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Achieving High Performance - Building Strong Links Between the Contact Center and Enterprise

Aug 27, 2008
The contact center is a major contributor to enterprise high performance. High performance is about measuring the right parameters and managing them in order to excel. To do so, contact center management must be able to gain a unified view of their operation. But they must also be able to roll-up and drill-down from the enterprise, to the operational, to the agent level, to uncover key market and business drivers. Advances in critical contact center solutions such as interaction analytics, and workforce and performance management are sparking a paradigm shift that makes high performance achievable by changing the way the contact center is viewed and managed.

Break Free From the Transactional Mindset

To become a high-performance organization, the contact center must break free from a common problem with the enterprise structure. Too often, the contact center is disconnected from strategic planning and high-level management. Given only tactical objectives with no strategic context, this can force contact center managers to take a narrow, activity-based view of performance.

This transactional mindset produces results that often look good on paper in the short term, but lead to both customer and agent dissatisfaction in the long term. Moreover, centers that get caught up in this trap often find the strategic potential of the contact center woefully underutilized. High performance means the will to look at the contact center, not just as a place where transactions are carried out quickly and efficiently, but as an interface where customer value can be created and saved.

Create Positive Customer Outcomes

As a result of legacy mindsets regarding the contact centers role within the enterprise and its oftentimes tactical focus, many contact centers today are not built with a high-performance mindset. There is no single adjustment that will result in an optimally balanced operation. Instead, the organization''s short- and long-term operational goals must be coordinated to deliver ongoing improvement while balancing the very human side of service delivery.

Building a high-performance contact center requires more than a commitment to technology. It is a way of thinking about using people, processes and technology to their fullest extent, in a way that generates results at every level the individual agent, the contact center and the enterprise as a whole. In short, a conventional contact center is built to process calls and letters a high-performance contact center is built to create positive customer outcomes.

Develop a High-Performance Culture

Is your contact center built for high performance? To determine if it is, consider these three questions:

1.Does your contact center work in tandem with the rest of the enterprise on key operational and performance metrics such as cost controls and service quality? Enterprises that are concerned with the customer experience should have a clear and concise set of goals and objectives for creating and promoting a positive customer experience. Those experiences should be developed in collaboration with contact center leaders to ensure that they are realistic and truly reflective of what customers say they value. And these cooperative benchmarks must be developed within the context of efficient resource allocation.

2.Are individual, front-line workers aware of clear performance goals aligned to business objectives, and do workers have timely and accurate access to their progress toward those goals?

3.Is the flow of information into and out of the center controlled and channeled so that appropriate managers and analysts can interpret the raw data and use it to create specific prescriptions for change that improve performance? This is not simply a you cant manage what you cant measure hedge. The high-performance contact center should be focused on stopping problems before they start, with simulations and forecasts, and quickly resolving issues with root-cause analysis.

Achieve High Performance at All Levels

Achieving high performance in the contact organization requires a commitment to results at three levels. Most companies today focus the vast majority of their attention on boosting the operational performance of the contact center as a whole and that commitment to operational excellence remains an important piece of the high-performance triad. However, without the right emphasis at the employee and the enterprise level, a high-performance plan cannot succeed.

1.Business Operation

At the operational level, the challenges are obvious: customer contacts come in, which must be answered in an accurate and timely manner. In the high-performance contact center, the goals are deeper and more result oriented. Using workforce management solutions, a contact center can be sure not only of answering a call, but answering it with the right agent and ensuring that an appropriate, affordable level of staffing is in place at all times, even down to 15-minute intervals. Sophisticated workforce management solutions provide skills-based forecasting, scheduling and agent management tools that make it possible to realize the full potential of the operation. With these solutions, the center can answer more calls, with greater first-call resolution and ensuing customer satisfaction, than would be possible with any ad hoc scheduling system.

High-performance contact centers must also be equipped to overcome the challenges created by fragmentation the dispersed nature of multisite contact organizations, with multiple sites that may include outsourcing or overflow partners and home-based agents, as well as the diverse nature of multiple channels of contact, from phone to fax to Web chat and e-mail. In many cases, product lines and service groups supported from one contact organization are themselves a fragmented arrangement, loosely knit together through mergers and acquisitions. Having insight into the capabilities and availability of your agent workforce is crucial to success.


High performance at the individual employee level is a must as well. It is not enough to simply know if an agent is present and accounted for the high-performance contact center focuses on preparing its agents to handle the right customer contacts at the right time. That includes knowing the skill set of each and every agent, and using just-in-time training and coaching, guided by performance management reporting, to ensure that agent abilities are keeping up with customer demand.

Employee high performance is not a matter of simply throwing high standards over the wall at the workforce. Agents must be given clear, transparent goals and be empowered with tools and dashboards that ensure they know their goals and their progress toward meeting and exceeding them. Setting those goals happens both between the individual agent and supervisor, as well as in the relationship between the contact center and the enterprise.


Finally, without an equal partnership from the enterprise in the high-performance plan, the efforts of the contact center and individual agents could be wasted. The contact center is, after all, a treasure trove of insight about customer wants, desires, complaints and experience. Therefore, it is incumbent on both the contact organization and the rest of the enterprise to ensure that sales, marketing, product development and fulfillment can learn, share and benefit from each others experiences.

With advances in technology, it is now feasible to take advantage of these insights in ways that were never possible before. Adaptive interactive analytics solutions can accurately and efficiently analyze 100 percent of all customer interactions using techniques such as word spotting, emotion detection, speech pattern analysis and speech-to-text translation. This allows the organization to proactively identify trends, anticipate opportunities and adjust processes to take action at the right time and meet business objectives.

Gain Insight into the Nature of a Problem

The need for strong links between agent, contact center and enterprise performance is clear when you consider the full impact and implications of the everyday business of the contact center. Consider a contact center unexpectedly experiencing a higher-than-forecast call volume. On the surface, this is strictly an operational performance problem and in a conventional contact center might be treated only as such.

A high-performance contact center, however, could use intraday management and interaction analytics tools to gain insight into the nature of the increased calls possibly highlighting a particular widespread customer incident such as a service outage or product defect. That information can be passed to the enterprise for long-term planning purposes to avoid issues in the future, as well as to agents and supervisors so they are prepared with effective and prompt responses to meet the current surge of calls. By working together, the high-performance contact center and enterprise both manage the current difficulty and work to stave off future crises.

Follow the Path to High Performance

The high-performance path requires a critical and unbiased look at the constraints faced by each of the three contributors to performance the individual agent, the contact center and the enterprise. No agent has unlimited time, no contact center unlimited availability, and no enterprise unlimited funds. But making a commitment to high performance can reveal shortcomings all parties can agree to such as how a lack of proper agent skill development and resource planning make it difficult to achieve optimum performance in the contact center and meet enterprise goals for first-call resolution. However, when critical contact center solutions work in concert, many of the obstacles to achieving high performance can be overcome.
About the Author
NICE Systems is the leading provider of Insight from Interactions solutions and value-added services, powered by advanced analytics of unstructured multimedia content - from telephony, web, radio and video communications. Select your Call Center Solutions from Nice now.
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