The ROI of Proactive Testing: Don’t Make Customers Serve as Guinea Pigs for Your Service Process

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By the time a customer climbs into their new car, every centimeter of it has been tested, prototyped and analyzed to make sure it works the way it’s supposed to. It’s the same thing when they put their laundry into a new washing machine; they assume it’s not going to come out as a handful of wet rags because the manufacturer tested it before it hit the market.

That’s the way it is for just about every product from jet liners to smart phones. Before they come in contact with customers, companies already know how they’re going to work and what experience the user will have. New products might have a minor glitch here or there, but the big stuff is assured.

Unless the “product” is customer service, of course, in which case most companies wing it rather than test. It’s a blind spot in most industries that costs incalculable amounts of customer good will, millions in revenues and lost ROI on customer service technology systems.

Sending a customer down a blind alley on an interactive voice response (IVR) system or cutting them off during a transfer between customer service representatives is an obvious way to earn their wrath. In the social media age, people don’t suffer in silence; they’re quick to share their frustrations with thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers. Before long, a few problems with your customer service apparatus can earn you persistently bad word of mouth amplified by social media.

Service quality problems also have an immediate impact on customer service system ROI. When customer service representatives repeat themselves three or four times because of poor voice quality, they’re wasting time that could be spent serving other customers. Costs like that can be quantified and presented to senior executives as the immediate, concrete losses they are.

Testing and performance monitoring can effectively stem those losses. Businesses that test and monitor customer service systems are better able to achieve maximum ROI on their customer service systems (CSS) by identifying and remediating problems quickly. An end-to-end monitoring solution provides organizations with deep visibility into complex customer service technology environments, enabling businesses to reduce the time it takes to understand the source of a problem—and fix it—before customers ever notice the glitch. Maximum return on CSS correlates to good customer service, so testing and monitoring essentially has two payoffs.

The Testing Deficit

There are no particularly good answers for why companies don’t test their customer services solutions before they go live, but there is one common response that makes sense in the abstract.

When a company hires a vendor to install a CSS, they expect the vendor to test it. In their defense, most vendors do test. However, when problems lie in the interaction between different vendors’ products, it’s hard for any one vendor to pinpoint the problem’s source. Assuring ROI on customer technology requires end-to-end test plans to preempt the risks that typically affect customer experience and increase operational costs. Some of these risks include:

  • Improper call routing
  • Dropped calls
  • Poor voice quality
  • Improper data presentation and/or slow data arrival
  • Reduced application performance
  • Project delays
  • Undiscovered issues
  • Call abandonment rates that are higher than goal
  • Necessary rollbacks
  • Idle people/agents
  • Customer impact and churn

Problems like these can occur during implementation or after new systems are operational. Testing anticipates them before they occur. Monitoring identifies issues as they emerge, which enables IT organizations to address them before they can affect customer experiences.

The Case for Testing and Monitoring

Executives need to understand the financial return before committing the funds necessary to tackle a testing and/or performance monitoring implementation. It’s easy to simply say that a breakdown in a business communication system can result in lost customers, but many organizations require a more concrete analysis.

To illustrate just how quickly the costs associated with technology failures can add up, consider the following computations for interactive voice response (IVR) failures or poor voice quality (as highlighted in Figure 1). By going through this exercise, organizations can obtain more tangible proof and understanding of just how big of an issue this is.


Airline Improves Call Center Experiences

Mindful of contact center problems’ potential costs, a U.S.-based airline incorporated monitoring tools into the consolidation of its existing call centers with those of a recent acquisition. The project spanned 12 facilities in the U.S., India and the Philippines that handled an average of 70,000 calls per day. Their technology infrastructures included extensive voice, data and computer-telephony integration (CTI) systems. Integrating them required replacing switches, re-engineering routing strategies, and replacing CTI clients and voice portals.

The integration program’s goal was to provide consistently positive experiences through the voice app and CTI platforms. It purchased performance monitoring tools and integrated their use into call center management. The tools provided the information to proactively address customer-affecting failures by monitoring across multiple platforms, identifying issues and engaging the correct teams.

The performance monitoring system is credited with dramatically reducing the number and severity of incidents and also mean time to repair. IVR failures, drops in voice quality and misdirected calls do not cause significant losses of ROI on CSS because they are addressed before they can affect significant numbers of customers.

Providing a continuously positive customer experience is critical to success in this competitive business landscape. Companies cannot afford to pay for under-performing customer communication systems. They have direct, immediate costs in wasted time, lower productivity and unhappy customers eager to take their business elsewhere at the first sign of a glitch and bring their friends with them on their social media coat tails.

This makes it more important than ever for businesses to proactively address customer experience and risks inherent in complex customer service technology environments. Poor customer experience should be the exception, not the rule, and it should not be a contributor to revenue loss and inadequate returns on investment.

Tim Moynihan
Tim Moynihan serves as vice president of marketing at Empirix. In this role, Tim is responsible for strategic business planning and product revenue growth strategies as well as expanding Empirix's position as the market leader in service quality assurance solutions for enterprises and service providers. These responsibilities include providing executive leadership, managing their individual business units on both an internal and external basis as well as overseeing marketing objectives worldwide.

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