Performance management is a big topic. Amazingly, Amazon (UK) lists over 27,000 related titles. So it obviously has broad appeal.
The contact centre industry is an audience that certainly has a keen interest. From the perspective of a senior contact manager, performance management applies just as much to the overall operation as well as to the individuals within it. However, in terms of the themes I’m talking about in this post, it is the use of Interaction Analytics to improve the management of individual and team performance I want to focus on.
Why Effective People Management Matters
For the majority of contact centres, investment in human capital hovers around 70% of overall operating budget. So it’s a big expense. We also know that person to person interaction is going to remain an important element in satisfying customer expectation in spite of it being the most expensive channel. This means the issue of getting the most from this resource is not going to disappear even as multi-channel use grows.
Achieving both consistent and uniform levels of performance has recently become even more challenging as ContactBabel has noted that UK attrition rates have crept back up to pre-2008 levels of 20%+.. This puts additional pressure on achieving performance targets. New recruits inevitably take time to get up to speed and high performers’ time becomes distracted with extra mentoring duties.
So the issue of performance management lies at the heart of being a successful contact centre leader.
What Does A High Performance Contact Centre Look Like?
We know from a wide variety of research that people need a particular mix of input to perform at their best.
Some of that input needs to be contextual and cultural. Well known examples such as First Direct and Zappos have shown the power of this approach. Both their attrition and performance levels stand head and shoulders above industry norms. At the operational level, the ‘necessary’ input is all about providing detailed, relevant feedback and coaching. In other words, team leaders and coaches are skilful at affecting the right behaviours which lead to improved performance.
However even with the right mix of inputs, we also know that getting consistency from people in any field of life is a tough ask. Just read the sports columns after any event. One week a team can eat the competition. The next week they can fold and lose their team mojo for no apparent reason.
In contact centres we can see how this issue shows up in the performance delta between best and worst performing individuals, teams and sites.
The fact that we become used to living with and compensating for that gap does not mean we should give up looking for a breakthrough approach. We need to remain aware of the huge upside sitting there if only we can get to grips with why performance levels vary.
Where Interaction Analytics Fits In
The iconic brands I mentioned earlier such as First Direct and Zappos maintain greatness because they keep their focus on continually becoming better. They ‘obsess about the detail’. Interaction Analytics offers all organisations the opportunity to establish that same approach.
When you first start to improve agent performance using Interaction Analytics, there will be a period of low hanging fruit. The goal is to embed the habits of the most successful performers across the rest of the team. But finding these best practices, especially if you’re trying to find them in relation to specific call types, has been a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You’ve had to pull random calls from the agents you thought had the best grasp on the situation, do some sample listening, and hope for the best. Terribly inefficient. Interaction Analytics changes the game. By analyzing and organizing 100% of the interactions by agent and type, and scoring them against user defined metrics, what it has done is provide the supervisor with a ready made bucket of calls from which to perform targeted listening and unearth these best practice examples.
The second half of the journey to performance excellence lies in the ability to spot opportunities in micro changes in behaviour. What do I mean by that? Some of the back story to the recent Olympics was the success that the UK team enjoyed.
In particular, the cycling team performed to an extraordinary peak level of performance. As a result, the media latched on to how that was achieved. The key insight that was offered back was their coaches’ ability to zone in on micro behaviours which, when added together, generated that overall competitive edge.
This approach also works in the contact centre world. For instance, what has made the difference to a customer outcome? Was it a subtle change in the sequence of things being said that saved time? Or was it a way of explaining an unpopular policy to customers without them objecting that is resulting in a consistently higher NPS score?
In this phase of performance optimisation, it’s being able to zero in on the relevant detail that counts. This is insight that normally remains hidden amongst thousands of hours of recorded interaction.
However if an empirical, quantifiable approach to analytics is taken, 100% of the interactions will be captured. That means nothing is lost before the solution can start organizing and classifying the interactions, so changes in metrics will be easily spotted. Armed with the information that guides them on where to start a targeted investigation, skilled analysts can quickly find relevant examples from which to extract and understand the detailed behaviours. It’s the ‘Big Data’ way to ‘obsess about the details’.
Key Take Aways
Optimising people performance in contact centres needs the following.
1. The ability to routinely spot best practice behaviour (however that is defined according to your performance goals) and easily share it
2. World class levels of performance arise from being able to continuously notice and improve small aspects of interaction behaviour in order to keep raising the overall performance bar