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Friday, 27 November 2009

The futility of call centre coaching (or why not every attempt to cure the same symptoms is equal)

The first part of the title isn’t original, but it’s certainly attention grabbing! It comes from an article by Denis Adsit. Apart from its title, I found it interesting because it has implications for the choices that call centre managers have to make when they are looking to improve performance. Anybody wanting to improve call handling time or first call resolution (to take but two common measures) is confronted by a wide range of options - all offering the same results – so it’s not easy to know where to attack.
There’s a fair bit of maths in the article, but the discussion makes the situation clear without worrying about that too much! The point is not that training or coaching are inherently bad, it’s just that they are never ending activities that are constantly diluted by agent turnover:
The conclusion … is that coaching in systems with a broad mix of tenure and even a modest level of turnover will have little effect on the performance of the entire system. To improve the outputs of a system, managers must find an approach to process improvement which lifts the performance of all the agents at the same time, not one at a time.
So, everything else being equal, it’s better to improve processes and systems that affect the whole agent population than to focus on activities that address agent (or presumably customer) problems one at a time. The effectiveness of the desktop is perhaps the prime example of the former. It is a key determinant of how easy / hard it is to get up to speed and perform effectively as an agent. Until recently, the problems of integrating applications for people has meant that everything else has been far from equal in the area of desktop streamlining, and a fear of high risks, costs and slow projects have stood in the way of improvement. This might perhaps explain the variety of other approaches (even if they are “futile”!!) , and indicates the size of the opportunity that exists with modern, pragmatic enterprise mashup technologies

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