Contact center agent has incentive to help customer on the call.

Agents Do What They are Incented to Do: Goal Alignment and Visibility Drive Performance

One of my consulting colleagues who had led many centers had a favorite mantra.

“People do what they are incented to do.”

He had seen many contact centers with bad metrics, or poorly defined ones. He had also seen plenty that lacked alignment between goals and metrics. As we visited centers for the initial discovery step that is part of any assessment and planning effort, it seemed he would inevitably end up chanting that mantra. Focus groups and call observations, as well as discussions with analysts and leaders about data, metrics, and reports, made it clear that people were not on the same page in their pursuit of a great customer experience (CX).

I start with that story because poorly defined and aligned goals and metrics lead to some pretty obvious problems. An outsider taking an honest look at how things are going can easily see the challenges – and outcomes – the disconnects create. Chances are the insiders have a good sense of it, too. If you want to improve your CX, and in the process, your agent experience (AX), there may be no better place to start than your goals and metrics, and how you use those to drive the performance you seek.

The good news is that commensurate with the clarity in the pain points, this type of change can deliver some rapid and powerful results. Clarity, transparency, and alignment lead to consistency and success. But first, you must move past the mountain of data and reports and take a fresh look at how to use the right data, in the right ways, to promote desirable behaviors.

Here’s how to pursue a new approach:

  1. Create strategic alignment: Define a manageable, internally consistent set of metrics that have direct lines to the business and center goals. Make sure they address all your channels and balance business drivers for efficiency/productivity, customer experience, agent experience, and financial performance. Keep in mind each metric will drive behaviors, and you want them to be the right ones! Define achievable targets that you will measure for your “Key Performance Indicators” (KPIs) and identify other aspects to monitor for trends and anomalies.
  2. Define users and needs: Leadership needs to see rolled up results that show the center is meeting business goals across a broad span of time. Analysts need to be able to slice and dice, assess, gain insights, and define actions to improve (whether operations or technology changes). Down in the trenches, agents and supervisors need some detail.
  3. Create accountability and visibility: People should only be held accountable for things they can control. In line with the first two steps, define the right accountability for metrics and actions, and the visibility needed to assess and act. Communicate well and provide incentives. Apply change management principles to help everyone embrace the plans and reinforce the “what, why, and how” of the effort, and their role in success.
  4. Enable with the right resources: Technology and people both play a role here. Provide the right tools and have adequate support resources to use those tools to monitor, manage, and pursue the goals. Reporting and analytics, scorecards and dashboards, and now gamification can all be part of your toolkit.

Agent engagement surveys ask staff to rate statements such as, “I know what is expected of me” and “Our team works together to achieve goals.” In the contact center, responses to those questions reflect on agent experience. Imagine a center where agents always know how they’re doing, against defined goals, with a fun, colorful dashboard or gameboard. Imagine they are looking at their own performance as part of the team’s pursuit, and friendly competition drives everyone to continuous improvement. Imagine that coaching sessions leverage those outcomes and lead to rewards and recognition, as well as growth and development.

This vision is possible today. Now, more than ever, centers can create a team approach that increases consistency and enables everyone to have their individual contributions recognized. Agents do what they’re incented to do, and the right incentives can create great experiences for all. Learn more ways to improve agent experience here.