Measure the right data in key performance indicators KPI’s

Measure the right data

Measure the right data in key performance indicators KPI’s

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are a waste of time and energy if they are not right and demotivate employees.

If the KPI’s only produce statistical information and trends and are not directly related the employee’s ability to impact profitability, they are a waste of time. Further, the view on performance is too narrow, if only hard KPI’s (such as the number of calls answered) are the only item used to measure individual performance.

Therefore, KPI’s need to be in a broader context along with other factors such as:

  • Does the employee have proactive ability to affect the outcome?
  • Are there any economic conditions effecting the outcomes?
  • Have the employees got all the tools, skills and training to positively affect the KPI’s?
  • If an employee is reaching a target, are they doing so the right/desired way?

Here is an example of a performance review process we were involved with:

Our team asked to analyse the statics of a high-volume telecommunications contact centre team. We were there to independently assess who were the best performing contact centre staff and who needed performance improvement. There had been several complaints from employees stating the results were unfair.

Sample of the results comparing two individuals:

We reviewed the statics and Leah (fake name) was on surface the outstanding performer. She answered 100 calls per day. James (fake name) was the poorest performer. He only answered half the number of calls per day.

The management team chose Leah as the star performer of the month and was to be awarded a prize. James was to be performance managed based on these statistics.

Further analysis and the findings:

We asked for a little more time to investigate these variables. We also wanted to come up with a solution for achieving higher performance across the whole team, not just James. What we uncovered will not surprise anyone who has experienced calling a telco.

Due to not having their call resolved Leah’s callers invariably had to ring more than once. They also, requested to speak to a team leader or manager and we wanted to know why. On further investigation we found, her callers complained that she was very rude and unhelpful. A few also claimed she had disconnected the call before resolving their issue.

A more sophisticated call cue analysis system would have identified this trend. Alternatively, a supervisor paying close attention to Leah and how she interacted with the callers would have identified this issue.

We had been present in the contact centre and heard Leah’s manner with customers. How she spoke about the callers to her nearby associates was also interesting. It was not with any degree of courtesy or respect for the callers. With comments along the lines of: “oh man, some of these people are so stupid they can’t even operate a simple mobile phone.”

On the other hand, in investigating James’ calls, we found that he in fact resolved each call first time. James’ received compliments from callers. He never escalated a call to a team leader or manager to resolve. We heard James speak to the customers in a courteous, patience and respectful manner. Further, he demonstrated a real eagerness to resolve the caller’s problem as efficiently as possible.

Learning outcome for the contact centre manager as well as ourselves in this deeper analysis:

The statistics only give part of the picture. It is equally important to look at the soft KPI’s such as the behaviour. For example, the way each contact centre officer behaved towards callers. Individuals attitudes come across, even over the phone. James attitude towards solving callers’ problems made him the real star. Whereas, Leah was a real problem.

Imagine if the contact centre manager had acted on performance and management of the team, solely on the hard KPI’s, the statistics. Leah would have been the star the one whose behaviour others should follow. They might have promoted her to a leadership position teaching other staff how to behave as she did.

James may have been performance managed and potentially even asked to leave the contact centre. Alternatively, if one call resolution and customer centric KPI’s were also part of the performance measurements, James would have been the clear winner. Further, if supervisors were ‘listening in’ more often on calls these issues would have been identified sooner. Thereby, Leah’s attitude would have been apparent to the supervisors. They would have been able to identify the issues with her calls. This would have resulted in less angry customers. Consequently, reducing the number of repeat calls.

By identifying issues earlier, the call centre may have resolved their overburdened team much sooner. They may have been able to train and redirect Leah and chosen James as her coach to improve her attitude.

The resulting changes:

The company had a mission to have one call resolution and customer satisfaction. Because of looking deeper into the performance metrics, they added in the desired behaviours as soft KPI’s.

They managed these changes by doing the following:

  • Supervisors conducted random call monitoring of their team. This is known as: ‘double jacking’, where the supervisor listens in on the call.
  • Supervisors use a checklist with weightings on the preferred outcome and communication which they use to assist staff to improve.
  • Included in the regular training schedule to focus on soft KPI’s as well where the following items:
    • providing excellent customers service
    • skills in dealing with difficult customers
    • how to pacify angry customers
    • empathising and solution finding

Leah and James:

  • To redirect Leah’s attitude and approach to customers she was placed on a performance management program.
  • The program aimed to realign her to the company values of treating all customers with respect and resolving each call first time.
  • On the other hand, James received the ‘star performer award’ and became a mentor for new team members.
  • Because, he performed/behaved according to the company philosophy and values where Leah did not.


Make sure you are measuring the right things that make sense to the employees as well as the business bottom line. Make them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound (SMART).

Measures need to make sense to both the business and the employee/s. They need to be future based as well as adaptable for changing circumstances. KPI’s need to cover behaviours as well as numbers.

Other items related to this article you may find of interest:

 KPI’s in the spotlight on ABC radio

 Do your measures make employees mad or motivate them

Audi Australia unfair dismissal over KPI’s

  • Francisca Murinda
    Posted at 13:52h, 21 April

    Very informative. Indeed any variance in aspired performance should be investigated objectively.

  • KingConsulting - HR Consultants Sydney
    Posted at 10:20h, 27 April

    Thank you for your comments Francisca

  • Do Not Dismiss or fire an employee
    Posted at 14:36h, 10 September

    […] Make sure it is something this employee has influence over and/or can control. Read this article on key performance indicators for further […]

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