The expression “go ahead” is often stated as “go ahead with,” as in “Are you going ahead with the recommendations?”
The term dates from the mid-1600s and gave rise to “give the go ahead”, according to the American Heritage Idiom Dictionary, and it means to “give permission to move or act in some way.”
I advocate that contact center leaders give themselves the go ahead to consider upgrading the old agent productivity metrics of handle time, number of calls, and adherence when measuring frontline agent performance.
Upgrade to a C2C Model!
Contribution to Capacity (C2C) is an integrated contact center metric aimed at improving both customer experience and, by extension, customer loyalty, revenue, and productivity.
I have been advocating C2C for a very long time. Only recently, we at PowerHouse have refined the concept to succinctly bundle agent performance in more of a coaching context than a punitive one.
C2C reinforces that the responsibility for availability/utilization really needs to be with the agents. However, they must understand the objectives as well as the big picture in order to effectively contribute.
The first thing the entire team needs to understand is the contact center lives by the development of a capacity model that is designed to accommodate the demand. This takes much time and effort and is a management duty, whether it falls to systems analysts, supervisors, etc.
When done right, the C2C model takes a lot of work! The forecasts must be accurate and the schedules well-planned. Non-phone work, training, coaching, team meetings, absences, etc., must be calculated and managed.
Therefore, with this knowledge about C2C and its purpose, agents are better equipped to understand that a major key to success is in their hands, namely the hands of the scheduled and NOT solely the scheduler. Without the frontines’ “contributions” the objectives of the plans will not be met.
Think of C2C as a three-legged stool made up of the “legs” we have always measured in the contact center, but fitted in a new and more elegant way.
C2C covers (1) adherence, (2) utilization, and (3) quality. This approach creates a holistic view of frontline performance and contribution that aligns with the needs of agents handling 21st century consumers.
Many contact centers have successfully automated high frequency, low complexity tasks. They reserve humans for higher-complexity (and sometimes confused) consumer contacts. However, these tasks often take longer to learn, may involve other departments, and require sorting out consumer issues across multiple systems and silos.
But hammering folks that meet the skill sets with productivity metrics often leads to job dissatisfaction and subsequently turnover. Now more than ever, contact center leaders must do all they can to retain talent!
The following is a high-level overview of these legs that underpin a successful C2C program.
1. Addressing Adherence
The first leg of the stool is Adherence. If your staff shows up late, goofs off all day, or does not show up at all, you will not meet objectives: no matter how perfect the planning process.
So of course, agent adherence is critical. But there is a breakdown, a gap between what management works toward, wants, and needs and how agents understand and respond to that need.
I believe that adherence sounds like something others make you do, where contribution is something you want to do. You might assign adherence as 10% to 15% of the overall C2C score.
We all know that adherence is important. Therefore, time must be taken to develop a deeper meaning than hitting the metric.
Adherence needs to be explained to agents in the context of availability and utilization, and about the impact on both callers and the rest of the teams, rather than if they hit a particular metric.
Frequently adherence is explained about coming and going on time, but too often without sufficient linkage to the big picture. Therefore, frontline contact center managers must also understand and communicate the context of adherence, as well as the term itself, in order to ensure the work gets done.
So frontline workers (as silly as it sounds) REALLY HAVE TO BE THERE!
The ability to get to work on time is critical. Work-from-home has certainly improved agents’ on-time arrival scores as commuters often suffer the impact of traffic, weather, or public transportation delays that cause adherence exceptions.
Adherence within the shift for breaks and lunches is also often a challenge, particularly in complex business environments.
The indicator of breaks and lunch durations, rather than exact departure and arrival times, is worth considering. But, perhaps not surprisingly, few folks appear to have trouble with the end of day on-time departure.
“Absent” is also part of adherence. And, depending on how your HR department handles unscheduled absences, it is included in this portion of C2C. Fortunately, as the awful COVID-19 pandemic hopefully winds down, we will see fewer absences of contact center staff.
2. Utilization Matters
Utilization is the second leg of the stool and tells us how agents spend their time within their shifts. This is more significant than any other factor. After all, if agents log in, but have mastered the fine art of “call avoidance,” they are not contributing their fair share.
Agent utilization can be measured at multiple levels: center, teams/queues, and individual. For the purposes of C2C, individual agent reports are used. It is a good idea to also graph out utilization at the queue, team, and center level.
Your ACD system should have a report that tracks agent “time in state.” The report to use is one that provides the percentage of time spent in various “states” throughout the agents’ shifts: talk time, after call work, not ready time (can be further broken down by the various “tags” frontline staff are able to enter into the system), and the resulting available percentage.
If you are super lucky, your ACD system provides a graphic interface to allow charts to be created as part of the coaching program. Otherwise, export your data to Excel and make the charts yourself; it is worth the effort.
C2C allows management to view everyone’s “contribution” without setting absolute “targets” (i.e., number of calls handled, talk time, etc.) Let’s face it, targets often result in agents prioritizing handle time over callers’ experiences, thereby putting business objectives at risk.
Graphs are shared with individuals in order to see their performance against their peers and work with their coaches in order to continue to improve.
I have shared a chart, from one of our contact center analysis reports, which illustrates how a team of frontline agents spend their time as a percentage of their shift.
The chart creation may be done daily; most users roll up to weekly summaries. It is also a good idea to graph out average talk time, wrap, and not ready for the group. This provides a simplified version of establishing control limits and allows further analysis of how the agent’s time was spent. It also lets you identify the outliers and coach accordingly.
Agent scoring relies on performing within the control group and can be assigned points based on each element. Managers must keep an eye on the overall “available” time, as an indicator of little or no available points to understaffing, while high utilization en masse would indicate overstaffing or a high service level queue. Utilization makes up 35% to 40% of the total C2C score.
3. Value of Quality Coaching
When it comes to C2C, the Quality score is the third leg of the stool.
The quality of your program is determined by its effectiveness. Ask yourself,“can you list the achievements of the quality program? Do you hold it up to other measures to provide evidence of successful outcomes?”
Quality contributes most of the experience to the callers. This is why I recommend allocating 50% of the agents’ C2C scores to quality, though only if and when you feel you have a quality program that merits that hefty allocation.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your program:
- Have you created a quality coaching guide where the program elements are defined and documented?
- Do you make clear to the agents who listens and scores the calls and the number of calls scored?
- Who provides the coaching?
- How long between observation and coaching?
- Are coaching sessions scheduled and monitored to assure they are not cancelled?
- How well trained are the coaches?”
The list of questions goes on and on...
Conduct a very deep audit of your quality program; research and read to grasp what other contact centers are doing. Get obsessively curious and challenge your leadership team to gather information on trends and all the different ways organizations approach quality. It is as easy as any Google search.
Quality as part of C2C assumes that the program is coaching-based. The agent is “coached” rather than receiving “feedback.” Feedback is what an agent gets via a robot. When the quality form is scored using YES or NO, it is more like a compliance audit than real coaching.
According to our own Brynn Palmer, coaching “is the essence of an effective quality program.”
Coaches work to unlock agent potential, and guide and develop them. Coaching takes place within a conversation and not a feedback session. The process CANNOT be transitioned to a robot.
Quality coaching programs also use behavioral scoring such as Keep, Improve, and Change. The adoption of coaching language requires the coach to work with the agent to determine how to make the necessary changes or improvements or to keep them doing what they are doing!
Make this year the year you do a deep dive into your quality program to determine its 21st century readiness.
With the Great Resignation hitting employers, including contact centers, hiring and retention have never been more important.
Consider C2C as part of the future of performance evaluation. The time has come for contact centers to move away from the same old measurements of targets and compliance audits.
C2C helps to look at the whole, but only when management is deeply embedded in adopting this approach for all three legs of the stool.
“Go ahead” and consider the impact of a C2C model. “Go ahead” and provide a new context to Contact Center performance management … contribution and coaching!