3 productivity mistakes to avoid

Call center executives often feel a sense of urgency to improve agent productivity.  But in the rush to improve, some organizations might make mistakes.  Here are three ways to avoid common mistakes, shared by Scott Sachs, Vice President, Call Center Operations at Assurant Solutions.

1)  Avoid the Rush

This might be the hardest lesson to learn.  After all, we don’t have a minute to waste.

Scott Sachs, Vice President, Call Center Operations at Assurant Solutions, says he stays away from applying pressure on the agent to handle calls faster.

“I avoid encouraging our agents to speak more quickly, shorten customer phone calls, and worry too much about talk time, because I think that’s really counterproductive… both from a customer experience perspective, and a first-contact resolution standpoint,” said Sachs.

Instead of focusing on quicker calls, at Assurant Solutions they focus on the enablers and the tools to improve agent productivity.

“We give them the best systems available. We make sure that the technology that’s there, whether it’s the CRM system or the online help system, allows the agent to follow the flow of the call easily. We ask questions like “Do our agents have the right search engines? Do we add technology for, say, CTI, so that they can have information at their fingertips, instead of asking the customer for it?”

 

2)  Average Handle Time

Sachs stresses the need for caution when managing productivity. Many call centers emphasize average handle time above all else.  One of the strategies Sachs’ team uses for call monitoring is the concept of call control. “When a call is reviewed,”  they ask, “did the agent manage the phone call?”

“Whether the phone call takes two minutes, five minutes or twenty minutes, if the agent has done everything within their power to control that phone call and manage the flow, then they’ve done a very, very good and effective job.  At the end of the day, that will improve agent productivity,” Sachs said.

 

3)  Blaming the under performer

It’s easy to blame an underperforming agent for their lack of productivity.  But sometimes you have to look past the symptoms to find the root cause.

Sachs sees under performers falling into two categories: those with skill issues and those with will issues.  If it is a skill issue, he feels the responsibility is on him and his organization.

“Where have we gone wrong? When there’s a skill issue, most of the time, I’m going to take the blame for it, or place it on our organization. I want to take a look inward and say, ‘Where have we failed to provide the proper training, coaching and leadership to make sure that this individual has the appropriate skill sets to perform their job function?’”

Sachs explained that most of the time, when it comes to skill issues, they can identify a gap.  Once a gap has been identified the underperforming agent would receive additional training or skills coaching.  If the additional training and coaching is ineffective at getting the agent to the acceptable skill level, Sachs’ says, then you have to ask if this person is the right fit.

“Sometimes people just can’t get to that level, and then you’ve got to say, OK, is this position a good fit for them?  Again, if someone is lacking skill but has the will, I always try to see if there is another role in the organization that better fits their skill sets, because they have the heart to do a good job.”

 

The Takeaway

  • Be very intentional when managing productivity, call length and AHT.
  • Focus on the enablers and the tools to improve agent productivity.
  • When monitoring calls, focus on how the calls are managed and controlled.
  • When there is a skill deficit, evaluate where there may be a gap in training, coaching and leadership.

 

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