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Karen Schwartz Is The Call Center Tracking The Right Metrics?

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By Karen D. Schwartz

Key performance indicators (KPI) are all the rage these days for contact centers, but they aren’t all created equally. It’s always a good idea to collect metrics, of course, but are you collecting the right ones? And what are you doing with them once you’ve got the data?

Most contact center managers focus on KPIs that measure efficiency—metrics like average call handling times, average wrap-up time and call script adherence. Those are fine, and they can help improve contact center performance, but some would argue that they aren’t the metrics that can really make a difference to the contact center mission.

Instead of using performance metrics that measure from the inside looking out, try turning it on its head, and focus on the effectiveness of the contact center as measured by the customer, not the company itself.

If you do that, you’ll come up with the most important KPI of all: First Contact Resolution. FCR gets a lot of press these days—and for good reason. It’s one of the few performance metrics that serves more than one purpose. First, if you improve your first resolution rate, your customers will be happier with your company. Secondly, if you can handle a customer’s request or concern in one contact (phone, email, instant message, whatever) instead of three, it cuts your cost by two-thirds.

"Customers want to be connected quickly to an agent who is able to resolve their query right away," said Oke Eleazu, managing director of think outside in and vice-president of the Institute of Customer Service. "Companies that want their contact centers to deliver a good customer experience, must measure FCR rates. Those companies that do not measure it could lose touch with customer perceptions, damaging their brand." "Measuring customer satisfaction is great, but many traditional measures are nebulous and imprecise and can make it difficult to know what to focus improvement initiatives on," he said. "With FCR, you have an actionable measure - you can work on people, process and technology to improve the customer experience. You can very quickly and accurately observe and report on the effectiveness of those actions."

More companies are tracking first call resolution, but many still are not. Ken Landoline, principal analyst of Customer Service Consulting Group in Bay Point, Calif., routinely talks about FCR in call center forums around the country. He says that at a recent forum, he asked for a show of hands for how many contact center managers were tracking the KPI. Three people raised their hands.

Why? Well, for one thing, it’s a lot harder to capture than traditional metrics. There are many ways to do it, and some are much less scientific than others. For example, managers can ask agents to check off a box at the end of the customer communication if the incident has been resolved and it’s the first contact the customer has had with the contact center. But that’s subjective; the agent may be wrong, or less than diligent. Another idea is call monitoring: Listen to a small percentage of calls and judge how many you perceive are being resolved on first contact. Again, it’s subjective, and labor-intensive. Or you can send customer satisfaction surveys to customers. And finally, you can try throwing some technology at it, using contact center software solutions or performance management analytics, which employ software algorithms to analyze call flow via the customer ID or name. Customer relationship management (CRM) software systems are beginning to address this performance opportunity, however, they have yet to reduce the agent subjectivity as well.

None of these methods is perfect. The Ascent Group, which follows this sort of thing, recommends that companies use multiple methods to measure first call resolution. The key is to gather different types of FCR-related information, such as how frequently your customers contact the company, and number of repeat calls by type of contact.

With social media, additional customer channels and increasingly decentralized contact centers, Improving FCR can be a difficult challenge. One solution is to implement a Business Process Guidance (BPG) system. "With contact centers consolidating, they require agents to have a broad knowledge base. However, agents cannot be experts in every product and service and can struggle to resolve complex customer enquiries in the crucial first contact," said David Frenkel, CEO of Panviva. "Agents need easy real-time access to detailed knowledge, often hidden in existing system investments. They need a system that immediately steers them through the process at hand; a BPG System."

Once you’ve got some actionable data, what does it mean? For example, what is your FCR percentage? If it’s 60%, what does that mean? Well, it’s a benchmark you can use to measure and trend over future period increments. But it also means that only 60% of your contacts are being resolved on the first contact. Not great. That means 40% of your customers are contacting you twice or even three times to get resolution. That means more call volume, higher expenses and unhappy customers. But if it makes you feel any better, a study Ascent Group did last year found that companies measuring this KPI ranged from 30% to 98%. With that perspective, maybe 60% isn’t that bad.

So now is the time to do something about it. Implement the processes to get the data and use it to drive change. Look at your processes, your agents, your scripts, and your customers. Get everyone involved. Make it work for you by gaining an initial baseline measurement and then showing incremental progress over time.End

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Most contact center managers focus on performance metrics that measure efficiency—metrics like average call handling times, call volumes and call script adherence. These are fine, and they can help improve contact center performance, but some would argue that they aren’t the metrics that make a difference to customer satisfaction or the contact center mission.

 

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