This blog article takes a quick look at the basics of Business Rules, Business Goals and their relationship to Service Level and Key Performance metrics specific to Contact Centers, defining each and then focusing on some “Best Practices” for ensuring operational efficiency and optimization with some Hints and Tips;
The Basics of Business Rules and Business Goals
Any enterprise using Omnichannel or Unified Communications for Contact Centers to underpin its business/support will have a standard set of Business Rules on which to base the success of their business. Let’s face it – the whole point of a business is to run at a profit and, without the basics of targets and Business Rules aimed at achieving those targets, there is no way to know what is being achieved! Looking at it as the basis on which business is run is quite a straightforward equation; wherever the start position is – the end position must achieve a profit, more commonly known as the “Business Goals”. But that is only the beginning of a much larger set of equations, required to ensure a business is running optimally (on one scale) and isn’t hemorrhaging money (on another scale). Depending on a business model these can range across many areas such as; Marketing, Manufacturing, Sales, Accounts, HR/Payroll and a whole host of other requirements, also referred to as Business Operations.
A balancing act is required to ensure there is more coming in, based on turnover/assets and those Business Rules and Business Goals, than there is going out for Business Operations and other liabilities. The simpler part of these equations for Business Goals are the Sales aspects, which are usually self-evident and, where they are not, that is why businesses employ accountants! The much more complicated aspect is knowing if all of your Business Operations are on course, in line with your Business Goals. Are enterprise operations resourced correctly? Are they effective? Are they optimized? Are they proficient in their tasks? Are the underlying systems operating effectively? Are Business Operations on the right path, to support Business Goals? Quite a lot of the time, especially with larger organizations, it isn’t immediately apparent if a business is doing well – or if those Business Goals are slipping;
This is where a second set of operational metrics comes along which are intended to take the “pulse” of enterprise operations, specifically for Contact Centers. These generally fall under 2 categories;
Contact Center Key Performance Indicator Metrics
Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are devised and implemented to determine strategies for marketing, manufacturing, operations, projects, supply chain management, etc. In the context of Contact Centers, KPI’s are aligned to support resources; correct staffing levels, training, orientation, performance and potentially sales goals against set Business Goals. The term “KPI” in this context may sometimes be (incorrectly) interpreted as an “SLA” (see below) because the operative word here is about “Performance” – and that means getting the best out of the (human) resources available. KPI’s extend across a wide range of resource areas which are generally defined through standard Business Rules for;
- Sales – the absolute number of Sales conducted within a given time period or over a number of pre-defined interactions.
- Interactions/Volumes – generally, this is considered a target for the time between customer request and engagement between resources and customers and the number of interactions handled, per resource.
- Engagement* – the amount of time/effort a resource is engaged in the pursuit of customer interactions, usually in relation to a working day or shift pattern. This frequently includes periods outside of Interactions which are attributed to a workload (After Call Work, etc.)
- Skills – the abilities (and levels of ability) of resources, used to determine both routing and Availability (see below).
- Availability – through resource planning and workforce management forecasting, the expected resource occupancy over a specific period, compared to the Demand (see below).
- Demand – through complex algorithms, the number of specific resource requirements per service.
- Costs – overall, the absolute cost of running operations for the resources required to support Business Goals, on a regular basis.
This list is not exhaustive and, depending on the line of business, many other factors may need to be taken into consideration. But they do all fit the same criteria; they all require Business Rules, meticulous planning and constant monitoring to be able to attain and achieve pre-defined Business Goals.
*Depending on national guidelines, local laws or union-related agreements these types of individual KPI’s may not be available in your country/industry.
Contact Center Service Level (Agreement) Metrics
A Service Level (Agreement) (“SLA”) relates to the availability and operational stability of any underlying technology, platform, system, peripheral or (external) service. As opposed to a KPI, an SLA is generally set as a percentage of operational availability required overall and applied across an agreed time frame. “Slippage” in any area may be considered an “SLA failure”, which directly affects the operational effectiveness within a given time frame. Frequently, external Service Providers (example: “Service C”, above) are subject to SLA’s across the Services or Resources they provide, which means that KPI’s may be “nested” within an SLA target.
Hints and Tips
Each aspect highlighted above should be familiar territory to the majority of business, operational and IT managers operating within a Contact Center environment. However, the act of obtaining the right information and the right time and also getting the balance right is an entirely different proposition. Here are a few hints and tips which may prove useful in “aligning the planets”;
It’s human nature to want to succeed – and to have goals. But those goals must be grounded in reality. A key performance score or a service level which is barely attainable when either fully-staffed or completely optimized is simply impossible to maintain, indefinitely! What can then follow is a series of events which leads to number of “workarounds” – statistical “smoke-and-mirrors” as local attempts are made to make the workload model fit the Business Rules and Goals. To avoid this mischief – and the potential impacts on your Business Goals – consider the following when planning both KPI and SLA metrics and measures;
- Be completely transparent and honest about the KPI and SLA goals that have been set and discuss them openly, as a working group.
- Be prepared to “move the goalposts” if the dynamics supporting the Business Goals are not achievable. That means being susceptible to amending the Business Goals, Business Rules, SLA’s or KPI’s – collectively.
- Consider compartmentalizing your Goals, for each group. A standard KPI across all areas is not always the best approach. Study the dynamics within each working group and this will present you with an average workload that is achievable for them, locally – use that as a basic metric just for them, going forwards.
- Make sure that you understand how your Service Level components interact and impact one another. A “failure” to one system may have an impact on another, which would otherwise be working perfectly. Don’t allow a single SLA failure to propagate across all of your systems, when it is really only one system at fault.
- Where feasible, define your Services to the lowest level possible – be as granular as possible. Where a collection of systems or applications form the essence of a Platform, make sure your SLA metrics measure each system, application, solution, peripheral and connection – not the overall operational readiness or stability/availability of the whole Platform.
- Standardize your metrics and source them through one reporting portal, if possible. The provision of different metrics from different sources inevitably leads to inconsistencies, when checks and measures are applied. Avoid this by having a full Business Intelligence plan for each source, ensuring compatibility. If you can’t achieve that, apply a small differentiator (perhaps as much as 3%) between sources that you are comfortable with, to save time on “sweating the small stuff”.
If you would like to learn more about optimizing or consolidating your existing Contact Center metrics, SLA’s, KPI’s and Business Reporting elements, why not contact a member of the SOFTEL Team, who would be happy to discuss operational effectiveness techniques and service provision.