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Do your Agents really talk too much?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I talk about Agent KPIs in the Contact Centre.

“But Dan…if we don’t have an Average Handling Time target the Agents will talk too much.”

That’s what so many Team Leaders tell me in classrooms.

But I’ve never yet met an Agent who says, “Dan…I go to work and make sure I talk a long time to everyone.”

So where’s the disconnect?

For a lot of Team Leaders it comes down to justifying the KPIs set by management. Because if the big bosses say we have to keep Agents from talking too much there must be some truth to the belief that Agents will talk too much if you give them the chance.

Usually when you dig a little deeper with the Team Leader you find that it’s one person that’s ‘talking too much’.

Not everyone.

So that instance can be analyzed and fixed.

When you set KPIs across a majority population just to catch a few outliers you end up creating barriers to great performance.

Folks in the Centre talk more about what not to do vs. the important work of what to do.

If you really want to know how important Customer Experience is to a Contact Centre – don’t just listen to what the Centre management says. Look at the KPIs they ask their Team Leaders to ‘bring out’ in their Agents.

That’s where the real story lies.

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

 

Daniel

Image by Suju at Pixabay.

 

How to use the True Calls per Hour Calculation in the Contact Centre

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article I share how to use the True Calls per Hour calculation in the Contact Centre.

When you hear folks talk about Contact Centre productivity they’re usually talking about the Agents

Usually when we hear people talk about productivity they have their finger pointed firmly in the direction of their Agents.

“How can we get our Agents to be more productive?” they ask.

When we ask “What do you mean by productivity?” the most common answer is –

“How can we get the Agents to handle more calls or live chats per hour (day/week)?”

But Quantity Handled per Agent is and always has been a problematic measure

Productivity in a Contact Centre is not about how many calls or chats are handled.

This measure for Service Level based contacts has always been problematic.

There are very real mathematical realities at work that put the number of calls or chats handled outside the direct control of the Agent.  

When you stop and look at it, the key factors that drive contact quantity either up (or down) per Agent include:

  • The Service Level set (and its resulting Occupancy rate)
  • The health of the Forecasting, Staffing, Scheduling & Real Time Management process at the interval level
  • The size of the Queue  at any given time (known as the Pooling Principle)
  • The undeniable mathematics of random contact arrival (which is why we have Erlang C)

What you need to know about the Pooling Principle in Contact Centers

For Centres that have sorted this out and no longer target Agents on quantity handled – congratulations.

You’re well on the way to enhancing Agent and Customer Experience.

But let’s pause a moment.

Ok Dan (you might say).  Got it.  We don’t (or won’t) target Agents on Quantity Handled for Service level based contacts.  

But for planning, comparative and high level management purposes, is there some way we can analyze the quantity handled across different shifts, cities and even countries?

Well I’m glad you asked.  There is.

Let me show you how.

 

The True Pizzas per Hour calculation

When I teach this in workshops, I like to use the example of making pizzas in a Pizza Outlet.

See if you can answer the question posed in the picture below for our fictional Pizza Palace company.

What makes this difficult to answer is that our Delhi outlet is ‘busier’ than our Chennai outlet.

Perhaps our Delhi outlet is located on the ground level of a busy mall while our Chennai outlet is a bit off the beaten track in a low traffic area.

But we can’t possibly hold Prachi or Sangeetha accountable for how busy (or not) their outlets were – they’re not in the Sales & Marketing Team.

They were hired to make pizzas.

Got your answer?

Ok – let me show you how we ‘normalize’ the figures:

In order to correctly compare both Prachi and Sangeetha, you take what they actually ‘did’ (in this case how many pizzas they made) and divide that by the Occupancy rate they experienced at that time.

Once you normalize the data as you see above, we can calculate the ‘rate’ at which both of these people are working.

The use of the word ‘rate’ is important (think of a speedometer telling you your rate of speed).

Prachi is working at the rate/speed of 25.3 pizzas per hour.  (In other words if her Occupancy rate had been 100% this is how many she would have made).

Sangeetha is working at the rate/speed of 28.3 pizzas per hour. (In other words if her Occupancy rate had been 100% this is how many she would have made).

So now we can compare both of our pizza makers on the same basis because we have factored out the impact of the different Occupancy rates.

But could we have a problem?

Absolutely!

Typically at this point in the discussion the topic of ‘Quality’ comes into the picture – hurray Quality!

What we don’t know (or haven’t figured out) yet

What we don’t know in this exercise (at least so far) is the appropriate or best ‘rate’ at which we should be making pizzas.

What is the ‘right’ rate that yields a delicious pizza. Because we want Customers to come back again!

And because higher isn’t always better. (that had to be said)

Studies must be done

Fast food companies are well known for doing very scientific time & motion studies on how many can be ‘done’ and still deliver the required level of quality.

Contact Centres could learn from their example.

It is very likely that Pizza Palace has conducted in depth time and motion studies.

For purposes of this article let’s assume that they discovered that a pizza maker operating at the rate of 22 – 25 pizzas per hour during the lunch hour was  ‘in the zone’.

By in the zone they mean that quality standards were achieved without any obvious loss or potential gain in productivity.

Now we can draw some conclusions about our pizza makers in the example.

Prachi is probably ‘doing fine’ – she’s operating at the upper end of the zone.  But we should still taste her pizza now and then for quality assurance purposes (otherwise known as monitoring).

On the other hand, Sangeetha is operating outside of the zone – on the high side.  We better go monitor her pizza to ensure quality hasn’t been compromised in some way.

Of course, if someone is ‘too fast’ it could be that a) they are in fact working too fast (and thus Quality falls – such as the taste of the pizza) or b) they could have made some kind of process or quality innovation that should be studied and replicated.

 

In the best Contact Centres…

In the best Contact Centres they don’t target Agents individually on the quantity of contacts handled (for Service Level based contacts – that caveat must always be there).

But when they want to do comparative quantity analyses they use the same normalization technique we used for pizzas.

Some of the conclusions I’ve seen Clients come up with using normalization include:

  • We know for Ireland/Germany/Singapore (name your market or city) that on a Saturday afternoon shift the right ‘rate’ of call handling that delivers on quality is about 12 – 15 calls per hour  (remember rates will vary across the course of a day)
  • We know that our night shift Team calls per hour achievement will always be lower than our day shift Team calls per hour achievement
  • We know that our calls per hour rate for Japan will always be lower than our calls per hour rate for India
  • We know that if we see variations in the rate we need to explore the underlying reasons (root cause analysis) and not just blame Agents. .

Notice that none of these learnings had to do with targeting individual Agent calls handled.

I mean come on – if you want an Agent to handle a lot of calls all you have to do is understaff.

But that decision comes with a whole host of disasters and that’s why most Centres don’t intentionally understaff even when they know it would raise the actual call handling rate of each Agent.

These examples have everything to do with high level planning and analysis.

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

In conclusion

If you seek to compare the ‘rate’ of contact handling for different times of day, for different shifts, for different cities or countries – an educated implementation and use of ‘True Calls per Hour’ can help.  This applies to Service Level based contacts only!

If in some way ‘quantity’ matters to you – for example the quantity of closures made per Agent or Team – then normalization works well because you’ve factored out the impact of Occupancy variations.

Simply targeting people to achieve a certain number of ‘closes’ is unfair – in the same way that targeting the number of calls or live chats per person is unfair.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel

How to help your Contact Centre Team Leaders do better

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article I share some ideas on how to help your Contact Centre Team Leaders do better.

Common barriers to Team Leader success

The Contact Centre Team Leader has arguably the most important job in a Contact Centre.  Their actions or inactions directly impact productivity, quality & culture.

But the cards tend to be stacked against their success.

Why?

As with any Pareto scenario, I think a few reasons account for most of the challenge:

  1. Senior Leadership sets or pursues the wrong KPIs
  2. Team Leaders are always busy but don’t know how to allocate their time to achieve results
  3. What made someone a great Agent doesn’t readily translate to making them a great Team Leader
  4. The job role requires endless conversations – but they don’t happen often enough or well enough
  5. There’s a fundamental lack of structured know-how for the Team Leader to draw on to make decisions

The mix and relative impact of these barriers varies from Centre to Centre.

So let’s look at each barrier along with some related suggestions.

 

1. Senior leadership sets or pursues the wrong KPIs

I see this challenge all over the world.  A lack of essential Operations know-how.

Chasing incorrect KPIs or KPIs that actually compete with each other.

The only way to close this gap is to ensure that the senior leadership in charge of the Centre has expressly mastered Contact Centre operations.  That most often happens through participation in formal external workshops or certification programs.

Don’t count on experience alone.  I hear that all the time as in “She’s an experienced Contact Centre Manager.”

Experience matters.  But success requires experience + know-how.

One Client I worked with globally established an in-house ‘certification program’ after adopting the various principles and practices learned via external training.  Their in-house certification ensures that what they learned about operations gets codified into their business practices across dozens of Centres.

Delivering on Productivity, Quality & Culture is the big part of the Team Leader job.

So it’s important that Centre leadership be clued in to how Centres ‘work’ and how to define and set appropriate Productivity and Quality measures for Frontliners & Team Leaders.

That’s not always the case.

How to help your Contact Centre Agents improve their Performance

 

2.  Team Leaders are always busy – but busy doing what?

I remember in my VP Operations days I had a Team Leader come into my office.

“Dan, I’m so busy…”  so I asked “OK, busy doing what?”

We then set about finding out the answer to this question – busy doing what?

To this day one of my favorite exercises in a room of Team Leaders is to conduct a time & motion study – across a typical week – of where their time goes.

The 5 Categories of the Team Leader job role

When I conduct a formal Team Leader time & motion study, I use 5 different categories to categorize and then analyze where their time goes.

  • Developing their staff
  • Supporting their staff
  • Doing administrative & management work
  • Developing themselves
  • Other roles such as taking on the role of committee head

I ask each Team Leader to consider everything they do, estimate a weekly time spent on each activity and then slot each activity into one of the 5 categories.

Then we sum up the time for each category and share the results on a whiteboard for everyone to see.

When you talk to Team Leaders (and their Managers) they all say that they spend a lot of time developing their staff – coaching, performance appraisals, developmental conversations.

But when the numbers are laid out – Team Leader by Team Leader in black and white – that’s not usually how it plays out.

What the results tell us

I’ve had time & motion sessions where we learned that nearly 50% of Team Leader time spent was spent on administrative & management work.   Is all this admin work really valuable?  Could some it be redesigned, reassigned or even eliminated?  I worry about turning Team Leaders into admins.

When it comes to personal development I tend to see 0% of Team Leader time spent in a typical week.  You can shout lifelong learning from the rooftops all day – but check out how many hours in a typical week your Team Leaders really learn something.   It’s an eye opener.

Another common opportunity that pops up is to help Team Leaders figure out if they’re offering too much Staff support. 

My definition of Staff support is helping the Frontliners to do their job.

Handling too many escalations or fielding the same questions over and over means the Team Leader is doing the Agent job for them.  And that takes away the Team Leader’s time for Staff development.

Sure – Staff support will always be intrinsic to the job.

But time invested in Staff support – over and above a tolerable minimum – isn’t going to move the Team forward.

Another interesting trend has popped out during these time & motion sessions.

Sometimes, when Staff development hours look low, we uncover that Team Leaders avoid having developmental conversations with their staff.

Not because they don’t see them as important.  But because they lack the self-confidence to coach or have those important people management discussions.

That can be addressed.

When you coach you’re either helping or keeping score

3.  Great performance as an Agent doesn’t readily translate into great performance as a Team Leader

It’s an irony of the Contact Centre ecosystem that the knowledge, skills & attitudes of a great Agent don’t readily translate into the knowledge, skills & attitudes required of a great Team Leader.

If you consider that the job of a former great Agent is to replicate their personal success across other people you can see what they need to know and be able to do is quite different than before.  Their job role becomes about ‘them’ – not about ‘me’ anymore.

There’s also a bit of psychology at play here as well.

We all like to do what we’re good at.

So sometimes the new Team Leader spends an inordinate amount of time handling escalations and engaging in Staff support – because that’s where their formery mastery lay.

Defusing angry Customers and using their product, systems and organizational know-how.

But as we covered earlier, Staff support – though an intrinsic part of the job role – doesn’t move the performance dial forward.

So evaluate your Team Leader hiring criteria on what it takes to be a great Team Leader.  Not on the fact that this candidate was a great Agent.

When I’m hiring for Team Leaders I always ask myself these questions:

1.  What are the specific competencies across knowledge, skills & attitudes I need from a new Team Leader hire?  And what are the minimum existing levels of each competency to be considered for hiring?  I have to be realistic here because – at hiring – nearly no one will come with all the competencies expected nor at the levels expected for a professional Team Leader.

2.  What is my defined developmental roadmap to raise my Team Leader competency levels  – across the identified competencies – to expectation within the next 6 months or year? 

I think a lot of Contact Centres struggle with this.

There seems to be an assumption that the Team Leader can just somehow pick this all up on the job.

Or perhaps it’s inertia – doing nothing is just easier than doing something.  Hope as a strategy.  I’ve been guilty of that one.

One common scenario involves corporate learning & development departments.

Contact Centres are unique and specialized environments.  Trying to graft generic service or people management or leadership training onto the Contact Centre delivers mixed results at best.  Because it’s not specific enough to the environment in which these Team Leaders operate.

More on competencies soon.

Funny things Contact Centre Managers ask their Agents to do

 

4.  Team Leaders need to have lots of great conversations

If the Agent job role is to have great conversations with Customers, then the Team Leader job role is about having great conversations with the folks that they lead.

What kinds of conversations?  Wow – there are a lot – but they can be learned.

I like to cover them in people management & coaching courses.

Here is a list conversations that are specific to the Contact Centre environment and which are most often conducted by Team Leaders:

  • Praise
  • Gratitude
  • Something ‘good’
  • Something ‘not so good’
  • It’s not getting any better
  • Transaction coaching
  • Performance appraisal
  • Team reviews
  • One on one reviews
  • Boss as Leader
  • Boss as Person
  • Boss as Manager
  • Things you don’t talk about (the un-conversation)

Each of these conversations is triggered by an event or is pre-planned into a calendar.  For example Team & One on one reviews and many coaching sessions tend to be pre-scheduled while Praise or Something Good conversations happen when the Team Leader either observes something or learns about something.

As you might have figured out – most of these conversations fall into the Staff development category we covered earlier in this article.

But when Team Leaders are ‘too busy’ – the first category that gets ‘cut’ is Staff development.  Exactly the category which typically needs more time spent – not less.

How Team Leaders can talk like Leaders

 

5. Team Leader know-how

The Contact Centre environment is complex.

I think that’s why folks like me – who fall into it by accident –  end up making the Contact Centre and Customer Experience, a life’s passion.  There’s only ever more to learn and it’s super interesting stuff.

It’s not easy.  But Tom Hanks says that it’s ‘the hard that makes it great’.

If you want to equip your Team Leaders to succeed you need to consider equipping them with know-how across these domains:

  • Contact Centre Operations – there’s simply no excuse not to equip Team Leaders with operations mastery
  • Monitoring & Coaching – this process is key to driving Quality, FCR, Employee Engagement, Customer Satisfaction and CX strategies
  • Leadership & Engagement – what does leadership look like as a Team Leader?  How can a Team Leader use proven engagement models in their Centre?
  • People Management – for me this is about having those great conversations with the people who work for you at the right times and in the right way
  • Customer Experience – if your Centre promotes itself as fulfilling the ‘Customer Experience’ your folks deserve training on what it is (and it’s not Customer Service)
  • Self-Management – stress management, personal fulfillment, working through change – these are life skills

When your Team Leader is able to bring out the best Productivity, Quality & Qttitudes of the folks that work for them that translates into better results all the way around for you.

Thank you for reading!

Contact Centre KPIs & The Green Jaguar

Daniel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Implementing appropriate Contact Centre Wait Time Metrics

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I talk about implementing appropriate Contact Centre Wait Time Metrics and strategies.

It’s not about the know-how – it’s about implementing that know-how

I’ve been teaching advanced Contact Centre operations for nearly 20 years.  And there’s a lot of knowledge to pick up.

So I thought it might be helpful to share some implementation tips to help Contact Centres take their know-how and bring it to life.  Because at the end of the day it’s not the know-how – it’s the implementation.

In this short article I’ll address Contact Centre Wait Time metrics and strategies.

In future articles I’ll address other aspects of operational implementation including KPI selection, forecasting and quality.  I can envision a mini-series here.

One other note – this article is written for those who’ve been through a rigorous operations course.  So I’m speaking directly to those equipped with the know-how.  If you’ve not been through a rigorous operations course I hope you find this article helpful to some degree.

And if you find yourself saying you don’t agree, or you don’t understand – that’s usually because of a lack of know-how, not a lack of intelligence, passion or desire.

In this industry we simply don’t know what we don’t know if we don’t make a concerted effort to fill the gaps in our know-how.

Now on we go.

Wait Time Metrics

For Customer contacts that you’ll handle in 60 minutes or less you’ll use Service Level.

For Customer contacts that you’ll handle after 60 minutes you’ll use Response Time.

Because of the confusion around Service Level and related Wait Time metrics let’s hold off on Response Time measurements for a future article.

As operations experts know – the way you define, measure and plan for performance between Service Level & Response Time contacts is completely different and it doesn’t do either justice to ‘mix them together’.

 

Service Level

1. Ok first things first – set your Service Level

You’ve got to set a Service Level for your Centre.  No Service Level?  Then it’s time to set one.  Because you can’t plan and staff to a moving or non-existent target.

If you’re using an ACD you’ve got to be using Service Level – it’s that simple.

Remember there is not an industry standard for Service Level.

What works for Organization A is not going to work for Organization B.

Even within a single organization you may find up to a dozen different Service Level objectives depending on the nature of that Customer queue and the types of Contacts handled.

Because Service Level is a major driver of your labor budget, it is typically reviewed annually – at the normal annual budget cycle.  Avoid changing your Service Level frequently – that will make life difficult for everyone.

Annual reviews – with the right mix of senior Participants – works well.

 

2. Ok – now decide what interval you’re going to use for measurement

Service Level performance is always measured on an interval basis.

Typically at 30 minute intervals but if your contacts are long then at the 60 minute interval basis.

If you have a very small Centre or Queue – with just a few Agents – an hourly or even shift basis may be enough for you.

But if you have a larger Centre or Queue  you should be measuring to the 30 minute interval. Very large Centres and those that pursue a significant cost efficient strategy measure down to the 15 minute interval.

If you’re only reporting a daily or weekly average – for example to give to the bosses – you’re going to have to add an additional set of internal measurements & reporting around intervals.

Because the Customer Wait Time experience, the Agent Occupancy experience and your best bet for cost efficiency live within interval management – not with daily or weekly (or heaven forbid) monthly averages.

Some Centres use a green/amber/red system to indicate interval performance across a day.

For example, you have run a 24 hour operation and you measure down to the half hourly interval you have 48 intervals to ‘get right’.

So define what a green interval looks like.  For example Service Level performance of 90% or above = green.  And carry on that logic for amber and red intervals.

Imagine how easy it is to look at a color coded representation of your Service Level performance that day by interval.  How many greens?  Ambers?  Reds?  Where do patterns emerge?  Because you can only fix what you can find.

And use cool graphical representations of Service Level performance to share with everybody in the Centre. It takes everyone in the boat, rowing in the same direction, to achieve Service Level.

It shouldn’t be a secret – it should be displayed everywhere.

 

3.  Choose a Service Level calculation formula

A lot of folks don’t realize that there are at least 4 different formulas out there to calculate your actual Service Level performance.

And that this formula has been input into your ACD.

So the question is always this.  Do you know what your formula is?  Are you happy with it?  Is it consistent across the organization to allow for some level of apples to apples comparison?

It’s an important decision.

Average Speed of Answer

Are you using Average Speed of Answer?  If so, why?

If you have an ACD, Service Level is the best and key metric to measure the Customer Wait Time experience.

Leading Centres don’t use ASA because it is an outcome of Service Level performance.  If Service Level goes down where does ASA go?  It goes up!

Learn to chase drivers – not outcomes.  Fix a driver and you automatically fix an outcome.

Where does ASA come into play?

Well it’s in the Erlang B calculation to calculate how many trunk lines you need for your Centre.  But that’s automatic.

And admittedly it’s easier to graph using ASA vs. Service Level.  Simply run Erlang C for your desired Service Level, identify the outcome ASA figure (let’s say 12.7 seconds) and use that for graphing.  It’s ‘equivalent’.

But if you have an ACD and you’re using ASA as a target or important metric stop, pause and ask yourself why.

It’s very ‘Jurassic Park’ and was in use in the days before ACDs were commonly installed.

 

Longest Wait Time

One Customer is going to experience a ‘Longest Wait Time’ even when you’re achieving your interval based Service Level.

Firstly – everyone should know what that is.  Because even if you’re achieving your 80/20 or 90/10 or 50/40 someone is going to wait a long time.

There are often widely different wait time experiences for Customers within a single half hour interval.  It’s good to be aware of that.  Particularly if you survey Customers on their wait time experience.

Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – whoever is reading your Readerboard and making decisions based on that data MUST know the Longest Wait Time for that interval.

The Longest Wait Time is an important piece of data for interpreting your Readerboard and making smart Service Level recovery decisions.

Fortunately Erlang C helps us calculate that piece of data for each and every interval.

And just like ASA, Longest Wait Time is an outcome of Service Level.  If your Service Level goes down your Longest Wait Time goes up.

But as I mentioned before – don’t chase outcomes, find and fix the driver(s) – in this case Service Level.

 

Abandonment Rate

There’s a lot of confusion around this metric.

Clearly, Centres that generate revenue – such as food orders or hotel reservations – care a lot their Abandonment Rate.  But they address that ‘care’ by setting very high Service Level objectives.  That means that Customers get answered so quickly they hardly have time to abandon – though of course an Abandonment Rate still exists.

For non-revenue generating Centres – and that’s most of them – Abandonment Rate is an outcome.  An outcome of Service Level.

If Service Level goes down, it is likely (though not assured) that Abandonment Rate will go up.  Or when Service Level goes up, it is likely (though not assured) that Abandonment Rate will go down.

Smart Centres see Abandonment Rate as an outcome.

So rather than targeting it they examine it.  When do most people abandon?  What intervals experience higher or lower Abandonment Rate?  When do we play our delay announcements?  Should we move our announcements around?

Because Abandonment Rate is a human behaviour – not a mathematical behaviour.  It lies in the hands of the Customer.

We’re in control of (drum roll please) Service Level.  When we’re achieving Service Level by interval we’re accomplishing our mission. We’re delivering a consistent Customer Wait Time, Agent Occupancy and Organizational promise experience.

Trying to chase abandoned calls is like trying to catch a greased pig at the county fair.

Getting a handle on Abandonment Rate in the Contact Centre

 

Service Level (again)

I like to say that Service Level has a Driving License and the other metrics are all passengers in the car.

So if Service Level turns left – they all turn left.  If Service Level turns right – they all turn right.

You get the idea.

And if it helps remember that there are only 3 drivers of Service Level for any interval.  They are:

  • Contact Volume
  • Average Handling Time
  • Agent Capacity

If you’re struggling to achieve Service Level for any interval or set of intervals your root cause lies within one of more of these 3 variables.

More articles on Operations soon and thank you for reading!

Daniel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Centre KPIs & The Green Jaguar

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I share the true story of my former boss, her green Jaguar automobile and how they taught me lessons about Contact Centre KPIs.

The background

Back in the early 90s I landed my first VP Operations role running Call Centre & Warehouse operations for an American entertainment company.

I had not come up through the ranks.

I was the VP Finance and I was offered the VP Operations job after the existing VP Operations resigned.

So I went straight from numbers, financials & analyses to operations.

At that time we didn’t have easy access to reliable Call Centre training – especially in operations domain.

The entire management team, including my boss the Executive VP, had to figure out how to run a large and growing Call Centre without any formal education or background in the industry.

Call Centres are very unique environments and cannot be understood purely from an intuitive or gut level.

There are some very real and complex mathematical realities which need to be mastered to perform well.

But I didn’t know those lessons and my boss at the time most certainly did not either.

We built our Los Angeles-based Call Centre from the ground 

One of the milestones of my career was watching a brand new Call Centre being built from the ground up.

Engineers were consulted, building crews were brought in, technology folks began to install, people began to be hired and it was all very exciting.

The Centre was located in a small beach town about 20 miles from the company’s chic and shiny Santa Monica based headquarters.

That gave our pioneer team a sense of independence and also some welcome distance from corporate ‘politics’.

My boss – the Executive VP

My direct boss was a life-long record company executive.

She stood about 6’1” (186 cm), wore big statement jewellery and could do multiple currency calculations in her head.

I loved her but feared her just ‘enough’ – others feared her more.

Every year she also got a new company car – and in the year our Centre went live it was a shiny green Jaguar sedan.  Gosh I loved that car.

Our new Centre was a single story building with glass windows all around.  That allowed us to see cars pulling in and out of the driveway.

And soon you will see how important this was to this story.

When the Centre opened

Our formal launch day was set.

And about 3 days beforehand my boss called me and asked if she could drop by on opening day to see the live operations.

She wanted to see people taking calls and experience what she and the Board had ‘gotten’ after spending so much money.

My answer was of course – yes, come on over.

Was there really a choice?

This is when things got a bit messy

One of the lessons I share now in my training is never let your boss walk unescorted through your Call Centre.

It’s too easy to draw incorrect conclusions based on what you see – a lot of what goes in a Centre is actually invisible!

But I let her go unaccompanied out into the Centre and here is what happened.

Armed with a little notebook, she walked around and observed each and every one of the 60 or so Agents we had in place at launch.

If the Agent was talking on their headsets or typing on their keyboards she was pleased and walked on by.   If they weren’t doing anything she wrote down their name on the notebook.

When her 6+ foot frame appeared in my doorway, she wasn’t very happy.

“Daaaaan” she drawled in her Southern accent, “You’ve got a big problem.

“You’ve got a lot of lazy people out there not doing anything.  So your interviewing skills must not be all that great.  And I’d say you’re also overstaffed.

“If you don’t fix this we are going to have a serious problem – do you really think we’re made of money?”

With that, she turned, went out, got into her car and drove back to Santa Monica.

A surprise visit

A week later, at about 10:00AM, the Receptionist ran into my office and blurted out “She’s here, she’s here!”

She had spotted the green Jaguar pulling into the front drive through the windows.

So I did what any fast thinking VP Operations would do.

I ran out to the floor, grabbed the first 3 Agents I could reach and said “You, you and you, sign off and go hide in the pantry!”

As they ran around the corner in walks my boss.

She looked at me for a moment and then strode right into the Call Centre floor.

And what did she see?

Here’s what she saw

As any good Call Centre person knows, when I pulled through 3 folks off the phone, the Occupancy rate for all the remaining folks immediately shot up.

Welcome to the Power of One.  Everyone was either talking or typing.

She wandered around the Centre for about 20 minutes in total and this time I made sure I went with her.

As she headed back to the front lobby she turned to me and said “Good”.  She then walked out, got into the car and drove off.

Here’s what was really happening 

You need to know more than just the individual definition and purpose of each KPI.

The most interesting part about Contact Centre KPIs is how they interrelate and interact with each other.

Contact Centre KPIs aren’t just dials on a dashboard to be monitored and tracked in isolation.

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

So I came up with what I call ‘The Chicken Dance’ – based directly on the story of my boss and her green Jaguar.

And this has always been one of my favourite teaching moments.

To do the Chicken Dance, you start by raising your arms up so that they are parallel to the floor.

Ok here goes –

When I pulled the 3 folks off the phone – the Service level went down (flap down).

That means the Occupancy went up (flap up).

– Quality potentially began going down as the call queue grew (flap down).

– Abandonment rate likely went up as the call queue grew (flap up).

– Available time for the Agents went down (flap down).

– In the short run AHT might go down but as time goes by AHT goes up (flap up).

– Customer Satisfaction with wait time goes down (flap down).

-and # of Calls Handled per Agent went up (flap up) – but not because they were more productive!  Because we were understaffed at that time.

I dedicate The Chicken Dance to my former boss in Los Angeles

Since I introduced the Chicken Dance in my classes way back in 2003, thousands of people have sat in a training room or hotel conference room and watched me perform the dance.

I think that this has been a fun and useful way to convey the complexity inherent in Call Centre operations.

Operations training doesn’t need to be dry and boring.

It should be interesting and useful and be easily linked to the Employee experience and the Customer experience as well.

People should be able to ‘speak’ its unique language with ease.

So in closing, I dedicate the Chicken Dance to my boss with the green Jaguar.

And I thank her for the wonderful 8 years I had working with her and gaining such wonderful experience that I share with students to this day.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel