Where Are You on The Spectrum of Agent Performance

Where Are You on The Spectrum of Agent Performance

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The Spectrum of Agent PerformanceFar too many people that are responsible for Voice of the Customer programs in contact centers are consumed with getting their daily tasks done (and putting out the fires). To be more proactive and strategic, your focus should be to understand (and use) the Spectrum of Agent Performance.

Having a heavy task burden inadvertently causes you to end up ‘someplace else’ mainly because it’s difficult to step outside of the numbers. This multi-tasking nightmare is not unique. Nobody is immune from this reality.

“Where are you on the Spectrum of Agent Performance?” Click to Tweet

You need a good framework

So, for VoC program owners (and many others), a good framework opens you up to new ways of thinking. This is what separates elite, high-performing organizations from everyone else. Being open to new thinking is what characterizes the best and eludes the rest.

If any leader is not first open to new ideas, then forget it. Not being open to new thinking is the underlying cause of wasted resources – focusing on the wrong things, creating the need for rework, undermining morale, and the list goes on and on.

“Not being open to new thinking is the underlying cause of wasted resources.” Click to Tweet

Thinking about the large amount of waste from Voice of the Customer programs, let me ask you: how is it possible to develop a plan of action if your organization gives you a score for the contact center that comes from an annual or quarterly 70-question survey of which the contact center rating is question #41?

How would you take action?

Is it really helpful feedback if you are unable to know what action to take?

Switch gears and think about a very short survey. Do you think you will be able to develop an impactful action plan from a 2 or 3 question survey in your contact center?

Voice of the Customer programs that do not go beyond these very simple feedback activities can never be used for performance management. It’s inhumane.

But to have a customer-centric performance management culture, using the Voice of the Customer is a primary necessity.

Customer Sentiment versus Performance Management

It’s entirely different to capture sentiment and feedback than to feed a performance management process. A different framework is used to leverage customer sentiment in performance management because different things are measured and analyzed to identify drivers to change performance.

This is often best understood as the difference between Active (analyzing and applying) and Passive (the simple act of summarizing and reporting scores). Elite performing organizations are conducting an Active Customer Experience approach that drives performance and is part of a thriving culture where the people inside are growing and, as a result, are growing customers. Passive CX approaches are rapidly creating cultures where employees become more disengaged and instead of being energized about the company feel helpless in their role.

Millions of Surveys – Different Outcomes

The Spectrum of Agent PerformanceI have personally led the collection and analysis of millions of contact center surveys for clients over the past two decades. I have worked with some high-performing and amazing organizations and professionals who are responsible for these programs. I have also worked with some that struggled.

The spectrum of these organizations can simply be placed in the Active or Passive program mindset. Their impact also varies across the continuum of a focus on influencing behavior to one that focuses on influencing performance.

It may sound as if that is a subtle difference, but in practice, it is not at all subtle and is very different.

What’s the best way to characterize the customer experience focus of your organization and of your contact center? Is your goal to influence behavior or performance? As you consider the quadrants, be honest and rate the reality and not what you hope for your Voice of the Customer program.

Average is the bottom

The Spectrum of Agent Performance lower left quadrantThe most common quadrant is the lower left. Organizations in this quadrant are not open to new ways of thinking. They are actually adverse to it. I’m not saying that these folks are stupid, but this kind of environment is the epitome of resource waste. These folks are also driven by fear; fear of who they report to, fear of what is reported, fear of reprisal.

The customer base does not grow, employee morale is very low, managers are not permitted to be creative, and return on initiatives (and effort) are very low. This quadrant, while the most populated, is the one we all seek to avoid or fail, all too often, to admit we are in.

Check-off Mentality

Voice of the Customer programs that are low on the Behavior Influence axis focus on feedback rather than Performance Management. Such organizations have a few (4 or less) survey questions that do not garner insight that can populate an action plan. They merely are able to check off a box that a customer survey exists.

“VoC programs low on the Behavior Influence axis focus on feedback versus Performance Management.” Click to Tweet

Too often, the questions on these surveys are dictated by another department or by an executive with little knowledge of using the Voice of the Customer for Performance Management. Even with such ineffective surveys, they may still report the scores to an individual (that feels trapped). Managers in this quadrant are not versed in applying Voice of the Customer insights, even if there were any to be had.

Results are Passive in nature, only summarizing scores. Often such contact center managers are unable to defend their contact center within the organization. They are unable to defend budget demands placed on them, unable to prove the need for resources, or the negative impact of not receiving them.

These programs have the lowest value and the least impact on the forward progress (and profit) of an organization. When the outcome of a program is to influence behavior, agents and supervisors seek to game the system.

They focus on how to get high scores by manipulation and do not pay attention to why they are honestly getting high or low scores. Managers can also participate in gaming the scores by selecting incorrect metrics to be evaluated on, by opening the range of “satisfied” scores, and even by creating corrections to the summaries for events like outages, recalls, sample size, or any other excuse that should generate a footnote but generally does not.

The Elite Performers

The Spectrum of Agent Performance upper right quadrantThe top right quadrant is where you find elite organizations (I wrote about them in the book (Survey Pain Relief). Leaders in these organizations are open to new thinking and commit to learning how to do things better. They are considered savvy and are very capable of defending their customer service function to be a competitive weapon and not a red line item.

Leaders that are high on the Performance Influence continuum have Voice of the Customer programs that produce a high, provable ROI on the Customer Experience. Budgets are not punitive but rather collaborative to determine the necessary resources to gain the greatest value and performance.

Contact center agents receive Voice of the Customer scorecards that are used in a Performance Management framework and included in regular coaching sessions. Coaches and Supervisors have continuous access to VoC analytics on their team and are aware of how their team performance affects the overall center and company.

Agents are more engaged due to the opportunity for continuous improvement and are focused on enhancing the customer relationship with each interaction. Managers do not use fear to motivate and are not in fear of executives placing mandates for performance on the center.

Voice of the Customer programs in this quadrant include metrics that are analyzed along with operational and financial metrics to build solid business cases for strategic plans. Predictive models guide decisions.

Ownership is key to these programs and are enabled by the Survey Calibration process. The confidence that comes as a result of this process removes the noise that inherently exists in other programs. Noise is prevalent in the lower left quadrant, specifically around why scores do not belong to me, how the score lacks directive action, and no one knows why it moves in one direction or another.

What performance quadrant are you in?

The Spectrum of Agent PerformanceAre you open to thinking about customer and employee relationships? Does your organization allow for you to be open? Moving through less effective quadrants to the most will take time but you must know that this is where you are going or, in the words of the late, great Yogi Berra, you will end up somewhere else.

This is an excerpt from the book: Maximum Agent Performance

About Dr. Jodie Monger

Jodie Monger, Ph.D. is the president of Customer Relationship Metrics and a pioneer in voice of the customer research for the contact center industry. Before creating CRMetrics, she was the founding associate director of Purdue University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality.

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