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Rethinking Contact Centre Metrics

11 min read
Author Business Systems UK
Date Oct 22, 2014
Category Contact Centre Optimisation

CONTACT CENTRE GUIDE BLOG: 6/9 recently published ‘The Contact Centre Guide’ which was sponsored by Business Systems. For those short on time, we created a series of blogs covering the highlights from each chapter.

Please find the 6th in the series below.

With thanks to Mike Jeffries, Contact Centre Manager, Eclipse Marketing who provided the original article.
There are many different metrics that enable us to measure the performance of a contact centre and one size certainly doesn’t fit all. One of the key considerations to think about is the customer and what is important to them, for example speed of answer may not be deemed as important to a customer as resolving their issue first time. Another point to consider when setting contact centre metrics is in ensuring they are aligned with the overall objectives of the business, complimenting and working with them and not against them.

Increasingly businesses are moving away from viewing contact centres as purely cost centres, they add value by providing a positive experience to the caller, so metrics such as average call handling time are perceived as outdated. Particularly where there is a focus on resolving an issue whatever it takes, resulting in improved customer loyalty and potentially extracting more revenue from the customer throughout their time with you.

First call resolution is often viewed as one of the leading contact centre performance measurements. However customers may not have an issue with being transferred or receiving a call back for a more technical or complex query if it results in their problem being resolved. As Mike points out agents can’t be all things to all people, it simply isn’t profitable and you may have some offering a base level of support on the front line who ultimately have to seek assistance from their more technically minded colleagues.

Average handle time can also be a false economy, why be targeted on getting the customer off the phone as quickly as possible if they just have to call back in again, adding to their frustration. The more an agent does on a call to resolve an issue the less follow up work they have to do after. Whilst it may be important to keep call lengths down from a revenue perspective this needs to be balanced with other performance metrics across the business.

Abandon rates are also a useful metric and if they are high or continue to escalate it may indicate a need to either implement or review your existing self-service routes or IVR or offer a ring back approach to help better manage customer needs.

Internally, contact centres have many different quality measures such as how well the call was handled. However there is not a huge amount of external quality measures. With more external measurements, the contact centre can feed its results back into the wider business plan and it is surprising that so few centres employ external quality measures. As an industry, Mikes urges us to do more benchmarking and more independent auditing of customer experience.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the main internal metrics in use today:

Service measures
1. Blockage: Measuring busy signals, this indicates what percentage of customers are unable to access the contact centre due to insufficient network facilities in place.

2. Abandon rate: An important metric due to its relation to retention and revenue.

3. Average speed of answer: This addresses the percentage of calls answered in a defined wait threshold.

4. Longest delay in queue: An alternative speed of answer measure, focusing on how long the oldest call in the queue has been waiting.

Quality measures
1. First resolution rate: A critical measure of quality, this looks at the percentage of transactions completed within a single contact.

2. Transfer rate: To help identify performance issues or routing strategies, call centres can measure what percentage of contacts have to be transferred to another person for assistance.

3. Communication etiquette: It is standard practice for contact centres to measure call quality in terms of etiquette and communication.

Efficiency measures
1. Agent occupancy: Useful for measuring how well a centre is scheduling its staff and efficiently utilising its resources, this measures the time an agent is busy with customers compared to available time or idle time.

2. Staff shrinkage: The amount of time staff are unavailable for handling calls due to training, time off, breaks and so on.

3. Average call handle time.

4. System availability: System speed, uptime and overall availability are recommended measurements to ensure optimised response time and efficiency.

5. Cost per call: Commonly measured as either labour cost per call encompassing technology and facilities.

New measurement challenges
Thanks to technological advances and the proliferation of social media, coupled with the rapid expansion of online services and the growing use of smart phones and tablets there has been a significant shift in consumer behaviour that has made measurement more complicated than it once was.
Contact centres are now responsible for delivering sales and support across all channels and as such must set themselves up to understand the value they are adding at each step of the journey. Whilst there are various forms of analytics software able to help do this, the most common place to start would be to measure the customers ‘likelihood to recommend’ at the end of the touch.

The methodology, often referred to as Net Promoter Scores (NPS), is widely used and accepted throughout many leading organisations, not just in the contact centre space. However, you can fall into the trap of assuming that customers indicating that ‘they do not intend to recommend a product or service’ are then likely to spread negativity and detract others from the brand.

In fact, research now suggests that many of these ‘detractors’ don’t appear to broadcast much of this negativity. In response to this, new methodology is now becoming available within the market that enhances the NPS process to include questions that establish not only the ‘likelihood to recommend’ the brand but also the ‘likelihood to detract’ from it. Needless to say, knowing these subtle differences are all key factors to getting the service design right from the start.

The main point to remember is that regardless of the customer feedback tools that are used by an organisation, whether that is post-transaction NPS phone surveys or customer panels, it is important that when it comes to metrics a contact centre can offer expertise and a variety of approaches that is best suited to the business, and more importantly customer needs.

Read the ‘Contact Centre Guide Blog 1/9 – The changing contact centre – and what you can do about it’ here.