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Resist Temptation: Don’t Double Down on Productivity Metrics in WFH Environment

by Allegra Ubbes  |  June 15, 2020  |  Submit a Comment

With most customer service representatives now working from home, many service and support leaders have asked: “how do we monitor our customer service reps in this new environment?” The reason they’re asking is because many service leaders feel a loss of control in their Talent Management activities. The shift to work-from-home (WFH) is forcing leaders to coach, train, and conduct quality monitoring virtually. In addition to managing talent remotely, leaders also feel the pressure to maintain, if not boost, the organization’s productivity metrics.  This results in leaders asking valid questions such as: “How do we prevent productivity from falling completely to the wayside?” or “How do we make sure that our reps are working and not just playing on their cell phones?”.

One might think that a logical solution to our inability to (literally) see our reps hard at work is to double-down on productivity metrics (talk time, calls answered per hour, ASA, etc.). However, we must resist this urge because the repercussions are far greater than any benefit you might reap. In other words, leaders need to ensure that the way they conduct WFH talent management activities does not revert to what we call an “adherence climate” mindset.

Gartner has helped hundreds of service organizations shift to a “network judgement climate”, where reps are focused on knowledge sharing with their teams and feel trusted to use their own judgement in customer conversations.  Network judgment climates perform 50% better than the average contact center. In an adherence climate on the other hand, reps often think about how they are being recorded and monitored, focusing on ways to make their calls shorter rather than providing a good service experience to customers. In our “new normal”, we cannot shift back to an adherence climate mindset, and try and regain a sense of control by monitoring our employees every move.  Instead, we must continue trusting our frontline.

So, what can service leaders do to avoid the adherence climate mindset in the WFH environment? First, ensure you are setting performance expectations with reps and conduct more frequent check-ins with your teams to ask how they’re doing with the WFH transition. The best tool a service leader can leverage that strikes a nice balance of network judgement climate while also monitoring productivity challenges, is the daily workforce management report. This critical report provides you with key metrics to monitor when reps sign on/off (adherence), average talk time (AHT), percent of day waiting or talking  (occupancy), number of calls handled, time spent in (unapproved) AUX state, number of outbound, or transferred calls.  A workforce management report is the perfect way to monitor team productivity and evaluate performance behind the scenes.  It allows you to manage towards the outliers with objective data, helping certain reps to change poor behavior if needed.

Understand that trying to compare performance to pre-pandemic numbers would be like comparing apples to oranges.  Remember, most relocated to WFH quickly, may not have the ideal “office setting” and are also juggling children/home schooling while sharing “desk time” with others.  Flexibility is key to helping your team keep a positive work-life balance, while every day is a learning opportunity, and progress is made one step at a time.

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Tags: contact-center-climate  covid-19  customer-service-and-support  productivity  service-support-talent-management  work-from-home  

Allegra Ubbes
Sr Specialist, Advisory I
4 years at Gartner
2 years IT Industry

As a Sr. Specialist within Gartner for Service and Support, Allegra Ubbes is responsible for supporting and partnering with executives at client organizations to identify and apply insights to their most critical challenges. She provides advice for executives across a number of decision areas, including: Contact center talent management, quality assurance, post contact surveys, loyalty, channel management and service experience measurement.Read Full Bio

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