The March from Contact Center Data to Customer Service Knowledge

There is a lot of talk about big data and metrics in all industries today, and the contact center world is no exception.  An article in the April 2014 CRM Magazine highlighted one of the weaknesses of this new push for more data:  “our view of data often doesn’t extend further than numbers.”  In the article, “Data Versus Knowledge,” Denis Pombriant writes that the numbers we often think of as data are quantitative, which is only one type of data.  He cites a wide variety of other examples of data such as shoe size, time of day, delivery date, and a course letter grade; these data types are less conducive to typical analysis.

Pombriant writes of a hierarchy:  data > information > knowledge.  “We don’t act on data, we act on information, and we only act on information when it creates knowledge in our minds that enables us to make informed decisions.”  With all of the discussion about big data, we can forget that the data is not the ultimate goal.  The data is just a means to the end, which is to combine and manipulate that data into new information which will then lead to useful knowledge.  Combining call center data in new ways, and combining it with existing knowledge, can lead to new perspective and useful insight.

As an example, think of the multiple data points of a customer who called a particular number.  You have the number called, call duration, and other basic metrics.  You can combine those with data about how many other times that customer has called and the metrics associated with those calls; from here you can start to gather information about particular customer experiences.  Now, if you have a customer profile it might also include the customer’s job title, geographic location, and more.  If you combine all of your data, you’ll have more information about the customer, which can lead to knowledge about the customer’s expected buying patterns, potential professional objectives, and more.

Inova has helped many contact centers turn their real-time data into focused, actionable information.  Schedule your FREE Real-Time Performance Analysis today to see how real-time data can positively impact your key management challenges.  LEARN MORE

Strategies for Managing Remote Call Center Agents

Telecommuting used to be a novel concept in the workplace, with the option to work somewhere other than the office being a rare privilege.  No longer the case today, working from remote locations has become increasingly common in a variety of industries and the contact center is no exception.  In the March 2014 Contact Center Pipeline issue, Scott Murphy discussed the topic in his article, “Overcoming the Challenges of Managing an At-Home Workforce.”  He writes that ten years ago, when the trend just began to take hold, “it was common to hear…talk about how much more efficient, productive, happy, and dependable [work-at-home employees] were.”  However, now that the novelty has worn off, so have some of the performance benefits.  Murphy offers some strategies for managing the common challenges; including preparing for unknown factors and understanding that resolving technical issues may take more time.

A third common challenge that Murphy highlights is at home agents feeling a lack of connectedness to the organization.  Without the daily in-person interaction in the office, remote employees engage less often with on-site peers and supervisors.  This can lead to a variety of additional challenges including a heavy reliance on other remote workers, decision making without supervisor involvement, and reduced productivity and performance.  To re-engage these workers, Murphy suggests implementing video conferencing for weekly meetings with supervisors and team meetings or encouraging on-site workdays on a regular basis.

In addition to those suggestions, also consider how you can use the tools already available in your contact center to engage your remote workers. 

  • Chat or instant messaging – It may be natural for remote employees to band together over instant messaging, which likely provides needed support.  You can also encourage broader use of these tools among at-home and on-site agents:  consider matching an at-home agent with a new employee, starting industry-related book club discussions, or other creating networks to facilitate interaction.
  • Desktop applications – Many contact centers have wallboards that are visible for on-site employees; these are incredibly useful tools to share performance metrics; critical announcements; as well as morale-boosters like work anniversaries, birthdays, or workplace achievements.  Rather than leave remote agents out of this type of communication, find a way to deploy an application that shares the same information on the remote desktop.
  • Insight about performance – Agents who are away from the water cooler talk in the office may have a different perspective on your contact center performance metrics.  Take the opportunity to engage remote workers to hear different perspectives about the data as well as potential ways to change behaviors to improve performance.

Remote workplace situations have proven advantages and are likely going to remain a part of the modern day contact center.  As Murphy says, “paying attention to the small details will ensure that your work-at-home program will continue to thrive.”

“Analytics Everywhere” – contact center data visualization and discovery tools

“Analytics everywhere,”
a type of big data analytics solution that
makes mountains of insight
available across the entire enterprise.

That probably sounds like a dream come true to most of us!  In the March 2014 issue of CRM Magazine, Leonard Klie expands on this idea of analytics everywhere.  The article, “Big Data Prompts ‘Analytics Everywhere’ Solutions,” highlights the well-known challenge that much of the big data solutions target a small group of employees rather than the larger number of employees in business areas who can apply and use the metrics to change behavior.

Klie writes that data visualization and data discovery tools will be big drivers of analytics and that “generating business value from innovation, optimization, and insights are a function or the analytic culture within an organization.”  Rather than seeing your call center metrics as a massive pile of numbers, how can you make them more accessible to the employees who can use the data to make real changes in performance?  For example:

  • Identify the key metrics and create visually-appealing ways to display the information to a large audience.  Your digital signage and desktop applications are useful tools only inasmuch as people actually tune into the information.  Avoid text heavy displays and choose only the critical information that people need to know
  • Consider using your digital signage to display charts, grids, or other data visualizations.  Many people find graphics easier to understand, especially at a quick glance.
  • Work with your contact center leaders to find ways to create action messages based on pre-identified thresholds.  That way, no one is poring over historical data; instead, real-time information can be used to prompt immediate action by agents.

Don’t allow your big data to be locked away and accessible only to a select few.  Instead, use the hardware you have at your contact center to maximize the availability of the metrics to ultimately change behavior and improve performance!

Starting with Simplicity to Manage Contact Center Performance Data

Justin Robbins recently published an article ICMI, “Fine Tuning Your Contact Center Through the Use of Innovative Metrics.”  In the article, Robbins first sums up what many of us already know:  “metrics are everywhere,” with “more data than we know what do with and the mounting desire to throw our hands up in defeat.”  This massive amount of data accumulates and overwhelms contact managers so quickly that it can be nearly impossible to find ways to effectively analyze any of the information, let alone capitalize on any actionable items from the results.

Robbins suggests that the best way to use data to drive improvement is to take a step back and start with simplicity.  As a first cut, managers must cull the “must measures” away from the “waste and excess.”  He suggests several specific metrics as absolute essentials; identifying what metrics are critical for your specific contact center is an important first step to managing data.

After you’ve identified your critical data, the next best step is to match each metric with the appropriate stakeholder.  “Not everything we measure matters to everyone and certain metrics matter in different ways to different individuals.”  When you communicate metrics to specific stakeholders, you will be most effective when you share why that data is important to them and how it impacts their role within your greater organization.  Robbins argues that there is really no point in sharing a metric with someone who can’t make an impact on that data point.

Robbins final step into managing data is to identify the specifics of success.  Unfortunately, this is not as simple as just identifying an acceptable percentage or quota; you must match the data with the larger organizational goal, the behaviors that help to achieve that goal, and the employee supports that encourage those behaviors. 

Ultimately, the key to successful data management is not only in identifying the appropriate metrics to measure for your contact center but also in finding actionable ways to utilize that data in support of overall organizational goals. 

Aimed at Improving the Customer Experience: Contact Center 2014 Trends

I previously posted about contract center trends that we might expect to see in 2014.  In the January 2014 issue of The Real-Time Contact Center Newsletter, Donna Fluss takes a slightly different approach to anticipated trends, stating them in terms of goals for the upcoming year.  In the article, “Enterprise Servicing Goals for 2014,” Fluss writes that “many of the goals are similar to those in prior years, however, the priorities have changed, and there are new ‘twists’ that are being enabled by a more open, creative and flexible view of the role of contact centers.”

Her eight goals provide a solid foundation for action in the contact center, both in customer-facing and internal decisions.  It is difficult to draw a solid line in the sand to differentiate between decisions that are customer-facing and those that are internal, since the two are so closely tied. 

Fluss’ Enterprise Servicing Goals

Discussion

Customer-facing goals: 

1.   Improving customer service

2.   Improving the customer journey

3.   Resolving inquiries during initial contact

4.   Retaining customers

With the evolving technologies available both to contact centers and customers, the customer experience has become even more critical.  Customers now have tools that allow them to compare service and product offerings, and social media gives them leverage to make “a small issue can go viral.”  Contact centers can now leverage “tools to measure every touch and action taken by prospects and customers.”  Executives are now starting to follow through and deliver on promises to acquire and retain customers, through a real commitment to customer service and the overall customer journey. 

Internal goals:

1.   Reducing operating costs

2.   Complying with regulatory requirements

3.   Avoiding social media firestorms

4.   Increasing sales and collections

 

“Executives want their contact centers to pick up the slack and become major players in generating revenue.”  As part of that effort, there must be a focus on efforts that “improve service while reducing operating expenses.”  With customers who have social media tools at their fingertips, it is critical for companies to find ways to maintain positive customer relationships and to manage social media outlets.  And, of course, companies must always aim to remain in compliance with government regulations!

Fluss believes that this will be a year of technology investments aimed at improving the customer experience.  For more details, hop on over to Fluss’ article online!

“Show Me The Data!” Contact Center Trends for 2014

It’s January, so it’s time to start fresh and think ahead to what the new year might bring.  What can we expect to see, hear, and learn more about in the contact center field over the next 12 months?

Multi-channel – As customers continue to become savvier with the available communication channels, contact centers will be expected to effectively and efficiently manage multiple channels of communication.  This will continue to change the landscape of the call center with the addition of even more data potential through each communication channel.

Big Data – In May 2013, Science Daily reported that 905 of the world’s data was generated in the two previous years.   As far back as 2010, The Economist wrote that “the world contains an unimaginably vast amount of digital information which is getting ever vaster ever more rapidly.”  Certainly, the tools available in call centers today allow us to collect a wide variety of data points to measure any number of outcomes in an  attempt to assess KPIs in relationship with other metrics.

Real-Time – Data has become readily available in real-time format, allowing managers to make quick decisions that can improve performance.  As we continue to look at data collection opportunities, we must also seek to find ways to streamline the process so that the critical information rises to the top and is readily available and visible.  Consider putting procedures in place to handle typical outcomes for best long term performance. 

Analytics – With the unquestionable growth of available information, conversations must lead to find ways to answer questions regarding how to best analyze the data.  Part of the discussion regarding analytics needs to include quality versus quantity; some of the harder to measure data points and information can provide critical information about the customer experience.  The talk can’t stop with just analysis, however; we must also discuss how to extract key data points that will then drive decisions to ultimately improve performance and meet goals.

The Cloud – It seems that everyone is moving into the cloud, and that includes contact centers!  Companies are housing more data in cloud repositories and using the cloud to leverage a variety of other tools and resources.  Using the cloud allows for increased security, more flexibility, better integration, and ease of innovation.

2014 is likely to bring exciting continued evolution to the way contact centers operate on a daily basis!

Managing Contact Center Reporting

 

With the ever expanding amount of contact center data, it can be frustrating to manage contact center reporting.  As Brian Hinton writes in “Contact Center Reporting,” from the December issue of Contact Center Pipeline, the variety of data requests and the number of applications that house that data “drive the need to export the data into a warehouse or spreadsheets to meet business needs.”  Often, this leads to multiple problems including “data distrust, dependence on individuals, high time demands, duplicated effort, and errors.”  Ultimately this negates the value of the data, especially for contact center management purposes.

While most contact center managers are well aware of the value of accurate data, Hinton emphasizes this fact and the key role it plays in management:

ACD reporting feeds the supervisor desktop for real-time, intraday monitoring and management.  The supervisor sees information on service levels, abandons, average speed of answer, handle time, and time in work states. Supervisors watch the intraday statistics and react when metrics exceed thresholds.  Daily, weekly, and monthly reports help leaders and analysts spot trends.  Monitoring historical data ensures that process or technology changes have not had a negative impact – and hopefully validates expectation of positive impact.

 

In a perfect world, it would be easy to obtain and review all of that data.  However, Hinton highlights (and contact center managers are already well aware), that it is not a perfect world.  Complex data requirements – such as the need to marry ACD data with ERP, CRM and other enterprise data to reveal the value of the ACD data – often leads to manual reporting strategies and an over-reliance on spreadsheets, which are a tool not best suited for contact center data management.  Instead, Hinton emphasizes the value of a contact center focused database warehouse; a database offers auto-save features, dynamic data, and access for multiple users simultaneously.  He offers the following key considerations for effectively managing and using data through a database warehouse: 

  1. First, create a reporting strategy.  Have a reason and target audience for each report, and identify if there are ways to consolidate reports.
  2. Second, understand existing reporting tools.  Identify ways to use canned reporting when possible.
  3. Create analytic tools.  Use a data warehouse specifically geared for contact centers; this will give you more focused information and provide more confidence in data accuracy.

Hinton’s strategy aligns with Inova Solutions’ goal to facilitate data consolidation from multiple systems.  Inova Solutions can help contact centers cut through the clutter and consolidate key metrics across platforms (core functionality) and develop and implement a metrics strategy through Inova’s Real-Time Performance Analysis Service.  Ultimately, contact center managers will be better equipped to determine the right metrics, “enabling an effective data flow from applications to dashboards, scorecards, and reporting.”

Making Contact Center Data Fun

Can it be possible to make big data fun for both supervisors and front line agents?  Klie argues in the affirmative in his January 2014 article in Contact Center Pipeline, “Gamification Comes to the Contact Center.”  As is likely obvious to our readers, a singular intense focus on contact center metrics can lead to employee burnout and a lack of motivation; disengaged employees in a contact center can then develop into a multitude of additional challenges including reduced customer satisfaction.

Klie details a new trend in contact centers: gamification.  This trend allows for the application of principles from video games to the contact center itself.  Think “virtual challenges, contests, and quests for the purpose or racking up points, advancing to higher levels, or earning rewards.”  Adding an element of fun can re-engage your employees and create a new enthusiasm and excitement for their jobs.  Klie writes that the gamification trend is particularly relevant for a contact center; with contact center agents often acting as the voice of the company, it is particularly important to have “happy employees that have the right training and tools to help customers [which will] lead directly to a positive customer experience and improved financial performance.”  A key for integration of gamification in the contact center is the potential for integration with existing data.  Since contact centers already gather vast amounts of data, sometimes it can be as simple as correlating KPIs with game-like parameters. 

Even if you cannot fully implement a gamification platform at your contact center, consider ways that you can use the basic theory to make your effort to improve performance more fun.  Possibilities include a variety of “badges” for incremental improvements in your key metrics, rewards for completion of training “quests,” or opportunities to “level up” for a series of improvements in a specific focus area.   At the end of the day, if you can find a way to add an element of fun to your contact center data with some element of game play, you may find that you have more enthusiastic employees interacting with your customers. 

Keeping up with Evolving Contact Center Performance Measures

In the November 2013 issue of Contact Center Pipeline, includes an article by Susan Hash titled “Using VOC to Drive Agent Performance.”  The article provides a great connection between the trust I discussed in my previous two posts and the reality of today’s contact center.

“Contact centers that provide
personalized service – and do it well –
generally have a customer-centric
culture in place and take a more
progressive view of agent performance.”

The current changes in communication channels and customer expectations are paving the way for a new way to look at data.  Hash writes that enlightened call centers handle data differently, with a “more progressive view of agent performance.”  While data points like average handle time are still being measured, it is time to look more closely at the information to pinpoint more telling metrics such as “appropriate handle time.”  In this example, the measurement is the time it takes for the agent to complete the interaction with the customer so that the matter is fully resolved and the customer is satisfied.  Customers expect more personal interactions, and average handle time does not accurately portray an agent’s ability to deliver on that expectation.  Hash admits that this is a change in culture, and a shift toward “outcome analysis.”  When implemented well, though, these metrics provide better detail about performance, including successes and areas that need improvement. 

How do you make that happen?  I was amazed when I reached the conclusion of this article and ready that one characteristic of enlightened call centers is that they hire “great people that you can trust to make the right decisions.” What a perfect connection to my two previous posts about facilitating trust in the contact center!  Hash builds upon this idea of trust by recommending that agents should be more involved upfront in customer initiatives and that they should have opportunities to contribute feedback.  Hash suggests that agents who feel engaged will provide valid feedback about what works and what doesn’t and they’ll be more likely to support change.  Ultimately, these agents will feel more satisfied which will work like dominoes to lead to improved performance and increased agent engagement. 

For more information read our white paper: Call Center Performance Metrics: Shaping Tomorrow’s Reporting Strategy by Jay Minnucci, President, Service Agility

Using Metrics to Build Trust in Contact Center Agent Performance: Part 2

Last month, I wrote about building trust using metrics.  In that post, I posited that providing agents with access to big data would allow for more open discussion about performance levels, goals, and expectations; create opportunities to share unique perspectives about results; and encourage alternate ways to evaluate data.  The five questions of journalism are a good place to start for taking the next steps once you decide to share your contact center data.  We’ve already answered the WHY, but let’s take a look at the others:

  1. Who?  Who are the leaders or key players in your call center that could help you identify a successful way to rollout data sharing?  With whom will you share your data?   Would it be helpful to have team leaders?
  2. What?  What specific data will you share?  Do all agents need the same data?  Consider whether employees in specific skills will benefit from data about other skills.  Don’t rule it out because sharing data across skills may open opportunity for new perspectives, but do take time to be sure you aren’t providing overwhelming amounts of information.
  3. When?  When is the best time to share the data?  Ask your key players, identified in question one, about the best times to share which data.  For example, it might be helpful to have some results in real time but other data points rolled up and delivered daily or weekly.
  4. Where?  Where will your agents and supervisors want to view the data?  On their desktops, on wallboards stationed throughout the call center, or on tablets and other smart devices? These are some of the options you may want to consider for data sharing .

Deciding the best ways to provide access to information is a critical step in effectively sharing “big data” with your employees.  As I said last month, though, providing information to employees demonstrates your commitment to them and your belief in their professional capabilities; it may also provide new ways to enhance the customer service they can provide.