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The concept of leading indicators to measure and manage different aspects of business and life isn't new. Unemployment claims, stock prices and building permits gauge economic health and influence monetary and investment policies. Comprehensive, long-term clinical trials and testing validate drug efficacy and safety. Nutrition, exercise and sleep habits impact personal and population health.
Leading indicators are applicable to contact center operations as well. They can be used to lift customer experience and beat workforce attrition, absenteeism and disengagement. Rigorous monitoring processes ensure quality and compliance. Effective WFM optimizes resources, boosts CX and maximizes budgets. Supervisors are a unique use case. They are the ultimate influencers of agent, employer and customer success.
Successful supervisors share common behavioral attributes. They continuously analyze team performance, create and execute thoughtful support strategies, coach, motivate and galvanize teams, as well as adjust tone, technique and timing based on a combination of self-assessment and guidance from agents, managers, peers and others.
Migrating these activities from paper and spreadsheet-based processes to web-based digital workflows provides a standardized and scalable system that generates actionable intelligence about the practices, routines and techniques – the leading indicators – emblematic of influential leaders. Equipped with this intelligence, senior managers can more effectively motivate and mentor their counterparts on the frontline and maximize training and related budgets by custom-tailoring supervisor skills development programs based on data-driven insights.
Managing according to systemized best practices not only improves CSAT, employee retention, attendance and other customer contact KPIs but empowers every frontline manager intelligently and equitably. Fueled with personal and relative real-time insights about the pace, type, quality, effectiveness and patterns of their work routines, supervisors can prioritize, act and adjust agent support with structure, knowledge and confidence. And as intelligence from supervisor activity flows to higher levels, group managers can provide better support to their teams.
In my company's recent report, 31% of supervisors identified training and skills development as the one thing they wish their employer would provide more of, second only to higher wages and financial incentives. Whether internally created or outsourced, supervisor-specific course material and content should be accessible on-demand and tracked as a leading performance indicator.
In the same way that customer service agents use CRMs to document the customer journey, supervisors should journal every substantive support interaction with their agents (referred to as a "touch" at my company). The exchange between supervisor and agent is fluid, ongoing and varied. And though there's no causal relationship between the volume of coaching to performance (as may be measured via one or more "lagging" KPIs), it does reflect a fundamental aspect of employee engagement. What's more, the system of record ensures that the details of what was discussed and done are available on-demand for the supervisor and manager to review and consider.
Touch type encompasses the gamut of ways supervisors deliver support to agents. The most common across industry and function include recognition, coaching, motivation or performance review, but almost endless possible support categories exist. Touch type categories can consist of complex, collaborative workflows like compliance and quality monitoring where approvals, hand-offs, scoring and rebuttals are intricate, automated and programmatic or standard routine interactions. Every aspect of supervisor activity can be monitored, measured, analyzed and managed to improve execution and boost performance through digitized processes.
Agent acknowledgments are standard practice in quality and compliance monitoring processes, performance and other review forms. Agents affirm their understanding of what they're doing well, what needs work, how success is defined (goals and targets) and how they will achieve them. But improvement is a joint effort to which supervisors should be held accountable for their actions' style, substance, timing and quality. Therefore, agents should have a mechanism not only to acknowledge but rate (anonymously) the quality of interactions with their supervisors. In the same way that customer surveys provide insight to agents and others responsible for delivering excellent customer care, supervisors also benefit from the ratings they receive from agents (their "customers").
The voice of the agent is important, but only to the extent that it's exercised. Though senior management should advocate for agents to provide their input, supervisors should be held accountable for ensuring agents provide touch quality ratings and understand their value. The touch quality rating percentage measures agent engagement and is beneficial to consider correlated with other KPIs (leading and lagging).
Goal setting is an essential aspect of agent coaching and motivation. On the surface, when to use goals and at what value to set them may seem simple, but it requires knowledge, guidance and experience to be effective. The number of goals set and its ratio to goals met (achieved by the agent) are key indicators that should be tracked, measured, managed and correlated with other KPIs.
A holistic performance management strategy that encompasses leading and lagging indicators is essential to effective leadership. To realize this, all stakeholders need a single source for performance intelligence that is logical, accurate and complete but ideally predictive and prescriptive. Traditionally, the primary focus is agent-centric metrics like quality, attendance, CX and utilization. While these are essential contexts from which to support, train and develop supervisors, they overlook measurement and analysis of the means and methods that make such outcomes possible. The actions are what assure you'll make it to the desired destination.
Supervisors make or break contact center success. Senior leadership must up their game to equip and support them. Use the concept of leading indicators to refine supervisors' agent support processes, nurture employee engagement, maximize the value of systems and data and shed unhealthy pressure and stress. Develop and trust the process. Manage the things you can control. Resist obsessing about the outcomes and increase the probability that they will come.
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