Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Artwork in the call center?
I had to ask the manager I was talking to “Have you ever dusted the plasma screen you are using?” The customer reply to me “No, the janitor does that.”  I had to correct myself and get to my point.  “You have had the plasma screen in the call center for over four years and you have never changed the content on the screen?”

No they had not and it had gotten to the point where the agents now almost completely ignore the plasma screens and only review them when the screens provide an audible alert.  The success or failure of the screens can be attributed to the changes to the content on the screens.  The goal should be to modify the KPI’s that are being displayed to ones that are needed.  Call center content needs change based on time of year, business changes, new goals and trends, agent / group successes or failures and call center group relocation's. 

The benefits of an LCD screen in the contact center are:
·        Improve agent and group performance with critical KPI’s that can and do change throughout the year;
·        Agents will react proactively to real time metrics and improve efficiencies;
·        Managers can keep tabs on operational effectiveness while they are interoffice mobile;
·        Minimize agent sick days during important events (Super Bowl, World Cup, etc);
·        Impress visiting customers and potential customers with state-of-the-art technology.

The content on LCD screens has tremendous value and benefits to the agents and call center.  But the content must be kept timely, accurate and appropriate for everyone.  The lack of changes to the content will lower the value to the call center. Content changes include new KPI’s that show where groups are under performing, new layout of the existing content to increase screen visibility and add data that is new to the group from ACD only to ACD and in-house database for example. 

Call center managers should be making changes to the LCD Screen(s) and if they are not sure what changes to make they can ask team leaders, supervisors, senior management, other call centers or even their call center software vendors. 

Don’t treat the LCD screens like artwork: hung up where you want it and showing nice colors.  Treat the LCD screen correctly with performance improving content, always changing layouts, positive group and agent updates and you will have screens that are always being reviewed by agents. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Agent Desktop Wallboards

To help improve performance of the agents many managers add a desktop solution.  In many cases agent desktops are busy with 15 - 25 applications to assist them with their job duties.  However, these applications do not help them with the timing of the contact center calls, emails and chats. This article is about desktops improving the timing of voice, email and chat with the customers and helping agents improve performance.

There are many things that Managers want to see the agents improve on.  Things such as ASA, Abandon rates, AHT, FCR%, CSat%, SvcLvl% and Accepted Calls are some of the top requested agent KPI’s.  However, is it best to show some or all of these KPI’s?  It depends on the agent.  Every agent is different but there are top differences to consider.

Call Center managers are challenged with many tasks but the top two, depending on the type of call center are: Reduce Costs or Increase Revenue.  With these two goals the managers is always looking to minimize calls waiting to increase the possibility of sales or have a more effective agent that can manage multiple tasks.  Considering these options the desktop wallboard will have specific type of content.

The second issue that a Call Center Manager must overcome is dealing with agents that are significantly different from one another.  The agent difference will determine the type and amount of content seen on the desktop wallboard.  New agents need a minimum of data on the desktop but content that will help them do the job properly.  Here is an example of a desktop wallboard for a new agent.

Key data is displayed that will help the new agent meet the immediate goals: answering the calls quickly.

Agents that are experienced and perform very well require a higher level of content. The information they desire is that which will help them achieve or exceed goals and trends for their role.  These effective agents are also efficient in their duties and tasks and look for data that will assist them in meeting their quarterly or annual performance goals.  A call center manager that does not help them meet their goals may lose that agent.  Here is an example of a desktop for an experienced agent:

KPI’s on this desktop wallboard alert the experienced agent to goals that are not being achieved.  These alerts will help adjust the agent’s performance. 
There are five things to think about prior to offering a desktop solution for the agents and deciding what each agent will see on their desktop.  Topics to think about are: Agent Experience, Agent Attitude, Agent Responsibility, Group / Agent Goals and Corporate Goals.
  • Agent Experience: A new agent versus a highly skilled experienced agent should see a desktop wallboard, but with different content considering their experience levels.
  • Agent Attitude - Some agents have the wrong type of attitude in the call center.  They do not like their job, their responsibilities, the manager or other agents, or they may not like incoming calls.  If these agents cannot be trained or removed the content on the desktop may be goal oriented - such as CIQ, ASA, ABN, Oldest, Transferred, CSat and FCR.  
  • Agent Responsibility: The job the agent performs may affect the data they see on their desktop wallboard.  A presales agent at a mutual fund company should be aware of the current wait time for callers. While an agent at an insurance company taking calls for policy cancellation may not need to know the current wait time.
  • Group and Agent Goals can adjust the content requirements.  A new sales order group/agent will need different content than an order cancellation group / agent.
  • Corporate Goals - The goals, policies or procedures of the organization may set content rules for agent desktops. Assertive / aggressive organizations with trends to assist any caller may want desktop content to ensure calls are taken on time, not abandoned, and not transferred incorrectly, high FCR%, high CSat and much more.  In these cases all agents should see this type of desktop content.
Agent Attitude:  Overly negative agents need desktop content that will help drive them to meet the goals that are provided to them.  The proper content becomes the positive reminder for them to meet certain levels or risk poor annual reviews.  Depending on the agent’s personality the KPI’s that are displayed on the agents desktop can change.  For an agent that always reminds us of the annual goals it is best to use those goals as the KPI’s.  Managers should track the agent’s threshold analytics which can be used in the annual performance reviews.

Additional KPI’s such as Calls Waiting, Oldest Wait Time and ASA might be added if they are a part of annual performance reviews.

Agent Responsibility: Or another way to view this is the industry the call center group represents.  New financial customer agents desire low answer times while product replacement agents do not mind keeping callers waiting.  Help Desk agents are looking for high FCR and CSat numbers and wish to see this through the day.  Consider what the goal is for the agent to determine what is on the desktop.

A customer service or help desk should track and follow the metrics that show critical performance issues.

Corporate Goals: The goals, trends, policies and procedures set down by the organization can affect the call center.  As the corporation moves to meet the trends of their industry the changes may also affect the agents and how they are reviewed annually.  Agents are made aware of organizational changes but need reminders on the desktop to help them meet the new goals and trends.

Corporate changes directly affect the call center.  Agents are notified of the changes and need relevant content that will help them achieve the new goals. 

The content mentioned and shown in the examples above are regarding agents and not team leaders, supervisors or managers.  At times there is a request, by the agents, to change the content to show much of the same content the managers are seeing.  The fault in this is some agents comparing themselves to others, agent comparing themselves to a group and invalid reasons to argue at the annual performance reviews.

 The idea of the desktop wallboard is to improve the agent’s performance and help them achieve or exceed their goals.  Managers look at topics of interest to adjust their opinions of desktops and desktop content.
  • As the industry changes there may be a need to change desktop content.  
  • If the call center has trends that are not positive desktop reminders showing the lack of goal achievement may be displayed to the agents.
  • Internal business alterations such as new products, improved communications or increased job responsibilities require more desktop information for the agents.
During working hours the agent’s desktop is their domain manager’s use that thought process to help the agents improve or meet their goals.

There are many other reasons for wanting a desktop wallboard for the agents.  Stated below are some of the reasons given to Spectrum by current customers.
  • Improve incoming call reaction time;
  • Reduce talk time with bad or talkative customers;
  • Have accurate AHT (average handle time) for your group;
  • Stop bad work ethics such as transfers, hang ups, on hold for no reason, breaks and internal socialization;
  • Appropriate communication times with customers on email and chat.
Desktop wallboards can help solve agent challenges if the goals are realistic, agents are trained, content is appropriate and content is altered as needed throughout the year.  Desktops that are all the same for all agents, leaders and managers will not improve the performance for a long period of time.

Managers and Team Leaders typically have other content that they see on their desktops and dashboards.  The content can be:
  • Groups content with additional tabs for drill down to agent performance
  • Tabs including voice, email and chat
  • Agent specific details with current status
  • Content about the incoming call directions (VDN, Vector and Trunks)
  • Threshold analytics which provides details on performance beyond what the agent is viewing.  

Team leader content from Voice, Chat and email. Agent status, reason codes and the time they have been in that status. Group content and then critical KPI information at the bottom of the desktop display. 

Content covering calls, email and chat will show the manager details about the incoming customer contacts and how the groups are performing.

Select group, agent details and analytics in a dashboard for a manager help with daily, weekly, monthly or annual status.

A group analytics review shows the overall performance on meeting the goals.  These analytics can alert a manager to trends the agents think they can hide.  The Hit Count shows how many times a threshold has been exceeded, how long it has affected the queue in Duration and the KPI Name.

Agent Desktop wallboards can be very effective in helping the agents meet their goals by displaying appropriate content to the agent.  When adjusted based on the agent’s personality the managers can continue to assist the agents meet their annual performance goals.  Keeping the same old content on the desktop while the agent improves or changes their role causes the agent to hide or ignore the desktop wallboard.

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to learn more about Agent Desktop Wallboards.

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Dan Boehm
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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Performance Metrics for Supervisor Desktops

In previous articles I have spoken about the importance of Agent Desktop Metrics, and how important it is to provide your Agents with the tools they need to help guide them to a higher level of performance.  Unlike Agents who would be concerned with their own performance and duties, a Supervisor must maintain their entire team's performance, and require the tools and visibility to provide assistance when and where it is needed for their team.

Agent Desktop displays are generally small in size so that an agent can work efficiently within their screen, yet still obtain the statistics that show how well they are performing.  A supervisor desktop display (shown below) is usually larger as it can provide more detailed data for the entire team, individual agents, and the entire Call Center.

Metrics that are important for a Supervisor to monitor include the status of each of the agents within their respective team.  This allows the Supervisor to know which agents are available, which are at lunch, or on a break, and when they are expected to return.

Having this information is valuable for a supervisor in managing their workforce.   Popular metrics for monitoring their team include the following:
  • Agent name or ID
  • The Agents Extension
  • Current State that agent is in
  • Amount of time they have been in that state
  • What Queue they are working in
  • How many calls they have answered
When a Supervisor has the correct tool to provide the information on how their call center or team is performing, it provides invaluable information for maintaining an efficient workforce.

To determine what to display on a supervisor’s desktop it is best to understand what is important for the performance of the Team.

With a single supervisor screen, information can be viewed that summarizes the current queue count, calls that have been handled as a running count, Agent status, and Summary information for individual queues.    By consolidating this information into a single easy to read screen, a supervisor can "at a glance" detect any major concerns, or confirm that the center is on track.

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to learn more about Performance Metrics for Agent Desktops.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tablet PC's in the Call Center

The sales of tablet PC’s has exploded in the last year.  Call centers are starting to use them and many call center managers are wondering how to use them.  At the same time IT departments are working to keep them under the corporate security umbrella. 

Most important is to know that many vendors are working to make tablets very secure for the corporate environment. Companies such as McAfee, Symantec, Novell, Juniper, Cisco, VMWare and Citrix have or are working on products that make tablets more secure in the corporate workplace. This should put the IT department at ease knowing these devices can be added with very little cause for concern.

Web based reporting on a tablet PC           

  A three layer web report

The tablet and the reporting it provides should be a reflection of the managers work habits.  If the manager is mobile working remote, traveling often or working from different offices then the tablet should have web based reporting.   Web reporting is set up to show a summary report and have multiple layers of drill down for increasingly more detailed agent information.
    Layer 1 - Summary information such as Voice, Email, Chat
    Layer 2 - Agent Summary information for each skill group for the different channels (Voice, email, and chat)
    Layer 3 - Agent States information for each channel to give detailed results per agent.
The purpose behind this reporting is to show status details of the call center and then both performance and status information for the agents.  This level of reporting give the manager the ability to be mobile and stayed connected to the call center.

Dashboards on the table PC

Managers that are internally mobile want to stay connected by seeing a dashboard with current status and performance data on the call center.  The dashboards could be displaying summary content, specific group data and group analytics.  With this level of data the mobile manager can encourage agents to meet their stated goals and objectives.  The dashboard should include multiple screens of content showing details on each group and if appropriate more details on the agent summary for the day.  Managers can use this real time information to assist the agents, in real time, with meeting goals and objectives.

Another application for the tablet PC is for senior management status meetings.  Having a scorecard updating in real time the manager can show how the call center is meeting the goals and objectives set by senior management. See a Spectrum article on scorecarding.  

Tablet PC’s are not a fad so call center managers should be looking at ways to incorporate tablets into their daily work habits. Think about the type of manager you are and have content built around those requirements. The content should be a method of obtaining and supporting the goals you have set for real time reporting in the call center.

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to learn more about using Tablet PC’s in the call center.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Too much customer service?

I wonder if this is a case of too much good customer service or taking things so far that the customer will give up and do something else.  Let me explain.

I have an HP notebook PC and the letters printed on the keyboard are coming off. The notebook is less than a year old and is still under warranty.  Now I do not need to see the letters on the keys for most of the letters but some I do not know where they are without looking - quick, without looking where is your F5 key - see what I mean? 

So I went to the HP support website and got on a chat session with HP.  They quickly told me I would need to call for support.  No problem I can do that.  I called the call center and reached a South American support center, cool, first time talking to a South American call center. 

I spoke to three different people about my problem.  They all told me how sorry they were that I was having a problem, which is nice but after hearing that at least 10 times I really did not care I just wanted a resolution to my problem.  I know apologizing for the problem is part of the standard Customer Support training but HP has taken it to a new level.  Tell me your sorry once or twice and I am happy, 10 times and I know you are no longer sincere.

My challenge was explaining to HP what the problem was with my notebook.  They had not had this type of problem before and could not understand how the letters could be coming off the keyboard. Were the keys actually falling off the keyboard? Are the keys not working? No, I kept telling them, it is the printing of the letters on the keyboard.  Finally, they understood and that is when the problems began.

Everyone acknowledged my notebook was under warranty but they kept on telling me this was cosmetic and could not be covered.  Hmm, how could this be cosmetic?  Cosmetic is a scratch, dent, smudge, or or my bumper sticker on the back peeling off.  But for the printed letters to wear off after 10 months of use?  Ok maybe I pound away to hard on my keyboard when sending off an email to the sales team, but they deserve it so that should not count. 

I am now on my third customer support person and this is a Case Manager and I feel like I am actually getting somewhere.  Oh, by the way this is now over an hour at this point.  I have been put on hold numerous times while they investigate this problem.  Which is another issue I have with customer support.  Do not ask me repeatedly if they can put me on hold tell me you are going to put me on hold.  What if I say “No, you cannot put me on hold?” what will they do, how can they support me?  Just tell me you will put me on hold for 2 -3 minutes and do it.

So my Case Manager tells me sorry this is cosmetic and cannot be covered.  So I tried another angle.  I asked him to take his hands off his keyboard, close his eyes and then put his hands back on the keyboard and type something and it must be 100% accurate.  Success!  He understood my problem and one more time on hold and HP agrees to send me a new replacement keyboard. 

This call took me 95 minutes to complete.  HP did everything by the book which leads me to wonder if this not part of a bigger plan to get customers to give up. Here are my examples of going too far with customer service:
·        Asking to put me on hold and telling me hold long I will be on hold.  I get this but don’t ask just tell me you are putting me on hold and for how long.
·        My name is important but not everyone needs to be able to properly pronounce it and spend 2 -3 minutes practicing how to say my name.  When I spoke to three people that alone added 6 - 9 minutes to the call. 
·        Getting a customer to fill out a survey is great, but I talked to three people on the call and each asked me to fill out a survey.  Again more time wasted on the call.

I am an “all about the principal of it” type of guy.  That call cost my company more than just buying a new keyboard. So when the clock hit 30 minutes on this call I started to think about just ordering a new keyboard and letting HP win.  But it is the principal of it that made me follow through on this call.

 Is this the plan for taking customer service to a new level?  Kill the customer with kindness and delays so they hang up and buy the replacement part.  HP has obviously spent a lot of time and money on proper training, but the training has gone too far and the customer support people need to back off a bit and be more human and less scripted agents.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

KPI's amd Metrics for the Call Center Agent

Three years ago I wrote an article titled “KPI’s and Metrics for Agents, Team Leaders, Managers and Senior Management”  That article has been well received and continues to be the most requested article for reprint.  Earlier this year I wrote about new and experienced agents and the KPI’s and Metrics they should be receiving.  This month I am combining and updating this information for more details about agent metrics.

The question that is on every Spectrum customers mind is what KPI’s and Metrics should my agents see? Unfortunately there is no single right answer for every call center.  Each center has unique properties and therefore what works for one will not work for another.  However, there are ways of narrowing down the KPI and metric options. Here are some qualifiers that need to be reviewed. Please note I use call center and contact center interchangeably.
  1. Is you call center in house or outsourced (BPO)?
  2. Is your call center classified as a Utility?
  3. Is your call center government run or mandated?
  4. Are you a Customer Service (Help Desk) call center? Do you charge for support? Internal corporate support or external support? Outsourced?
  5. Are you a revenue producing call center?
There are many more types of call centers and in some cases your call center maybe two or three of the types listed above.

Out sourced call centers, utilities and some government mandated call centers have SLA’s that they must achieve and maintain throughout the day. If the SLA’s are not met fines, charge backs and lost revenue will occur.  Keeping these SLA’s top of mind with the agents is paramount.  Some of the KPI’s that are mandated for these call centers include:
  • Service level (for calls and trouble tickets)
  • Abandon Rate
  • Transfer Rate
  • Oldest Call Waiting (Wait Duration)
  • Adherence
  • Calls Handled
  • AHT
A real time reporting solution should display these KPI’s on the agents desktop so the agent is aware of these metrics and can respond accordingly.  The fines levied on the call center by the government or client of the BPO will be much more significant than the investment of a real time reporting solution for the agents.

Newer agents need as few distractions as possible and should see minimum metrics.  Whatever the top two or three SLA metrics the company is measured by should be displayed to the agent. As the agent becomes more experienced additional content including those listed above should be displayed.

Revenue producing call centers have a to balance providing quality service to the customer, service levels and handle times.  This is never easy to manage and adding in the component of new versus an experienced agent the metrics  can vary by agent. Below are two columns of metrics: Requested and Suggested.  The requested column is what our customers ask for and the suggested column is what Spectrum suggest the agents see.

    Requested                                           Suggested
    Calls Waiting                                       Calls Waiting
    Oldest Call Waiting (Wait Duration)     Oldest Call Waiting
    Abandon Calls                                    Abandon Rate
    AHT                                                   Service Level
    Adherence                                          Occupancy
    Calls Handled                                      Revenue
  • The difference between the Abandon Calls and Abandon Rate is subtle. Seeing the number of calls abandoned may give the agent a false sense of success.  1 call abandoned does not look so bad but 10% abandon rate is different. Focus on the rate of abandoned calls not the number.
  • AHT can be a poor indicator of success or failure.  If the AHT is high but the revenue and CSat scores are outstanding then the agent is performing well and should not be reviewed poorly.  Service level is a better indicator of an agent reacting to work load.
  • Adherence to schedule and Occupancy are difficult to agree on.  Some want the agents to adhere to the stated schedule so calls are handled without long wait times. Others look at Occupancy (how long the agent has worked) as more important. And of course if the agent adheres to their schedule the occupancy rate will be fine. The problem that we see here is agents taking breaks at inappropriate times. If the phones are busy with incoming revenue producing calls should an agent take a break?  According to the schedule they should.  But if that agent ignored the schedule and continued to take calls and later on took a break wouldn’t that be better?
  • Calls handled can be a good indication of revenue the agent is going to produce.  The bean counting approach says more calls equals more revenue - churn and burn.  However the sales and marketing side of me says, to a certain degree I do not care how many calls the agent has handled as long as the revenue produced is on target. Many call centers, do not allow the agents access to revenue numbers.  
New agents are easily distracted and cannot multi-task like the experienced agent. The new agent should see two or three metrics including Calls Waiting and Wait Duration. More than this distracts the agent for the main goal of taking the order and increasing the revenue on the order. And newer agents should focus on adherence whereas the experienced agent should focus on occupancy goals.  If available and allowed showing an experienced agent their sales for the day is a motivating tool many contact centers use.

Customer Service (Help Desk) call centers need to focus on support tickets and events. However, the type of customer service center you are will determine the metrics the agents should see.  There are too many variables to address in this article so I will focus on the main items.

Many contact centers do not track FCR (First Call Resolution) and if your call center is one of them you should determine a way to put FCR tracking in place. In addition, CSat ratings are important to track.  Agent metrics for the Customer Service Center call center:

Free Support / Internal Corporate        Chargeable / Outsourced Support
Calls Waiting                                       Calls Waiting
Calls Handled                                     Oldest Call Waiting (Wait Duration)
Tickets Offered                                   Tickets Offered
Tickets Closed                                    Tickets Closed
Service Level                                      Service Level
FCR                                                   FCR
Adherence                                         Average Handle Time
CSat                                                  CSat

  • Calls Handled is an indication of the work load for the agent.  The need to balance the number of calls taken per day is important or risk agent burnout.
  • Oldest Wait Time is important for the chargeable / outsourced Customer service center because paying customers will not remain customers if they wait as long as a free support call.
  • If FCR and CSat ratings are available they should be displayed to the agent.  This shows the agents level of knowledge and how well they are able to understand the problem and resolve it quickly and professionally.  However be careful not to read too much into the CSat scores.  High scores are given to problems resolved first time and lower scores to repeat callers.  A quality score could help understand lower CSat scores.
  • Adherence in a free support center is important. This prevents burn out.  In an outsourced center the focus should be on AHT.

Newer agents should have a minimum of metrics on their desktop. They should be reminded of new tickets, tickets open and calls waiting.  With experience they can advance and see more of the KPI’s listed above.  Many Spectrum help desk customers use Excel as their ticketing system. Capturing raw data from a spreadsheet(s) is possible and is helpful to the agents.

Conclusion: The list of metrics and KPI’s that customers request is as varied as the number of calls centers in the world today. Managers continue to ask for more and more content to display on the agents desktop without knowing that sometimes less is better. The key is to focus on what is right for the type of call center and type of agent.  As the agents become more experienced the KPI’s that are displayed should be updated and advanced.

Agent KPI’s should start with the basics that are either required due to SLA tracking or help the contact center reach their goals and objectives.  Then considering the type of agent new versus experienced increase the number and type of KPI’s and metrics.  The most experienced agent can also have multiple screens of metrics which will help their performance.

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to discover how we can help you determine the most appropriate metrics for your agents.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Call Center Agent Desktops

It has been said that Content is King, but what does that mean for the agent desktop? Does this mean that all agents should receive the same content (sorted by the skill or queue they are responsible for, of course)? For the busy call center manager many times that is exactly what it means but that does not make it right.

I do not lay blame for this issue at the feet of anyone in the call center. I blame vendors like myself for allowing it to happen and propagate. Many vendors give up trying after the sale and take the easy road to project completion and pay day. However, once the sales has been made the real work begins.

Content for agent desktops should vary based on experience, skills, responsibilities and goals for the call center.
1. Experience: A new agent should not see the same content as an agent who has been on the job for years. A new agent has many concerns and adding complexity and confusion to the desktop only adds stress to the position. Minimize the content for the new agents or eliminate it altogether until you are sure the agent is able to handle the additional information.
Focus on providing strictly status information such as Calls Waiting, Wait Time and Service Level. More complex metrics such as AHT or CSat scores can wait.

2. Skills: Some agents have more skills than others. You see this everyday and secretly wish you had more agents with those advanced skills. Therefore the content you provide to the advanced agents should differ from the other agents.
Focus on metrics that show agent performance such as AHT, Adherence, Occupancy, Abandon Rate. Beginner metrics are not as important to the experienced agent they already know how to react to calls waiting, wait times, etc.

3. Responsibilities: Should an inbound customer service representative answering questions about an online policy claims form see the same metrics as an outbound sale agent? Each of these agents has specific objectives.
Align the metrics with the objectives for the agent.
4. Goals: Your call center has goals and most likely these goals have been expressed to the agents. The content on the desktops should support the goals for the call center. Create objectives for the agents and align the content with the objectives.
Help Desk Service Center should focus on trouble ticket metrics , revenue producing centers should focus on CRM metrics, etc.

Your vendor should work with you to develop the appropriate content for your agents desktops and allow you to get real value out of the desktop solution you have invested in. As a call center manager you should be willing to invest the time to make certain you identify your agent types. Then you should take one more step and provide the right content for your agents so the desktop solutions work for them and is not just another distraction.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wallboards and workforce politics

At first glance anyone would look at this title and think what does one have to do with the other?  In a properly run call center they would not have anything to do with each other. However, in a call center that does not have goals, objectives, and structured agent reviews wallboards and workforce politics have much to do with each other.

A properly run call center works from the top down. Senior management develops a mission for the call center with the help from the call center manager.  The mission statement will be short clear and concise. The manager then develops goals for the call center that will be used to meet the mission statement.  Then working with the team leaders the manager will generate objectives for the team leaders and agents.

What all of this has to do with wallboards and workforce politics is this: If you do not have a mission statement you probably do not have well thought out goals and objectives.  When there are no goals and objectives for the agents in the call center content on the wallboards end up being full of negative competitive content.  This type of content will create workforce politics.

Some examples of wallboard content that is full of workforce politics.
1. Displaying agent names that are available when there are calls waiting;
2. Listing the agent names and the number of calls taken for the day;
3. Displaying the amount of idle time including breaks;
4. Displaying the names of bottom producing agents with the any of the following metrics: Adherence, Transfers, AHT, FCR, CSat, absenteeism, Revenue or Service Level.

When asked about displaying this type of content some managers claim the competitive nature of the agents helps them when they see how they are ranked.  There are many situations that may have occurred that caused an agent to be a bottom producer at that moment or even for the day.

Notice how in this real life example (name have been changed) the wallboard shows agents are available and there calls in queue. The call center can now openly criticize Black and Vennesch about not taking calls.  There could be a real explanation for this situation which is why showing this information can create negative situations. 

On the other hand providing a list of agents that are top producing in almost any categories is an excellent way to build a positive competitive environment.  If the motive and motivation behind the lists are positive and all of the agents see it that way then lists with agent names are acceptable.

In this example because most of the data is positive it is acceptable to display the agent names and how they are producing.  When showing positive numbers a friendly competition can be created and make the call center more enjoyable.

Agents already have enough challenges to deal with during the day adding to those challenges negative and very public feedback only serves to increase the stress level on the agents.  Wallboards should be used to generate as much positive information as possible when listing agent names.  If the wallboard is showing poor performance show only group information.

This all sounds so easy and normal yet it continues to surprise the Spectrum installation crew the number of times workforce politics are added to the wallboard content.

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to learn more about wallboard content.

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Dan Boehm
VP Sales and Marketing
+1 713 986 8839

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Performance Metrics for Agent Desktops

Call Center agents with years of experience, training and skills have a greater need to see metrics and statistics that will assist them in improving their performance.  Unlike new agents (See my January 2012 article - New Agent Metrics) senior level agents look to their metrics to improve their performance because they are aware of the status in the call center.

Senior level agents know when there are calls in the queue and do a fine job of reacting to long wait times.  Showing a senior level agent status metrics is a waste of desktop real estate. Advanced agents require metrics and statistics that will guide them towards a higher level of performance.

The metrics that are recommended for a Performance Reporting display include:
  •     Average Handle Time
  •     Abandoned Rate (%)
  •     Service Level (%)
  •     Occupancy Rate (%)
  •     Calls in Queue - Agents still need to be alerted to calls in queue.
These metric are recommended for the skilled and experienced agents.

Too often call centers display the same metrics and statistics to all agents regardless of the agents skills, experience or even the groups they are assigned to.  If the call center manager truly wants to improve performance in the call center then the metrics must match the agents skill levels.

Even among senior level agents there are varying degrees of skills.  The manager should work to ascertain the most appropriate metric for the agents.  Some higher level agents require gentle reminders about wait times and ASA.  Other agents track their service level, CSat and FCR ratings so they can share in the monthly bonus program.

To determine what to display to an advanced agent:
1. Look at the objectives for the call center;
2. Review the goals for the  group and agent;
3. Determine what the agent needs to work on to improve.
These three things will assist you in determining what the agent should see on their desktop display.

There are two major mistakes that most call center managers make when it comes to desktop solutions. These mistakes are easily corrected but take a little time.  Therefore it is best to make these changes during the agent performance review. The two mistakes are: considering all agents to be the same skill level as it relates to the desktop information they see and not adjusting the desktop content as the agents performance has improved.

Messaging to a senior level agent is no longer just the congratulation message but also messages asking for help.

  Managers that recognize that not all agents are created equal and change the agent content will see improvements within the call center immediately.
Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to learn more about Performance Metrics for Agent Desktops.

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Dan Boehm
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+1 713 986 8839

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Agent Metrics

About six months ago I had a meeting with a call center customer. The meeting was with the Customer Services Director and a consultant from a benchmarking company. The purpose of the meeting was to understand what metrics Spectrum should capture and display on the agents desktop wallboard.

The benchmarking consultant stated that the desktop wallboard should contain customer satisfaction ratings, AHT, service level, abandon calls as a percent, ASA and Calls Waiting (inqueue). The consultant said the agent will perform and meet the SLA's if they see these metrics on the desktop. First Call Resolution information is not available and could not be displayed.

From my point of view it did not matter to me what the customer wanted to capture and display, I just wanted a happy customer that is using our product. However, I was concerned about the amount of data to be displayed (because of desktop real estate) and the agent training that would be needed to explain the meaning of the metrics.

The customer decided to do a test. We had two types of desktop wallboards designed with different content and with agents of various skill levels. Later we found that more desktop designs were needed. The customer took a baseline measurement and then again four weeks later. The testing, set up and results are too much to cover in this blog but the final results are important to mention.

  • New agents did best with a minimum amount of data: Calls in queue and oldest call waiting.
  • Mid level agents performed best with four metrics: Calls in queue, ASA, Oldest call waiting and Service Level. Only a few of these agents wanted to see more and different metrics.
  • Highly skilled agents improved most when they had performance metrics on their desktops. These metrics included: AHT, Occupancy, Abandon Rate, Service Level, and Calls Waiting. Some of these agents were actively asking for more data that would help them do a better job.

This customer is continuing to test the desktop content to find out what works best for their call center and agents. My takeaways from this test were:

1. Not all agents should see the same content - duh!

2. Give your agents the information that will allow them to perform best for their skill level.

3. As your agents improve, change the desktop content to match their skills.

4. Some agents want the tools to work for them. Listen to these agents and accommodate the changes when it makes sense.

This test was by no means perfect. There were flaws in the way things were set up, measured, and tested. But you cannot argue with the successes that this call center experienced.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Agent Metrics

Call centers consist of agents with varying degrees of skills and experience. There are senior agents that have years of training and experience and newer agents that are just now learning the ropes of the contact center.  This article will focus on metrics for new versus senior level agents within the same industry.

New agents face challenges that can affect their ability to perform at a high level.  Everything from a new position to the company procedures will affect how the agent performs. Therefore, metrics for the new agent should differ from the metrics for a senior level agent.

The goal of the desktop wallboard is to help the agent optimize their performance.  If the desktop reporting is not helping the agent perform then it is a distraction and will hurt the agents performance and affect their attitude.

New agents should be seeing desktop wallboards that display the Status of the skill or group that they are logged into.  This Status Reporting provides the new agent the opportunity to become more efficient and effective by alerting them to a change in the status of the skill they are monitoring.

This desktop wallboard for the agent quickly shows the status of the skill group, alerts the agent to wrap up the work from the previous call and take the next call.  New agents are often distracted by the new environment and do not meet the SLA's that the call center has set. A status reporting desktop wallboard with messaging is an effective tool for the agents. 

    New Agent Metrics:  
        Calls in Queue - Alerts the agent to work that is waiting for them.
        Oldest Call in Queue - Provides an sense of urgency for the agent.
These two metrics when improved upon will result in better SLA's, higher customer satisfaction and reduced agent stress.  Displaying more information on a new agents desktop will result in confusion and the agent will disregard the desktop wallboard.
As the agent becomes acclimated to the new position, company or role additional metrics can be added to the agents desktop wallboard.  ASA, Calls Abandoned and Service Level provide additional information about the status of the skill the agent is logged into.

The number of metrics that are shown above should be the maximum number that a new agent would see on their desktop.
    1. The real estate the desktop report takes up can interfere with the agents work space;
    2. The data can distract the agent from their work tasks as the content updates and changes;
    3. Some of the metrics can have a negative effect on the agent if they are interpreted wrong;

Alert messages to the desktop can be very effective.  However, messages should be properly worded and sent at an appropriate time.

Benchmarking firms and internet articles point out that there are metrics that agents should be seeing on their desktops.  What those articles fail to point out and take into consideration is the experience level, skill sets of the agent and availability of that data.  Certainly a more experienced agent should see the FCR or Customer Satisfaction rating. But a new agent can be become frustrated and develop a negative attitude when they see those metrics. 

The metrics - of Calls in Queue and Oldest Call Waiting help the new agent optimize their performance as quickly as possible without overloading them with too much detail.

Next month will be an article about the metrics for a more senior and experience agent.

Spectrum is a leading provider of Unified Contact Center Reporting.  Contact Spectrum today to learn more about New Agent Metrics.

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Dan Boehm
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+1 713 986 8839

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Call Center New Year Resolutions

With the new year comes new year's resolutions. Every year some of us resolve to stop smoking, lose weight or be a better person. Sorry I cannot help you with the first two. If you manage a call center one way you can be a better person is to review and change your metrics, thresholds and reports.
Reviewing and changing your metrics, thresholds and reports will make you a better person because your agents and supervisors will love you for it! Call Centers are dynamic. Every year there is something new from the company that the call center must deal with. Everyone in the call center needs to adapt to these changes. Yet the agents and supervisors are still looking at the same metrics, responding to the same thresholds and seeing the same reports from last year.
If the call center has experienced any changes at all the reports, thresholds and metrics should change as well. In addition, agents that have finished another successful year probably have been promoted or at least are doing something more advanced. These agents should not be looking at the same old tired metrics and have the same threshold levels as last year.
Now is the time to review the status of your call center and make some changes that will make you boss of the year. Agents and supervisors will love you for updating their metrics and threshold settings because you have shown you are aware of what they are doing.