Performance Management Best Practices

Overview and Benchmarks

The ultimate goal of Talkdesk Performance Management is to improve agent performance over time.  Having a clear understanding of the scope, methods, and best practices around performance management will ensure that contact center management efforts and messaging align with the technical capabilities of your Talkdesk solutions. 


Industry Benchmarks for standard, widely-used KPIs such as Customer Satisfaction, Schedule Adherence, and Quality Evaluation Scores are available through various market research studies, typically by industry verticals, such as healthcare, banking & financial services, and more.


KPIs such as Contact Volumes handled, AHT, and many others will vary greatly from business to business, even within industry verticals. For example, the size and sophistication of a company can impact how contact volume is distributed across channels such as email, chat, SMS, and others.  AHT can differ based on the types of calls or nature of the call content, and type of business. For example, a call to schedule an appointment at a doctor’s office compared with a hospital will vary due to their inherent differences in complexity, even though both are in the same industry vertical of healthcare.

A best practice is to benchmark these internally using formulae and approaches that exactly match those that will be used to measure the actual agent performance.  Aligning approaches and methodologies will reduce uncertainty and differences in actual results vs. the anticipated results.



Management-Facing KPIs

Some measures are important to be assessed at an agent level, but should typically only be visible to management.  Measures that fall into this category include Occupancy and Utilization.


Occupancy is a measure of how busy an agent is, and is a result of staffing levels and the volume of work presented to the employee. If occupancy is too high, agents will have little to no pause between handling contact and face burnout.  As a result, the business will struggle with unnecessary attrition.  If occupancy is too low, it may also be a consequence of an agent not being skilled properly, or perhaps customers simply are not contacting the organization during the measured interval. Low occupancy can result in boredom and a lack of employees engagement and may be associated with work avoidance, but this is best monitored via other, more direct approaches. 


Utilization is a KPI similar to Occupancy, but typically focused on a percentage of the agent’s time that is specifically billable.  Utilization is like Occupancy because the agent’s behavior can influence the result, however, he cannot directly control the result.  It is important to measure KPIs like Occupancy and Utilization for overall staffing management and budgeting, but they should not be presented directly to employees; employees should focus on tasks within their direct control.


Performer-Facing KPIs

Most measures are important to share with individual performers, as well as being visible for management analysis. Providing performer visibility introduces special considerations for some measures.

Schedule Adherence

The KPI of Adherence Percentage requires special consideration, especially with respect to goal setting, and, in particular, over-incentivizing perfect Adherence.  Adherence is a measure of how closely an agent follows their schedule.  Contact Centers new to adherence will typically find their baseline adherence to be below 80%.  This is fairly routine due to poor schedule maintenance and lax attitudes towards timeliness by employees.  With adherence monitoring in place, well-managed scheduling, and attentive employees, adherence scores in the range of 85-95% are common.

Certain factors will drive this percentage lower, such as long calls, which make it difficult for employees to go to breaks/lunches/meetings on time.  “Busy” schedules with lots of scheduled task-switching activities, meetings, training sessions, etc. will also increase the number of opportunities to be out of adherence and drive the overall results lower.

An adherence goal of 100% is never advisable, and in particular, any goals over 95% are likely to result in undesirable behavior.  Consider the following example:

  • An employee has a standard 8-hour paid shift (480 minutes) with a call Average Handle Time of 5 minutes. The employee’s typical schedule includes two paid breaks, one unpaid lunch, and one other scheduled event.

Opportunities to be out of adherence:

  1. Break 1.
  2. Lunch.
  3. Break 2.
  4. Event.

Assuming the agent is 90% occupied, they will end up leaving a bit early for events sometimes, and actually getting stuck on a call the other times (resulting in them being late unless they give up part of their break.)  Assuming the agent incurs 5 minutes of violation for each event, on average this would place them at (480-20)/480 = 95.8 percent adherence.  So meeting a 95% goal might be possible in this kind of environment, it allows no leeway for other minor variations that would be expected as part of the agent’s day, such as taking a quick bathroom visit (which is typically allowed in short durations, even if not specifically authorized outside normally scheduled breaks).

Adherence goals above 95% will typically result in agents manipulating status codes or events in order to depart for their events at the exact second they are scheduled.  This can include unneeded time in ACW, dragging out Talk Times, and other unwanted behaviors. Another unwanted behavior is excessive complaining, requests for authorization, or requests to have scheduled events retroactively updated to the exact minute, resulting in a misrepresentation of the original schedule plan.


Trending and Data Analysis

Monitoring individual and team performance with trends is critical to understanding short-term and long-term changes in agent performance, both at individual and group levels.  Reporting specifically on these, allows a differentiation between broader conditions that affect everyone’s performance, compared with changes at the individual level.

Broader conditions that affect performance can include market conditions, changes to business tools and processes, and many others, such as training initiatives.  Personal conditions that influence performance can include individual coaching and development efforts, or personal issues that affect performance in the workplace. 

In general, lower-performing centers should target higher percentage improvements, whereas higher-performing centers should target less aggressive improvements.


Development and Coaching

The primary purpose of coaching is to communicate opportunities for performance improvement with the agent.  This improvement falls along a spectrum starting with meeting bare-minimum work expectations, incrementally improving performance within a range of acceptable work performance all the way up to maintaining peak performance.  Goals for employees should always be challenging but achievable.

A secondary purpose of coaching is to provide documentation for personnel actions, whether disciplinary in nature, educational or promotions. This is especially important if performance coaching is used in response to workplace policy violations, which may not be performance issues, per se.  Coaching practices should always honor company policies and applicable labor laws.

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