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8 best practices for call center monitoring programs

To create the foundation for an advanced quality monitoring program, contact centers need to invest in call monitoring and speech analytics software.

Call centers are a critical part of customer service organizations. Agents in these departments -- ambassadors of the organization -- respond to large call volumes on a daily basis, interact with customers and collect feedback to pass on to the business.

A call center monitoring program can help businesses transition the call center from an expense center to a strategic asset by ensuring representatives effectively resolve customer issues and capture customer feedback.

Many organizations have a basic quality assurance (QA) monitoring program, but often struggle with transitioning to a more advanced one. Businesses must identify the benefits of an advanced monitoring program and implement some key best practices to support this journey.

What is a call center monitoring program?

A basic call center quality monitoring program consists of listening to phone calls between customers and call center representatives and providing feedback to improve agent performance.

An advanced QA monitoring program adds two key initiatives:

  • determining why customers call and facilitating action plans to address the root cause of customer inquiries; and
  • analyzing the tools that agents use and identifying potential enhancements to those tools to improve the agent experience and provide more accurate and timely responses to customers.
Top 8 call center technologies

Technology necessary to support an advanced call center monitoring program

The foundation of a successful advanced QA monitoring program in call centers is a strong basic program.

Call monitoring software -- such as Zendesk, Five9 and Talkdesk -- is necessary in a basic quality monitoring program and enables a team to listen to a sample of recorded phone calls and to then score each one using an electronic form.

The ability to capture contact center agents' screens is also critical to support a basic quality monitoring program. Screen captures enable analysts to:

  • observe how agents interact with desktop tools;
  • identify opportunities where agents can improve a process or transaction; and
  • identify how businesses can improve desktop systems and tools to streamline processes and improve the customer experience.

A challenge with a basic quality monitoring program is that it is very labor-intensive, which limits the number of calls a business can monitor. Most contact centers can only monitor a handful of calls per agent, which does not provide an adequate sample to truly identify how a representative consistently performs.

A best practice to move from a basic to an advanced call center monitoring program is for businesses to add a speech analytics tool to their monitoring software, which provides a number of benefits. Speech analytics enables organizations to systematically analyze large volumes of phone calls for specific words, phrases, patterns and tones.

A best practice to move from a basic to an advanced call center monitoring program is for businesses to add a speech analytics tool to their monitoring software.

Speech analytics tools help businesses to evaluate all phone calls handled by an agent and identify overall patterns where an agent may not provide the best service or struggle with certain types of inquiries. Speech analytics can also identify recurring types of phone calls. Businesses can run a query, for example, that provides 100 calls in which customers have similar issues with a product. Analysts can then listen to those calls to identify the root cause of a problem with a product or service and resolve it.

Speech analytics can also provide reports such as word clouds -- a collection of words in different sizes depicting the frequency that they appear in calls -- so organizations can better identify customer expectations and sentiment communicated during calls.

Other call center monitoring best practices

Speech analytics is only the tip of the iceberg in an advanced quality monitoring program. Here are some additional best practices to drive customer satisfaction.

  1. Define quality and the ideal customer interaction.

Contact center agents won't provide the proper service to customers if they don't know what a business expects of them. So, it's important for call center leadership to train employees on what to say and do during a customer interaction, before beginning the monitoring process.

Scripts -- sometimes a call center practice and other times a legal requirement -- can help agents start off on the right foot, giving them a roadmap of what to say and how an interaction should go.

If scripts are not a legal requirement, it is sometimes necessary to deviate from them to better serve the customer, and it is essential that businesses relay this information to employees.

  1. Decide what customer service metrics are most important.

Businesses shouldn't try to measure everything. Call center managers need to decide what metrics they value the most and communicate this to their teams before beginning the quality monitoring process. Some metrics include first-contact resolution, average handle time (AHT), average speed to answer, repeat call rate, calls answered per hour and agent utilization rate.

For example, if a contact center strives for first-contact resolution but also expects low AHT, it might be disappointed. The goal of first-contact resolution is to resolve customer issues with one phone call, eliminating the need for repeat calls and increasing customer satisfaction. However, AHT may be longer as agents work to address the problem.

  1. Provide feedback to agents on 100% of monitored calls.

For calls that businesses monitor via analytics, a scorecard -- a tool that measures customer service and agent performance -- should be sufficient. However, businesses should provide timely feedback and coaching on calls they monitor instead of waiting for a monthly review.

It's also important that businesses provide agents direct feedback from customers. Organizations should provide feedback and coaching on both areas of strength and areas of opportunity.

If agents require additional training, businesses can provide this through roleplaying and pre-recorded videos that they can store in a knowledge base -- such as Zendesk -- for easy access.

  1. Enable agents to listen to and score their own phone calls.

In many cases, agents are the toughest critics of their own work. By enabling agents to listen to and score their own calls, they will have the opportunity to hear how they sound and interact with customers.

  1. Include side-by-side monitoring as part of the quality monitoring program.

Side-by-side monitoring enables analysts and supervisors to interact with agents and ask questions immediately following a phone call. This enables management to gather additional insight into specific actions during the customer interaction, including any gaps in the tools that are used.

  1. Use real-time speech analytics.

Real-time speech analytics analyzes phone calls as they happen and can identify calls when the customer and/or agent may become frustrated. Speech analytics software -- such as the NICE Speech Analytics platform -- can then provide scripted suggestions to the problem or alert supervisors to intervene to help resolve the situation before it escalates.

  1. Use a different quality form for each customer service channel.

Contact centers interact with customers on more than one channel, including phones, email, mobile apps, chat and social media. It's necessary to create different QA forms for each channel to gather appropriate insights.

For example, on a QA monitoring form for phone calls, a question may ask if the agent displayed active listening skills. While this might an appropriate question for a phone call, it may not provide any value for an email interaction.

Six customer service channels to support
  1. Save examples of excellent customer interactions.

As call center leaders monitor contact center agents, they will inevitably come across some examples of excellent service and support, and it's important to save these for later review.

Contact centers can use these gold standard examples as training tools for new agents -- and agents who need to brush up on their skills -- by highlighting language and techniques that helped create an optimal customer experience.

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