WFH Guidance for ARM: Best Practices from The CMI Group
Our Senior Director of Product Marketing Jim Lynch hosted leaders from The CMI Group, a prominent BPO in the Accounts Recovery Management space, to discuss how they’re managing these uncertain times.
The discussion centered around steps they took to transition agents to work from home incrementally, as well as the virtual tools and software they used to maintain business continuity.
Skip to 18:39 for how IT addressed internet connectivity and bandwidth challenges. At 23:53 they highlight the aspects of the LiveVox platform that have helped them sustain their operation. And at 28:16 there’s a rundown of how PCI compliance works via virtual desktop with limited customer information.
Listen to the conversation here.
Full Webinar Transcript
Hello, everyone. This is Lindsay from LiveVox. Thank you all for joining today’s webinar, COVID Guidance for ARM, five tips for making the transition to at-home agents, featuring The CMI Group. It looks like we still have a couple people joining, so we are going to give it a minute before we begin, but appreciate all you early birds who have already gone ahead and joined.
Before we begin, I would like to do a quick sound check with all of our speakers. Jim Lynch, are you out there?
Jim Lynch (00:02:30):
Awesome. Boris? Are you there? Boris Grinshpun? Oh.
Boris Grinshpun (00:02:54):
Are you able to hear me?
Yes, we can hear you. Perfect.
Boris Grinshpun (00:02:58):
Steve, are you on the line?
Steve Solomon (00:03:02):
I am still here. Thank you.
Perfect. And Matt?
Matt Ernst (00:03:09):
I’m here, Lindsay.
Awesome. Well, thank you again for all joining. We are going to give it 60 more seconds to allow a few more folks to finish dialing in, and then we will begin. Thank you all, again.
All right, it is 10:01 Pacific time, so I think we can go ahead and get this started. Just so that everyone is aware, we are using GoToMeeting, which is a webinar platform. We have been given notice that they are receiving a lot of use these days with this current work-from-home environment, so please stick with us. If you have any audio issues, please let us know in the chat box and we will be distributing a recording of this webinar tomorrow, so thank you again for your patience.
With that, Jim, are you out there?
Jim Lynch (00:04:38):
Awesome, Lindsay. Thanks so much for that. Welcome everybody to today’s webinar. Really excited to get started. As Lindsay mentioned, we’ll be sending out the full recording to you within about 24 hours. Also, want to call out the chat box that you have in your control panel over there. Definitely ask some questions. We want this to be an ongoing conversation between us and the audience, so the panelists are prepared to answer all of your questions. So with that being said, we’re going to go ahead and get started.
Jim Lynch (00:05:02):
We’re actually joined today by a great panel with a ton of experience in the contact center space. So I’d like to give each one of them a chance to introduce themselves and share a little bit about their background. So Steve, why don’t we kick it over to you? Maybe just share a little bit about you.
Steve Solomon (00:05:16):
Sure. Steve Solomon. I am the chief operating officer of The CMI Group. I have been in the BPO and ARM industry for over 30 years, and I know you’ll look at my picture and you’re probably scratching your head, saying you don’t look that old but I am a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan living in the great city of Dallas. So I am beloved by both my neighbors and my workforce.
Jim Lynch (00:05:48):
Well, that’s good, Steve. At least we share that in common, so I know that you like a good football team. So with that being said though, we’ll shift over to Matt. Let’s hear a little bit about you.
Matt Ernst (00:05:58):
Thanks, Jim. Matt Ernst. I’m the CIO from The CMI Group. I’ve been in the credit and collections call center space for a little over 20 years, and I won’t hold it against Jim and Steve for being Philadelphia fans. Thanks for having us today, Jim.
Jim Lynch (00:06:19):
Oh, thanks guys. And Boris, how about a little bit about your background?
Boris Grinshpun (00:06:22):
Yeah, Jim. I, of course, work on the product team here at LiveVox. I have about 20 years in the financial services industry space and have spent a number of years managing contact center strategy at large financial services organizations. So really excited to be here, and speaking with everybody today.
Jim Lynch (00:06:44):
Great, thanks guys. So lots of experience, but I can tell you this is probably the first time that anyone has had to experience what we’re going through in today’s environment. So with that being said, before we really get into all the content, I do want to share with the audience, a little bit about the backgrounds of each one of the organizations.
Jim Lynch (00:06:59):
So Steve, if you could just at a high level, maybe cover a couple bullets. Let everybody know who The CMI Group is, and why you’re on today.
Steve Solomon (00:07:08):
Sure. The CMI Group, as you can see, is an ESOP group. It’s 100% employee-owned, so all the employees have a vested interest in the prosperity of the company. We are headquartered in Plano, Texas, which is just north of Dallas. We have two large contact centers of excellence in the Dallas area. Over the past year, we’ve added both near-shore and offshore partnerships.
Steve Solomon (00:07:38):
We offer, we like to think, innovative solutions for revenue cycle management, accounts receivable, contact center solutions. We are primarily known in the cable space, but have really diversified, doing everything from government VA facilities to customer care, travel desk, 24/7 projects. So really have gone through quite the extended service offering from where we were, a few years back.
Steve Solomon (00:08:14):
Very passionate about performance. Very passionate about the relationships we share with our clients, and we certainly like to have fun and competition while doing so.
Jim Lynch (00:08:25):
Thanks, Steve, and maybe a couple questions that people are going to have regarding CMI and the webinar that we have today. About how many contact center employees do you guys have on staff, right now?
Steve Solomon (00:08:35):
So we have somewhere between 600 to 700 total employees, and as we’ll discuss later on, we were able to transition about 90% of that staff to our work-at-home program.
Jim Lynch (00:08:55):
Awesome, Steve. Yeah, that’s important information, so we’re really going to dive into how you guys really successfully transferred all of your agents from a traditional contact center environment to this at-home environment that you’re in today.
Jim Lynch (00:09:09):
So with that being said, hey Boris, why don’t you give a couple high level bullets about LiveVox? Obviously, we have a lot of clients that are on the phone, but we have a lot of people that aren’t clients today, so let’s give them some idea about who LiveVox is.
Boris Grinshpun (00:09:20):
Yeah. So LiveVox is a leading cloud contact center platform. We’ve been around for about 20 years. We lead the market in terms of the number of interactions that we facilitate with over 14 billion. We’re also focused for contact centers or for our clients to be really focused [inaudible 00:09:45] highly regulated space, and we have a unique proposition because we offer not only traditional contact center solutions, but we also offer a full suite of CRM and WFO solutions as well. So that’s a little bit in a nutshell about us.
Jim Lynch (00:10:02):
Awesome, Boris. So thanks so much guys for all the introductions. I think as we just went through that, everybody understands CMI is really a major player in this space, deploying all of their agents at home. LiveVox has done a great job deploying a lot of agents at home. I think the numbers are a little bit over 10,000 in the past week, so it’s been a journey that we’ve all taken together, so we appreciate that.
Jim Lynch (00:10:24):
Let’s dive in a little bit on why we’re here today, and really that is the effects of COVID-19 continue to evolve and just many of the contact center leaders are in different parts of their journey, where people have shifted to remote agent workforce through their own individual corporate policies that maybe they put in place to ensure social distancing or maybe there was an order that was issued from one of their local governments.
Jim Lynch (00:10:45):
So Boris, you’ve been hearing a lot about this issue and speaking to business leaders. So maybe just share a couple of the other points that you have here?
Boris Grinshpun (00:10:54):
Yeah. So we’ve had a lot of conversations with clients to try to really understand some of their challenges and how this has really impacted their operations. One of the things that we hear from our clients, but also one of the things that we’re very well attuned to is the overall news. One of the things that we are seeing today in this space is that while we’re starting to really, if you will, absorb the effects of this, Jim, what we’re seeing is that this will have to become the new normal, which is what we’re going to really talk a lot about today with the folks at CMI.
Boris Grinshpun (00:11:33):
But what we’re hearing is that we have to get prepared and prepared now because this isn’t going away, and this new mode of operating in a non-centralized format for large-scale contact centers will have to be the norm, going forward. And so, that’s what I want to mention and the reason I want to mention that early on in the conversation today, because it is our opinion to be reactive or proactive regarding this situation because it isn’t going away, unfortunately, quickly as much as we actually would like for it to go away as human beings.
Boris Grinshpun (00:12:12):
Jim, I don’t know if you have other thoughts on this particular topic as well?
Jim Lynch (00:12:15):
Yeah. Boris, I think it’s interesting. We’ve seen people from all ends of the spectrum. We saw people that a government order might have come down and they just decided to close up shop, but they didn’t know how to react to this. So then other leaders, like those that we find at CMI and then the other partners out there actually are taking this as a point to be innovative. So you’re right. Some of this is going to be the new norm.
Jim Lynch (00:12:36):
I think we’re going to hear from Steve, a little bit later on in today’s conversation on how he is really transitioning this to be an opportunity for The CMI Group as others, I’m sure, on the line are also thinking about. So yeah, it’s really an increased demand and stress on the economy and businesses alike where people are really trying to understand what some classify, like you said, Boris, that is the new normal. But it’s definitely the new normal for today. So no matter where you guys are with your organization in your journey to work at home, this is something that you must really think about as having part of your BCDR plans as we move forward because some people just weren’t ready. Like I said, we could never imagine this environment that we’re in today, so it’s something that people are really starting to think about.
Jim Lynch (00:13:18):
So with that being said, I think really to help everyone through this, we really aligned today’s conversation around three key points that we have been asked over the last few weeks that we want to address with the audience today. So we want to dive into each one of these issues. We’re going to hear how CMI has been successful and they were gracious enough to share what they’ve done to address the issues. And then, we’re going to share from a LiveVox perspective, Boris is going to help us do this, on what he’s hearing from others in the industry, along with a few solutions that we have to help.
Jim Lynch (00:13:49):
So Boris, if you don’t mind, let’s go ahead and cover these points at a very high level on what people are going to be hearing about and how you think of these three key areas.
Boris Grinshpun (00:13:57):
Yeah, absolutely. So first, a general review of these key areas. We’ve spoken to hundreds of clients at this moment in time regarding what their contact center challenges are in terms of moving to a work-from-home setting, and we consistently pulled out the three topics that are the most hot button issues for them. The very first one is how do I securely move somebody who was in a physical location in a control environment and move them to a remote environment? An environment where they’re working from home.
Boris Grinshpun (00:14:28):
Now, all of us, the non contact center employees or nonoperational contact center employees have done this, but how do I do this today securely and consistently within a large-scale workforce? Now, if I’ve done that, how do I ensure that I’m monitoring each one of the contact center employers and coach them effectively, even though I’m not right there in a particular physical location? How do I give them feedback? How do I make it immediate? How do I make it relevant? How do I still make that consistent? And then, how do I optimize all of this, or how do I take some of my processes that I used to rely on having the centralized location on before? And how do I restore them and make them work as seamlessly as they did before?
Boris Grinshpun (00:15:16):
And so, what we’re going to do today is we’re really going to dive deeper into each one of these three highlighted key areas and we’re going to talk about with CMI, how they have addressed it. You’ll get a little bit of a perspective from LiveVox in terms of, as Jim said, how we think about it. And we’ll also give you a little bit of guidance in terms of some of the tools that we have in place to help you out with that.
Boris Grinshpun (00:15:39):
So Jim, I’m not going to spend any more time on this particular slide, but what I’d love to do is just dive a little bit deeper and hear a little bit from CMI, so that we can give our audience a little bit of insight of what it takes to transition to a work-from-home setting.
Jim Lynch (00:15:55):
Yeah. Sure, Boris. So one of the first key areas that we really hear about is how do we address the security and connectivity? So everyone feels like a contact center, okay, everyone is tight, secure, we can see what everyone is doing. So we dive into addressing security and connectivity, we think of these key areas.
Jim Lynch (00:16:11):
So Boris, three key areas that you’re hearing from clients all the time or questions that are coming from business organizations, let’s cover them at a high level. And then, what we’re going to do is transition into what CMI has actually deployed, and then some of the tools that we have.
Boris Grinshpun (00:16:23):
Yeah, absolutely. We talked about the security and connectivity, and why are these three key components very important to a lot of clients as well as prospects that we have on the phone?
Boris Grinshpun (00:16:35):
Well, the first one, having a secure and reliable internet connection. Well, you’ve got to have that because you have to operate in an environment where you’re utilizing a PC or tablet device where you have connectivity to the right information consistently on every single phone call. And as we’ll talk a little bit about that as well, you have to have a reliable connection if you’re also, of course, utilizing the phone and communicating consistently with a consumer as well. That has to be reliable because you don’t want an interruption of service and you don’t want the consumer to feel like they’re talking to somebody in a non-secure location, so that’s really, really vital, really, really important. And I think a lot of folks on the call already understand this piece and it might sound obvious, but that one is a really, really important component.
Boris Grinshpun (00:17:28):
The second one is how do we ensure that the data that we have now going outside of our physical location is protected? How do we ensure that it doesn’t leak out? How do we have the same set of controls?
Boris Grinshpun (00:17:41):
And then, at the same time, how do we make sure that all of our agents that are now working from home have all the right tools to complete every single call consistently, every single time? We don’t get second chances to do this. And so from that standpoint, we want to make sure that they have all of that information.
Jim Lynch (00:18:03):
I think that’s right, Boris. Yeah, I think you just hit it on the head. You don’t have a second chance to make sure that this is right. You have to do it, right away.
Jim Lynch (00:18:11):
So Matt, one of the things that people are coming to the call for is they want to know, how are people really doing this today? So again, thanks for joining the webinar today. I think from a CIO’s perspective, I could only imagine what’s happening in your office. You have Steve or some of the other leaders come barging into your office, saying “Matt, oh my gosh. We just saw this order come down in the State of Texas, Dallas County. We need to move all of our agents at home, right away.” You guys have probably thought about this a little bit more over the pastime or thinking about work-at-home agents.
Jim Lynch (00:18:39):
But let’s walk through, Matt, if you don’t mind, some of the things that you’ve done to address connectivity and then maybe some custom solutions that you also put in place?
Matt Ernst (00:18:47):
Sure. Thanks, Jim. Sorry, my internet connection dropped a little bit there, so I’m catching up to where you guys are in the presentation. It was actually fortunate enough that I got the executive team thinking about this pretty early on and so we had several conversations before the orders came down from a Dallas County perspective on shelter-in-place. We had a little bit of a jumpstart to it.
Matt Ernst (00:19:14):
We clearly knew that we were going to have to move our agents out and that technology was going to play a major role in making that happen. We worked with operations teams. They handled some of the heavy lifting as it related to policies, procedures, things like that, getting our agents to sign off on all the new policies and procedures from a working-at-home perspective and allowed my team to focus on the technology side of the equation.
Matt Ernst (00:19:42):
What we did was we said, okay, our agents, we don’t know what kind of internet speed they’re going to have, but we knew there was some minimum requirement. So we made sure that agents were aware of that.
Matt Ernst (00:19:53):
We knew they were going to have lots of technical questions. They were used to coming into an environment and being able to see and do what they do, day in and day out. They’re going to go to a new environment and a lot of it stayed the same, it just looked a little bit different to them based on the solution that we deployed. Those first few days, we had a ton of calls to help them get started, but it really has leveled out and our agents have done a fantastic job of becoming accustomed to the new norm in their life of working from home.
Matt Ernst (00:20:27):
Some of [crosstalk 00:20:28] related… Yeah?
Jim Lynch (00:20:30):
I was going to say that’s pretty interesting. So before you move on, I just have a couple questions about some of the points you just did. So the first one I’m going to ask you about is around a bandwidth requirement. So can you just share with everyone, how did you really test that? How did your agents test it? And then, more importantly, how did you validate that that was really happening? Could you walk through that process, a little bit?
Matt Ernst (00:20:49):
Sure. Very early on in our process, we took a test group and sent them home. Before we solidified anything, we sent a group home. We had them perform bandwidth tests for us. We knew from, obviously, working with LiveVox for a number of years now, what our bandwidth requirements were, but we made them go ahead and run through tests and supply those tests back to us, so we could see what their internet speed was.
Matt Ernst (00:21:18):
Fundamentally, the voice path for the LiveVox solution still just goes out over their normal internet path. It does not come back into us in any way, shape, or form, thus not compromising or making a little bit more difficult for them. Along with some of the other paperwork type things that we did, we wanted to make sure they had a good work environment, and I think Steve will probably talk about some of those things later in the presentation. So hopefully, that answers your question, Jim?
Jim Lynch (00:21:49):
No, that’s great. And then so Steve, when you think about what Matt threw together for you guys and threw together is probably the wrong term, but what he architected, this solution, then the next step was, okay, I have to pitch this to my clients to make them feel comfortable as well from a security standpoint. Could you just describe to everybody how your clients received it from the beginning? Was everybody on board? Were they a little bit leery about the move, or just share with everyone some client reactions?
Steve Solomon (00:22:20):
Yeah. So actually, I would say that most of our clients were relieved that we were able to execute a business continuation plan. Certainly, a sense of urgency by all of them that we continue with day-to-day production. They were certainly looking for immediate updates, realizing that we were a company that aside from a few individuals, really did not have a virtual program to speak of.
Steve Solomon (00:22:54):
Then, a lot of questions, how are we going to maintain security? How are we going to monitor production? How are we going to continue with business as usual? And at the same time, there were certain partners of theirs they had that were unable to continue with business operations. We also had the challenge of really transitioning folks to the needs of the business and we are still getting quite a few requests over additional lines of business. These clients are looking for solutions as well.
Jim Lynch (00:23:37):
Gotcha. Thanks so much, Steve. All right, Boris, all of this is just being said from CMI. I think it’s a really interesting use case. Everyone is battling, so they provided that it could be done. They’ve deployed over 90% of their staff now on to remote locations, working at home.
Jim Lynch (00:23:53):
So let’s just shift gears a little bit and let’s talk about some LiveVox tools and ways to address the challenge?
Boris Grinshpun (00:24:01):
Yeah, absolutely, and we really want to focus on really, three things. Making it simple to execute on what Matt and Steve just talked about. And when I say simple, not simple because Matt and Steve have done a tremendous job doing this, but making it simple for the agent to be able to connect and establish that audio path, ensuring that the right data is available to the agent, and ensuring that the agents have the right tools for the job. We have a couple of tools in our arsenal of products that can help exactly with that for our clients.
Boris Grinshpun (00:24:34):
So if actually, we move on to the next slide, we’ve made it really easy for agents to be able to connect. If you have a modern browser that you’re utilizing today, you can, of course… A lot of folks are already accustomed to doing this. That agent can utilize that modern browser, whether that’s at home, whether that’s in a particular location, as long as there are particular bandwidth requirements, utilizing that modern browser, you can connect into the LiveVox system and begin to either take or make phone calls.
Boris Grinshpun (00:25:06):
In addition to that, we also have a desktop application. If we just pause for a second and go back one, Jim, and we dubbed that our agent desktop native app. You can download that onto the agent’s PC. If you’re issuing PCs, you can preload that on for the agent, the same sign-on experience. Really, the same components all together. And if you want to restrict what applications go onto particular devices, you can do that as well.
Boris Grinshpun (00:25:40):
Also, a couple of notes as well. We talked about the browser experience. You can utilize that from a PC perspective. You can also utilize that from a mobile device perspective. So in other words, we have clients today that ran into a bit of a log jam as it relates to issuing PCs. That’s okay. If you’re looking for folks to be able to take and make simple phone calls, we’ve had a number of clients issue out cell phones and utilize cell phones from a connectivity perspective.
Boris Grinshpun (00:26:12):
So from that standpoint, there is a lot of ways that you can think about this, whether it’s locking down what applications are sitting on a particular device, whether it’s utilizing mobile devices, there’s options. Let’s just put it out there, and we’ve made the connectivity for the agent as simple as possible. So that way, you don’t have to worry about this and having to troubleshoot how your agents are connecting in the various experiences they’re having at home.
Boris Grinshpun (00:26:41):
In addition to this, some folks have said, okay, this data now is going outside my premises. How do I make sure that I give enough for the agent to be able to see the right information, but not too much information? And so, a number of our clients have deployed… This is an example of a desktop environment, where they’re exposing certain elements of their own data to the agent. They’re masking certain components. They’re not exposing certain components, and they’re making sure this is in a very tightly-controlled environment and they’re doing this through our agent configuration tool in order to be able to execute on something like this.
Boris Grinshpun (00:27:22):
In addition to this, a number of clients said, okay, but my agents take payments every day. They handle sensitive information. How can I execute on this particular portion, even though sensitive data is being exchanged? Well, we actually have a secure payment capture product that does exactly that, where a consumer is walked through an IVR and there is no actual exchange of information between the agent and the consumer and there is just a visual verification that’s provided to the agent that the consumer has entered their information into the IVR appropriately. A really, really great tool for a lot of folks in the highly regulated space, who don’t want their agents at home, writing down and taking down people’s credit card information. A super way to get going and transition agents to a work from home environment.
Jim Lynch (00:28:16):
So Boris, let’s expand on that, just a little bit, if you would. Could you just walk through the process? So let’s say I’m a consumer. I’m on the phone with you, Boris, as a representative. We get to a point that we agree on a payment. Maybe I need to pay my cable bill, so I can keep my internet on. So what would my experience be from a consumer standpoint, or you just hardcore transfer me, cold dropping me into an IVR and that’s it? You don’t really know what happened on the call, or what does that experience really look like from a consumer’s?
Boris Grinshpun (00:28:43):
Yeah. We’re almost riding in a pseudo-conference call, if you will, but there’s IVR prompts and you’re entering in those prompts, Jim, but I am not able to hear the prompts that you are entering but I could see the successful information. I’m right there with you and I just say, hey, look, there is going to be a prompt for you to enter your information, a WAV file plays or a message plays that says, “Hey, Jim. Please enter your information. Please enter all of the details on your credit card. Here, enter your security code,” and all I see is visually on the agent desktop experience that you’ve done that correctly and I get a visual cue.
Boris Grinshpun (00:29:30):
But if the consumer has some questions, wants to ask the agent something during that conversation, they’re still able to do that and they’re able to carry on this conversation. We can do this at any point in the middle of a conversation, so really a smooth consumer experience and a really great agent experience at the same time to make sure that we’re still having those secure conversations, even though they’re happening somewhere else.
Jim Lynch (00:30:01):
Thanks, Boris. I think it was a really important point to think of because when you think about these environments from a contact center, PCI compliance was top-of-mind with everyone. You’d go in. They were paperless environments. No pens anywhere on the floor. When you’re at home, you really can’t control that. So the best way to remove any possibility of anything happening and making the clients feel pretty happy with your security as it relates to taking payments is to push someone along the secure payment capture route, so great information.
Boris Grinshpun (00:30:32):
By the way, this is another example as well, where we’re even i-framing third-party tools. So we talked about having all of the right tools in place for the agent. From an agent desktop experience, you can also i-frame third-party applications here. So that way, if you have a skip-tracing system, if you have another payment processing order management system, you can actually i-frame those in. So that way, your agent has all of the right tools in a controlled desktop fashion to do their job.
Jim Lynch (00:31:06):
Great. Thanks, guys. So I think we’ve done a pretty good job. And remember, if you have any questions, definitely throw them in the chat box over there on the control panel. We’ll be sure to address them at the end with the Q&A. Another thing that we’ll want to let you know is that some people have experienced some audio issues if they’ve joined via PC. So what we recommend is actually just joining by phone, if you could, while you watch the presentation.
Jim Lynch (00:31:28):
So let’s shift on. We’re going to shift on to agent monitoring and performance management, which is our second bullet point that we wanted to discuss. And really, we’re going to cover a couple points here, and then give you some solutions, again from both The CMI Group and the LiveVox perspective.
Jim Lynch (00:31:42):
So really, we talk about people’s homes aren’t controlled environments like a contact center is and everyone’s been experiencing this, right? Everyone has had voice calls, WebEx calls, or Zoom video calls. So you see people’s kids popping in, or you hear conversations happening in the background. And really, it’s almost the new norm, so we talk about how can we control that a little bit from an agent’s perspective as they transition to this new environment and their families also begin to adapt? We’re going to talk about feedback, how it’s completed in today’s world. Because really, we’re used to walking behind agents and being able to have a face-to-face conversation with them, immediate coaching. So we’re going to talk about some solutions on how you can do that.
Jim Lynch (00:32:23):
So one-on-ones, they were really structured and scheduled with a set cadence. So how have people transitioned to this work-at-home model, and how do they stay in connection with their agents? And how do they make their agents feel connected, like they’re still part of a team? And then, some ad hoc conversations. Obviously, we know that those can be difficult, so we’re going to want to hear now from The CMI Group on how they addressed some of the agent monitoring and performance management obstacles that you have.
Jim Lynch (00:32:48):
So Steve, maybe from an operational standpoint, let’s share with the group how you guys have addressed this challenge?
Steve Solomon (00:32:54):
Absolutely, and I first want to say we’re going to talk in detail as the presentation goes on. But the very first step in this process is really as a management team, asking yourself the challenges that you’re going to be facing. How do you replicate an office environment now in a virtual setting? How are you going to communicate? How are you going to define the process for your managers?
Steve Solomon (00:33:22):
As you said, Jim, the one-on-one coaching sessions, we haven’t really developed a means of talking to numerous agents because we get a lot of the same questions from them. And rather than attack it, one by one, we would have facilitators utilize group coaching sessions to help with our agent development, especially those agents that were transitioning to new projects in this environment.
Steve Solomon (00:33:55):
The number of coaching sessions, again, if we went, one by one, that becomes problematic. Our supervisor base is admittedly learning how to coach in this new environment. So we had to show some… I’ll call it empathy and some understanding if prior to this environment, they had a certain number of coaching sessions they were doing in the office. Quite frankly, we had to relax that standard briefly until they defined and they really got traction around the new coaching processes.
Steve Solomon (00:34:36):
We had to get them familiar with some of the tools that we had at our disposal, which primarily were WebEx tutorials and Litmus. Litmus is basically a virtual network of ongoing training modules that are offered to our employee basis ongoing. We were able to utilize that to really, again, help those employees transitioning.
Steve Solomon (00:35:05):
Virtual training. We’re going to talk more about that, but that is mission-critical to the future. We don’t know if this is going to be a temporary 30-day condition, or if we’re going to see this, 90 days, six months. So we need to continue to add to our existing work staff and continue to make sure we’re able to effectively train and develop our agents. And of course, schedule adherence. Making sure people are working from home at the time slots that they should be, and we’ll talk a bit about the LiveVox reporting and how that helped us accomplish all these bullets.
Jim Lynch (00:35:56):
Thanks, Steve. I appreciate that. So a couple things, just to touch on what we’ve heard from people is schedule adherence is one thing to really look at. And people, as they transition at home, some agents might be thinking and have some added stress, like oh my gosh, I need to be on, every single minute of every day, which really isn’t the case when you’re in the office. People are getting up. They’re using the restroom. They’re having some sidebar conversations. It’s not necessarily a 100% productive time, all the time, so I think that’s important to remember as you transition to this new norm.
Jim Lynch (00:36:25):
Behaviors are going to change. Everyone is getting used to it. I think that you mentioned that earlier on in your conversation that everyone is learning. Supervisors are learning how to transition into this, the coaching sessions. You’re learning new cadences. You’re talking about how you can bring these group sessions in together. I think it’s all valuable information that we just heard from you and I definitely want to call that out as others are thinking about doing it, and everyone is in the same battle that you are. We want to keep productive time up, and we want to keep production, maybe even increase it a little bit if we have an opportunity too. So thanks for sharing that valuable insight, Steve, really appreciate it.
Jim Lynch (00:37:01):
And Boris, so from the LiveVox perspective, let’s talk about how and some tools and ways to address the challenges that we’ve deployed.
Boris Grinshpun (00:37:09):
Yeah, absolutely, and I think Steve was spot on when he talked about effectively monitoring, ensuring that we still have the same quality and consistency of every conversation with consumers today. Making sure that we have the right tools to do that, making sure that we are providing the right coaching and feedback, and we have all the communication to do that. And at the same time, that we have some form of collaboration, where we could do that in that same way, Jim, that you were talking about earlier, where people would walk by the desks of agents and be able to provide them instant feedback on a particular call or be able to address that through any single issue.
Boris Grinshpun (00:37:50):
And everything that Steve said, we’ve heard from our clients as well in terms of how do we do that? What are the ways to address that? And we have a couple of interesting ways to do that, and I certainly want to dive into that, Jim, unless you had some other comments as well on this topic?
Jim Lynch (00:38:06):
No, I think it’s good. Let’s dive right in.
Boris Grinshpun (00:38:08):
Yeah, so absolutely. So first and foremost, I think we’ve talked a lot with our clients. We have some of the best screen and call recording features and what you’re seeing here is an example of that in our Assessor product. So if you’re wondering what your agent is doing, if you’re wondering what they’re saying, that should never be a mystery. And clients who have taken us up on this offer, now have really great visibility to be able to see and hear what actually is happening. Really, really super important now as you mentioned, Jim, a non-controlled setting of potentially agents working from their home PCs and maybe those PCs aren’t issued by our clients, maybe they are. But if you’re wondering what is happening, here is your window, if you will, to the world of the agent in every conversation.
Jim Lynch (00:39:03):
That’s right, and I think that’s important, Boris, because one of the questions that came up, and Matt, I think talked about it before. He addressed it through some copy and paste, lock that down on a virtual workstation. Not everyone has that ability today on their systems, so this is one way that they’re actually able to see everything that’s happening on the screen. When your clients say, “Hey, but what if someone is copy and pasting PII?” We talk about how the data is transformed or transitioned into the agent from the desktop perspective, but this also allows you to see from an agent perspective to make sure they’re not doing anything crazy.
Boris Grinshpun (00:39:37):
Absolutely. And then, what this allows you to also do is be able to coach your agents. I’m sure folks have lots of coaching tools out there that they’re already utilizing today. This is just a version. We couldn’t emphasize enough that it is important to give feedback to your agents. I think I was reading a recent study on this that different generations prefer to be coached and provided feedback at different cadences, and I think this is really, really super important, especially for different generations to be able to provide real-time feedback and have the tools to do that.
Boris Grinshpun (00:40:17):
Because you can’t have a session now after every single call and say, hey, let’s take two minutes back. Let’s assess your call. I just heard your call, I overheard your call. It has to be in some fashion, and so this is an example of a LiveVox tool. There’s lots of other great tools out there, I’m sure, in the marketplace, but this is a tool that’s completely integrated with the LiveVox environment and system, and so that can provide you really great pathways and ways where you can take calls. You can take the time to listen to them, to screen them, and to be able to provide feedback and really focus the agent’s behavior based on what you heard and what you saw.
Jim Lynch (00:40:59):
Yeah, that’s great, Boris. I think of the ways that I used to have our supervisors go and monitor and coach, and it was like an Excel spreadsheet. We’d have a one-on-one that they’d sit down. They’d go over the Excel document or maybe a printed out version of a form, and so this really automates some of that process that it’s going on and actually truly builds a workflow to communicate with agents. I think it’s a great tool, something that people should explore.
Boris Grinshpun (00:41:21):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Additionally, of course, it’s interesting, Jim. Everybody is such a creature of habit. I know for myself, commuting into Downtown San Francisco is really part of my life and getting up every morning, taking my kids to school, hopping onboard, taking that train in. And at some point, that kind of disappears. That morning routine disappears that I’ve been doing for many, many years.
Boris Grinshpun (00:41:56):
I can only speak for myself as a person of routine, we have to establish a new routine and make sure that our agents are notified of that new routine. And sometimes it’s hard to get into the new routine, and people probably on the call are thinking, “Boris, why are you saying that?” Of course, everybody has got a job, everybody has got to show up. Well, I agree with that statement. However, I think what’s really important is making sure that you’re having all of the right tools in place in order to remind people of that and you’re giving them that nice little nudge in order to get into a new routine in their life.
Boris Grinshpun (00:42:33):
The reason that I’m mentioning that as I’m talking about this slide is really around the fact that there are a number of now scheduling tools that really remind agents or remind employees of where they’re really supposed to be at the right point in time. And this is just an example of that, of a scheduling application that does exactly that and tells folks when they’re supposed to show up and when they’re supposed to take a break, that type of thing.
Jim Lynch (00:43:02):
Awesome, thanks, Boris. And then, we have this one?
Boris Grinshpun (00:43:05):
Yeah, of course, and communication is key. Having the internal dialogue between your team. Heck, even between people internally within an organization is super important. So if you’re looking for a solution where people can shoot ideas, make sure that they feel connected and are part of a team. It’s really, really important, and our internal chat solution provides essentially that, where people can collaborate in one environment.
Jim Lynch (00:43:31):
And Boris, I think that’s important. We’re going to skip forward to optimizing performance, and performance is always top-of-mind to people, but I definitely want to call out, again, the emotional connection and the pressure that people are dealing with right now in this environment. It’s something no one has ever dealt with before.
Jim Lynch (00:43:49):
So again, the pressures of working at home, making sure the environment is set in a way that you can do that. But then also, the additional pressures that people have from a family perspective. Maybe they have a spouse or someone else that’s working at home as well, so now they’re needing to create a new environment. [inaudible 00:44:05] with the children being at home and having to go through schoolwork and things. So think about that.
Jim Lynch (00:44:11):
Definitely keep the connections open. Think about how you can utilize those tools, like chat, like what we just showed on how to really connect with your agents on a personal level. Check in, see how they’re doing. Share funny pictures, whatever you need to do to keep them happy, to keep the environment just like it was in your contact centers because you think about the contests and things you have going on. Think of creative ways to do that by utilizing some of these tools, like chat, like you just saw. Maybe some of the other solutions that CMI talked about earlier.
Jim Lynch (00:44:39):
So that being said, we’re going to shift on to optimizing performance. And really, those are three areas as well that we’re going to want to talk about.
Jim Lynch (00:44:47):
So Steve, I know that over the last few weeks, we’ve really discussed some of these points. So I think it’s important to share with everyone how CMI addressed some of the key issues out there today. Obviously, there were some changes that had to be made from the monitoring side that you guys saw. And again, the emotional side as well as it related to your agents and your customers. We’re going to focus on these three bullet points that we’ve discussed from the past couple weeks and it’s how do we scale compliance monitoring and quality control? Maybe how to make some changes there. How do you build team bonds by remote? And then, how do you connect across distributed teams versus all-in-one?
Jim Lynch (00:45:23):
So Steve, let’s dive into that a little bit. Let’s talk about how you guys rise to the challenge and talk through some of these issues.
Steve Solomon (00:45:31):
So yeah, we started mining a lot of our calls, especially as we moved to a virtual environment and we could see the hardship cases that the agents were facing were increasing significantly. So we had to work on some agent scripting, deferred payment plans. So we’re still using software to mine these calls.
Steve Solomon (00:45:58):
As far as the reporting, I have to say that we have very robust reporting in place with LiveVox and it makes it very easy for us to transfer what we were doing in an office environment to a virtual environment. We’re able to monitor our payroll system versus our productive reports that come from LiveVox. We still understand the value of letters and phone calls, our response rates. So a complement to LiveVox over the robust reporting capabilities that really keep us productive and make sure that we’re setting proper goals, and achieving those goals.
Steve Solomon (00:46:46):
Jim, one of the things you mentioned too is keeping the workforce engaged. And certainly, we can’t forget about the incentives and the sharing of the very positive stories that come out of this environment. We’ve been very fortunate when we do have call calibration sessions with our clients as of late. They’ve been very complimentary as to our agents’ handling of people that are going through a hardship.
Steve Solomon (00:47:19):
We are still seeing significant payments arising from tax season. So I think as we look at the combination of speech analytics, the scripting that we’ve put in place, fortunately, our production in some areas has increased since moving to this virtual environment.
Jim Lynch (00:47:42):
Well, that’s pretty interesting. We think about how that can happen and it could be because agents are just more productive. They’re not having as many sidebar conversations. And then, you think there’s a lot of people out there… Steve, you’ve been working at home for a long time. Maybe not in your current role, but definitely in past roles. You were running companies out of your home office.
Jim Lynch (00:48:01):
So when we think about that, sometimes there’s some increased pressure when you work at home. You don’t want to lose that opportunity because it does provide a lot of flexibility and you’re not having to commute back and forth to the office. I think we see that sometimes, that agents are really tied to their screen. Maybe even more than what they need to be, but I think it’s very valuable, Steve.
Jim Lynch (00:48:20):
Boris, do you have any questions for Steve, as he talked through these bullet points that may come top-of-mind, before we jump into your solutions?
Boris Grinshpun (00:48:27):
No. I think, look, these things are phenomenal, Steve, and what you guys have been able to achieve in terms of productivity. How have your agents responded as well? I guess that would be the question.
Steve Solomon (00:48:40):
So Boris, the first few days, when we would look at our reports and we were transitioning, we were actually 60% productive. So quite a few people are holding their breath. Eventually, again, teaching our management staff how to manage in this environment, how to utilize the tools that they’ve always used.
Steve Solomon (00:49:05):
We have exceeded on a daily basis. We are exceeding 90% productivity for the entire staff. We’re able to monitor day-to-day production interval reports. And interestingly, we’re able to get people to volunteer for scheduling. In the past, we’ve had trouble getting people into the office.
Steve Solomon (00:49:34):
So again, I think reporting has been a strong suit that, again, I have to thank LiveVox for the data that’s available to us and teaching our managers how to transition to this environment. It has actually in numerous cases, improved the overall outcome.
Jim Lynch (00:49:56):
That’s awesome, Steve. Totally appreciate that. Obviously, it’s not… It’s an endorsement that you gave us, so I appreciate that but it definitely wasn’t asked and I’m glad it’s actually providing value and it’s one that we like to see people really utilizing, actually how you can deep dive into data by drilling down into some KPIs that you’re looking for. So that’s awesome feedback for everyone to think about.
Jim Lynch (00:50:16):
So Boris, let’s hit on this, really quick. I know that we’re almost 10 minutes to the end. I know that we have a few questions. We’re going to fly through some of these slides a bit. But if you could touch on the high points of each one, then we’re going to give some top tips that everyone is going to want to hear at the end. And then, answer some Q&A.
Boris Grinshpun (00:50:33):
Yeah, absolutely. And so, we’ll talk about some automation and workflow best practices, and some ways that we can do this, as well as we’ll give some folks maybe some out-of-the-box ideas that we’ve picked up based on some of our conversations.
Boris Grinshpun (00:50:48):
So from a standpoint of automation building scale, one of the things that we see clients now starting to do is really looking to hone in and look at certain patterns within their conversation with some speech analytics tools out there. And so, if you are not wanting to listen to thousands of conversations but looking to listen for keywords, looking to understand some patterns, you could do that very easily and successfully and not, if you will, go through and look for needles in a haystack.
Boris Grinshpun (00:51:22):
In addition to this, you can also create workflows. And the reason I mention this is that inevitably, you’re going to run into situations where now your agents who are sitting in a remote setting in their home aren’t able to walk two cubicle rows over. So if you need a tool or if you’re looking for a tool, or you haven’t already implemented a tool, we’re happy to help.
Boris Grinshpun (00:51:44):
If not, if you’re looking for other ways, I would really recommend deploying a workflow tool that really routes a ticket or routes a solution from one team to another or from one agent to another group of agents. Really powerful. It really helps to connect your teams in a work-from-home setting.
Boris Grinshpun (00:52:04):
In addition to this, rewards and connections. We talk a lot about having continuity and how do you do that? And so, just some tidbits we’ve heard.
Boris Grinshpun (00:52:15):
So how do you reward great behavior? We’ve heard people giving out digital cards. We talked about people actually having a Zoom video happy hour type of situation and that has really created team unity.
Boris Grinshpun (00:52:31):
The one that I really like, by the way, given all the struggling restaurants, we’ve seen people send out… Utilizing Postmates, Uber Eats, any one of those services to actually send a coffee to their work-from-home employee directly to their desk. Send a favorite lunch. Just something to keep the environment light, support our local economy, and really create a really pleasant surprise and delight experience for agents.
Jim Lynch (00:53:00):
Boris, I’d really like someone to deliver some tacos here. So if you want to do that right after this call, I definitely appreciate it.
Boris Grinshpun (00:53:06):
I thought you were going to get me some lunch, Jim.
Jim Lynch (00:53:08):
Yeah, that’s great. So as we get on this, everyone is in a different place. And Steve and Matt, I want you to rewind a little bit. A couple weeks ago, you were just battling this, right? Some people might be in some locales that there isn’t quite closing nonessential businesses or how they might be classified.
Jim Lynch (00:53:26):
So when you think about where you were a few weeks ago, and if you could leave anyone with a few pointers on, hey, I wish that I could give you a recommendation or I wish I knew this when I got started? Maybe, Matt, let’s start with you. If you can think of something, maybe like one or two quick bullet points that we could share with everyone that you’ve thought from an IT perspective that you’d like to share with your peers?
Matt Ernst (00:53:45):
Yeah, thanks, Jim. There’s lots of technology out there and to the points that Steve has made about our relationship with LiveVox, clearly, this solution allowed us the easy flexibility to move our agents at home with them really seeing nothing different than what they saw while they worked here in the office. So having solutions like that is key.
Matt Ernst (00:54:12):
The technology side of the equation, there’s numerous ways in which to solve and every technology is unique to each organization. And so, it’s tough to give a huge idea about what they should be doing for their organization, but there are lots of business partners out there like Amazon and a few others that could probably help you accomplish what you need to accomplish and still stay in a compliant mode.
Jim Lynch (00:54:41):
Thanks, Matt, I appreciate that. We’ve seen IT organizations become more innovative in a short time than we ever have before. We were talking to some clients yesterday. They just talked about all of the dev that their IT team has done. And not to put you on the spot, Matt, but I can only imagine all the work that you guys have done that would sometimes if it was just an ask, like Steve came in and was like, “Hey, could you figure this out?” You might be like, yeah, we could probably put that together in like six months or so, but we’ve seen IT teams really do some awesome work really fast over the past couple weeks to get people home.
Jim Lynch (00:55:11):
So Steve, from an operational perspective, any one top tip that you want to leave with everybody?
Steve Solomon (00:55:17):
Yeah. So despite the bullet points here, we talk about what’s the new norm going to look like? How can you turn this into a real positive? For anyone on the seminar that has an inbound call center or an inbound project, the flexibility that this can give you, we recently started sending out blasts to our employees when our call queues would build up. Now in the past, in a brick-and-mortar environment, you have to ask people to come into the office. Well, this blast simply asked people, any available agent, please sign on for the next two hours. It enables us to clear the queue. It is a whole new level of versatility that going forward, we hope our clients will be very receptive to.
Jim Lynch (00:56:03):
Wow, Steve, that’s pretty impressive. I think of that as like Uber surge, when Uber is trying to get people out on the road. They raise prices, but it’s almost like an on-demand workforce that you guys are using. I’m assuming that you’re doing a blast, either SMS or a prerecorded voice, is that what you’re doing?
Steve Solomon (00:56:21):
Yeah. So we’ll send out a text to our folks. And again, the response rate has been tremendous. They don’t have to get in a car and drive somewhere. They just sign on, and we’ve had great success with that.
Jim Lynch (00:56:36):
Man, that’s great. I love it.
Jim Lynch (00:56:37):
All right, Boris, so I’m going to shift over to you. We’ve got five points here, and maybe pick one or two? We’ve got about five minutes left. I’m going to ask a couple questions after this. So if you have some key points here?
Boris Grinshpun (00:56:47):
Yeah, absolutely. I think as we talk through this, I think keeping it simple, solving immediate challenges, I think is priority number one for folks. We want to make sure that you have connectivity, you have business continuity. So keep it simple and solve immediate problems.
Boris Grinshpun (00:57:02):
Our next recommendation is expand what you’re monitoring today and the tools that you’re utilizing today. I love the SMS use case. We’ve had a number of clients utilizing non-voice channels in order to expand their foray and do a lot more within the contact center space today. We’ll talk about that at another time.
Boris Grinshpun (00:57:23):
The last couple are really unifying the experience and making sure that it all works cohesively, and there is automation that’s built in. And always establish a new path for new ideas and to try new things, especially in this environment.
Boris Grinshpun (00:57:37):
And by the way, there is a great article that we’ve included here. It will be in our PowerPoint. I highly recommend that you read it, so that way you don’t get overburdened with way too many things that everybody is talking about in general during this time.
Jim Lynch (00:57:54):
Thanks, Boris. All right. So let’s flip over to a couple questions. The first one I have is what does it… And Steve, I guess we’ll pitch this over to you. What does it look like for the future state of agents, and are you guys thinking about keeping the at-home model or transitioning everyone right back into the office as soon as you can?
Steve Solomon (00:58:13):
So we’re going to have conversations with our clients. We’re certainly going to look at the data, and the performance at work-at-home. I don’t imagine that we’re going to have a 100% virtual workforce. I think the majority of our folks will come back into an office environment.
Steve Solomon (00:58:30):
However, going forward, again, it provides versatility. In certain cases, we see improved performance, lower attrition. It certainly helps our recruiting team when trying to get those late-night shifts, those weekend shifts that are needed. So there is an advantage to having it. It’s really what percentage of your workforce is prudent, but certainly, it’s something we want to maintain on a go-forward basis.
Jim Lynch (00:59:04):
Awesome. And Matt, this one looks to be for you. It would be what does the agent equipment look like? Was it a zero, thin, laptop, desktop? Talk about the hardware solutions that you have. Did all agents have them, or what did you deploy? How did you deploy, if you could walk through that?
Matt Ernst (00:59:22):
Sure, just real quick. So I utilized a lot of our equipment in-house. We actually re-imaged those machines and we have loaned those out to our staff to take home, so we still had control over what they had. In some cases, if the agent did have available equipment, they were allowed to utilize it with stipulations that we had about how they were going to utilize it and what they had to have on the machine.
Matt Ernst (00:59:49):
It can be a pretty thin footprint because there’s not a lot of lifting. It’s like any other virtual environment that you might be deploying out to any workforce member. It’s very thin, and there’s really no activity going on on the machine. It fits to just about any platform.
Jim Lynch (01:00:11):
Thanks, Matt. And maybe building on that a little bit, it looks like a fault question came in. It said have you had any issues with maintaining PCI compliance with remote agents, like the controls around the endpoint? Like desktops, laptops, tablets and things like that, controls like personal firewalls in place, patching is up-to-date. Is there anything you want to share with everyone as it relates to that?
Matt Ernst (01:00:33):
Yeah. We really haven’t had any issues with that. Again, because we’ve got a lot of control and the fact that they’re coming in from a virtual perspective and doing dual authentication to get to the Amazon workspace, there is not much activity that they can do outside of that workspace. We haven’t had any issues with controlling or maintaining our PCI compliance for that matter.
Jim Lynch (01:00:56):
Okay. And Boris, this one’s for you. People have… A few questions actually came in, so I’m just going to summarize. What’s the best way for someone to follow up if they need more information?
Boris Grinshpun (01:01:07):
Yeah, absolutely. I think there is a slide at the end. You should contact your account executive, or you can contact us through our website, livevox.com, and chat with one of our folks there. So there are a number of ways for you to connect. So again, if you are a client, contact your account manager. If you’re not a client, utilize the email list address there, or you can go directly to our website and chat with somebody.
Jim Lynch (01:01:36):
All right, great. So I think we’re right at the top of the hour. We’re out of time. We do have a few more questions. We’re going to answer those back in email specifically right to the people that asked. I want to thank Steve, Matt, and Boris for joining me today in this webinar. I hope you all enjoyed it. Thank you so much.
Jim Lynch (01:01:51):
We’ll be sending out the recording in the next 24 hours, along with some featured content to help you along in the process. So again, thanks so much everyone for joining, and we’ll talk to you, next time.
Boris Grinshpun (01:02:01):
Steve Solomon (01:02:02):
LiveVox is a leading provider of enterprise cloud contact center solutions, managing more than 14+ billion interactions a year across a multichannel environment. With over 15 years of pure cloud expertise, we empower contact center leaders to drive effective engagement strategies on the consumer’s channel of choice. Our leading-edge risk mitigation and security capabilities help clients quickly adapt to a changing business environment. With new features released quarterly, LiveVox remains at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. Supported by over 450 employees and rapidly growing, we are headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Atlanta, Denver, Bangalore, and Colombia. To learn more, schedule a demo today.