Improve customer conversations with call monitoring & call listening

How should you keep track of your customer support quality? Or the quality of your sales calls? The answer is simple: you listen.

Sure, there are a lot of metrics that can help you figure out customer satisfaction and agent performance. But once you have the metrics, listening is how you begin improving those conversations. This article outlines the various tools that are available to a call center supervisor to monitor their agents better.

What is call listening?

“Call Listening” is a call center terminology. It refers to a process where supervisors listen to their agents while they are speaking to customers in order to resolve issues before they escalate, monitor conversations in real-time, and identify agent training needs. 

Supervisors can “listen” to calls by going to the “reports” section of their call center software. Here, they can use the “barge” button to listen to any ongoing conversation. They can select which agent’s conversation they need to “listen” to based on multiple factors such as agents’ past performance or a higher-than-usual call handle time. Tools such as real-time sentiment analysis to know which calls need their attention.

They can also “listen” to past calls by going through call recordings. They can do this in order to more deeply analyze agents’ performance issues. Or even to analyze a star performers’ secret to great conversations. They can then use these recordings to improve the agent’s performance or to train others.

Also read: How to use speech analytics dashboard to monitor call quality in real-time

What is call monitoring?

Call listening and call monitoring can be used interchangeably. However, call monitoring can also refer to all activities where supervisors in a call center monitor the quality of the call conversations that their agents are having with customers or prospects. While it also includes call listening, there are a number of other activities it could include such as viewing how many of their agents are logged in at a given moment, how many calls are in queue, how many calls are being abandoned, and your service level adherence. Supervisors can usually access all these reports by logging in to the “Reports” section of their cloud call center software.

The video below shows the many ways in which supervisors can monitor call center performance including call listening.

This video demonstrates how supervisors can use their live monitoring dashboards to monitor agent and call center performance.

What’s the need for call monitoring?

Call monitoring is one of the most potent quality assurance tools. It is almost like conducting a survey about how satisfied your customer is but doing it in real-time instead of in retrospect. When you listen to an agent talking to your customer as it happens, you understand the customer’s experience and your agents’ convincing skills.

Call monitoring serves several purposes:

  1. Lets you analyze the real reason behind your metrics
    Your metrics such as AHT, FCR, and CSAT can give you a good measure of call center performance. But to investigate what’s behind the metrics, you need to use call monitoring and call listening tools.
    For example, If an agent’s AHT(Average Handle Time) is higher, you can investigate why the agent took longer to close a call.
  2. Helps figure when your metrics aren’t showing you an accurate picture.
    Call monitoring can also tell when you need to be less rigid with your metrics. For example, a call that lasted longer than your AHT does not necessarily mean it wasn’t effective. It could mean the agent went the extra mile to resolve a customer’s query. Similarly, you may find an agent who deviates from the script only to ensure a customer is satisfied with the response or a solution. This way, call monitoring can also tell you when it is time for introspection.
  3. Improves customer satisfaction.
    Whenever customer satisfaction scores are dropping, call monitoring lets you take instant steps to arrest the fall.
  4. Helps training.
    You can use recordings of well-handled and poorly-tackled calls as case studies when training contact center agents. You can also intervene during a call if you think it is not going in a positive direction and offer the agent constructive solutions.
  5. Boosts First Call Resolution.
    When an agent is aware that the call is being listened to, he or she will do their best to ensure the caller’s issue is resolved in the first call itself. This instills the kind of confidence in a customer that no paper warranty can.
  6. Ensures timely intervention
    When a manager is listening in on a call and notices that the agent is unable to solve a problem, he or she can intervene right then and advise the agent on what to do next. This saves the customer time otherwise spent being on hold while the agent is consulting the manager. It also saves the customer the trouble of calling back at a later time and going through the entire process all over again.

How to monitor calls?

As we mentioned earlier in this article, call listening and call monitoring can be done in real-time, and can also be conducted in retrospect. We’ll examine how each type of monitoring works

Monitoring live calls

Monitoring live calls allows a QA manager or Team Leader to listen to a call in real-time or as they happen. It can help closely monitor and guide agents as they attempt to resolve customer issues.

Live call monitoring can be done in three ways:

  • Barge-in: Though it sounds a bit rude, “barge-in” is really a helpful feature that allows a third party – usually a supervisor or team leader – to silently barge into or join a call between an agent and customer, while it is on. Neither the agent nor the customer can tell that someone else is privy to their conversation.
    Use this method when: As a less intimidating way of monitoring calls because the agent is not conscious of the superior’s presence all the time.
  • Whisper: A team leader or manager listening to the call can speak to the agent in private without the customer hearing their conversation. It is the tech equivalent of a manager whispering into the agent’s ear. This is a one-way (uni-directional) communication from the manager to the agent, used when the manager feels the need to intervene and give the agent key inputs during the conversation.
    Use this method when: This method is effective when an agent is stuck mid-call for lack of understanding on how to proceed further or if a conversation gets heated. The manager can help the agent deal with the customer’s annoyance.
  • Snoop: This is a tripartite conversation – the manager or supervisor who has been silently listening in can join the call and communicate with both, the agent and the customer to address the query.
    Use this method when: This method helps in resolving the issue faster. Customers also end up feeling important when they know a senior has personally intervened and taken interest in their problem.

Monitoring historical call recordings

Cloud contact centers generally enable call recordings. Supervisors or managers can use these effectively to monitor and improve performance as well as for training purposes. In case an issue resurfaces or a customer claims an ineffective call resolution at some later date, he’s call recordings can prove handy.
If your call center is integrated with your CRM solution, you can view these call recordings against the customer ticket. Even if you don’t, the manager can access these recordings in a few clicks.

Also Read: What is a call center CTI Integration? And how does it improve performance

Correlating performance metrics and call recordings for effective monitoring

It isn’t possible to monitor all your calls or go through all the recordings. Use your reports to help you select which calls to monitor.

  1. CSAT: CSAT or customer satisfaction is often considered the most effective metric. CSAT can easily be collected at the end of each call by diverting your caller/customer to an IVR that collects feedback in the form of a score or a yes/no satisfaction survey. You can then filter CSAT by agent, and listen to the underperforming agents’ call recordings. you can also use high performing agents call recordings for training purposes.
  2. AHT, FCR: Average Handle Time tells you how fast an agent wrapped a call. A low AHT is desirable. So you can filter for calls that go above a certain AHT in real-time, this way whenever a call exceeds a certain handle time, you can barge in to help/listen.

Advanced call monitoring tools to manage effective monitoring at scale

As your business grows, you need to scale up all your systems. So how do you monitor calls when your agents start growing from say, 5 to 50, or even 500? An efficient agent could end up physically monitoring more than 150 calls a day. A two-minute call can take at least three minutes to analyze. At this rate, when call volumes are large, the QA team can monitor only 5 percent of the total calls. Conclusions drawn from this kind of sample may not be representative of the entire data mine you are sitting on.

Many cloud telephony systems (like ours) offer advanced tools to monitor a large number of calls. Here are two we think you’ll find interesting:

Speech Analytics

Speech analytics gives you a ready reckoner on how your agents are performing on calls 15 times faster than manual monitoring. It can detect greeting, interruptions, and even sentiment during calls. It can alert supervisors when sentiment dips on certain calls so that they can “barge-in” and prevent escalation.

Customized Reports

Ozonetel has worked for over a decade with some of Asia’s largest startups. As these startups grew and scaled, they found that their call center faced a unique problem. Some agents would digress from official duties and spend time chatting online or surfing the Internet for entertainment. The problem was that while earlier floor managers could view all the agents on a report that occupied a single screen.

However, as the number of agents grew, this report would run into multiple pages. By the time the floor manager (who was often handling nearly 100 agents a day) would zero in on the slacker, valuable time was lost. Ozonetel created a customized tool to help.

The system would now track inactive agents and puts them on top of the list on the manager’s screen. This way, the manager can immediately identify who the slacker is and pull him or her up.


By using the right tools and systems, you can also use call monitoring to help avert crises and improve resolutions in real-time. Of course, every business has its own limitations and requirements. Speak to a contact center software provider to get the right tools to help your business today.

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