Analytics and the Contact Center: Beyond Workforce Management

By Bob Kelly

One of the most powerful call center workforce productivity technologies is analytics. Analytics combines contact center statistics with business data, focusing on the information most relevant to business goals, matching that information to specific tasks inside the contact center, and giving users the ability to analyze root causes and take corrective actions.

The Way It Was (and Still Is for Some): Measuring Seconds and Counting Beans: Workforce management solutions first emerged at a time when call centers were primarily focused on cutting costs. Early workforce management solutions were tools to manage staff for maximum cost efficiency, with the goal of reducing the number of agents to keep down the cost of supporting and paying them.

Now, contact centers need to focus workforce management practices and technologies toward empowering the contact center staff to make the largest possible contribution to achieving the center’s most important goals. This means changing the way contact centers manage their workforce. To provide a seamless, personalized, consistent experience on every call, email, or chat, contact center management has to change its entire perspective about how they measure success, shifting the emphasis from workforce management to workforce productivity – the active management of processes, technology, and people to achieve growth.

Here are nine things every contact center can do to make workforce productivity successful:

1. Reset goals to achieve greater productivity. Workforce managers must establish goals and metrics for reaching the kind of productivity that reflects business success. They need to ensure that when new agents are hired, those individuals understand the importance of their productivity goals in the context of the organization’s bigger strategic picture.

2. Institute best practices for being productive. Contact center managers must do more than keep agents in their seats. To create a work environment conducive to productivity, they need to empower agents to review their own work schedules and easily request shift changes, vacations, and other schedule adjustments. They must automate clerical processes to reduce the time it takes for agents, supervisors, and managers to communicate schedule changes, freeing them to focus on their core duties. Most importantly, they have to really understand the company’s overall business goals, tie contact center metrics and processes to them, and give staff at every level detailed, real-time views of their performance so that they can monitor their own productivity and take responsibility for it.

3. Put the right technology in place. To effectively contribute to the success of today’s customer-focused contact centers, workforce management software has to be implemented and utilized with the organization’s goals in mind. The technology is already evolving in this direction as traditional solutions are augmented with tools for empowering agents to gain insight into their work schedules and for streamlining the interactions between managers, supervisors, and agents. Analytical reporting tools that enable employees at every level of the contact center to understand how their tasks contribute to business goals and to take responsibility for their own productivity are also becoming more prevalent.

4. Understand the importance of analytics. Perhaps the most valuable technology for contact centers that want to manage productivity is analytics. Analytic applications promise to have such a profound and beneficial affect on contact center productivity that one could define workforce productivity in technology terms by calling it workforce management plus analytics. Understanding that analytics in the context of workforce management helps create a structured process through which a company can manage and improve its overall performance, yielding great success when making the leap to workforce productivity.

5. Focus on relevant statistics. The power of analytical applications lies in large part with the tracking of key performance indicators, or KPIs. The ideal way to determine what KPIs are best is to base them on the strategic objectives of the contact center, as well as to look at the best practices around each of those KPIs and how they can potentially impact the contact center’s ability to achieve its business goals. By presenting statistics carefully selected for their relevance, analytical applications eliminate one of the biggest drawbacks of more traditional reporting techniques – the need to sift through an avalanche of irrelevant data to find the facts that matter.

6. Draw information from business applications. Enabling contact center managers to administer agent performance based on business goals is the essence of workforce productivity. Some analytical applications can deliver all the usual contact center data across multiple sites and multiple communications channels and can pull information from other enterprise data sources. Call centers can use information in customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, human resources management, and quality monitoring systems combined with contact center statistics to create custom KPIs and dashboards.

7. Match the data to the task. In addition to being selected for their relevance to contact center effectiveness, KPIs must also be organized into subsets by function so that each staff member sees the particular KPIs directly related to his or her job function. An analytical application, for instance, might offer one view for agents, another for supervisors, and a third for managers.

8. Analyze for root causes. An analytical application that simply dumps statistics in front of the staff is no more useful in managing effectiveness and productivity than traditional call center reports. Look for an analytical application that includes navigation mechanisms that let users drill down into the data – looking at times, regions, sites, campaigns, groups, and individual agents – to identify the root causes of performance challenges in order to take immediate corrective action.

9. Manage the infrastructure for optimal productivity. Apply analytical applications to more than just the contact center and customer-facing business processes. Use these applications to analyze the way the infrastructure is managed as well. Gain insight into statistics around trunk usage, website traffic, and IP bandwidth to improve the productivity of the infrastructure and the workforce.

Conclusion: There is a paradigm shift happening. Callers are more knowledgeable and more demanding than ever. To remain competitive, call centers have to differentiate themselves based on the customer experience they deliver. The key to achieving this exceptional experience is to rethink the way agent productivity is measured and how success is defined. This means that contact centers have to go beyond merely focusing on cost savings. With the right strategy and the right technology, contact centers can shift from workforce management to workforce productivity.

Bob Kelly, vice president of the PerformanceEdge Group at Aspect Software, focuses on managing the global sales and market development of the company’s suite of performance optimization applications. Bob has a wealth of contact center industry experience, as well as an extensive background in computing and telecommunications technology. Bob can be reached at 978-250-7900 or

[From Connection Magazine September 2008]