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Lee Robinson Petzer - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog

Call Center Reporting

Recently an article on Call Center Reporting I wrote was published in the Contact Center Association`s Inbound Magazine. As this blog focuses on management as well (though it doesn't always look like it), I thought I would share it here. 
Though the article examines business reporting from a call center perspective, the fundamental principles are the same, particularly with regards to the nature of the reporting role. I hope you like it:
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Call Center Reporting
The reporting role within any call center – either as part of a manager’s role or via dedicated resources – aims to provide its users with useful management information from the data available through assorted sources. This article aims to examine call center reporting and elements of this function in terms of reports. 
 
Various Names
Often in smaller call centers the reporting functionality is added to the call center managers duties. If not then there is usually a dedicated team, even if it is only one person. The name of this function may vary from Reporting Specialist, Data or Reporting Analyst to MIS Analyst or Specialist.

A Management Information Systems (MIS) role specializes not only in reporting but in the creation of the tools and databases necessary to acquire the data needed for reporting.

Credit: Inbound Magazine
 
The Nature of the Role
The reporting role in whichever permutation cannot function without always adhering to specific guiding principles. Adherence to these principles may be more difficult when the role is retained as part of a call center manager’s role rather than as a separate function. The reporting guiding principles are:
  • Accuracy: Business decisions are made based on the information provided by this role ranging from budgetary to human resources to remuneration. Reports are trusted to be accurate and correct, and as such that trust once broken is difficult to restore. Reporting has to, at all costs, be accurate, otherwise it ceases to be a management asset and rapidly becomes a hindrance if not a liability to the decision making process.
  • Timeliness: Even accurate reports cease to be useful when their time-frame has expired. A daily operations report published three days later has reduced use if the main focus is on day-to-day operations.
  • Relevance: The information provided in reports has to be of use to the target audience. The full scope of call center data available via the assorted functions, databases, IVRs and software available is immense, however not all may be useful in terms of a specific report or its target audience.
  • Impartiality: How information is interpreted and presented can create bias. Furthermore, much of the data gathered in report preparation relies on resources outside the reporting role. Neutrality in reporting ensures this continued cooperation as well as goodwill, because outside functions and departments know that information will not be skewed or be unfairly biased. For this reason, it is ill-advised to relegate the reporting role to the call center manager as they will have a vested interest in how the information is presented. Having the reporting role answer directly to either a Director or Managing Director ensures neutrality and authority for this role. 
 
The Report Creation Process
  • Phase 1 – What to Report: If no reports exist – Start at the top and work down. If a report does exist, follow this process in order to streamline reports. The specific key performance areas and key performance indicators (KPIs) of Directors in terms of the call center will be the first priority in terms of reports and specific figures and rates to measure. In a perfect world, these KPIs are interpreted down to become the call center managers’ KPIs all the way to the agent level. However, discussions with all stakeholders will provide these target measures and the target audience of reports.
  • Phase 2 – Data Acquisition: Determine what needs to be measured and how. This may entail a round of discussions with data providers to ensure understanding of the data and to ensure that terminology is standard to ensure all expectations are the same.
    • For example, there is a difference between net and gross abandoned rate if calls with a time in queue duration of less than 10 seconds are considered hoax calls and subtracted from total abandoned calls when calculating the abandoned rate. Net abandoned rate may be used at operational levels within the call center for supervisor KPIs, however for overall reporting at the level under discussion gross abandoned rate is examined – if hoax calls are significant, they need to be indicated separately. If this distinction is not made, or standardized, an inaccurate picture of the abandoned rate may be formed.
  • Phase 3 – First Draft of the Report: The first draft of the report using actual or even historical data will provide an indication of time to complete as well as highlight potential stumbling blocks. This is then submitted to all stakeholders for review.
  • Phase 4 – Stakeholder Review: Discussions with all stakeholders for refinements, reporting time-lines and further suggestions should occur timely.
  • Phase 5 – Final Sign-Off and Roll-out: Once the report is adjusted and final time-frames are agreed upon by stakeholders the report is ready for implementation.
  • Phase 6 – Review and Improvement: Reports should be examined after every version to examine improvements to accuracy, time-frame and content. Periodic discussions with stakeholders are important in order to maintain report relevance and ensure feedback is implemented. 

Report Types
The reporting function will normally also be responsible for the operational call center reports such as those that indicate team and agent performance, however this falls outside the scope of this article. It is important to point out here that the consistency of approach in terms of broad strategy as seen from executive KPIs should follow through to this level.
Reports generally fall into the following broad types as seen in the figure below:
  • Daily Reports – Daily reports usually have a specific operational focus to them. Ideally the report should consist of a single page overview, which may be enough for executive stakeholders, plus the more detailed operational overview for the rest of the report. Incidents that cause major deviations to expected results are highlighted; however root causes may not be ascertained in time for publication. It is most crucial that this report is distributed as early as possible on the day after the report date.
  • Weekly Reports – Weekly reports are also operational, and should be distributed within two days after the end of the week. The executive overview can be more detailed in this. Additionally, all major outages and deviations to expected results are highlighted, and the root causes, or at least initial findings are to be reported on.
  • Monthly Reports – These reports may be varied or even have multiple permutations for a varied audience. They could range from a short text overview for inclusion into the Managing Directors’ report of the overall business, to Department Heads’ slide presentations to a full monthly overview of the call center, back office and related departments who are depending on the corporate structure. Variations in expected figures or outliers in terms of monthon- month or year-to-date should always be investigated and annotated, in order to pre-empt investigation requests. The weekly reports should contribute heavily to this report.
  • Quarterly and Annual Reports – These are variants on the monthly reports, with an emphasis on either the quarter or year. They should be built from the monthly reports. And annual reports particularly may vary significantly year-on-year.
  • Ad Hoc Reporting (Formal and Informal) – Ad hoc reports can vary from a request for data to a formal investigation into the causes of an unanticipated change in expected results or the effects of a service outage. These are not only initiated by request but can be initiated by the reporting function. Formats may vary from an excel spreadsheet to a formal report depending on the nature of the request. Ad hoc reports can be powerful tools to raise awareness of issues within the call center or highlight growth areas within or even between different departments. 

In conclusion, the reporting function whether as a management task, a lone analyst, or a full reporting team has a vital role to play for any call center. They should always be analyzing the data with the overall strategy of the business and the call center in mind, and always be looking for ways to improve the process, the data and the value added by reporting to all stakeholders involved. And above all else always maintain an eye for even the smallest of details, as everything hangs upon them.
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Lee Robinson Petzer, based in Groningen, the Netherlands, is Owner of Applied Technotopia, a consultancy specialising in management consulting, digital strategy and online marketing. 
And  formerly Executive Director of GCSChile – a management consultancy firm specialising in contact centres, analytics, management information systems (MIS) and internet strategy. Started in 2008 in Chile, the firm has worked with clients in South Africa, Chile and the USA.
He started his career at Old Mutual Plc, a South African Insurer in 1998 as call centre agent and rapidly became an MIS Analyst for the Demutualisation Call Centre, preparing reports for the board relating to this project. He started his own consultancy, Phoenix MIS (1999-2000) providing MIS services to Old Mutual.
Working for B Clear and Simple (2000-2002), Cell C Direct (2002-2006) and V Direct (2006-2007) he designed, implemented and maintained MIS Reporting systems and related reporting services to these Mobile telecommunications companies.
From 2007-2008 he was a Reporting specialist for Vodacom South Africa (One of South Africa`s largest mobile telecommunications companies) within the customer care and strategy division preparing and analyzing executive reports and ad hoc analysis, streamlining the reporting processes during his tenure there. For these efforts he was awarded three times.
He graduated from the University of South Africa with a Bachelor of Commerce degree specializing in Management. He is currently completing a part-time MBA at the Hanzehogeschool in Groningen, the Netherlands.

He can be contacted via this site or linkedin.

Publish Date: August 26, 2012 2:15 PM

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