Putting the Customer First: Using Real-Time Contact Center Metrics to Achieve Your Goals

Almost every contact center leader analyzes the rich data coming from their Avaya Aura system in order to improve the effectiveness of their agents, better determine trends, accurately schedule their workforce, lower costs and drive additional revenues. A good deal of the information used is based on historical data from previous intervals (ex. day/month/year) for planning purposes, and in terms of their ability to predict things like agent shrinkage and call volumes.  However, that data doesn’t necessarily translate well when it comes to identifying and addressing the issues that arise during the course of a day in a contact center.

Today, best-in-class contact centers understand that delivering a consistently satisfying experience for their customers is a key differentiator. To help achieve their customer satisfaction goals they are complimenting their historical data with real-time metrics, which allows them to quickly identify and address potential problems before they lead to negative customer experiences.

Integrating real-time metrics into your performance management processes takes planning and a solid understanding of your organization’s goals.  Using the wrong performance metrics can not only conflict with your goals, but actually drive unwanted behavior. To ensure the desired results are achieved Inova Solutions recommends the following process when implementing a real-time performance management solution:

  • First, determine what results you’re trying to achieve: improved customer service levels, or increase sales or conversion rates, or lower cost per call.
  • Next, determine what metrics are available and how they align to those goals.  Common metrics from an ACD or reporting applications, such as Avaya Aura Contact Center or the Avaya Call Management System are good places to start. Inova Solutions can aggregate those metrics across multiple platforms and sites and customize the out-of-the box options to best meet your needs. With an Inova real-time solution you can also pull in and manipulate data from other non-contact center sources, such as sales databases, or operational systems. Whatever platforms you use, give careful consideration to leveraging more customer centric metrics such as CSAT, Calls Waiting or Schedule Adherence versus Average Handle Time (AHT) or Average Speed of Answer (ASA).
  • When determining what metrics are available, you’ll also want to consider who you’ll be sharing them with.  Inova will help you determine what metrics are most impactful for managers, supervisors, individual agents, or groups of agents and how best to present them. Inova supports each audience with presentation choices ranging from customizable mobile dashboards, multimedia digital signage and desktop applications.
  • Finally, once you’ve determined what metrics you’ll be sharing with whom, you’ll want to establish threshold levels and response strategies. Inova Solutions can help you determine when you should react to an out-of-compliance metric, create instructional messaging and determine follow-up strategies.

With the right real-time metrics and tools, your contact center team will be aware of ‘in-moment’ customer service issues and be able to respond to them more appropriately, accurately and quickly – ensuring you meet your customer service goals. Inova Solutions offers a Real-Time Performance Analysis Service to help you identify the right metrics and show you how to transform the data into usable, actionable information to improve the performance of your contact center and staff. Learn More.

Use Big Data to Serve the Overall Goals of Your Call Center

The September 2013 issue of CRM Magazine, includes “Which Interaction Channels are Most Popular,” by Leonard Klie.  Klie writes that multichannel options remain common for customer service, many companies share ownership for the integration among consumer affairs and marketing, often with customer care coming in third.   Interestingly, Klie believes that “as multichannel integration has increased, the need to integrate the data has not followed suit.”  Certainly, there are opportunities for businesses to integrate and share big data among departments. 

If your customer service contact center is already collecting and analyzing contact data, can you find ways to integrate it with other departments, both to increase your value at the company and to help achieve organizational goals?  Consider these example

  • A recent marketing campaign has led to a spike in incoming calls and, presumably, an unexpected increase in call volume. You can coordinate with marketing in advance of future campaigns in order to staff up to meet expected demands and create and send informative messages to agents detailing the new promotion.
  • You notice a significant decrease in first call resolution.  Once you investigate, you find that an incorrect link on the website is circling customers through an endless loop.  Your agents are able to provide the correct link and resolve the issue, but the best solution would be to have the appropriate department correct the website error. 

Take a step back and look at your data to determine if there are alternate ways to view and use the information.  Talk to your colleagues in other departments to see if the data that you already collect could help them achieve more success.  Big data is best used outside of a vacuum to serve the overall goals of the organization. 

Controlling Your Technology Destiny in the Contact Center

In the August 2013 edition of Contact Center Pipeline, Brian Hinton writes, “while IT might hold the keys to technology delivery and support, the contact center must use technology wisely to achieve business goals.”  At first, this seems to be a simple enough statement; however, it is really quite loaded once you start to break it down.  First, you have the relationship between IT and the contact center itself.  As Hinton explains, it can be easy for IT and contact center managers to reach a stalemate when trying to manage technology.  IT employees are often the subject matter experts; however, it can be unfair for contact center employees to rely on IT to provide a full picture of what is possible.  Hinton offers some suggestions for contact center managers to take the first steps in ensuring optimal technology usage in the contact center.

Close the knowledge gapAs a contact center manager, you can empower yourself by understanding the industry and the technology available.  Attend conferences, network through associations or other groups, read trade-specific material, and talk to your technology vendor.  The more information you can gather about contact center technology, the better equipped you will be to target specific areas of improvement for your center.

Establish requirements for technology expansionConsider ways that you can use technology to enhance your current business goals.  Are there technology solutions that will help you better measure performance metrics and KPIs?  Is there a technology solution that will enhance your workforce management strategies?  Can you utilize technology platforms to improve your IVR or ACD systems?  Key components of this part of the process are to define metrics that align with your performance goals and to specify action-oriented response processes.

Prioritize As you broaden your knowledge of contact center technology options and begin to grasp requirements that fit your specific contact center, you will be able to prioritize the specific priorities.  You can identify which of targeted areas of contact center improvement align with technology solutions.

Once you have prioritized your requirements, you can then meet with IT.  Collaboration at this point allows you to share your exact technology needs with the technical expertise and insight from your IT partners.  As Hinton writes, “the contact center has to own the effective use of technology… but, successfully achieving goals depends on IT and the contact center working together collaboratively to implement technology together and to continue learning together.”

The CRM Baseball Game – Customer service and a classic American pastime

In the July 2013 issue of CRM Magazine, Denis Pombriant writes “Making the Play with CRM,” an article which details the similarities between customer service and a classic American pastime.  While it may seem to be a bit of a stretch, Pombriant bases his comparison on the proactive nature of both endeavors:

 Baseball, like customer service…is all about possibilities and probabilities that we can only prepare for until something happens.

The author uses the phrase “state of equipoise” to describe how a baseball player functions during much of the game.  Even when a player is not part of the action on the field, he knows the strikes and outs, the runners’ locations, and the hitters’ general abilities; he is prepared to react in a way that will best serve his team. 

To take it one step further than Pombriant, consider the ways that you can be aware of the “game” around you in your contact center:

  • Disabled list:  Are you approaching a time of year when you may have more employee sick days?
  • Batting average:  Do you have employees who routinely perform significantly above or below average?  Can you leverage their experiences to improve the job flow for all agents?
  • Strike outs:  Are your customers satisfied with the service they are receiving, or are your agents striking out in their efforts?
  • RBIs:  What job aids or other tools are available to help agents reach performance goals?

Of course, being aware of these details is only the first step.  Another critical piece of equipoise is the ability to react quickly and correctly to what is happening; this will require good ‘pre-season’ planning as well as  being aware of each situation as it happens on game day.  This state of equipoise is clearly relevant for a contact center; being aware of the various factors that impact performance and having a plan for mediating potential problems will ultimately lead to a win.


The Fundamental Customer Experience

Everywhere you turn lately, you hear about the “customer experience,” a term that seems like it should be spoken with resonance through a loud speaker.  Although, the term may be associated with bells and whistles, social media and apps, at its roots the customer experience is really about what the customer wants.  Brent Leary writes in the July 2013 issue of CRM Magazine that “we always seem to get into this cycle of throwing new stuff at old problems without focusing on the fundamentals.”  In his article, “Screaming for a Good Customer Experience,” he explains that a focus on the fundamentals is what is really important to customers.

“It’s not social customer service that people want.  It’s quick resolution to their issues.”

-Frank Eliason, global director of social media for Citibank

Leary cites an example of a dairy company with retail stores in the Midwest.  Executives realized that customers in these stores were sometimes waiting in very long lines, and that wait times were exacerbated by an inefficient menu board layout.  After studying layout options with a goal to reduce wait times, the company rolled out new menu boards.  Because of the vetting procedure that was part of the study, the new boards not only reduced wait times, but also increased revenues. 

Take a step back and look at your contact center.  Is your company heavily focused on the “shiny objects,” but perhaps without measurable improvements?  Since the queues in your center are essentially the same as a wait line in a retail store, shouldn’t reducing that wait time be a primary focus?  Managing those queues efficiently is at the core of customer service and, ultimately, at the core of what we do.  As Leary says, “this isn’t the stuff that gets headlines, but it definitely gets (and keeps) the customer.”

Thinking Outside the [Standard Metrics] Box

The June 2013 issue of Contact Center Pipeline included “Underutilized Metrics,” an article written by Jay Minnucci.  Minnucci highlights three metrics that could be used with more frequency and effectiveness to provide a more comprehensive understanding of contact center performance:

  • Contacts per customer – While the expectations for this metric will vary across industry, understanding the contacts per customer within your center and industry can help you answer questions about your customer base.  Do you have customers who contact you multiple times per year?  Minnucci gives the magic number of four contacts; these are the dedicated customers whose familiarity indicates that they may be devoted to your brand.  This metric can also help you pinpoint areas to target for improvement, as in the example the author sites: if a significant majority of your customers only contact you once a year, they will not be willing to invest their time in learning an IVR system.
  • Cost per second of AHT – This is my favorite underutilized metric that Minnucci covers, since it provides you with a concrete number to consider when considering the expectations placed on agents.  Minnucci cites the 5-20 seconds spent recording a customer’s email address, but also consider the time (and cost) devoted to multiple verification layers and other elements that add precious seconds to calls.
  • Percentage of calls held – Taking a closer look at the percentage of your calls that are put on hold can provide you with insight about the information that your agents have at their fingertips or stored in memory.  A high percentage of calls on hold could indicate a need to investigate training or job aids to determine if those solutions could help agents avoid hold time.  At an agent level, this percentage could highlight your high performers, allowing you to identify best practices and areas for potential improvement across the center.

As Jay points out, the best KPIs are those that are actionable, and many of these are not the most obvious or easiest to obtain.  Inova Solutions can work with you determine the best metrics for your environment and calculate them accordingly. Certainly these three metrics are a great start at obtaining useful and actionable insight about your contact center.  

Real-time Metrics Enable Consistent Contact Center Performance

Proper forecasting and accurate scheduling are critical to the success of your contact center.  But accurate scheduling, by design, doesn’t leave much room for error and puts most contact centers dangerously close to the edge in terms of being over-staffed or under-staffed.  Given the random nature of the arrival of contacts, being ‘right-staffed’ can be a fleeting concept.  More often than not, you will have too many or too little agents available to address current demand.  Add in the normal daily chaos and it’s easy to see why even the most accurate schedules can become misaligned pretty quickly.

Monitoring agent and overall contact center performance are equally important to success. Daily performance reports provide good historical analysis, and allow you to adjust your going-forward planning, but they do little in terms of addressing issues when they are most important – when a customer is engaged and the customer satisfaction meter is ticking.  In an environment where CSAT score goals are set high and speed of service is measure in seconds, it’s easy to see how success in achieving your objectives can be quickly jeopardized.

Addressing issues in workforce and performance are moment-to-moment requirements that can’t wait until the next day.  They require real-time information, analysis and action.  To ensure that consistent, satisfying experiences are delivered, processes must be in place to:

  • Allow agents, supervisors and managers to learn immediately when there is a problem
  • Understand what corrective actions must be taken & when

Having a lack of visibility into the right set of real-time metrics, however, limits those capabilities.  A new white paper from DMG consulting, Improve Contact Center Performance with Real-Time Metrics, details how monitoring the right metrics in real-time can help you improve your customer service scores and improve the overall performance of your contact center.  The paper includes a look at the top requested real-time metrics by supervisors and managers that, when monitored, result in specific benefits, including:

  • Reduced wait times and abandonment rates
  • More informed and efficient agents
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Improved adherence and occupancy rates
  • Reduced operating expenses
  • Avoidance of negative public relations

If you’re looking to improve the performance of your contact center or considering adding real-time metrics to your reporting processes, give the paper a read.

Download the White Paper

Planning for Tech Refreshes

The latest rumors in the tech blogosphere are buzzing that a new iPhone may be coming out as soon as this summer. This leaves many recent purchasers of the current version feeling that they may have just paid full price for soon-to-be out of date technology. Will the new version be worth upgrading, or will it just be an old penny shined up to look new?

Nowhere is this plight truer than for the technology buyer in the contact center, where purchases or upgrades are driven by the quest for better operational efficiencies, integration of acquired technology or replacement of old, depreciated or under-performing systems. But spend too much and you’ve dug your center into a hole. It may be difficult to determine how often to do a tech refresh, and which devices still have more life in them.

In addition to system upgrades and technical integrations, contact center technology buyers must discern which new software applications will best meet changing customer contact preferences such as social interactions and mobile access, as well as which will improve efficiency and best support the on-going goal of providing the ultimate customer experience. For example, certain customer service industries may greatly benefit from becoming aware of trends and customer communication on social media platforms. Consider a trial period before you invest significant resources. If you do decide to collect that social media data, you’ll need a way to track and monitor it.

Underlying all of these considerations is the need to better measure overall performance.  Contact center managers are realizing that after-the-fact historical reporting and manual process can only take you so far.  They need more analytics and the ability to adjust to the random nature of contacts and the overall real-time demands they face every day.

Technology buyers face decisions here too. Everyone wants to improve performance, but at what cost?  A good historical reporting platform is in place, the workforce management system performs well enough, and calls are automatically routed based on preprogrammed criteria and skills.  However, a real-time performance management solution that can monitor and display key performance metrics in real-time, along with other vital enterprise data is still needed.  Such a system provides an early warning to address ‘in moment’ customer service issues and allows contact center manager to adjust to daily trends and meet the challenges of unpredictable call volumes and suddenly misaligned schedules.

Contact center technology, depending on the type, may become quickly outdated with the changing demands of your industry. So be sure to invest in solutions that can grow and adapt with you, and you’ll find your future investments in the system are low.

How often do you advocate replacing technology in your contact center?

Resolve to be FAIR

The April 2013 edition of CRM Magazine includes an article by Brent Leary, “Cultivate a New Approach to Business and Customer Engagement”.  Leary offers FAIR as an acronym for a few “tenets that companies are taking…to create organizations that can keep up with customer behaviors and expectations:”

  • Fast and flexible – Seconds count in customer service, especially in today’s contact centers.  As Leary says, with web pages loading in a few seconds and book delivery reduced to less than a minute, “speed thrills and lack of it kills.”  Companies have to be able to react more quickly than ever in order to create a connection with a customer.
  • Agile and analytical – Not only does the world move more quickly now, but there is more data than ever to aggregate.  Companies must analyze data to identify key pieces, which then allow conversion “into appealing interaction opportunities.”
  • Interactive and integrated – Leary addresses the “social, mobile, and cloud technologies”; there is also increasing potential for integration of different contact streams and among corporate departments and stakeholders.
  • Responsive and reliable – Of the four tenets, this last one is an old standby.  Customers always have and always will want to do business with companies that are trustworthy.  Modern day customers, though, have technology that “raises expectations quicker, and disappoints faster;” companies must be able to function in this fast-paced world and still maintain credibility.

In your contact center, you can use the data available through your systems to better manage being FAIR to your customers.  Real-time performance reporting solutions, such as those built on LightLink, give you fast and flexible capability to capture performance information as it happens which allows you analyze data on the fly.   You can then use your analysis of your integrated data streams to interact with other key stakeholders at your contact center and in your organization.   Through your real-time data analysis and collaboration, you can enact any needed operational changes at the moment they are needed, which will ultimately make you more responsive and reliable for your customers.


Accessing your KPIs – anytime, anywhere

Certainly, nearly everyone around us is becoming more attached to the ever-present access to data and information through our smart devices.  Contact managers are no different, and your contact center performance metrics can be accessible anytime and anywhere through mobile dashboards presented on the devices that you carry with you!  Your day-to-day business as a contact center manager often likely takes you away from your desk, or even away from the office building or out of town.  Consider some of the ways that a mobile dashboard can really serve you as a contact center manager:

  • Remote Performance Management – If you are out of the office, you can still keep tabs on your contact center’s full performance metrics.  With this functionality, you can identify potential problems and to react appropriately when necessary.
  • Continuous access – With a mobile dashboard you don’t have to leave your metrics behind when you’re on the floor coaching agents.
  • Customization options – Your mobile dashboard can be customized to meet your exact needs and highlight the metrics most important to you.  Perhaps most helpful is the ability to set thresholds and receive alerts of situations that require immediate attention.

The odds are that you already carry a tablet or smartphone with you at nearly all times.  Having access to portable and remote dashboards via a tablet or smartphone helps you stay on top of critical issues at the call center at all times.