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What to do to get the most out of your contact center team.

We have all heard conversations and read articles about what the bell curve means to the service world. Attack the dreadful! Address the mediocre! Support the stars!

The bottom line is that each approach may add some value but ultimately, as we have all said, it depends.

In today's connected world, one stellar reaction or disastrous comment can go viral on social media in no time and create serious impact--either positive or negative-on both your net promoter score and your bottom line. As such, we must find a way to address all aspects of our performance bell curve in a way that tightens our outliers and moves the entire curve to the right to maximize the up side and minimize the down side.

Some feedback suggests that from a pure ROI perspective, spending your dollars on the performers in the middle of the curve (address the mediocre) represents the biggest opportunity for impact, because it is usually the largest group in a normal distribution. If you can move the middle percent, you will see the largest impact.

Others speak to the potential opportunity for change by focusing on the more significant underperformers at the low end of the curve (attack the dreadful). I can take this smaller group and move them each to the middle, I should see the same result. There may be a lot fewer bodies, but the potential for change is much more dramatic.

And finally, depending on the employee maturity lifecycle (hiring process, evolving new hire, fully functional or matured employee), focusing on the top performers (support the stars) may be your focal point with the largest potential for business impact. If you can just cultivate one or two more star performers, the bottom line impact is huge.

Ultimately, it comes back to the classic 80/20 argument: Typically, the most significant impact on your NPS, quality and bottom line is created by 20 percent of your employee base. This is due to three principles:

* The distribution of calls to your agents is based on random call arrival patterns, which means agents are more likely to receive a normal call than a problematic call. Self-service has also increased the complexity of calls, as more of the normal issues are now served in these channels.

* Call quality is primarily based on coaching to average calls, due to the common approach of selecting calls based on length (e.g. 3-5 minutes) and perhaps by queue or skill; rarely is call selection based on the topic of the interaction or on particular target behaviors.

* Callers are more likely to connect with an average representative than a stellar one. Not everyone will get the star performer, due to the call distribution models that are in place for the vast majority of contact centers. Next available agent versus best available agent is a debate with consequences for both service levels and the customer experience.

So how can you best address this averageness to help move your own bell curve?

One way is to be exceedingly selective in your hiring process and never hire anyone with the potential to fall into the low end. However, we all know how expensive and unrealistic that can be, not to mention how cumbersome when the goal is to fill enough agent seats to handle basic call volumes in a historically competitive hiring market.

Given the difficulty and expense of trying to hire only the best of the best, you must change your perspective on quality and NPS to ensure that employees from all across the bell curve are engaged in your improvement efforts. You must provide the focus, support and performance management opportunities necessary to tighten the curve, reduce its footprint, and shift it from the midpoint to the right.

Monitoring for quality should be targeted and not random--both on and off the phones. The coaching that follows should be focused and not generic --across the entire bell curve spectrum to make an impact on NPS, quality, and the bottom line. Spending time monitoring average calls is no longer viable. We need to target and tailor our efforts for each performance bucket to help agents move up the performance maturity ladder. These efforts may focus on areas like compliance and efficiency for new hires, soft skills and problem solving for average performers, and empowerment and cross-/up-selling for your highest performers. The real secret is determining which skills and knowledge have the greatest impact on your business model, so that you can target interactions that highlight those skills, and align them across your team. M

by David Johnson

David Johnson is a senior business consultant with NICE Systems (www.nicewfo.com).
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Title Annotation:DELIVER
Author:Johnson, David
Publication:Customer
Date:Mar 1, 2014
Words:776
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