4 8 15 16 23 42 – Are You LOST in your contact center?

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I will admit it. I watched ABC’s hit series Lost. It had some great moments, especially in the first 3 or 4 seasons, but once it was all said and done, I still felt lost with Lost!

Because I have spent a lot of time in contact centers, I was most intrigued by the numbers that kept popping up and taunting various characters in the show. Contact centers love numbers!

The numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 frequently recurred in Lost. If you missed the show, I won’t bore you with the details of the various things the numbers represented… Like how each corresponded with a character that was identified as a candidate to replace Jacob as protector of the Island, or that the numbers also formed the coefficients in an equation that predicted mankind’s extinction. Instead I’ll share my favorite role the numbers played in the show and how it translates to what happens in many contact centers today.

During the second season of Lost, the survivors discovered a computer inside the Swan station which required the Numbers to be entered into it every 108 minutes. A timer set into the wall provided a continual countdown – and an alarm would sound as the timer neared zero. Entering the Numbers sequentially and pressing Execute (a.k.a. pushing the button) on the keyboard would cause the timer to reset to 108 minutes and begin the countdown anew. It was initially unclear what would happen if the button was not pushed.

Can you relate? Do you find yourself chasing numbers with a sense of urgency even though you may not really know what they mean or how to change them? Too often we are haunted by NPS, AHT, FCR, QM, Service Level, and C-SAT numbers. Many contact center managers and supervisors find themselves trapped in their “hatch” pushing buttons and watching numbers.

Don’t get me wrong, numbers are important. The challenge is that too often the numbers become more important, or more of a focus, than what the numbers actually represent or truly mean. So here are 3 simple truths about numbers in the contact center.

TRUTH #3: Numbers Are Not Absolute Truths
Many times I have had someone ask what the industry standard for talk time is. Truth be told, there is no industry standard for talk time. Instead, I would suggest asking: “How long does it take us to serve our customers when they have questions or concerns, in the most effective, efficient, polite, professional, friendly, and accurate manner?”
You can find this by observing the folks in your center that do this on a daily basis. Once you find your Rockstars, learn what they are doing and share that with your team. That is a start at understanding what your talk time averages may be, but these may change when you add new products and services that might change the call flow. Keep in mind, talk time is most beneficial to accurate scheduling, staffing and budgeting. I would recommend that you NEVER CREATE A TALK TIME GOAL FOR YOUR EMPLOYEES. Instead, help the individuals that are a bit too high or a bit too low by addressing their specific performance gaps related to their contacts, and stay away from setting a specific number as a goal.

TRUTH #2. Unintended Consequences of Numbers
Contact Centers are filled with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These are critical to track success and identify performance gaps. The risk happens when people only understand and speak to specific KPI numbers, instead of talking about the actual issues that are impacting the KPI.

Some examples…

Service Level Communication:
“We must answer 80% of our calls in 20 seconds!!!!!”
Unintended Consequences:
“We must rush customers when call volume is high!!!!!”

Average Talk Time Communication:
“We must handle calls in 240 seconds!!!!!”
Unintended Consequences:
“We must ask customers to call us back at the 239 second mark!!!!!”

Service Level Communication:
“We must handle any wrap up time related to a call in 30 seconds or less!!!!!”
Unintended Consequences:
“We must keep customers on the call while we finish notating their account, even though the call is basically complete from their perspective!!!!!”

TRUTH #1. Words, Not Numbers, Matter Most to Frontline Employees
Numbers are incredibly important to managers and executives, and words are incredibly important to frontline staff. The problem is that too often managers try to use numbers when coaching/motivating/training employees. It just doesn’t work. Too often coaching sessions occur like this:

Manager: “You are a 3.37 on your quality monitoring scores. You really need to be at least a 4!”

That never works. What does the number mean? Why is a 4 important? How do they get to a 4? Lets say in this example the employee needs to be more empathetic with customers. The conversation would be much more successful like this:

Manager: “Hey Joe, when we listen to your calls I notice a couple of opportunities where the customer mentions that they are home sick. I think that is a great opportunity to tell them you are sad to hear they are feeling bad, and maybe wish them a speedy recovery when you end the call. That could really improve your quality monitoring scores and help improve your annual review!

That’s all for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts about numbers!

Republished with author’s permission from original post.

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