Now that we are firmly a part of the Information Age, we are drowning in well-meaning, number-driven movements like big data, analytics and business intelligence. As a result of this unrelenting surge of data from the floodgates, however, I find that many of my customers don’t know what to do with all of the information now available to them.
That’s why having a strategic and well-defined reporting mechanism in place is critical. Reports are a great way to distill large quantities of data into organized, actionable insights that can show you how well your systems and processes are performing.
Reporting for Call Centers
In call centers, reports are typically used for two things: measuring performance, or improving efficiency and productivity. For example, many of my government customers are using reports to measure performance to ensure they are meeting their service level agreements (SLAs). Several of my commercial customers, on the other hand, use reports for continuous improvement of their operations and technology.
Those who aren’t using reporting are at a severe disadvantage because they really don’t know how they are performing against their goals.
How One Report Saved Us Hundreds of Dollars a Month
Personally, I love reports.
In fact, creating the perfect report is almost an obsession. I spend hours working on the layout of my report – identifying the cleanest format, selecting the perfect graph, choosing the right colors. I am a big fan of the dashboard, especially if it is able to show me at-a-glance the information I need to see, color coded for my convenience.
But even within my own organization, I see a reluctance to use reports to make decisions. Several months ago, my IT staff approached me requesting approval to increase our internet bandwidth. “People are complaining,” they said. “Our internet is just too slow.”
Well, being the frugal person that I am, I asked to see a report showing the bandwidth utilization of our current internet usage. I wanted to make sure that their decision to increase our internet bandwidth was based upon evidence rather than just intuition. I also wanted to understand who were the biggest users of the internet traffic and what they were using it for.
When I finally got the report, it came along with an apology.
You see, when they finally ran a report and examined the traffic patterns, they found we were only using half of our available internet bandwidth from the carrier. After further analysis, my IT staff found that our router was configured incorrectly (half duplex vs. full duplex), and our own equipment was constraining the available bandwidth.
So a simple report was able to save us hundreds of dollars a month in unnecessary costs.
How to Build the Best Reports for Your Organization
Here are a few tips that will help you create reports that are meaningful and can have significant impact to your organization:
Show Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) against goals
Kraig Kramers always says “What gets measured gets done.” If you want to improve the performance of your organization, pick two or three primary indicators you can use to measure your performance and put them at the top of your report with a simple coloring scheme – green for good, yellow for an emerging problem, red for bad. As an added measure, you can also put your plan numbers next to your KPIs, so you’ll be able to compare your current performance against your organizational goals.
Customize your reports with the right information
I’ve seen lots of reports that contain superfluous information. Customize your reports to only show the meaningful information; you can use your KPIs as a guide for what that information should be. But by keeping your reports simple and easy to read, you’ll be able to quickly see the information that is important to you.
Rely on data sources that allow you to drill down
Most off-the-shelf reporting is based upon summary data that an application provides. While this data can give you an indication of a problem, it sometimes doesn’t allow you to drill down deep enough to identify the root cause. The common example I use is the switch reports that Avaya produces. The CMS reporting package for Avaya provides call center performance statistics for 15-minute intervals. I prefer data that is generated from the CTI link, since it provides detailed event information that can be summarized if desired.
Make your reports easy to run and easy to read
A good report should be easily accessible when you need it. For our solutions, we setup automated jobs to generate the important reports and deliver them your mailbox. Or, they are setup to quickly run ad hoc with a few clicks of a mouse. For real-time reporting, reports can be displayed on a monitor accessible to all.
Use standards for your report data and report package
Your report data repository should be a standard relational database that you can use any reporting package to access. Use standard report generators such as Crystal Reports, Business Objects, or Jasper. If you do, your reports will be easier to create and you will have a wide array of reporting packages at your disposal to customize your reports.
Whether you’re seeking information for SLAs or continuous improvement, reports are the key to measuring your call center’s success. And with consistent oversight, you will find ways to improve your processes and applications to enhance your operations. So take the time to properly define the requirements for your reports at the beginning, and you are more likely to get the results you seek.