Driving performance

Driving performance

Providing excellent service and support is probably the most challenging objective for a company. It requires offering constant attention and responsiveness to customer requests, which are delivered using the most fragile, expensive and unpredictable tool of all: your service reps.

Enter workforce performance management, a category of apps that complements traditional CRM and payroll solutions with tools to define measurable customer service goals for employees and to monitor and reward their performance.

We focused our review on Blue Pumpkin Software's Advisor, a complement to its Activity Manager solution and part of a related suite of enterprise apps.

The two solutions from Blue Pumpkin provide companies with tools to make the most of their staff, arguably the most expensive and vital link to their customers. Managers can define and monitor practical service metrics, and employees can expect unbiased, factual recognition of their work.

Although adopting self-service CRM solutions can reduce the number of interactions between customers and your reps, some customers prefer - and many service issues are better served by - a personal touch. At the end of the day, the level of professionalism, skill and performance of your service reps makes or breaks the quality of your customer service.

Advisor has the ambitious objective of extracting performance metrics from a variety of front-office and back-office applications, with the ultimate goal of better supporting customer service objectives by using a system of scorecards to monitor how well employees meet their goals.

Obviously, this makes for a complex installation that has to solve some challenging business issues, including identifying which company goals the solution should address and what external data should be used to accomplish this task. Indeed, Blue Pumpkin estimates an average implementation time of six to eight weeks.

To start, we defined an overall goal - "improve customer service" - and assigned specific supporting activities for each department. We limited performance indicators to surveys that test customer satisfaction and service cases that drag on for a long time.

We limited our example to these two, but in real life you could have hundreds of activities spread across several departments and assigned to many employees, which makes it difficult for managers to communicate their goals and even more difficult to monitor that their reports are effectively pursuing those objectives.

To help managers organise their data and efforts, Advisor uses a system of scorecards that provides metrics to measure the actual improvement on each activity and the progress made toward the overall objective by each department and employee.

Advisor's browser-contained GUI makes setting up goals and metrics easy, thanks to a user-friendly interface and management tools that accurately replicate your organisation's structure. Logged in as administrators, we had a bird's-eye view of our fictional company, including divisions, departments, and employees.

Several tabs allowed us to modify or add departments and users. The configuration tab opens a hierarchical view of the company's objectives and offers the option to add more objectives and performance indicators to measure them. Adding an objective was a no-brainer: we selected the target organisation from the left pane (the whole company or a specific department) and filled out a short form in the right pane.

Next we added the performance indicators for that objective. We chose "new" from the KPI (key performance indicator) screen, chose the objective "improve customer service", and named the KPI "customer satisfaction index". To indicate how to measure customer satisfaction, we chose a monthly review and found a "customer satisfaction score" value on a ready-to-use list of values from Advisor's databases. After selecting a range of desirable values for that indicator and saving the KPI, we were done.

This is where the time spent integrating Advisor with other applications' data will pay off: in the product database you'll find the critical data needed to measure progress. Advisor also has a powerful feature for creating complex formulae to extrapolate new values from its database. Plus, you can group all KPIs related to the same objective in a scorecard and sort them by importance.

When we changed hats and logged in as customer service manager, the new objective was added to others on our main screen. Selecting an objective opens a captivating and intuitive scorecard with our KPIs showing how successfully we are handling that objective.

The scorecard's happy face/sad face metaphor is based on actual data for that department. When logged in as a customer service employee, a similar metaphor shows how well a particular employee is working toward the goal by solving service cases within the time defined by the objective.

We found Blue Pumpkin's capability of setting and propagating measurable objectives throughout the most complex company structure invaluable. Properly implemented, Advisor can offer a moral boost, inject some discipline in your service staff, and make your expensive CRM implementation flourish at last.

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