Call Center Performance Management

This article outlines some of the key areas in which call center performance can be measured and managed.

Call Centers, or customer services receiving and transmitting multiple requests by telephone, were introduced as offshoots of telecommunications providing streamlined service for consumers of large companies with extensive customer support needs.

Normally, a call center is able to handle a considerable volume of calls at the same time, i.e. to screen calls and forward them to skilled support staff, where most issues can be resolved. Organizations starting from mail-order catalog companies and telemarketing companies to computer product help desks use call centers.

Typically, there are two types of calls, inbound and outbound. The latter suggests the agent’s calling potential customers with intentions to sell or service which is amply used in telemarketing. Apart from it inbound calls are made by the customer to get information or ask for help reporting malfunction of the product.

That’s where the problem of management performance is acute. Performance measures and benchmarking are indispensable to any well-run call center to eliminate criticism of call centres on common themes such as non-expert operators, poor training of agents incapable to process customers’ requests effectively, automated queuing systems resulting in long hold time and operators working from a script.

Benchmarking, typically associated with strategic management, presupposes evaluation of business processes in relation to best practice and helps to develop plans with the aim of increasing performance levels. Benchmarking reforms all the levels of the company, from the state of mind of the employees to that of top level managers, penetrating into the whole hierarchical organization of the organization. The gist of benchmarking is to break the resistance to change by employing methods different from the currently used ones that might be less effective in order to increase certain aspects of performance.

The most conspicuous performance measures include the mean conversation time, or Average Talk Time (ATT), the time of delay a caller may experience waiting while queuing, the mean dealing time, or Average Handling Time (AHT), the number of calls (%) answered within the limited period, or Service Level (SL%), the number of calls per hour the operator handles, the number of calls (%) with the customer’s problem completely resolved and others.

A variety of different technologies enables companies to measure and monitor the performance of the workers. The Balanced scorecard, introduced by R.S. Kaplan and D. Norton in 1992, is a concept for measuring a company’s activities to make managers focus on the important performance metrics that lead to success. It’s not only financial outcomes that are in focus, but the human issues that drive those outcomes. Thus, it is said to balance the financial perspective with customer, process and employee perspectives. Since the time of the original concept the scorecard metrics have been revisited by Kaplan & Norton with regard to more than a decade’s experience.

Typically the following processes are focused on when the scorecard is implemented: translating the vision into operational goals, linking the vision to individual performance, business planning, learning and adjusting the strategy according to the feedback. To improve the performance of call centers one should know what metrics are best qualified. The right metrics should be performed on a call center to fulfill the scorecard.

The hallmark of a good call centre is the staff’s call management skills and that means interactive training that can help achieve excellence at different levels for the agents, supervisors and managers is important. It is essential for managers to know how to recruit and train the staff to reach the strategic goals of the company, to manage the key metrics and consequently improve performance.

Different programs are designed to deliver training to call center teams. They might include practice, role-play, feedback and coaching. As keeping customers satisfied is a primary concern of any call center, training courses must feature quality programs which enhance performance in this area. Excellent training leads to reinforcing the appropriate skills for performance improvement and achieving higher levels of customer loyalty.

About the Author

Sam Miller writes on behalf of Strategy2Act, a Balanced Scorecard software used to measure and control business performance in call centers and other environments.

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