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Agent pushback – things to consider when addressing disputed assessments.

March 18 - Do you agree with everything someone tells you about yourself?  If so, then I would like to meet you and tell you how indiscriminately generous you are and how willing you are to share your wealth with complete strangers -- like me!  While the illustration is extreme, please consider the underlying truth:  we are selective about the feedback we receive and believe.  Our acceptance, or rejection for that matter, is largely dependent on our awareness of the issue, the source of the feedback, and our personal acuity concerning the same. Dynamic and engaging quality programs provide a place for individuals to conscientiously and professionally address these three elements of the feedback.  Just as quality feedback should be delivered in a timely manner, a venue for questions and disputes should be structured with the same time of timely follow-through.  For example, if quality feedback is assured within a 30-day [...]

2019-03-20T21:28:10+00:00March 18th, 2019|

Where and when should reviews be done?

March 11 - Nothing is more de-motivating than watching the quality monitoring analyst head down your cubicle aisle, knowing that he/she has just completed a call evaluation.  Of course what would make this de-motivating is the experience of knowing that the quality analysts only meet with agents when they have found problems in a call! Here are two suggestions for reviewing calls with your agents. Schedule coaching sessions ahead of time and carry them out consistently, whether performance is good or bad. To save time, some call centers report that they simply pass along the written call evaluations when there are no “problems” with the call.  This practice is not a good idea.  You should meet with your agents regularly, even when their call evaluations are all good.  Remember that recognizing and reinforcing positive behaviors is just as valuable in influencing agent performance as coaching to skills needing improvement. Set up [...]

2019-03-20T21:30:33+00:00March 11th, 2019|

Tips on coaching and training agents for difficult calls.

March 4 - One aspect of the job as a call center agent that is hard to get used to is how to handle difficult calls.  It is hard to train and coach for these calls as well. Nice customers and routine calls are usually pretty easy to handle, and can give agents the feeling of a job well done when they are finished.  Then there are the difficult calls that get interspersed with the others that are a little harder to handle and present agents with a more challenging work day. There are many ways to define hard-to-handle calls.  Some types of calls are merely a bit challenging while others are downright difficult to take.  Calls that fall into the somewhat challenging category might be callers that are confused, people that are overly-friendly or flirtatious, and those that are extremely talkative. The primary requirements for handling a confused, flirtatious, or [...]

2019-03-20T21:31:43+00:00March 4th, 2019|

Add adaptable training to your training sessions.

February 25 - Training in a call center is at best generalized. Not every situation can be covered in training to ensure the agent is fully capable to handle all situations.  So most training has to be generalized, but generalized training has the tendency to remove the “human element” – what specific training does this agent need? Adaptable training, or training on specific situations, can be conducted by supervisors on a one-on-one basis after listening to the agent’s calls and seeing what information is needed. You can’t remove “generalized training” from the curriculum, but it is a best practice to add this kind of adaptable training to the training of both the new and experienced agents. Through listening to the calls handled by the agent, individual strategic plans can be made, and personalized training can become adaptable to many different situations. Note:  This week’s tip was provided by QATC Board Member [...]

2019-03-20T21:33:21+00:00February 25th, 2019|

Coaching for “talkative” callers.

February 18 - When an agent receives a call from someone who is overly “talkative,” it can be annoying and also a drain on staffing resources.  Coaches need to help agents develop a way to control the conversation without being insulting or disrespectful to the customer. The key to working with an overly talkative called is to be polite, yet firm.  It is important that the agent is careful not to damage the customer’s self-esteem while taking control of the conversation. Agents should avoid open-ended questions with these callers, since these type of questions provide an open door for a new round of conversations and explanations.  The key to controlling a talkative caller is to ask closed-end questions where the response is a single word or two. Another technique is the use of space control – the amount of time left between words or phrases.  If there’s too much of a [...]

2019-03-20T21:34:54+00:00February 18th, 2019|

When we make things too complicated.

February 11 - One of my clients, the CEO of an international agriculture business, said, “The price we pay for making things too complicated is immeasurable. It slows us down, makes for bad decisions, and scatters our efforts.” Think about those three parts of the “price we pay” for making things too complicated: 1) Making things too complicated slows us down. In today’s world, if we don’t move quickly opportunities disappear in the blink of an eye. The inability to focus and simplify means we will overthink our decisions, going back and forth with pros and cons and new considerations that we continue to add to the pile. Simplicity and focus enable us to make decisions more quickly. That’s a competitive advantage. 2) Making things too complicated makes for bad decisions. In your experience, which solutions are the most effective? Which ideas are most likely to create success? The complicated ones? [...]

2019-03-20T21:36:01+00:00February 11th, 2019|

What are we measuring?

February 5 - Last week’s tip focused on why we are using QA to evaluate and measure in our contact center.  This week we will look at what we are measuring and how to assess the validity of our questions.  Review the questions below with your team to evaluate the questions on your QA form: Are they actionable (i.e., lead to better business results, process change, or customer satisfaction)? Will they help identify and close process and satisfaction gaps? Can they be objectively defined? Will they help motivate agents, supervisors, coaches, and trainers towards continuous quality improvement? If they can be defined, are there tactical ways to coach for improvement? If you can answer yes to all these questions, then you are on the right track!  If you can’t, then spend some time with your form to determine how you can improve it.

2019-03-20T21:28:44+00:00February 4th, 2019|

Why do we evaluate and measure?

January 28 - Before you begin the QA process in your organization, you should look at why you are doing QA evaluations and measuring performance.  Here are some key points to review to make sure QA is measuring the right behaviors and procedures: Discover service gaps that impact agent effectiveness and that create customer pain/potential attrition. Determine if current policies and procedures are supporting strategic initiatives. Identify service failures that impact customers and correct them. Encourage supervisors and analysts to use the quality form as a development tool. These items should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure your QA program stays on the right track.

2019-02-04T14:08:44+00:00January 28th, 2019|

Stick to your guns – don’t cancel that training!

January 21 - Stick to your guns! You might have a great training plan in place, but you can’t let it hit the backburner every time your call volume increases.   There will be times that yes; it might make sense to postpone training due to higher than normal volume, but that should not be the norm. It’s important that you and your leadership team recognize, encourage, and support the importance of on-going regular training.  It’s going to keep your staff engaged, informed, and most importantly, trusting of the management team. Remember, your employees are often your primary point of customer contact and you want them to be advocates of your organization. One of the best ways to do that is to show them that you’re invested in them. Note:  This week’s tip was provided by QATC Board Member Justin Robbins.  He may be reached at justin@jmrobbins.com. 

2019-02-04T14:09:57+00:00January 21st, 2019|

Learn the ABC’s of Engagement.

January 14 - For employees to do better, we as leaders and managers have to be better.  We hold the power to engage and empower our people - to Advocate.  Believe.  And Communicate. These ABC's are not new.  We know them at a gut level.  But consistently implementing them is where we struggle, given our workdays are often filled with dozens of competing priorities.  It's not that we don't know the right things to do to engage and develop our people, rather its 16 other urgencies that result in us moving off tasks whose delay do not appear to create immediate consequences - like catching up, recognizing, or coaching.  But there are cumulative consequences, especially when you consider that what you accept, becomes acceptable - so pushing aside personnel-related interactions once, makes it only easier to do so again, and worse, models that as acceptable behavior to those who report to you. Many feel engagement comes from being inspired.  I believe inspiration [...]

2019-02-04T14:10:35+00:00January 14th, 2019|

You can’t teach it all.

January 7 - If you have ever been on a backpacking trip, then you know that a backpacker has to deal with competing goals when packing. The only way to successfully complete the trip is to balance the competing requirements of what you will need vs. what you can actually carry. Many times when we are preparing to on-board new employees we begin gathering information about everything they will need to know and then put it in a PowerPoint deck. The resulting training is rarely successful. Attendees either tune out or they are overwhelmed, furiously taking notes on everything that is being said. A teacher that only focuses on the list of requirements, but doesn’t consider the limitations of what their employees can understand, absorb, remember and apply, is like a backpacker who is trying to overstuff their pack. One of my favorite books is “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” [...]

2019-01-14T18:54:31+00:00January 7th, 2019|

Establishing a coaching relationship.

December 10 - Coaching is a really important part of the job for all call center leaders. Establishing a coaching relationship takes time and the ability to build trust.  This is something that we should work on continuously to build the relationships with agents in our organization. Some ways to build trust include: Inspiring Trust by Sharing: All of us have examples of when we said the wrong thing, or did something less well than we would have liked. Trust is an essential part of a coaching relationship. Share these instances where appropriate: “This was not my finest hour…” It conveys to your employee that you are human, and that mistakes are not fatal. Lean in to the Pause: Often an inflection point in learning occurs in a conversation at the point where the coachee is quiet or appears to be thinking. Rather than rushing in to fill the silence, sit [...]

2019-01-14T18:56:20+00:00December 10th, 2018|

Try blending your training and quality teams.

December 2 - Have you tried “blending” your training and quality teams?  When the trainers are not teaching a class, why not let them work with the quality teams doing side-by-side training on agents who have “areas of opportunity” identified by their quality scores? Here are some possible outcomes: You won’t hear “Well, they didn’t teach us that” from the new agents. You can ensure QA is scoring to what the trainers are training. Your reps should already be comfortable with the trainers since they’ve all been together for the initial training and they are used to asking them questions. You can discover areas in the training that may need to be refined if they hear numerous misses on the phones. The trainers can identify agents that need more specific continuing education and making classes designed to help them.   Try this to see if the increased time the trainers spend [...]

2018-12-11T16:35:22+00:00December 3rd, 2018|

Feedback is a two-way street.

November 26 - Nobody likes getting lectured.  Nobody likes thinking they’ve done something wrong.  By making feedback a continuous, normal process you can help your team to hear your feedback and be better equipped to take your suggestions.  You might even get some good feedback yourself! Tip 1:  Focus on growth, not on mistakes.  Speak in terms of “plusses,” or things that worked well, and “deltas,” or things that can be improved.  (Delta is the mathematical symbol for change).  Avoid talking about mistakes, negatives, things that happened poorly.  Rephrase those thoughts into ideas about what a rep can improve upon. Tip 2:  Be specific.  When giving plusses, being specific helps a person to know you are genuine, and that you are paying attention not only when they make mistakes.  When giving deltas, being specific about room for improvement makes it easier to take your feedback.  Being specific also means not giving [...]

2018-12-11T16:34:08+00:00November 26th, 2018|

Tips for providing good team management.

November 19 - We hire our team because of the qualifications they have and the aptitude they present to be able to perform the functions they are tasked with. As trained professionals it is justifiably understood agents will perform the task they are assigned every day. With this understanding, what is the function of a manager other than disseminating information to their team? Here are three tips for providing good management for your team. Setting expectations – Always explain in great detail what you expect from your team. There should never be a reason as to why a team member of yours is not completely aware of what you expect from them on any given day. “Never hold people accountable for what you knowingly have not made them aware of.”   -- Ijlal A Muhammad- Simplify your approach – Never assume anyone on your team understands or comprehends as you do. This [...]

2018-12-11T16:32:45+00:00November 19th, 2018|

How to “play nice” during calibration.

November 12 - In order for any calibration session to be a positive and productive experience, participants should identify some discussion ground rules and commit to adhering to them for the benefit of the group.  Ground rules help facilitate discussion and create a respectful environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinion — especially in the face of disagreement. Here are some suggestions to get you started: Maintain confidentiality. This helps build trust, an important component in group dynamics.  Participants must feel that calibration is a safe place to voice their opinions without risking them being repeated outside the group. Listen without reacting. When a recorded call is played back for the group, the presence of non-verbal communication can easily influence others’ evaluation of the call.  You’ll want to keep reactions such as laughter or nodding your head to a minimum. It’s OK to take it back. Some people state their [...]

2018-12-11T16:31:31+00:00November 12th, 2018|

Perform regular assessments of call center training requirements.

November 5 - Training for the agent shouldn’t stop after the new hire orientation and initial training period is completed. Training is an ongoing evolutionary process. The goal of your call center’s ongoing training program is to provide training for the skills necessary to perform the job, plus training for the skills necessary to enhance ongoing performance. In developing your ongoing training program, it is useful to define what employees need to know and be able to do at defined job anniversaries. Common milestones are at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and 120 days. For each of these timeframes, a checklist should be developed that outlines critical knowledge and skills so training gaps and performance issues can be identified. Some typical questions you might ask at each of these stages are: What additional things does the agent need to know? What policies and procedures could affect job performance? What behaviors [...]

2018-11-22T02:38:00+00:00November 5th, 2018|

Consider environmental fit when making a hiring decision.

October 29 - In addition to defining the knowledge, skills, and attributes that make up the ideal call center employee, another important consideration in assessing the job is to define the unique working environment of your call center. In particular, you’ll want to identify aspects of the job and the environment that may be less than desirable and assess candidates’ motivation to accept these conditions. Some examples include the following: Confined space. Is the workstation space in your call center limited? Some people will feel uncomfortably confined in a small cubicle workspace. Repetitive tasks. Is there variety in the type of work your agents do, or are the tasks fairly repetitive in nature? While some people like the predictability of call center work, others need more variety and challenge on an ongoing basis. Solo work. Will the employee get to interact with others in the center? While you may be looking [...]

2018-11-22T02:40:10+00:00October 29th, 2018|

Ask your agents why they stay.

October 22 - We typically ask departing agents why they are leaving, but do you ever ask your current staff why they stay?  That might seem like a loaded question, but it is one that can be important to ask. In many organizations the exit interview is used as a gauge of what is working well and what is not.  But our experience suggests that departing employees are not all that forthcoming about their reasons for leaving especially when it is driven by dissatisfaction with their manager or the general culture of the center. We really need to understand what motivates agents to stay so we can do more of it.  Is it the fun atmosphere, good pay and benefits, reasonable workload, good training, great manager, reliable tools or something we would never think of that makes them want to come in every day?  Whatever it is, let’s be sure to [...]

2018-11-02T17:35:57+00:00October 22nd, 2018|

Calibrate for success.

October 15 - Are you making the most of your calibration sessions? Or, more often than not, does your team find itself agreeing to disagree? In order to achieve a balanced and aligned understanding of your Quality Assurance process, your team needs to have an open and productive dialogue.  Be willing to lead and guide the conversation, while also soliciting feedback from all in attendance. Begin the calibration session with a brief Q&A session regarding your overall quality assurance process. Encourage your managers/supervisors to review any opportunities that they experienced since your last calibration. Discuss new trends, areas of success, and potential opportunities. Review any updates or changes to your quality assurance process and state your expectations for the calibration session. What is your purpose for calibrating? Are you introducing a new standard or ensuring consistency across your team?   Discuss multiple calls in one session. Have your team score one [...]

2018-10-23T18:22:42+00:00October 15th, 2018|

Model good listening behaviors to motivate your team.

October 8 - Last week’s tip started a series on call center motivation myths and musts to share ideas for motivating staff to perform at their best.  This week’s tip focuses on modeling good listening behaviors. One of the simplest things to do in motivating staff to perform is to demonstrate in an active way that you care about them. The best way to do this is to spend time with each person just listening. If your team members feel heard, understood, and valued, they will work harder to produce better results and make you proud. One of the keys to providing great customer service is to listen carefully to what the customer needs. You can teach frontline staff how to do this by simply being a role model and a good listener yourself during your interactions with them.  Be aware of common listening problems and take care you don’t make [...]

2018-10-23T18:23:20+00:00October 8th, 2018|

Call center motivation myths and musts.

October 1 - Every fall, we hear the buzz as call centers prepare for Customer Service Week in October. Many devote special time and attention to showing appreciation to their frontline call center staff during this time and implement new motivation programs to keep staff fired up and performing at their best. Unfortunately, many call centers only worry about this show of appreciation and attempt at motivation for this single week.  And while there may be great results from some of the short-term programs rolled out during Customer Service Week, many centers lose the Customer Service excitement by the time November rolls around. Zig Ziglar once said, “Some people say motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why you have to do it often.” Call centers should certainly know by now that keeping staff motivated to perform well on the phone is an ongoing strategy.  You can’t expect a one-week [...]

2018-10-12T00:43:11+00:00October 1st, 2018|

Why analyzing and acting on your VoC is the secret to improved agent performance.

September 24 - You don’t have to be an expert on contact centers to know that putting the necessary structures in place to deliver an exceptional customer experience to each and every caller is a constant uphill struggle. Which makes complete sense. Ensuring consistency across what is likely a huge disparate enterprise is never going to be easy. Add to this some recent agent trends – including a churn rate of 27% for entry-level agents and 53% of contact center employers offering remote working – and you start to understand the size of the task you face. So how do you put the necessary agent training and up-skilling processes in place to improve employee engagement and drive the positive business outcomes you seek? You doubtless already capture a ton of data specifically related to your contact center and agent performance. This will likely include information call times, whether you’re able to resolve a customer inquiry, [...]

2018-10-01T15:45:59+00:00September 24th, 2018|

Benchmarking against your best performers.

September 17 - Your company may be spending a lot of effort and money searching for benchmarking information and "industry standard" numbers for a wide variety of call center performance metrics.  However, the numbers you're looking for may be closer to you than you think! Instead of worrying about what your competitor or other companies in your industry are doing, look at your own staff's performance and take a particularly close look at the variation from low to high. While you may not be able to make an "apples to apples" comparison with another company anyway, you can certainly pull some valuable information just by looking at your own staff's performance. The best way to set standards and measure how well you're doing is to look at the top 10% of performers.  Look at the top sales performers and their conversion rates compared to the bottom range of performers.  How much [...]

2018-10-01T15:48:05+00:00September 17th, 2018|

Get creative with side-by-sides.

April 9 - Here are a couple of creative ways to have side-by-side coaching sessions in your call center. Instead of double jacking into a call and providing feedback at the end. how about one of these creative methods: Have the agent send the coach an email with what they would like to be coached on. This could be a particular skill, application, product knowledge, etc.  The coach can prepare for what is to be coached on and when the coach comes over for the side-by-side time, watch how the rep’s body language has changed.  They feel like they are much more in control as they chose the topic.  This truly builds the rep/coach relationship and allows the rep to have some ownership and buy in to the side-by-side process. How about those senior agents where there aren’t a lot of side-by-side coaching opportunities to be had? Try turning the tables [...]

2018-09-18T14:55:38+00:00April 9th, 2018|

Simulation exercises allow new agents to experience calls during training.

April 2 - Many call centers incorporate simulation exercises into their training programs. Consider setting up a simulation that will allow managers, supervisors, team leaders, and perhaps even veteran representatives to call into a training queue, which will be staffed by the new representatives. The callers will simulate real-world call scenarios giving the new reps the opportunity to experience them before they’re put on the phone. This can be done throughout the training as new skills are learned or you can have one final exercise after the classroom training is complete. The final exercise should include at least one type of each call scenario the representatives will be handling. There are several ways to implement the simulation. One is to have each representative log in to the training queue. The calls will be automatically distributed among them just like in the real world. This method works best if each new representative [...]

2018-04-16T13:12:32+00:00April 2nd, 2018|

Uptraining – A proactive approach to change management!

March 26 - Uptraining seasoned CSRs is typically managed on an event basis.  A new technology release, a regulation or rate change, and a product incentive are just a few of the catalysts that bring seasoned CSRs into the classroom and the purview of the training team.  And yet some of the most challenging times in an organization are the point at which significant change is introduced to the most seasoned individuals in the call center. CSR skill building is an ongoing opportunity to proactively manage change. Consider developing a skill matrix that tracks and progresses CSRs along a path of skill development that helps them achieve their personal goals while ensuring optimal ROI of training resources.  This strategy requires that you engage CSRs in developing personal goals for growth and development within the scope of their job. As seasoned CSRs receive quality feedback, identify opportunities to expand knowledge in ancillary [...]

2018-04-05T15:13:37+00:00March 26th, 2018|

Be sure to get the most out of your Customer Surveys!

March 19 - Ever wonder what your customers would say about your Quality Assurance (QA) program?  There is an easy way to find out. In your next calibration session, select calls where customers rated their experience through your survey process.  Complete your regular QA calibration process, then compare the customer responses from the surveys with the scores from the calibration.  Are the two scores in alignment?  This is a great way to know if your program is hitting on the things customers really care about. Also, don't let the GOOD customer feedback go to waste. Most of the time we review the customer survey data and focus solely on what we did wrong.  Be sure to take advantage of the good comments too, by sharing them with your agents. This will help reinforce the positive behaviors they are already doing. One organization sends a report to all agents in the center [...]

2018-03-27T16:51:43+00:00March 19th, 2018|

Verint Launches New Intelligent Customer Self-Service Capabilities

MELVILLE, N.Y., March 15, 2018 — Verint® Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: VRNT), The Customer Engagement Company™, today announced new customer self-service capabilities, including intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) and enterprise chatbots powered by an open, modular Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine. Verint is a recognized leader and innovator with a broad portfolio of self-service solutions, including IVAs, voice self-service (interactive voice response), web self-service and customer communities, all powered by knowledge management to drive consistent experiences across channels. According to Gartner, “By 2022, it will be far more common for a video-based customer support agent to also share the user interface, or for a chatbot to be used by the customer support agent while conversing with the customer. Because of this, we expect the interaction proportions of human and artificial agents to be 36% human agent intervention/participation and 85% software (a combination of self-service and software used simultaneous with the human agent engagement).”1 Of that figure, [...]

2018-03-19T13:51:53+00:00March 15th, 2018|

Is your quality program aligned with your training objectives?

March 12 - Hey Quality! When was the last time you calibrated with Training?  As quality professionals, we often deliberate over the frequency, method, and make up of our calibration sessions within our unit and across the operational leadership within the call center. Well, I would like to interrupt this debate with this important consideration. If your organization hires CSRs annually and/or introduces new training throughout the year, then it is imperative that the quality professionals collaborate with the training professionals to ensure that CSRs are aptly prepared for success. Consider this approach: identify the most critical call/transaction types, the most common errors, the longest transaction type, and the transactions that have the highest instances of hold.  Structure the calibration based on the time allowed, but conducting a calibration session with training professionals offers a unique perspective on the interaction. Expect to discover where practices in training have waned in the [...]

2018-03-19T13:41:08+00:00March 12th, 2018|

How should your team grow and mature this year?

March 5 - Top-performing teams constantly challenge everything.  The work environment in today’s call center is changing constantly, and teams that don’t change to adapt to the new environment will fail.  It is important to celebrate team successes, but also to be ready to move ahead with the next new challenge.  A leader should help the team identify those new challenges and provide feedback and advice about steps to improvement. Here are some activities to try with your team to get them ready for the next challenge: Working with the members of your team, develop a team charter. Make sure it aligns with your corporate and call center goals.  Outline the objectives of the team and your vision for the short-term and long-term. Make a list of all your tasks and responsibilities and those of your team members. In creating this list, note the amount of time spent per week or [...]

2018-03-19T13:43:10+00:00March 5th, 2018|

Are you considering how to launch a quality program?

February 26 - Starting a quality initiative may seem like a daunting task but there are few approaches to introducing quality initiatives that help turn attention to organizational objectives and begin the work of modifying behavior to match customer service goals. Start with you! Build credibility among the target audience by using long calls and high hold times to identify the call types that require leadership action to improve resources and or training. Listening workshops. Grant CSRs the opportunity to hear themselves.  This is a common strategy for improving performance; however, targeted listening has a much greater impact.  Time is the greatest challenge to this initiative but it is by far the most productive approach to engaging CSRs positively in the quality initiative. Example: Select 2 Calls per CSR based on call times of 8-10 minutes or hold instances of 3 or more.  Provide the CSR with a simplified quality form [...]

2018-03-07T15:57:53+00:00February 26th, 2018|

Moving away from “Fix and Forget” leadership.

February 19 - Last week’s tip outlined the qualities of a “Fix and Forget” leader, which included these characteristics: Spending all (or most) of their time on maintaining the status quo. Viewing the work of a leader as being in conflict with their own work. Choosing short-term fixes over long-term solutions. Failing to reflect on past decisions. Only checking in with team members when there is a problem. If, instead of being a “Fix and Forget” type of leader, you want to be known as someone who really wants to grow their team and achieve better results, think and take action like a gardener.  Some tips to make this transition: Talk to your plants.  In my leadership training sessions I like posing the question, “Does it really help to talk to your plants?” I typically get at least one person who offers that it does because you are offering your plants [...]

2018-02-26T19:30:53+00:00February 19th, 2018|

Is “Fix and Forget” the way you lead?

February 12 -  Have you thought (or said) any of these statements in the past 30 days? I thought we had that problem handled. When will I have time to focus on what I need to get done? I should have seen this coming. WOW! That came out of nowhere. I can’t believe we are having to deal with this again. All people ever bring me are problems. If you said yes to at least three of these statements, you might be in danger of becoming a “Fix and Forget” type of leader. Characteristics of such a leader are: Spending all (or most) of their time on maintaining the status quo. Time resources are strained and it’s easier to go from crisis to crisis to fill their day. They fail to carve out time to look toward the future and determine how to best lead their team into it. Viewing the work [...]

2018-02-19T16:56:18+00:00February 12th, 2018|

Ideas for training, coaching, and quality assurance. 

February 5 -  We love getting tips from you!  Here are some ideas for training, coaching, and quality assurance that were submitted recently. Give away promotional items with your company brand on them as prizes to increase participation in training sessions. You’ll be awarding the employee for participation and increasing brand awareness. Have quarterly themed celebrations for your department. Recognize the top producers in a PowerPoint presentation with their picture and feature them in your organization’s employee newsletter. Employees love to see their pictures! Play quality calls that meet all areas being measured in department meetings to assure employees understand the expectations. Remind employees of expectations and give examples of your expectations in monthly/quarterly meetings. Have the employees role play. We’re a financial institution so we give scenarios to the employees.  The role playing is done in front of the entire department. For example, we’ll have one role play the part [...]

2018-02-12T18:07:41+00:00February 5th, 2018|

Keeping agent morale high with a limited budget.

January 29 - We are always looking for ways in to boost employee morale on a limited budget.  With some creativity, there are many ways in which we can acknowledge fantastic work by our representatives that cost little to no money.  We had a session that addressed this issue at the 2017 QATC Annual Conference, and here are some of the tips we shared: Use a blank wall to spotlight representatives with great quality scores or customer feedback on a Wall of Fame! Include pictures of the representatives and their accomplishment such as 100% quality for the month or customer quotes. Have the shift preference bid process include quality scores. Those with higher scores have first pick at the best shifts. Institute a “traveling” outstanding team quality trophy! Order a big trophy and have it “travel” each month to the team that had the overall highest quality score.  Have a team [...]

2018-02-12T18:10:10+00:00January 29th, 2018|

Tips on Data and Numbers – Opportunity, Creation and Sharing. (Part 3)

January 22 - This is the final tip in a series related to Data and Numbers.  Last week, we talked about the Creation of a report or presentation, and this week, we will discuss Sharing the information you have created. Sharing is the next step.   Prep for your final presentation by sharing it with a colleague and get their feedback.  Did they get the message you are trying to convey?  If not, ask questions and make modifications and find a new sampler to review the newest version and repeat. When we create presentations, we tend to create them based on our perspectives and understandings.  When you share with others, their perspectives help to remove the blinders and align you with creating a more rounded out final message. Okay – final presentation ready?   You are ready to go and present to your originating requestor and company. You’ve verified with the requestor what [...]

2018-01-30T13:56:49+00:00January 22nd, 2018|

Tips on Data and Numbers – Opportunity, Creation and Sharing.  (Part 2)

 January 15 -  This series of tips are related to Data and Numbers.  Last week, we talked about the Opportunity to present Data and Numbers.  This week, we will discuss Creation. The Creation of a report or presentation sharing data and numbers requires that you reflect about what you are going to share, where the attention of result should be, and understand what will be done once the reviewers see the presented information. When faced with creating your presentation, I would share that there are three considerations: Your presentation is like a clean sheet of paper and you get to create the design. This is great if you are a creative person and love the ability to control the message.   Create a focal point versus getting lost in a detailed spreadsheet. Instead of having a crazy detailed Excel spreadsheet (that has so much data – but no one can read [...]

2018-01-17T00:02:14+00:00January 15th, 2018|

Tips on Data and Numbers – Opportunity, Creation and Sharing.  (Part 1)

 January 8 -  I’d like to share some tips and tricks related to Data and Numbers from a session I presented at the QATC Annual Conference and a recent QATC web seminar.  Please join me for the next couple of weeks as I share information on Opportunity, Creation, and Sharing of Data and Numbers. Opportunity – yippee, you are being asked to share and/or present data! Okay, so what is the first step?  It is to take a step back, meet with your business leaders, and find out exactly what numbers/data they need.  You might be surprised to find that trends could be more important than current data or vice versa.    Interests change, and the supporting data should supply what is needed to make good business decisions addressing current problems/excellence as well as the long-term issues.  For example, if a major crisis is being handled, checking to determine if agents [...]

2018-01-17T00:01:06+00:00January 8th, 2018|

Create a Quality Assurance Design Document (QADD).

January 2 - All quality assurance teams should have a Quality Assurance Design Document (QADD).  This is where each question listed on your QA form is documented, including the scoring possibility for each question and the expectations for each question. When creating the document make sure to obtain feedback from agents, trainers, and leadership.  Be specific in your communication -- the QADD should be easy for all members of the team to understand.  Once completed, have an all-staff meeting to discuss and address any concerns.  For larger organizations you may need to have team or department meetings. Make sure everyone has access to the QADD for future reference and plan an annual review to update business process as needed.  As you move forward, always take the necessary time to obtain the team’s feedback when completing annual updates. Note:  This week's tip is provided by QATC Board Member Angela Crozier of MPHI. [...]

2018-01-17T00:03:03+00:00January 2nd, 2018|

Skill vs. queue – and you.

December 26 - Contact Centers are not staffed in a vacuum. There is a bit of Math, Science, Art, and maybe a little voodoo involved. J The more math and science, the less voodoo. Workforce teams everywhere can produce staffing and capacity plans. However, not all are successful, in part because staffing isn’t just about volume, arrival, and AHT. It’s also about what people do, how the work gets to them, and what work can reasonably be done by one person – or skill-based routing. Trainers have a large part to play in successful staffing and routing. A trainer sees skill-based routing is literally that – moving work or calls to the people who have the ability to handle them. Before the first Erlang calculation is run, the life cycle of an agent should be fully mapped. The agent lifecycle begins at hire, continues into training, then nesting, and finally production.  [...]

2018-01-04T17:04:23+00:00December 26th, 2017|

SME may not equal trainer without some training.

December 18 - Have you ever thought about using a group of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to expedite training? But are you worried that this may not be the best way to do this? If you answered yes to both, it’s understandable. Subject Matter Expert (SME) literally means one who is expert in a certain area. It does not mean one can teach or train that skill. Training is a unique skill set unto itself. However, in call centers promotions are often given to agents to positions such as Team Leads, Trainers, Analysts, Coaches, and Supervisors. There is one truth though -- just because an agent can take calls, that does not mean they will automatically make a good trainer or lead or analyst. But if an agent has high quality scores, good caller satisfaction, and strong first contact resolution, likely they know the job, and the subject well. This agent [...]

2018-01-04T17:02:36+00:00December 18th, 2017|

Reclaim your routines by making them easier to do.

December 11 - We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. -Will Durant (Although frequently credited to Aristotle) Read any number of books on how to be successful, and at some point, the author will mention the impact some habit or routine had on their upward professional or personal trajectory. Lots of books have even been written on the topic of routines, and my personal favorite is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen. Over the years I've found that a key to making a routine stick is that it has to be easy. I know my intrinsic desire to improve should be compelling me to push through all the barriers (and it does help), but what keeps me going is if I can engage in it without having to work so hard to make it happen. If you're struggling with getting a routine to remain [...]

2017-12-21T20:55:22+00:00December 11th, 2017|

Making the match: hiring the right staff.

December 4 - If you’re been searching for one single thing you can do to improve training success, staff retention, call quality, and overall performance of your staff, there is a single solution that will significantly improve all these other areas. Simply make the right hiring decisions on the front end and everything else is impacted in a positive way. One of the first steps is to outline all the roles, responsibilities, and job tasks associated with the open positions. Be careful that you don’t just copy a generic job description and use this to guide your search. Nobody likes writing job descriptions, but it’s worth some effort to think through the job tasks and work breakdown to realistically describe the job to others. In addition to job tasks, you’ll want to outline the competencies required for the job, either at the point of hiring or within a certain period after [...]

2017-12-11T17:02:19+00:00December 4th, 2017|

Model good listening behaviors.

November 20 - One of the simplest things to do in motivating staff to perform is to demonstrate in an active way that you care about them. The best way to do this is to spend time with each person just listening. If your team members feel heard, understood, and valued, they will work harder to produce better results and make you proud. One of the keys to providing great customer service is to listen carefully to what the customer needs. You can teach frontline staff how to do this by simply being a role model and a good listener yourself during your interactions with them.  Be aware of common listening problems and take care you don’t make these common listening mistakes. The Interrupter. This person finishes other people’s sentences or breaks in to share thoughts before the other person is finished. If you do this, your employees will lose patience [...]

2017-12-06T13:33:40+00:00November 27th, 2017|

The “PGFC” of customer service.

November 20 - Last week’s tip focused on identifying the “why” of performance problems before coaching begins.  The tip included information about agents perhaps not performing because they might feel pressured to meet handle time numbers. “It is natural to assume that if someone has not performed and followed through on a call-handling technique that they must need more training. However, the person may actually know how to do the technique, but is being influenced by pressure to meet handle time numbers and therefore skipping through some of the call steps. It’s crucial to identify the reason for the gap before beginning the coaching process.” I hear this a lot on calls as I listen to agents. Some agents have his/her own pace and they simply may seem like they are rushing the call and missing minor targets on the form. I would suggest that you encourage the agents to “Pace” [...]

2017-12-06T13:34:21+00:00November 20th, 2017|

Identify the “why” of performance problems.

November 13 -  Coaching is all about helping someone improve performance and when done right, it’s an experience frontline staff will welcome and appreciate. However, for many call center supervisors, coaching is simply a meaningless presentation of numbers or pointing out of errors with no positive roadmap for improvement. It’s much like the basketball coach who points out that the last three shots were missed and that the team needs to score ten points in the next three minutes to win the game. Telling someone that handle time is too high and they need to work on call control does not constitute an effective coaching session. Before coaching, supervisors need to pinpoint the reason that someone has a performance gap. For example, if an agent has failed to ask additional discovery questions in order to recommend the best solution for a caller, the supervisor has to figure out why the agent [...]

2017-11-28T17:27:36+00:00November 13th, 2017|

Forget about “one size fits all” motivation programs.

November 6 -  The hard thing about motivational promotions is that no matter how great or exciting the program is, it’s not going to motivate everybody.  Creating a successful motivation program is not a “one size fits all” project. What excites Bob may actually irritate Sally. What makes Rachel want to give that extra effort may push Alex out the door. Everybody is motivated by something and it’s each supervisor’s job to figure out what the motivators are for each person. There are generally six categories of motivators: Social bonds (guidance, support, time, attention, encouragement) Recognition (acknowledgement of desirable behaviors) Rewards (tangible rewards, trophies, cool stuff) Development opportunities (career advancement, training, new skills) Teamwork (feeling part of team, networking, social activities) Fun (pleasurable activities in the workplace) Frank may just need lots of handholding and supervisor attention and will treasure simple recognition for work well done. Susan may prefer not to [...]

2017-11-13T13:54:44+00:00November 6th, 2017|

Weave customer service fundamentals throughout your training program.

 October 30 -  Customer service basics should be woven throughout your training classes as well as into everyday training and coaching in the center.  Frontline staff usually find this training as much more enjoyable than the system training, so it will be a welcome part of the day.  And they’ll appreciate learning something that’s pertinent not just to the current job, but also a valuable life skill. This customer service training is best delivered in small portions rather than crammed into one intense session.  Make sure it’s interspersed throughout your product and system training and refer to it often so it becomes a constant element and part of the training culture. Customer service fundamentals should include the following topic areas: Customer service fundamentals Help each person understand the important role they play in serving as the “voice of the company” to the customer.  Customers these days sometimes have limited in-person contact [...]

2017-11-13T13:56:01+00:00October 30th, 2017|

Avoid “good…but” coaching.

October 23 -  The best way to encourage staff to repeat customer-pleasing behaviors is to catch them doing something right and rewarding those behaviors as soon as possible. However, since many supervisors are pressed for time and looking for ways to make the most of coaching time, it’s tempting to recognize the good behaviors, but also take time to clean up any performance problems. An important rule of “on the spot” coaching is to keep it simple. If you’ve heard someone do something great for the customer on the phone, praise that behavior as soon as you can. And try to make it all about the positive feedback. Let the person bask in the glow of recognition without any other corrections. Sometimes the good behavior is pointed out, but then glowing words are following by a “but…” statement that serves as a verbal eraser for the initial praise. If you’ve heard [...]

2017-10-31T16:26:19+00:00October 23rd, 2017|

Verint Launches Industry’s Most Modern, Flexible and Open Suite for Enterprise Workforce Optimization

New Version Delivers Revolutionary Enhancements to Mobile Apps, Omnichannel Recording Platform and Embedded Real-Time Analytics MELVILLE, N.Y., October 10, 2017 — Verint® Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: VRNT) unveiled today the industry’s most modern solution for empowering the workforce and enhancing performance. With contemporary mobile apps that fit the way today’s employees prefer to engage, it breaks new ground for organizations striving to improve the most dominant driver of positive customer experiences: positive employee engagement. The new Verint Workforce Optimization™ (WFO) delivers key feature enhancements across the suite of applications. It integrates secure mobile access into WFO applications, enabling employees and managers to get work done from anywhere, anytime. It also expands automatic call distributor (ACD) neutrality—supporting all leading on-premises and cloud ACD suppliers—with an open application programming interface (API) library. Additionally, the suite now offers wide-ranging enhancements that enable organizations to interact with customers across many different channels—including a consolidated platform for [...]

2017-10-23T14:13:18+00:00October 16th, 2017|

Incorporate adult learning techniques in your training.

October 16 -  Whether trainees are learning customer service skills, product knowledge, or how to navigate the system, it’s important to develop a training program that addresses the learning styles of all types of individuals.  There are three different learning and communications styles and it’s important to incorporate each one into your training program so each person can participate in the way they learn best. The three learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.  Visual learners need to see content on paper and/or on screen. They process information by sight and will be ones that learn best by note-taking and reading information.  Auditory learners need to hear the information in order to process it and will not benefit from reading the material as much as hearing someone tell about the subject.  Kinesthetic learners don’t really process the information unless they’ve been able to get “hands on” with the information and practice [...]

2017-10-23T13:39:21+00:00October 16th, 2017|

Creating passion for the job from your team members (part 2).

October 2 - Last week’s tip started the conversation about how to help your employees find the work they love to do.  Here are three examples of how an employee’s passion was put to work in the call center: One employee had taken classes on desktop publishing.  Her supervisor suggested she put those skills to use and create a team newsletter.  The newsletter was a big success and became a regular monthly publication.  Another agent that had an interest in photography offered to take pictures around the center and the newsletter added photos of team events and awards and served as a nice keepsake.  Other teams joined in and the newsletter spread to be a call center-wide project, with many different agents sharing their talents and skills at poetry, cartoons, and interviews. One call center had a problem with scheduling for weekend coverage.  The supervisor noted that several of the staff [...]

2017-10-02T21:46:21+00:00October 2nd, 2017|

Creating passion for the job from your team members.

September 25 -  Think about ways you can help employees find the work they love to do. It may not be easy, but it you can partner with your employees to find something they’re passionate about in the work they’re doing, you’ll have a much better chance of keeping talented staff. Helping employees find passion in their work means finding something they like to do in their work role.  The other option is to bring something they love to do to the workplace.  When people are doing what they love to do, they are at their best.  If you can create a link between people’s passions and their jobs, you’ll have happier employees that will perform better and stay with you longer. Ask employees what they love to do at work and away from work.  Use their answers to think creatively about how you might put their passions to work. In [...]

2017-10-03T01:10:53+00:00September 25th, 2017|