I am of the philosophy that leaders need to understand what drives behaviors. I am not talking about the call center saying "you ask for a number you will get a number." I recall a mentor of mine say if we drive numbers and the representatives will get that number and will let other expectations (metrics) lag. Our expectations as leaders in the contact center world need to be behavior driven and let the front line leaders monitor the numbers. Let the numbers be one indicator of performance. The representatives will set their motivation toward the goals we set. Our goals need to be driven around the company goals we have aligned directly to how the representative can support them. Yes our world is all numbers… how couldn’t we be with Erlang B and Erlang C. The calculation describes and advanced our industry. Having the right person, at the right place and the right time allows us to meet the expectations our customers. So that sets the stage that numbers will always be in the contact center world. It is what we do as leaders with those numbers.
I say let the numbers be indicators. You will have expectations as an organization that your management need to rally toward. Those front line leaders need to have a pulse on their teams and know the numbers. Those numbers allow for the manager to prescribe coaching, mentoring, training that reinforces the metric they want an ESR to work towards. Now I have also been in the industry long enough to know some representatives want to know their numbers… and that is situational management at its best. Then that manager can work to provide those numbers to that representative… yet the manager still talks in behaviors. Let’s use a real example; the ACW for a rep is higher than expected. A manager can say it needs to be closer to a 45 second average and leave it as that. That representative if they don’t have the skills set needed to reduce the ACW will either elongate the handle time or stack cases and move to the next call and then try to come back and notate a case off of memory. So the longer handle time scenario gained you nothing and the scenario of stacking case gives you errors due to not remembering. So they got their ACW number we asked for and now we have another issue to deal with. Using the coach to the behaviors looks like this. The manager indicating that they noticed that the representative taking longer at finishing a case after a call than typical. Then if they know their representative, by doing side by sides, or monitoring screen captured calls they could offer a typing tutorial to increase typing and talking ability, getting a call mentor to work with the representative on system navigation or assigning a senior representative to set with the representative struggling with ACW to allow for a transfer of knowledge. The results are better in the behavior method. We reduce ACW and don’t impact AHT or case accuracy.
The philosophy of coaching to the behavior is dependent on an important variable; the relationship the manager has with their team. The manager needs to be of the philosophy of coaching behaviors, develops a strong relationships with their representatives. It must be sincere and supportive toward development and success. The beautiful thing of being a leader is our job #1 is develop our companies number one asset, people. If you do that, you retain associates, have high engagement and the representatives know the manager is genuinely interested in their success and not their own. We as leaders don’t need to be consumed with our advancement if we do our job (I say this knowing we have a lot on our desks) and develop our associates. If we do this we will be recognized as an effective leader in our company and our own success will follow. I am a firm believer and have seen it in my own teams…if the managers focus on the reps, know their teams processes and responsibilities, focus on building a relationship with their team members; the numbers will follow. And you don’t have a constant cycle of fixing one deficient skills and then have one or two new ones to focus on.
I am confident that if you try the approach of coaching to the behaviors and not the number you will see success. Because in my past operations over the 20 years in contact centers and customer service I see associate retention stable at 91% and Kenexa Engagement scores 3.91+. Both are indicators of representative focused on the goals set in front of them and their own development.
Dan Hammelman is Vice President of ADP Inc., National Account Service Centers. www.adp.com. email@example.com.