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The Importance of Understanding Which Factors Impact Your Business Metrics

Recently in the news there have been stories about an emergency services call centre department which has allegedly managed to manipulate its metrics by getting staff to make calls to the service themselves during the quietest periods. By answering these calls quickly, they were able to artificially adjust the overall wait time and counter for the periods when they were not answering within their agreed SLA.

Putting aside the fact that this particular contact centre provided a vital, and potentially life-saving service to its callers, this type of behaviour still appears in the service and sales industry more often than one may expect. Challenge a manager to improve their service level achievements and, in a number of circumstances, the first place someone will look is in how the figure is calculated. It is sometimes easier to manipulate a metric rather than the behaviours that drive it.

The most obvious flaw in doing this of course is that it makes absolutely no difference to your customers. Nothing has changed in the way a query is dealt with or the overall customer journey. It’s simply viewing the results through a different lens.

But this is not the only problem with manipulating data this way as it can have as many long-lasting impacts as it has quick win benefits. By changing the way key metrics are calculated, any comparisons with historic data become meaningless (disrupting WFO and capacity planning). Trends are incorrect and agreed thresholds for performance tracking out of date. Benchmarking across the organisation (or with external organisations) also provides false insight and so key business decisions (including on budgets and staff hiring decisions) are made on incorrect assumptions.

So what is the alternative?

I would suggest changing behaviours after understanding what impacts your business. Rather than review the calculation, businesses need to understand the factors that impact their metrics. If queue time is too long, what causes this? It could be staffing, product faults, billing cycles or even weather conditions. By understanding what drives the demand a business can change its behaviours to better handle that.

This will change the underlying journey for the customer and whether the impact is positive or negative it is still a real impact.

Clearly working this way is can prove to be more challenging, the impacting factors will need to be analysed and the changes to behaviour will need to be developed using skill, experience and often trial and error. As with most challenges the rewards to this can be huge. Improving a service level by better handling customer calls rather than adjusting the calculation (or making fake calls into the contact centre) will result in happier customers. Really increasing first time resolution on social will help spread a positive message about the company. Actually improving the connect rate on your outbound campaigns will drive up the sales figures at the end of the week.

The painful truth is that if you cannot hit your targets without manipulating the data, the targets should not be hit. The story in the news about emergency services shows that the senior managers thought the calls were being successfully answered in a reasonable amount of time whilst the reality is they weren't. Changing the results this way doesn’t help the agents, the callers or the service as a whole, and as difficult as it is, maybe it would be better to stand up and say "We need to invest time to understand the impacting factors so we can change our behaviours to meet our customers’ needs".

Read more from Phil.
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