July 20, 2012

Games Agents Play, Tips From Our CEO, Bruce Belfiore

Ah, agents. We love them. We nurture them. We mentor them...and there are times we would like to strangle one or two! In particular, when they learn to game the system in one way or another, it makes us want to give them the boot.

By gaming the system I mean finding ways to shirk their responsibilities or provide sub-optimal service to customers. Let's review a few of the most common challenges and discuss ways to deal with them.

Excuses. This is fertile ground for issues that drive us nuts. There are excuses for being late or absent for work, excuses for not adhering to schedule and excuses for shoddy performance. Please send me your favorite “silliest excuse of all” and I may feature it on a future posting.

Aux-Out. This goes by different names, but it is when agents place themselves into Aux and then back into Available. The act of switching into Aux, even if for a brief period, takes them out of queue. Then when they go back into Available mode, they are put at the back of the line and will be the last to be sent an incoming call by the system. Agents who have low average number of calls handled per hour or per shift may be playing this game.

Transfers. Agents who don't want to handle difficult calls are often tempted to simply toss the call up the line, rather than become competent to answer a difficult question themselves. Keep any eye out for excessive calls transferred.

Hold Time. I still remember the first time I went to a center that indicated "zero" after-call work time. I thought I would find a wonderfully trained workforce using a wonderfully functional knowledge management system. Instead I plugged in for my side-by-sides and heard "may I put you on hold for a second" and saw the agent filling in the caller’s CRM record while pretending to be looking up the answer. After-call work time had "migrated" to hold time! It turned out that the agents did this because their system allowed them only a few seconds between calls, so they created their own ACWT during the call itself by putting the caller on hold. I have seen variations on this numerous times since.

So what is a manager to do?

First, try to have "game-proof" technology insofar as possible. Second, build a culture of honest dealing right from the interview and training stage. Talking openly about these issues lets agents know you are on to games and that you expect them to be honest in their work. Third, have sanctions for people who disobey. Make the consequences of gaming the system clear to all, then enforce them when violators are discovered.

Always try to foster an open and positive environment. Agents are less likely to shirk their work if they enjoy performing it and respect you as their manager.

Do you have other stories of games your agents play? Please send them in and we may utilize them in a future posting. Thank you!

Bruce Belfiore

July 19, 2012

TMC.net Interviews Bruce Belfiore about iBenchmark

CEO, Bruce Belfiore was recently interviewed by TMC.net to discuss Benchmarking automation. Watch this video to learn about how automated benchmarking can help improve your center.

July 12, 2012

BenchmarkPortal Announces: Teachers Credit Union (TCU) Achieves its second Certification as a Center of Excellence

BenchmarkPortal recognizes the exceptional efficiency and effectiveness of the Teachers Credit Union Member Call Center by awarding it Certification as a Center of Excellence for the second year in a row. The granting of certification is based on a company’s operational metrics, customer satisfaction and agent satisfaction.

The Teachers Credit Union (TCU) member call center has been certified as a Center of Excellence by BenchmarkPortal, a leading contact center research and consulting organization. “Only the top 10 percent of those benchmarked annually achieve this distinction,” said BenchmarkPortal CEO Bruce Belfiore. “Achieving Center of Excellence certification is an acknowledgement of strong management and leadership in the call center industry.”    

To achieve certification as a Center of Excellence, a company must undergo a rigorous benchmarking process, which compares the organization’s operational metrics to those of its peers, using the world's largest database of contact center metrics. During this process, BenchmarkPortal experts audit and verify key call center data from center applying for certification.

Factors (called key performance indicators) such as first call resolution, cost per call, call waiting time, customer satisfaction, agent satisfaction and utilization of human resources are taken into account. BenchmarkPortal is able to scientifically gauge how the contact center being studied compares to other centers in the same industry, and if the performance of the contact center is superior. Customer satisfaction, which relates to customer loyalty and business growth, is the goal, balanced by financial metrics which show that the center is being operated efficiently.

“Center of Excellence certification indicates that the contact center delivers superior customer service within a responsible cost structure,” said Belfiore. "A great contact center operation reflects its management's passion for balancing the demands of high quality and low costs. Teachers Credit Union has shown its ability to achieve that balance through its objective performance metrics. We have validated its metrics and have certified that Teachers Credit Union is, indeed, among the best in its industry. I congratulate Teachers Credit Union on a job well done.”

“Benchmarking delivers a crackerjack profile of a contact center’s operations that can inspire management to move forward aggressively, even in a less-than-robust economy,” added Belfiore, who has been with the company since 2000.

July 6, 2012

CallTalk Thursday, July 19th, Rethinking Agent Satisfaction...Listen in!

The Meaning of Life . . . in the Call Center: Rethinking Agent Satisfaction 

Join host Bruce Belfiore and Dr. Teresa Amabile, Harvard Business School Professor, as they discuss agent satisfaction. Is employee engagement as strong as it could be in your organization? Is everyone highly motivated to do a great job every day? In this episode of CallTalk, Professor Amabile describes a decade of research into the hearts and minds of people at work. Her results, and their implications for what managers and supervisors do every day, may surprise you.

About CallTalk 

Broadcast monthly, directly over the Internet to your desktop, CallTalk covers informative and educational topics that impact today's call center. This show is hosted by Bruce Belfiore, CEO of BenchmarkPortal. It is aired without the participation of vendors so that topics will be free from their influence and guided by the needs of its listeners.


Guest Host: Dr. Teresa Amabile, Harvard Business School Professor 

Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School. Her research investigates how life inside organizations can influence people and their performance. She is the coauthor of The Progress PrincipleCreativity in Context, andGrowing Up Creative, as well as over 150 scholarly papers, chapters, case studies, and presentations. She has presented her theories, research results, and practical implications to various groups in business, government, and education, including Google, Pixar, Intel, TEDx Atlanta, Procter & Gamble, Novartis International AG, and Motorola.

Date: Thur., July 19th, 2012
Add To Your Outlook or iCal Calendar

Time:10am PT / 1pm ET
Duration:30-45 Minutes
Topic:The Meaning of Life . . . in the Call Center: Rethinking Agent Satisfaction
Special Offer:The first person to ask a live question will receive a complimentary $1500 Benchmarking Survey. Please call (347) 857-3117.
Archived Shows:If you missed this show or would like to view our archived shows, please follow this link.

July 5, 2012

BenchmarkPortal Announces Call Center Campus Week Nov. 5-9, 2012, in Las Vegas | BenchmarkPortal, LLC

BenchmarkPortal Announces Call Center Campus Week Nov. 5-9, 2012, in Las Vegas | BenchmarkPortal, LLC

Call Center Campus Week Includes Call Center Training, Certification Workshops and Symposium. “Improving Customer Service & Loyalty” is the theme for this year’s Call Center Campus Week.

BenchmarkPortal’s College of Call Center Excellence will conduct its Call Center Campus Week this Nov. in Las Vegas. At this annual, unique call center industry event, call center managers and decision-makers can attend certification workshops, sessions and discussions throughout the week. Industry experts, along with BenchmarkPortal’s premier team of instructors, will lead and guide classes and group discussions that explore the latest developments in the call center industry and engage participants of the best practices required to operate a profitable and reputable call center.
BenchmarkPortal intends that attendees gain new and practical insights, as well as strategies that contribute to their organizations’ strengths and sustainability. The training at the Call Center Campus should also enhance individual leadership skills of attendees. Call center leaders will have the opportunity to interact with their peers, learn how to raise their best practice skills to new levels, participate in discussions to inspire innovative thinking and explore compelling avenues for advancing the call center industry. Participants will walk away with incredible tools that can be immediately applied in their centers.

The Call Center Campus Certification Training will occur Nov. 5-7 and includes certification workshops, access to the two-day symposium to follow, benchmarking survey, networking breakfasts and breaks, and lodging.
- Call Center Management Certification: Nov. 5-7, 2012
- Call Center Workforce Management Certification: Nov. 6-7, 2012
- Call Center Quality Assurance Certification: Nov. 6-7, 2012
The Call Center Campus Symposium on Nov. 8th and 9th involves industry-leading keynote speakers, learning sessions, ‘hot topic’ roundtable discussions, and a networking reception.

About BenchmarkPortal 
BenchmarkPortal’s founders pioneered the first contact center benchmarking study in 1995. Now custodian of the largest database of contact center metrics in the world, BenchmarkPortal is a leader in certification, training, consulting and research for the customer contact industry. Its team of professionals has gained international recognition for expertise and innovation in best practices. BenchmarkPortal’s mission is to help management optimize the performance of their center in terms of both costs and quality, encourage customer loyalty and build enterprise value. For more information on BenchmarkPortal please call 1-800-214-8929 or visithttp://www.BenchmarkPortal.com.