Published: August 16, 2016 | Comments
Average handle time. Service level. First Contact Resolution. Everyone is interested in contact center metrics. Well, perhaps not everyone—but metrics are essential to understand how a contact center is functioning and where improvements can be made. That’s nothing new. What is new is the need to evaluate the performance of multichannel contact centers. Agents now have to deal with well-informed customers and increasingly complex queries. Metrics that served us well in the past are being revisited.
Driven by customer demand for more contact options, multichannel is no longer the wave of the future—it is here and now. Although the quality of service and engagement customers receive should be no different, the performance measurements are different.
There are three key multichannel contact center metrics that matter and should evaluated: agent productivity, avoidable contact and customer experience.
This is one that has always been evaluated for contact center performance, but there is a new spin with multichannel. In voice-only call centers, the agent is limited to one interaction at a time, usually followed by a period of wrap-up and post-call work. But with multichannel interactions, a productive agent can participate in multiple chats and emails at the same time, significantly reducing the cost per contact and utilizing available time more effectively. Even factoring in post-communication or wrap-up work, a multichannel agent can engage with more customers and resolve more issues than an agent who speaks with one customer at a time. A good way to measure this is to take the hourly rate of an agent and divide it by the number of transactions completed in that hour, which gives the cost per contact. Compare this with a voice-only agent and there should be significant savings.
Another thing to consider with multichannel contact centers is that these types of text-based engagements can easily be performed by home-based agents. The customer won’t know or care where the agent is located, as long as their question or issue can be resolved…by live contact or submitting a form or email. And utilizing home-based agents can further reduce costs, such as office space and capital equipment, and improve productivity by eliminating commute time—which makes multichannel even more cost-effective.
This may seem like an odd metric, but the savings achieved through agents completing multiple interactions at once could be lost if contacts increase significantly due to email “ping pong” between agent and customer. All savings are lost—and customer satisfaction plummets—if multiple email interactions are required to answer one question or resolve a single issue. It can be the same situation if multiple live chats, often with different agents, are required—especially if the customer has to repeat the issue every time. Multichannel is supposed to make things easier for customers…not make them wish they had just called the toll-free number and waited on hold.
To evaluate avoidable contact, look at what percentage of customers had to re-engage because the initial response did not resolve their query. During voice or chat interactions, agents typically end the conversation by saying “Is there anything else I can help you with?” That provides instant feedback whether the customer is satisfied or needs elevation. With email engagement it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to know immediately whether the response has resolved the inquiry. Measuring the levels of avoidable contact will help brands identify skills gaps, training needs, poor product information and other potential stumbling points. Those are prime opportunities for brands to implement changes to improve the customer experience. That input can also help build a knowledge base (and standard responses) for use in future email replies—streamlining efforts by using what generally works and freeing up agents to engage with more customers.
The final metric to evaluate, and one that is generally considered the ultimate measure of contact center success, is that of customer experience. This can be trickier for brands to get a pulse on, as many brands are moving in the direction of providing more self-service than customer-agent interaction. That’s not a bad thing—many customers are “time poor” and need answers when it is convenient for them, often outside “normal” business hours. Many queries can be resolved using self-service and it is often more important to customers to be able to engage with brands at a time that suits them rather than getting an immediate response. Speedy resolution to an issue, without the customer having to wait in a queue for an agent, can often result in a much better customer experience.
Customers taking advantage of self-service customer service, such as email and web forms, have some communication requirements. They overwhelmingly want to know that their inquiry has been received, that a particular person is handling it and will get back to them, and when they can expect that response. These are simple to automate—auto replies thanking them for their email or web submission, noting a response time frame and that Mary (or whoever the system has assigned) will be contacting them. Voila! The customer feels they can check one more thing off their “to do” list and have a level of assurance their issue or question is being handled.
And then brands must measure the customer experience to learn if their self-service systems are meeting customer needs. Measurement can take many forms: a post-chat survey, a pop-up box on a website, Net Promoter Scores, Feefo (which powers feedback engines for many global brands and posts feedback verbatim for response, if needed), SMS/email surveys, star ratings or any number of measurement tools. Providing the brand delivers on what it told the customer, then the outcome of whatever method used to gather the customer experience data should be positive.
Offering multichannel customer service and support can bring big benefits for both brands and customers. There are, obviously, other metrics than can help brands in their evaluations…but these three are the most productive and illuminating place to start. Happy multichanneling!