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Establishing the Right Measures in Your Contact Center

Where do we stand? What are others doing? What do our customers expect?

Given the enormous changes taking place in the business environment, these are important questions. If you’re looking guidance on objectives and standards, you’re not alone.

Of course, you’ll ultimately need to establish measures and objectives that are right for your organization and customers (cookie-cutter approaches don’t work). That requires developing a solid customer access strategy, one that furthers your organization's strategic objectives. Your measures and objectives should then directly support your customer access strategy, providing a baseline and specifics on how well you’re delivering on it. And if you are multisite, they should be calibrated to provide a consistent picture across the board (see Kim Campbell’s recent article.)

“All fine,” you might be thinking, “but give me more to work with.” Fair enough. More specifically, there are seven key categories of measures that should be in place in any customer contact center—ordered here from tactical, to strategic:

Forecast Accuracy. If you don't have an accurate prediction of the workload coming your way, it's almost impossible to deliver efficient, consistent service and achieve high levels of customer satisfaction. And that's just as true for newer mobile and social interactions as it is for phone, chat or email.

Schedule Fit and Adherence. If you have a good handle on the workload, you can build accurate schedules that ensure the right people are in the right places at the right times. This is best managed from the bottom up, with buy-in from your reps, and is an important enabler to everything else you're trying to accomplish.

Service Level and Response Time. If customer contacts don't get to the right places at the right times, little else can happen. Establishing service level and response time objectives is a prerequisite to ensuring that the organization is accessible and available where and when customers choose to interact.

Quality and First-Contact Resolution. Quality is the link between contact-by-contact activities and the organization's most important high-level objectives. First-contact resolution is essentially an extension of quality—a tangible result of getting quality right. Quality measures should be applied to every type of customer interaction.

Employee Satisfaction. Employee satisfaction clearly influences, even drives, customer satisfaction and is an essential measure in any environment. Further, retention, productivity and quality often have a definable, positive correlation to agent satisfaction.

Customer Satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is essential in all environments and has greatest value as a relative measure and in conjunction with other objectives (e.g., what impact do changes in policies, services and processes have on customer satisfaction). Robust methodologies such as net promoter score (NPS) or customer effort score can provide deeper insight into improvement opportunities, and a baseline for benchmarking.

Strategic Value. What contributions does the contact center make to revenues, marketing initiatives, product innovations and other primary business objectives? Measures are often focused on samples of impact in these and related areas, fueled by listening, engaging, and learning from customer interactions.

Other measures and objectives should be driven by your organization's objectives—i.e., revenue in a sales environment or contact prevention in technical support. The idea is to focus on the things that really matter, a theme covered in Jeff Toister’s recent article on sharing KPIs with senior executives.

It’s often said that “what gets measured gets done,” but that’s an over-simplification. Success is a matter of not only measuring the right things, but interpreting them correctly, building a culture that understands them, and ultimately, ensuring that day-to-day activities and decisions support them.

Consider an example of how interpretation can go wrong: A higher first contact resolution is better, right? Actually, it depends. I’ve seen many cases where organizations with high FCR rates (e.g., in the mid- to upper-90 percent range) are resolving contacts they shouldn't be handling in the first place. Common examples: Contacts that should be automated, or repeat contacts that could be fixed with product or communication improvements. (See Al Hopper’s recent article for guidance on how this important metric is evolving.)

Other important measures, such as forecast accuracy and service level, lose their meaning when they are averaged across a day or more. Even customer satisfaction can be suspect. For example, if the contact center goes through heroics to save the day for customers reflected in a survey sample, you could be missing problems impacting the larger customer base. (See Rich Pinnington’s advice on applying metrics to self-service and other components of the multichannel environment.)

Establishing the right metrics and using them appropriately is far easier and more effective than contending with the wrong metrics, trying to manage them in isolation, or reporting them in piecemeal to executives who (understandably) may not see how they support the organization’s mission.

In short: Build a solid customer access strategy. Establish the metrics to support it. And interpret them in context, with your organization’s mission in mind. Your customers and your shareholders will thank you!