OPINION PIECE – MERCHANTS
Do you know whether you’re measuring the contact centre or the brand?
If you’re gathering metrics, then use them to improve customer relationships rather than simply improving operations
By Sandra Galer, Merchants strategic consultant for call centres and customer service
Metrics in contact centres have fallen into an irrelevance cycle because the nature of the contact centre’s relationship with customers has changed significantly. Logically, any operations not focused on addressing the changing relationship are irrelevant – and measuring irrelevant activities is pointless. Yet, most contact centres are still busily measuring things like first call resolution, number of calls handled, and handle time, while at the same time stating that they are focused on customer satisfaction.
Yes, there is a tangential need to know some of these things in order to keep operations efficient. However, they are of little use in terms of measuring customer satisfaction.
That’s primarily because the modern contact centre has become a customer’s last port of call. Most customers will already have tried the organisation’s website, their own social network, apps, and other online resources before getting in touch with the contact centre. So, by the time they’re talking to an agent, they’re often frustrated. Also, the reason they’ve failed to find an answer to their query outside of the contact centre is because their query is complicated. First call resolution is, therefore, highly unlikely. Not because the agent has failed, but because it’s going to take time to solve the customer’s problem.
This makes measuring the agent on first call resolution not only irrelevant but unfair. It also skews your picture of the contact centre overall and, interestingly, your understanding of the success of your brand.
Is measuring customer satisfaction the same as measuring the brand?
Some companies think that if they’re measuring the contact centre, or customer satisfaction, that they’re also getting a handle on how their brand is positioned.
However, a customer may have had a very pleasant interaction with a superb agent but may still be determined not to buy one of your products again. In other words, your contact centre may be doing its job but your product development, for example, may be flawed.
Or, there may be a faulty business process getting in the way. Organisational rules that allow refunds under certain circumstances but not in others may drive a customer away. The agent may be good at explaining why, but the customer would, overall, have had a bad experience with your organisation.
Also, because there are now so many points of contact with the organisation, it may be that your contact centre works superbly, but your website sucks. Or you cellphone channel keeps breaking down.
The point being that the customer may have different satisfaction levels with different aspects of your organisation. If you don’t ask the right questions, in the right places, at the right times, you’re not going to understand where the problems are.
Crucially, if you don’t know where the problems are, you can’t fix them.
So, why measure things that don’t help you improve the organisation? Why measure things that don’t help you build the brand?
What exactly is the customer satisfied with?
Many contact centres are using the net promoter score (NPS) to measure their operations. That’s a move in the right direction, because it focuses on customer experience rather than simply the mechanics of answering and closing a call.
However, the NPS is an organisational not an operational measure. It asks the customer whether he or she would recommend this company / service / product to family and friends. Implied in it is the customer’s intention to buy again. It therefore is a powerful indicator of repeat business and growth. It tells you whether your brand is successful or not.
Applying the NPS to your employees (how likely would you be to recommend this organisation to family and friends as a place to work) also tells you whether your people are smiling at work and, therefore, smiling with customers. It tells you whether your brand is smiling.
What the NPS does not do is tell you at which specific touch points in your organisation the customer’s experience has been either good or bad.
For this reason, you need to ask highly targeted questions of the customer at each touch point. For instance, if the customer has been in a branch, send an sms as they leave the building to ask whether they are satisfied. If the reply is no, ask a series of questions about what happened in the branch. Was the person who served you knowledgeable? Were our processes too complicated? Did you wait too long in a queue?
Some metrics specialists recommend asking a minimum of five questions to get an accurate view of the situation. But, it is vital that you think the questions through to ensure that they are pertinent to both the customer and your company.
Be aware, too, that asking questions right after an interaction will, in all likelihood, get you a heartfelt response. However, asking questions some weeks or months later, when the customer has had time to think and, possibly, interact further with your organisation, will give you a different angle of view. You need both types of input to get a rounded picture of how well you’re serving your customers.
And, you need to marry the operational specifics to the NPS. That way, you get an insight into how operations are affecting the brand.
Keep it simple
The ancient principles never change. Don’t make it difficult for the customer to give you information. Don’t expect people to take the time to compose an email (unless they’re very angry indeed!) or wait in an IVR queue to speak to an agent. Do the work for them. Ask them, for example, to simply reply to an sms with a one word yes or no answer.
Then, do something with the information. Fix things that your metrics tell you aren’t working. Extend and enhance those that are. Reward the right employees. Help those who aren’t yet doing the business justice. Update your processes.
Close the loop.
There is no point in metrics, otherwise.