There's more than one way to annoy — and then lose — a lifelong customer when you switch to a VoIP contact center. Surly agents and improper training are just two of the factors that can result in disgruntled customers and compromised productivity. But that's not all that contact-center managers have to worry about. Dropped calls, latency and jitter resulting from substandard VoIP service can also spell disaster.
Constantly monitoring agents' VoIP-based calls for both technical and human-performance issues, however, can deliver excellent customer service and improved employee productivity. But is this an activity better executed by a third-party provider or overseen in-house?
According to Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, a firm that specializes in call centers and real-time analytics, the answer comes down to internal resources. Most companies simply don't have the on-site manpower, expertise and technical resources to keep constant tabs on the ongoing performance of their agents and network. In fact, a recent study by The Taylor Reach Group reported that 60 percent of organizations surveyed said that in the past six months, they experienced at least one month where they failed to meet the standard number of monitors required by their organization. Furthermore, 45 percent of those surveyed said that in the past year they have had to reduce their monitors-per-month standard or suspend their program entirely due to staff or volume increases. But while there's no shortage of third-party providers willing to take over time-intensive, agent-monitoring activities, Fluss warned that outsourcing VoIP-quality monitoring isn't a cure-all.
For starters, many third-party providers of quality-assurance services focus on recording and monitoring a contact center's calls. However, Fluss noted, "Nowadays, people underappreciate the fact that it's important to not only capture the call but an agent's screens as well. That's because you have some agents who are bored and play Solitaire, for example, while talking to a customer."
Another factor to bear in mind when outsourcing contact-center quality assurance is vendor selection. It's not enough for a vendor to simply have a strong track record in capturing and assessing calls. Rather, a provider must possess an in-depth understanding of a contact center's line of business and industry. Said Fluss, "If you really don't have the resources to monitor in-house, having somebody do this activity for you is better than not doing it at all. But it's really best to have quality assurance overseen by a vendor with the appropriate domain expertise."
But monitoring an agent's ability to communicate effectively with customers is only half the battle. For this reason, many contact centers opt to outsource the monitoring of their VoIP network. "Rule number one with IT is that you have to address quality of service," advised Fluss.
Fluss points to Empirix as an example of a vendor with a rich offering of VoIP monitoring tools. Empirix's OneSight Management solutions offer ongoing monitoring by emulating the experiences of customers and agents to help ensure the performance of voice applications and systems. These monitoring solutions evaluate the performance of contact centers from the customers' and agents' quality of experience down to the performance and availability of the applications, systems and infrastructure.
Nevertheless, outsourcing quality of service still requires work on the part of a contact center. "The biggest issue that we have with IT in general is bandwidth. It's a very good idea to constantly check the performance of your pipes but only if you can do it without further impacting quality of service," said Fluss. And that means paying close attention when you're loading your network with applications, and establishing a solid disaster-recovery plan for your network — tasks that are best handled in-house.
Contact center quality is not an issue you can ignore if you hope to keep customers happy. Whether you choose to use a monitoring tool such as the one offered by Empirix or outsource your contact center entirely, you'll need to take action to ensure your contact center adheres to the highest standards in the business. If not, you'll see customers quickly turning to your competition.
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