Voice/Screen-Capture System Boosts Call Center Quality
BY GARRY SHEARER, NICE SYSTEMS
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
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
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
"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 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
- 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.