• June 1, 2008
  • By Donna Fluss, president, DMG Consulting

Performance Management Requires Process Improvement

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Contact center performance management (CCPM) is the most misunderstood application in the market. When used properly (see Figure 1, below), it is a highly valuable tool that assists managers in achieving strategic and tactical goals. As contact centers take on more responsibility and migrate from being reactive cost centers to revenue-generating profit centers, CCPM's role will increase in importance.

The Definition
CCPM is an analytical approach to managing and improving the effectiveness, quality, and overall experience provided by the contact center. It's a process that uses goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), and metrics to measure the performance of the contact center and its managers, supervisors, and agents, and their effectiveness in delivering to enterprise goals. At a strategic level, CCPM provides a framework for aligning the contact center's goals with those of the corporation. At a tactical level, the CCPM process uses goals, KPIs, metrics, data sources, and balanced scorecards for capturing and reporting how well the contact center delivers to its objectives in order to identify the actions necessary to address areas of weakness or strength. At a practical level, it streamlines and simplifies reporting, enabling managers to use a select set of KPIs, metrics, and reports to manage their operations, instead of the numerous reports and hundreds of measures previously required.

Classic Versus Real-Time CCPM
There are two types of contact center performance management: classic and real-time. While there are substantive differences, they have complementary functions and each provides actionable data to address different management objectives. (See Figure 2, below.)

Classic CCPM: Pulls data from various enterprise sources and is usually updated on a next-day or intraday basis. It is retrospective or reactive in nature and used by contact center managers and enterprise executives to evaluate performance and trends in operations, processes, and training. Classic CCPM tends to be strategic, assisting management in making long-term changes and decisions, such as enhancing the effectiveness of enterprise and departmental strategic initiatives. When utilized properly with a timely review process, classic CCPM can also help align the contact center with enterprise goals. The output from classic CCPM is primarily in the form of scorecards and reports.
Real-time CCPM: A set of processes that empower line managers and supervisors to make ongoing tactical adjustments and improvements in real time to achieve departmental and enterprise goals. It is more tactical than classic CCPM, enabling managers and supervisors to monitor and evaluate activity and performance of agents and teams in real time. This allows quick adjustments that can have an immediate impact on results. Typically, real-time CCPM applications concentrate on KPIs where immediate intervention can alter the outcome. Some of these KPIs include: average speed of answer, schedule adherence, call volume, hold time, average talk time, occupancy rate, revenue per agent, sales conversion rate, dollars collected, and dollars promised. Real-time CCPM addresses agent, team, and contact center activities through dashboards and alerts, usually updated in 15 seconds or less. (See Figure 2, above.) When researching potential CCPM solutions, we recommend looking at solutions that provide both classic and real-time capabilities before making a selection, as both are highly valuable for enterprises.

CCPM Is More than Reporting
There is a misconception that CCPM is just an advanced form of reporting -- "reporting on steroids." CCPM is an application that focuses on identifying actionable recommendations to improve business and performance in the contact center and other parts of the enterprise. Key differences between reports and CCPM are summarized in Figure 3, below.

CCPM Market Overview
The CCPM market grew by 79 percent between 2006 and 2007, with the number of implementations increasing from 745 to 1,335. Financial services, telecommunications, and insurance companies continue to be the early adopters. The more complex the contact center and its functionality (i.e., service, sales, claims, support, product information, and marketing), the more likely it is to desire a CCPM solution. We expect the CCPM market to grow by 50 percent in 2008 and 20 percent in 2009, even after taking into account the economic slowdown. The rapid rate of growth suggested by the numbers is largely a product of low penetration rates in 2005 and 2006.

CCPM Vendors
The market is divided three ways: quality monitoring/liability recording (also known as workforce optimization, or WFO; see Scouting Report, February 2008, page 48); vendors that offer CCPM as part of a suite; and the standalone CCPM vendors. WFO vendors offer CCPM as one of the many modules within integrated suites. These suites generally have a single user interface to access all the applications across their platforms (i.e., recording, quality management, workforce management, surveying, e-learning, coaching, speech analytics, and performance management). CCPM is usually sold as either an upgrade to a suite vendor's existing customer base or as part of a packaged solution for new customers. Some WFO suite providers sell CCPM on a standalone basis, but that is not their primary value proposition. They argue that substantial benefits come from their suites' synergies.

Standalone CCPM vendors are competing with WFO suite providers, which have a large installed base for potential upselling. The standalone vendors are increasingly offering agent optimization CCPM solutions along with several value-added modules, in order to compete as a best-of-breed alternative to the WFO suites. These vendors are providing differentiated capabilities with new modules for agent coaching, evaluation and appraisal, and rewards and recognition. (Many of the WFO suite vendors also offer coaching functionality.)

One standalone CCPM vendor offers first-call resolution and call categorization modules to address a major challenge -- rising volumes and repeat calls. Other standalone CCPM vendors are in the process of delivering additional differentiated and high-value capabilities. These standalone vendors, or best-of-breed suite providers, have shown that they can make and deliver enhancements to their solutions on a timely basis, as CCPM is their primary focus.

The WFO vendors with CCPM solutions are Nice Systems, Verint Systems, and VPI. Standalone competitors are AIM Technology, Enkata Technologies, HardMetrics, and Merced Systems. Aspect Software, a contact center infrastructure provider with a WFO suite, is also a competitor. SAS Institute recently entered the market with a new solution, and there are smaller vendors, such as Exony and Metrica Systems, with CCPM offerings.

CCPM is a must-have for contact centers dedicated to continuous performance improvement. It is more than just reporting on steroids or slick charts and graphs. CCPM is an important analytical tool that helps reveal progress toward enterprise and contact center goals. When used properly, CCPM provides actionable intelligence to improve performance at the agent, contact center, and enterprise levels. Its ultimate goal is to link and align the activities of the contact center and the enterprise for the benefit of the customer.

Donna Fluss (donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC (www.dmgconsult.com), the leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis, and consulting.

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