In my recent vendor-specific research called Value Index for Agent Performance Management (APM), I took a different view of what customer service organizations operating contact centers need for APM than most industry observers do. Some equate APM with workforce optimization and so include call recording, quality monitoring, workforce management, training and analytics in it; others take a narrower view and focus only on agent-focused analytics and performance management. I believe that in addition to these capabilities, companies should include call routing, coaching and compensation management. Call routing fits here because which agent handles a call has a major influence on its outcome; coaching is equally important to maximize outcomes and includes one-on-one sessions as well as more formal training sessions. I include compensation management in APM because my research shows that agents, like other workers, are strongly influenced in their performance by the kind of metrics they are judged by.
As a result of taking this broader view, I included some vendors that others might not think of for APM, and I also included vendors that don’t support all of these capabilities. Merced Systems is one of the latter; it focuses mostly on agent analytics and performance management, training and coaching, and compensation management. I recently discovered that Merced provides quality monitoring, although this is not obvious from the company’s Web site and other materials they provided to me as part of the Value Index analysis. I found hidden inside Merced Performance Suite (MPS) that supports all the key capabilities of quality monitoring. It allows users to create customized forms to evaluate different types of calls, has workflow to identify which agents should be evaluated and what calls should be included in the evaluation, and offers customizable reports and dashboards that show how agents are performing from a performance and process perspective and use the right metrics and key indicators. The last capability includes trend analysis so users can see which agents are improving over time and which are doing better than their peer groups. Merced has also methods to integrate call-monitoring data from providers such as NICE Systems, Verint and others. Merced has a history of partnering with many companies to support its efforts in APM as I have written about already (See: “ Merced Systems and Nexidia Partner for Agent Performance Management”). Companies that already have the other APM capabilities in place will find that these capabilities help them gain greater insight into how their agents are performing and in which areas they need to focus training and coaching.
The Ventana Research Value Indexes give companies a factual foundation on which to start their evaluation of which vendors best support their business needs. My benchmark research into APM shows that companies increasingly recognize that the performance of their agents is a key to improving the customer’s experience. The APM Value Index shows that even with its less known quality monitoring capabilities, Merced Performance Suite ranked highly in most other categories. My colleague also recently reflected on Merced from being at its annual conference (See: “Merced Systems Customer Summit Advances Sales and Customer Service Organizations”) where he found improvement to analytics necessary for assessing agent performance. It is therefore certainly one of the products companies should have on their list to evaluate as they try to improve the performance of their agents and how they manage it.
Richard Snow – VP & Global Research Director