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In the Call Center, What Gets Measured Gets Done

In the Call Center, What Gets Measured Gets Done

More often than not, organizations choose the most popular metrics from the industry and tailor them to fit their own needs. Before asking whether that approach is the right one, it's important to understand what the measurements are for. What is the business benefit you want to achieve?

By Manikandan M.
07/26/10 5:00 AM PT

Its 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning, and Fred from the ABC call center is logging onto the company's metrics portal to find out his first call resolution and average handle time. He also has access to a complete set of other metrics that provide a composite view of his performance over the previous week.

His manager is able to see team's aggregate metrics and drill down further to see individual performances. Integrated dashboards provide area managers last week's performance at a glance. They are able to quickly compare their group's relative performance with other teams.

This is the scenario in our imaginary call center where a fully integrated metrics system with a Web-based portal provides users with instant access to current and historical data. Implementing such a system can be as complex as any other enterprise implementation. From choosing the right metrics to driving user acceptance, the journey can be complex.

What does it take to implement a successful metrics program such as the one described above? This article explores some of the critical steps of a successful metrics program implementation.

Start Early

It's important to start early -- visit the drawing board before you hit the systems.

Metrics programs often cut across divisions and call for careful planning. Since these systems rely completely on data from other systems, it's important to ensure that the source systems can supply the data needed. An early understanding of the metrics that will be used can help in modeling the source systems to provide requisite data in appropriate formats and frequency.

While it is best to wait for the source system's implementation to be completed before commencing a metrics implementation, it is not always practical to wait that long. It then becomes a question of a fine balance between the data availability, stability of the systems that supply data, and the need for reporting the data.

Choose the Right Sponsor

Metrics programs should be sponsored by the senior management of the organization. These programs can lose focus in the shadow of bigger implementations like ERP and other enterprise wide programs. Strong sponsorship will help retain the focus and can steer it through budget cuts or company re-orgs.

Metrics directly reflect the performance of teams/individuals and are likely to meet with more resistance up front. Business leader sponsorship can iron out resistance and smooth the rollout of such programs.

It is easier for the business head to communicate to employees the goals of the metrics program and how they would benefit them. Metrics programs can be implemented in a phased manner and can take quite some time to fully establish and become a part of the company's performance culture, necessitating continued executive sponsorship to ensure their success.

Choose the Right Metrics

Choosing the right metrics is a critical step and, thankfully, there is enough help available in the form of professional advice. However, here are a couple of points for the program sponsor to ponder:

  • Tailor to fit vs. adopting industry standards

    More often than not, organizations choose the most popular metrics from the industry and tailor them to fit their own needs. Before asking whether that approach is the right one, it's important to understand what the measurements are for. What is the business benefit you want to achieve? If it's higher customer satisfaction, you would mostly be looking at improving First Call Resolution. If it's about reducing cost, then average handle time might well be your key. If the business objective is clear, the decision becomes easy.

  • Choose the metric and stick to it

    Metrics are expected to be measured over a period of time and drive performance improvement. Changing the metric shows a lack of clarity in business goals and leaves employees irritated. People take time to get better at doing things, and changing a metric would seem to put to waste all their efforts toward improving on that metric. Remember that every time metrics change, you are taking a step backward, and the more often you change it, the further away you get from your goal.

Measure Right

This is where metrics translate into targets for individuals and teams in the organization. Choosing the right target is as important as choosing the right metric. To do this right, organizations should look at their past performance and also industry benchmarks. Not considering either of these will leave you less competitive or over burdened with unrealistic goals.

A culture of goals and stretch goals can ensure a minimum level of performance while motivating employees to perform better. Stretch goals must always be low- hanging fruit. If achieved, they should be followed with appropriate incentives.

A metrics program is both a challenging and rewarding journey in itself, and if you have been a part of this exciting journey, please use the Talkback feature to share your experiences.


Manikandan M. is a lead consultant with Infosys Technologies Limited and has consulting and solution development experience across CRM domains.


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