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Contact Center Performance Management: Why Fight It?

Contact Center Performance Management: Why Fight It?

Performance management is one of the most important enterprise-wide management “concepts” to find its way into contact centers. Many successful contact centers have adopted a performance management culture, where they use metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure all significant activities and events that happen in their shops. As contact centers continue to transform from cost centers to profit centers, the role and importance of contact center performance management (CCPM) will grow. The recession will speed up this process, as companies face great pressure to reduce operational expenses and increase revenue from their contact centers.

What is CCPM?

CCPM is a strategic, practical and tactical tool. At the strategic level it provides a framework and tools that help contact center managers align their goals with those of the enterprise. It also is highly tactical, practical and actionable; CCPM provides scorecards and dashboards that are used to measure the performance of departments, functions, teams and agents. And, it delivers highly effective reports and analytics that make it easy to see where change is necessary to improve the performance and effectiveness of a business function or agent.

Performance management is a contact center requirement

Every contact center uses metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure its performance. In small and informal contact centers, the primary KPIs may be the number of calls handled, the average speed of answer (ASA) or the number of transfers. In a large, formal enterprise contact center, there may be dozens of metrics used to measure the performance of the department, for example, first call resolution rate (FCR), service level, interactive voice response (IVR) containment rate, and average handle time. Any contact center, formal or informal, that uses metrics or KPIs to measure its effectiveness is already using performance management.

What is the Future for CCPM?

Debates continue about the future of contact center performance management. Some say that CCPM functionality should be integrated into either workforce management (WFM) applications or quality management (QM) solutions. Others say that CCPM solutions should be incorporated into contact center infrastructure (the core routing and queuing solutions).

DMG agrees that CCPM scorecards and dashboards can help make WFM and QM solutions more actionable and we encourage their inclusion in these applications. We also encourage the use of CCPM to enhance the reporting capabilities of many ACDs. CCPM-oriented packages can also be used to address FCR, call reason identification, up-selling, agent coaching, performance appraisals, reviews, and a growing number of other functions, all of which depend on KPIs for effective execution.

DMG appreciates that it’s been difficult to sell stand-alone CCPM applications, and the current economic climate is making it even harder. However, we must point out that it is the complexity of contact centers that makes CCPM so very important. Most contact center managers are buried in reports and numbers from a myriad of systems, and struggle to find the right levers to drive or enhance contact center performance. Complicating matters further, reports from various systems often give different numbers for the same KPIs. Performance management is needed both to simplify the operational reporting environment and to give managers “one version of the truth.”

The Bottom Line

The CCPM function is never going to go away, as it is the most effective and objective way to measure all types of activities, from agent performance to training effectiveness to revenue and customer satisfaction. Performance management is increasingly used in enterprises to share essential metrics with the senior executive team. All too often, the contact center is left off the executive dashboard, because it cannot produce well-understood and accepted KPIs that can be shared on a timely basis. It’s time for contact center managers to stop fighting the inevitable and make the necessary investments to ensure that senior management is aware of their contributions. CCPM is the way to achieve this goal.

To learn more about the current set of CCPM solutions and packages that can enhance your operating environment and reduce operating costs while improving the customer experience, see DMG’s 2009 Contact Center and Enterprise Performance Management Report.

Ask the Experts

Question:

Can you suggest some techiniques for helping agents to re-focus chatty customers so that agents can be more efficient in addressing the reason for the call?

Answer:

Throughout a typical work day, call center agents deal with a wide variety of customer issues, emotions and personalities that manifest themselves in many different ways – for example frustration, anger, confusion, and/or a tendency to be long-winded. Regardless of the problem, concern or situation the customer is calling about, the call center agent must first address and acknowledge the “human side” of the conversation before moving on to the “business issue.” Managing the conversation flow is one of the subtler proficiencies that agents need to learn, practice and employ when handling customer calls. There are many good training programs for communications skills that focus on effective call handling techniques, one of which has been developed by Kaset International.

With respect to “chatty” customers, here is an alternative perspective that is worth considering. When speaking with customers, agents must use effective listening skills to hone in on the explicit reason for the call to determine how they can best address the customer’s need. At the same time they must be trained to listen for implicit concerns that the customer is trying to convey – these can be expressed in a word, tone or attitude. Customers often share a wealth of important and useful information about their life, situation and needs, during a call. (Marketing organizations often spend a great deal of money to obtain exactly the kind of information that customers freely share with call center agents.) Agents who are trained to zero in on these customer cues are highly effective in optimally matching the right products and programs to each customer’s needs. In doing so, they are extending relationships with the company through valuable cross-sell/up-sell opportunities and building loyal and highly satisfied customers at the same time.

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.