What to look for when buying – a performance management tool


In the latest of our ‘what to look for when buying’ series we look at  Performance Management Tools.  We have asked our panel of experts for their opinions.

By Richard Snow, Ventana Research (www.ventanaresearch.com)


Richard Snow

Richard Snow

In a piece of research I completed recently, it became apparent that companies have very different views on what performance management is, and therefore what a performance management tool should do. As far as Ventana Research is concerned, performance management has three key components: understand, optimise and align.

Understand is quite simply having the right information to comprehend fully what is going on in your organisation, and this applies equally to historic and real-time information. Optimise is about understanding why things happened and what were the outcomes; the analytics and root-cause analysis.  Align is about taking action so that the outcomes are more in line with expectations and business goals; so it is about changing processes, what people do and/or systems.

Top three features

Access to data sources

  • There are far more data sources than many people think. The research showed that on average companies have customer data in 21 different types of systems, everything from the ACD, IVR, business applications, CRM, ERP to tens if not hundreds of spreadsheets maintained by individuals
  • The data comes in all sorts of forms, from structured data in different applications, to unstructured data such as call recordings, text files, scripts from Web and Instant Message  sessions, customer surveys and extracts from social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook
  • The quality of the customer data is questionable, especially in terms of synchronisation across different systems.

Analytics and presentation capabilities – my research shows that one of the absolute key features users are looking for is presentation. Different users want to see the information in formats that are supportive of what they are doing and what information they need to help them make decisions. Some people will be happy with tables, others will want scorecards and dashboards, most will want pretty graphs, and come what may, most will want to drill down into the basic data sources so they can see exactly what was captured.

A true performance management tool will take the additional step of analysing why the information is what it is and what happened to cause the information to be what it is. Really advanced tools go one step further and have modelling capabilities that predict what might happen in the future, using the historic information as a base line, e.g. predicting which customers might churn based on comments received over several phone calls.,

Support for taking action – there have been several people coining the phrase “you can’t improve what you can’t measure” but I like to go one step further and say “it is not worth measuring without action”. A performance management tool should help the organisation take action.

It should include features such as alerts, workflow and collaboration so that when a critical condition is reached someone is alerted and they take action.

Overriding consideration

More and more users need to be in control of what information they receive and in what format they receive it. Therefore, as for most new applications, once the system has been initially set up by the IT department, the tool should be easily configurable by users, with defined rules, so they see what they want, in the format they want it, and when they want it.


By Paul Weald, RXPerience Limited

Paul Weald

Paul Weald

Despite the plethora of available technologies that provide information about agent performance – time spent on phone; balanced scorecards; quality scores, etc. the one vital ingredient in any solution is how well these tools support an agent’s ability to manage themselves. The “holy grail” is self-motivating agents.

Return on investment

As managers we all know that we must get the maximum out of every penny we spend. In times of recession we know that CAPEX budgets are restricted so the opportunity to try something new is limited.  Here in the UK, the call centre industry is mature – with lots of technology solutions available.

  • Call Quality – voice recording
  • Workforce Management – schedule adherence
  • Balanced Scorecard – KPI reporting
  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys – Mystery Shopping … and more.

All of these tools are intended to give managers information that will enable them to make adjustments and changes to the way they operate in order to achieve greater effectiveness and efficiency in the operation. But how do these tools impact the staff who have to use them every day? Do they motivate agents so that they see the rewards of their efforts immediately?

Is it about the money?

Is a bonus scheme necessary to reinforce these high levels of employee engagement? Well, we have found that the answer here lies in behavioural science – with individual actions controlled or influenced most by immediate consequences. A pay rise is immediate. Your boss praising you is immediate. But when that immediacy is lost, there is nothing new or additional to compel that behaviour any longer. The scientists tell us that the absence of continual immediate consequences is usually the first and the biggest breakdown in an employee’s self-motivating behaviour.

Agents therefore need to be informed throughout the day how they are performing against what is expected of them. It doesn’t have to change their salaries, but it does need to have some form of immediate reward and recognition.

The role for technology

How can technology help achieve this?  For the past couple of years we have tracked the rise in the US of a software tool that we believe addresses these fundamental issues of agent performance. Called Agent00, and now available here in the UK, it provides real-time performance information –  immediate feedback to agents throughout their shift on how they are meeting the goals of what is expected – a minimum level of achievement with stretch targets in order to achieve additional rewards. This supports incentive schemes that provide positive immediate consequences – where agents’ actions are directly impacted by having a meaningful outcome for the individual.

Whilst there are many tools on the market that support performance management, we believe the vital ingredient is the reaction it creates in staff at the front line of dealing with customer interactions.


By Tiffany Mannion, Account Executive, PerformanceEdge Group, Aspect (www.aspect.com)

Tiffany Mannion

Tiffany Mannion

Performance management (PM) provides adaptable frameworks and is playing an increasingly important role in driving rapid improvements across sales, collections, and customer service functions, and helping centres deliver against their strategic objectives.

The key to successful PM is not just to provide scorecards, reports and analytics.  Contact centres need tools that drive actions, not just those that report on results.

Advanced PM capabilities can initiate and track best-practice actions automatically in response to an indication of a performance problem, and enable structured processes through which companies can take steps to improve overall performance against key metrics.  Executives can immediately see performance issues in their organisation and track their resolution.

Key capabilities include:

  • Automated Workflows to ensure performance data is actioned in a consistent and best-practice approach.
  • Customisable Forms to capture, measure and report on processes and procedures.
  • Business Configuration tools to enable business users to adapt the framework on the fly to satisfy changing business needs.

Nothing is beyond assessment.  With advanced PM capabilities, everything that the business is spending time on can be aligned with and support initiatives – including existing processes and procedures.


By Jason Sparks, Commercial Director, ProtoCall One

Performance management tools should help to monitor and enhance performance across all three core contact centre components: people, process and technology.

But in order to achieve top performance contact centre metrics need to be analysed meticulously so you can make key decisions fast to improve employee productivity, increase customer satisfaction and reduce costs.

Key things to look for :

‘Associative’ performance management tools

Traditionally the only way to plough through and make sense of the mountains of sales, CRM and telephony data was to deploy expensive business intelligence technologies that would take months to retrieve the information from the numerous operational systems.  Even when the information is finally available it’s often too late to be of any real use.

New ‘associative’ performance management tools incorporate in-memory analysis making it faster and easier to pull data from multiple disparate systems to allow analysis of all aspects of contact centre performance. Large data sets can now be analysed by multiple concurrent users at both an aggregate and a detailed level in real time in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional methods. Decision making and action taking in real time is now a reality.

Role-based dashboards

Performance management tools are no longer the domain of the divisional heads and C-level executives. Front line customer service agents need to access, analyse and share customer critical data in order to make the right decisions at the right time to improve the level of service they provide. Role-based dashboards mean agents will typically see their own and their team’s performance metrics like calls answered and call resolutions as well as have access to customer-critical information; contact centre managers can see all key contact centre metrics – like average call handle times, call transfer rates, revenue per agent and cost per contact; and supervisors will have a view of agent metrics so they can identify both high performance staff for reward and those struggling who may need extra training.

Multi channel integration

Performance management tools should be able to give you an integrated view of key metrics across all contact centre channels – IVR, email, Web and phone so you can analyse channel usage and identify where customers could adopt lower cost channels like IVR or Web, or where they abandon these methods in favour of talking to a real life agent.

Author: Jo Robinson

Published On: 24th Jun 2009 - Last modified: 13th Oct 2017
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  • Four writers and a reasonable consensus … :-)!!

    Tiffany says “Contact centres need tools that drive actions, not just those that report on results” – I am certain that is the key, and the key actions are those taken by the agents.

    Jason says “Decision making and action taking in real time is now a reality.” Again the best results are when the AGENTS make the decisions and take the ACTIONS that result in improvement.

    As Paul confirms “Whilst there are many tools on the market that support performance management, we believe the vital ingredient is the reaction it creates in staff at the front line of dealing with customer interactions.”

    Jonty recently asked in this publication for our ideas on the “next big thing” in contact centres – this is it! Empowering the AGENT to make DECISIONS and take ACTION for improvement based on a real-time awareness of their own performance and it’s impact on their reward.

    I could end with “watch this space” – but prefer “be a part of it”.

    Thanks for four excellent views.


    David Brown 25 Jun at 16:26
  • Hi

    Do you have any statistics you are able to share regarding the positive impacts of implementing performance management tools? In particular if there is any immediate uplift?

    Many thanks

    Lynette Francis 2 Jul at 08:06