, they will be presented with the newly saved layout.

Screen layouts can be modified as follows:
· Sizable Window
· Docked or floating
· Show or hide
· Expand or contract
· Save screen layout
· Clear screen layout

Virtual Observer’s evaluation process allows users to listen to the recorded audio and watch the employee navigate through their screens while displaying the evaluation form one of three ways:

1) spreadsheet view.

2) side-by-side view.

3) single question view.

Friday, November 09, 2007

How does Virtual Observer manage storage of recorded media?

In a call logging environment, where every call is captured, online storage can be managed where calls can be automatically be purged based on a storage threshold or based on date. Selected calls, however, can be retained and removed from the purging process.

Virtual Observer offers an Auto-Archiving module to completely automate the storage process. With Auto Archiving enabled, the system supports both “online” and “archived” storage where Virtual Observer will automatically write to removable media (DVD-RAM, SAN or NAS) at the time the event is recorded. This methodology allows customers to store as much as their storage location will hold, and an infinite amount of archived media.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Featured Customer: ConnectiCare

ConnectiCare recently implemented the latest version of Virtual Observer Logger. What pleased the personnel at ConnectiCare most about the upgrade was the fact that “we see some of our own suggestions come into play and become a usable feature in the system, such as additional detailed reporting.”

One of the ways Virtual Observer has made an impact on call center agent performance is by allowing supervisors to provide better training and coaching to the call center staff. Supervisors would also facilitate “peer audit” meetings, which were voluntary, yet encouraged. During the peer audit meetings agents could hear each other’s calls and audit each other using the form that the supervisors use. They were actually harder on themselves than expected.

Virtual Observer has also been used as a training mechanism for the management team at ConnectiCare. On a monthly basis the managers meet together and play a call and individually score the call. A group discussion follows exchanging ideas on how and why things may have been scored differently. This calibration helps achieve consistency.

When asked if ConnectiCare would recommend Virtual Observer to other healthcare organizations, Lyndee replied “Absolutely. Helping us comply with call recording requirements makes Virtual Observer a natural selection.”

Back in 1981, ConnectiCare launched with the mission of establishing a health plan that would truly care about improving the health of its members. ConnectiCare still lives by that same mission, serving more than 240,000 individuals in Connecticut, Western Massachusetts, and New York. In 2006, ConnectiCare was ranked #6 on the U.S. News and World Report/NCQA list of America’s Best Health Plans.

ConnectiCare maintains a local presence with 500 employees based in Farmington, Connecticut. Being able to personally provide superior customer service to local residents is a big part of their success, and some of the same logic went into their choice of Coordinated Systems, Inc.’s (CSI) Virtual Observer for call recording and quality monitoring. ConnectiCare takes great pride in delivering high-quality health insurance with exceptional customer service. One of the ways they are able to deliver world class customer service is through the performance of their call center.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Big business benefits from CTI and Avaya Interaction Center

One of our newest customers, a large wireless provider scores big business benefits by integrating Virtual Observer and Avaya Interaction Center.

An award-winning wireless carrier that has operated in the Southeastern United States since 1999 and in parts of the Caribbean since 2004, they have more than 1,900 people and five business offices. The wireless company lives and breathes “customers come first”, with a committent to provide the highest quality network, simple and straight-forward service plans that deliver real value, and the best products available on the market. Customer care associates are available 24 hours a day, everyday to quickly and politely assist customers with their questions and concerns.

The wireless carrier’s contact center handles an average of 35,000 calls per day. They wanted to implement a call recording system to maximize the performance of their agents within the center. After reviewing several options, they chose Coordinated Systems, Inc.’s (CSI) Virtual Observer solution, based on the value, price and quality the solution offered. With 114 supervisors managing the agents, it would be extremely important for the supervisors to quickly get on board with the system. Clearly, the software seems to have earned some fans, as one supervisor was quoted to say “Virtual Observer is extremely easy to use, easy to learn and the ability to coach associates based on the screen shots. It also has a much higher accuracy rate for recordings compared with our previous recording software. An integrated evaluation form reduces the need to have a 3rd party monitor form solution.” He added “CSI’s customer service has been superb. They are always available for assistance and return calls/emails very quickly.”

The wireless provider runs an Avaya phone system with Avaya Interaction Center (AIC). It was vital for the winning call recording vendor to offer a tight integration with AIC. An IT engineer at the wireless company stated “Virtual Observer works extremely well within our IC environment. It allows VO to capture recordings based off of CTI Triggers to reduce the length of unnecessary recordings and speed up the quality monitoring process. It also allows us to see the account that the associate has on their screen.” Additional business benefits include reduced recording size and reduced storage space needed, improved performance by QA associates. “Custom CTI Triggers by CSI allowed us to record based on call type,” he added.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Capturing screens in a Citrix environment

Recent Virtual Observer implementation at a utility provider in Cleveland, Ohio:

This customer purchased Virtual Observer Logger for their Avaya phone system in multiple locations. What made this particular installation unique was the fact that all of the agents were on a Citrix environment instead of Windows computers. The customer needed to be up and running ASAP and our professional implementation team did not dissapoint. Two weeks from purchase order to fully implemented and trained. We trained a brand new QA manager, a former Witness user, who was very impressed with the quality and ease VO brings to his staff.

In this particular instance we replaced a Dictaphone call recording system that gave them difficulty in finding specific calls. This was a basic business need which was easy using Virtual Observer.

Notes: The utility contacted 27 companies regarding Screen Capture in a Citrix environment and we were the only company that was able to accomplish this.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Recent call center keyword searches that drove traffic to this blog

Right on target with our content:
"pci compliance for call centers"
"Top 10 ways of monitoring individual and team performance"
"why do you want to be a call center agent"
"agent scheduler smdr"
"call centre chat"
"call center stories"
"is being a call center agent is easy?"
"Performance criteria in call center environment"
"are you a great call centre agent"
"cisco call recording - why record all calls instead of randomly recording?"
"call center tips"
"call center e-learning modules"
"definition of call center industry"
"call center agents quotes"
"businesses looking for call centers"
"quotes for call centers"
"call length Call center"
"call center observations"
"customer call examples"
"calls received at call centres"
"tutorial short term goals help desk call center"
"call center thank you"
"call center motivational quotes"
"call centers answering promptly"
"Motivational Quotes about consumer insight"
"inspirational quotes for call centers"
"B2B Call Centre Industry Analysis"
"Six Sigma with DNIS"
"call center analysis basics"
"motivation tips in a call center- share success"
"new openings for new call centers"
"customer service call center stories"
"call center customer service tips"

Somewhat Interesting:
"motivational quotes + medical sales"
"what is the ultimate goal of your company"
"observations and feedback"
"clients for my new call center?"
"call center manager list"

Who knows?:
"virtual csi"
"story blog website"
"a play set in a call centre"
"skype master"
"call center food service software screens"
"blog work at home call center agent"
"my life as a call center agent"
"call center home blog"

Pretty darn specific:
"dell call center mcgregor tx address"
"verizon call center huntsville AL phone number"
wachovia call center statistics"
"size of comcast call centers"
"connecticare call center"
"coudersport, pa call center"

Company related:
"virtual observer web player"
"call center csi marketing"
"virtual observer"
"csi virtual observer licensing"

"virtual call center blog"
"call center blog"
"call centre blogs"
"call centre stories"
"call centre blog"
"contact center blog"
"call center"
"call center blogs"

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Recent call center expansions

DiaTri Opens Its Second national Call Center
DiaTri, the leader in national diagnostic network and scheduling services is pleased to announce the opening of its second national call center. This second call center will be located in the Tampa, FL area and will provide a very nice complement to DiaTri’s home office and call center based in the southern suburbs of Chicago, IL.

Harte-Hanks adding 500 permanent call center jobs
Texarkana will soon be home to a new call center that could employ as many as 500 permanent and up to 250 seasonal employees. Harte-Hanks is an international direct and targeted marketing company. Company officials say the facility was a strong factor, along with the community's enthusiasm for what is expected to be a boon to the local economy. Hiring has not yet begun for the new call center they hope to begin that process in the near future. They're expected to up and running sometime early next year.

Sovereign Bank to add more jobs to call center
Sovereign Bank today announced the expansion of its call center in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The bank will increase the call center’s second shift, which operates in the evening hours until 11 p.m. EST, adding more than 30 additional call center positions, an increase of 30% over the positions created last year.

AT&T opens new call center
The new Joplin AT&T call center opened Wednesday with nearly half of the construction completed and 180 of the estimated 600 employees the site ultimately needs at work.
When complete, the building will have 572 customer service workstations, 39 manager workstations and 26 back offices.

New call center to hire 100 more people in next 2 months
Results Bellingham handles inbound calls for two major clients in the health-care and energy industries, answering questions from those clients’ customers. About the jobs: Call Human Resources Manager Shawna Monroe at 671-0467, ext. 102. It has started training 30 new employees. to bring its work force to about 65. The company plans to add more than 100 people during the next two months to bring the work force to approximately 175. Results-Tel is a CSI customer and uses Virtual Observer for call recording and quality monitoring.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More than just a logger, but as a logger, it's very, very good

In the marketing department here at Coordinated Systems, Inc., we get a ton of leads and inquiries for call recording. Half of the leads that come in fall into our sweet spot, which is call recording for quality assurance. The best leads are from contact centers looking to record agent interactions in order to train them and improve their performance.

Occasionally we'll receive leads from companies who are simply looking to record all their calls, typically for legal/liability or dispute resolution reasons. More and more companies also need to log calls for standards compliance. Virtual Observer can certainly work as a standalone logger. Of course, the real value does exist in the quality assurance functionality, but as a logger, it's still a great tool.

Most pure loggers simply record the calls and store them in a network drive and allow you to play them back if need be. Virtual Observer gives you a visual playback mechanism which shows the entire call's audio wave, along with a synchronized view of the agent's screen activity. With the agent tagging module, agents can categorize the call and identify the customer. Of course, with CTI integration, such data will automatically be associated with the call. If you need to locate a call, you can either browse and sort by any or all available data fields, or you can search via our easy-to-use query wizard, again with the ability to search on any available data fields. Data such as time of day call started, length of call, agent, ANI, DNIS, customer name, customer industry, etc., should be available, depending on what level of integration you've configured.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Notes and News on distributed call centers, infomercials, Skype and MS Office online

According to a news story on Earthtimes, "4 out of 5" of the top infomercials are outsourcing their call centers to Speaking of infomercials, I wonder if Giuseppe Franco (if you've ever watched a Yankees game on Yes, you know who I'm talking about!) answers the incoming phone order lines for his hair products?

LiveOps is a "distributed" contact center, meaning its' agents are dispersed virtually across states and countries. LiveOps offers customers real-time Reporting, on-demand scalability, superior quality home agents and results-based routing.

Maynard Webb, CEO, formerly of Ebay, stated "We are thrilled to be working with these very successful shows. It's clearly a testament to our technology as well as the quality of our virtual community of home agents. Because of this unique combination, no other contact centers can handle the call volatility that goes along with this industry."

In related news, Ebay posted a loss on Skype, which many are now declaring a failure. You can read more about in this blog rant.

Speaking of a distributed call center, wouldn't it make sense for telecommuters to use an online office suite vs. having them use an installed client version of Microsoft Office? With the new online version of Office or with the Google Apps suite, there are no installation issues, missing files, or availability issues. Have you tried the online apps? The Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations apps are pretty simple to use and it's convenient for sharing docs with family members or between work and home PCs. Software as a service is becoming a reality. You only need to see Microsoft jumping on the concept for proof positive.

Featured Call Center News Source:

When we ran our story on new call center news sources, we spotlighted a few which we wanted to check out. Shortly after, I received a form submission detailing another resource: CallCentreHelper out of the UK.

Site description from their submission: "Call Centre Helper is the most popular online call centre magazine in the UK. Over 300 current jobs along with the latest news and a selection of articles on management, technology and call centre life."

The site features categories such as "call center management", "call center technologies", "call center life", "call center news", and "call center jobs". The "jobs" section actually lists 30+ job openings and offers a regionally searchable database.

The management area seems to key on several help topics for managers:

"Top Tips for Induction Programmes"
"How do I - handle stress in my team?"
"New Year, new motivation strategy"
"Getting the most out of staff satisfaction surveys"
"A tried and tested technique to improve customer service satisfaction".

Monday, September 24, 2007

Virtual Observer phone systems compatibility

Virtual Observer (VO) connects to most popular phone systems. The following constitutes a partial list. Please feel free to contact us about other phone systems VO may connect to. VO also connects with any t1 line, any analog line, and many more.

Avaya - VO offers recording connectivity to all Avaya systems.

Cisco - VO offers VoIP connectivity with Cisco.

3com - VO offers VoIP connectivity with 3com systems.

Nortel - VoIP, digital, analog/tdm

Siemens - digital, analog/tdm

Mitel - VoIP, digital, analog/tdm


News feed of the sources we read

Everyone in our industry reads the major telecom news vendors. I read all of them in my news feed reader. I've created a feed of the latest news items from the main call center news portals. You can bookmark this page and it will always be a fresh list of news. If your reader or email client doesn't support JavaScript, chances are you won't see this news feed. You can always click back to this blog post.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Do you offer customer service via web chat?

More and more businesses are offering web chat on their company website as an alternative method for contacting customer support or sales. I suspect as more and more college students graduate into the workforce, this will become the norm as opposed to an emerging trend. They're used to using Instant Messengers to communicate with their social networks. They will expect to be able to contact businesses in the same method. Most retail e-commerce sites are offering instant web chat as an option for talking to some one. Forward-thinking businesses have been using it for their b2b interactions for a few years now.

It's true that's there is nothing like talking to a human, and we stress that on our website, but we also offer the web chat option for people looking to talk immediately. It's great for sending website links, or bringing up slideshows or pdfs.

I'm looking to collect information on different web chat applications and services for managing customer support via a company's website. Our company uses Boldchat, a popular and reliable service which allows us to respond to both customer support requests and new sales inquiries.

I'm about to embark on researching new vendors, more to see what else is out there as opposed to experiencing any pain with Boldchat. It's really a very good, inexpensive tool. I turned to my LinkedIn connections for some of their experiences with website customer support. I've only received a few responses thus far:

"I like PHPlive, it's inexpensive and has a very strong feature set. It's PHP based, so it's relatively easy to put it into most sites. I've linked the feature set, so you can see if it matches up to your needs. Now if you want something free, you can also look at moodle. They have a little flash based doodad that you can add to your site. Sounds like you want to do some significant marketing, so I'd go with PHPLive."

"One of the most notable is Liveperson and depending on your goals and objectives, they are worth taking a look at."
Note: I have experience with LivePerson. They are probably the industry leader and offer a very robust solution. I really liked it, but in the end I chose Boldchat because they offered a similar feature set at a more competitive price.

"I use CraftySyntax -- this product and can say its one of the best in its category. Lot can be said about the features but an experience is always welcome. If the end user can spend and needs a managed environment LivePerson is good. Best wishes and have a very nice day."

Another web chat tool I've used in the past is LiveHelper - a very professional offering.

Smaller businesses should consider using Google Talk or Yahoo Instant Messenger's web version, which you can embed in your website. They do the job but lack some of the customer service/support features found in the professional services described earlier.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Create virtual training libraries from recorded events

Did you know you can create virtual training libraries using Virtual Observer?

You simply have to create a media list of your highest rated events and publish them to your company's web server. Make sure it's a secure server or directory, of course. You could then create several sub-directories from which to populate content: "Best handled cancellations", "Best upsells", "Best ways to handle irritated customers", "Best use of our CRM to locate customer information", "Five star calls", etc...

Using our E-learning module, you could set Virtual Observer to automatically deliver an email with a link to the website address for "Best handled cancellations" to anyone who does not score well on that specific evaluation criteria.

You can also publish media lists to cds or dvds and distribute them to new hires or present them to training groups. You may need to get your IT team involved in order to publish to your company's secure web server or intranet.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Recent feedback from Virtual Observer users

We've seen a recent flurry of testimonials in our inbox. They're short and sweet, but they can really brighten the day, reaffirming the great jobs everyone on our support team accomplishes every day, even on the smaller tasks. It'd definitely great to get this kind of email in your inbox:

"Thanks for your great support to RTD," - Edward Fay, RTD.

"Thanks for the prompt service as always," - Mark Glynn, Connecticare.

"Greetings from Colorado..............Thank you - I really appreciate you doing this for us. Have a great week!" - Loretta Turner, Anpac.

For more comprehensive testimonials, please visit our customer success stories page on the website.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Speech Technology Basics, part two: Speech Analytics

"Speech Analytics": In relation to call recording, let's use an example of a Call Center Manager tracking spikes in call volume. In order to help figure out why, an advanced Speech Analytics tool would allow the manager to query a database for the highest used terms and determine what the customers are saying during these calls. Quickly the manager can realize most callers are talking about a recent “Increase in monthly bill”. Another example of Speech Analytics would be to query a database for how many times last month did a caller said the word “Cancel” versus how many accounts were actually closed. This would reveal a “Save” rate for the agents. Let’s say 1,000 Customers called discussing “Canceling their account” yet only 100 accounts were actually closed. This is a 90% Save Rate. These two examples use the concept of “Indexing” to determine what words were said for later query and analys

Speech Analytics can be broken down into two categories: The “Dictionary” based and the “Phonetic” based. The dictionary-based systems require users to define words and phrases in advance so the speech engine can look for or “spot” those words as the engine is analyzing the audio. When these words or phrases are spotted they are indexed for later analysis. The phonetic-based systems make a “Phonetic Track” of the audio as its being analyzed and index all words and phrases for later analysis. At this point you can probably realize that the “Phonetic Based Indexing Engines” are much more robust than the “Large Vocabulary Dictionary Engines”.

From the Wikipedia:
Speech Analytics

Friday, August 31, 2007

Speech Technology Basics, part one: Speech Recognition

I asked our director of product engineering to give me a few words for the blog that would present how speech technology can be used in the call center. He ended up giving me a whole lot more, and I thought it will definitely be something that others might like to read:

There are many different flavors of technology that can be categorized under the term “Speech Technology”. You have speech recognition, speech analytics, speech to text, interactive voice, phonetics, speech XML and so on down the line. Some of these technologies relate to call centers and some do not.

"Speech Recognition": This form of speech technology allows you to talk to your computer. “Open Microsoft Word”, “Start new document”. “Hello Mom . . . .”, “Save and Print”, "Save the World", etc., a simple way to verbally bypass your keyboard and mouse. If you want to read and write email while you’re on the treadmill then this is the way to go. This technology uses the concept of “Speech Training”.

"Speech Training": This is the method by which you train the software to recognize your words. You must read a story or list of sentences into the computer before you use the software, so it can expect how you will say various words. You are basically “training” the system to your voice.

IVR ("Interactive Voice Response") systems use "speech training". For example, an IVR vendor has speech capabilities in their products that will prompt the user for a response and expect a specific answer. Such as “Would you like to be transferred to the sales department? Please say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’”. This technology is very basic and simple and will work effectively across many different dialects, accents and slang. The IVR knows you will say some variation of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Another example is an IVR at a bank that can read your account in their database and determine your balance is $100. Speech XML capabilities within the IVR will have the IVR attendants voice actually say out loud “Your balance is one hundred dollars and zeros cents”.

Call recording allows you to record these IVR interactions to determine what your customers were inquiring about. This would be recorded and saved as audio. This technology uses the concept of “Expected Responses”. You will say some variation of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, or you will say a number, or it will dictate a number, or you will say one of the employees names in an employee directory. There is a finite number of words or phrases you will say and therefore it can expect a certain range of responses. The resulting statistics could be considered to be Speech Analytics, but it is only a fraction of what Speech Analytics can offer the enterprise.

From the Wikipedia:
Speech Recognition

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What is the ultimate goal of your business?

As a representative of the sales and marketing team for Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI), I often have to define what our ultimate goals are for the year. Is it a # of new sales? Is it a # of new strategic partnerships? Is it purely a dollar amount? If you read Eliyahu Goldratt's book "The Goal", the answer would be, well, you need to find the answer for yourself. You could actually use "The Secret" to figure out "The Goal". Sorry, sometimes humor works.

At CSI, our goal is to get as many testimonials as we can. We strive to maintain or improve on our 97.5% customer retention rate. We're looking to provide our customers with stellar service which reaches beyond their expectations. That's why we've hired only the best people to interact with our customers. When we send our implementation and training teams out on the road, it is a rare occasion that they do NOT come back with a testimonial. That's "The Goal" according to CSI.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Virtual Observations' Greatest Hits

One of the best things you can do with Virtual Observer is to easily make "greatest hits" lists of their recorded calls with the best results. They can publish it to a cd, website, or their intranet and use it for training material. Agents can listen to it to hear a benchmark of what they can be striving for.

Just like that feature works, I thought I'd highlight the best blog posts we've done: our customer success stories. This will help customers see what kind of successes they can strive for with VO, and new prospects can be "trained" with real-life case studies.

Without any further introduction, here are links to the Greatest Hits from the "Virtual Observations" blog:

- Easing the fear of Big Brother

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

- Crutchfield turns up the volume in its' call center

- Maverik leverages VoIP technology to build a world class call center

- Results Companies Inc. selects Virtual Observer to rapidly create better trained customer service agents

- Harry & David scale up their call quality monitoring for the holidays

- VoIP telecom provider implements Virtual Observer

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Many options exist to enhance your call recording system

I happened to be reviewing our list of add-ons, and I was surpised at how many different options and tools have been released since our last release of product, 3.0. Many enhancements and new capabilities are automatically added into the core version of product, such as our exciting "Live Desktop" feature which allows for supervisor-agent chat and thumbnail views of all agent screen activity.

Going along with our "Start Small and Think Big" philosophy, some functionality is made available as an optional add-on. Many customers start with a core random recording system for quality assurance to begin proving the r-o-i before they expand their budgetary requests for additional functionality. Many customers also move from random recording to logging, or from a standard analog or digital switch and then upgrade to VoIP, and we can make sure Virtual Observer moves right along with them.

One of the latest add-ons is our "Surveying" service, which works with your IVR system to provide your customers with an optional post-call survey. This brings the customer into the evaluation equation. With the supervisors, agents themselves, and now the customers, you can truly get a good mix of independent evaluation results. Make sure you ask your CSI sales rep about "VO Surveys".

Other add-ons include:

* Media Encryption, which can help companies comply with Visa payment card industry security standards.

* Auto-Archiving, which automatically backs up recordings to a NAS / SAN.

* CTI Integration, which allows for customer and call data to be saved with the recording. This is critical for bringing customer information into the evaluation process. SMDR integration does this to a degree, bringing in data from your phone system, such as ANI or DNIS numbers.

* E-Learning, which allows for automatic distribution of training materials to agents based on evaluation outcomes. Our web-based player allows for agents to play back calls and view evaluations right from their web browsers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

VoIP telephony options for startup call centers

One of my LinkedIn connections posed a question of which I thought the groups' answers may appeal to this blog's audience:

"What are the top sites to get information on VoIP telephony for a startup call center?"

Submitted Answers from the group:

"I have found this site as a good reasource for all my VOIP needs."

"I've found Skype hard to setup and use, MSN easy to setup and good quality. Yahoo easy to use but prone to losing a call. The easiest to use by far has been the Cisco Soft Phone we use at work, the sound quality is great but it's very unreliable. This may be due to some configuration or operations issue, but I have yet to make it through an entire call without a problem (buzzing, lost calls, loosing one or the other parties sound for extended periods). Others have had the same problem to the extent that we are considering rolling back the soft phones. In the office, we are using the Cisco 7940 IP phones with no problems. "

Update: earlier this week, Skype experienced a massive outage, challenging reliability as business solution. Apparently the outage was the result of a wide ranging PC restart when Windows sent out its' automatic patch.

"Try or They offer scalable entry-level VOIP systems... but look to spend at least $65k to initially deploy."

"Rockport Technology Group is a leading IT solution provider in the area. One of our core specialties is developing scalable long term enterprise class VOIP solutions. Our free consultation can provide you with an unbiased solution that will fit your needs and budget. There are many VOIP solutions out there, and I would need some more information before making a solid recommendation on online material. I also find that online material is sometimes outdated and even worse other times it is found to be just misinformation. Should you be determined to researching online, I suggest you take a look at Cisco and Nortel. Nortel is the current market leader however my recent experience with Cisco is that they are offering a much higher quality system."

"It sounds like your solution must be multi-tenant. Skype is too unreliable for important business calls. You shold consider a hosted solution as well."

"Are you planning to have one location or will you have multiple small call centers spread across geographic areas? How many people do you expect to start as well as how many people do you expect to grow to? I apologize for answering a question with questions, but there are many things to take into consideration. As Andrew mentioned already, you should really check out a hosted system. (When I say hosted, I mean a true hosted business class system...not Skype or Packet8, etc.) Going hosted will give you the flexibility to change as the business grows and transforms, as well as offering you the features you need without a large capital outlay. It's hard to give you one place to learn about the systems. 'Google' search is tough, because you may not necessarily see results including some great companies. Most of the information out there unfortunatley is created by a specific company and used as a marketing tool. The best way to find the solution that fits you best is to put in the time and effort to screen possible vendors. Keep in mind that low cost is NEVER the best option when dealing with your voice system. With something so critical to your business, check out how long the company has been around (especially with VoIP offerings), REFERENCES (and not just the CEOs cousin), and customer service (call the customer service line and see what kind of response you get)."

"In addition to the answers you have received, I would suggest looking at Cisco's offerings. In terms of all-around scalability, not just call center, but your entire network infrastructure, they are obviously front runners. Although it has been 2-3 years since I last used their product, however, its current equivalent, Cisco Unified Contact Center Express worked great for me both in terms of options, administration, features and reporting. And it obviously scales up very well."

"No real recommendation, however we are about to implement at the end of next week, and I can post you info on our expereince if you would like. We are going with IPCC Express premium, and so far, it looks like a well featured product, however, we have to build everything out of the box. Reporting is pretty limited, and splitting call reports across teams and skills is a bit tricky... but this is just todays experience."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fast food call centers begin to emerge

It wasn't that long ago that we first noticed fast food call centers would begin utilizing call recording solutions in their contact centers to improve order taking accuracy and customer service (I believe it was Wendy's). Another story crossed my desk today, this time detailing how a Pizza franchise has differentiated itself by routing all calls for all 41 locations to its' 800#, where 120 call center agents handle the orders, create accounts, and route the orders to each location.

Read the entire Pizza Chain Call Center article here

Read more related stories:

- The Long Distance Journey of a Fast Food Order

- Faster Food: A Call Center Transforms Drive-Through Service

- Call Centers Make Fast Food Faster

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Netflix contact center stresses personal touch

I actually found two articles related to Netflix's customer service operation. The gist is that they have removed email-based customer service and are pushing customers to call and talk to a human. This is designed to differentiate them from competitor

Here is a excerpt from the International Herald Tribune: Netflix set up in Oregon, avoiding other lower-cost places in the United States and overseas, because it believed that the Oregonians would present a friendlier voice to its customers. Then last month, Netflix took an unusual step for a Web-based company: it eliminated e-mail based customer service inquiries. Now all questions, complaints and suggestions go to the call center, which is open 24 hours every day of the week. The company's toll-free number, previously buried on the Web site, is now prominently displayed on the "help" page. Let's hope this trend continues! the full article here

You can also choose to read about this Netflix story and comment on

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Find a particular blog post interesting?

Now you can share it with your friends and colleagues through IM or text message. It's easy to spread the word about your favorite breaking story, helpful hint or industry news. See the little green icon in the top right hand of this post? Click it and a menu will open, allowing you to shout out about your favorite new blog post. Viral marketing has never been so accessible.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The benefits of screen capture for training

Most of the time, when we implement our enhanced screen capture functionality for a customer, it's not intended to catch occasional ebay surfing or other nefarious internet activity. The main benefit of capturing screen activity is to evaluate how agents are using your company's various applications.

Are they efficiently looking up customer information in the crm?

Do they know how to search the support knowledgebase?

Do your agents know when and how to add notes from a customer call?

Are they presenting correct information?

Are they utilizing the correct applications?

Recording the agents on the phone is only part of the story. Being able to watch the synchronized screen and phone interaction completes the picture.

Note: we are pleased to announce that we are able to record dual-monitor screen activity for agents who use two monitors in their contact center.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Updated List of CRM Companies

We posted a list of CRM companies that came up in Google searches in 2005 and we are now updating that list in order to include the new landscape of Web 2.0 companies as well. This list is in alphabetical order:

absoluteBUSY’s fast and simple services allow employees to effectively share a database, while always being up-to-date.

Being the most awarded hosted CRM software, Aplicor’s services focus on the ease of use and the fact that they have the highest user count in the country.

Created for small and medium businesses, Atalvo’s CRM service is easy to use, install, and their quickly responsive team is a positive.

Auric Technology
Offering a free IT service, Auric’s CRM service is housed and maintained by them and is incredibly easy to utilize.

Fit for big business automation, this program has a low cost for a lot. It is integrated with Microsoft Outlook, OWA, Exchange, and Quickbooks. Using a single user sign-on, BizAutomation includes CRM and ERP in their service.

ClearCRM offers an easy to use, easy to configure systems that gives you full control and security. It also features sending e-mail notifications when certain events occur within a company to keep you updated.

This program offers a customizable, easy to use, web distributed, built-in web-based e-mail form of CRM. You pay per user every month and receive 24/7 support and a free installation.

Dovarri’s CRM system possesses a speedy installation with no tedious customizations or expensive support. Also, over 80% of their customers reported that they learned the program in about an hour.

entellium’s services not only include the software, but also free support, a 99.7% guaranteed uptime, and an IT friendly program.

Boasting the 1 million contacts being managed, Highrise features tracking such content as contacts, communication history, leads, vendors, and more.

infusion CRM
infusion CRM offers unlimited support, anytime/anywhere access, tier 4 data hosting, and monthly upgrades with their services.

iport4business’s customer relationship management service can be connected directly to an underlying software system and delivers the exact functionality that is necessary for users.

netXtra gives customers a free callback service along with their CRM program that is suited for multiple office companies. It is fully customizable and easily integrated with e-mail, too.

Rapid Signal
This CRM program comes equipped with scheduling, contact management, sales automation, product management, issue tracking, and reporting. It runs on most major platforms such as Windows and Unix/Linux.

Really Simple Systems
Offering a full functionality with no installation and maintenance, Really Simple Systems backs up information every night and allows consumers to access data anywhere/anytime.

Sage CRM Solutions
This program comes with a fixed monthly price and no additional cost for any sort of upgrade. Users can be added whenever desired, and it is completely customizable.

With their user friendly program at an affordable cost, SalesBoom’s CRM service can be easily distributed across any company in real time.

Salesforce provides a no software service that features point-and-click customization, capabilities of international use, proven integration, and more. Having over 32,300 customers with 625 applications in 14 different countries, 97% of Salesforce's customers report being satisfied with their program.

Sales Junction
Sales Junction’s CRM program focuses on the consumer because of its user-friendly characteristics, customizable settings, and its design and pricing for any size company.

Salespro CRM
Salespro has over 3000 companies in 20 different countries using their product. The user friendly service does not require any installation, which reduces the learning curve greatly.

Zoho CRM
Having the lowest total cost, Zoho provides a service that is extremely easy to use, fully customizable, and prevents any data lockup.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Most frequently searched keywords for call center job seekers

If your company has a call center and you're always looking to fill seats, consider optimizing the careers web page on your corporate website. If you optimize your pages for these terms, and back it up with good quality content and links, you'll be sure to get a boost in your organic (free!) search engine traffic. These were the keywords most relevant to a call center job seeker, in order of search volume for last month:

call center agent
call center headsets
call center work
at home call center jobs
call center agents
call center application
call center applications
call center attrition
call center career
call center careers
call center certification
call center cubicles
call center employees
call center employment
call center furniture
call center headset
call center job description
call center managers
call center positions
call center representative
call center resume
call center salary
call center school
call center staffing

call center turnover
inbound call center jobs
virtual call center jobs
home call center jobs

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

VoIP telecom provider implements Virtual Observer

We recently completed an implementation for a Cisco VoIP service provider. The company handles approximately 70,000 calls a day.

They can now provide call recording capabilities, evaluation capabilities, and possibly screen capture capabilities to their portfolio of Cisco VoIP customers.

The two days of training went well, going over all of the included features and also discussing how VO can be presented to their customer base.

They were very excited with Virtual Observer's scalability.

Virtual Observer is a perfect recording option for hosted telecom service providers. The return on investment with VO is already best in the industry, but it becomes exponentially greater when you consider our value added features can be extended to your customer base.

Friday, July 27, 2007

CSI seeks to add new members to technology sales team

Our call center solutions firm is growing and we are looking for some dynamic individuals who will not only pound the pavement for our solutions but who will add to our team chemistry.

The right candidate should have a high comfort level with technology and be proficient in conveying value in a solution selling environment.

This person has to WANT to be our team's MVP. Candidates who arew seeking long term stability and consistent earnings growth will be very pleased with their decision to apply. Must also be well organized and process-driven. For more information about this position, please visit our career center.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Quicklist of tips for call center agents

* Maintain a positive, pleasant tone, but if you are over-the-top cheery, a caller who is disgruntled may be annoyed by your vibe.

* Ask your call center supervisors for training materials you can review during any down time. They will appreciate the initiative.

* Keep track of your own stats. # of calls handled/made, # of saves/upgrades, # cancellations, # of customers helped, # of times you needed help, etc...give yourself a reward when you break weekly records. Perhaps a Starbucks Frappucino?

* Make yourself available as a "go-to" person in your center for other agents, especially new ones, who are looking for help. Don't obnoxiously offer advice when they don't ask for it, but treat each co-worker as if they were a valued customer.

* If your center hasn't yet adopted any of the available call center technologies (quality monitoring, crm, workforce management) to improve performance, offer it as a suggestion to your immediate supervisor. Don't go over their head or they'll think you're gunning for their job.

* If you're going to browse the internet during your downtime, make sure it's industry-related, such as searching for "call center benchmarking studies" on Google.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More "Art of War" applied to the call center

This is the second in a series where we examine "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, the oldest strategy book in the world, containing many lessons which can be reimagined for the contact center.

Today, let's examine rule # 12:

"12. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison."

Here we can perceive that using a comparitive analysis of military conditions would be similar to the calibration of contact center benchmarks. Calibration is used in many world class call centers in order to evaluate the evaluators. Calibration can be used to identify scoring trends which may be unusual or anomalies. Adjustments can then be made to the evaluation process.

The call center translation for #14:

"Use benchmarks and calibration in order to improve your evaluation processes"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What phone systems do most of our call recording prospects have?

In the last few months, we've been getting a lot of Nortel inquiries. We're not sure why we're seeing this more frequently - but we are compatible with many different models of Nortel, so it's a good fit.

Our bread and butter compatibility has always been with Avaya phone systems - analog, digital and VoIP. We've got some tremendous success stories recently:

- Harry & David Avaya Success Story
- Results-Tel Avaya Success Story
- Crutchfield Electronics Avaya Success Story
- DayTimers Avaya Success Story

We're developing a good reputable customer base of Cisco and 3com as well. We've published a 3com success story you can check out.

We also have a good history working with Siemens and Mitel.

There are a ton of good references for each model phone systems, which our sales team will be glad to share within our sales process.

As many companies are moving to VoIP or considering switching to VoIP in the near future, in most scenarios, the transition to VoIP call recording can be a seamless one. As demands for specific models of newer phone systems increase, our labs will be sure to be testing and adding them to the ranks of our compatibility list.

Monday, July 23, 2007

6 Pownce invitations to give out

This isn't really call center-related, but I thought it was news worthy enough to post. Pownce is a new turbo-IM/forum tool that alerts you to news from your friends in social networks. For example, if everyone in your LinkedIn contact list used Pownce to make announcements, change status, or to let people know where they were, you would automatically be pinged with the messgae. Like Twitter, the thought is you'll use these tools as kind of a hyper-blog, where you update it with every single activity.

Another example would be if all of your call center agents had Pownce, and they posted every time they finished a call, and they were all in your Pownce network, you could be notified with each change in status.

It's a strecth to see this as a business implementation, but it's still kind of a cool technology. Entirely web-based, you need to be invited to use it. I have six invitations, so comment below and I'll send you one if available.

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Call Center Openings this week

XM Radio to Open New Call Center in the Lonestar State
El Paso, Texas is the site where XM will open their eighth call center by November. The facility will be comprised of approximately three hundred new employees that will take calls from XM subscribers and auto dealerships incorporating the radios in cars. The center is run by GC Services in Houston.

Debt-Collection Agency Incoporates Center in Jacksonville
The Enhanced Recovery Corporation has its eyes fixated on opening a new call center in Ware County early 2008. The organization, founded in 1999, recovers unpaid debts for those with credit cards, teleco. firms, and retailers. Initially, ERC plans on hiring 150 employees, but later expanding to a little over 300. The area is welcoming them with open arms, especially because of the 4.5 unemplyoment rate. This is the third center for ERC, who already has two in Jacksonville and the Caribbean.

Empereon Marketing Works $1.1 Million Call Center Project
Over the next three years, close to 400 jobs will be opening in Potter County, Pennsylvania. The organization is leasing a 30,000 sq. ft. building that they will convert into a call center. They specialize in outbound telemarketing services, inbound customer service and technical assistance services. Empereon is based out of Arizona, but runs call centers in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico as well.

Phones Begin Ringing in AT&T's New Call Center
AT&T has chosen Downtown Indianapolis to implement their new call center. Today at 10 a.m., a ceremony at 220 North Meridian marked the grand opening that will eventually employ about 425 representatives and managers. The center will be utilized to help consumers install AT&T's high-speed Yahoo! internet services.

ETelecare Desires for Philippine Call Center
ETelecare Global Solutions, a business process outsourcing vendor, is attempting to complete a project to implement a new call center in Makati City, Philippines. They are shooting to have it completed by the third quarter of 2007 with 13,000 employees occupying the space. Currently, ETelecare has about 2,600 workers in the United States at various locations including Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In the call recording marketplace, competitve replacement programs aren’t always what they seem to be

Are you facing an upgrade of your call recording software?

Every call recording software vendor offers some form of discount on the next upgrade of their software. The upgrade, typically a major new release with added features and often an overhaul of the user interface, varies greatly in their pricing models.

Some vendors charge a reasonable upgrade fee, around 10-15% of the original purchase price. Some of the larger companies charge upwards of 50%. At that point, the customer is locked in and forced into what basically amounts to a re-buy situation.

Some creative vendors have crafted “competitive replacement programs” which basically reward a new customer with a "credit" toward the new purchase.

CSI's own upgrade pricing model, already part of the industry’s lowest cost of ownership, does not include any “competitive replacement programs”.

We don't see a need to extend any special discounts or sale prices, as our prices are already very competitive. It's a unique position to not have to respond to these programs – upon closer analysis, our prospects and customers are also smart enough to cut through the mirage of a “competitive rescue” program and see that the value of Virtual Observer is already far beyond what can be presented with any fictitious discounting.

CSI customers with an active maintenance contract always get free full-system software upgrades, gain robust features with periodic free updates, enjoy rapid implementation and receive world class support.

Bottom line: be wary of special "competitive replacement programs". Fears over recent industry consolidation is valid and creates many questions, such as:

"My software was just purchased by a much larger company. Will they force me to upgrade to their software, which is much more expensive?"

"Will the acquiring company honor existing maintenance agreements?"

"Without knowing much about us, how will they support our own unique needs?"

Use SMDR integration to gain additional insights

There are two main reasons you might integrate your phone system's SMDR feed with your call recording system.

1) Many of our call recording projects utilize random sample recording to obtain a number of recordings per agent per month. Random sample recording is typically more affordable than 100% call logging in that less recording channels and servers are needed. Random sample recording yields enough recorded interactions to satisfy the quality assurance initiative.

In the past, random sample recordings were scheduled as a block of time recording. Block of time recordings can end up containing multiple calls, or can end up missing the starts and stops of some calls, or even dead air. Block of time will get the job done, but you gain a tremendous amount of efficiencies when you begin recording call-by-call.

Most phone systems have a Station Message Detail Recording(SMDR) feed which can be tapped to yield the start and stop of calls. Using SMDR, your company can record entire calls from start to finish instead of as block of time.

2) The other major reason to use SMDR is when you are doing trunkside or T1 recording of your phone traffic. You can use the SMDR feed to tie the phone calls to the appropriate agent.

Even more data can be captured when CTI integration is implemented. Information such as customer data is then associated with the interaction. CTI enables "cradle to grave" recording as well, following the call as it passes through departments.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Harry & David scale up their call quality monitoring for the holidays

In 1910 Samuel Rosenberg traded the luxurious Hotel Sorrento for 240 prime acres of pears in Southern Oregon's Rogue River Valley and named them Bear Creek Orchards after the nearby waterway. His sons Harry and David began one of the nation's premier direct marketing and e-commerce companies (Harry & David).

In order to support the thriving mail order business, Harry & David set up a customer service contact center. The contact center has changed significantly over the years, especially in terms of technology.

“We’ve implemented technology that was able to better utilize our workforce and increase the effectiveness of the interaction with the customer,” said Jason Phillipson, Director of Planning for Customer Operations.

“The biggest advantage new technology has is that it allowed us to hold our labor needs static. Advances in our online stores, sales & service applications, knowledgebase, telemarketing, call monitoring, and training systems have kept pace and often exceeded the demand for additional labor force. In fact, over the last 10 years the call centers’ labor needs have changed relatively little, while the business grew significantly,” he added.

Currently, Harry & David has several systems in use in their contact centers. The various applications include an order taking/customer service system, web/knowledgebase, email management, call recording and monitoring, electronic time card, electronic product information index, scheduling, multiple phone switches for multiple sites, electronic badge production, electronic employee statistics and evaluations, online work queues and more.

The call recording application is the Virtual Observer solution, interfacing with their Avaya phone system, and enabling call recording for quality assurance purposes. Employing about 300 customer service agents year round, the number swells to about 4000 across multiple contact centers during the busy holiday season.

“The scale of our holiday call activity pushes all our infrastructure and systems to their peak capacity. This is coupled with the condensed time frame we have to do it in….we hire and train the majority of the 4,000 in about 2 months time. There is also a lot of role transition. Many of our year-round staff are our leaders, trainers, and support staff during the holiday season.

During our holiday season we handle about 100,000 calls per day but during the off season we can go as low as 5,000. A typical day would be around 6,500 calls. Needless to say, it’s a busy time for us. The Virtual Observer system scales seamlessly during the holidays, whether it’s 300 users or 4000,” Jason stated.

When asked about the other contributing factors in Harry & David’s decision to implement CSI’s Virtual Observer solution, Jason replied with that “the major factors were price and usability. There are systems being sold out there with many more bells and whistles than Virtual Observer but the question, for us, was, would we really use all those extras? In the end we felt that CSI offered a solution that was one we could understand and use. We just couldn’t cost justify all those extra features. Because of the seasonality in our business, it is always a challenge to size a system for our peak and see that our costs and licensing fees reflect our lower usage the rest of the year. CSI accomplished that for us.”

Many e-commerce companies are faced with trying to achieve Visa payment card industry (PCI) compliance. Harry & David has implemented Virtual Observer’s Media Encryption technology to encrypt all interactions. Besides PCI compliance, this also helps to protect valuable customer information. “This did help us achieve PCI compliance, which is very important to us as we accept customers’ credit cards orders over the phone,” Jason added.

Asked about what type of impact Virtual Observer has had, Jason replied with “One of the immediate benefits was our ability to monitor that large influx of new associates we have at our season. Being able to give them feedback on their performance quickly and correct areas where they are having trouble has lower our attrition, during that critical period, and saved us money.”
“We highly recommend Virtual Observer for other e-commerce contact centers. The features, cost, and ease of use along with the good customer service provided by CSI makes this system an excellent choice.”

Harry & David provides consumers with gourmet-quality fruit and gift assortments year-round from their mail order catalogs, online store, or retail stores nationwide. Their headquarters is in Medford, Oregon, and they also have a campus in Hebron, Ohio. Harry & David operates a seasonal call center in Eugene, Oregon.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A search for the environment friendly call center, part one

Although many in the media have claimed that the energy bill and transportation costs for putting on a concert the scale of Live Earth outweighs any potential global change, I have to admit the concert and it's many interwoven global warming short films have made an impression - on at least a personal level. That's where it starts.

10 million people watched the concert on the Internet, the largest internet streaming event ever - and if 5% of viewers were impacted the same way, the exponential effects should be great.

Here are some additional resources relative to climate change:

Measure your personal impact on climate change

100% Solar Powered Data Center

Are there any solar powered call centers out there?

What can be done to make your call center more environmentally effective?

We will search the internet for any sign of green call centers and report back here with the results. We'll also compile a list of things call centers can do to become more environmentally friendly.

Excerpts from "The Art Of War"...applied to call centers

"The Art of War" by Sun Tzu is a classic Chinese military book which is often reinvisioned for business. It may be the oldest strategy book in the world.

As each lesson can be intrepreted for the business world, my thought is it could also be reimagined for the call center.

Today we'll examine rule # 14:

"14. By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat."

This one is easy as it can apply to using your statistical analysis to make projections:

- will we meet our goals?
- will we fail miserably?

Using evaluation tools, call centers can define their own criteria for success. Scoring the performance of each agent can result in identifying a trend which may be altered for improvement.

The call center translation for #14:

"With this performance criteria we can forecast success and where we need to make improvements"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Home agent field growing rapidly

As opposed to outsourcing call center operations to international companies, many companies are now "homeshoring" to united states-based firms. If you extend this trend to the emerging South American and Latin American call center market, you can see industry analysts claiming there's a revolution occuring.

Spurring this trend to homeshoring, or "homesourcing" is the availability of technology to properly train, network and manage home-based agents. This allows the outsourced call center to rapidly expand operations, and the number of agents used, while maintaining low overhead costs.

In a story on TMCnet a leading distributed contact center technology and services provider in the U.S., announced today that the company is contracting with more than 16,000 home-based customer service and sales agents, or home agents. The company expects that number to reach 20,000 agents by year-end.

CSI has recently implemented Virtual Observer in a number of outsourced call center environments, allowing them to record calls and manage quality assurance.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Upgrades to call recording software are free for actively supported customers

We are still one of only a few (if any) call recording vendors who enable supported customers to obtain the latest and greatest version of product at no charge for software. We've upgraded 75% of our customer base and will continue to transition the rest of the VO customers with active maintenance contracts.

3.0 customers are also the beneficiaries of the additional features added to the existing product - for example, the Live Desktop feature set is an incredibly valuable tool for managing agents. This could have been a standalone add-on module, but the benefits are so great from a QA perspective and customer satisfaction standpoint, we had to include it as a standard feature. For more information about the Live Desktop functionality, please contact your CSI sales rep.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Tao of CSI: three core philosophies drive success

Three core business philosophies drive our success in the call recording and quality monitoring markets.

Many of our blog readers might not be familiar with the history of CSI. If you are not yet a customer or partner, you may not understand what we're all about. I'm hoping this helps to explain what drives us.

Since beginning as energy consultants in 1972, we've experienced all of the highs and lows of a thirty-five plus year business. Quickly becoming a custom computer programming house, we soon moved on to become a developer of a custom job shop manufacturing control system. Several years later, we've emerged as a strong call center solution provider.

We developed Virtual Observer (VO) as a robust, scalable call recording and quality monitoring system. We saw a hole in the marketplace once occupied by several bloated suites of bells and whistles. Many small and mid-sized call centers could not afford the benefit of a feature-rich call recording and quality monitoring implementation. Larger companies were forced to pay high upgrade fees because they were lacking choices. With the launch of Virtual Observer, CSI changed all of that.

How've we done it?

We have three core philosophies that make up our business mantra and combine to enable us to deliver the lowest cost of ownership in the industry.

The first is to “Build Great Customer Experiences”.

Our customer service philosophy drives everything in our organization, from the usability of our systems to our implementation and training teams. Perhaps the most evident result of this long-term customer strategy is in the aggressively low pricing of our upgrades – software is free for customers with active support agreements. This is practically unheard of in our industry. The largest percentage of your investment will come with the initial purchase, as opposed to upgrade offerings from our competition which essentially translates into a re-buy.

The second is our ability to allow customers to “Start Small and Think Big”.

Our sales philosophy starts with pricing structured so that a new customer can “Start Small and Think Big” -- implementing the right amount of functionality at the right time, and adding on new features as needed, as opposed to our competition’s methodology of forcing purchases of extra features that you’ll never really use, simply to justify the high price tag.”

Dan McGrail, Director of Product Development, added the third philosophy: “Don’t forget about “Simple, Effective, Affordable”.

Our operating philosophy dictates that every process, every product and every decision is based on it being simple, effective and affordable. We are able to manage operating costs by avoiding what some in the industry tout as “cutting edge”. Eventually “cutting edge” functionality becomes commodity, and then is made more affordable for our customer base. This is a huge component in allowing Virtual Observer to deliver a rapid return on investment.

Monday, July 09, 2007

What's new in the IVR world?

"IVR" stands for "Interactive Voice Response" and many of our customers utilize such systems to guide callers through all of the available options when they call. For more detailed information, visit the page on IVR.

Once a week we are going to feature news links for call center solutions that compliment Virtual Observer. You can click on the title of this post above, and then bookmark it and come back anytime to see the latest, dynamically updated IVR news.

Note: email subscribers may not see the RSS feed embedded in this post. In this case, click here to view the entire article.

Friday, July 06, 2007

CSI partner seeks new sales rep in Illinois

North American Communications Resources (NACR) is seeking to add sales representatives for their Illinois territory. Interested parties can email us here and we'll get you in contact with the powers that be at NACR.

NACR, a Value Added Solutions Provider, launched in 1993 with only five employees. Today, they are Avaya’s largest Business Partner worldwide and a five-time Business Partner of the Year, with employees and locations across the United States. NACR built a quality reputation as a nationwide provider of end-to-end communications solutions for organizations of all types and sizes — offering systems and support for every need, from Voice over IP (VoIP) and converged network integration, to consultative services, ongoing maintenance, and repairs.

NACR actively presents CSI's Virtual Observer (VO) as a preferred call recording solution, an integral component in their complete scope of communications product and services.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Will Business users ever adopt Google's phone and web apps?

Google recently purchased unified-telephone service provider Grand Central for an awful lot of money. Grand Central allows users to take all of their phone #s and centralize them in one place, with one unified number. Grand Central offers a ton of features, including the ability to view voicemails as text on the web, to playback voicemails on the web, to customize greetings, ringback tones and much, much more from the control panel, which is now run by Google. It's in beta.

Google buys companies and then incorporates their services into their own free services as part of their advertising-supported ecosystem. They recently did this with Feedburner, who used to offer a "Pro" package of stats about your blog, for a nominal fee. Now that Google's in the house, everything is free.

Google offers free web-based word processing, spreadsheet, presentations and calendar apps. Right now it seems unlikely that many businesses will use that as their core business apps standard, but Google is betting they will at some point. Of course, Gmail is free and along with all the other apps, they can give Microsoft Office a run for the money, functionally. Plus, all work is saved on the web, accessible from anywhere you can log in.

Let's hypothesize a bit: say 20% of small businesses starting using Google Apps instead of MS Office. The primary reason may be to save money on MS licensing fees. They then would be very likely to use a telecom app from Google for the very same reason: not only will it be free, but also it will be integrated with the web apps they use. Address books will be shared, Voicemails and Emails together in one place.

It seems that if 20% of small businesses adopt the Google software-as-a-service model, eventually, mid-sized and even some larger sized companies may do the same, once they trust the security of the concept. Google's betting that if one of its' services is tried, it will only attract users and businesses to its' other services.

Did I forget to mention that Google has long been rumored to offer free wifi access? Can VoIP services ala Skype be far behind?

We've added a new poll asking "Will Businesses Ever Use Google Apps?". The poll is located in the sidebar, on the right ------>

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

4 new customer implementations in USA and Canada

CSI's professional implementation and training team just returned from 4 successful onsite visits to new customers. Often taking on a consultative role with the new clients, we always try to help them get up and running as quickly as possible, beating expectations.

The marketing and sales department feels confident sending the trainers out to the field, as they usually convert new customers into new product champions, willing to become testimonials, case studies and referenceable contacts.

I'll be looking to talk more in-depth with these customers over time as take them from a new implementation to a long-term client that has achieved and sustained a rapid return on investment.

The four clients were of the following industries:
* hospital/medical center
* wireless provider
* insurance company
* non-profit agricultural organization

Friday, June 29, 2007

New Call Center Openings

We try to publish this list of new call center openings on a monthly basis:

Wachovia Looks to Open Philippine Call Center
Wachovia, a prestigious banking center located out of Charlotte, North Carolina, has decided to take their consumer services overseas. They plan to construct and open a new call center in the Philippines early next year, exposing the company to a more global feel. Not only will this increase the diversity and size of their workforce, but it will also assist their 24-hour customer support. With thirteen call center locations within the United States, expanding to the Philippines will effectively cut costs and provide more services to customers.

Phones Being Ringing at Verizon’s New Huntsville Call Center on September 4th
The day following Labor Day, 2007, marks the opening of Verizon’s newest call center in Huntsville, Alabama. The facility will allow for 1,300 employees, consisting of customer service agents, supervisors, IT staff and support, government customer service agents, and corporate sales employees. Located in Thorton Research Park, the call center will be utilized for all forms of consumer support.

Comcast Construct Third Phone Center in Connecticut
On June 22, 2007, the ever-so-popular Comcast introduced a new call center in Enfield, Connecticut. The large cable and communications provider is in need of more customer support staff as their company continues to expand rapidly each day. This building measures out to 77 thousand square feet and provide workspace for more than two hundred employees. This will be Comcast’s third call center in Connecticut, making a total of seven in New England.

DialX Forms Online Call Center in Arizona
DialX, an integrated voice and data management system, has ventured to create an online call center in Phoenix, Arizona. Their automated message dialing service is being targeted to smaller businesses in order to prerecord business notifications using the internet, and construct a more effective consumer experience. Along with these notifications, direct marketing messages are also delivered utilizing the onsite “Do Not Call Filter.” This new software was created to better the communication between businesses and their consumers.

Alorica Inc. Seeks New Employers in July
Alorica, Inc., a provider of quality customer services, is searching for employees to occupy their Topeka call center. The employment events are scheduled to begin July 9th at the Topeka Workforce Center from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The company, known for its exceptional workforce, has grown tremendously, cultivating over 3,000 new employees in three different facilities since they entered the market in 1999.

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