Productivity Measures in Call Centres- Quantity versus Quality.

By Editor Niels Kjellerup, Senior Partner in Resource International March 7th 2001.

 The Unites States Government Bureau of Statistics was measuring productivity improvements incorrectly during the 90’s. This is one of the fascinating facts uncovered by Bob Woodward in his new book “ Maestro: Greenspan’s Fed and the American Boom”. It details Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s search for an explanation why the official statistics showed declining productivity in the Service Sector while employment was increasing dramatically. In September 96 Greenspan finally had proof that the measurements Models for service delivery were plain wrong. In Greenspan’s words “ There is a real world out there and they are not measuring it properly”. As a result the Fed kept interest rates steady and the US Economy continued to boom.

Why is this discovery important to the Call Centre Industry ?

More money has been invested in Technology to improve service delivery & customer satisfaction in the last ten years in the Industrialised World than ever before, YET customer satisfaction is dropping , in the US, in the UK, Europe and Australia/NZ .

The only answer is that we’re measuring Call Centre productivity incorrectly. By adopting our measurements from Vendors and their models for productivity improvements we’re letting the customer down.

Most vendors present a business case outlining how the investment will lead to Call Centre Productivity Gains and a satisfactory Return on Investment… but in most cases these ‘Investment justification documents’ are not related to organisations Business Purposes, ie more revenue at less cost or improved complaint handling at less costs. These so called Business Plans view the Call Centre as a ‘ Call Production Factory ‘ and only looks at quantitative measures – such as : Number of calls per Rep( always called AGENTS), Call Length & Wrap up Time. Vendors rarely understand your business or the role of the Call Centre in the Customer Contact Process, yet we let them define the key measurements of the Call Centre. Sure it is easier to adopt such ready-to-use measures, but what happened to our own understanding of the Call Centres role in the organisation ? 

Better Measurements are available.

The TARP Teleservice Research from 1997 for the first time established that Call OUTCOME was a senior measurement to ensure the Call Centre was fulfilling its mission.

Sure you need to have operational measurements for no of calls and average call length, how else can you use your Erlang tables to produce rational staffing schedules. But who said these measures were the deciders if the Call Centre is successful or not ? Only the vendors.

To introduce better measures for success or failure for your Call Centre and your staff , in teams or individually, you had better start  looking at the business purpose of the Call Centre and its role in the Customer Contact Process and how value is created and added to companies bottom line.

Individual Performance Based measurements.

In a recent Case Study I meet with a young Manager for a Call Centre in Australia, owned and run by a US based conglomerate. His story : “Last year (2000) I scrapped the quantitative measurements which we had been given by our US Parent, as Best in Class to manage and supervise our 60 reps. Instead we introduced Individual Performance Based Measures, which reflected the reps success with the customer. Naturally I was called to US to explain, but when I showed it had led to a 20% increase in revenue & a fall in cost per order, the change in key performance measurements was accepted.”

 We’re (Resource International) currently conducting a series of Case Studies to document how Individual Performance Based Measures helps focus the Call Centre on call outcome and help demonstrate to senior management, how the Call Centre is actually adding value and an acceptable return on Call Centre Investment.

 You need to question those ' wrong-measures': " which should determine and drive your Call Centre's future?" - "Are we actually delivering better outcomes to customers?"- " How do we measure that, and how do we introduce Performance Based Measures for our reps and supervisors ?."

Good luck, there's definitely light at the end of tunnel


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