NAEO Newslinks-July08
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July 2008

Save the Date!
2009 NAEO Conference

March 1-4, 2009
Cancun, Mexico

For more details,
click here.




Betty Bouchie

From the Editor:
Here comes the sun, there goes the staff!
by Betty Bouchie

I love this time of year. The sun is up before I am and it is still light when I go to bed. On work days, that is. Kids are out of school, vacations are starting and all of the sudden – what happened to all of the staff who were anxious to work? Summer brings a number of pleasures, as well as a number of challenges to the workplace. Staff take well-deserved and much-enjoyed time off to unwind, recharge and savor all the reasons they work in the first place. Employers struggle to replace staff, even temporarily.

Look for a few ideas for summer staffing in the article A Practical Guide to Seasonal Call Center Staffing. If staffing is not an issue for you, enjoy some of the other interesting reading in our "lite” July issue of Newslinks.

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Be Inspired

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is."
~ Yogi Berra, Major League Baseball Player & Manager

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Something to Smile About...

You have to be old enough to remember Abbott and Costello, and too old to really understand computers, to fully appreciate this. For those of us who sometimes get flustered by our computers, please read on...

If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their infamous sketch, 'Who's on First?' might have turned out something like this:

Costello calls to buy a computer from Abbott.

  • ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
  • COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.
  • ABBOTT: Mac?
  • COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.
  • ABBOTT: Your computer?
  • COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.
  • ABBOTT: Mac?
  • COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.
  • ABBOTT: What about Windows?
  • COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?
  • ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?
  • COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?
  • ABBOTT: Wallpaper.
  • COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.
  • ABBOTT: Software for Windows?
  • COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?
  • ABBOTT: Office.
  • COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?
  • ABBOTT: I just did.
  • COSTELLO: You just did what?
  • ABBOTT: Recommend something.
  • COSTELLO: You recommended something?
  • ABBOTT: Yes.
  • COSTELLO: For my office?
  • ABBOTT: Yes.
  • COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?
  • ABBOTT: Office.
  • COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!
  • ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.
  • COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?
  • ABBOTT: Word.
  • COSTELLO: What word?
  • ABBOTT: Word in Office.
  • COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.
  • ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.
  • COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?
  • ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue 'W'.
  • COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue 'W' if you don't start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?
  • ABBOTT: Money.
  • COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?
  • ABBOTT: Money.
  • COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?
  • ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.
  • COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?
  • ABBOTT: Money.
  • COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?
  • ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.
  • COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?
  • ABBOTT: One copy.
  • COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?
  • ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.
  • COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?
  • ABBOTT: Why not? They own it!

A few days later...

  • ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
  • COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?
  • ABBOTT: Click on START

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IS Tip of the Month
Pulling a Special Into a script
by Tonie Corbin, Time Communications

Tree View

  1. Put a display box in the screen you wish to use to show the special.
  2. Create an advanced expression in the display box, and open the ACD Fields.
  3. Put the _acdClientSpecial_ in this box.

  1. If you only want the display box to appear if there is a special, create screen modes.
  2. The first screen mode can be used if there is a special in the account, and the second is to be used if there is no special in the account.



  3. In the load of the screen, create an If Branch with an advanced expression that indicates that the condition is IF the _acdClientSpecial_ field is empty.
  4. Set the actions up so that if the condition is true (the Special field is empty) then the screen mode used for No Special is used. If the condition is false (the Special field is NOT empty) then the screen mode used for showing the special is used.

(In this example, the checkbox added under the special is required so that the CSR has to check the box indicating they have read the special.)

Screen View

  1. Put a display box in the screen you wish to use to show the special.
  2. Create an advanced expression in the display box, and open the ACD Fields.
  3. Put the _acdClientSpecial_ in this box.



  4. If you only want the display to show the display field when there is a special in the account, create a screen mode by going to the properties of the screen and going to the modes tab.
  5. The first screen mode can be used if there is a special in the account, and the second is to be used if there is no special in the account.



  6. In the load of the screen, create an If Branch with an advanced expression that indicates that the condition is IF the _acdClientSpecial_ field is empty.
  7. Set the actions up so that if the condition is true (the Special field is empty) then the screen mode used for No Special is used. If the condition is false (the Special field is NOT empty) then the screen mode used for showing the special is used.

(In this example, the checkbox added under the special is required so that the CSR has to check the box indicating they have read the special.)

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Jonathan Pierce

Member Spotlight:
Jonathan Pierce, Prestige Medical Answering Service

Q: Could you tell us how and when your business began?
A: My mom started the business 27 years ago.

Q: What are your most common accounts?
A: We were mainly medical and our base accounts are still medical; however, we have a well rounded group of accounts now.

Q: When did you start using Amtelco equipment and why?
A: Four years ago this past April, we cut to Infinity and have never looked back. There are people who God brings into someone’s life to help mentor them. Gary Kerner has absolutely been one of those for me. Gary did not just sell me and my family Infinity, he was there for me before, during and well after the sale. Without his influence I am not sure we would be the same. I am so thankful God used Gary to introduce me to Amtelco.

Q: When did you join NAEO and why?
A: I think it was Charleston. I was not even going and Ms. Socialite herself, our great friend Maryann Wetmore, who by the way has been a very dear friend to me every since I met her, encouraged me to go. Maryann told me one time she would not steer me wrong when it comes to spending my money and she has not. I am just glad she explained that to mom as well! Maryann called me and talked me into going and our business has never been the same. Not only did I make a lot of new contacts – I met some folks that I have come to dearly admire and learn from, on a weekly basis. After that Charleston meeting I began to meet with three unique individuals, who I am very proud to call my friends. We all installed within the same time frame, so we started meeting every quarter or so to talk about Infinity and what we have learned to do with it, at that point. I was the only one who had never used a digital switch before, because we were paper-based. I thought this was a great opportunity because I would learn so much from this very talented group of people, in a one-on-one environment. Little did I know how much I would be able to give to the group and that we still meet. Robin Bailey, Marvin Cooper, and Randy Ripkey have become three of my closest friends in life and I hope every one finds a group like ours.

Q: When did you begin in the business?
A: Six years ago; however, I have been around it most of my life.

Q: Tell us a little personal information about you, your family and your hobbies or interests.
A: Well, I am a single father of two. For the most part my kids have been my life. That was until about six years ago. My son just graduated last month and my daughter will next May. I am very proud of my children and love them very much. It is really neat at this point, getting to know them as young adults and seeing the beginning of who they are becoming, if you know what I mean.

I love to watch football, golf, hang out with the kids, and most recently SCUBA Diving. However, I have always wanted to sky dive, so I plan to try that soon.

Q: What is one thing about you or your business that is different or unique?
A: I am not really sure about that sometimes! A lot of times I think for the most part we are like most other answering services because we perform basically the same type of functions. We have the same challenges and goals as most other services. And we look like a lot of other services. However, I think what makes us different is our dedication to excellence. We have so far to go but we are constantly on the move toward it. I am big on training and developing individuals. To be honest, I know I do not do a very good job at it most of the time. However, I want to help others gain knowledge, not only to help Prestige become better, but to make the employees better people. I try to give our team opportunities to grow and learn skills that can be of benefit to them no matter where they are in life.

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How YOU Influence Your Interaction with Customers
by Nancy Friedman, President, Telephone Doctor

If you work with customers on the phone or face to face, are you aware that you have the ability to influence the outcome of that transaction? You are. You can. And you should!

The outcome of every transaction and interaction with a customer can be controlled. Below are six steps or, shall we say, techniques and practices that will help everyone working with customers provide a positive and effective message to your customer. And let’s face it, with your co-workers as well. And as long as we’re adding, let’s include our own personal lives.

The Telephone Doctor’s new DVD program, Influencing the Interaction, covers six practices that will help anyone working with customers. Let’s go over each step, one by one.

  1. Influence by Your Mood - There is a big difference between a mood and an attitude. A mood is usually temporary and an attitude is normally permanent. It is possible to be in a bad mood, but have a great attitude. The biggest thing going is the person with the good attitude will usually get out of the bad mood quicker. So if you came into work today in a "bad" mood, the quicker you get out of it the more control you’ll have on the interaction. Your mood will affect the person you’re working with – on the phone or in person. Customers tend to take on the mood of the person they work with or talk with on the phone. So when you’re working, get out of any bad mood quickly.

  2. Influence by Your Confidence - Let’s face it. Most people enjoy working and talking with folks who are confident. Don’t you? Confidence about their product, their services and about themselves. One of the most effective ways to influence with confidence is to know your job and know your product. Know what you’re talking about. And believe me, you may not think so, but the customer normally can tell when you’re bluffing. So learn about your job, your products and think positively about yourself to create the confidence in yourself.

    Confidence is also needed when you’re confirming something to a customer. Don’t you feel better when the waiter in the restaurant confirms what you ordered? You feel confident he’ll get the order right. Same thing on the phone or face to face. Confirm items, or whatever it is you’re working with, to the customer. Especially on phone messages. The other day I left a message for someone and all I heard as confirmation was, "OK.” I would have really liked the person I spoke with to repeat what I had said. By doing that, she could have influenced the conversation by her confidence and my confidence that she got the message right.

  3. Influence with Patience - Customers come in all sizes, shapes, and especially cultures and ages. Losing your patience with anyone will only hurt the transaction. You need to learn to be patient and go with the flow. Rushing customers along is a great way to lose a customer. People want to be heard, to be understood. If they feel you’ve lost your patience with them, they’ll just go somewhere else. And that’s not helping the situation.

  4. Influence with Features and Benefits - I’m amazed at how many people aren’t aware of the difference between the two. There seems to be a lot of confusion. So in line with Telephone Doctor training we’ll make it easy for you to influence with features and benefits. What’s the difference between the two? Well, features come first. They’re the fun part of the product or service. Then we need to transfer the feature and make it into a benefit. Like this: "This new watch never needs a battery.” That’s the fun part – what means a lot to the company. But ah ha; who cares? So what? Now, if we can transfer that feature and make it into a benefit, then we’re influencing the transaction. So we would say, "And what that means to you, Mr. Customer, is you’ll never ever need to buy a battery for this watch.” That’s the benefit. And it’s usually the benefit that makes the customer want something. It’s a great influence. If you’re just listing off a laundry list of ‘things,’ that’s just what it is; a list of things. You need to make each item transfer over to what it means to them.

  5. Influence by Building a Relationship - This is a good practice, yet so seldom done. Most folks who are on the phones a lot taking calls from customers are not interested in building any relationship. "Heck,” they think, "I’ll probably never talk with this person again.” So they answer the questions, nicely of course, but there’s no attempt to build a relationship for any future business. Any and every transaction and interaction can be better served with some rapport building, ie., friendly conversation. What’s sad is that building relationships and learning to build rapport is not taught in our schools today, and normally not taught in corporations either. Some folks think that asking, "How’s the weather?” is rapport building. Well, yeah, it is, but on the very low side of the scale. Influencing by building a relationship, whether you’ll be talking with someone once or many times, is going to influence the transaction tenfold. You want that customer to walk away or end the conversation thinking "that was great.” "He/she was sooooo nice!” Most people will enjoy your attempt to influence by building a relationship.

  6. Influence with Your Complete Attention - One of the biggest complaints I hear from our customers at Telephone Doctor is when they call someplace or walk into a store or restaurant, the employees really don’t pay attention to them. They’re usually talking with another employee or doing something trivial like straightening something up. They feel as though the employees don’t care. So when you’re talking with someone, you need to give your undivided and complete attention to that conversation; no matter what’s happening around you. Stay focused and if you’re talking in person face to face, keep that eye contact going. Swivel heads aren’t appreciated. And on the phone, while making eye contact just isn’t possible, you can still stay focused by tuning things around you out. Asking someone to repeat him or herself because you were listening to someone in another cubicle isn’t giving your complete attention. Give your customer your complete attention when you’re talking with them. Everything else will wait!

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Board of Directors Meeting
by Cori Bartlett, NAEO VP/ President-Elect

It all began on a beautiful Spring day in Madison, Wisconsin…

It was Monday, April 28, 2009. I was on my way to Madison, WI for our second NAEO Board of Directors meeting of the year. While packing the previous evening, I briefly considered checking the weather forecast for Madison, but then thought to myself, "It’s almost May. It will be warm.” Having not packed a single sweater, I arrived to 40 degrees, gray skies & snow! The blustering weather outside, however; could not put a damper on the fruitful meeting we had.

Our first Board of Directors meeting of the year is held at the annual conference immediately following the NAEO Business Meeting in which the new Board members are elected.

A few years ago, a tradition began to hold the second BOD meeting in Madison, WI, to be able to able to spend valuable time with Amtelco to provide more and better opportunities for our members.

As always, Amtelco was gracious, welcomed us and spent much time working with us toward our common goals.

The NAEO Board met with Amtelco representatives Tom Curtin, President; Joe Everly, CEO; Bernie Torvik, Vice Chairman; and Jim Becker, Vice President, Marketing.

Some things we discussed and are working together on are:


NAEO Board members in front of Amtelco (left to right): Andy Shelp, Assistant Executive Director; Robin Bailey, Treasurer; Kelli Harrigan, Conference Chair; Cori Bartlett, VP/Pres-Elect; Joe Adam, Technical Chair; Matt Crocker; Mike Burkinshaw; Jim Wagner, Past President; Trisha Stenberg, Education Chair; and Ron Waine, Membership Chair.
*Not pictured: John Ratliff, President; and Shannon Pfarr-Thompson, Executive Director


NAEO Board members at Amtelco (left to right): Ron Waine, Trisha Stenberg, Mike Burkinshaw, Andy Shelp, Kelli Harrigan, Jim Wagner, Matt Crocker, Joe Adam.

  • Voice Logger - It appears that the announcement of the new Unity Voice Logger and the End of Life Boards has caused some confusion. Unity Voice Logger does not necessarily require the End of Life upgrade or backplane or chassis upgrade, as some have thought. If you are interested in Unity Voice Logger, explore your options with your Amtelco Sales Representative. Each system is different and your needs will depend upon the hardware age, configuration, and software of your current system.

    Amtelco has also expressed a commitment to striving to finetune the original Voice Logger for those clients who chose not to migrate to Unity Voice Logger.

  • Tech Helper - NAEO Board Member Mike Burkinshaw of Comm-Link has been working with Greg Beale of Amtelco and his team to assist in making Amtelco’s Tech Helper website more user-friendly and a better resource by categorizing information, adding features & additional links. http://www.amtelco.com/Welcome.htm

  • Intelligent Series - We discussed some common concerns regarding certain aspects of IS not performing as it should. In particular, IS O/C and some Dispatch. We will be working with Amtelco to provide them with specifics so they may work to correct these issues.

  • Amtelco Professional Services - Amtelco has a little-known "Professional Services” department. The Board encouraged them to promote these services and made suggestions as to services that would be beneficial to users – such as developing scripts and/or custom reports.

  • Webinars - While NAEO provides webinars for our members and Amtelco provides webinars for their users, we discussed including an Amtelco "techie” in the NAEO webinars as well. We believe the combination of real-world use with Amtelco’s expertise makes for the best educational opportunity.

  • Membership - Amtelco has in the past and will continue to work with Membership Chair Ron Waine to promote and provide marketing materials to non-NAEO Amtelco owners in an effort to increase our membership.

  • Conference - Amtelco and Conference Chair Kelli Harrigan will work together to provide a unified session schedule to avoid overlap of valuable topics.

  • Education - In addition to working together on webinars, the BOD asked Amtelco to provide support in the way of personnel for some upcoming venues. As in the past, they agreed to provide presenters and/or trainers for such venues as the Supervisor Training program and the annual NAEO Conference.

By the time we left Madison heading to our respective homes, the snow had stopped and the sun began to shine – a hopeful indication of the year to come.

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A Practical Guide to Seasonal Call Center Staffing
by Penny Reynolds, The Call Center School

As we enter the holiday season, many centers are faced with the same problem – how to effectively hire and train employees for what may be a very short length of hire. This article will outline five basic options available to address the challenges of seasonal staffing requirements.

Option 1 – Returning Staff
The ideal solution to the seasonal staffing dilemma is to find staff who simply want to work the few months of the year that you need them and then happily leave when the peak is over, returning when you need them again next year. They will likely not need a full training period, but only a refresher and can hit the ground running quickly. Nice solution if you can get them, right?

One mistake that many call centers make is to assume that because your base workforce is made up of full-time staff, your seasonal workers should work a 40-hour week, too. To attract more seasonal staff, you will likely need to hire mostly part-time staff in order to fit the requirements of this different labor force. There are many people – particularly students and homemakers – who may be looking for a little extra income and would appreciate the opportunity to work three or four hours a day, but may not be able to accommodate a full work schedule. Therefore, you may need to change your recruiting and hiring protocol to look for people to fit these kinds of positions, rather than a full-time person.

Many call centers attribute their success at covering seasonal demand not just to hiring part-time staff, but to hire people who fit the ideal part-time profile. Some people will be willing to work part-time during the holiday season as a second job. However, sometimes there’s not enough energy and enthusiasm left after the first job to devote to the call center position. Others may take a part-time position but only as a way to get a foot in the door with the company. These people will never be happy with a part-time position, and are certainly not likely to return the following year if they’ve been laid off after the peak season ends.

The part-time position needs to be well-defined with both expectation of working hours as well as the duration of the job. Those who take the position with full knowledge of schedule definitions as well as length of employment will likely be the ones who return the following year.

To find these ideal part-timers, you’ll want to cast a large net and recruit in such a way that you’re reaching an optimal audience of candidates. Simple newspaper classified ads will likely not be sufficient. Use your existing workforce for job referrals and reward them for bringing in qualified candidates. Expand the search to billboards and other advertising media to ensure you’re getting in front of as many potential candidates as possible with your offer.

Option 2 – Shared Staff Arrangements
Some call centers with a busy seasonal holiday pattern look to local businesses that may slow down in the fall. Some recruit workers directly with great success from businesses that have a summer peak. You can choose to try to reach these potential staff with wide and well-timed advertising, or you can elect to go directly to the source and work with those businesses directly.

For example, one Illinois-based call center with a holiday peak season from October to January works with the local Home Depot and Lowe’s building supply stores to find a base of staff. With shoppers having reduced building supply and gardening center needs in the fall and winter, not as many staff are needed in their stores. The call center works with these companies to advertise open positions from October through January for those staff that wish to stay employed, but might be laid off temporarily or cut back to part-time hours in these retail stores. Some staff choose the call center option, knowing their store position will be saved and waiting upon their spring return. The call center benefits by having a ready supply of candidates with great customer service training, and the stores benefit by having a way to ensure employment for all their workers during the slower months.

Making arrangements like this work require creativity and some "outside the box” planning, processes, and compensation arrangements. You’ll want to ask what types of businesses or call centers have an opposite peak time from your business. Pursue these businesses to see if you can forge a staffing arrangement that benefits you both.

Option 3 – Local Staffing Agencies
One of the most common ways that call centers address the need for seasonal staffing is to work through a local staffing agency to find temporary full-time or part-time staff. This scenario, sometimes referred to as "in-sourcing”, involves the use of a staffing agency to recruit, screen, and hire temporary workers. These staff are typically treated as employees of the temporary agency, but in some instances the call center may actually hire the employee.

In most cases, the training and supervision of the staff is handled by call center personnel, but in some instances, the agency actually expands their role into training and supervision of their temporary staff. The contract staffing agency may perform the recruiting, hiring, and training activities at their site, or when there is a large staffing demand, may have dedicated agency staff actually reside at the call center site.

The call center typically pays more for a contract staffing person, since the staffing rate includes an "overhead” charge for the staffing agency, but the added cost comes with many benefits including staffing expertise, flexibility of dictating schedule demands, and a trial working arrangement.

Despite the higher wage rates, many call centers choose to staff through local employment agencies since they have a core competency of recruiting and hiring staff, so they may perhaps do a better job of it than the internal call center management team might do, especially in frantic times. These agencies are familiar with labor pools in various communities and most have links to various state or community vocational training programs. They are experts at helping the call center define job requirements, and then find suitable candidates, doing careful screening to ensure a good match for the job.

Another benefit of agency staffing is the flexibility of procuring exactly the number and type of staff required. The call center can simply inform the contract staffing agency of how many of each type of position it needs to fill and for how long, and the agency can fill the vacancies. This flexibility is particularly useful for companies with short-term campaigns where staff will not be needed for a long period of time.

Many contract agencies have a contract with the call center where the center can hire temporary staff to be permanent company employees. This arrangement lets the call center "try before buy” in terms of adding permanent staff to the payroll. Likewise, if there is a problem with any contract employee, the call center simply has to inform the agency and does not have to go through disciplinary and severance procedures that are likely required with company employees. There are also benefits to the workers, who have an opportunity to try out the job tasks and the employer before making the commitment to take a permanent position.

One of the advantages of contract staffing is also one of the major disadvantages. Since the agents work for the staffing agency and not the company, the call center has less control over them than if they were company employees. And since most of the positions are temporary, the staff may decide to leave if they find other more permanent positions elsewhere, making staff turnover a bigger problem than with regular employees.

Option 4 – Non-Traditional Staffing Agencies
Another contract staffing possibility is to evaluate the use of staffing agencies that may not be in your local area, but can supply staff on an as-needed basis. Companies like Willow CSN or Alpine Access have a network of agents in a wide geographic area who primarily work from home. These agents are independent contractors with the agency serving as a broker for their services. These agents are trained in the area of customer service and handle a wide variety of sales and service calls. They can generally be trained quickly and can be available for whatever length of service your company requires.

Option 5 – Call Center Outsourcers
A final option is to contract with another company to handle some or all of your call demand. The main reason that businesses outsource call center functions is to avoid the resource drain and costs associated with initial set-up and ongoing operation of a function that is typically not the core competency of the business. Developing and running a call center is expensive and many companies find they can accomplish the call handling operation more cost-effectively by outsourcing it than trying to do it in-house.

Outsourcing does not need to be an all-or-nothing solution. A business such as a catalog can still maintain call-handling operations, but simply choose to send overflow calls or seasonal demand calls to an outsourcing partner as a supplement to an internal call center operation.

Since there are so many different outsourcer options in the call center industry today, it is very competitive among outsourcing companies. This high level of competition typically results in high levels of performance if the outsourcer is to survive in the business. Outsourcers can be held to higher levels of performance than perhaps internal call centers, since the customer can simply take away business if performance standards are not met. Internal call centers may take longer to respond to customer demands and there is typically not as much of a significant consequence if performance levels are not met for some period of time.

Getting the "just right” number of staff in place to answer the calls is one of the biggest challenges for a call center – no matter what the time of year. Adding a peak, short-term demand makes this task all the more challenging. The key to successful seasonal staffing is a good forecast to accurately predict incoming call center demand for the coming period. You’ll then want to weigh all the above options carefully to ensure you fill those seats in the most effective way possible to take maximum advantage of those seasonal orders.

About the Author
Penny Reynolds is a Founding Partner of The Call Center School, a company dedicated to the education and development of call center professionals. Penny teaches classes on a wide variety of call center topics and is the author of several call center management books, including Call Center Staffing – The Complete, Practical Guide to Workforce Management. Contact her at penny.reynolds@thecallcenterschool.com or call 615-812-8410.

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Employee Evaluations and Reviews
by Jeffrey Noe

Employee reviews and evaluations are a critical component in any organization that encourages structured feedback relating to an employee’s performance. Many organizations measure an employee’s performance on criteria specific to their organization’s needs and goals. Effectively structured employee evaluation programs can play an integral part in the overall growth and development of not only the employee, but the organization as a whole. This article summarizes how the Tele-Serve organization has developed an employee evaluation process that ties the organization’s goals and objectives into each employee’s personal development.

Before the current evaluation program was implemented, Tele-Serve took an in-depth look at weaknesses in the previous process. Problems with the existing review program centered on the fact that our employee review program was, just simply, an employee review program. It provided one-way communication from the reviewer to the employee on the employee’s overall performance. It didn’t take into consideration feedback from the employee or offer a format that encouraged personal growth and development. It put the employee in a very subordinate position focusing mainly on what they could improve.

The main element the program lacked was an overall evaluation that took into account where the employee fit within the organization’s mission, vision and values. Therefore, the goal was to create an evaluation program that took the standard review process (still necessary in tracking performance) and incorporated a means to measure how the employee was developing in relation to the rest of the organization. In addition, it needed to serve as a way to empower the employees to speak about their own professional and personal goals as they related to the organization and beyond. Most importantly, there needed to be a way to allow for a more bi-directional review process.

The new process was implemented in this way: Employees are given a self-appraisal form to fill out approximately one week prior to the review. During the evaluation, both the employee and supervisor discuss their evaluations along with the employee self-appraisal. The steps below explain the key areas the evaluation process covers.

  1. An area that defines and makes clear the mission, vision and core values of the organization. These are reviewed with the employee during the evaluation process.

  2. The goals set up for each business entity within the organization are described. This helps the employee understand how their role and responsibilities tie into these goals.

  3. During the evaluation, the employee’s job expectations are reviewed. This makes clear to the employee exactly what the job expectations are. A review of the employee’s job description is sometimes helpful, which often contains this information.

  4. The evaluation of the employee’s work performance contains measurable and understandable metrics that relate to performance. In our industry, common performance review measures include; call monitoring, call handling statistics, attendance and company policy adherence.

  5. Prior to the review the employee is given a self-evaluation to complete. The employee self- evaluation allows the employee to reflect on their individual performance. It provides a unique perspective on how the employee views their performance, in relation to how the reviewer sees their performance. Most importantly, it allows for bi-directional feedback.

  6. Any training needs the employee has are documented. An action plan on how the training will be completed is detailed. During subsequent reviews, the training needs are discussed to ensure they were completed.

  7. At least one measurable goal for the employee to work towards completing throughout their next review period is created. The objective is to encourage the employee to create goals that are in line with the organizational and departmental goals. It is important to follow up with the employee periodically to ensure they are working toward completing their goal.

  8. An opportunity for open and free-form feedback is provided. This allows the employee to speak freely on issues related to the organization, their performance or other areas. It may be helpful to establish the review as a "safe” opportunity to voice their concerns.

The Tele-Serve employee evaluation program described above was undoubtedly time-consuming to create and implement. It did create challenges to implement and administer and it took time to receive complete employee buy-in. However, our employees, supervisors and managers find it a valuable tool in helping develop employees and improving performance.

Each evaluation program is different for each organization. Below are some tips when developing and implementing your evaluation program.

  1. When developing the evaluation, include feedback from all levels of your organization. You will receive more "buy-in” from employees who are made a part of the process.

  2. Make the employee performance review part of the overall evaluation. Include the other areas discussed above as part of the overall evaluation.

  3. Make the evaluation process frequent. The Tele-Serve organization administers the evaluation process defined above each quarter. As your organization’s goals change, it is important to keep employees in line with the new direction.

Once you’ve developed an evaluation process, be sure that all employees are aware of how it works. It may be helpful to do a "dry run.” A comprehensive employee evaluation program can go a long way to help increase retention and move an organization toward achieving its goals and objectives. The Tele-Serve employee retention rate increased dramatically since implementing this process. Most importantly, the service quality and employee performance has improved. For more information or for a copy of the evaluations we use, please contact Jeff Noe at jeffn@tele-serve.net.

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Book Review
Call Center Management On Fast Forward – Succeeding in Today’s Dynamic Customer
Contact Environment
by Brad Cleveland

by Kurt VanderScheer, Michigan Message Center

Call Center Management on Fast Forward is aimed at outlining the foundations and overriding principles of call center management. The book’s author, Brad Cleveland, is a leading industry expert on call center management. He offers insight into the complex and sometimes daunting job of being an effective call center manager. Throughout the book, the reader will develop a thorough understanding of core call center topics such as call arrival patterns, caller tolerance, Erlang C, forecasting, scheduling, monitoring, and establishing performance objects and goals.

After a general but thorough introduction to the concepts and driving forces in the call center environment, the book dives right into the details of explaining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as Service Level and Response Time. The book’s chapters on forecasting and scheduling move well beyond the often used "gut feeling” process used by many managers to build forecasts and schedules. Brad outlines methodologies to break down forecasts and schedule effectively by clearly defining the techniques necessary to do so successfully.

Although the author’s focus is primarily on in-house (as opposed to outsourcing) call centers there’s plenty of information to glean if your company is a small to mid-sized traditional answering service. With a little creativity, much, if not all, of the advice can be applied to organizations of any size. Particularly, the chapters covering quality and performance offer specific advice in defining key quality metrics and goals planning appropriate for centers of any size.

Consider Call Center Management on Fast Forward as a must-read for your management staff. It’s been a "Go To” reference in my bookcase for years and should be in yours too!

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