Article : Performance Support – The Missing Link In Performance Optimization
The most common elements of
contact center optimization solutions are workforce management, quality
monitoring, coaching and eLearning. But is this enough to ensure agents are able
to perform at an optimal level in the shortest time possible? I think not. I'll
explain why through a simple analogy.
Imagine you have an important job interview in an unfamiliar part of town and you need to get there on time. Before starting out, you consult a roadmap, memorize as much of the route as possible and then pull over to check the map when you think you may have missed a turn. Or worse, you risk an accident by checking the map while driving!
To help with the memorization, you might select the simplest route rather than the fastest or most reliable. You might avoid new and unfamiliar roads.
Maybe you asked a friend to tell you the best route; you wrote down the directions and then referred to them as you drove. Then you stashed the directions in your glove compartment in case you needed them for a second interview.
Essentially, you attempted to learn the task before actually performing it for the first time. Finally, when you performed it, you realized there were elements you'd forgotten or that you needed to understand in more detail. To proceed with the task, you needed this information or you needed to guess –and risk getting lost and being late.
In most contact center performance optimization solutions, the "path to competence" looks like this:
Before starting the job an agent undertakes training and eLearning to memorize system and process details that are difficult to remember and liable to change over time.
Calls are allocated to the agent because he's available and has done the training.
The agent executes a call based on dubious recall of training details.
The agent faces the discomfort of mistakes being pointed out by the quality monitoring system.
The agent undergoes more training to better remember the task or procedure, even though the details may change.
Something is missing from this
traditional approach: the "moment of need" support for the agents on the job.
Now imagine that after getting lost and missing the first interview you install a GPS system in your car. For your next interview, as you approach the highway exit the GPS alerts you and guides you through the turn. No need to try to remember the route or take your eyes off the road to refer to a map. No need to check the rear view mirror to make sure you haven't already passed the exit.
That's what a performance-centered knowledge management system does for contact centers intent on optimizing agent performance. It's like a GPS for the agents! It supports them during the call with the information they need – presented in a way that helps deal with the customer efficiently and effectively.
Drowning In Information And No Way To Access Knowledge
Where is the knowledge we have
lost in information?
T S Elliot
A common call center agent
complaint is, "I know the answer is here somewhere, if only I could find it
quickly enough to serve the customer right now." If the information source is a
document management system, it's likely that a Word or PDF document will take
the agent too long to download and read. Likewise, an online training simulation
has similar time constraints.
Many knowledge management tools perform keyword searches of networks, corporate intranets or even the entire Internet. An agent in search of information for a customer may land 1,000 or more "relevant" hits. But how can the agent be expected to find one pearl of knowledge in an ocean of information – especially while the customer is waiting on hold for an answer?
E-learning is not likely to be of assistance here either, as agents can't be expected to keep large quantities of information in their heads – especially information that is subject to change. And while coaching is great for improving skills, it doesn't address the knowledge requirements of agents.
In this situation, an agent needs fast access to a precise piece of information to answer a customer's question. Often, the best way for the agent to get it is to ask a co-worker, which drives down both agents' efficiency.
Things are very different in contact centers that have implemented a performance-centered knowledge management system. In these centers, agents have immediate access to the information they need. And it comes to them in a form that helps serve the customer efficiently and effectively, driving up first-call resolutions. Because it is able to sense the agent's "context" (for example, which customers or products the agent serves, and what screen the agent is currently in) a performance-centered knowledge management system can deliver precisely the information that matches the context.
Information Isn't Knowledge – Knowledge Is So Much More Valuable
When agents ask co-workers how to solve a problem or answer a customer's question they are asking for more than just information. They are asking about the co-worker's experience in having dealt with similar issues. Similarly, when an organization's information is merged with workers' experiences, it becomes "organizational knowledge."
Performance-centered knowledge management does much more than simply deliver information. For one thing, it allows employees to add their own notes and automatically send feedback to content owners. The notes and feedback can be published online immediately, turning information into actionable knowledge. An organization that can capture the collective experience of its employees and use it to enrich the information they access on the job will build a powerful competitive advantage.
Performance Optimization Without Performance Support Doesn't Stand Up
A performance optimization solution that does not provide agents with "moment of need" knowledge and information is like a stool with one leg missing: it won't stand up. No amount of call monitoring, coaching, training or e-learning can account for the fact that there is simply too much for agents to remember. With a performance-centered knowledge management system, agents can always find the information and organizational knowledge they need during the call. Meanwhile, training and coaching can focus where it adds most value – on agent behaviors and skills.
While workforce management, quality monitoring, coaching and e-learning are without doubt of great value in a contact center environment, they are reactive approaches that rely on an analysis of past calls to determine where to focus performance improvement activity. Performance support takes a more proactive stance: It provides agents with the information they need to respond to customer queries at exemplary levels. By providing the necessary information at the moment of need, performance support increases first-call resolution rates and reduces the reliance on coaching, training and e-learning to improve agent performance.
There's No Magic Bullet
There is no single method or approach that will guarantee optimal agent performance. The right answer is a skilful blend. So when you consider your strategy for improving agent performance, make sure it includes performance-centered knowledge management.
Today's Tip of the Day - Patronising Agents
More Editorial From Panviva, Inc.
About Ted Gannan:
Ted co-founded Panviva after almost 20 years in a wide range of senior management, sales and editorial roles in the publishing industry. He identified the need for a better way of delivering employee performance support, which led to the design and development of SupportPoint. Since then he has led the company’s growth and overseen SupportPoint implementations for major customers around the world.
About Panviva, Inc.:
Panviva offers Business Process Guidance software that helps guide users, step-by-step, through their procedures in real time. The benefits are shorter training time, greater policy and procedure adherence, accuracy and consistency together with overall lower costs and improved productivity. Panviva's SupportPoint helps many companies around the globe increase revenue and drive higher Operating Income numbers, like HP, Catepillar, Fosters, British Telecom, BUPA and more
Published: Thursday, July 13, 2006