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July 2008 | Volume 27 / Number 2
Workforce Optimization

Why Performance Analytics Is Important

By Brendan B. Read
Senior Contributing Editor, Customer Interaction Solutions

Contact centers generate vast amounts of vital information from customer satisfaction surveys to operational data. This is data that individuals at every organizational level needs and can benefit from, such as the contact center agents who need to know how they are performing to the C-suite inhabitants who are making strategic decisions.

The question becomes is how to best harness that information to enable logical, rational actions and solid, actionable, recommendations.

That's where performance analytics comes in. It provides the vital tools to analyze the data whose power is waiting to be used. Performance analytics enables successful performance management by giving managers and executives the yardsticks to measure results.

Leading industry executives were asked to outline the specific benefits of performance analytics. Here are their insights:

Kelly Stropp, Senior Business Consultant
IEX Corporation, a NICE Systems company

A day or two after JP Morgan announced that it was buying Bear Stearns I got an email with the picture of the door outside the Bear Stearns building. It had a $2 bill taped to it. Being in the performance analytics field, this photo seemed poignant because these executives claimed that they did not have any insights into their level of risk. I am sure their business is extremely complex, yet I can't help but wonder if things would have turned out differently for Bear Sterns if they had a performance analytics solution in place.

Performance analytics solutions provide valuable business insights that offer a wide range of benefits from more informed decision-making to increased profitability. The technology provides contact centers with the ability to look at data that was once in separate silos together as whole.

Having a consolidated view of the business can bring amazing business insights. With them, organizations gain perspectives of their operations that across geographic locations and lines of business and products.

Performance analytics enables the center to set up automated processes that get data into the hands of those who need it most. Automated report scheduling, dashboard/scorecard pushes, and portal technologies, to name a few features, all help facilitate timely decision making.

With visualized, consolidated data at the fingertips, contact center executives and managers are able to make much more informed decisions. Performance analytics allows methods such as alerts, color coded data, and data profiling. This brings relevant information to the forefront to facilitate better decisionmaking.

Taking effective decision making one step further, performance analytics enables organizations to look back over time to analyze business trends, conduct "what if" and root cause analyses to find the answers to specific problems.

Effective decisionmaking isn't just for executives anymore. Performance analytics enables the centers' managers to generate reports, view dashboards and create scorecards for all levels of the corporate hierarchy. It also allows organizations to align corporate goals. For example, one of them might be to increase profitability or enhance customer satisfaction. With everyone working toward common objectives, using actual metrics measured at the individual level, they are more likely to be achieved.

Mark Selcow, President
Merced Systems, Inc

'Pin the Tail on the Donkey' is a beloved children's game, but this same concept does not translate well into running large enterprise businesses. Rather than marching forward with figurative blindfolds on, executives, supervisors and agents in sales and service organizations must be empowered with a comprehensive set of performance analytics. One that offers a single version of the truth which enables every individual in these organizations to efficiently and effectively measure, manage, and improve the business.

For contact center executives, performance analytics offer critical insight into key business drivers. Knowing, for instance how productivity goals, such as average handle time and its impacts customer experience, executives can change course, balance competing objectives, or adjust strategy quickly and effectively, in response to changing business needs. Having this direct insight into key business levers allows executives to focus their attention on mission-critical issues, rather than toiling in the weeds.

Having a succinct view into the performance of their teams, supervisors no longer waste precious time gathering spreadsheet reports and hand-written performance reviews, but instead can spend their time on what's truly important: coaching and developing their agents. Armed with the right information into their teams' performances, supervisors can cut to the chase and more effectively align individual goals with and drive behavior towards overarching company objectives.

Finally, at the agent level, a comprehensive set of performance analytics fosters a culture of continuous improvement, healthy competition, and accountability for performance. Agents have visibility into how they are doing and can take immediate action to self-correct when certain metrics slip. They now understand that their performance is being graded fairly and that they are being rewarded appropriately. Empowered with front line performance analytics, agents are able to grow in their positions, which not only lead to a reduction in turnover, but also ensure that customers are interacting with better trained, more knowledgeable and more motivated staff.

In large customer-facing operations, performance analytics are critical to ensuring behavior at every level is aligned with company strategy. With timely and accurate information about performance delivered to every role in the organization, executives, supervisors, and agents can more effectively and efficiently impact the business.

Greg Sherry, Director of Marketing
Verint Witness Actionable Solutions

Within the contact center, performance management is becoming a culture and a continuous process. It involves goal setting, consistent communication, buy-in from all levels of the organizations, regular measurement of performance against goals, and taking necessary corrective action to close the loops. It is a critical management imperative to track and analyze the performance of contact centers and their agents, incorporating the "voice of the customer" in the performance management process. Managers must measure against pre-defined key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals and incorporate workforce optimization (WFO) solutions that bring eLearning and coaching into the fold.

A fundamental element of performance management is identifying the right KPIs to focus on for different levels in the center that are also aligned with enterprise goals. The key is to start off with a highly targeted set of predefined KPIs, along with the ability for businesses to create their own general or line-of-business specific versions. Managers must extend the evaluation process beyond simple metrics, such as average handle time, average after-call wrap-up time, number of calls handled, sign-in time, service level and number of contacts abandoned. They must use role-specific KPIs that are created by arithmetically combining this raw metrics-based performance data. An example is a KPI called "unavailable time as a percent of staffed time," which requires the management of four metrics – talk time, after call work time, hold time and idle time – in its calculation.

Another emerging element in performance management is the incorporation of customer feedback. Contact center managers are measuring customer satisfaction data and applying that information to help improve agent performance and business processes. They can leverage WFO customer feedback surveys especially designed to gather evaluation data on agent performance and the customer experience. With such tools managers are better equipped than ever to build holistic customer service evaluation programs that drive gains in the effectiveness of their people, processes, products and overall service levels.

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