A recent McKinsey study of 150 call center leaders found that focused investments are needed to improve the skills of contact center agents in both service and sales, and to hire new ones who can handle increasingly complex interactions, in order to cope with changing consumer needs and contact preferences.
This is hardly surprising. The world is rapidly moving towards a sophisticated combination of automation for low value transactions and inquiries, and rich, personalized customer experiences that have the potential to deliver strong differentiation. And this is already translating into smaller teams of highly skilled agents equipped to provide ‘exceptional’ customer service, improve customer engagement, create cross and upsell opportunities, and prevent increasingly demanding customers from defecting.
The same study found that nearly half (47%) of the executives surveyed rated ‘investing in new technologies’ as one of their top priorities over the next five years. So on one hand, contact center leaders need to improve agent skills and recognize that technology investments are required. Yet, as we all know, on the other hand, there is often significant pressure to reduce operational costs. An effective workforce management (WFM) solution will help to cut costs, particularly when combined with improving agent performance.
Therefore, it makes complete sense to adopt an approach that addresses significant improvements in agent performance as well as reducing operational costs. Given the sheer ‘scale’ of the challenge faced by contact centers – often hundreds and thousands of staff are employed – the only way to do this is to pinpoint and replicate key skills and behaviors that deliver the best business outcomes at an individual level – i.e. to address each agent’s specific competency requirements and skill gaps. So how do you do this?
Benchmark employee skills and knowledge
Knowing what skills and knowledge your employees have is crucially important before you can analyze links to positive business performance. Benchmark using all available performance data – sales reports, quality management scores, length of service, training undertaken, etc. – making sure they are values that can be analyzed later and common amongst groups that require comparison.
Determine a clear goal
This is crucial as it drives the direction of any analysis and without clear goals or objectives it is difficult to achieve a real performance gain since you don’t really know what you’re looking for or want to achieve! Plus you’ll waste time and money and be little the wiser at the end of your analysis!
Pinpoint which skills and knowledge are linked to the best business outcomes
Once you have determined your goal, use analytics to identify the causal skills and knowledge factors that are driving the desired business outcomes. Continue by analyzing your best performers but remember, ‘best’ should not be a subjective view. Use available data and analytics to agree the definition of ‘best’ that most accurately fits the organization and its goals and objectives. A competence management solution within a WFM solution goes a long way to show what best performance looks like by pinpointing the key skills of top performers, what they are doing differently/better and how they achieve it. Once gaps have been identified a solution such as Teleopti Competence Manager, flags the best course of action by replicating desirable profiles.
Find and fill gaps
Use analytics to pinpoint skills and knowledge gaps and unearth trends in skill improvements – i.e. which actions are having the most positive impact. The output of this analysis should then be used to make sensible decisions about what development is required: who needs what skills and knowledge – at an individual level.
Test and refine
Continue cyclic measurement and analysis and continue to take relevant, focused actions to maintain positive performance improvements. Analytics should be a continuous investment as, when used over the longer term, it will ensure investment in the right areas based on measured, focused, repeatable proven patterns of improvement rather than perceived areas of need.
It’s clear that the days of an expensive ‘one size fits all’ approach to employee performance optimization are over. A targeted approach not only reduces cost, it also helps employees to do a better job for customers as well as to continuously improve themselves – key drivers to improving and sustaining employee motivation and engagement. In the contact center, these benefits have the potential to reduce unauthorized absence, attrition, recruitment & training costs, and improve key operational metrics such as first contact resolution (FCR), average handling time (AHT) and productivity.
It’s widely accepted that top performing organizations know who their best performers are and exactly why they perform the way they do. They know how to align performance optimization to individual needs and business goals. Granted, the ability to do this may require an investment in technology, but if that leads to more purchases, higher levels of customer retention, more engaged agents, reduced operational costs, and increased profitability, that’s money well spent.