Businesses today are challenged by serving “two masters”: financial cost management on one side and the consumer-facing aspects of sales, services and marketing on the other. The integration of the front and back office has long been a dilemma to organizations of all sizes, but it has yet to become a reality for most.
Today, it’s even more critical to bring the two together, as companies look to enrich and profit from customer interaction. Otherwise, how does management know how to invest in the right channels to deal with customers, while extracting the most from the sales and service dollar? How can companies be sure they’re not missing opportunities to better engage their customers—by letting information that should be at their fingertips slip out the back door? To be financially competitive while building loyalty, companies must be able to determine the best tradeoff between cost efficiency and customer performance. The tools and theories are out there, but how can we get it done?
The call center
One of the first areas that can best balance back and front office issues is the customer call center. Where else is customer interaction so prominent? Long thought of as its own separate limb in a company (and one that some cost-conscious executives might wish they could hack off!), the call center is actually the heart of the business. The call center is uniquely positioned because it touches many areas, from finance to marketing to information services to senior management. It is this cross-functionality that makes it so strategically important to business success, offering the availability of data from both the efficiency and cost side of the business and the sales and service side.
New performance management technology, which unifies efficiency and cost data, is the ticket to making the call center serve its purpose. When done correctly, performance management technology delivers insight into customer interaction, both historical and calls that came through in the past five minutes. It closes the loop on how to improve service level versus revenue performance. It provides visibility into performance across roles—and even across the organization. Finally, it enables a real-time response to exceptions and issues. As a result, companies can look at qualities such as up-sell, cross-sell, customer service levels and average sales price and then correlate that information with traditional back-office metrics, such as cost, load and channel expense.
Steps for success
In an ideal world, it all sounds so simple. But trying to close the gap between performance and business goals is a costly, time-consuming and difficult task. Often, companies have too much data from disparate systems, minds and reports. Reports tell you what happened but not why. There’s a lag time between analysis and action. Performance management ends up being costly and inconsistent. You end up with multiple versions of the truth. As a result, even the most sophisticated Global 100 organizations, with as many as 10,000 or more full time employees in their call centers, often manage business key performance indicators (KPIs) using cost, revenue or service-only metrics.
The key is to turn this focus on efficiency to focus on effectiveness. Following are three critical attributes that every performance management system needs:
- Multi-dimensional. Performance management is not just simple analytics. It needs to provide deep analytics across multiple business dimensions, including revenue, time, organization, product, margin and quality of service. By looking at cost efficiencies with corporate objectives, revenue and service level, organizations can unlock and correlate data held captive in “stovepipe applications,” such as CRM, self-service systems and automatic call distribution systems. By leveraging this information, managers can gain additional insights and perform root-cause analysis.
- Event-driven. A performance management system needs to be able to drill down and provide on-demand, event-driven and shared visibility to this analytical insight across operational roles. This allows immediate action and response to negative exceptions. It also helps to reinforce best practices by immediately scaling responses across and organization.
- Measurement. If you can’t easily measure your performance, and how it has changed over time, there is little point to managing it. Performance management needs to couple these capabilities with processes and technologies that allow continuous and measured improvement, as well as rapid and low risk implementation.
It is possible to bring the front and back office together, and the call center is the place to start. By implementing performance management technology, companies can not only enhance the customer experience but also ensure that a company’s bottom line will improve.