New Metrics for the Contact Center

By Dr. Jodie Monger

In the contact center, we live and die by the numbers. Our representatives receive incentives, bonuses are handed out, and recognition is given when the contact center meets its numbers. However, think about what you measure because what is measured drives the behavior of the representatives, the team managers, the quality team, and the center manager. It also drives the customers’ perception of the contact center.

We are in the people business but traditionally, contact centers do not have metrics to reflect the peoples’ perspective. A needed change is occurring and some centers have begun to use caller feedback to create metrics to complement their traditional center metrics and balance out their performance scorecards. While management by the numbers is necessary, it alone will not drive the correct behaviors. Key metrics must include the callers’ perception of the service delivery. It is the clients’ and callers’ perception of service that is the metric truly driving customer satisfaction – and it’s these metrics that motivate people to perform at their best.

Insanity in the Contact Center: As the saying goes, continuing to do the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity. As an example, consider Average Handle Time (AHT) as a standard metric in the contact center. In most cases, the management team and team leaders determine AHT goals for the general types of calls. All representatives are then held to that standard, no matter what direction the call may take or the type of caller.  While intended to encourage effective call control, this metric teaches the representatives to manage the call to achieve that AHT goal, which does not take the caller or the reason for the call into consideration. How can this goal contribute to an effective service experience for callers?

It is too tempting for a representative to watch the amount of time on the phone and end the call when it comes close to the AHT target, by rushing summary and close or even hanging up on the caller. This is obviously not the behavior we intend to encourage and the AHT metric does little to tell us if the experience is satisfactory for callers.

Operational metrics alone are generally not representative of callers’ expectations for service delivery. Productivity is critical, but success is not secured by focusing only on such metrics.

Stopping the Madness – Add New Metrics: Focus your attention on caller-centric metrics to prove the actual value of your contact center. It is these measurements that show true caller perceptions, more so than how many or how fast. With the new measurements in place, and return on investment (ROI) based arguments in hand, creating a new paradigm as the heart of customer service becomes an easier task. Budgeting for the contact center will then become more of an exercise in investment rather than cost containment.

Client and caller relationships are maintained and built in the contact center. Why not focus on metrics that measure relationships rather than continuing to use metrics that measure productivity. Often, the transition is easier said than done. Numbers have driven businesses for a long time and many have seemingly mastered the way to make the numbers work to drive efficiency in the contact center. The problem is, we are measuring the wrong things and not taking relationships into account. Callers are not asked how long they are willing to wait to speak to a representative, or how long they want to talk to a representative once they get them on the phone. We have made assumptions and created goals about what callers want and have built program on top of program to measure these things, all the while increasing the perception of being a productivity center and not a service center.

Focus on Value: Now that contact centers are becoming recognized as value centers, it is time to change to metrics that reinforce this new position. Identify what numbers will drive change; look at the big picture first — what is the client getting for what they are budgeting for your service? In essence, what is the ROI of the contact center? Look at this number monthly, and then drill it down to a daily measurement.

The percent Delighted Calls are 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale or 8 or 9 on a 9-point scale. Dissatisfied is 3 or less.

Please note in this formula that you are claiming the relationship management successes and taking responsibility for failures. This is an essential part of the measurement. You cannot create credibility without doing both. The behavior of the group in the middle cannot be accurately predicted and it can be assumed that their net effect is zero. This new customer metric shows how the center protects revenue and relationships for clients. It will also show when the investments outweigh the gains in customer satisfaction.

Use the same calculations to produce a team ROI. Each team is a mini-profit center, or if it not viewed that way, it should be. Give the direction to the team leaders to manage to a positive ROI. This will create happier teams, which will create happier agents, while ultimately leading to happier clients and callers.

Another target for relationship effectiveness is the agent. Every person in your contact center has a fiduciary responsibility to profitability. Do they understand this concept or has it become lost in the day-to-day operational metric reports?

Not all teams or individuals will perform equally. The center ROI may show value overall, but the center manager should identify the teams that are performing favorably, as well as individual agents. This will show what is working and what is not. Then, the information can be used to identify specific training and coaching efforts needed per team (or agent) to increase the ROI.

 Agent Peak Performance Index: Another new metric that will pinpoint a caller metric and focus training and coaching to include the callers’ perception is the agent peak performance index. This measure will identify how each individual agent scores on caller satisfaction.

By using this index, each agent can be scored by actual caller feedback, not just standard metrics. If this index is falling, it raises a red flag to supervisors and trainers that this agent needs some additional coaching or training. The callers will identify agent burnout. Coaching and training budgets can be used most effectively and at the right times for the right agents – thereby increasing the ROI on these programs.

The New Cycle: Begin the focus on caller-centric metrics. By using these value proposition measurements, the insanity cycle can be broken. Also, keep in mind that these new metrics are not solely for the voice channel. Service delivery from all channels should have these metrics to identify and build the case for value in the organization. Each channel should be profitable and these measurements will assist with the overall view of the center as a strategic weapon.

[From Connection Magazine Jan/Feb 2006]