With many services and companies competing on price, organizations need to focus on their core competencies as a form of differentiation. With increased competition driving prices down, price is no longer a leading reason for customers to shop for new providers. Business is retained or lost through customer interactions, and ultimately, customers are looking to do business with companies that value their time and make customer interactions a top priority. The key for companies to excel at customer interactions is to ensure they have a proper metrics program in place.
An effective metrics program requires that metrics must be realistic as well as clearly understandable. A way to successfully change the culture and behavior of an under-competing call center is by associating metrics to contact center associates’ annual goals and compensation. The metrics below are based on best practices from numerous call center consulting engagements, including leading customer service organizations. These metrics, when implemented correctly, drive a culture of efficiency and quality that always puts the customer at the forefront.
First Call Resolution: There is nothing that will cause customers to shop for other providers more quickly than customers feeling as though their time has been wasted. Customers want to know that a company values their time and is committed to resolving issues as quickly as possible. The key to mastering first call resolution is building a robust knowledge repository that is easily searchable based on key words that customers describe during call interactions. In order for this to be successful, the knowledge repository must be constantly kept up to date to keep up with the changing technologies and service offerings.
Service Level Agreements: Service level agreements drive accountability and goals to strive for. Customers do not want to wait or feel as though they are constantly put on hold for long periods of time. Service level agreements must be fair and attainable for call center agents. If they are too aggressive, it will lead to employees not trying to hit their goals at all. Common service level agreements are: average number of rings before answer, number of hours to respond to an online request, and number of hours to respond to an escalated call.
Agent Uptime: Agent uptime is the amount of time call center agents are logged into the telephony system to receive calls. Simply put, if an agent is not logged in, they cannot take calls which could lead to increased hold time to customers. This also ensures that agents are at their desks taking calls as opposed to performing other tasks that take them away from their primary responsibility.
Agent Utilization Rate: Agent utilization rate is the percentage of time an agent is actually on a call while logged into the telephony system. This is a good metric to ensure adequate staffing, especially during peak seasons. If agents are utilized less than 90% of the time, then the call center may be too heavily staffed. If the utilization for the center is routinely above 90%, agents might be spending too much time on the phone with customers. This might be the result of the knowledge repository not being up to date, leading agents to spend excess time searching for solutions. The Agent Utilization Rate metric is best utilized when paired with a metric that addresses the quality of the interaction.
Quality of Interaction: The quality of the call interaction needs to be measured by recording calls that call center agents take. Recording calls is important from a measurement and a training perspective. As a manger, it is important to give feedback with concrete examples and recording interactions is an effective way to give examples for improvement. Aside from training, recording calls should be used for capturing the quality of the customer interaction. A simple scoring system should be developed for each call the manager reviews. This scoring system would involve ranking the agent on a 1-5 scale for the following call attributes: courtesy and professionalism, correct and relevant information, voice tone of the agent, greetings, and customer acceptance of the answer. Managers should review a certain number of calls each week for their employees and score them. The results should be shared with employees so they know how to further refine their skills.
Call Intake Tracking: Tracking the number of calls received should not be used as a metric to measure individual employees without the use of other metrics such as first call resolution and the quality of the interaction. Measuring the number of calls received should be used to determine staffing. With all call center operations, there are peaks and valleys and adequate staffing is critical to ensure customers get the responsiveness they require without over-staffing.
Utilizing the metrics listed above will effectively and efficiently change the culture of a call center operation. To ensure buy-in and accountability throughout the organization, it is vital that these metrics be tied to the annual goals and objectives of all call center agents and their managers.