Focus on the Input — The Output Takes Care of Itself

 by Vickie Bouffard

I overhear managers coaching their team members, “get your metrics up,” “get your production up,” “improve your adherence,” get your QA/QC score up,” “get your talk time down.” Yikes, that’s a lot of expectations! 


What do all these statements have in common? They focus the team member to focus on the output or the results their manager expects. The team member walks away with a checklist of demands, but no strategic plan for how to accomplish it. They hear the message, they understand the importance of the requests, but they don’t receive a clear idea of how to achieve the desired result. 


Month over month, the team member performs the same. The manager yells those phrases more, writes up the associate, and eventually, they wash out. How can you prevent this frustrating and costly cycle? Did poor employee performance indeed cause this? Or is questionable coaching methods a culprit? 


Change Your Focus Change Your Results


What if the conversation when something like this:


Associate: “I am having a terrible month.”

Sales Manager: “Oh, why do you say that?”

Associate: “My sales numbers are at a disappointing low.”

Sales Manager: “How many quotes did you do this month?”

Associate: “Ah, four.”

Sales Manager: “How many did you close?”

Associate: “I closed two of the four.”

Sales Manager: “How many quotes do you need to complete, to close $10,000 a month?”

Associate: “Ah, gee…a bunch?”

Sales Manager: “Let’s start here. How many quotes did you complete last month?  And how many of those did you close?” 

Associate: “I completed 25 quotes and closed 14.”

Sales Manager: “Fantastic! That is a 40% closing ratio. Each sale is worth $500. You were $3000 short because 14 sales x $500 = $7000. Based on your current numbers, how short will you be this month?”

Associate: “I’ll be $9,000 short.”

Sales Manager: “Okay, so based on your closing ratio of 40%, how many quotes do you need to complete before the month ends to meet your sales goal of $10,000?”

Associate: “Hmmm, as a quick calculation, I need to complete 45 more quotes.”

Sales Manager: “So what steps do you need to take to acquire 45 more quotes?”

Associate: “1. I need to get my activity level up on prospecting—an input.  2. I need to talk to 113 prospects—another input! 3. I see I am focusing my attention on the $10,000 when I need to focus on the activity that gets me to the result! See you later, boss. I’ve got some prospecting to do!” 

For the visual learners on your team, invest in a Play-Doh Fun Factory. Seriously! It is the most effective way to demonstrate to associates why they should shift their focus from their end result to their inputs. You don’t get “stars” without putting Play-Doh into the machine. You don’t get red stars without putting in red Play-Doh. If you focus on the inputs, the output of stars will take care of themselves. Pro-tip: Don’t forget the Play-Doh for demonstrations!


“Get your talk time down!


Why do call center associates typically have high talk times? Let’s make a list of elements that take time on a call.

·      The associate seeks information on the screen but doesn’t know where to look

·      The caller is placed on hold so that the associate can research policy manual

·      The associate doesn’t type efficiently (a.k.a. finger typing)

·      The associate is uncertain where to go within the application

·      The associate can’t efficiently find things because there are too many items open within their desktop

·      The associate is distracted by the messiness of their work area

·      The caller asked another question

·      The caller took the associate on a tangent

·      The associate caused unnecessary delays by failing to follow the script


Think of this as an equation


All these elements add up to “talk time.” When looking at this list of items, how can you help the agent improve in each one of these areas? 


Then communicate a performance improvement plan to help your associate: 

1.     Provide additional training to the associate to avoid the use of the “hold” button. Consider the development of both the application and typing skills

2.     Drill and practice the policy and procedure manual to familiarity with how to efficiently reference this resource

3.     The associate needs to learn how to follow the script, how to control the call to avoid tangents, and how to answer questions or objections before they arise. Consider more sales and soft skill training or coaching from their supervisor

4.     Coach the associate to implement best practices for efficient desk space set up, to minimize distractions


Watch Your Results Soar!


When the manager focuses on the input elements of talk time, the output will automatically go up. It has to! Invest in your associates’ skills, training, and encourage them to focus their effort on what they input.  Change your focus—Change your Results.  

 Go, TEAM, Go Let's Run to the Finish Line!