Learning to Focus on Employees – A Call Center’s Best Asset
Let me tell you a story of two call centers. Both have similar operations, both similar employees and both serve the same basic customer operation.
Call center A manager was a traditionalist. He focused on the basic metrics, average handle time (AHT), time in queue, customer satisfaction and the rest. He was never satisfied with the performance of the agents in his center. Each time he tried to improve one of the metrics in his call center the other seemed to change in the wrong direction. Frustrated, he did not know what to do. Every attempt to increase the metric based performance created shifts in the wrong direction.
Call center B manager had the same problems as call center A manager. She was always looking for improvements in metrics only to have other metrics move in the opposite direction. One day call center B manager decided to sit down and shadow her best agents for two days. She cleared the schedule and sat with her best agents listening to the calls. She did not coach, she did not critique, she just sat, listened and learned. After the two days she had an idea.
Before we get to her idea, let me tell you about one particular point that drove her to sit with the agents. Her key metrics included AHT and customer satisfaction. When looking over the summary of the metrics she kept finding a problem. Her best agents in terms of skills and customer satisfaction and overall ability would periodically show up out of compliance and adherence in terms of call length. It did not happen all of the time, but enough to where the manager wondered why her best agents were not performing.
When she asked one of her top agents why he was not meeting the average handle time metric he flatly stated, “I do not pay attention to that.” She inquired further and he stated, “I do what I need to do to ensure the caller is satisfied. That is the most important item, no matter how long it takes.”
It was at this point that she decided to see if what this agent was saying was true and if so, what did that mean for how she was measuring performance in her call center. After sitting with the top agents she realized that in fact, these agents were doing what was necessary to ensure the customers were satisfied and served fully. Sometimes this meant that they were over on their time per call, but often they were within the average and at times below.
It was then that she realized that these two metrics may be in conflict with each other during some calls. Her goal for her center was customer satisfaction and decided to make that the leading metric of her center. She still followed the AHT per call, but that metric did not change whether the agents were told it was being measured or not.
In summary, what Call center B manager learned that call center A manager did not is that the goal of her center was customer satisfaction yet she was pushing other measures that conflicted with her goal. By focusing on a single metric she was able to achieve what she was seeking all along and the other metrics fell in line after that.