Call Center Performance Management

What’s the difference between managing people and managing performance? When you ask most supervisors or managers to share their experience in coaching, most will confess that it often feels like they are some sort of guidance counsellors, life coach, and shrink all rolled into one. And this is mainly because their work as a managers or supervisor involves listening and understanding what the agents are experiencing so as to ensure everyone feels like there are cared for and taken into consideration.

Call Center Performance Management: Are You Managing People or Performance?

What’s the difference between managing people and managing performance? When you ask most supervisors or managers to share their experience in coaching, most will confess that it often feels like they are some sort of guidance counsellors, life coach, and shrink all rolled into one. And this is mainly because their work as a managers or supervisor involves listening and understanding what the agents are experiencing so as to ensure everyone feels like there are cared for and taken into consideration.

Nonetheless, it is important to realize that managing performance is not about shaping people’s personality. Afterall, you are paying your agents to show up and do their job; so you have a right to expect certain competencies, skills and behaviours in the job. However, you do not have a right to change their personalities; and that is the difference between managing people and managing performance. Fortunately, compared to shaping personalities, managing performance is quite easy.

Performance Management

Quite often, managing people instead of their performance leads to a lot of mistakes; while some agents may feel like they are not being treated fairly, others may lack the support they need because there isn’t any consistent feedback. Therefore, having a solid performance management model is crucial to ensuring contact center success.

As it stands, companies spend a significant amount of time on performance evaluation but comparatively little on development. According to Claire Bissot, a  HR consulting manager at business services provider CBIZ, the best feedback a manager can give are real life examples.

However, when performance reviews are held once a year, the lapse in time from the occurrence of the event to the actual review means that the feedback delievered is less detailed and broader. Besides, do you even remember what happened 3 days ago let alone at the beginning of the year?

So it’s with this in mind that companies like Adobe and GE have started to implement more frequent performance reviews to ensure real-time feedback. In fact, according to Averbook, 60% of companies are rethinking their approach to performance reviews while 10% have already shifted away from traditional performance measurement methods.

For example, GE managers use performance-tracking technologies to make it possible for everyone to collaborate on priorities, resolutions and progress. Similarly, Call Criteria provides a robust and user-friendly system to monitor all agent interactions in the call center against the defined parameters.

Benefits of Implementing a Performance Management Model

  • Provides A Neutral Framework

When you have a performance management model in place, it doesn’t matter whether you are a brand new supervisor or an experienced supervisor with 20 years under your belt, everyone uses the same structure of doing things.

  • Enables Coaches and Supervisors to Handle Issues Independently

With a neutral framework, supervisors and coaches can handle issues that arise at the contact center objectively without bias. Which, in turn, makes the agents feel like they are being treaed fairly.

  • Gives Incentives for Desired Behaviours and Results

When agents know their performance is being observed, measured and reviewed fairly, they get motivated to perform well.

Clearly enough, you need a performance management model in your call center to achieve success. But how do you create this model?

Define what’s Healthy

Coming up with a performance management model is much like going to the doctor for a diagnosis. The doctor will have certain definition for what is healthy or not. Example, what’s the safe blood sugar levels or what’s s healthy temperature. These definitions ensure both you and the doctor are on the same page on what’s healthy and what’s not.

Similarly to avoid ambiguity in your call center on what performance is expected, you need to come up with clear definition of what is healthy or rather a gold standard for performance.  For example,

  • Here’s what we want to see…….
  • Here’s our definition of good performance…..
  • Here’s an example of what it sounds like when a call is done right….
  • These are the behaviours we want….

Measure Current Performance

Once everyone is on the same page on what the is the ideal agent performance, you need to measure current performance. Just like the doctor will run some tests and take your temperature to assess your current state of health; in the call centre, an efficient call center QA service is used to measure current agent performance based on the organization’s gold standards. In the ideal case, a custom scorecard is created for your call center to ensure agent performance is being measured against the right scorecard.

Call Criteria’s QA analytics process is fast and simple with skilled QA analyst’s using the latest voice technology models to provide accurate and real-time feedback of call centre activities.

Diagnose and Categorize

At this step, you already have what you want by defining what a well performing  call center should look like. You also know how your agents are currently performing by hiring QA analysts to give you unbiased performance reports. If what you want doesn’t match with what you have, then you move to the 3rd step of the performance model: diagnose and categorize the problem. For example, your ideal number of calls handled by an agent per hour is 15 but the reports show there’s an agent handling 19 calls per hour! On further drilling down on the agent’s performance you realize that he’s sacrificing quality on the expense of quality. What do you do?  You find the why.

Keep in mind that anytime doesn’t perform how they are expected to form, it’s often because of 3 main reasons:

  • They don’t know- The agent may not know that they are supposed to make 15 calls per hour
  • Or the agent may know that they are supposed to make 15 calls per hour but they don’t know they are making 19 calls per hour because they don’t get any feedback or they are just not counting.

At Call Criteria we’ve realized that this kind of diagnosis is most common with new people. So if the agent doesn’t know what is expected, the agent needs to be coached on what is expected of them, how performance is going to be measured, what is measured, who measures and who provides feedback. But most importantly, you need to explain the why. Why every single agent needs to adhere to the performance requirements and the consequences of what happens when the performance requirements are met and when the expectations are not met. Therefore, you’ll need to reiterate this message right from when you are interviewing and periodically as a reminder throughout your interactions.

If it’s the kind of challenge where the agent knows what is expected but they are not getting information that their performance does not measure up to the expected performance. You might consider empowering the agents with self-coaching tools. That’s why we provide very visual dahsboards showing what’s happening in the call center allowing both agents and coaches to get real-time feedback on their expected performance.

They Can’t Do It- Some agents fail to perform as expected because of performance obstacles. As you think about your call centre agents, what obstacles do you think prevent them from performing as expected? Maybe they are not the right fit, maybe they don’t have the right resources, they are not quick to adapt to new systems/software etc. And this is exactly why you really need to be clear on what you expect in terms of performance, there are only too many obstacles. Nonetheless, if you diagnose that an agent’s performance is suffering because of an obstacle in performance consider analysing their external environment to find out if it’s the office layout, the procedures and processes or personal restrictions.

  • They Won’t- In this case, the agent knows what is expected of them, they have been getting feedback on their performance, they don’t have any physical restrictions but they still won’t perform as expected. Such cases are mostly about consequences. Either there’s no consequences or there are mismatched consequences. The agent may be getting a positive reinforcement for negative behaviour. For example, even though the agent has been handling 19 calls per hour and is making more sales, hurrying through calls and leaving customers feeling mishandled will affect the qualitative score. Therefore the agent should not be reinforced positively just because the sales figures are good.

The treatment for this diagnosis would involve identifying the right reinforcements for each agent based on their current performance and by understanding the different characteristics of consequences.

Intervention- Coaching

Coaching mainly encompasses 3 main things in-order to be effective:

  • It needs to be timely
  • It needs to be consistent
  • It needs to specific

But perhaps the most important thing to note about coaching a call center is that you should never coach for numbers. Numbers are important, however, they are just an indication that your model is working or not working, more like symptoms. Therefore, if you want to coach for the end results, define the healthy behaviours that you want and coach to those. What do you want people to do differently?

Nonetheless, you should also coach for a goal. But what really is coaching. At Call Criteria, we believe coaching is about:

  • Defining desires results
  • Isolating the behaviours that drive these results
  • Reinforcing tangible, observable behaviours (not beliefs, attitudes or personalities)

The Opportunity for Improvement in Your Call Center

According to a report on Restoring America’s Competitive Vitality, only 23% of employees report that they perform to their full potential whole a whole 68% would increase performance significantly if they wanted. 44% do the bare minimum with no extra effort. So how do you get to a place where everyone is giving you’re their best performance?

Positive Reinforcement May Be The Answer

Ryan