How to Improve Contact Center Agent Performance

Call Center | 7 minute read

Is your contact center providing the best customer experience possible?

One of the most challenging aspects of running a contact center is managing your team. After all, these are the people who connect with dozens of your customers each day and support them with any issues or challenges they may have. For this reason, it’s crucial to arm them with the knowledge and skills required to succeed.

According to Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service report, 36% of surveyees said that the most frustrating part of a poor customer service experience is engaging with an agent who lacks the knowledge or ability to solve their issue, while 31% said it was having to repeat or provide their data multiple times.

How can you ensure continuous improvement in your customer service team? Where should you begin? If you’re ready to start developing your team of superstar agents, we have some essential tips for you.

Metrics for Evaluating Contact Center Agent Performance

The first rule of business performance management: don’t make decisions blindly. The great thing about modern business practices is that you can measure just about anything — and pinpoint the gaps or challenges your team is experiencing.

If you want to improve call center performance, getting to know your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is a great starting point so you can begin making data-driven decisions. The following KPIs are essential for measuring the activities and effectiveness of your contact center agents.

TIP: Don’t overdo it!
You may be tempted to track and measure every aspect of your contact center’s performance — instead, pick 5-7 KPIs to focus on so you can focus your efforts where it counts!

Average Handle Time (AHT)

Average Handle Time (also known as Average Response Time) refers to the amount of time it takes for an agent to answer an incoming inquiry. Most commonly used in call centers, this metric can help you gain insights on the responsiveness and efficiency of your agents. But be warned: the problem with average handle time is that it measures agency efficiency but not effectiveness. Consequently, any pressure to reduce AHT often results in lower FCR and CSat rates.

Did you know? In April 2020, online retailer Zappos encouraged agents to make small talk with customers to help with ‘social connectedness’ during the COVID-19 lockdown.

First Call Resolution (FCR)

In an ideal scenario, customers will only need to call your support center once to have their issue resolved. According to SQM group, the average call center has an FCR of 72%, which means that 28% of calls require a follow-up engagement.

A high FCR is a great sign that your agents are knowledgeable and fully-empowered to help your customers.

Customer Satisfaction

Gathering feedback from customers has become an industry standard for contact centers. After all, customer satisfaction is arguably the biggest indicator of your team’s success. By creating realistic goals around the ideal customer experience, you can ask questions that will help you better understand the customer’s expectations and whether your agents are delivering.

Occupancy Rate

This metric is a great way to track how efficiently your agents are managing their time at work. From conducting live calls with customers to managing support tickets and other related tasks, you can get a sense of their workflow and how much time is spent on each task. But more importantly, Occupancy Rate can help you identify any snags in an agent’s workflow so you can come up with a plan to fix it.

3 questions to ask when selecting agent performance metrics:

    1. Do these KPIs align with my business objectives?
    2. Are these KPIs realistic for my team to achieve?
    3. Do I have reliable data sources for these KPIs?

 

How to Use Data to Improve Agent Performance

Once you’ve selected and established the KPIs that fit your contact center’s needs, you’re ready for the next step.

It’s best if you utilize multiple channels to collect this data. Most contact center software will include analytics, which you can use to measure the activity of your contact center agents over your chosen period of time (6 months, for example). Surveys are also a great way to collect insightful data.

By comparing your support agents’ performance against your KPIs, you can draw valuable insights into your team’s productivity and identify any gaps in your existing process.

Here are some key things to remember when evaluating metrics:

Collect both quantitative and qualitative data

Don’t just fixate on numbers. While quantitative data can offer hard facts, qualitative data can give you the story behind those facts, giving you a better understanding as to why your KPIs stand where they are. Talk to your team about the results and identify the gaps together.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative

  1. Quantitative Data – Provides information in quantities (numerical values, percentages, etc.). For example: Average Handle Time, First Call Resolution.
  2. Qualitative Data – Provides information that must be interpreted (feedback, observations, etc.). For example: Customer satisfaction surveys, employee feedback.

Compare KPIs against one another

By analyzing your KPIs against each other, you will gain better insights as to how different parts of your operation affect one another. For instance: a low Average Handle Time (AHT) combined with low customer satisfaction rates may indicate that your agents are highly efficient when working on a call but their quality of service may not be up to standard.

Don’t forget to highlight agent success

Don’t just focus on the challenges and gaps — documenting the things your contact center excels in allows you to reference what has historically worked for your department. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate success with your call center agents. This is great for team morale and lets them know what they’re doing well so they can continue the trend.

TIP: When implementing new processes or standards, ensure that expectations are clear among your agents. Be consistent with those expectations and how you enforce them — no need to micromanage though!

How to Give Feedback to Improve Agent Performance

Each of your agents has their own strengths and weaknesses, so making changes to the whole department’s operations isn’t a solution on its own. It’s one thing to implement new tools and processes to address gaps in the call center, but feedback can help empower and motivate an agent to perform above and beyond.

Cultivating a culture where both positive and constructive feedback is embraced by everyone can help bolster your contact center’s productivity. A great rule to follow is to praise in public, and critique in private. This way, each of your agents knows where they stand and how they can improve their performance.

TIP: Feedback sessions don’t have to happen in a formal evaluation setting every time. Giving positive feedback to an agent as soon as you see them succeed will help them feel appreciated. On the flip side, if you see an agent making a mistake, consider taking them aside and letting them know while it’s still fresh in their memory.

Here are some additional tips for one-on-one evaluations with your agents:

Be specific

Ensure your agent understands the feedback they’re given. If it’s too ambiguous, they may leave the meeting feeling confused about next steps, or wondering what they did wrong. Providing examples can be helpful but be sure to keep the tone of your conversation positive and action-oriented.

Be consistent

There’s nothing worse than getting conflicting feedback from your manager, especially when it comes to your performance. Show that you are invested in your team’s growth and development by building on discussions from previous evaluations, and acknowledging any improvements they have made in their performance.

Offer learning opportunities

Training isn’t just for new hires! Providing additional training and coaching sessions for your agents throughout their career with your contact center will help them widen their skill-sets and improve their daily performance. Plus, it shows them that their employer is willing to invest in them, which is always great for morale.

Don’t just focus on numbers

When you have easy access to so much data about your agents’ performance, it can be easy to get caught up in the metrics. While KPIs are important, it’s so important to also recognize their achievements by providing excellent customer support and solving challenging issues. Review customer service call recordings regularly, and note down successes in addition to shortcomings and challenges

Consider implementing these processes to support agent evaluations

  1. Two-way feedback — In this report, Employee Engagement Competency & Maturity, 2018, only 40% of executives in large companies prioritize taking action on employee feedback. By encouraging two-way evaluations, you’ll get a very clear picture of the challenges they face and ideas on how to resolve them.
  2. Self-evaluations — By encouraging your agents to evaluate their own performances, you empower them to address any challenges in their performance on their own. This creates the opportunity for a constructive discussion, rather than a one-way evaluation, and lets the agent take the lead in their development.
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