Call center agents need help, and customers deserve the best experience possible.
What ties these two together? Call center monitoring. It’s one of those things that needs to happen but is rarely done well.
Want a bona fide method to measure how well you’re meeting customer expectations?
Read on for detailed tips to solidify your call center monitoring processes and improve the customer experience.
What Is Call Center Monitoring?
Call center monitoring is the process of listening to calls in real time or once completed for the purpose of agent training and customer service improvement.
Depending on the scenario or business goal, your monitoring may be selective or random.
For example, you can choose certain calls by agent, team, or type to gauge performance and create a benchmark.
You can also randomize the calls you monitor to remove the possibility of bias. When a computer or algorithm chooses which calls get monitored, no prior history or personal feelings are involved.
In call center operations, monitoring plays a crucial role. It’s not just to ensure agents are following a script or plugging your latest product. It’s also about making sure everyone is providing value to your customers.
When you provide value-enhancing interactions, there’s an 82% probability that your customer will remain loyal when presented with an opportunity to switch. Monitoring a selection of calls is one of the easiest and most effective ways to ensure your agents consistently add value.
You can monitor calls in both an on-premises and virtual call center setup. There aren’t any restrictions stopping you from putting call center monitoring in place right now. You just need the right technology.
You may come across several different types of call center monitoring:
- Live call monitoring: During calls, agents (or software) may flag they need help.
- Post-call monitoring: If there’s been a bad call, you can check on it instantly.
- Call center quality assurance monitoring: A formal process to ensure calls meet the expected standard across the board.
In all these scenarios, you will come across different types of calls. The right solution needs to be capable of monitoring all of them.
Types of Calls Monitored
You can monitor calls when a customer calls into your call center.
Inbound call centers include many types of calls:
- Customer assistance: Keep track of how well staff perform with first-line queries.
- Technical support: Record complex troubleshooting to help create better scripts.
- Billing questions: Keep an eye out for recurring issues and find the root cause.
- Order statuses: Find out why customers aren’t using self-service options.
- Complaints: Check if issues could have been solved before they escalate them.
You can also monitor calls when you make an outbound call. A best practice here is to make sure the person on the other end of the call knows they’re being recorded.
Call centers often play messages or ask agents to state, “This call is recorded for monitoring and training.”
Types of outbound calls include:
- Sales promotions: Find out what messaging is working for outbound campaigns.
- Surveys: Measure how effective your research is.
- Appointment reminders: Gauge if agents are stressing the importance of meeting appointments.
- Debt collection: Ensure payments are taken in a PCI-compliant manner.
- Follow-ups: Make sure agents provide all the details customers need so they won’t have to call back.
Yes, even internal company calls can be monitored.
Types of internal calls include:
- Agent training: ensure supervisors are providing quality advice to agents.
- Team meetings: review structure and content on a regular basis.
- Quality management: ensure agents are adhering to quality standards using a formal plan.
- IT support: Check for security verification and test against social engineering attacks.
You may have niche calls where recording and monitoring are of particularly high value. Not recording and monitoring them might have a costly negative impact.
Specialized calls include:
- High-value customer interactions: Formalize verbal agreements for sales contracts.
- Dispute resolutions: Capture a unique skill that junior agents can learn from.
- Crisis/emergency scenarios: Identify vital factors for learning and development.
Randomly selected calls
Using a call center monitoring program, you can randomly select calls to monitor. This ensures unbiased quality assurance.
Sometimes, you might find yourself reviewing calls from the same agent repeatedly. This could be because you’ve witnessed one bad interaction and think they need more monitoring than their peers.
That might be the case. Sometimes, targeted call center monitoring is the right choice.
Best practice dictates you use random calls for “regular” monitoring alongside flagging certain agents or departments for dedicated monitoring. For example, if one month there is a high number of complaints about technical support, focused monitoring is a good idea.
Choose to have monitoring systems highlight phone calls based on criteria like duration, tone, or keywords. This is useful to remove the need for constantly looking over the shoulder of agents.
Instead of assuming a team needs constant monitoring, rely on automated call center technology. It can identify long calls, repeat callers, or curse words in your office.
Call Center Monitoring Best Practices
If you’re new to call center monitoring or haven’t done it in a while, remember these tips.
Set clear objectives
As the old adage goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. The same is true for setting objectives at the start of a call center monitoring program.
If you fail to set clear objectives, you waste time listening to calls without a good reason.
Objectives must be:
- Clear: There is no doubt why you’re monitoring calls.
- Measurable: You have a set number of calls (and metrics to deem them good/bad).
- Aligned to business goals: You’re working in line with other business units to better a specific target.
One example of a clear objective for starting call center monitoring is a conscious effort to improve Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Suppose you want to improve the likelihood of customers recommending your service. In that case, you must ensure agents are performing at the level you expect, using the latest scripts, and dealing with objections in a friendly and helpful manner.
Conduct regular training
If all you do is monitor agents, how can you expect them to improve?
Continuous training for agents (and supervisors) is vital to the success of your call center. Therefore, the output of your monitoring must become the input of your training sessions.
When you monitor the right combination of calls, you start identifying training needs. From here, you can plan a call center strategy backed by information gathered in real customer calls.
One example is when no one is using the new troubleshooting script. In this scenario, flag it and explain to agents why there’s a new script.
It might be the case that they need more practice and don’t yet feel confident. Use these training sessions as rehearsals for real-world scenarios.
Create a customer feedback loop
Continuous training is most effective when you receive constructive feedback. And there’s no better place to find genuine feedback than your customers.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
Bill Gates, Microsoft.
Call centers can create a feedback loop by implementing post-call surveys and using online customer survey software.
When you get feedback, listen to recorded calls to verify complaints and suggestions.
Once given the green light, solving these problems must feed into your training programs.
Use the right platform
When you’re busy managing a call center, it’s hard to work out which calls to monitor, which to prioritize, and who needs the most training.
Selecting the right software pays dividends in terms of productivity, bias removal, and consistency.
You need a monitoring platform that does several things:
- Integrates with your call center software
- Provides a holistic view of your call center performance
- Drills down into low-level analytics
Only when you’ve got the right platform will you see the benefits of call center monitoring.
Develop reporting templates
Ideally, your call center platform will include out-of-the-box reporting templates. You can take these and run with them or make them your own through customization.
If you do create your own, make sure you include all types of calls, agents, and scenarios. What you’re aiming for here is uniformity and removal of bias.
Every reporting template must be based on data and facts rather than personal opinions and external influences.
Consider including the following criteria in your reporting templates:
- Completes identity and verification
- Follows script
- Is polite and courteous
- Practices active listening
- Provides a viable solution
- Asks if they can help further
Uphold consumer privacy
In every scenario mentioned, the privacy of your customers’ information is paramount.
Announcing that calls may be recorded for monitoring and training purposes is a simple and effective method to ensure customers know what’s happening.
Customers may, however, request that calls are not recorded. In these cases, ensure your call center solution can accommodate this.
You may also be subject to legal considerations. If your company has to follow any of these rules, ask your call center software provider for advice before starting monitoring:
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): health information must be protected by access and audit controls.
- Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance: payments must be taken without the caller reading out card numbers.
- California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): you must gain consent from customers before retaining their details.
Call Center Monitoring KPIs You Should Measure
When you’re thinking about implementing call center monitoring, the conversation shouldn’t just be about what you’re monitoring; why you’re doing it is equally important.
Your reasons for monitoring should be adjacent to the key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics you set as a business unit.
Here are some of the most effective call center metrics you could be tracking.
Customer satisfaction scores
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is a metric used by customer service functions to gauge how happy their customers are.
You measure CSAT by conducting a customer satisfaction survey. When you’ve implemented training off the back of your monitoring efforts, you should aim to see a higher CSAT score than previous efforts.
As your score increases, keep doing more of what works when it comes to monitoring and customer feedback loops.
If your score dips, it’s a sign to rethink the content and/or structure of your agent training.
First-call resolution rates
First-call resolution (FCR) is when you solve a customer’s problem the first time they contact your company.
By calculating the number (or percentage) of client problems solved in one call, your company can better measure the success of its documentation, materials, product design, and call center staff.
To calculate FCR, take the total number of reported issues resolved on a first call, divide that by the total number of calls, and then multiply by 100.
A solid contact center benchmark for FCR is 70%–75%. But this will vary from industry to industry.
Agent feedback scoring
This is the process of asking customers to score the most recent transaction they had with an agent.
Differing from NPS, this is asking for a score for a specific agent rather than a query about the customer’s overall experience.
For example, Mohammed might have done everything in his power to solve the problem but was let down by technology.
This client might score Mohammed a 10 but still be disappointed they didn’t get a resolution immediately.
Average handle time
Average handle time (AHT) is the amount of time it takes to help a customer in a call center.
This includes talk, hold, and follow-up time divided by the total number of calls.
Let’s say you had 10 phone calls for the day and spent 50 minutes talking, five minutes on hold, and five minutes adding notes in your CRM.
Your average handle time formula would work out like this:
[50 mins + 5 mins + 5 mins] / 10 calls = 6 minutes AHT
Once you’ve calculated your AHT, you can use the figure to optimize staffing. You can forecast the headcount you’ll need if you know the average amount of time to help each customer.
Once you’ve calculated your call volume and AHT, you can enter these figures into an Erlang calculator.
Agent occupancy rate
Agency occupancy rate measures the time call center agents spend engaging customers on live calls and doing admin tasks related to those calls.
You measure the agent occupancy rate by using this formula:
(Total Contact Handling Time ÷ Total Logged Time) × 100%
It’s important to balance occupancy rate with agent well-being. It’s no good asking agents to do more if they’re constantly blocked by internal workflow and stress. It’s your role as a contact center leader to enable their success.
Low occupancy rates may be due to:
- Longer breaks
- Poor agent work habits
- Duties unrelated to calls
- Frequent meetings/events/training sessions
Here, we’re talking about agent productivity, agent activity levels, and call quality standards.
You don’t want your agents to be simply going through the motions while waiting for the workday to end.
A productive and motivated agent is more likely to have a high occupancy rate. Most importantly, they’re more likely to stay at your company and provide high quality of customer service.
How Can Call Center Managers Improve Team Performance?
When you start monitoring calls, you open the door to continuous team improvement.
Here are several strategies you can use to enhance performance.
Regular coaching sessions
Both one-to-one and group training sessions are important for continuous improvement in your call center.
Group sessions offer a broader spectrum of learning, like product updates and tweaks to regulations.
One-to-one coaching is a more personal type of coaching. It helps uncover the reasons behind problems or agent struggles, like with new scripts or processes.
In these one-to-one scenarios, make sure you take advantage of monitoring data to identify when things go wrong and reoccurring issues.
Team meetings and calibrations
When teams get together, you have a unique opportunity to share common challenges and best practices you’ve learned. One method that works well is team calibration.
Team calibration is a great way to drive alignment and consistency in interpreting customer interactions with call center agents. Why? It helps align expectations and the thought processes that go into monitoring calls.
It might be how one specific customer reacts to an upsell opportunity or constant pushback on opting into a feedback survey. Document a customer experience — such as a new sales or negative review — and work backward to analyze past engagements.
You can also use these sessions to gauge who will make good matches for peer-to-peer learning. By pairing agents with similar (or different) personalities, you can vary the types of learning new agents receive.
Incentivize the right behaviors
In many call center environments, gamification is a great way to motivate agents.
By rewarding top performers, you create a sense of competition and spur agents to outperform their peers.
Be aware that some people aren’t motivated in this way, though.
Outside of league tables for most sales and the highest numbers of tickets closed, think about recognition and rewards for things like improvement, contributions to other areas of the business, work rate, and community-based achievements.
Open communication channels
For an agent, there’s nothing worse than not knowing what to do. If your call center culture is to keep everything back until your annual review, open up communication channels to make yourself more reachable for agents.
Start by scheduling regular one-to-one check-ins between agents, supervisors, and managers.
When agents (and managerial staff) know there’s a safe space at a set time, they can prepare questions and concerns and learn before they make a mistake.
The alternative is to bottle up all emotions and take it out on customers.
Top 5 Call Center Monitoring Solutions
1) Nextiva Call Center
Nextiva provides call center technology for small and medium-sized businesses looking for a quick setup and instant results.
The core technology comes with omnichannel functionality like inbound routing, web chat, email, and social media so you can service customers through any channel.
When you use Nextiva’s call center monitoring, you can access real-time and after-the-fact monitoring. This includes features like call recording, enabling you to listen to all recorded calls online.
Here, you can grade and analyze how your agents are performing, either by selecting calls or choosing to randomize the process.
In-call supervisor features like barge-in allow you to coach agents on the fly. For example, if there’s a difficult call in progress, you can join the call and let the agent know what to say without the caller hearing you.
If the call escalates and you feel you need to take over, the barge-in feature allows you to announce yourself and join or take over.
All Nextiva technology is compliant with regulations like HIPAA, PCI, and CCPA. This means you can get set up straight away without the need for security audits.
Nextiva also provides a cloud phone system option. This means you can use one unified solution to record and monitor both internal and external calls.
The biggest advantage of Nextiva is having everything in-house. Call centers have long desired the “single pane of glass” approach.
When you choose Nextiva, you choose uniformity across the business alongside a feature-rich and easy-to-use interface.
Get Started: Check out Nextiva’s Call Center Solutions here
2) Five9 Contact Center
Five9 is a contact center provider with a major focus on practical artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.
If removing manual processes and spending more time on human value-adds are top of your agenda, Five9 introduces functionality like 24/7 self-service bot support and predictive analytics.
Alongside its core AI-powered customer experience platform, Five9 includes monitoring features like call center quality monitoring and quality management.
You can monitor real-time calls as well as recordings. When you’re listening to a specific agent, the software highlights agents being monitored with color codes.
Besides recording phone calls, Five9 allows you to record agent’s screens. This enables you to see what they’re doing as well as hear how calls are going.
For example, if agents are experiencing a high average call time, it might be because they don’t know where support materials are stored or are struggling with navigating their call center software.
The major advantage of Five9 is combining its monitoring features with powerful AI. If you’re inclined to use AI for call center operations, Five9 is a great option.
Did You Know? Nextiva Fully Integrates With Five9
Enthu.ai is a standalone quality automation platform for sales teams. Unlike Nextiva and Five9, there is no built-in contact center solution.
Instead, Enthu.ai uses AI to capture calls, voicemails, webchats, and video messages and to automatically grade their quality.
By capturing keywords, the AI is looking for opportunities for agents to upsell when a new product is available. It’s also searching for the moment you could’ve put out the fire and prevented the issue from dragging on.
Key features include graphs and charts that show how often you can upsell, cross-sell, and renew.
You can use this data to power your next sales training session, inform sales materials, and feed into product management teams.
The major advantage of Enthu.ai is you don’t have to do any of the work. Once you’ve set up Enthu.ai with your dialer or CRM, AI works in the background and produces an output for you to take action.
Gong is a call recording platform for sales teams. Self-titled as a “revenue intelligence platform,” Gong aims to take the information in your conversations and turn it into insights about different stages of the sales cycle.
Inside the call recording tab, you can set filters and triggers for competitor mentions, alarming words like cancel, and opportunities missed to seal the deal.
You also get deal heath scores per account based on the recorded conversations it’s tracking in the platform.
You can also integrate the recording platform into other channels like email and voicemail. Wherever there’s an opportunity to push a deal further down the funnel, Gong is hunting for it.
The major advantage of Gong is the focus on sales. Everything inside Gong is focused on turning a conversation into revenue or a learning experience.
Insightful is a workforce analytics program designed to keep teams productive. Insightful tracks activities like active time, break time, idle time, and manual time to provide data on how much (or how little) your staff is working.
This activity time extends to tracking which apps are in use so you can see where staff spend their time.
When this data gets captured, it provides a productivity score. You can then see comparisons of how productive/unproductive certain team members or departments are.
Key features of Insightful include time and attendance reporting, operational efficiency analysis, and technology usage reports. You get a holistic and easy-to-understand view with the option of drilling down to a lower level.
If tracking internal employee productivity and usage is your goal, Insightful does a great job.
As you can probably tell, there’s a lot of software and features out there. When selecting your call center monitoring software, look out for these core features.
Core Monitoring Features Needed in a Call Center Platform
⚡️ Real-time monitoring tools
The ability to monitor phone calls while they’re happening is a must for any call center.
Call center tools like Nextiva allow you to immediately intervene if the situation calls for it.
Supervisors can judge if an angry customer needs help during a call. They can listen in when customers won’t accept being put on hold.
It might be the case that you use the barge-in feature and join the call. Alternatively, you can use the call whisper feature to speak to the agent only and coach them through the call.
If you use a team chat app, agents and supervisors can exchange messages here too. If agents feel uncomfortable being spoken to by supervisors at the same time as handling a customer, this is a great middle ground.
📼 Call Recording and Playback
Creating a bank of calls means you have an inventory of calls to create new scripts and showcase examples of customer interactions.
For one-to-one reviews or wider training programs, reference your agents’ best calls as an example of what great calls look like.
Thinking about quality assurance, you have all calls stored, so you can work backward and find the root cause of major or common issues.
Call recording is the bread and butter of call center monitoring software. The insights you gain are an invaluable source of training material.
🎛️ Analytics and reporting
What gets measured gets managed.
Yes, it’s a little cliche. But it’s 100% true when it comes to call center operations.
With data-driven insights, your teams can spot trends and make informed decisions instead of guessing.
If there’s a major disruption to your business’ product and you’re flooded with unexpected calls, reporting on how agents handle high call volume can provide great insight for future planning.
With performance metrics like average talk time, average handle time, and first call resolution providing key insights into your business, having them front and center is a must.
Phat Scooters, for example, needed visibility into how their calls were performing. It needed a system to record calls and help the support team maintain conversation quality as the business grew.
After choosing Nextiva to support its customer experience, Phat Scooters is now maintaining quality via advanced call recording and analytics.
The ability to replay past calls helps them uphold their legendary customer service.
👀 Agent performance dashboards
With access to real-time data, you can see how agents are performing at any given moment.
In the screenshot below, see how Mark has answered 59 calls this month with a total duration of over seven hours. In comparison, Carol has taken fewer calls but has a higher total duration.
An at-a-glance view like this shows a clear discrepancy between the two agents. From here, you can explore further what the root cause is and bring them back to parity.
Armed with this data, you can provide personalized feedback into your performance-tracking program.
If Carol takes too long to wrap up, she may need conversational training. If Mark is too abrupt, practicing active listening and more patient customer handling may be the key.
🗣️ Speech analytics
When you can analyze agent-to-customer conversations, you get a view of how both parties are feeling.
The use of expletives or emotional language during a call is a sign that there is a problem. Likewise, lots of pauses and filler words mean that the agent is struggling to get to the crux of the matter.
If the same words, tones of voice, or irritations keep occurring, you can flag these as areas of improvement and feed them into training schedules.
Speech analytics software does the hard work for you here. Automated programs now detect signs of agitation in the office so you don’t have to.
🔒 Secure data retention
In some cases, due to legal obligations, you may be unable to keep call recordings over a certain period.
Making sure your call center monitoring software allows for time-based storage and secure removal is one of the most important factors when considering monitoring and recording software.
In certain financial institutions, for example, customer data can’t be stored in the cloud. To fulfill this requirement, make sure you can export recorded calls for long-term storage.
🔑 Permissions and access control
Not everyone needs access to agent monitoring and recordings. The standard practice is to empower managers and supervisors.
In some cases, contractual commitments or industry regulations may state that only a certain number of people can access recordings. If this is the case, ensure role-based access or individual access can be configured for your recording software.
You must also think about staggered access for certain features. For example, a senior agent can be more productive if they have access to their team’s call recordings.
By empowering someone at this level, you remove the need for escalation and help achieve first-call resolution more often.
🔀 Omnichannel monitoring
If you run an omnichannel contact center, you’d be right to want to monitor other interactions like web chat, email, and social media.
To ensure a consistent customer experience, make sure your monitoring software caters to all channels you offer as a means of contact.
Like how you can check for certain words, phrases, and emotions in calls, some monitoring software scans web chats, emails, and social media messages too.
If you have a lot of interactions from these channels, ask your prospective provider about omnichannel reporting.
Monitoring Is a Gamechanger for Your Call Center
When considering call center monitoring, you must align the need with your business objectives.
Be it improving CSAT, FCR, or another important KPI, make sure they go hand in hand.
You will need the help of specific monitoring software, and there are some must-have features to look out for, including recording, reporting, analytics, and access control.
Ultimately, your monitoring goals should aim to improve team performance. This, in turn, will improve the customer experience.
When agents are happy, empowered, and have access to the tools and training they need, your call center comes together like a well-oiled machine.
Your next step is choosing a monitoring provider to take your call center to the next level.
Nextiva provides a complete contact center solution with built-in monitoring and recording and delivers a super customer experience.