Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Four Simple Ways to Annoy Your Callers

Spare yourself her anger by fixing your IVR problems by using Q-SuiteYesterday, the Indosoft blog posted an article on how to turn your call center ACD into a time machine. It listed ten things you can do to make sure time passes as easily as possible for your callers. When it was being written, I thought it was a comprehensive look at the biggest issues you can face when settting up your IVR.

Then I called my cell phone provider.

Last week, I received a new phone in the mail. It came with a new SIM, and instructions on how to go to the web site and register it.

I went to the website. I logged in with my account information. And I was greeted with the message that this function could not be performed on the web site. I would have to call technical support.

I called the number.

I was amazed.

I was not prepared for the level of awful that I encountered.

It started out innocently enough. "Welcome to PROVIDER. If you want English, press or say 1."

I pressed 1.

"If you  are an existing customer, press or say 1."

I pressed 1.

"You have 6 options to choose from ... (pause)." Okay...

"You have 6 options to choose from ... (pause)." Great! What are they?

"You have 6 options to choose from ... (pause)." Are you going to tell me?

"You have 5 options to choose from ..." What? Which option did I lose? What are they? Am I supposed to guess?

"You have 5 options to choose from ... (pause)." Hmmm...

"You have 5 options to choose from ... (pause)." ...

"Your wait time is about 55 minutes ... (pause)."

"<three and a half minutes of static>"

I recognized the three and a half minutes of static as a bad playback of music on hold. Then Shania Twain sang me one of her hits. Then more static.

Since I didn't know who I was waiting for, whether they could help me, or if I'd be sent back into another queue to wait for 55 minutes, I hung up. After all, I could just swap my old SIM from my old phone into the new one. I wasn't going to be using two phones at the same time. I tried calling in again, but got the same result.

I did leave a message on the website describing what happened on the call, just in case they were interested. Annoyingly, I was asked to submit information about my account even though I was logged in to my account on the web page.

Anyway, as promised, here are four things they did to annoy their callers:

1) They probably just had their PBX "background" playback of the file so that callers can input their choice without having to wait.

That's good. That's helpful.

But, they set the timeout to be shorter than the amount of time it takes to play the audio file. That's the window in which you can enter your option. If you've got a long audio file that lists your options after the 10 second mark, you have to give people more than 10 seconds to choose. Otherwise, they are not going to hear what the choices are.
It's an easy logic error to make.

2) Their music on hold is terrible. It could be that they didn't encode the audio files to match the codec used on the call. It could be that the server was under too much load. Or the file got corrupted during transfer. Or they use a patent-encumbered encoding somewhere (g729, mp3) and ran out of licenses due to the call volume.

3) They didn't have somebody come in and listen to their IVR, especially at peak periods. Something like that should be pretty obvious if whoever is managing their system calls into the IVR from time to time. I doubt I hit the one magical time that this happened.

4) Not having an enterprise-grade call center ACD system installed. If the problems were caused by high load on the system, the problem could have been solved by having:

* multiple telephony servers,

* load balancing,

* and providing enough licenses for all the possible calls.

Q-Suite scales easily, allowing you to add capacity by adding servers. And it allows you to bring up and down resources if you're leveraging the power of the Cloud in your contact center. And if you're running Q-Suite, I won't have to write blog posts about your awful IVR mistakes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Are the Kardashians Hurting Your Business?

Queen of the Kardashians
You have a bunch of agents you’d like to keep busy, but call volumes are low. You can’t send anyone home, because it might get busy later. You’ll go broke if your agents spend most of their time discussing their favorite Kardashian.

Do you have to wait for people to call in?

If your call center handles Unified Communications, email and web chat volumes may help out a bit. It’s still reliant on inbound communication attempts, though.

Many contact centers do have a list of leads they could be contacting. Reminders to renew their service. Or maybe just check that things are OK. You may also have sales page generating warm leads, or a list of people who have expressed interest in the past.

In these cases, blended dialing may be a solution. Blended dialing puts your agents into their normal call center ACD queues, as normal. It also assigns them to one or more selected outbound campaigns.

The mechanism itself is simple. Queue priority and skill assignments decide which of the inbound calls your agents get. If there are no inbound calls for an agent, the agent gets a lead to call from the outbound campaign. Each time your agent finishes a call, the system checks to see if there are any inbound calls in the queues. If so your agent handles those. If not, it's back to the outbound campaign.

Blended dialing makes sense when you have leads to contact and queues that can have bursts of traffic. It also makes sense when your inbound and outbound dialing are related. If you have a list of clients who may call in to buy or renew before you call them, then you can associate your inbound callers with outbound leads when they call in.

It's also a great way to keep your agents productive on days when the queues are quiet. Again, if you have a reason for dialing outbound, your blended agents can be productive. And you don’t have to hear about Kardashians.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Making Your Inbound Queues Personal

Personal queue
It almost goes without saying that the gold standard of inbound call centre technology is a proper skills-based routing ACD. That's the best way to ensure that the right agents get the right calls at the right time.


While your agents are logged into the ACD, what happens if the prospect calls in to speak to the agent directly? After all, if someone has been working with Jane for the past week, that prospect should be able to get through to Jane, right? That definitely helps with the flow of the transaction.

But if Jane is otherwise occupied, like receiving calls from the inbound queue, you don't want her phone ringing! Because if Jane does answer the phone, then she's disrupting her whole inbound call flow and stepping outside the call center software suite.

Ideally, you want to have all calls that go to your agents coming through your ACD. Sure you can have a queue of their own for each of your agents. Setting that all up gets a little cumbersome though. Especially if you already have unique toll-free numbers coming in for your agents,adding all those skills and queues is going to be a huge pain once you get up past five or so agents.

The solution is fairly simple.

Personal queues.

Personal queues act as a queue that the agent is always logged into. In Q-Suite, you access the personal queue through DIDs or the agent's own extension. When integrated with the extension, you can do a number of things such as going to voicemail or ringing the phone after a certain period of time.

But what is the personal queue really?

Simply defined, the personal queue is the queue that belongs only to that particular agent. Only that agent can get logged into it. When a call comes in to an agent's personal queue, that call has the highest priority for that agent. The next time the agent finishes a call and accepts a new call, they will receive the longest waiting call from the personal queue.

Why is the personal queue the highest priority queue? If a call is coming into a personal queue, then that agent is the only agent who can handle the call. Therefore, it's important that the agent receives that call next.

You can tie a personal queue into a DID through the PBX admin interface, but the more common method is to associate it with the user’s extension. The Q-Suite will check to see if the agent is logged in as an inbound agent when the call comes in. If so, that call can be handled as a personal queue call if the extension is configured that way.

If the agent isn't logged in, then it can be configured to ring the agent's extension directly and bypass the queue. In the drop down on the “Configure Extension” screen, you can specify that if they're not logged in at the time of the call, the call will ring the extension directly and follow the normal extension dialing protocol from that point.  Of course after that you can do things like have a go directly to voicemail, specify a set time before it goes to voicemail, or specify a “Find me, follow me” sequence.

By using personal queues, you're able to introduce things like toll-free numbers for each of your agents, and direct client callbacks. This ensures the specific agent will receive the call if at all possible, while avoiding any disruption of the ACD call flow. By preventing your agents from pausing their ACD calls and switching phone devices or lines or any other things that they would need to do in order to answer that call, you're helping maintain proper workflow and efficiency.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Stop Giving Your Q/A Team Your Client's Credit Card Numbers

Have you ever had someone ask for your credit card number over the phone? That question always makes me uncomfortable.  My personal policy is to never give it out if I'm the one who was called. If I have called in, and it makes sense in the context of the call, I give it out over the phone.

This presents a challenge to the call center. They need to be able to accept sensitive information that could be problematic in the wrong hands. Credit cards are the biggest example, but Social Security numbers, drivers license numbers, or even account numbers and passwords are all things you'd like to keep confidential.

One simple security measure you can take is in the call recording. The Q-Suite script builder, for instance, allows agent-side recordings to be stopped, started or restarted on page load or button press. By creating recording segments, identified by prefixes, you can choose the parts that should be made available for listening, and hide or delete the segments that cannot be kept due to containing sensitive information.

Another method that Q-Suite supports is security levels for particular script fields. You can set the security level on a field so that the agent can collect the data, but your Q/A team cannot read the data while looking at the call. Combined with segmented recordings, your Q/A team never needs to access the sensitive information to verify that the script was followed, or that the sale is valid.

One possible leak of data is DTMF in the recordings. If a client is asked to enter numeric data via the dialpad on the phone, the tones are usually still audible to anyone listening to the recording. With only a dozen tones available on standard telephones, it's not difficult to have those tones converted back into digits. In those cases, scrubbing of DTMF tones from the channel or the recording may have to be done.

There are other options, of course, but do make sure that you aren't leaking client data before it's too late.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Are You Recycling Your Leads Correctly?

Have you ever gotten a call from a call center, then gotten another call from the same number 5 minutes later? Maybe you were screening your calls, or you saw the caller ID come in while you were on the other line. Anyway, super annoying. Chances are that you weren't too happy. Did their call center software break? Did they have you in their list multiple times? Or are they straight up incompetent? It doesn't matter. They upset you.

You can't get through to every contact in your list the first run through. People are away, not home, not answering, whatever. You have to recycle your leads at some point to make a second/third/Nth attempt. You have to be smart about it, or you can wind up making people upset.

Automatic Lead Recycling

Quality call center software gives you options to set lead recycling rules based on the way the last call ended up. You can specify the number of dial attempts, the maximum number of connections, and minimum times before the next call attempt. It's important to think through the cases and what they might mean, though. For example:

  • Busy: if the call was busy, don't reschedule it for some time tomorrow. There was likely someone talking on the phone. Your contact was there! Try again in a few minutes.
  • No Answer: the phone rang and rang, and nobody answered. Don't try again in just a few minutes. What are the odds that they'll walk through the door in the next five minutes? Try again in a few hours, or maybe at a different time tomorrow. Some call centers will set the time to 23 or 25 hours, so that each attempt happens at a different time. If they only get home at 6pm, at some point you'll try calling them after 6pm. You can also set it to try again after 8 hours, so if you called in the morning, you'll try again in the afternoon. Do try to not call too many times over a couple of days, though.
  • Answering Machine: If you left a message, don't keep calling. Wait at least a day or so. Multiple messages on a machine make you seem needy, desperate, or rude. If you didn't leave a message, treat it as a no answer.
There are other cases as well, but you can see the kinds of things you should be thinking about. If everything is going well, automatic lead recycling should keep you going as you work your list.

Manually Recycling

Sometimes, however, you're near the end of your list's useful lifetime, or your predictive dialer hit a large block of "No Answers" and you won't make it through the rest of the evening. Then it's tempting to manually recycle a bunch of leads. This usually involves selecting a number of leads, possibly a call termination type, and hitting a button. Magically, a bunch of leads that wouldn't be dialable until tomorrow are now back in the queue and being dialed.

Manually recycling can save the day, but it does come with some drawbacks. The biggest one is that you don't normally have the luxury of choosing leads that were last called a day or two ago. After all, if you had a bunch of leads like that, they'd automatically recycle all on their own. Therefore, you're recycling leads that were already called pretty recently. Maybe even five minutes ago. It's a tough choice, but if it's one you're making too often, you need to look at your recycling rules vs. the number of leads you're actually working.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Can You Spot Problems In Your Call Center Software?

Every call center has issues from time to time.  You could have an issue with audio quality, calls sitting in queue without being answered, or calls not even reaching the queue in the first place. You may be the greatest diagnostic genius ever, but if you don't have better system access, the data you need may be out of your reach.

Access to reports that show what is going on beyond simple call counts is an important first step. In a database-driven agent interface such as that provided by Q-Suite, visibility into the database itself is vital. For that reason, Indosoft provides a report that gives a snapshot of the current MySQL process list, including running times for individual threads and notices. This tool has been invaluable for call centers, allowing them to spot queries that may be consuming too many resources or issues with behaviour.

Sometimes your telephony provider is having issues. Live reports showing the state of telephony channels on the system can let you see if Asterisk detects a problem, or if there's something else going on. Sophisticated reporting showing call detail records along with the recording of that call can be invaluable in determining if the actual behaviour matches expectation.

It's really important to make sure that your call center system gives you that under-the-hood access that you need to diagnose issues, so you're not always having to go to their support line for issues.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Managing Your Agents Managing Your Leads

Some call center workflows require that a specific agent handles a particular lead. There can be many reasons why. The biggest reason is a scheduled callback: the client needs a call at another time so they can check with their wife, budget for the purchase, or any of a million other reasons. Sometimes leads are assigned from a pool, and agents are expected to work them to completion. Sometimes there's a complicated process that kicks off from the start of the contact to completion. A mortgage application, installation of a service onsite, or similar circumstances can require a back and forth with an agent who can maintain the file until resolution.

Sometimes, once you've got a bunch of leads belonging to an agent, you have to reassign them. The agent may have moved on to other opportunities. Or they may be reassigned to a different department. Or maybe somebody fell ill. Ultimately, the leads have to be handled. Your call center software had better let you reassign those leads so they can be dealt with in a timely manner.

You should be able to view a list of leads owned by an agent, and be able to reassign those leads to agents of your choosing. In the case of callbacks, you'll also need to make sure that you can verify that callbacks are being handled correctly, and that callbacks aren't being missed. If callbacks are missed, you'll want to make sure they're rescheduled and reassigned to where they can be called.

Ultimately, your Cloud contact center system should give you the tools to manage your leads and your agents managing your leads.