No supervisor in any industry - be they in healthcare, food service or sanitation - can do their job effectively without knowing exactly what the employees in their charge are doing throughout the workday and workweek. A study by Trade Unions Congress revealed that nearly half of workers (56%) think that it is likely that they were being monitored at work.
Granted, most employees may still put forth their best efforts even without anyone looking in on their work, but it's not only a question of motivation or effort, since the best intentioned still make mistakes and need guidance. Nor is oversight a matter of standing over an employee and watching their every move, but of "seeing" without being seen.
The same goes for those managing call centers, sales and customer service departments that handle client calls. If you fit into one of these categories, your goal is to ensure that all customer queries and complaints are not only acknowledged but handled quickly and correctly. You also want to make sure that your agents on the phone are courteous, competent, and that they react calmly to adverse situations. What better conditions are there then for knowing how agents typically handle calls than to "observe" them under natural conditions?
The following article will discuss call monitoring techniques and how each can be advantageous for supervisors at any size company.
What is call monitoring and who is it for?
For our purposes herein, the term "call monitoring" refers to any method involving a manager, supervisor, or external consultant listening to a call between an employee and a customer. Today, specific software have been designed with in-built features to facilitate call monitoring in call centers and other business environments. There are multiple methods involved with call monitoring, such as double-listening, whisper mode and call barging, many of which are included in most software designed for call centers.
We've provided below a few specific examples of how this extremely useful tool can be beneficial in different contexts:
a.) Call center supervisors
Call centers, in which agents interact with clients exclusively by phone, require constant managerial oversight. Being a primary point of interaction between the client and your company means that the experience with the call center will largely determine your clientele's image of the company, from greeting to hang-up, and even if they decide to stay with you or leave for a competitor. As a supervisor, you must therefore remain constantly aware of the image your agents are projecting as well as how quickly and thoroughly they're processing calls. This will provide you clear insight into where weaknesses and strengths lie so that training can be provided, and adjustments made as necessary.
Being directly in charge of the agents making and answering calls, you yourself may answer to multiple managers at different levels of the company hierarchy. Your recommendations to the higher-ups may very well determine such company decisions as whether to take on extra seasonal staffing, approve pay raises for the best performing agents, or shed dead weight.
Your recommendations should thus be based on the most complete possible information, which is again where call monitoring comes in. If, for instance, management wants to recruit 1 in 3 call center workers to a program to train new agents, and you've been actively tracking the calls of Todd, Mary and Adam, you can see that Mary has the quickest handling time as well as the highest rating according to post-call client surveys. You can then inform management that she is the best qualified candidate for this opportunity.
b.) Sales & marketing managers
The most obvious benefit of call monitoring for sales managers is to train and provide feedback for new salespeople after a call. Whether your new recruit has been given the freedom to write their own script or is using a standard script provided by a more experienced colleague, as the sales manager, your feedback should include such details as whether the new recruit was thorough and to the point in their explanation of why they were calling as well as in their description of the product or service being pitched.
You can suggest that rather than starting the call, "Good afternoon, I'm Mark, and I'm a sales rep from ABC Industries. Our company has been making/providing service XYZ since 1973…" your new recruit open with, "Hello, I'm Mark with ABC Industries, and if you have a few minutes to spare I'd like to briefly tell you about…" It's important to note too whether the agent qualified the call well (if cold calling), responded well to caller prompts, or attempted to schedule a follow-up call or demo appointment.
If you're monitoring warm calls, meaning that the leads have already been qualified, the calls will generally go smoother and result in more sales and/or appointments made. But just because they are likely to run smoother than cold calls, this doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve the same amount of oversight. Warm call monitoring can be especially useful for marketing managers to assess lead quality and ensure that follow-up is happening correctly so that campaigns can continue to run strong (or get back on track if found to be lagging).
c.) Quality assurance experts
Nothing will provide an outside consultant with a better idea of your day-to-day operations than letting them take part. Even if they’ve never met any of your staff that handles calls, listening to just a few of your calls will help an efficiency expert or other specialist in quality assurance gauge overall customer satisfaction, whether your agents are overwhelmed or not busy enough, whether clients are waiting too long before reaching assistance, and if scripts for certain situations need tweaking during calls - all without the bias of someone who works for your company. If hiring such an expert is intended to save your company precious resources, letting them listen to your agents' calls is one of the best ways to do just that.
d.) Top-tier management
If you work for a large enough company, it's unlikely that the C-Suite has much visibility regarding daily operations, which is why they depend largely on mid-level management to keep them informed. From time to time, however, they may receive a tip that all is not well with a certain department, or they may just want to see for themselves how things are running on-site. If there's a question of allocating funds to certain branches, for instance, they'll need a concrete idea of customer satisfaction and agent workload in order to make their calculations. There's no doubt then that they'll be anxious to hear some of your customer service or sales reps work their magic on the phone.
Read also: 5 essential tools for supervising your team’s calls
Different ways to monitor calls
Double-listening involves listening passively to an employee's phone conversation. It can be used by supervisors and managers to take notes and provide feedback after the call, or to take the temperature of the company's customer service by phone if listening in on multiple calls. Double-listening is greatly enhanced by advanced statistics, available through cloud phone systems such as Ringover's. Advanced statistics allow managers and supervisors to not only be aware of the content of employee conversations, but access such real-time data as who spends the least and most time on calls, who makes and answers the most calls, and exactly how much time each client waits in the queue before getting through to a customer service or sales rep.
Whisper mode allows a supervisor to speak directly to an agent during a phone conversation without their caller hearing. This can be helpful for providing tips and advice to struggling customer service or sales reps, ultimately increasing First Call Resolution and reducing the number of support tickets in your system. It can also save reps time so that they don't have to go hunting down information - all without their caller being any wiser!
c.) Call barging
Sometimes your agent may lose control of a call and provide wrong information, or just not know how to respond to an adversarial client. Call barging allows a supervisor to come to the agent's rescue by intervening directly in the call - possibly saving the sale (or at least the company's image in the caller's eyes) or persuading the client to stay with the company.
d.) Call recording
Call recording comes in handy for retroactive call monitoring. For training purposes, supervisors can have new salespeople listen to veterans' recorded calls to give them a feel for different techniques and teach them how to put forth more convincing arguments. It's also useful for letting customer service reps at any level go back and hear their own calls so that they can analyze areas that need to improve. And of course, for legal and conflict resolution purposes, call recording is invaluable for all parties to know exactly what was said and when, avoiding any "he-said-she-said" complications.
Best practices in call monitoring
a.) Establish quality control standards
…and make sure to do so in advance! This will ensure that supervisors know exactly what customer service parameters they're supposed to be watching out for, and customer service and sales reps will understand their role from first greeting to ticket resolution. If, for instance, management wants every agent to say "Good morning," or "Good afternoon," at the start of each call, and ask, "is there anything else I can assist with today?' before saying goodbye and hanging up, they need to make these expectations clear from the start and monitor calls accordingly. By extension, you'll want to inform callers of call monitoring practices beforehand as a matter of courtesy so that they can opt out if they wish.
b.) Use to build up, not tear down
Remember, first and foremost, that your employees are on your side, so you need to show them you're on theirs. Some of your agents manning the phones will need more help than others, and you have to be ready to provide it without belittling or bashing. Rather than saying, "Wow, Lisa, that was a really terrible call you had this morning. You'd better get it together or start looking for a new job," you can gently ask Lisa to explain what happened during her bad call, and then brainstorm together on how to avoid such incidents in the future.
c.) Keep recordings for future use
With training and coaching in mind, think of keeping an archive with some recordings of your best and worst calls. New recruits and long-term employees alike can benefit from hearing others' personal communication style and response to a variety of encounters, adopting different methods during their own calls.
If your company hasn’t yet adopted systematic call monitoring, there's also a good chance that it hasn't implemented a virtual phone system solution such as Ringover either. In addition to our many multi-faceted features, take advantage of simplified training and remote management, real-time data access, and faster call resolution to up your sales, save time and money, and increase overall client satisfaction.
Ready to set up call monitoring?
Contact our experts to help guide you step-by-step at +44 20 3808 5555 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Start your free trial today.