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. 

Using Metrics to Build Trust in Contact Center Agent Performance

When I recently came across a book titled I Love You More than My Dog, by Jeanne Bliss, I was intrigued.  When I saw that the book was about customer service, I knew I had to read it.  I haven’t finished reading yet, and haven’t had time to reflect on the big picture, but one passage has already made me stop and consider how companies today think about customer relationships. 

The first premise of the customer relationship philosophy in this book is Decide to Believe.  While the focus is mostly on deciding to believe in your customers, there is also some discussion about believing in your employees.  Do you believe in, and trust, your employees to provide the best possible service to your customers?

For the intent of this blog, I’m always thinking about agent performance and their impact on the contact center; it is a topic likely always on the mind of contact center managers as well!  Now, consider that same question in the context of your agents’ performance:  Do you believe in, and trust your employees enough to provide the best possible service AND how can easy access to metrics from your contact center platforms help build that trust?

Many contact centers already provide some level of access to past contact center results.  Providing your employees access to metrics in real-time, both on the contact center level as well as individual level, may offer many opportunities to build trust and to further enhance performance.  Consider these possible outcomes if multiple levels of contact center metrics are available to frontline agents:

  • Agents would have access to concrete performance metrics, allowing them to self-manage and make more informed decisions.
  • The real-time metrics would provide an opportunity to quickly see how their performance is aligning to goals and expectations.
  • Since they are “in the trenches,” agents may be able to offer additional insight about unusual or unexpected results; perhaps there was a computer glitch or a new promotion that threw everyone off for the reporting period.
  • Agents may be able to share new ideas about how to look at the metrics to evaluate overall performance.  Are you depending on metrics where agents have figured out how to manipulate the numbers? Are there metrics that you are not using that may be beneficial?

Of course, providing this information to employees demonstrates your commitment to them and your belief in their professional capabilities.  It is certainly worth considering whether sharing real-time contact center metrics with employees may help build trust while, at the same, time enhancing the customer service they can provide. 

·

Putting the Customer First: Using Real-Time Contact Center Metrics to Achieve Your Goals

Almost every contact center leader analyzes the rich data coming from their Avaya Aura system in order to improve the effectiveness of their agents, better determine trends, accurately schedule their workforce, lower costs and drive additional revenues. A good deal of the information used is based on historical data from previous intervals (ex. day/month/year) for planning purposes, and in terms of their ability to predict things like agent shrinkage and call volumes.  However, that data doesn’t necessarily translate well when it comes to identifying and addressing the issues that arise during the course of a day in a contact center.

Today, best-in-class contact centers understand that delivering a consistently satisfying experience for their customers is a key differentiator. To help achieve their customer satisfaction goals they are complimenting their historical data with real-time metrics, which allows them to quickly identify and address potential problems before they lead to negative customer experiences.

Integrating real-time metrics into your performance management processes takes planning and a solid understanding of your organization’s goals.  Using the wrong performance metrics can not only conflict with your goals, but actually drive unwanted behavior. To ensure the desired results are achieved Inova Solutions recommends the following process when implementing a real-time performance management solution:

  • First, determine what results you’re trying to achieve: improved customer service levels, or increase sales or conversion rates, or lower cost per call.
  • Next, determine what metrics are available and how they align to those goals.  Common metrics from an ACD or reporting applications, such as Avaya Aura Contact Center or the Avaya Call Management System are good places to start. Inova Solutions can aggregate those metrics across multiple platforms and sites and customize the out-of-the box options to best meet your needs. With an Inova real-time solution you can also pull in and manipulate data from other non-contact center sources, such as sales databases, or operational systems. Whatever platforms you use, give careful consideration to leveraging more customer centric metrics such as CSAT, Calls Waiting or Schedule Adherence versus Average Handle Time (AHT) or Average Speed of Answer (ASA).
  • When determining what metrics are available, you’ll also want to consider who you’ll be sharing them with.  Inova will help you determine what metrics are most impactful for managers, supervisors, individual agents, or groups of agents and how best to present them. Inova supports each audience with presentation choices ranging from customizable mobile dashboards, multimedia digital signage and desktop applications.
  • Finally, once you’ve determined what metrics you’ll be sharing with whom, you’ll want to establish threshold levels and response strategies. Inova Solutions can help you determine when you should react to an out-of-compliance metric, create instructional messaging and determine follow-up strategies.

With the right real-time metrics and tools, your contact center team will be aware of ‘in-moment’ customer service issues and be able to respond to them more appropriately, accurately and quickly – ensuring you meet your customer service goals. Inova Solutions offers a Real-Time Performance Analysis Service to help you identify the right metrics and show you how to transform the data into usable, actionable information to improve the performance of your contact center and staff. Learn More.

Use Big Data to Serve the Overall Goals of Your Call Center

The September 2013 issue of CRM Magazine, includes “Which Interaction Channels are Most Popular,” by Leonard Klie.  Klie writes that multichannel options remain common for customer service, many companies share ownership for the integration among consumer affairs and marketing, often with customer care coming in third.   Interestingly, Klie believes that “as multichannel integration has increased, the need to integrate the data has not followed suit.”  Certainly, there are opportunities for businesses to integrate and share big data among departments. 

If your customer service contact center is already collecting and analyzing contact data, can you find ways to integrate it with other departments, both to increase your value at the company and to help achieve organizational goals?  Consider these example

  • A recent marketing campaign has led to a spike in incoming calls and, presumably, an unexpected increase in call volume. You can coordinate with marketing in advance of future campaigns in order to staff up to meet expected demands and create and send informative messages to agents detailing the new promotion.
  • You notice a significant decrease in first call resolution.  Once you investigate, you find that an incorrect link on the website is circling customers through an endless loop.  Your agents are able to provide the correct link and resolve the issue, but the best solution would be to have the appropriate department correct the website error. 

Take a step back and look at your data to determine if there are alternate ways to view and use the information.  Talk to your colleagues in other departments to see if the data that you already collect could help them achieve more success.  Big data is best used outside of a vacuum to serve the overall goals of the organization. 

Controlling Your Technology Destiny in the Contact Center

In the August 2013 edition of Contact Center Pipeline, Brian Hinton writes, “while IT might hold the keys to technology delivery and support, the contact center must use technology wisely to achieve business goals.”  At first, this seems to be a simple enough statement; however, it is really quite loaded once you start to break it down.  First, you have the relationship between IT and the contact center itself.  As Hinton explains, it can be easy for IT and contact center managers to reach a stalemate when trying to manage technology.  IT employees are often the subject matter experts; however, it can be unfair for contact center employees to rely on IT to provide a full picture of what is possible.  Hinton offers some suggestions for contact center managers to take the first steps in ensuring optimal technology usage in the contact center.

Close the knowledge gapAs a contact center manager, you can empower yourself by understanding the industry and the technology available.  Attend conferences, network through associations or other groups, read trade-specific material, and talk to your technology vendor.  The more information you can gather about contact center technology, the better equipped you will be to target specific areas of improvement for your center.

Establish requirements for technology expansionConsider ways that you can use technology to enhance your current business goals.  Are there technology solutions that will help you better measure performance metrics and KPIs?  Is there a technology solution that will enhance your workforce management strategies?  Can you utilize technology platforms to improve your IVR or ACD systems?  Key components of this part of the process are to define metrics that align with your performance goals and to specify action-oriented response processes.

Prioritize As you broaden your knowledge of contact center technology options and begin to grasp requirements that fit your specific contact center, you will be able to prioritize the specific priorities.  You can identify which of targeted areas of contact center improvement align with technology solutions.

Once you have prioritized your requirements, you can then meet with IT.  Collaboration at this point allows you to share your exact technology needs with the technical expertise and insight from your IT partners.  As Hinton writes, “the contact center has to own the effective use of technology… but, successfully achieving goals depends on IT and the contact center working together collaboratively to implement technology together and to continue learning together.”

The CRM Baseball Game – Customer service and a classic American pastime

In the July 2013 issue of CRM Magazine, Denis Pombriant writes “Making the Play with CRM,” an article which details the similarities between customer service and a classic American pastime.  While it may seem to be a bit of a stretch, Pombriant bases his comparison on the proactive nature of both endeavors:

 Baseball, like customer service…is all about possibilities and probabilities that we can only prepare for until something happens.

The author uses the phrase “state of equipoise” to describe how a baseball player functions during much of the game.  Even when a player is not part of the action on the field, he knows the strikes and outs, the runners’ locations, and the hitters’ general abilities; he is prepared to react in a way that will best serve his team. 

To take it one step further than Pombriant, consider the ways that you can be aware of the “game” around you in your contact center:

  • Disabled list:  Are you approaching a time of year when you may have more employee sick days?
  • Batting average:  Do you have employees who routinely perform significantly above or below average?  Can you leverage their experiences to improve the job flow for all agents?
  • Strike outs:  Are your customers satisfied with the service they are receiving, or are your agents striking out in their efforts?
  • RBIs:  What job aids or other tools are available to help agents reach performance goals?

Of course, being aware of these details is only the first step.  Another critical piece of equipoise is the ability to react quickly and correctly to what is happening; this will require good ‘pre-season’ planning as well as  being aware of each situation as it happens on game day.  This state of equipoise is clearly relevant for a contact center; being aware of the various factors that impact performance and having a plan for mediating potential problems will ultimately lead to a win.

 

The Fundamental Customer Experience

Everywhere you turn lately, you hear about the “customer experience,” a term that seems like it should be spoken with resonance through a loud speaker.  Although, the term may be associated with bells and whistles, social media and apps, at its roots the customer experience is really about what the customer wants.  Brent Leary writes in the July 2013 issue of CRM Magazine that “we always seem to get into this cycle of throwing new stuff at old problems without focusing on the fundamentals.”  In his article, “Screaming for a Good Customer Experience,” he explains that a focus on the fundamentals is what is really important to customers.

“It’s not social customer service that people want.  It’s quick resolution to their issues.”

-Frank Eliason, global director of social media for Citibank

Leary cites an example of a dairy company with retail stores in the Midwest.  Executives realized that customers in these stores were sometimes waiting in very long lines, and that wait times were exacerbated by an inefficient menu board layout.  After studying layout options with a goal to reduce wait times, the company rolled out new menu boards.  Because of the vetting procedure that was part of the study, the new boards not only reduced wait times, but also increased revenues. 

Take a step back and look at your contact center.  Is your company heavily focused on the “shiny objects,” but perhaps without measurable improvements?  Since the queues in your center are essentially the same as a wait line in a retail store, shouldn’t reducing that wait time be a primary focus?  Managing those queues efficiently is at the core of customer service and, ultimately, at the core of what we do.  As Leary says, “this isn’t the stuff that gets headlines, but it definitely gets (and keeps) the customer.”