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Harnessing the Power of Metrics via Balanced Scorecards

By Special Guest
John Loughlin, Director Business Insights, HighPoint Global
March 23, 2016

Every service delivery organization sets key performance indicators (KPI) to measure the health of the organization. Knowing where to take action based on what is reported is a recipe for success. However, there is a balance that has to be achieved among the metrics to ensure that the measurement scale is not tipped too far in any direction. If you think only of cost and do not account for the feedback from customer experiences then you are destined to fail. 

Getting true feedback can sometimes be difficult, and even with metrics, it can be misleading. For example, our client reported having received a glowing report on one of our agents. “I spent two days trying to figure out how to do this on the website," the customer said. "When I called the agent, he walked me through the process, and it was done in minutes.” On the surface, this appears to be a win. The customer is happy. On balance, however, this outcome is a service failure. Why couldn’t our client serve himself on the web page? Is there something wrong with our website? How many others have had the same experience? 

Without the proper data and feedback processes, organizations can’t identify past or emerging trends and the impacts to the customer and service delivery centers. Organizations need to take a balanced scorecard approach to draw insights from the key metrics as they interact with one another. This approach drives needed visibility and aligned focus at every hierarchical level of the organization, from agent to executive. 

 What Is a Balanced Scorecard?

Scorecards take attributes that are critical to the success of an organization and turn each attribute into a data point that can be measured and evaluated against organizational goals or targets. Ideally, a balanced scorecard measures four components: production, customer experience, quality, and cost.    

A balanced scorecard ensures that everyone in the group stays focused on all four of an organization's important attributes at the same time. Without balance, organizations often have inflated KPI baselines.  As an example, your costs could be low if you only focused on the service level portion of the equation.  The result will be low handle time and lots of calls taken, but without looking at quality and customer experience, you might have resolution issues. Resolution issues drive repeat call issues that cost you in the long run, which create an inflated baseline. The age-old question that is asked in service comes to mind: “Do you want speed or quality?”  The answer is both—speed and quality with service that a customer feels good about.

Measures provide an answer to "how are we performing?" but fall short on explaining what actions to take.  Metrics are directional, but you still

John Loughlin

need to drill down into the data or process to get to the heart of what needs to change. Continual improvement should be the plan and a clear methodology for prioritization and communicating actions is essential. The actions identified should follow a hierarchy—enterprise, unit, team, agent—and will reinforce the strategy of going after the big impact items. This is not to say agent coaching is not important, as it is critical to the success of the organization. Agent coaching comes from the agent scorecard. 

At the agent level, a balanced scorecard looks slightly different, although each quadrant* is still represented. Metrics at the agent level may include:

  • Total number of calls that are taken
  • Total number of calls taken per hour
  • Average handle time (AHT) of calls that are taken (broken out by talk, hold and after call)
  • Quality score
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT score) for surveys tied to the agent service

*While the financial quadrant is not explicitly represented in the agent-level scorecard, executives can draw financial conclusions from the agent-level data based on calls taken, percent productive and AHT. 

Using Metrics to Create Action Plans

The first step in using balanced scorecards is to decide the key performance measures and assign a weight to each. Measures should be in line with overall company goals and vision. It is key that metrics are used alongside specific goals. Stakeholders can have terabytes of aggregated data, but they also need plans for improvement. Metrics help them prioritize projects and get the greatest impact especially when budgets are tight.   

Once a standard is decided on and measured, agencies or companies can create specific plans to improve their performance in that measurement.

These metrics can be used in several useful ways:

  1. Transforming business by knowing what to change and why. Aggregated data helps stakeholders determine the next steps in improving service efficiency and effectiveness in their organization. This could be focusing on the top three issues that are affecting service as observed in the metrics and root cause analysis.
  2. Engaging employees. The culture of an organization can be entrepreneurial if everyone feels they have the ability to make recommendations. Having clear visibility in performance and how each employee plays a role in the organizational success will encourage recommendations from all levels of the organization. Actions need to be taken on appropriate projects and communication plans should inform what kinds of changes are made for this to be sustainable. 
  3. Creating employee accountability performance appraisal systems. Establishing index scores from the weighted scorecard allows agents to be ranked in a "thirds" structure— the top, middle and bottom third are most often assigned a percent.  This drives goals for the agents.  For example, 20 percent of the team would be in the top, 70 percent in the middle and 10 percent at the bottom. This forced ranking of agents would identify coaching opportunities and performance improvement plans for the bottom 10% and specific agreed-to process actions for employee development, like increased coaching and/or training. The main goal is to work to raise the bar on results at the customer-facing level.
  4. Identifying the voice of the customer. Identifying customer wants and needs from feedback tools offers up a combination of metrics and details on what is broken and how it can be fixed.  These change offerings come in the form of verbatim comments from customers.

A balanced scorecard is a must-have tool when improvement is a priority of a service delivery center. When used in combination with clearly communicated cascading goals, an enterprise coaching and development program, and the ability to prioritize and execute on improvement projects then the organization is on the road to success. While creating individual customer "wins" is important, ensuring that customers continue to have positive experiences all along their customer service journey is a much more important long-term goal, and one that is achievable with the help of metrics.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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