Five keys to a successful contact center performance management (CCPM) system implementation

Updated: June 17, 2009

Background and Disclosures

While I currently head Focus Research in an official capacity, I spent a number of years in product and marketing roles at a sales and service performance management company called Merced Systems (yes, I still own my options there). Although I don't officially cover CCPM here at Focus, I wanted to provide some advice to those implementing CCPM systems based on my personal experience with such systems at 20+ Global 2000 companies.

Contact Center Performance Management Defined

I define CCPM systems as domain-specific software applications that uniquely combine dashboarding, analytics, workflow and data integration to:

  • Allow management to set performance goals for an a contact center organization
  • Roll out personalized versions of these goals to every agent in the organization
  • Provide agents and management with daily (or even intraday) progress dashboards and reports against these goals
  • Supply agents and management with various performance management workflows -- such as for incentive management adjustments, coaching tools, performance improvement planning, best practices capture, -- to standardize organizational response to performance trends.

Examples of vendors providing CCPM solutions include AIM Technology Group (recently purchased by Aspect Software), Merced Systems, Enkata, Verint, and Nice Systems. In addition, many the Business Intelligence vendors offer some form of performance management for contact center sace (although many of these products are more tools than applications) -- SAP/Business Objectives, IBM/Cognos, Siebel Analytics/Oracle and Microsoft.

The Problem with Contact Center Performance Management System Implementations

Especially for mid-size and enterprise companies, there is no one-size fits all approach to CCPM implementations. While technology has improved dramatically over the last 10 years, there are certain issues that technology cannot address - at least not yet. Most contact center management teams fail to take these issues into account often resulting in delayed, over-budget projects and, in the worst cases, cancelled implementations and fired managers. The following are five issues all contact center management teams must deal with in trying to execute a complete CCPM implementation. I've tried to identify five issues that go beyond the more common issues that are relevant most major software implementation projects - e.g. creating a project team with a leader, creating a steering committee, gathering requirements, getting buy in from the front-lines, driving adoption from the top, etc.

#1 It's All About Your Organizational Model

If you can't model your organization within your vendor's application, your project is doomed from the start. The heart of most contact center performance management systems is some type of an org chart manager in which people are entered into the system and then defined as having certain roles, certain identifiers, being part of certain groups and reporting to certain people. This org chart manager allows for proper roll-up reporting, correct personalization of goals, routing of workflows and much more. The problem, however, is that most organizations don't have an organizational chart that can easily translate into the software (as a small example you may have employees reporting to multiple people but your software application may not support such a "networked" hierarchy). There is no easy way around this challenge other than to work with your vendor and come up with a "software" version of your org chart that gives you the views, reports and workflow routes you're looking for.

But don't stop there. Once this translation is resolved, customers must put in place a process (manual or automated) to ensure the org chart is constantly updated in real time as your org chart changes. Otherwise, workflows are routed to the wrong people, group performance is inaccurate as it is comprised of the performance of individuals no long part of the group, etc. While one challenge with CCPM project is data or metric accuracy (see #2 below), an even bigger problem is inaccurate information in your application's org chart manager.

#2 Data Integration - Don't Die a Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts

Another reason why CCPM implementations fail is lack of adoption by the front lines due to metric inaccuracy. Such inaccuracies are a direct result of the the Garbage In / Garbage Out principle. The reality is to have a full functioning contact center performance management system you need data (base metrics) from multiple sources - ACD, WFM, Quality Management, IVR, CRM, Billing, CSAT, Training Systems and much more. I have never seen an implementation where there aren't plenty of problems importing this data into the CCPM systems. Here are examples of common problems:

  • The mapping from source data fields to the CCPM target requires complex transformations
  • The data itself is not clean -- missing fields, missing identifiers, etc.The source data owner who understands source data fields is not part of the project team and is not actively involved in the implementation
  • The source data owners who understands source data fields no longer exist in the organization because the system is so old and out-of-date (READ - legacy systems)
  • Data cannot be accessed from the production source direction; another intermediary source is required (e.g. going to a company's data warehouse) which actually complicate the timing and mapping of the base data

Most data sources are not often easy to integrate and don't listen to anybody (e.g. your vendor ) that tells you otherwise. Instead conduct a data source audit for yourself- what calculated metrics do you want? what are required base metrics? from which sources will these base metrics come? Conduct plenty of data sampling and testing to prove you can get the data you need. And finally, make sure you do much of this pre-purchase as unforeseen data integration complexity is a major driver for professional services costs in any CCPM project.

#3 it's Not Call Center Reporting, It's Call Center Performance Management

A significant failure of many CCPM projects is to not include any performance management workflows as part of an initial implementation. While many contact center managers (and their IT counterparts) can fixate on the data and associated reporting, the real key to ROI in a CCPM performance management project is the associated workflow around the metrics. That's the reason for buying a CCPM system vs. a general reporting or BI tool.

A simple case in point: A report is created for every call center agent to show them their progress against Average Handle Time (AHT) goals. Managers can see their team's overall AHT progress against goal as well as the AHT performance of individual team members. However, if there are no alerts for agents who are under-performing and no required tasks for managers to engage in performance coaching those agents, then the system relies on people to pull information (bad idea) at their discretion. The workflow functionality pushes information, standardizing the desired response of the organization and, perhaps most important, monitoring who following the process.

#4 Pick Your Initiative - Focus

You're not buying a phone, a computer or office furniture. You're buying a call center PERFORMANCE management system to deliver improved PERFORMANCE for your agents, teams and overall operations. If you don't have a specific initiative or ROI case driving your implementation, your team will lack the focus to deliver the results necessary to justify the CCPM purchase. Projects lacking well defined initiatives typically follow one of two paths -- either there are no initiatives identified to drive implementation prioritization and the overall CCPM project quickly withers or, conversely, management wants to boil the ocean by implementing all initiatives at once, leading to mediocrity across all efforts. Here are examples of initiatives that can drive call center implementations (and don't forget these initiatives change as the business priorities changes - see #5 below).

  • Improved employee lifecycle management -- on boarding, retention
  • Standardize performance coaching processes -- identification and intervention
  • Improved employee productivity -- revenue or transactions per period
  • Improved employee efficiency -- AHT, schedule adherence
  • Improved customer satisfaction -- Quality, reduced errors, Ffrst contact resolution, etc.
  • Pick your initiative and use that to drive which metrics, what goals, which workflow, etc.

#5 CCPM is Not A One-Time Implementation, It's A Process

How many times have you heard the story of the company that budgeted enough money to implement a business system but did not budget any resources to maintain. You must understand from the beginning of your project that ensuring the accuracy and relevancy of the CCPM system is an every data task. As such, a CCPM system must evolve into an integral part of your everyday management of the business.. Here is just a sampling of tasks that must be constantly addressed:

  • Cleaning up bad data imports
  • Adding or replacing existing data imports altogether as new source systems come on line
  • Updating goal targets and metric formula (e.g. changing incentive plans formula)
  • Changing workflows (e.g. there is a new step in who reviews performance plans)
  • Re-tooling dashboard and reports to focus on new initiatives, campaigns

As part of your CCPM implementation, be sure to have a plan for how your organization will use, embrace and maintain the CCPM on an everyday basis. This includes an overall executive sponsor and manager for the system as well as owners for various system components - e.g. workflows, data sources, etc. -- and a budget allocation.

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