Contact Center Metrics That Matter with Roy Atkinson

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Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Roy Atkinson, a senior writer and analyst for HDI and an all around customer service advocate. I had interviewed him for our 2015 customer service influencers report, but I was fortunate enough to be able to drive up to meet him in person and hear his presentation on metrics in the contact center.

I got a great education on contact center metrics during the presentation, and, with Roy’s blessing, I hope to pass some of those teachings onto you.

Communicating the business value of contact center metrics

According to research from HDI, 87% of support centers are feeling pressure to show their value to an organization. It’s not hard to see why they’re feeling this pressure: research from ICMI and Zendesk research found 62% of organizations view contact centers as cost centers.

So how can contact centers better communicate the value of their work through metrics? According to Roy, they first have to start by measuring the right things.

Roy cited a great quote by Steve Hultquist:

“The stuff that’s easy to measure is not going to get you what you really want.”

This is key. As Roy expertly pointed out, executive management doesn’t care how many calls you answered or the number of passwords you reset—none of that is demonstrates real business value. What does demonstrate business value, as Roy said, is communicating the right contact center metrics to the right people at the right time in the right way.

To do this, there are three questions you need to ask:

  • What do they want to know?
  • When do they want to know it?
  • How do they want information expressed and presented?

The information presented can be broken down into three tiers. They are:

  1. Tactical—requirements for success
  2. Operational—proof of execution
  3. Strategic—business focus

Metrics at levels one and two will help make the business case. Operational information (ie number of passwords reset) won’t concern executives as much as what those metrics really mean will.

Roy stressed the importance of communicating metrics the right way in his presentation. He gave this example: Let’s say your support center handled 4,000 incidents last month, but got 5,000 this month, and you want to tell the executives. After all, this looks like you’re helping more, right?

Wrong—expressing things this way communicates that things broke 1,000 more times. Go back to the tiers of information and ask yourself how this particular metric impacted the business in a positive way. Don’t focus on activities—focus on outcomes.

How self-service affects contact center metrics

Today, more and more businesses are implementing a self-service strategy. In addition to the cost savings self-service brings (an IVR, for instance, can reduce costs from $12 per call to 25 cents per call), it’s also a channel customers would prefer to use. Research has also found that 40% of customers would prefer to use self-service to interact with a business.

Roy and the HDI community call this approach to self-service “shift-left.” According to Roy, “shift-left means pushing more technical work toward the front line, and repetitive work into self-service.” Simple customer service inquiries are managed by self-service, or tier 0, while more complicated inquiries are managed by agents. As you work less and shift left toward self-service, you get closer to the customer and their needs. As you move right towards tier 1 interactions (the support desk) and escalate, time and costs go up.

But how does this shift left impact metrics? Average hold time would be shorter, because customers are self-serving, right?

Not necessarily. As Roy points out, average handle time would actually go up, as agents solve more complex problems. The speed to answer would also go up, but the cost per ticket (a metric that executives do care about)? Well, it depends.

Cost per ticket may have gone down over the past few years ($20 in 2010 to $14 in 2014), but as Roy explains, the cost per ticket is inversely proportional to the number of tickets. If self-service succeeds, the number of tickets goes down. However, if the number of tickets goes down, the cost per ticket goes up.

Let’s look at an example to understand this a little better. Let’s say in 2014, your support center spent $1.3 million and resolved 52,000 tickets. In 2015, you spent $1.4 million but resolved 76,000 tickets.

To calculate the real cost per ticket, you need to divide the total cost by the total number of tickets. Once we do that, we get the following:

2014 Ex. 1.3M / 52,000 tickets per year = $25/ticket

2015: 1.4M / 76,000 tickets per year = $18.42/ticket

At first glance, it would seem that costs decreased, because you’re spending less on each individual ticket. However, that’s not the case, because you actually spent more ($1.4 million).

It’s important to be able to make distinctions like this when presenting to executives. Make sure you’re examining the meaning behind the numbers, not just presenting the numbers themselves.

Conclusion

These were just some of the points Roy made in his presentation, but hopefully you’ve found them helpful. I’ll leave you with this final point from Roy, something we agree with here at OneReach:

The metric is not the goal. The metric is only a milepost that helps you measure your progress toward your goal.

Did you find this article helpful? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to download our customer service report featuring insights from Roy Atkinson and more experts here.

Computer stock photo from Negative Space. CC0 license.

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