TASKE Technology's Call Center Blog

Too frequently, yet another story about poor call handling seems to be going viral on the Internet. Whether the story is humorous or an exposé of bad customer service, you certainly don’t want to see one of your agents in a starring role on YouTube.

In the article “Forget the Millennials, The Connected Consumer is Who You Should Be Chasing“, Shama Hyder talks about how the social web has empowered consumers to not only drive their own buying experiences but powerfully influence their peers. Hyder notes that simple and fast is no longer sufficient, they now demand personalized and proactive contact. While it has become important to develop strategies for managing what customers are saying about you on the Internet, ideally, you don’t want to give customers a reason to share their negative comments in the first place.

When assessing customer interactions with your contact center, the place to start is always with your agents. You hope that your company’s hiring practices have employed talented individuals who are committed to providing the best possible service. But on a day-to-day basis, how do you know what any agent is doing at any given time?

If you have a centralized, onsite call center, you can look around the floor. Most likely, you want to see most agents on the phone, with enough agents available to take calls so that customers aren’t kept waiting in queues. The problem with visual assessments is that they don’t work for virtual call centers and, more importantly, even if you can see agents, you can’t “see” who they are talking to. A few personal calls over a shift might be reasonable, but you don’t want agents tying up phone lines just to kill time or avoid working. To find out who agents are really talking to, you could monitor calls in real-time or record them for review at a later time. Depending on the size of your contact center, though, it may not be realistic to monitor calls with enough frequency to be effective.

What you’re really looking for is not a minute-by-minute tally of what each agent is doing, but a measure of overall agent productivity. There are two excellent ways to get this information, both of which should be provided with any call analysis and reporting software purchased for your phone system: call metrics and real-time monitoring.

Call Metrics

Call metrics are based on historical reports about agent activity. The metrics you use, of course, depend on the nature of your contact center and what type of activity makes an agent productive. Let’s look at a few simple examples.

  • A contact center that generates sales leads may choose to measure agent productivity using the number of calls placed. An agent who repeatedly places fewer calls than expected over a shift may need to be monitored more closely. As a first step, compare the agent’s numbers to other agents on the same shifts. If all agents are placing fewer than expected calls, there may be external reasons for the discrepancy in expected values.
  • A contact center that receives product orders may measure agent productivity using the average call duration. An agent who takes significantly longer than other agents to close calls may need more training. For example, the agent may have difficulty entering orders into your system.

Obviously, one call metric won’t give you all the answers you need. It’s important to understand the nature and lifecycle of calls in your contact center before choosing the set of metrics that will provide the most value.

Real-Time Monitoring Software

While call metrics give you insight into historical agent activity, real-time monitoring software shows you what’s happening in your contact center right now. At-a-glance graphs may be available showing which agents are on ACD calls versus non-ACD calls, or which agents have calls on hold or are waiting to take calls.

Knowing the real-time status of agents can help you identify and deal with minor issues before they become big headaches. Say that an agent has been on a non-ACD call for an unusually long time. A great feature to have in your real-time monitoring software is the ability to compare current activity to the same activity over a recent period of time. If the agent’s non-ACD time has been relatively low over the shift, you may decide to give the agent the benefit of the doubt. The agent may be returning a customer call for a relatively complex issue. However, if the non-ACD call time is significant over the shift, you may want to chat with the agent about whether there is some reason for the overly long calls. If you find out that the agent is calling friends or a spouse instead of taking customer calls, identifying this problem as quickly as possible means that you can deal it in the short-term, before it starts affecting customers.

There’s one final point to make about measuring agent productivity. Regardless of the method you use to measure productivity, make sure that you

  • set realistic activity targets. Agent motivation is strongly based in whether they believe they can be successful in achieving goals.
  • communicate your expectations. Agent activity should always be aligned with specific objectives. Ensuring that agents know what these objectives are makes them accountable for their own productivity.

There are many innovative ways to measure and assess agent activity. Feel free to comment on the thoughts in this article, or post your own success stories to share with us.

See you next month.

Tags: agent, agent activity, agent productivity, call metrics, metrics, monitor, Real-Time.

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