Move beyond team averages to address the behaviors and skills that drive employee and customer satisfaction, and business results.
Supervisors are an incredible force in contact centers. They act as coaches, crisis managers, administrators and cheerleaders — all rolled into one package. Supervisors wear so many different hats that contact center managers often find it impossible to determine how well they perform.
Managers often use a combination of team aver-ages and subjective measures, such as communication skills, to evaluate supervisors. The rationale for using team averages is simple — if the team performs well, then the supervisor must be doing a good job. This approach offers numerous benefits for evaluating supervisor performance: Team averages are objective, scalable and can be trended. However, this type of performance measurement does not adjust for tenure, the team’s skills or align with the areas in which they should be coaching. Therefore, supervisors are subjected to “the luck of the draw” — whoever gets the best team gets the higher performance rating, regardless of what they do. Focusing only on team averages fails to address the behaviors and skills a supervisor should exhibit.
Subjective measures, on the other hand, use categorized feedback to determine effectiveness. For example, a supervisor may have “good communication skills” if he holds regular meetings and keeps his manager informed of potential employee issues. Subjective measures better capture the intangible behaviors a supervisor must display. They also remove the bias toward “better teams equaling better super-visors”displayed by team averages. But to be effective, subjective measures require a disciplined methodology for capturing and evaluating them. Without that structure, they can be applied inconsistently, biased toward the most recent results and do not correlate to successful business performance.
Building a disciplined approach to supervisor evaluation requires focusing on key behaviors, applying effective objective and subjective measures to those behaviors, and providing clear guidelines and scoring methods for all measures. The first step, however, is to identify which behaviors are critical to success for both the supervisor and the business.
The Business Case for Supervisor Responsibilities
Supervisors have a multitude of tasks to perform in any given week. To narrow them down to key responsibilities, we must first examine what is important to the business as a whole. To succeed, most companies focus on a mission that combines profitability with customer and employee satisfaction.
Supervisors, who are on the front lines of every customer interaction in the call center, play a pivotal role in driving CSRs and the center toward this goal.
In light of this mission, supervisors’ responsibilities can be boiled down to five key behaviors:
- They build team morale by focusing on individual relationships and supporting their team.
- They coach and observe agents to promote quality, sales and other call-related behaviors designed to maximize revenue and customer experience.
- They focus on service level and agent availability. By coaching adherence and attendance, the center can have the right resources available when needed, thereby ensuring that customers get their calls answered in a timely manner.
- They maintain all the administrative details of employment, such as payroll, appraisals and disciplinary actions.
- They participate in strategic initiatives to improve the center, the customer experience and the company’s profitability.
These five key behaviors form the basis of a balanced scorecard that focuses on the needs of the business, the customer and the employees. In other words, if supervisors are successful at meeting these five behaviors, they have fully contributed to employee and customer satisfaction, as well as the success of the contact center.
A business result should be connected to each behavior. If not, then either the center is missing an important result and one should be created, or the behavior is not that important to the organization. For example, if building team morale is considered to be a key behavior, yet the center does not track employee satisfaction, then how important is morale? And if morale is not that important to the organization, how important will it be to a supervisor? On the other hand, a company that tracks employee satisfaction is demonstrating its support of that supervisor responsibility on an organizational level.
It is important to note that the behaviors listed here may not perfectly suite your center, and therefore must be adjusted accordingly. The key is to balance them so that no one behavior drives a supervisor’s total performance.
Tying Metrics to Behaviors
After establishing the key behaviors for a supervisor, the next step is to identify metrics that can be closely tied to those behaviors. I recommend using both objective and subjective measures for each behavior. This combines the business value of a concrete result with a behavior-focused evaluation, which ensures that the supervisor performs the correct actions to generate his or her business result. This critical step in the process is often bypassed in favor of choosing a metric thought to encompass those behaviors. Taking the time to outline what your supervisors do will help you to identify better metrics.
For example, let’s take the key behavior of improving sales performance. To improve sales results a supervisor coaches his team on several factors — including general sales, product knowledge, sales confidence and morale. In addition, he must guard against negative behaviors, such as “cherry picking” (only selling the “best” calls), while keeping his team motivated to sell through the entire month. In other words, a successful supervisor coaches effectively, focuses on teaching a sale on every call and motivates his team. The company needs the traditional metrics of sales per agent and/or conversion rates, but we can add critical coaching behaviors to the mix by creating a metric for “effectively coaching.”
In our example, effective coaching has three main behaviors: 1) holding meetings and coaching sessions, 2) effective communication, and 3) effective motivation. Determining whether the supervisor conducted the required meetings and coaching sessions is easily measurable. However, observation and feedback are required to determine if a supervisor communicated effectively. This can be scored similar to quality monitoring — using specific guide-lines to ensure that relevant information was covered. Determining the level of motivation is much more subjective, but it can also be scored using guidelines, and then validated by the other sales performance metrics. By combining these three behaviors, we generate a full picture of a supervisor’s sales coaching performance.
Creating Scoring Guidelines
The challenge of scoring subjective measures often outweighs the value of the metric. As a result, many supervisor metrics become “gut checks” based on anecdotes. However, by fol-lowing a disciplined process, subjective results can be scored, defended and trended. To do this, we use the same methodology as when scoring agent quality. First, we define the behaviors we expect to see. Then we develop guidelines to score those behaviors. Finally, we assign them a numeric score.
Continuing with our improving sales performance example, let’s focus on defining and scoring the behavior associated with motivating agents. In our center, a motivated agent is enthusiastic, knowledgeable and disciplined. Therefore, their actions related to those behaviors can be used to score the supervisor. Table 1, on page 6, provides a sample of how “enthusiasm” may be defined. Obviously, enthusiasm incorporates more behaviors than promoting contests and supporting team-mates. But these two behaviors provide a starting point for developing guidelines that define enthusiasm. In practice, creating guidelines is a lot of work. The best method is to involve your supervisors in this exercise. This helps to gain their buy in and allows them the opportunity to discuss potential loopholes or missing behaviors.
The final step is to assign different levels a score. In our example, we used three levels: Great, Good and Poor. We would simply assign each a point value, such as 3 for Great, 2 for Good, and 1 for Poor. I recommend using at least three but no more than five scoring levels. Using only two levels converts a guideline to a yes-or-no argument, and most behaviors are more complicated than that. In our enthusiasm example, the important question is not only whether they participated, but how much they participated. That level of detail requires more than a yes-or-no rating. Conversely, too many guidelines can make defining the differences too subtle. Three to five ratings typically provide clear levels of performance in each area. I also recommend using a consistent rating scale throughout the guidelines, and including a “not applicable” option if a guideline is not relevant in a particular month.
The best method to summarize these scores is to divide the points scored by the total possible points. Table 2, below, demonstrates how to score the three behaviors associated with the “Motivates Agents” metric.
Using the sum of all points allows the each guideline to have the same importance to the overall score. However, this means that some behaviors will be weighted as less important because they have fewer guidelines. In our example, “enthusiasm” is worth only six points while “knowledge” and “discipline” are each worth nine points. To ensure that behaviors of equal importance carry the same weight in the overall score, they must have the same number of guidelines.
Supervisors perform a complex web of activities to keep the contact center running. They deserve to have a clear understanding of the behaviors they need to develop to make them successful. By tying business needs to quality monitoring scoring methods, you can create effective and meaningful scorecards. And through careful scoring, you can ensure that those behaviors are appropriately rewarded. This process is not easy, but with dedication and focus, you can organize your supervisors’ many hats and provide them with a framework for success.
Dan Rickwalder is the Owner of the independent consulting firm Proactive Planning Group, which specializes in workforce planning and call center analytics. firstname.lastname@example.org
– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline, www.contactcenterpipeline.com