Tracking Customer-Focused Metrics

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For years, contact center managers have been measuring operational metrics like average handle time, average hold time, turnover, sales per representative, average time to respond, and so on. But are these the most important metrics to measure?

What’s important to measure depends on who you are

Customer service and support managers want to measure the operational metrics listed above along with others like transfer rates and queue length to help them run an efficient organization.

Executives, on the other hand, want to measure customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, market share, and profitability by product or service line so they can see how effective the company is at maximizing the shareholder’s return on investment. The two do not always jive.

The disconnect between efficient and effective

A company could go out of business if their only concern is having happy customers at all costs. So while it’s important to be cost-effective, this doesn’t always mean seeking the lowest cost. Take for example, the usual focus on average handle time. Of course, customers want to keep a call as short as possible, too. But they care more about getting their questions answered accurately and getting their problems resolved.

And guess what? Most customers don’t mind taking a little extra time to hear about something that will save them from having to call back in the future. So there’s a disconnect between keeping a call short (efficient) and taking enough time to resolve the caller’s issue and give information to minimize a call back (effective).

To meet the goals of the executive team, there’s a trend among customer service and support managers to re-examine their metrics in light of the larger objectives of the business.

What is the customer’s point of view?

Start examining your metrics from the customer’s point of view. Consider escalations, for example. Managers seek to drive escalations down. Of course! Who wants their supervisors or Tier 2 engineers tied up on simple problems. But what will satisfy the customer? A speedy escalation if that’s what it takes to get the problem resolved.

A customer-focused metric then, would be to track “appropriate” vs. “inappropriate” escalations. Inappropriate escalations are those where the agent should be able to handle the problem, but can’t, and therefore escalates the customer to the next level. Too many inappropriate escalations point out a training issue. Once you identify inappropriate escalations as a problem, you can then provide additional training and give your staff the tools they need to handle their level of calls. The result will be fewer inappropriate escalations, happier customers, and lower costs.

How about call quality scores? Many centers we’ve worked with tracked behaviors that did not affect customer satisfaction (such as using the customer’s name three times during the call) and left out things that did, (such as providing an accurate answer). Why not conduct a focus group with customers this year to find out what you should add to your form and what you can stop tracking.

What else should you track?

There’s a real business case for first-contact resolution because it’s one of the prime drivers of customer satisfaction and it keeps costs down.

As Richard Snow from Ventana Research puts it:

“First contact resolution can be even more useful when linked with other metrics and actions. Applied to agents, for example, it lets companies identify best practices and adjust process and training so more agents can resolve more issues the first time. Linked to customers, it can tell who are the difficult customers and how they can be handled in the future. It can help identify why issues occur and what can be done to generate fewer calls. It can influence behavior, because agents will strive harder to resolve more calls at the first attempt. It can influence call-routing rules, so that more calls are routed to agents who resolve more issues the first time.”

If you have first contact resolution within benchmark levels, then go for next issue avoidance, also called proactive service. This is another one of the top 10 trends for the upcoming year.

Conferences, webinars, and customer service forums are all a-buzz about customer satisfaction, retention, and net promoter scores—the same issues executives pay attention to. This year, be sure your center metrics are well-aligned to deliver solid business results.

Post #8 in the Top Ten Customer Service and Support Trends for 2012 series. Click here to view all trends.

1 COMMENT

  1. Peggy –

    Liked points made in your post. Would also include advocacy as another key behavior metric, directly tied to business outcomes. Increasingly, we are finding researchers and executives wanting to build customer advocacy (principally, impact of brand impression and offline/online positive and negative word-of-mouth) into their suite of customer metrics, to measure downstream behavior impact of service transactions, brand postiioning and messaging effectiveness, strategic customer relationships, etc. See:

    http://www.customerthink.com/article/marketing_case_customer_advocacy_measurement

    http://www.customerthink.com/article/customer_advocacy_behavior_personal_brand_connection

    http://www.customerthink.com/article/negative_word_of_mouth_customer_alienation_and_sabotage

    Michael Lowenstein, Ph.D., CMC
    Executive Vice President
    Market Probe (www.marketprobe.com)

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