In business, a common occurrence is that owners realise there is a crisis once the situation becomes critical. What makes this surprising is that they have reports, graphs and statistics before them every day but fail to see the signs that there are potential (or real) problem areas.

Not everyone is an expert at reading graphs, but it is possible to dig deeper into the metrics and variables to get a closer look. A dip may be the clue that reveals how badly a business is haemorrhaging profits or customers, and an expert will know how to tweak the reporting functions to better display the ups and downs on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

In a customer service environment the variables can be intriguing. There are different kinds of contact centres: debt collection, sales and customer service all have different requirements in terms of monitoring what is going on between agents, customers and managers. In a sales environment a business owner may notice that for a period of three months the company has been making less than before. How can that business owner find out what has been happening to prompt a decline?

Dashboards that track real-time events on the contact centre floor have their uses, but only if they are representing the right information. Metrics, such as time spent on calls (the most expensive line item), deals closed or the amount of calls made, can all be measured but even these may not reveal the full story at face value.

For example, one of my clients noticed a drop in productivity and profitability in the contact centre. There appeared to be no obvious reason until the metrics were explored on a deeper level. It was found that agents were spending much longer on calls – once this was revealed, the client recalled that it had become necessary to add an extended script to include Financial Intelligence Centre Act information, leading to longer time spent on calls.

This was the finding that could lead to the solution: introduce more agents for the short term to cope with the need for longer calls or, if possible, provide an automated process so that callers can bypass actual calls with an agent by clicking through their responses to a series of questions.

Variables

These dashboards can be tweaked to reveal many variables, including revealing who the weakest agents are, who the most effective ones are and what both of those are doing on the contact centre floor to affect their output. In the case of weaker agents, it may be preferable to provide training, or, if this is not relevant, to cull those agents. If your contact centre floor can run as, or more, efficiently with fewer agents, you can save on the costs of wages or salaries.

In a sales environment, let us say the best agent is making R100 000 per day for the company, but the worst agent is making R10 000. Ultimately, the better agent is subsidising the time the weaker agent is spending on call time, the biggest cost factor. The options are to get rid of the weaker agent and employ a better one or provide training, mentoring and management to ensure that the agent improves.

Managers benefit from dashboards in that they can see what is going on across the floor and get an impression of the productivity and efficiency of agents. An agent who stands out as excellent on one metric may have room to improve on another – so the agent can see this immediately, as can the manager. There can be incentives (or penalisation measures) to motivate the agent: the agent who achieves X level gets the access card to the Elite Cafeteria where the good coffee is served, the weaker agent loses the card and has to work harder to get it back (for example).

The variables and metrics must be generated according to the unique requirements of a particular business environment. The implementation and application of those is of utmost importance, and the business solution provider should provide training and insights so that those who need to examine the reporting metrics will know what to look for. It involves discussion, consultation and interrogation of the details to find out exactly what needs to be measured and what the desired outcomes are.

The more information that is available, the more an effective dashboard can be created that allows for a bird’s eye view of what is happening within the company.

* Thinus Janse van Rensburg is the managing director of INOVO, a contact centre business solutions provider.

** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Media.

BUSINESS REPORT