Steve Sullivan

How would we even know?

Steve Sullivan, Head of Regulatory Compliance, Contact Centre Panel

Microsoft recently released some research that received lots of media attention including the BBC News – view here.

It’s not surprising that it did, because Microsoft’s findings – based on feedback from 20,000 people in 11 countries – highlighted a number of fascinating trends that home and hybrid working seems to have reinforced. The first of these is “productivity paranoia” 87% of employees reported that they were productive, but only 12% of their managers said that they were confident of their teams’ productivity. View Microsoft research here.

So, what are we to make of that?

Firstly, it might be that there has always been such a chasm in workers’ and bosses’ perceptions of their productivity, but that’s not what Microsoft conclude. So, at a minimum, the past couple of years has made managers less confident that they know what their teams are doing, how well they are doing it and how quickly. Microsoft thinks that a lot of that is due to managers lacking information, data and reporting that tells them about their employees’ performance.

That will still be at least partially true of some contact centre people working from home, but overall contact centre managers have far more employee performance data than their peers in just about any other type of business, pre or post Covid. But we know that there is still plenty of managerial “productivity paranoia” in home working and hybrid contact centres.

On the surface, contact centre managers’ “productivity paranoia” is surprising. We all know that one of the great strengths of contact centres is their ability to generate statistics. Unlike lots of areas of work, nearly all of which will have to a greater or lesser experienced a move towards full or partial home working over the past 2½ years, contact centre managers are knee-deep in management information about their employees’ performance.

However, most times the easiest stuff to measure is, arguably, the least important. We know about wait times, call durations and throughputs per hour, but far less easy to measure is experience, genuine resolution of queries and emotional engagement with customers. And that challenge isn’t much greater just because someone’s working at home than when they are sat in front of their boss.

A further complication is that the kind of contact centre activities which are very easy to define, target and measure are ideal candidates for automation and/or process improvement (most likely in your organisation’s digital self-service real estate and tools). So the challenge here is not to manage these activities more efficiently, but get rid of them altogether. In a sense, if you are wholly confident of your team’s base efficiency then you might just know a lot about the wrong things.

It looks like what Microsoft’s research crystalises is that the shift in working styles and locations has unearthed some hidden problems. Ones that have always been there but were easier to ignore when everyone was always in the same, shared location. However, the good news is that these are problems that contact centre managers should actually be closer to being able to address than their peers in other sectors.

If you’d like to discuss how different technologies and techniques can help you address some of these challenges and do your bit to banish “productivity paranoia”, just drop us a line.

PS As an aside, if you’re that rare exception to “productivity paranoia” and your boss is convinced that you are more productive than you actually are, then that’s a very different challenge. And anecdotal evidence suggests that having an idiot boss is more double-edged than you may at first think!