Defining and Measuring Contact Center Productivity

The definition of productivity is the first step in knowing how to calculate it. Here’s one way of thinking: Productivity is a measurement of the amount of work accomplished during a specified time frame (sometimes called output or efficiency).

In the contact center environment, we typically think of number of customers serviced. The number of customers serviced for a specified time frame is averaged over an entire reporting cycle to smooth typical system variation.

Remember Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s famous insight: that performance variation is caused more often by the system in which people work than by the people themselves. We have to give our measurement enough time to smooth out the system variation.

What methodology should you use to develop the metric for productivity?

Metrics can be developed in a myriad of ways. The method you choose should be consistent with your defined performance measurement values.

The front-line employees (through facilitated meetings) can help design their metric. Pose this question to them: “What is a fair way to measure the number of customers serviced?”

After listing all the different productivity units available, ask them to evaluate the validity of each unit. For example, when you look at average talk time, ask, “Can someone have a good average talk time and still not be productive?”

(The answer is yes, because someone could have great talk time and horrible after call work time.)

Once you have narrowed the list, ask the front-line workers to develop a calculation that allows the team to measure productivity across any shift. You need one that is fair to all agents, and one which agents cannot artificially inflate—and thereby undermine the belief in the performance management process.

Kathryn E. Jackson, Ph.D, is president of Ocean City, NJ-based contact center consultancy Response Design Corp

This article was published in 2009  and is frequently updated