Where Are the Gaps in Your Contact Center Metrics? Just Ask Your Agents


I was shopping a few nights ago, and although I was in a hurry I opted for the single, manned cashier lane because of my aversion to self-checkout lines. I know the customer drill very well: I put the plastic bar down to separate my items from the man in front of me and unloaded my cart in the general order I prefer things to end up in the bags. Now here’s where it got interesting…

As I stood there poised and ready to swipe my card like a prepared shopper, the cashier started to organize my items in front of her. She didn’t scan anything. Instead, she rearranged, refolded, sorted, counted, and began laying things out, price tag up, one item deep, spanning from the conveyer belt to the bag area. As I stood there watching, she caught my look and explained to me that as cashiers they are measured on how fast they scan items, so in order to do well on those reports, she spends time making sure everything is ready to scan first before scanning even one item.

In awe that she was so honest about the reason for the delay, I remarked, “Well, too bad you can’t just rip the tags off everything, bag it all in advance, then just scan the tags as fast as you can at the end!”

“Do you mind?” I should have anticipated this, but by now I felt like I was watching a fender-bender play out in front of me in slow motion and couldn’t look away. So out of pure, morbid curiosity at what would follow, I said, “Sure. Go ahead.” And she did.

This agent knew the system, exactly how she’d be judged, and where the gaps were. She knew no one was looking at time between customer transactions, or the number of customers through her register, or the total number of items scanned in a larger block of time on her shift versus someone else’s on an equivalent shift. Based on the one metric she knew was being scrutinized, she found the approach that got her the best performance on paper despite the fact that it led to a less than ideal customer experience for me.

Walking out, I turned to my friend Nadine and said, “That’s exactly what I see agents doing in contact centers.”

In all my travels around the globe, in every contact center I visit, one thing has been universally true: If your metrics have a gap, your agents have probably found it and know how to exploit it.

One example in particular stands out to me. While sitting down with contact center leaders for a consulting session on metrics and performance, they began discussing their approach to good performance and performance management, and how they measure and incent their agents. They showed me an example of their top agent performer, her metrics, and how pleased they were that she had taken on a mentoring role within their contact center. Sure enough, the trend lines did indeed show that her neighbors’ performance was going in the same direction. Isn’t that ideal when great behavior spreads? Unfortunately, I had a different take on the information.

With the review of just three additional agent metrics, it was quickly demonstrated that this agent – who had been receiving a cash performance bonus every month – was hanging up on practically every outbound dial she was connected to, because she had learned that voluntary inbound callers were more likely to pay. She knew that Promise to Pay (PTP) metrics were being looked at and lots of other things were not, so she did what she had to do to maximize her PTP potential.

Disappointing? You bet! The truth is that if there’s a hole in your performance metrics, there’s a risk that at least one agent in your contact center has the motivation and scruples to find and exploit it. After they make a trusted friend, count on them to spread it.

So what do you think? Do you have a comprehensive handle on performance metrics, or do you think your agents are finding gaps?