Defining Operational Excellence In Contact Center Reporting: Part 1

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Defining Operational Excellence In Contact Center Reporting: Part 1

By Chris Recio


As Contact Center Technology continues to evolve we are all challenged to keep pace and implement the tools effectively. I see many of my peers in the industry focusing on that implementation, which is critical. However equally important is having the reporting in place to serve as your beacon to know how these technologies are helping with your Contact Center efficiencies.

In this two-part series, I am going to dive into some hands-on tactical advice on what is important to know, why it is important and how this leads to Operational Excellence in your Contact Center.

Contact Center Education The Old Fashioned Way

Having gained my experience and know-how the traditional way – through hard work, dedication, and trial and error – what I find most of the clients I meet with are looking for validation for the decisions they have made.  Most of us who found ourselves in the world of contact center operations learned the operation as an on-the-job need and were either passed down the information they know today or they learned it by simply repeating a certain task until we had it mastered.

Sometimes when perfecting a task, or implementing a new tactic that helps gives us further insight into your Contact Center operations we forget to find a way to bring an ROI to those changes. An absolute critical aspect of operating and managing a Contact Center is the need for proper reporting. However, I find over the years that while everyone runs reports on a somewhat regular basis, too often not enough time is spent on developing strategies with a focus for resolving underperformance in key areas. If you’re simply looking at the results of a report without creating an action plan with associated follow-up activities you are missing a golden opportunity to learn and improve.

There are many advantages to running reports that are often ignored or simply relegated to not having enough time to dedicate to such a process. “What gets measured gets managed” was something Peter Drucker said in his book The Practice Of Management.  Are you measuring the right metrics on your reporting? Are you managing those metrics accordingly?

The fact is in order to have an ongoing impact in improving your operational excellence, it’s my opinion that we must find the time to dig deeper. While we all struggle with having enough time, a simple movement in this area could pay huge dividends in developing a long-term strategy for overall improvement at multiple levels within the Contact Center.  

Contact Center Reporting Is An Investment Worth Making

Reporting is an investment of something that many of us never have enough of – time. Looking at this as an investment is a good way to quantify if you will receive a return on that investment. When it comes to reporting I have found a useful way to look at the report data you see is to look at the results as symptoms, then see if you need to cure that symptom by digging deep for the cause.   
Every result should paint a picture of a deeper symptom of the operation. Simply looking at the reports at face value do not allow us to change the results tomorrow without taking further action. Surprisingly few Supervisors and Managers take the time to look at the symptoms of the metrics. Each metric can provide valuable insight into deeper issues within the Contact Center, especially those beyond the Agent’s control.

In order to gain broader insight, a bit more time focusing on the root cause of symptoms is a great way to isolate the real issue. Report results should prompt us to take action. In fact, every report result is a call to action for:

  • Supervisor Engagement
  • Team Lead Engagement
  • Trainer Engagement
  • QA Engagement

I learned years ago that the best way to improve performance is through constant dialogue, feedback, and training, training, training.

No matter how we approach the strategy, the underlying task is training. Ultimately, in order to get to the deeper aspects of the actual call or interaction, it will be necessary to live-monitor interactions more often and/or increase the quantity and depth of the Quality Assurance processes in place within your Contact Centers Operations.  

Your Contact Center Metrics Only Tell Part Of The Story

Taking a deeper look at metrics, you’ll often find more meaning. Let’s take a look at the following metrics: Average Ring Time, Average Talk Time & Average Wrap Time. We’ll reinterpret the above metrics, going just a bit deeper to understand how these metrics might help us gain a better understanding of the root cause and more importantly how to improve the Customer Experience within your Contact Center.  

Average Ring Time And Agent Distraction/Readiness

This may seem to be a fairly innocuous issue, but from a customers point of view – there is a huge difference between their call being answered in two versus six rings. In the latter, I am not really sure they are ready to handle my needs and how the Agent answers the phone can tell me quite a bit about the Agent’s demeanor and state of mind.

Evaluate what may be contributing to extended ring times. Is it distraction or readiness? From a Quality Assurance perspective or Live-Monitoring point of view, review the desktop workflow process. Review application processes, and review resource availability.  You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and those crucial first moments set the tone for the customer.

Are the desktop applications and workflow processes cumbersome? Are the necessary resources for Agents a simple click away, or is there a more involved process that can be streamlined?

Ultimately, is the Agent struggling to complete previous After Call Work associated the previous interaction the root cause of the distraction? If so, is there enough After Call Work time is given to the Agent between customer interactions?

Business changes constantly and what customers need during an interaction change as a result. Reviewing customer interactions on a more regular basis can help us all better understand what is required during each customer interaction.

Average Talk Time Quality Over Quantity

I am surprised how many operations lean on the idea that the number of calls can determine success or failure. With today’s focus on the Customer Experience (CX), Quality is absolutely necessary and cannot be sacrificed for Quantity.

From a QA and Live-Monitoring perspective, review the desktop process and application processes. Ask yourself the same questions as with Avg Ring Time. Most often the desktop workflow, application process, and resource availability can impact Avg Talk Time.

However, what is often NOT considered, is the on-going changes to the dynamics of the actual interaction.

For example: Let’s say you are a financial company and it is tax time, the tax laws have changed significantly for 2018. Therefore the context of the interaction between the agent and customer has also changed, as there is a greater need for explanation. This results in longer talk times as a natural evolution of handling an interaction. What once took two minutes and fifteen seconds now takes three minutes and twenty-five seconds.  

Average Talk Time is a critical component when evaluating Contact Center Staffing. While we may not have any direct control over Average Talk Time, we must consider the issues at the desktop and outside influences to this ever-changing metric.

“The Anatomy of the Phone Call”

While I am saying phone call here, let’s be clear: I am referring to any interaction with the customer in your Contact Center. Take into account your particular needs for compliance as well.

In looking at The Anatomy of the Phone Call, break the activity into segments to help you better understand the tasks required vs the tasks that are not within our control.

  • The Greeting
  • Compliance-Based Validation/Authentication
  • Working through the Issue Type
  • The Recap
  • The Closing

As you look at each aspect of the conversation, you may find that not all things are equal. Which may prompt you to reset expectations for Agent’s and Average Talk Time has a direct impact on proper staffing calculations within the Contact Center.

Average Wrap Time

Over the years we have called this many things, Call Work, After Call Work, Wrap Time. Whatever you call it, it is important and has a direct impact on customer experience, staffing and the overall effectiveness of your Contact Center.

Similar to Average Ring Time and Average Talk Time, from a QA perspective, review the desktop workflow process, application management, and resource availability. You should be asking if training processes geared towards data collection are being updated during the interaction? Also known as talking and typing at the same time. Another way to impact Wrap Time which has a direct correlation to Handle Time is having an incentive tied to ending wrap time early.

Quick Tip:  Many Contact Centers set their Wrap Time/After Call Work timer to 30 seconds or 45 seconds. If an Agent does not require that time to complete the task, is there an incentive for Agents to end their Wrap Time early? Some contact centers tie the saved Wrap Time to Agent Availability. Do Agent’s understand that by reducing their Wrap Time they can positively impact their Agent Availability time? Is there an incentive or benefit to Agents in reducing Wrap Time and increasing Agent Availability? If the answer is no that change should be implemented immediately.

Think Of Operational Excellence As A Journey Not A Task

The Contact Center Life chose me and I am glad it did, from my early days in the industry until now, it amazes me how we are always at the forefront of innovation in all we do. Constantly trying to find ways to improve. We will always be looking for ways to improve the customer experience, shave precious seconds off a phone call and improve the bottom line.

That is why this is a journey and not something that will ever be perfected.  This is what makes what we do here at Inflow so exciting in helping our customers deliver the best experience possible. In part two I will be diving into staffing, the Quality Assurance Process, Live Monitoring and more! Of course, if you want more actionable advice, or want to transform your Contact Center Experience maybe our Contact Center Success Management Program is the best investment you could make?

About Inflow

Strategy. Execution. Optimization. In that repeated sequence Inflow elevates your customer experience and makes you a disruptive force in your industry through your unified communications and contact center technologies. We provide this advantage for our 800+ customers; will you join us in obliterating mediocrity and guiding your organization bravely into the age of the customer?