Contact Centers – An Alternative to Scoring Agents

Contact Centers and Scoring

In recent weeks, I have had a number of requests from readers about what to do if you don’t score agents.  The first thing is to be sure you understand that the work design and management thinking offer greater opportunities for improvement.  Agent scoring can not just be taken away, you must put something better in its place.

An understanding of the 95/5 rule is in order.  This was first communicated by W. Edwards Deming and simply states that 95% of performance is attributable to the system and not the individual.  You can read more about this at The 95/5 Rule.

If you can pull yourself through this different perspective about the system carrying more weight than the individual (a difficult obstacle for Americans), you can begin to see that work design in contact centers is poor at best.  Scripts, written procedures and standardization entrapped by technology and IVRs does not allow for the absorption of the variety of demand customers pose to agents.  To overcome these problems with variety different thinking must be present.

Contact center managers have learned the wrong lessons about how to handle variety and instead built systems that increase costs, lose revenue and ruin culture.  The pursuit has been to manage costs and productivity leading to both increased costs and decreased productivity . . a management paradox.  Most don’t see this paradox because they have not been trained to look.

Costs are not in economies of scale, they are in flow.  The flow can be optimized by a better work design that absorbs variety and designs out the waste.  To do this we need to better understand our systems by performing check.

Looking at the system from the outside-in we can listen to calls and determine the type and frequency of calls from customers.   To get this you need to throw out those computer generated reports from technology as they lack the context needed to get knowledge.  Some will be value and some will be failure demand.  Failure demand for some industries run as high as 75 – 90%.

For each call type determine the customer purpose of the call or what matters to them.  Once understood we now have a failure demand  measure and some customer measures related to customer purpose.  Customer measures are typically systemic and not functional.

Customer measures can be end-to-end times to provide a service, getting an answer from an agent on the first call, failure demand and any of an endless possibilities learned from purpose.  Each set of measures is unique by company and should never be copied from other contact centers.

An understanding of the current design and its performance against customer measures will lead to experimentation with work designs that absorb variety, eliminate failure demand and perform better against customer measures. Centers also get the expense savings of eliminating all that unnecessary monitoring and inspection to arbitrary management dictates.

I have learned many things about the redesign of contact centers.  The functional front/back office design has in many cases gets re-designed.  Whether this is true for your service organization can only be determined by performing check.

Ultimately, customer measures can replace agent scoring.  Better performance follows as putting the customer purpose and measures in an agent’s hands allows them to experiment with method leading to innovation.  Improved culture, productivity and  financial performance will soon follow.

To get this you need to throw out those computer generated reports from technology as they lack the context needed to get knowledge.

To get this you need to throw out those computer generated reports from technology as they lack the context needed to get knowledge.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here.  Download free from “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about how to get started at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at

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