Evaluating the Performance of Your ‘Net Reps’

Phone. Web chat. E-mail.

Of these, the phone still remains the primary way consumers do business with merchants. But Web chat and e-mail are rapidly growing in popularity. As such, today’s call center agents must be just as adept at handling contacts that come in via the Internet as they are handling phone calls.

As we learned in parts one and two of this series, it takes more than just technology to transform your telephone agents into “net reps.” You also have to implement a comprehensive hiring and training plan to ensure your agents have the skills they need to deliver good customer service using Web-based channels.

In addition to finding – and training – the ideal agents for supporting these Web interactions, you will also need to continuously monitor their performance to ensure consistency of service across all channels. That brings us to the fourth and final step of transforming your phone reps in to “net reps:”

Evaluating performance

Just as net reps require different skills and attributes compared to traditional telephone reps, the way you measure their performance is also different. So what are the key performance indicators in the Web-enabled center? And what traditional measures are no longer relevant when measuring staff performance?

Traditional call center strategies focus on the efficient management of phone contacts to minimize cost. The Web-enabled center’s strategy is to maximize each customer relationship through efficient management of all channels of customer interaction. As the business strategies have changed, so have the metrics. What follows is a list of metrics you should include for Web-enabled call centers:

–Average response time for all media

–Length of time since the request arrived

–Number of open requests in queue

–Percentage of closed requests versus open

–Number of web responses each agent processes

–Error and rework rate for each type of media

Here are some tips for evaluating the performance of your net reps:

–E-mail inquiries – Hold e-mails in queue and have supervisors monitor responses before transmitting.
–Chat sessions – Have the supervisor monitor the session during the chat, or afterwards by examining the chat logs.
–Balance workload – Are Web inquiries assigned to the agent who has the fewest number of inquiries waiting in queue? If so, this could be a demotivator for one agent to work harder and quicker than another. Can web responses be balanced by alternating the delivery of messages? If you choose to do this, will the slower agent have inquiries that stack up, thus delaying response time? This has many of the same challenges as skill-based routing of phone calls.
–Monitor performance – Do you know how many Web responses each agent processes on an hourly and/or daily basis? Do you know the category of questions received on a daily basis and the average time to respond? What is the error rate?
–Track open inquiries – How long has it been since the inquiry arrived? Has the customer received an acknowledgement? Does the agent know the answer to the question, or did they fail to close out the inquiry?

As market changes are putting new pressures on call centers, agents must be prepared to support a broader, more complex set of customer interactions. Technology can be used to open alternate channels of communication, make more customer information readily available, and route contacts to the right agent, but your front-line staff must have the skill sets to utilize and support these transactions.

By following these steps, you will be able to provide an environment that responds to the evolving needs of your customers and your staff will be “Web-enabled” to meet and exceed their expectations.

Penny Reynolds and Pamela Trickey are cofounders and senior partners with The Call Center School, a Nashville, TN-based consulting and education company.

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