Published: August 12, 2014 | Comments
Businesses have high expectations of their call center agents. But sometimes they have very funny ideas about how to get their people achieve consistently high levels of performance. Corporate objectives are translated into operational KPIs and linked to individual objectives – for example, quality of customer experience, time to answer, average handling time - the list is endless. And, at the same time, everything is expected to be done quickly and, even more importantly, cheaply.
Businesses rationalize the focus on goals and targets by saying they are helping to put their agents in control – especially in pay for performance environments - but in reality, often the agents are not in control and, at the end of the month, organizations are left scratching their heads as to why customer satisfaction scores are so low and why attrition levels remain high.
Today, call center agents are expected to know and retain more information than ever before. They are also expected to generate outstanding customer experiences while managing the call to the operational metrics. One company I visited earlier this year had their KPIs updated in real-time on dozens of enormous flat screens in the call center. Another one suspended posters that reminded all and sundry of the quarter’s call center objectives. Some would consider this good practice as everybody’s (supposedly) on the same page, while others have a less favorable view as it could be perceived as cold and industrial. I advocate anything that delivers clarity on corporate and individual objectives and enables individuals to take ownership of their own development.
Manage. What. Matters. 3 simple words that, together, genuinely represent the key to boosting individual and organizational performance. So, in the context of this subject matter, I prefer to think of agent scorecards as agent performance cards that are intelligently designed to help agents perform to the best of their abilities and achieve corporate goals.
Precise metrics will differ from company to company, but generally speaking they will be metrics that underpin the customer experience, balanced with the real business need for efficiency and internal quality measures. Analytics - delivered by, and in combination with, specialist technologies - will help create performance that drive the best outcomes for your agents and your business.
1. Know what you've got
Start by benchmarking your existing employee base: knowing what skills and knowledge your employees have is crucially important before analysis can be used to understand their links to positive business performance. There are many ways for employees to be benchmarked depending on their role and sector. Benchmark measures could be based on one or many of a number of performance data sources, including sales figures, quality management scores, length of service and tasks performed, for example. The key is that they are values which can be analysed later and are common amongst groups that require comparison. It's worth considering specialist performance optimization solutions that take data feeds from multiple data sources.
2. Decide what's important
Have a clear goal or objective: this is very important as it drives the direction of any analysis and helps formulate the desired outcomes. Without clear goals or objectives it is difficult to achieve a real performance gain as you don't really know what you're looking for or want to achieve! Once you're clear, then analytics should be used to find the causal factors that are driving the desired business outcomes.
3. Link what you've got to what you want
As a first step, link employees' skill and knowledge levels and behaviors to the best business outcomes. Then make sure you triangulate this with the desired organizational goals and objectives - a fundamental step in the effective use of analytics. Continue by analyzing your best performers, but, remember 'best' should not be a subjective view! Use available data and analytics to inform and agree the definition of 'best' that most accurately fits the organization, its goals and objectives.
4. Find and fill gaps
Use analytics to compare individual employees, find where skills gaps are and unearth trends in skill improvement and related business objective improvement. The outputs of this analysis should then be used to make sensible decisions about what development is required: specifically what, who and when, rather than the common 'sheep dip' approach to training and development. Use analysis to show where investment will have the most impact as this is your best bet to achieve rapid performance improvements and get the best bang for your buck.
5. Manage. What. Matters.
Apply everything you have learnt to create meaningful, balanced performance cards (scorecards) for each agent. Keep a keen eye on individual and overall performance by testing and refining on a continuous basis.