The Dark Side of Data: Six Steps to Harness Data and Improve Performance

Data is crucial for the success of any business. But without focus or actionable insights, it's almost like having no data at all. Here are six steps to harness data and improve performance.

Last updated on: 
August 10, 2023
Shanthala Balagopal
Shanthala Balagopal
June 8, 2022
6 min read

Data is crucial for the success of any business. Whether it is marketing, sales, support, product, or operations, every team within a company relies on data to make decisions, understand how they are performing, and build strategies that drive continuous growth for the business. It’s no surprise that companies across all industries are rapidly deploying BI tools and technologies to collect and analyze information about every aspect of their business. While collecting data is important, data without action-driven insights or understanding of how to best use it, is practically equivalent to having no data at all.

The unprecedented rate of data proliferation and the pitfalls

There is an ever-increasing number of platforms and tools at our disposal today. Gartner forecasts Worldwide IT Spending to exceed $4 Trillion in 2022, with enterprise software seeing the highest growth at 11.5% in 2022.

The combination of moving to remote and hybrid working models as well as the trends toward self-service and omnichannel communications have compounded the issue of data overload in CX teams. The mass volume of data has actually created more data silos and led managers and leaders to spend inordinate amounts of time trying to make sense of everything. CX managers can spend a third of their time just trying to track, measure, and report on how employees are tracking against goals. With more data than we know what to do with, we’re seeing the dark side of data emerge. Forrester highlights in their 2022 Customer Service Megatrends research that it’s “no longer about collecting enough data — it’s about ensuring that the data is usable and liberated from company silos to create new streams of value.”

The pitfalls of data overload

Unfortunately, data overload can lead to several problems for organizations trying to make sense of the information they have. 

  1. Quantity of data and dashboards prioritized over the right data 

Having too much data can lead some teams to chase down every metric possible, leading to analysis paralysis where they can’t see the trees through the forest. We’ve found that the most successful teams typically focus on five metrics to drive improvements. There are additional metrics that may be tracked, but trying to focus on too many metrics makes it hard to know which ones are mission-critical.  

  1. Tunnel vision and the importance of context

Data overload can also lead to tunnel vision, or focusing on one thing—a small data point—instead of the big picture. For individual data points to have meaning, businesses need context to see the entire picture. After all, data is a tool for telling—or understanding—a story. If you don’t understand the whole picture or focus on specific data points, then you don’t understand the story. And, if you focus on the wrong data points, you’ll end up with an inaccurate picture, which could harm your business outcomes.

  1. Perishability of data

Often data has a useful shelf life. Data and insights need to be timely, contextual, and actionable. Otherwise, it becomes perishable. Organizations need a strategy that empowers managers and the frontlines to adapt while avoiding going too far into being reactive. Gone are the days of looking at numbers at the end of a month, quarter, or year—data provides insights in the moment, harnessing that is critical to creating an agile team and business.

Six steps to harness data and improve performance

Data should give you insight, understanding, and point you towards how to improve your business. Customer service and support agents are your frontlines and every customer interaction is an opportunity to better understand and enhance the experience. And not just for customers, but employees too. A great place to start is with the people doing the work (your employees), and how they’re doing it (their performance). Here are a few best practices for utilizing data for performance management:

  1. Know the why and be transparent

In various stages of performance management, if you don’t understand—and explain—why an employee is doing something, you can skew the data. It’s critical to know why a certain activity or performance metric is important—and that those who are being measured should know why as well. This can be as simple as being able to see when CSATs are trending downward and Average Handling Time (AHT) is trending upward. When it takes too long to handle a customer’s request, that’s going to have an impact on their overall satisfaction. Similarly, agents want to perform and achieve their best. Having the insights, context, and process empowers them to be agile and sets everyone up for success. 

  1. Think strategically about the various kinds of metrics and ways to make them actionable

Metrics are the things you track, measurement is how you track them, and ultimately, performance management comes down to how your frontline employees can help make an impact on those priority metrics. 

  • Start by identifying business objectives and set your five or six priority metrics based on how which ones are “on the ground floor” of making a difference to your business.
  • Continuously measure, track and report on how those metrics are progressing over time. Things can happen fast and everyone should have visibility into how they and their team are making an impact. So strive to make it as easy as possible to know how things are doing at a moment’s notice.
  • Finally, empowering employees to take action is part of the solution. But enabling managers to also help move the business in the right direction through communications, data-driven coaching, and structured 1:1s is necessary to effectively manage the frontlines.  
  1. Integrate accountability and responsibility across your CX team 

To use data to improve performance, you have to think about impact at every level: Each part of your organization contributes to your success in some way. Agents might be responsible and accountable for the metrics around how they engage with customers. But managers need to be held accountable for the coaching, feedback, and guidance they should be providing. And not just in how they might use QA to ensure company standards and customer expectations are being met, but also in one-on-ones to assign mini-goals, recommend skills development or prescribe training. And CX leaders can focus on things like customer effort scores. 

  1. Track, measure, and share performance insights against goals at an individual level 

While understanding team performance is beneficial for managers, understanding how each agent is performing against the overall goal is critical to drive continuous improvement. Tracking and measuring individual performance against goals, and sharing those metrics with agents will motivate and inspire them to achieve their professional best, and help support leaders deliver hyper-focused, personalized coaching to achieve the desired outcomes faster.   

  1. Recognize and celebrate top performers 

Numbers and metrics are important to guiding coaching conversations but, it is important to recognize and celebrate performance to create a culture of excellence.  Sunbasket believes that great customer experiences start with great employee experiences. So their number one priority metric is agent satisfaction which has the added downstream effect on engagement and long-term retention of their agents, reducing the cost of replacement.  So, to develop high-performing teams, create a culture of excellence through peer and manager recognition

  1. Knowledge is power 

Anyone being measured should know what they’re being measured on, and when things change, it’s important they understand the reasons why. Proactively sharing when and why changes are made, and how they’ll impact performance is critical to making employees feel empowered and improving employee effectiveness.

Leverage an insights-driven approach to optimize frontline performance

Improving employee performance and engagement can be a huge win when you intelligently use  all the data at your disposal. Your frontline CX are the first line of contact with customers.  So leveraging an insights-driven approach to coach them can have a massive impact on team performance and customer experience, and can dramatically reduce support costs. 

Track, measure, and share individual performance across key support metrics such as CSAT, NPS, first contact resolution time, and average handling time, to instantly identify gaps and coach effectively. This will not only improve job satisfaction and happiness, it can reduce churn which costs on average $14,113 to replace. 

Empowering agents with realtime insights to help them understand how they’re doing at any moment enables them to take immediate action. Consolidating data across multiple platforms and eliminating spreadsheets that are manual and not realtime, managers can quickly and easily identify gaps. This enables them to deliver individualized coaching to drive business results, deliver superior customer experience, and engage, nurture and retain top talent. 

Schedule a demo of Pathlight to see what a focused approach to data can look like!

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