Tips for Aligning Corporate and Contact Center Goals

Do you remember the first time you tried to paddle a canoe? You sat in the stern and your companion in the bow. At first you faced each other and got nowhere. Then your companion turned around, so you were at least paddling in the same direction. This was progress, but, because you were both paddling on the same side, you ended up going in circles.

Some days working in a contact center can feel like paddling in circles. The organization is going in one direction, but you are going somewhere else using the same old practices, metrics, and technology, focusing on cost cutting while senior management is more interested in growing revenue and retaining valued customers.

The contact center sits at the nexus between the company and its customers. It gets pressured to do a little bit of everything. Responsibilities sometimes conflict. The way out of this dilemma is to align the objectives of the contact center with those of the broader organization.

The first step in this process is to precisely identify corporate goals. The next step is to translate these corporate goals into contact center goals, which is not always as easy as it sounds. Large enterprises tend to do a better job of explaining goals to customers and investors than to first-level employees. For large organizations, a good place to start is the formal business plan. Most organizations will have one. For publicly traded companies, SEC filings and investor presentations also reveal corporate objectives. For private companies and nonprofit organizations, specific goals might not be specifically articulated, and financial information might not be easily available. However, all organizations have goals, even if they are not spelled out in writing. For nonprofits, the mission statement is a good place to start.

Once the broad goals are identified, the next step is to translate these into contact center goals. It is always advisable to talk with the operational-level departments and strategic business units charged with developing and implementing specific action plans. These would typically include product management, marketing management, sales, finance, and product/service support. The actions these organizations take directly impact the contact center.

Corporate goals tend to be expressed on the following three levels:

  1. Financial performance;
  2. Customer experience; and
  3. Corporate citizenship.

Financial goals are expressed in quantitative measures, such as revenue, profitability, ROI, and cash flow. Customer experience goals are expressed more qualitatively. Corporate citizenship goals are subjectively expressed. Examples include proclaiming the company's commitment to a sustainable environment, building a loyal and motivated workforce, providing world-class service, and contributing to the communities where major operations are located.

Goal 1 - Revenue Growth

Let's assume your corporate goal is to grow revenue by 10 percent over the prior year. This does not automatically mean the contact center must also increases revenue contribution by 10 percent. It might not be possible because inbound contact centers have other responsibilities and might not even have the authority to execute sales transactions. However, there are things customer service representatives can do to support revenue growth. Review speech analytics data to identify promising sales prospects. Agents can, for example, suggest upgrades or other products or services offered by the enterprise. If CSRs lack the authority to close sales, they can transfer calls to the sales department. Examples of revenue contribution metrics include customer retention, revenue per call, customer lifetime value, customer saves, leads generated, and collections per call.

Less quantifiable, but perhaps equally important in terms of achieving revenue targets, is the collection and sharing of valuable business intelligence.

Goal 2 - Improving the Customer Experience

Improving the customer experience is also a top goal of successful enterprises. Senior management knows that loyal customers purchase more products, purchase more often, and are eager to learn about new products and services. Loyal customers are amenable to the latest offers, spread positive reviews to their circles of contacts, and are more forgiving if there are mix-ups. Retaining disaffected customers is also a way to boost revenue.

Contact center agents have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to deliver memorable customer experiences that will result in higher customer loyalty and retention. Useful metrics for improving the customer experience include top-box agent and customer satisfaction, first contact resolution, Net Promoter Score, service-level adherence, and abandonment rate.

Having identified department level goals, the next step is to establish metrics and action plans and budgets. This is pretty basic stuff, but contact centers can easily become awash in metrics and lose track of where KPIs fit within the core mission of the enterprise and the business functions that are charged with achieving these goals.

Identifying the metrics that really matter is very important. Advanced analytics can quantify the relationship between metrics and goals. You can then then concentrate training, quality monitoring, and performance management on those key metrics. For example, past research has shown that first call resolution and agent satisfaction are very important contributors to customer satisfaction. Is that the case in your organization?

Leading vendors offer analytics, sometimes driven by artificial intelligence, that allow you to dive into the core drivers of customer satisfaction, agent retention, and other issues. Speech analytics helps you understand the factors that motivate customer defections and identify at-risk customers.

Change is a constant. Ongoing formal and informal communications channels with all the business functions that impact the contact center are essential. Make changes to plans as warranted. Consider weighting schemes for quality management evaluations that reflect the priority of each metric and then adjust as needed.

The contact center is arguably the most data-rich environment in the organization. You have the opportunity to tightly align your individual and departmental goals with corporate goals and demonstrate to management how well you're performing against these goals and which specific action steps you have implemented to achieve consistently high performance.

Dick Bucci is founder and chief analyst at Pelorus Associates. He can be reached at