Contact Center Management Is Both an Art and a Science
By Donna Fluss
It’s alarming how many contact centers are managed without metrics, yet running a contact center strictly by the numbers is no silver-bullet solution either. In other words, contact center management is both an art and a science. It takes a great deal of talent and skill (the art), as well as the right data and metrics (the science), to manage a contact center effectively and efficiently. Managers can’t make the most of their art without the science of data and metrics.
To begin with, leaders should have these abilities and talents:
- outstanding interpersonal skills and an affinity for interacting with and helping customers;
- the ability to motivate, assist, coach and train agents;
- strong verbal and written communication skills;
- the ability to effectively collaborate with peers in other departments to resolve issues and improve the customer experience and journey;
- proven time and project management skills and the ability to multitask;
- skill in using and managing contact center technology and applications;
- experience and expertise in analyzing and using key performance indicators (KPIs) to manage business operations;
- knowledge of how to use Excel and/or Tableau (or a similar application) to analyze data and create return-on-investment models; and
- the ability to strategize and plan for the future of the business.
And of course they need to know the ins and outs of the business. In smaller contact centers, leaders are often responsible for doing almost everything themselves, with a little help from a supervisor, if they’re lucky. They are responsible for managing their people (including training, coaching, quality assurance, and scheduling), handling difficult customers (escalations), setting department policies and procedures, and overseeing applications and reporting. In larger contact centers, senior executives are typically supported by managers with complementary capabilities.
But the single most important management tool for contact center directors, managers, or executives are sets of KPIs or metrics that allow them to track and evaluate the performance of their departments, as well as each site, team, and agent. Since all operating systems have dashboards and reports that generate data, there are hundreds of KPIs available, but only 10 to 15 are necessary to gain an understanding of how well the department is meeting its goals on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. (Other KPIs should be used to drill down into the underlying data when necessary.)
Effective contact center leaders manage these numbers. They create a reporting framework, which typically includes a balanced scorecard, for their department and set up a process to collect and analyze the data on an ongoing basis. The ideal approach is to automate this data-gathering and analysis process with a contact center performance management application. However, when this solution is either unavailable or impractical, the data should be gathered and presented via Excel or Tableau. What’s important is to collect the data and to use it to manage the department, as this approach introduces a level of professionalism and fairness to the department, regardless of its size.
Here are six steps to help you get started in creating a data-driven organization that is respected by your agents and executives. (Please do not use the excuse that the data wasn’t there when you got the job; it’s your responsibility to make sure that you have the data, metrics, and KPIs you need to effectively run your organization.)
1. Select the 10 to 15 KPIs that are needed to manage the contact center.
2. Find the systems that provide this data, and validate the accuracy of the information.
3. Design the needed reports.
4. Set up a reporting process, including the time frames for delivery of each report.
5. Create a data collection process.
6. Go! Just do it.
Managing a contact center without proper metrics is like driving a car without a steering wheel. You’ll never know where you’ll end up or how you got there. Appropriate KPIs and reports will guide the department and keep it on track to optimize its performance and the customer experience.