KPI’s and Goals – Let’s Open the Discussion

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1Industry regardless, business leaders start looking for the silver bullet and changing matrixes for measuring performance every year.  Except, too often, the goals are not SMART, and the KPI’s are disconnected from the goals, making the goals nothing more than good suggestions.  Worse, too many business leaders forget to make goals SMART, and the goals fail faster than New Year’s Resolutions.  It cannot be understated; KPI’s need to be made SMART and go hand-in-hand with SMART goals to build performers.

KPI’s

Key performance indicators (KPI’s) are actions that build behaviors and are reflected in data collected.  SMART KPI’s are specific, measurable, applicable, relevant, and task-oriented.  For call centers, a SMART KPI is designed with a specific and singular action that can be reliably measured, appropriately articulated as achievable, is relevant to the agent and relevant to the call centers strategic goals, and is based upon a task.

A typical KPI in call centers is After-Call Handling (ACH); this is time measured between hanging up with one customer and beginning a new call.  The tasks completed might include leaving call notes, faxing/emailing documents, completing paperwork for the customer, etc.  How do we create ACH as a SMART KPI; we follow the pattern below:

      • Specific – ACH ranges between 0 and 120 seconds.
      • Measurable – ACH can be anywhere in the 0-120 second range, faster being better.
      • Achievable – Do your processes for servicing customer requests support front-line agents quickly completing tasks?
      • Relevant – Does measuring ACH make sense as an integral part of the call center’s operations?
      • Task-Oriented – Do agents know how to manage their after-call handling to meet the maximum ACH?

What do I see too often in call centers where KPIs are concerned; dumb KPIs masquerading as SMART KPIs and leaving destruction and chaos as a consequence.  Why?  Because the KPI might be based upon a task, but it has not been reviewed as achievable, actionable, and relevant to the organization in more than a decade.  In discussing KPIs with a call center leadership team, a leader stated, quite proudly, “Our KPIs don’t need to be revised; they have served us well since 2000 when the company launched.”  For the record, if any process, procedure, or business action is not written down, with a single person responsible and revised at a maximum of every 18-months, your processes and procedures ARE THE PROBLEMS in your business!What Are SMART Goals and Why Are They Important? - Business 2 Community

After evaluating processes at a local hospital recently, some of their processes, standard work that protects patients from getting sick while in hospital, weren’t written down, and those written down were drafted in the 1980s!  Nurses running around claiming they were doing their job according to hospital policy could not find written standards for work; genetic knowledge was passed along and changed by the current leader in charge.  When asked why the processes were not written down, lawyers and the risk of litigation were the excuses.

In a warehouse, desperately struggling with improving performance to protect bottom-line health, claimed any changes to their standards of work had to be approved by HR.  HR uses the 70% rule; if 70% of the workers cannot meet the standard, the standard does not move or reduces until 70% of the workforce meets the standard.  What has the 70% rule bred; standards so low the company is losing money, hemorrhaging good and talented people for the dregs of society who have zero incentive to improve how they perform their jobs.  Raising the following issue with KPI’s, they should be designed to stretch the employee.How to Make Sure Your Goals Are High Impact - Business With Impact - Medium

Relevant KPI’s protect against measuring behaviors and punishing production.  KPI’s must change actions, and actions are a direct result of attitudes and behaviors shifting.  Thus, a SMART KPI is a growing experience where meeting the KPIs inspires individual growth and development.  However, a KPI is NOT a stick to browbeat, cajole, or destroy workers.  KPI’s are always a training device.  The discussion of KPI-centered goals should be a two-directional conversation between a manager and an employee where the manager shows the employee how to change behavior to meet the KPI.

GOALS

In goal setting, SMART changes slightly; however, the changes do not hinder KPIs from being included but promote KPIs being integral to SMART goals.  A goal is a method of grabbing opportunities and learning.  How does one learn; they change their behaviors into changeable actions, and learning is inspired.  SMART KPIs help to direct those actions, and a SMART goal is a goal that is:

      • Specific – A single action, simply stated.
      • Measurable – An action broken down into rates, times, or repetitions, producing a number.
      • Achievable – Can the goal setter bring the action into reality?
      • Realistic – How many people can make reality from goals, EVERYONE, provided we plan properly to take a desire and build a plan to achieve it.
      • Timely – What is the deadline, and can it be achieved?

A friend of mine has struggled with quitting smoking and losing weight.  Every year, the same New Years’ resolution, same goals, same failure shortly after starting.  Why the goal is never SMART, the goal is always, “I’m going to lose weight and quit smoking.”  When asked, my friend claims this is a SMART goal.  Here is how I suggested my friend restate his goal to become SMART:

      • Specific – I am going to quit smoking.
      • Measurable – Right now, I smoke 40-cigarettes a day; I want to cut back to 35 cigarettes, then 30, and drop by five cigarettes a month.
      • Achievable – My friend has proven he cannot “Cold-Turkey” from cigarettes, but he has proven he can cut back.
      • Realistic – My friend knows he can quit smoking, but how he quits remains the difficulty.
      • Timely – How fast will he quit?

The final SMART goal in 2018 was, “By the end of 2020, I will have quit smoking, by reducing my monthly intake by five cigarettes month-over-month until I am no longer smoking.”  While my friend has not quit smoking yet, the SMART goals have helped him mark progress towards his goal, and making progress in his KPIs keeps him motivated to achieve his goals.  What was his KPI; dropping five cigarettes a month of consumption.  Learning how to quit has been my friend’s biggest challenge, not the reality that he can quit, but how to markedly meet progress towards quitting.

Knowledge Check!Is it a problem that my friend has missed his annual goal; no, as he has had to learn to make progress.  The KPI is a target and a task; the goal is learning through applying effort, and together with the SMART KPI and the SMART goal, help achieve a new reality.  The SMART goal without KPIs is a cool aspiration.  The KPI without an overarching goal is wasted efforts, akin to a dog chasing his tail.  What happens when the dog catches his tail and bites down; the dog gets a pain in his rear for all the effort of chasing his tail.

Some practical advice for leaders as they SMARTen their KPIs and goals:

      1. The process is iterative. You are learning; allow yourself time to learn, make mistakes, and keep moving forward.
      2. Failure does not mean scrapping everything and trying something new. Failure means either the KPI or the goal were not SMART enough.  Hold an “After-Action Review,” these meetings are critical to improving the process of SMARTening your KPIs and goals.
      3. Know the why, share the why, lead the why! The “Why” is the most critical aspect in the KPI and Goal setting process; if a person does not know the why, they will never care about the how!
      4. When in doubt, explore the why for answers.
      5. Goals are like water, constantly changing, and cannot be contained and pressurized. You can use the pressure to lift others, but without creating a mess, you cannot stop it.
      6. Phones are digital, and computers are digital; people are analog. Expect people to amaze you, mystify you, and create new opportunities to change your goals and KPIs.
      7. If you think you need help, ask!

Asking for help is a sign of strength, and plenty of people are willing to help you develop; please ask.  I worked for an officer in the US Navy who refused to ask for help; his performance was impeccable because he wrote his evaluation which was then rubber-stamped by the commander.  On the day the charade ended, the cataclysmic disaster was epic.  This officer caved in like an old ashtray—a sad event producing painful consequences for everyone in the command and his leadership chain.  Use the SMARTening process of KPIs and goals as an exercise in growth and development, and the results will surprise you.

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Leading the Call Center – An Invitation

QuestionThere is a question in all corporate training, all industries, every professional position, “What is the value of training?”  Generally followed by “How do I know there is value in training? and the incredibly astute question, “Where is the value in training?”

Leadership is looking sideways and helping those who follow climb up, thus empowering the leader to climb to the next level.  Yet, the lingering doubt remains, “How do I measure success in training?”  Long have I advocated that the leader is a teacher and a learner, which are fundamental to success.  Whether that teaching comes from delegating authority, empowering people to act, or directly teaching someone struggling, the leader is always learning through teaching so they may learn more perfectly.

As part of my research into call center training, it has been discovered that those who receive official training, and those who learn their duties on the fly, have precisely the same chance of being successful; this is an indication of not the power of training, but the motivation of the learning adult.  There is a difference between adults, and the difference is the individual propensity to learn, discover, dig deeper, ask questions, and apply the results pursuing why.  Thus, one would naturally ask, “What is the difference between a learning adult and an adult who actively chooses not to learn?”  I think I know the answer, I have anecdotal evidence that supports my conclusions, but I would like to test these conclusions.

The Invitation

As part of my doctoral degree program, I must conduct research and report the findings.  I am inviting your American-based, English-speaking call center to help me test the assumptions and conclusions for my research.  The business will not be named, the individuals participating will not be named, and the study will occur online and outside regular business hours.  I want to interview 10-15 of your call-taking/front-line contact center employees using online interviewing software.  I want to interview 10-15 call center trainers, also employing online interviewing software.  Finally, I would like to take the information gleaned from the first two groups, sit down in a focus group, discuss what was found with 5-7 senior call center leaders, and glean their information, conclusions, and ideas.

I would ask that those participating in the research have a LinkedIn profile as a tool to verify years of experience.  No single participant would be featured in more than one of the participating groups.  All names of individuals will be hidden behind a participation code, and any identifiable business information will be deleted from the transcripts.  All findings will be reported in aggregate to avoid any identifiable information from potentially leaking into the published research.

Call CenterAs a bonus, those who help through participation, if they are interested, can receive a copy of the finished dissertation via email or physical copy, depending upon their preference.  My purpose in researching the call center is to dynamically review the adult learner in the pressure-cooking learning environment of call centers.  I have worked as an agent and a leader of agents spanning formal education.  The degree does not make the person, nor does a degree make a leader.  What makes the leader is their commitment to learning and teaching.

Please, join my research. Entering the study is possible through emailing msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu.  If you would like to verify my credentials, don’t hesitate to contact my chair Professor Dr. Susan Miedzianowski in the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University, via email: Susan.Miedzianowski@my.gcu.edu.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

The Role of a Call Center Trainer: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

Bobblehead DollI want to express my deepest gratitude to Call Centre Helper Magazine for the opportunity to advertise for my dissertation research.  I once asked a call center leader what a trainer does; their answer still makes me chuckle.

A trainer trains!

Kind of obvious, right.  Now, what does a trainer train?  How does a trainer train?  How does a business leader know the trainer has been successful in training?  What is the purpose of training?  What does training do for those trained?  These questions and the business leaders’ comment have inspired my professional and academic footsteps for several years now.Call Center 2

In early July 2021, I finally received permission to begin human testing for my dissertation.  I have posted several advertisements on social media for call center workers, trainers, and senior leaders to entice 17 people willing to answer some questions about training in call centers, a call center trainer, and what precisely a call center trainer does.  The following is a brief description of the aims and intents of my research to increase interest and hopefully glean the needed participants to finish my study.

Consider for a moment a teacher who has influenced you professionally or personally, and why did they make such an impact?  Could a different person have made the same impact?  Why?

The above questions are the crux of my research; to date, the role of the instructor has not been considered a variable in corporate training.  As an adult educator, I find this gap very alarming.  In academia, the teacher’s role has been extensively studied, and opinions abound regarding the role of the teacher.  Yet, in a professional setting, no researcher has addressed this gap to date.  With the push to move all training to computer-based solutions in autonomous environments, if the trainer does not teach corporate knowledge and behaviors, who does?

Call Center BeansIn researching the history of professional training, the model employed has not changed since a master taught journeyman who led novice instruction.  Yet, with technology, global populations, cultures, language, and globe-spanning organizations, the role of the trainer seems to continue to take a back seat.  Yet, if a corporate trainer profoundly influenced you professionally, would you not want that experience for another person?

Due to the restrictions on human testing in research, I cannot change the dry legalese of the advertisements.  I know they are long, tedious, and challenging to get through.  However, if you are interested, please get in touch with me directly using:

Msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu

Please note, to participate, you will need the following:

      • Work in an English Speaking Call Center with a home base in the United States.
      • Have a LinkedIn account (This is for verification of professional qualifications only).
      • Speak English like a native.
      • Be willing to answer demographic questions, including time in the current role, education, and so forth.
      • Be willing to elaborate upon your answers. I will ask you some questions about your experiences; please provide details, depth, and descriptions as your answer.

Knowledge Check!Important to note, your name and business will never be mentioned in my dissertation!  I am not collecting any personal data beyond education and years of experience.  Any direct quotes employed will carry no connecting data, and no one will see your details.

Thank you for considering joining me in my dissertation research.  I look forward to publishing this research and discussing the findings with you in later articles.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

Call Center Senior Trainers – Focus Group

Date: 19 July 2021

Andragogy - The PuzzleI am a doctoral candidate under the direction of Professor Dr. Susan Miedzianowski in the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University. My name is Michael D. “Dave” Salisbury. I am conducting a research study to explore the trainer’s specific influence on employees’ development in an English-speaking call center based on a clear understanding of the trainer’s role.

You can participate if you can answer “Yes” to all of the following questions.

      • Do you speak English?
      • Do you live and work in the United States?
      • Are you employed in an English-speaking call center?
      • Do you have an updated LinkedIn.com profile (for verification purposes only)?
      • Are you willing to answer demographic questions about your age, level of education, years of experience in the call center industry, years in your current call center, and your current job title?
      • Are you an adult over the age of 18?
      • Do you have a trainer/senior trainer title, or are you expected to train or supervise call center trainers in your current role?
      • Do you have more than six years in the call center industry?
      • Are you willing to be audio recorded using ZOOM online software?

If you answer “No,” to any of these questions, you cannot participate in the focus group. I will verify your eligibility via your LinkedIn.com Profile before the focus group meets.

The activities for this research project will include:

If you are eligible to be in this focus group, you will be asked to:

      • What:
        • Meet with other similarly qualified professionals via Zoom, approximately 90 minutes, video and audio recorded.
        • Answer the demographic questions honestly.
        • Answer a series of questions regarding how a call center trainer has influenced you. As well as what you think a call center trainer does.
        • Review a job description of the call center trainer’s role.
        • Review data collected during interviews for completeness.
      • When: On the date and time discussed via email.
      • Where:com online meeting.
      • How: Using your home computer or Internet-capable device, connecting with Zoom.com.

Your participation in this study is voluntary.

An alias will protect all data in this study during the recording of the actual interview and in the documents by using an alpha-numeric code to tie your email address and hide any potential method to track your responses back to you.  All information reported in the dissertation will be in a collated format so individual data cannot be tracked to any single participant.

If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact:
M. Dave Salisbury
(435-219-5414)
msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu

Thank you!

Calling for Call Center Employees and Junior Call Center Trainers

Date: 19 July 2021

Call Center Agent - MaleI am a doctoral candidate under the direction of Professor Dr. Susan Miedzianowski in the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University. My name is Michael D. “Dave” Salisbury. I am conducting a research study to explore the trainer’s specific influence on employees’ development in an English-speaking call center based on a clear understanding of the trainer’s role.

I am recruiting individuals that meet these criteria:

      • Do you speak English?
      • Do you live and work in the United States?
      • Are you employed in an English-speaking call center?
      • Do you have an updated LinkedIn.com profile (for verification purposes only)?
      • Are you willing to answer demographic questions about your level of education, years of experience in the call center industry, years in your current call center, and your current job title?
      • Are you an adult over the age of 18?
      • Are you willing to be audio-recorded using ZOOM online software?

You cannot be in this study if you answer “No,” to any of these questions; you cannot participate in the interviews. I will verify your eligibility before setting up the interview.

The activities for this research project will include:

If you are eligible to be in this study, you will be asked to:

      • What:
        • You agree to answer the demographic questions honestly.
        • Be interviewed, via Zoom, for approximately 60 minutes, audio-recorded, or if comfortable, video recorded, your choice.
        • Answer a series of questions regarding how a call center trainer has influenced you. As well as what you think a call center trainer does.
        • Review a generic job description and comment upon what is contained and whether you would add or subtract anything.
      • When: On a convenient date and time discussed via email.
      • Where:com online meeting.
      • How: Using your home computer or Internet-capable device, connecting with Zoom.com.

Your participation in this study is voluntary.

An alias will protect all data in this study during the recording of the actual interview and in the documents using an alpha-numeric code to hide your email address and hide any potential method to track your responses back to you.  All information reported in the dissertation will be in a collated format so individual data cannot be tracked to any single participant.

If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact:
M. Dave Salisbury
(435-219-5414)
msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu

Thank you!