If you manage to averages you’ll never be better than average

Many contact centers rely on averages to base decisions, i.e.:


  • Average handle time (AHT)
  • Average cost-per-contact (ACC)
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)


But the thing about averages is they should not be overly relied upon.


From the Harvard Business Review article, The Flaw of Averages:


Consider the case of the statistician who drowns while fording a river that he calculates is, on average, three feet deep. If he were alive to tell the tale, he would expound on the “flaw of averages,” which states, simply, that plans based on assumptions about average conditions usually go wrong. This basic but almost always unseen flaw shows up everywhere in business, distorting accounts, undermining forecasts, and dooming apparently well-considered projects to disappointing results.


Playing on this metaphor: in some places, your average, three-foot contact center is an inch deep and in other places it is twenty feet deep. 


Optimizing your contact center requires a more precise approach than average metrics.


When average metrics are useful and when they’re not

When getting a pulse on your contact center performance, then yes, average metrics can be helpful. And maybe for executives that don’t actually manage the contact center but want to be able to correlate its metrics with other sides of the business—such as CSAT to annual revenue— average metrics are helpful.


At best however, averages are indicators of what was done, but do not explain how it was done.


For instance, evaluating agents by average handle time (AHT) to determine whether or not each of them is performing their duties is risky, because of the false positives and negatives contained in averages – refer back to the “Flaw of Averages” above!


Consider some of the variables that may impact AHT:


  • What if you have a group of new hires? 
  • What if you have just taken on a new business?
  • What if marketing launched a new promotion?
  • What if you have a brand new technology?
  • Demand is up (or down) in a particular queue?


Think about what can happen when you manage your agents to averages.


  • Agents go into after-call wrap-up but then jump to a Not Ready state in order to hide — a false positive to AHT.
  • Your best agents are probably overworking.
  • Your challenged Agents speed through the call with the potential to not complete the customer journey, causing callbacks and dissatisfaction.
  • Agents strive to be average, and in response, managers set goals unattainable for many.
  • New agents get stressed trying to hit a mark above their skill level.


Is there a better way?


Financial Clarity eliminates the risk of averages

Contact centers have relied on averages for so long because they don’t have the one thing that other business units have: Financial Clarity


Financial Clarity is a continuously clear view of the costs of business decisions down to the individual process and employee. With Financial Clarity, every choice in a decision can be evaluated based on how its financial impact the business.


With everyone experiencing staffing challenges, and the remote work, the need to see and understand work in financially fact-based terms is extremely valuable.


One of the key tenets of Financial Clarity is granularity. At WiserOwl, we give you a precise view of each contact center agent’s use of the money within their control. Specifically, you can see how well an agent manages the work they are tasked with performing continuously, and this work is translated into its exact dollar value.


It’s this level of Financial Clarity that relieves the burden of averages. And if you’ve ever wondered why your contact centers might be struggling or why agents turnover, there’s a strong probability it’s because you’re managing to averages.



Go Beyond Traditional Metrics, And see yourself Become More Than An Average

Too see how much potential is hiding in your contact centers, WiserOwl can provide a view of your operation without impacting data privacy issues, in 30 days or less. Don’t waste your next big decision!