What is the performance management in the office-based and remote contact center?
Performance management in a contact center is the ability to identify, track, solve and enable changes in the employee’s professional behavior, whether remote or office-based work. Whatever you do in your contact center, the final result of every manager’s actions must imply the principle – “What is good for my contact center and a company”.
These days, performance management looks more challenging than a few years ago. Complexity triggered by the remote and hybrid working environment, changes in the economy, etc.
For managers, it means the inability to see, track, and be directly involved in productivity, working habits, communication, in real-time. Actually, that’s not the real cause of low performance, and here’s why.
Managers waste a lot of time without substantial results because of reinventing wheels in the management practice. Yet all they need to do is to apply the proven techniques, strategies, and psychology of the successful contact centers.
Hint: There are a lot of proven ways to improve your agent’s performance before you start to apply new trends for testing. Most of them are in this article.
The danger of trends in performance management – you know this or you’re done
On the internet, there’s a lot of hype about innovations. Obviously, you met new ways to improve agents’ performance - the blue pill. The problem with them is obvious – they’ve never been tested. Just think for a minute about it.
If these trends aren't producing any kind of result in contact centers. How do they help you? You certainly don't want to be the company that tests these hype trends on your employees. You want to achieve proven and workable methods.
Of course, if the trends are proven by the tests and substantial results in successful slash contact centers. Have a logical sense for applying in your company, and employees’ feedback is positive.
Moreover, knowing the management practice, you’re 100% sure this will work, and you take personal responsibility. Certainly, apply it for the tested period and watch the results.
What do managers exactly need to do to keep a high level of performance?
It’s no matter how good you are as a leader or you have a personality that drives people and employees to follow. There’re techniques of management that even a person with a low personality can apply. As a result, you'll establish a strong performance policy in a contact center.
Focusing on the opportunities rather than problems of the team’s performance
Here’s the viable info about how you can increase the revenue using opportunities. And you could even turn the problem into an advantage. So, without further ado let’s list them:
- An unconditional success or failure in your or competitor’s company towards performance management;
For instance, those who had the cloud contact center software maintained their activity, even when offices shut down.
Was it agent-friendly and acceptable to quickly hit the ground running? As a result, they’ve constantly generated the revenue while other companies scratch the surface struggling with on-premises?
- A gap between the current situation and the future of the industry. The modern contact centers, what are they?
Definitely the minority of contact centers that have the highest level of security, both internal and external. And those who satisfy even the most demanding customers 24 hours a day.
- Innovations in the processes such as contracting with customers. Blended teams that from outbound rapidly pivot and become inbound.
Working trends in your niche whether its sales or customer service, you need to take into account. For instance, when calling volume hits, the vast majority of contact centers are unable to process them and put customers in the long queue. Maybe it's better to have an automatic call distribution (ACD) or interactive voice response system (IVR), to reduce these picks?
- Changes in industry and market. The contact center market is evolving. Much of these changes come to change technology and other employees’ behavior. For instance, a flexible schedule becomes a norm because employees with children are unable to work from 8 AM till 5 PM.
- Demographics. Is your company capable to outsource some of the contacts with customers to foreign agents or not? Maybe this is another advantage for you to increase the revenue while reducing salaries?
- Changes in mindsets, values, perceptions, of customers you can use as advantages. For instance, take a look at how the pandemic changed the customer’s behavior. More than ever before customers wish to contact companies by calling and chatting with them, substantially increasing the workload of certain call centers.
As you may know, such niches as health, telecom, banking, supermarkets, and delivery experience much higher calling volume.
On the contrary: luxury, real estate, and travel have a decline. That means that economic conditions have changed the perception of people and their purchasing activities.
Setting long-term goals that are 100% accomplishable
Although many people think that setting goals is like marking the date on the calendar and outlining the date in the journal. That produces a low effect. What is effective is to follow consistency in setting in implementing goals. Here’s how it must really look:
- First things first. What needs to be done towards the agent's performance to reach specific goals in this quarter, half of the year, and year? Consequently, consider goals such as the monthly revenue, the number of inbound and outbound calls, the number of agents, new business partners, type of work (office/hybrid/remote).
- The second is the principle. The critical principle you need to apply is: "What is right for our contact center?", and based on the principle, you develop actions to improve our attendance policy, adherence to the schedule, productivity, competitiveness, etc.
- Develop an accurate action plan, based on these two issues listed above. For instance, the plan may include strong communication with each other or meeting once a week.
- Helping the entry-level agents, furnishing them with information about their activity, and checking their knowledge. Or it may be finding more companies for business relationships this year.
- Anyway, the action plan must imply your best interest and not be vague regarding staff, activity, and management;
- Take personal responsibility for actions. Do you know how many managers take personal responsibility for accomplishing certain goals in the company? Almost no one, and that’s too bad for them and contact centers.
If the CEO or a manager of a company sets a direct goal, such as to hire 10 or 20 agents this year, improve attendance, knowledge, first call resolution, average answer speed, etc. The CEO or manager is responsible for this task. Or if they disagree to take the responsibility for these tasks, there are reasons for it that they can present.
Of course, when the deadline comes, the CEOs check the implementation of the goal, asking the manager for the report. If every business would follow this rule, they would astronomically profit from it or at least tenfold as they have now.
Hint: Check two times implementation of your goal. The first time on the halfway of the plan. And the second time at the actual deadline period. The importance is hidden in the clear view of the picture, whether the change occurs or not.
- Manager’s personal responsibility for communication. The other cause of lack of performance is concealed in the manager’s low responsibility for the communication between departments and agents. As soon as managers aren't checking the strong communication, the contact center applies the jungle law.
However, the consequences are frightening when communication is low. It directly damages the performance of the overall company and the revenue.
If a supervisor or agent must share the specific information with colleagues yet there are problems, someone has to be responsible for it. And the manager, as they achieve a salary for their job, must ensure that everyone in a company or at least in the area where the manager is working has strong communication.
That’s both professional and fair. The manager and CEO can control communication, using authority to persuade or force employees to communicate and share the information.
Of course, to bring this into fruition, everyone must report to the manager if this rule is broken by one of the employees, so the manager could make timely actions, like phone calls, chatting, or visiting a particular department slash person.
- Saying “we” is more important than saying “I”. Smart or experienced managers understand the value of working as a team instead of the efforts of a single person. That’s why they always imply “we” as a top priority as an indicator of moving as one whole. And as a result, decisions also must be grounded on the fundamental principle – What is right for the contact center?
Making 100% decisions that change your contact center for good or great
Decisions are the only purpose you gather employees in the remote video conference or face-to-face. All other outcomes of meetings that boost your team’s performance are irrelevant. Here’s how you make decisions:
- During the meetings, it’s clear the name of the person or employees for carrying goals out;
- The deadline of implementation of each goal;
- The employees will be affected by the decision toward moving to goals. Thus they must understand, apply, or at least not strongly disagree with the decision;
- The name of employees that will be advised about the decision implementation, even if they’re not directly involved in the process.
These rules build the structuring in your meetings and decision process. Failure to follow this pattern causes vague decisions, lots of talks, yet zero results. As a result, they are just wasting time instead of producing natural performance.
How to solve any kind of performance or other problems once and for all?
Remember that solving problems does not create an opportunity, it prevents direct or indirect damage. And here are the workable tips on how to solve the performance problems once and for all:
- The clear realization that the problem is either generic or unique. Is it a particular issue with agents occurring frequently and in the vast majority? Or, it’s the unique case you need to address.
Regarding these specific issues generic or unique, which response do you need to make to achieve the desired result?
- Before the decision towards problem-solving is made, the solution must be grounded on the principle “What is right for the contact center?”. However, if the direct solution based on this principle is unacceptable, the adaptation or concessions is applicable as long as it follows your goal – ensuring the performance;
- The decisions about solutions must immediately imply actions to carry it out.
- Ask for feedback from supervisors and experienced agents. It ensures you maintain the movement toward your goal.
That’s it, following these practical rules you will ensure eliminating almost every problem in your contact center.
Running meetings to boost your team’s performance.
Hint: These examples do not look as you think.
First of all, before the meeting the manager or responsible for meeting the person, must announce the straight purpose of the meeting. Doing so, you will keep the purpose of the meeting, ensuring and not luring the meeting to other directions.
As you've already experienced, the most difficult task for the manager is to keep the subject of the meeting clear and not to drive in other subjects.
Remember you have two options: either make meetings productive or completely waste your and your employees’ time. Meetings have different types. And here’s they are:
- A meeting to make an announcement of an organizational change. The meeting discusses one particular or several issues regarding the critical changes everyone must know.
- A meeting where one member reports. There’s nothing, except the particular report of an agent or manager that should be discussed.
- A meeting where several employees or everyone reports. Each employee reports to the manager or CEO. There must be a short discussion or question from everyone in the meeting after the end of the employee’s report.
To make meetings limited, on the maximum you can devote 15 minutes per report. More than that, you will end with countless discussions and spans of employees’ attention.
- A meeting to inform the manager or executive. The manager/executive listens to the report and sums up the results without making a lengthy speech.
When all the employees gather to discuss reports and have the right to discuss the subject, they need to have a copy of the report or short material to understand what it is all about. The responsibility for the meeting person should clarify uncertain areas of reports when they occur. However, it’s all they do until the employee will finish.
How many minutes do you need to devote to each meeting?
Time is the most precious resource in the universe, and that’s why meetings must contain a strong purpose and goal. Since meetings could be lengthy, up to 45 minutes or so, it focuses the workforce in one place and distracts from many activities.
Why up to 45 minutes or so? Because more than that and employees start to tire and their attention spans to other subjects. So if you won't make a long meeting, never make it more than 45 minutes.
It’s more than enough to inform or discuss the most critical subjects. If you need this additional time, try to empower the attention of employees, by saying: ”Now attention, this is the last important issue”.
Remember that meetings are useless and time wasted action if you’re not making specific decisions at the end of the meetings.
Schedule that empowers employee’s productivity
Scheduling is viable to meet your customer’s goals and achieve a constant cash flow. The only requirement is that the schedule must suit most of the contact center agents.
For instance, if you plan your shifts from 8 AM to 5 PM, with the brakes for eating and chatting with teammates, this schedule must be workable. What is workable? That means that most agents can work in these hours and adhere to the schedule.
One of the most common reasons why agents are unable to adhere to tight schedules is when they need to lift their children to schools, medical centers, etc.
Yet after that, they can quickly return to working places. Creating the schedule, always imply room for sick days, vacations, and personal matters, for each agent.
A flexible schedule becomes the normality of the contact center’s activity. Plus, the surveys show that working from home and flexible schedules don't decrease the revenue of companies.
Tracking of agents is simple
For most managers, tracking is sometimes a chore, yet it’s extremely necessary for the performance to track each employee’s activity. Tracking implies adherence to the schedule, first call resolution FCR, talking times, chatting times, communication with the team, etc.
After checking each of the employees (up to 20) on their spendings of time, and outcomes you have a big picture of what is happening. When you checked one employee, proceed to the next, and until you checked everyone in the contact center.
This type of manager's behavior grants both respect and performance
The manager is the person that has deep expertise in the contact center industry, for instance, those agents that have been promoted due to high performance. Or contributors that came from the external niche yet have the professional skills to make work in a contact center productive.
Anyway, professional behavior is the attitude the manager applies. And first of all, managers must manage themselves before they manage everyone else. How do managers do it? Well, the first step towards changing is to guard the time for top priorities and delegate precise time to employees.
For instance, the manager can inform everyone about this issue: “I have the busy hours from 8 AM till 11 PM unless a complete catastrophe is coming.” Of course, after 11 PM, the manager has to devote the necessary time to agents to resolve their issues with customers, to clarify the grey areas of their work, you name it.
In this case, as a manager, you say: “Call me and chat with me on any matter you need, after 11 PM till 7 PM”. You can address only these two sides of the coin - personal or professional.
Apply this rule - employees, just like all people are different in their capacities to perform in your contact center. Although you’re unable to hire the best of the best agents in the world each day, you need to ensure that your agent makes the best they can.
That will be the performance of the particular agent. Many managers mistakenly want to achieve from an employee something they can’t deliver.
So your first assignment as the manager is to quickly identify the capacities of each employee to deliver the best value for the company. For example, a few of your agents perfectly interact via phone yet neglect to chat because it’s trying and time-consuming for them.
And others are fine with the chat, yet they hesitate to make phone calls. Isn’t it true? So if possible, assign only those tasks to agents, which they are okay with. When they master the easiest for them, they can expand the potential in communicating skills, fast resolution, increasing the level of professionalism, etc.
Of course, precise KPI metrics, adherence to the schedule, personal expression of happiness, or vice versa tell you much about the agent. For instance, if a person adheres to your working schedule, has perfect KPI and other metrics, and is constantly driven to work and perform – that’s the indicator of the top-performers.
Personal behavior – is the first side of the coin
Regarding the employee's professional behavior, you always meet either personal or professional issues. Let’s define the personal issues. Frankly, these are the circumstances that prevent an employee from delivering a high level of productivity. You can include to this issue:
- Drug or alcohol addiction;
- Laziness or poor working habits;
- Dissatisfaction from work in a contact center;
- Poor bankroll management;
- Depression, etc.
To sum up, personal issues are the actions that a person makes yet they are involved in the work. Whether to solve personal issues of employees or not is up to the manager. However, if we take the practice, it’s a chore and time-consuming activity. Yet the result you solve for the particular customer’s issue is near 0.
The second side of the coin – is professional behavior
Now, let’s take a look at professional issues that almost every manager can solve to ensure the perfect professional habits:
- Focusing on activity rather than outcomes. Many managers believe that activity by its nature creates a positive impact on performance. Practice proves the contrary picture. The manager or agent, which focuses on the activity rather than the result - always has a poor performance.
The best thing that agents end by focusing on the activity rather than results is that they become time-servant going through 8 AM till 5 PM shift.
- Lack of experience. It’s common that most entry-level agents are mistaken almost in anything they do. Until they collect some experience, which is about 3 months or so. There’s no way to avoid these mistakes, only persistence and enough knowledge will do the job.
- Lack of knowledge. Most agents, even experienced ones, don’t have enough info and knowledge about their work. For instance in sales, agents are unaware of this issue. Then you will generate the right sales pitch for customers. Yet knowing in detail the product and services is the only way to successfully sell it.
Before selling something, you must know in detail what the product or service is. Another example, most salespeople are also unaware of the building of the sale. First, you must convince a person to believe you and then sell something.
These facts many salespeople aren't practicing and consequently fail - that's clearly a matter of knowledge and study.
- Lack of regular mentorship from the experienced person. When an agent is stuck and doesn’t understand the next moves towards solutions, even having enough knowledge, here’s the place where the manager must assist.
By resolving these issues, managers do more than just provide the mentorship, they’re sharing with the experience they’ve collected by years or even decades. So every manager that wishes to ensure the highest quality of the employee must show how to solve a particular issue or close a sale.
Thus performance consists of these 4 issues, and when you solve them it creates the maximum productivity slash performance.
Positive working conditions
Of course, your contact center is a serious place where agents earn money for the company. Each of them makes their own contribution, and that’s how your company achieves constant cash flow, brand image, and competitiveness.
You can enhance your business and reduce burnout by adding positive working conditions
Managers in a contact center have more impact than they usually know. For instance, their activity can drastically increase or decrease the motivation of agents. When agents treat employees as human beings and professionals, they earn natural sincerity regarding their merits.
Of course, people are not machines and want human treatment as well as professionalism. However there's a tiny line between work and babysitter, and the manager is definitely not the second type of person.
Does friendship between manager and agents improve or destroy the agent's performance?
So, is there friendship possible between manager and employees? It's a really hard question and here's what the practice says. "The business before relationships". That means if the person is constantly proven by months and years of professional behavior, there's a place of friendship between manager and employee, yet not sooner than that.
This Guide Is The Least Yet Not The Last We Can Help You
You’ve just read the guide from Voiptime Cloud on how to improve your agent’s performance in a contact center. We want to add that managing the contact center isn’t different from managing any successful company from Fortune 100 or similar.
Since contact centers wish to have remote contact center software, Voiptime Cloud helps companies to switch to hybrid or work-from-home models. Would you like to have this kind of software?
Are you in a hurry? If so, for even faster service, you can also order by phone. Just contact the Voiptimecloud office. Our lines are open from 8 A.M. to 1 P.M. (East Coast Time), from Monday to Friday. And our phone number is:
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Or fill out the Get A Quote form on the voiptimecloud.com website, especially when you reach us outside of working hours, on Saturday or Sunday. In case of order form, our team will contact you promptly and at the nearest time.
We wish you the top performance of your agents and all the best.