Merced Systems provides software to support performance management in both sales and service. Its products extract data from various systems to produce business-related reports, dashboards, scorecards and analysis that help companies improve performance in these two key functions. To further its efforts, Merced recently invited around 100 partners, customers and prospects to its 360 Degree Performance Management Forum in London. As well as the usual presentations and demonstrations to convey its messages, successes and strategy, the customer presentations provided practical insights into how companies use these products to gain real business benefits. Since my colleague covered Merced’s U.S. event in depth on applications and technology, I will assess one of the customer presentations in more depth.
Orange, a unit of France Telecom, showed how it used Merced Systems software to drive innovative initiatives to improve customer service. By the admission of its speaker, Orange had fallen short of providing excellent customer service, so it set up a program called Brilliance to find out why it had failed and to do something about it. As is the norm for most such initiatives, the first step was to ask employees, especially front-line customer service representatives, what was going wrong.
The conclusions the team came to were far from normal. First was the realization that there is a “new norm” for customer service. Customers have become more demanding and want to communicate through more channels of communication; there is more competition, and it moves faster at developing new products and services; Orange was creating more and more data (much of it unstructured such as text and voice recordings) but using less of it; and last but not least these demanding customers are not shy about telling the world on social media about any of a company’s shortcomings. Perhaps many of you are aware of these trends, but the question is whether your company has acknowledged this new norm and adapted to it.
This time Orange went down a different path than in the past. Initially its findings pointed to the two factors usually blamed for holding back performance: culture and processes, summed up in the old phrase “We have always done it like this so why change?” At this point, many people throw into the pot that “the systems” are also getting in the way, and so we can’t change without changing them. Deeper analysis, inspired by the observation that the top 20 percent of performers get great results despite issues with culture, processes and systems, showed that the real problem was “the people.” This label encompasses several factors: Not everyone has the same abilities, not everyone was aware of or following best practices, some of the key performance metrics were not driving the best behavior, training and coaching were largely “one size fits all” and didn’t address individual needs, and individuals weren’t being given the information they needed to monitor their performance or compare it to team performance and targets. All of these are bad news, as I wrote in a white paper, “Aligning Your Business through Sales and Service Performance Management”.
The Brilliance program set about addressing these issues, which included making a few process changes. And all this was enabled by using the latest versions of the Merced Systems products, which supported Orange’s efforts to face up to the new norm by changing the key performance indicators (KPIs), enabling users to access all the data they need, focusing coaching and training on individual needs, rewarding everyone involved in front-line customer service based on reliable, consistent and highly visible performance information, and putting the information into individuals’ hands so they were motivated to improve. In a highly innovative step, the last process is being extended to motivate the best performers to help less effective ones and thus raise the whole team’s performance.
As I have indicated, none of this is possible without the right information being in the hands of the right people at the right time. In this regard the latest benchmark research from Ventana Research into the use of analytics shows that many companies lack products to drive these kinds of initiatives. Merced Systems can fill the gap between sales and customer service, two areas that are increasingly blending into one, and so companies looking to improve in these areas would do well to evaluate what it has to offer. I also found that Merced has capabilities in quality monitoring of agents, which had not been evident until my recent analysis.
Is sales performance an issue for your company? Likewise, is service performance an issue? Has your company faced up to the new norm? If you get either of these aspects wrong, not only will your business suffer, but the world will hear about your shortcomings through social media.
Richard Snow, VP & Research Director