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November 1998

Voice/Screen-Capture System Boosts Call Center Quality And Productivity


Quality monitoring is not a new concept to call centers. While the call center has emerged as a core business function, the proven means for effectively training agents has been to listen to calls and to provide feedback for improved performance. What has varied significantly over the years is the method. Through the '80s and '90s "silent observation" methods were in vogue. With silent observation, the supervisor listens in on live calls and evaluates the agent's performance by scratching notes on a hard-copy survey. Various means of recording conversations using simple analog tape recorders connected to the agent's telephone extension have also been popular, although this method resulted in miles of tapes that provided no hint as to where the start and the end of a completed call would be found.

Fortunately, we now have digital computer-telephony integrated (CTI) recording solutions that automate the process of gathering call samples and enable us to quickly retrieve those calls for review. We can grade the agent's performance using online evaluation tools that are integrated with reports that give us hard numbers about the service quality.

Today, we can even broaden the evaluation criteria by capturing the agent's on-screen computer activity and synchronize it with the voice during playback. Automated quality measurement has not only helped to significantly speed up the monitoring process itself, it has also enabled us to provide more timely, consistent and objective feedback to agents. The results are an "educated" and efficient workforce of agents who provide better customer service and enjoy greater job satisfaction.

One call center that has taken the concept of automated quality measurement to task is the Electric Insurance Company (EIC) of Boston.

EIC is a direct writer of auto, home and boat insurance. Doing business in 47 states, EIC has annual written premiums of more than $250 million. The company's Boston call center has 150 agents who provide insurance and related services over the phone. The call center operates from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday to Friday and receives approximately 40,000 incoming calls per month - half are for customer service and the other half are divided between new business and claims. With its core business activities taking place in the call center, EIC required an effective means of evaluating its customer/agent interactions.

What EIC found and has now fully implemented is a call center quality-measurement solution that uses CTI technology to capture agents' voice and computer screen activity for performance evaluation.

Business Issues And Challenges
Previously, Electric Insurance had taped calls via cassette recorder using a manual scheduling system. "The drawbacks to this method were the amount of time and the labor-intensity involved, and the inconsistency of evaluation," said Suzanne Wilson, manager of Training and Quality. Agents were generally aware when they were being recorded, and behaved accordingly. Calls were difficult to locate; samples were often cluttered with unwanted, unnecessary calls; taped calls were difficult to manage and categorize; and call scoring was paper-based, inconsistent and difficult to summarize at a high level.

"We really wanted to get out of the 'tape' business," Wilson said. EIC then determined a number of core requirements for a future call monitoring and quality-measurement system. These included: use of the company's existing telephone infrastructure, an automated scheduler, the ability to screen out unwanted calls and online access to calls. Andrea Rowe of TeLog Corp. (New York, NY) recommended to EIC the use of an integrated voice and screen capture system to recreate the "entire agent experience" for comprehensive performance evaluation.

"The idea of capturing voice and screen made so much sense," Wilson said. "While our agents may sound fantastic on the phone, they may not fully understand our computer system, or we could identify a better means of designing it."

The Solution
The system EIC chose is a computer-telephony integrated (CTI) quality-measurement solution that automates voice and screen capture and provides tools for objectively evaluating agent performance levels. By interfacing with EIC's telephone switch, the quality-measurement system concurrently records a representative number of agents' voices and screen sessions, and stores them as highly compressed digital files on network PCs. The CTI capabilities of the system enable scheduled recording of agent calls, even in EIC's free-seating environment. Recordings at EIC are scheduled by agents or groups, and by time. Reviewers can immediately retrieve calls and screen sessions using similar criteria, or use CTI criteria such as dialed number identification service (DNIS).

According to Wilson, EIC identified a number of immediate benefits in their new-found solution and expects its quality-measurement system to fully return EIC's investment within the first 18 months of implementation.

  • Productivity - EIC has seen an efficiency factor of three times for supervisors' evaluations of calls. The system eliminates incomplete calls from its sampling and enables EIC to consistently score an even number of calls per agent, with a higher frequency of monitoring for new hires. "With the new system's automated scheduler in place, there is no monitoring overhead. We can capture screen or audio or both without babysitting the system," Wilson said. "Our supervisors love the multimedia aspects of the system. They are listening to the voice, watching the agents' computer screens and grading the performance levels - all at the same time."
  • Quality - The automated monitoring system has provided EIC a fair and objective mechanism for evaluating call center performance levels. "Supervisors run reports to evaluate an agent's performance level against that of his or her peers," said Wilson. "We also run reports to compare supervisors' scoring to ensure everyone is evaluated fairly. We are using the system as a tracking mechanism for our Quality Award Program."
  • Training - "The new system has allowed us to create a database of model calls for training - both good calls and bad calls," said Wilson. "We are also able to quickly identify training requirements for individuals and for the call center in general. The system is to become a cornerstone for self-guided training and refresher courses for experienced agents."
  • Screen Capture - "By recreating the entire agent session, the monitoring system helps us evaluate the agents' use of the computer system and to determine a better means of designing computer applications," Wilson said. "The screen capture application runs undetected by the agent and places minimal activity on the LAN. The playback of both voice and screen is perfectly synchronized. The system is so stable, we've simply put it in place and completely forgotten about it."

Electric Insurance Company is an organization that has made automated quality measurement a core component of its call center operations. By doing so, it is ensuring the highest possible returns on the most valuable assets of the company - its employees.

Garry Shearer is director, Product Marketing of NICE Systems. NICE is a leading global provider of CTI logging and quality-measurement solutions for call centers.


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