Customer service staffing accounts for 67-76 percent of the total cost of running a contact center, according to Strategic Contact. To get a positive return on this hefty investment, you need to be sure your customer service reps (CSRs) are doing their job as well as possible. But how?

This question gets to the heart of an issue that’s dogged companies for years. As technology has improved, analytics and reporting have become much more robust. It’s easy, for instance, to tell how much time an agent spends on the phone or in a live chat, or how many customer touches he or she handles on a given day. But it’s a lot harder to turn that raw data into results.

Fortunately, it’s not impossible.

Customer Service Analytics vs. Performance Management

Here at Velaro, we draw a rather clear line between analytics and reporting and performance management. The former gives you numbers; the latter gives you the tools to do something about them, primarily through “coachable moments.”

Imagine, for instance, an agent who’s spending an inordinate amount of time in live chats with website visitors, yet consistently receives high marks from customers in post-chat surveys. He’s obviously solving their problems – and doing it quickly enough that they’re not frustrated. What’s going on?

With traditional live help analytics, there’s pretty much no way to know. You can ask the CSR, but he probably doesn’t have an answer. He’s making customers happy, but he’s also a drain on efficiency (and ROI from that huge labor spend). It’s tough.

With performance management capabilities in hand and coachable moments in mind, things are different. In this case, you can review transcripts of the agent’s chats as soon as you recognize the disparity between length of chat session (usually an indicator that problems aren’t being solved) and positive post-chat surveys. Turns out, the CSR is resolving customers’ issues as quickly as anyone on staff … then turning the chat to unrelated topics. He’s a gregarious guy, and he loves chitchat about the weather, the big game, a shared love of cats – whatever. He’s friendly enough, so customers love him. But it’s still a waste of time.

If your website live help platform allows for chat shadowing and private messaging, you can correct the issue without negatively impacting the agent’s knack for creating customer happiness. You, the manager, can watch his chats in real time. When he begins to veer off topic, you can provide a gentle reminder (to his eyes only) to stay focused. A pleasantry or two is fine; being friendly with customers rather than cold and mechanical is absolutely a good thing. But spending half an hour chatting about Game of Thrones isn’t what you want or need from your CSRs. By addressing aberrant behavior as soon as it arises, you can slowly coach the agent and create positive, lasting change.

The Limits of Performance Management

Of course, this kind of performance management isn’t for every company or manager. Small organizations with only one or two CSRs might not have the staff or time necessary to devote to identifying and acting on coachable moments. Likewise, large organizations that have simply accepted extreme turnover in the contact center as a fact of life might not care.

The sweet spot is in the middle. Live chat performance management is for organizations that:

  • Place a high degree of emphasis on customer service;
  • Recognize the potential ROI generated by a well-trained, effective agent, and;
  • Have knowledgeable, hands-on contact center supervisors.

In this kind of organization, the ability to methodically change behavior and gently improve CSR performance is absolutely invaluable. Agents, after all, are expensive. Why not get the most out of them?