The Method of Micro Pacing

The Water Gun Game

In the call center where I work, we try to build a good working relationship especially the relationship between the supervisor and their agents. We know that our closest link to the agents is their immediate superior and to empower our agents, we have to let their supervisors motivate them. We don’t want to judge the capacity of our people by just looking at the numbers (e.g. QA scores, AHT, service level, etc.). Gallup latest survey found employees who agreed that their supervisor focused on their strengths and personally motivates them, active disengagement fell dramatically to 1%. What’s more, nearly two-thirds 61% of these employees were engaged and only 38% are not engage. Whereas, those employees who are ignored by their supervisors, 51% are not engage, 40% are actively disengage, and only 2% are still engage employees. In the same manner, we believe that if we empower our agents to do better, the numbers that our software is giving us will be a lot more pleasing to look at.

Today, I’d like to talk about one way how we improve our agents performance. One responsibility that our supervisors play when they are on the calling floor is what we call “micro pacing.” Micro Pacing is managing the agents by every half-hour increment to maximize results. This is the process in which coaches can effect the now, or in other words, every hour of the day. This can be done in a variety of ways. Some include:

  • Set small hourly goals with each agent

  • Initial small hourly games with only a couple of individuals

The key to micro pacing is setting individual goals with agents. In goal setting, it is important to remember the following six steps:

  1. Create the Desire

    1. This is the great motivator that pushes people to achieve their goals

  2. Establish a Belief

    1. Help the agent believe without a doubt that they have the ability to achieve the goal

  3. Write it Down

    1. A good rule of thumb is this: until a goal is committed to paper, it is not a goal. Writing it down solidifies the goal.

  4. Analyze

    1. Help the agent determine where they are currently in regards to the goal, and determine what help they need to accomplish the goal.

  5. Set a Deadline

    1. Set the point when the goal can be accomplished.

  6. Follow-Up

    1. By following up with the individual regularly, it will help them remained focused on the goal so that they can accomplish it.

In addition to goal setting, Micro Pacing involves constant interaction with the agents. This interaction, though remaining professional, will help establish a fun energetic atmosphere that encourages high performance.

This means that supervisors don’t just sit in their stations looking at their computer screens with no human interaction to their agents. If you pay a visit to our calling floors, you will see supervisors roaming around, sitting beside the agent, doing side by side monitoring and coaching, and sometimes, you will even see supervisors laughing with the agents when they are avail. A good call center software that provides enormous real time performance data, with increased level of visibility is great for a call center. But if we don’t know how to interpret those data and make use of them, we still can’t improve our performance level and our productivity.

You might say that this work is too much for one supervisor managing several agents to finish. You might even think that maybe the stress level of our supervisors are higher than most. With all the reports they need to submit, all the agent metrics they need to monitor plus their own stats that they need to pass, I can say our supervisors are pretty busy than the most. However, since they are happy with what their doing, stress is not even at their vocabulary. I know this because I’ve been in the calling floor also and until now I’m still connected with my previous supervisors. I still attend to all those team-buildings even if I’m not at their team anymore. I must say, I’m quite a busy person too because those team-buildings and team night outs happen very often, almost every weekend or every day off. And we don’t care much if those events are company paid or not. In fact, I can’t call those trips as team-building but site-building because the attendees are not only from one team or one campaign. It’s always comprise of different people from different teams, different campaigns, from manager down to agent level. You can add to my schedule the chit chats with a cup of coffee. One of my supervisor before even volunteered to be my watcher when I was hospitalized even if I wasn’t on her team any longer.

Stress is always present wherever you go and whatever work you do. But if there’s also one thing that keeps on motivating me, that is here, I didn’t only find a job. I found real good friends, I found a family. Thanks to the “company culture” that we share, for teaching us that no matter how improved the technology we are using, good human interaction and good relationship with each other is still the best way to motivate us to do better. 

The Human Side of Customer Service

Have you received a call from a very upset customer where you can actually feel the anguish down to your bones even if he/she is not really in front of you? Your customers actually knows that your product or service is not perfect and it’s not what really angers them. It’s no secret that most irate (upset) customers are upset because of long holds, tons of automated messages advertising the brand before they can actually talk to a live person only to find out that the representative they were able to get hold of cannot help them and they need to be transferred to different other departments where they’ll have to explain their concern over and over again. If you’re the last representative to receive the call, then you need a BIG GOOD LUCK because you will suffer the wrath of the universe!

Truths about customer service and call centers

  • 72% of all customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent – Harris

  • 94% of customers do not want to be transferred to another representative more than once – Mobius Poll 2002

  • 84% of customers are frustrated when a representative does not have immediate access to their account information – Mobius Poll 2002

  • 69% said they were on hold for too long – Harris

  • 85% of consumers are dissatisfied with their phone experience – Gartner

  • It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience – “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner

  • Research shows that a 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company – Bain & Co.

Now let’s review how we are providing solution to these problems. I’ve seen supervisors and managers who judges their agents by the metrics (Management by Spreadsheet). Brands pressure’s their agents to pass the average handling time which is sad to say, sometimes unrealistic. Encourages their agents to empathize to their customers by providing them word for word scripts and punishes them when they do otherwise. Highlights the importance of first call resolution but fails to provide all the information that their agents need.

You mights say I’m a little pessimistic especially for someone who works in a call center but do you think the customers dissatisfaction mentioned above just sprang up from nowhere without any reason at all? Contrary to what you maybe thinking, I love my job, I honestly do. What I am saying is that there are loopholes in the current customer service process and those holes will continue to get it bigger and bigger if not solved. Customers are getting more and more upset each day for those who continuous to be adamant in the matter. But for those who will get it right will surely gain a lot of loyal customers and brand advocates and will be the next big thing in the world of business.

Today we have a lot of crm systems and call center software’s that provides huge amount of data that will enable us to predict customer behavior, develop better trends and practice in customer service, strengthens our workforce management strategies, provides real time performance data, suits our business needs in a lower cost, etc. There are also huge amount of information circulating online on how to retain customers and attract new ones. Like reward your loyal customers. Give them freebies and perks for signing up to you and a discount if they renew their contract. Don’t make it difficult for your customers to contact your customer service department and make sure you have enough representatives to help them with their concerns. It may cost your business a little but as a marketing strategy, it’s free! I’m sure you would really love to see more customer advocates that refers your product or service to their friends and relatives like you’re more controversial than Gossip Girl. And all these because your customers know that YOU never stop trying to provide the best customer experience to them.

In Our Pursuit to Provide Excellent Customer Service

Working in a call center for several years already, it is inevitable sometimes to be frustrated whenever I encounter difficult customers, those customers who wouldn’t listen, those customers who will continually ask you the same questions that you’ve answered several times before. Now that I’m not taking calls anymore, I realized that customers are calling because they need help. Customers are calling because the product or service offered by the company we represent is not what they expected or less than what they expected. Customers get even more upset because they need to wait on long holds before they can actually talk to a real person. As a result, customers vent out their frustrations to the agent and the agent takes it personally, that’s where miscommunication happens. It will then turn out to be a long and low quality call. Based from the numbers, it will be interpreted as if the agent did not perform, which is not so motivating on the agents end.

We then revised our quality guidelines and lowered our handling time goal. Performed daily monitoring thinking it will motivate the agents to be better because they know they are being monitored. But the numbers are still not improving, we were stuck on low quality and high handling time. Then it hit us, we thought that we had all the answers but what if it was the questions we had wrong on the first place? That forced us to evaluate our shortcomings from the very roots!

We started changing our perspective about the issue. We up-trained our agents, not just how to memorize the script but we encouraged them to be more engaging. We emphasized understanding to be a key factor. Let them imagined themselves to be the customer, how frustrated would they feel if they experienced the same thing?

We also change our call center software to ClearView, a more up to date software that provides visibility and transparency more than the previous software we are using. You may think that the software don’t matter that much but in reality it can improve more than 50% of your productivity. ClearView brought new levels of visibility and accountability to all levels of our organization. It increased agent and management accountability and created a culture of continuous development essential to meeting business goals. Part of it’s numerous features is that the agent himself can view his real time performance, if he is on goal or not. This motivated the agent to reach the goals and be more competitive, it was actually so much more motivating than the knowledge of being monitored. And since it provides a fast real time data, we were able to identify the agents who are not reaching the goals, coached them as soon as the call flow permits us. The numbers started to look like rainbow, it was colorful and full of life.

I admit that we are not perfect. I don’t know if we will even reach perfection in this fast changing world. However, our pursuit to provide world class customer experience is continually progressing and we will not stop trying!

For more inquires about ClearView, visit http://www.clearviewlive.com.

INTRODUCING: CLEARVIEW and ClearViewlive.com A revolutionary cloud based Performance Management Solution

INTRODUCING: CLEARVIEW and ClearViewlive.com A revolutionary cloud based Performance Management Solution

ClearView is a ground breaking work force optimization solution created for call centers by call centers. ClearView brings new levels of visibility and accountability to all levels of your organization. By increasing agent and management accountability ClearView creates a culture of continuous development essential to meeting business goals.

For additional information, just visit http://www.clearviewlive.com.