Flying A Plane Without Fear

January, 2011

The needs of a call center supervisor are similar to those of a pilot in thick fog. In order to fly without fear of disaster, he must have instant access to up-to-the-minute metrics.

Have you ever piloted an airplane? Or can you imagine what it’s like? Good, because this month’s blog relies heavily on that analogy.

Imagine you are a pilot, flying a plane. Now imagine you have hit a patch of thick fog. All visibility is lost! You look around for key performance indicators of speed, direction and height, but all you see is a dazzling array of raw numbers. What will you do? How will you avoid disaster??

And how does this relate to call center software? Well, the needs of a call center supervisor in the area of performance measurement are similar to those of a pilot in thick fog (and without auto-pilot – OK, the analogy is not perfect!). In order to fly without fear of disaster (and maintain a high service level), he must have instant access to up-to-the-minute metrics.

Let’s look at these needs in more detail, using ‘Jane’ and ‘Joe’ as example pilots/ supervisors.

Minimal interaction

The right performance metrics should be available at a glance, without Joe having to push buttons, look behind stuff, leave his seat or stand on his head.


Any performance management system should show by default what is good for most users. However, no two pilots are the same. What Jane wants to see is not what Joe wants to see. If the right data is not immediately available, Jane should be able to change it easily so that it is. And Joe should be able to choose what to show or hide.

Report sharing

Jane wants to update a colleague on the state of things. She needs a way to output the right data and send it (as a PDF via email, for example), and she may want that to happen automatically. The colleague (the control tower?) may want the data as it is presented to Jane, or he may prefer that dazzling array of raw numbers, for further analysis. Both should be available.


Joe must be alerted if the plane loses altitude, so remedial action can be taken. That alert must be loud, bright and immediate.


To aid fast comprehension, Jane needs clear data layout – simple, intuitive and consistent across the board.

Transparent design

Joe has no interest in how the information gets to him. That’s someone else’s problem. He only cares that it is accurate and up to date.

Of course, the Pilot/ supervisor’s needs are mostly for real-time metrics. A call center manager, on the other hand, needs both real-time and historical metrics, in a single interface. We could picture him as the Captain of an ocean liner, asking “How far have we travelled? How long has it taken?” Armed with this information, he will know what he must do to arrive on time.

All this is a tall order for a single call center reporting system, especially with a large number of simultaneous users, accessing it via the Internet. And many performance management systems fall short.

If your current call center reporting solution is not giving you what you need to fly your plane (or sail your liner) with confidence, be more demanding of your supplier.

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