5 Best Practices for Call Monitoring

Love them or loath them, call centres are a fact of life nowadays.   Looking at them from a business standpoint, they are an essential component of a cost-effective and efficient customer service environment.  VoIP for Business makes implementation a practical proposition, even for the smallest business.

However, the quality of service delivered to the customer can make or break a relationship. A high-level customer experience is the goal.  When, for example,  they hear “You are number 47 in the queue”, they will hang up and not call back.   The tone and style of the interaction with the agent are vital.

That is where planning the interaction and why inbound and outbound call monitoring is essential.   It usually takes the form of a call centre quality monitoring programme.  Knowing service levels and their quality is not just metrics.

Effective CRM using VoIP for Business is the balancing of agent efficiency and service quality. 

First of all, what is call monitoring? It’s the listening in on agent and customer interactions and the recording of them for later analysis.  “Your call may be recorded for quality purposes”.

The upsides of call monitoring are both qualitative and quantitative.  Measurement of response rates and customer attitudes tells you if waiting times are acceptable.  This assists with resource planning.  Customer attitudes also tell you if assistance is effective and if an agents performance is acceptable.

On the downside, agents and customers might feel that call monitoring violates their privacy, indicating a lack of trust in the case of employees.  If they feel it is too intrusive, it could affect employee retention.  It can affect morale and productivity.   Finally, under-resourced call centres leading to long wait times will definitely have lower customer satisfaction levels.

Here are five Best Practices for Call Monitoring in a VoIP for Business environment.

Agent Training

Agent Training

In a customer-facing environment, agents at the coal-face must have a high-quality interaction with customers.  That comes from an understanding of the company’s products and services and how to correct common problems.   A good understanding of the psychology of how to deal with possibly difficult customers is essential. 

This means that training is needed in both aspects, and not just as induction training.  Reinforcement training will be needed at regular intervals.  Defined policies and procedures are essential.

Part of the training will be to give the agent an understanding of why call monitoring is a vital part of an overall service management programme. 

Task Team

Task Team

A common misconception is that call monitoring is the sole responsibility of the call centre manager.  The manager will be focussing on other responsibilities such as customer retention strategies and probably can’t devote enough time to the monitoring of individual agents.

That is where a task force can help.  A task force is a group of senior agents who will act on behalf of the manager, designing and implementing processes and monitoring service levels.  They are the group that will deliver the reinforcement training sessions.  Call monitoring will be an essential part of evaluating the success, or otherwise, of the customer experience.

Effective Scripting

Effective Scripting

We are often aware that an agent works to a pre-determined script, particularly in a sales environment.  They usually set the tone for a customer’s interaction with the organisation, setting a standard for service delivery. Scripts need to have a clear introduction, setting out the purpose of the interaction and defining the tone.  They should create a connection with the customer and establish a rapport.   Closing the call with courtesy is also important.

Call monitoring is needed to ensure that agents are sticking to the script, and if they deviate have a good reason for doing so.

Self Assessment

Self Assessment

Allowing agents to review their previous interactions with customers has significant benefits.  It demonstrates trust, and they can see where they may need to advance, for example, their communications skills.  Their soft skills and confidence will improve.

Research shows that organisations that invest in education and professional development do better.

Call Monitoring Software

Call Monitoring Software

Call monitoring is labour intensive, and in large organisations that means that only a small number of interactions can be monitored.  That isn’t a large enough sample to give a true reflection of agent performance.

Call monitoring software has improved greatly in recent years.  The use of AI, fuzzy logic, and machine learning has expanded the capabilities of call monitoring. 

A software application that will help greatly is speech analytics.  It will analyse all incoming and outgoing calls involving an agent.  At an individual level, it will identify patterns where an agent has difficulties with providing a high level of service.  At a macro-level, it will identify where customers have common or similar issues.   Overall, it will allow much more effective management and refinement of operational practices.

Is VoIP good for Small Business?

VoIP for Business has become commonplace in the business and personal marketplace.  Most businesses use it, bringing them many benefits.  The increases in Increased remote working and working from home following the restrictions imposed by the pandemic has meant many more small businesses using VoIP for Business.

Originally VoIP meant a level of expense that put out of the reach of the smaller business, but shelf-units and PC-based virtual PBX software have brought VoIP for Business well with the reach of even the smallest business and SoHo users.   The increasing availability of Internet access, especially the roll-out of fibre to the home, is also providing benefits to digital telephony. That has, in turn, driving a need for VoIP in smaller businesses.

Before VoIP, whenever an employee left the building they were by and large uncontactable, with the possible exception of catching them at a client, at home in the evening or in their overnight accommodation. This meant communications between staff, the office, and each other were difficult at best.  All that has changed with the advent of affordable Business VoIP. Simply put, with Business VoIP and its inbuilt video-conferencing capability, individuals and teams need never be uncontactable, inside or outside the office. It is now possible to be truly mobile.

The Benefits of Voip to Small Businesses

Cost Benefits

Cost Benefits

Cost savings are probably the leading reason for adopting VoIP.  A leading cost-saver in being able to call individuals or multiple attendees using VoIP is a great cost-benefit.  Because the transport is now the Internet, rather than the PSTN,  toll charges can be pretty much avoided.   This is particularly beneficial in calls and conferences involving long-distance and international connections.

Improvements in the Mobility and Accessibility of Staff

Mobility Improvements

The ability of smart devices like tablets and smartphones to support VoIP calling over WiFi brings great benefits in accessibility and mobility.

Staff can make and receive voice and video calls and join the group and individual video conferences on their smart device anytime and anywhere.  Other VoIP features such as call forwarding and pick-up, voicemail placing and retrieval are available, though depending on the specific handset.

For remote workers, what is has changed is WiFi availability at both clients’ premises and in public spaces.  WiFi is common in business, and many public spaces provide free WiFi, either themselves or through their tenants.  Most hotels now have free WiFi for guests, and some municipalities provide it as a public free service.

Remote and mobile workers can now connect using a VPN to the Internet and the corporate network from anywhere that has WiFi coverage.

Remote and mobile workers can now be full members of the workforce.

Business Profile

Business Profile

Using VoIP can significantly improve the business profile of a small business.  Automatic call forwarding from a remote office to a central depot or call centre can give the impression that the business is local.  A business can give the impression of being a national or even international business. Other image enhancement techniques are to create departmental numbers, for example, calls to “Sales” are directed to a single extension.  This gives the impression that the organisation is larger than it is.   Using a SIP profile on a smart device that allows it to act as a network extension means that individuals are in touch with the phone network wherever they happen to be in the office or on-site, again enhancing the image of the organisation.

Improvements in Workplace Efficiency

Improvements in Workplace Efficiency

As an example of improved efficiency, staff no longer need to always organise formal meeting locations and facilities for video conferences.  All participants can participate from where they are.

Workplace efficiency and effectiveness can be greatly enhanced by having staff available anywhere and any time. This will bring significant improvements to the company’s business profile.

Looking at VoIP for small businesses, the business accrues significant benefits from adopting it throughout the organisation.  It reduces communications costs and improves communications among the staff. Finance is delighted with the reductions in comms costs. Management look at the improvements in intangibles like customer relations and teamwork and staff morale.

VoIP in Small Business is a no-brainer.

How Does Voip Work for Business?

In recent times, multimedia, voice and video conferencing have come together to create an entirely new form of communications.  A key element of this new wave is Voice over IP, (“VoIP”), a protocol for digital transmission of voice and video. 

Home and business VoIP telephony has grown to be a major segment in the VoIP market. It provides advantages in cost, mobility and increased functionality with a range of compatible devices.

Why should a business user consider moving to a VOIP for Business telephone system?   There are justifiable concerns, mostly over call quality, but also that that they will lose their phone service if they lose power, and that it is a difficult and costly technology to implement.

However, improvements in technology and the use of standby power go a long way to alleviating these concerns. Simply put, the advantages to businesses from adopting a VoIP for Business solution far outweigh any potential drawbacks.

Here are 10 major reasons why

  1. Call Cost

    Call Cost

    PTT charges are avoided by routing calls over the Internet rather than over the PTT network, thereby avoiding the call charges levied by the PTT. The cost of the call is absorbed in the overall cost of providing the Internet connection.  The cost saving can be significant if there are frequent long-distance and international calls.

  2. Cost Control

    Cost Control

    Some organisations have a cost-recovery model in place. Being able to use call logs to see who made a call, to whom, when, for how long and the actual cost allows users and departments to manage phone call budgets easily. It also assists in identifying miscreants who call unauthorised personal numbers.

  3. Mobility

    Mobility

    For the mobile user, the integration of VoIP with WiFi provides the individual with an amazingly low-cost communications platform. Software apps on smart devices simulating desktop handsets provide the user with the means to be always in touch wherever they are.

  4. This is accomplished with the implementation of SIP interfaces in the VoIP for Business configuration that allows a smart device to replace the desktop VoIP phone extension in a wireless-enabled environment.  A mobile smart device user has full access to the corporate VoIP phone system from anywhere that they are in range of the corporate WiFi network, both centrally and at remote offices. In addition, most VoIP providers provide a facility via a secure network for users to connect to the corporate phone system over the Internet.   This meets the Increasing need for remote access wherever they might be.

  5. Voice mail and fax mail

    Voice mail and fax mail

    Many VoIP service providers provide the facility to automatically forward voice mail and faxes to an email inbox.

  6. Productivity

    Productivity

    A digital VoIP system provides many new features and communications applications. As examples:

    • The mobility described above allows employees to become productive immediately they arrive at a remote office and connect to the corporate network. Without waiting to be allocated a phone, they can use their main office credentials, any handset or their smart device to join the VoIP for Business phone network, using their main office phone extension number.

    • Employees can see if a colleague is present and able to receive calls. No more repeated redialling, or leaving voice messages.

    • Help Desk consultants can operate the phone system using a softphone application on the desktop giving a point and click interface.

  7. Access to the full functionality of your VoIP for Business Phone System from anywhere if you are online.

  8. Hosted VoIP

    Hosted VoIP

    A hosted solution needs no on-site equipment. That means there will be less space used in a small office. If a larger is installing a VoIP for Business solution they may need equipment installed on their premises.

  9. Flexibility

    Flexibility

    It can be easy, though not always, to add features and functions. Often it can be done remotely and with no downtime.

  10. Security

    Security

    All users log onto the phone system with personal credentials from any connected device. In essence, security moves from the device to the individual.  No more sneaking into the manager’s office to make an unauthorised call.   International or long-distance calls can be placed by only those employees with an appropriate security level.

The ability to set up group and individual security profiles can be very cost-effective, particularly if used to enable call management and cost recovery. Users can be grouped by cost centre and reports drawn up showing the overall cost of calls from a cost centre, and if required, who called where, when and for how long.

One point to bear in mind is that not all devices can be connected to a VoIP system. Older devices like some modems and fax machines don’t have a digital capability, while others might need software updates. Be especially careful of alarm systems that potentially could become inoperable if connected to a VoIP system.

10 Tips for a Smoother Online Conference Call Meeting

The ability of VoIP for Business to host Conference calling and remote meetings is now an essential part of an organisation’s business tools. Unfortunately, there have been many reports of failures and poor performance using ZOOM and other collaboration tools.

While some poor conference calls may have been because of VoIP for Business technology failings, most are because participants are not familiar with the etiquette of conference calling and how to make them effective. Basically, using the same approach as for face-to-face meetings will provide quality meetings. Here are ten suggestions:

Just because it’s an online meeting, doesn’t mean that it can be less organized than a face-to-face one.

  1. Send out calendar friendly meeting requests in good time and repeat

    Calendar reminder

    Most attendees won’t be IT experts and may need help and guidance to join the meeting. Have an IT support person to hand to assist. It’s getting easier, but many conference call services can be cumbersome to join.  If the meeting request email provides an automatic link to an attendees calendar, all the better.

    Zoom, for example, provides automatic links to a calendar and to the meeting itself, where the attendee only needs to click on a link to join. Send out a reminder, again with a joining link, just before the meeting time.

  2. Send out Etiquette Guidelines

    Meeting Guidelines

    It might seem presumptuous to instruct attendees to behave during a meeting, but hopefully, you only need to do this once as a full document. Perhaps a short summary as part of the meeting request?

  3. Have an Agenda

    Agenda

    Meetings need to stick to the point. With no agenda or clear objective, a meeting will not be successful and to put it bluntly, waste everyone’s time.

  4. Have IT check the connection and setup

    Check connection

    Nothing is more frustrating than sitting waiting to join a meeting and not being able to connect because of a technical fault.

  5. Start on Time

    Start on time

    Starting on time is vital, especially if the meeting straddles several time zones. Don’t wait for stragglers, because if you do, you are signalling that it’s ok to join whenever you feel like it.

  6. Have the Chair open the meeting

    Open the meeting

    This is no different from a face to face meeting. The chair must open the meeting by thanking everyone for attending, explain the agenda, and nowadays, ask everyone to switch off cellphones. Thye host must also set expectations. Request that everyone announce themselves. Some attendees may be in sound only.

    Try to finish the meeting early. That will be much appreciated by all attendees.

  7. Microphones to be muted unless you are speaking

    Mute microphone

    Because this is a remote meeting, people may be attending from all sorts of strange locations, coffee shops, home, cars for example. That can produce a lot of distracting noises and communications problems.  If you aren’t speaking mute your microphone to cut down on outside noises.

  8. No interrupting or talking over

    Dont interrupt

    It’s just common etiquette, don’t talk while someone else is interrupting. During a person to person meeting, we can observe non-verbal cues in other attendees. In meetings where this is not possible, perhaps because some attendees are attending on voice only, it is easy for a meeting to descend into chaos.

    The host must maintain control, and attendees must observe the rule of only speaking when invited to.

  9. Ask for feedback

    Ask for feedback

    Some attendees will speak a lot, some not at all unless asked to.  It is easy to assume that just because someone has not expressed an opinion that they agree. Ask them directly.

    People can also zone out and decide not to participate. Meetings can speed up and be more productive if you ask each participant to contribute verbally.

  10. Have a closing review and repeat conclusions

    Online meeting conclusion

    As already pointed out, visual cues are absent in conference calls, even if a video feed is available.  Even if they promise not to, people can become distracted from the meeting and start other activities.  It’s easier with remote meetings because they can easily hide what they are doing from the meeting.

    It is essential, to have a recap periodically during the meeting and at the end, have a full summary.

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