Three Steps to Creating a Measurement/Management System

Gaining the competitive edge in today’s fast-paced, constantly evolving business world means escalating operating performance, reducing costs, increasing reliability, improving cycle time to market, and ultimately meeting and exceeding customer requirements. And the contact center needs to support all these objectives. Sounds like a job for a superhero, no?

But you can accomplish the above without calling upon superhuman powers. (Whew!) What you need is a well-designed performance measurement and management system (PMMS) and an understanding of what you should measure, when you should measure, and how you should report the information.

A finely tuned system of performance measures helps you plan for the future, manage call volumes, determine training and staffing needs, identify revenue potential, determine a program’s effectiveness, and evaluate the quality of service your customers deserve and demand. It will provide you with the information required to continuously improve your center’s policies, procedures, processes, and systems so that you can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, which in turns leads to increased revenue.

Though creating and implementing such a system sounds daunting, you can actually do so in three steps:

Step 1—Strategy.
A PMMS must be built around a framework for understanding the customer experience. No single event is responsible for customer satisfaction or loyalty. To respond to changing business demands, managers must be flexible and quick to respond to the situation at hand. To adapt effectively, managers need to have access to 1) timely and relevant information; 2) insight into root causes and solutions; and 3) the ability to communicate results.

A successful PMMS must also be built around an interrelated set of financial and nonfinancial metrics designed to provide managers with vital information about the current state of their center and its future opportunities.

Every PMMS should support the business’s strategic plan. So first, you need to understand your company’s overall strategy and objectives. For instance, is your company focused more on building its customer base or on retaining its existing customers? Is its unique selling proposition centered on extraordinary customer care or low prices?

From there you can create department objectives linked to that enterprise strategy. Once you identified the objectives, you can identify specific performance measures.

As you strive to align your contact center objectives with those of the company at large, keep in mind that you should continuously analyze how the center’s performance affects the company and your customers. It’s critical to your career to hold yourself accountable for center objectives that maximize contribution to the company’s overall objectives. You must have a template that helps you organize your thoughts and determine what, when, and how you will measure your contact center’s performance.

We suggest reviewing your current structure to ensure that you

* measure the critical aspects of performance,

* link measures to corporate strategy, and

*communicate to employees a balanced view of what is important in the organization.

Robert Kaplan, a professor at Harvard Business School, and David Norton, president of IT and human-resources solutions provider Renaissance Solutions, recommend a framework called the balanced scorecard. Their model

* helps align key performance measures with strategy at all levels of an organization,

* provides management with a comprehensive picture of business operations,

* facilitates communication and understanding of business goals and strategies at all levels of an organization, and

*provides strategic feedback and learning. Take a minute and reflect on your call center measures. Using the above chart, what does your center measure in each of the four areas? If you are struggling to list even one goal in each of the areas, perhaps you need to realign your goals to achieve a balance across your organization.

Step 2—Metrics.
Once you have determined your PMMS strategy, you need to identify the specifics of what you should measure. And it’s important to keep in mind that just because you can “count” it, doesn’t mean it’s a measure that counts! The measures that really count in terms of service and profitability may in fact not be easily counted.

One way to think about key performance metrics is to think about the three groups of contact center stakeholders–the three groups of people you as a manager have to keep happy every single day: customers, senior management, and front-line staff.

Now think about what each group cares about. What do you need to measure for each of these stakeholders? Customers care about service, senior management cares about efficiency and revenue, and agents care about their workload, career path, and schedule. What, then, are possible metrics to keep you on track in each of these areas?

Here are some of the most common measures associated with these stakeholder concerns:
* Service
* Availability
* Hours and days of operations
* Line blockage/busy signals
* Self-service options
* Speed of answer
* Service level (x% in y seconds)
* Average speed of answer (ASA)
* Longest delay in queue
* Quality
* Monitoring scores
* Customer surveys
* Efficiency
* Staff utilization (matching workforce to workload)
* Agent occupancy
* Employee retention rate
* Average handle time (AHT)
* After-call work (ACW)
* Transfer rates
* System speed and availability
* Revenue
* Negative references
* Conversion rate (“Are we selling?”)
* Upsell rate (“Are we generating additional business?”)
* Customer retention
* Impact of lost opportunities
* Learning and innovation
* Quality of customer information
* Value of information provided to other departments
* Career growth of personnel in the center

We’re frequently asked to pick the 20 measures most often used in best-of-class contact centers. Our standard answer is “It depends…” Every business and every contact center is unique, and therefore no two contact centers should have the exact same set of metrics. There are, however, some commonly occurring measures that appear on nearly everyone’s list:

Call blockage error/Rework percentage
Abandon rate/Hold time
ASA/First-call resolution (“one and done”)
Schedule adherence/Successful sales percentage
Agent occupancy Successful upsell percentage
Scheduled-to-actual staff/Quality monitoring scores
Self-service percentage/Employee retention
AHT/Customer retention
Transfer percentage/Employee satisfaction
Cost per call /Customer satisfaction

Now let’s say we’re at a company that has been losing customers to the competition during the past two years. One of this company’s primary business goals for the year is to retain customers. How would this translate into contact center objectives and, more specifically, into a system of performance measures?

Here are some possible examples of performance measures that would link into the bigger corporate goal: * Abandonment rate * Customer satisfaction score * Busy signals or blockage * First-call resolution * Escalated calls

Each of the above is a critical factor affecting customer satisfaction and retention. Now take a closer look at just one of these factors–escalated calls. How could we develop a contact center objective based on this factor? First we need to know what our current performance is for escalated calls. Let’s assume that in our contact center they represented 30% of a supervisor’s workload last month and that each call indicated a customer who was not completely satisfied by the interaction with the agent. The contact center objective could be to reduce the number of escalated calls by 3% within the next six months.

Now that we have finalized the objective, how do we communicate it to the center? We need to let supervisors and front-line staff know what the objective is and why. For example, inform your staff that by reducing the number of escalated calls to the supervisor, they are helping the supervisor become more available to assist them. If supervisors are not spending as much time on escalated calls, they can provide coaching opportunities to the front-line staff, which should improve the service they provide customers, thus increasing the customer retention rate. We may also need to find a way for agents to be able to satisfy more callers themselves by giving them more authority or access to information.

As you evaluate what to measure, consider the relevance of the goals you set. Take for example a speed of answer goal of 30 seconds. Do customers care that the average was 30 seconds or that the period in which they called was 30 seconds? Would customers care if ASA were 10 seconds longer or shorter? What about 30 seconds longer or shorter? Would the tradeoff be worth the savings or expense? Business objectives for the enterprise change. Shouldn’t contact center goals be changed to match?

The contact center acts as a central repository of data. Don’t be data rich and insight poor! Are there things in the contact center that you can measure that might enable you to strengthen your relationship with other departments, such as marketing or product development? What about things you can measure that might enable you to be proactive and initiate action, such as helping measure the success of various marketing programs or identifying reasons customers are calling to alert the production area of needed changes? As you select the metrics for your center, keep in mind that your ability to demonstrate value to the enterprise will assist you in getting the resources you need to do your job.

In deciding when to measure, keep in mind the two distinct time periods of real-time vs. historical measurement. Real-time data provide specifics for the “right now.” Historical data provide statistics over time such as weekly, monthly, or quarterly and provide cumulative results. Cumulative data help to identify trends and/or fluctuation in performance.

Historical reports focus on trends for planning, identify performance against set goals, and develop data to predict the future. Real-time reports monitor developments, focus on areas that change quickly, identify adjustments to affect results today, and identify trends as early as possible.

Which brings us to… Step 3—Reporting.
When developing a reporting strategy for your contact center, your focus should be on providing information upon which decisions can be made. An effective reporting strategy will provide a complete review of the current state of performance measurement in your contact center and should provide you with the means to identify gaps in performance, evaluate strengths and weaknesses, and help you determine steps to improve the center’s performance.

As you present the results, use more than just graphs or charts. Make the information tell a story. The following “picture” was presented in a briefing to senior management:

The above chart was one manager’s attempt to use a “cockpit” or “dashboard” presentation. These terms were derived from the need to have the most critical information within the organization as an “at-a-glance display.” The graphs above with a very simple narrative explaining the values that appear as first through fourth and their significance as related to the current performance was all that was needed to give senior management a comprehensive view of the contact center’s performance. The type of data to report depends on your intended audience and how the data will be used. For example, are you presenting results to agents? Or to senior management? Plan and structure your report emphasizing the key facts. Keep in mind to present good news first and bad news last.

Agents should see:
AHT
Talk time
Wrap-up time
Schedule adherence
Percent of calls transferred to supervisor
Quality scores
Customer satisfaction

Management should see:
Workload handled
Workload forecasted
Resource utilization
Quality measurements
Costs
Revenue
Customer satisfaction

In summary, focusing your contact center on achieving the goals of the enterprise and contributing to the overall success of the organization is the key. With these steps as your guide, you can determine the goals for the center and the agents and develop a performance measurement plan to reach those goals.

But don’t forget that as you meet each goal, a new and higher one will be set by you or someone else. This is an ongoing process, but one that ensures the long-term growth and success of the organization.

Pamela Trickey and Maggie Klenke are founding partners of The Call Center School (www.thecallcenterschool.com), a Nashville, TN-based consulting and education company.

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