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OpenTable's Innovative Approach to Customer Service Metrics

If you’ve made a dinner reservation recently, you’ve probably used OpenTable. The service has revolutionized the dining experience, empowering customers with a simple and convenient way to find and reserve tables by time, location, food type, and more. Their innovative approach also carries over to their contact center.

This year at Contact Center Demo & Conference, Nate Deeds, Senior Manager of Customer Support for OpenTable, will be joining us. He’ll deliver a session on contact center metrics, and explain how his team utilizes contact rate to improve the customer experience.

In this interview, Nate shares his philosophy on customer service metrics, evolving customer expectations, and the next big trend for contact centers. Have questions you’d like Nate to address at Contact Center Demo & Conference? Leave them in the comments below!

ICMI: OpenTable has an innovative approach to customer service metrics. What’s one lesson you’ve learned about measuring customer satisfaction?

Nate Deeds: Thanks for noticing, we are definitely trying to be different here at OpenTable. Customer satisfaction and the overall effectiveness of our support group is something we continuously optimize for here at OpenTable. One lesson we’ve learned is to always ask if there’s anything else we can help you with while we’re on the phone with you. This can go a long way towards making sure we’ve solved your problem completely and helping with next issue avoidance.

Nate Deeds, OpenTable

ICMI: Do you think it’s time to retire some of the more traditional contact center metrics like average handle time? Why/why not?

Nate Deeds: I’m a big fan of actionable metrics. If you’re going to measure something, what are you going to do with the result of that measurement?  A high average handle time alone is something that could be an indicator of a really good support rep who is solving an in-depth problem or developing a relationship with a customer, or it could be an indicator of an agent who may be inefficient or unsure of a resolution path.

On the flip side, a really low AHT could feel like a rushed call to a customer, which is the exact opposite of what we're shooting for.

In aggregate this metric tells me how well I’m doing my job, how efficient my systems automation and agent tools are. It’s also imperative for calculating service level and staffing levels.

So, while I don’t think we should retire traditional contact support metrics, we should rethink exposing them on an agent-level or in QAs, and instead focus on these as operational metrics and consider them alongside things like CSat and sentiment.

ICMI: How does OpenTable check the pulse of its customer base and respond to evolving needs?

Nate Deeds: OpenTable is an almost 20-year-old company and, even in 2016, we’re still connecting with our customers in new ways. We’re very fortunate in that we’ve become a household name. I take every opportunity I get to ask friends, family, and strangers alike what they like or dislike about OpenTable.

In terms of keeping pulse with our customer base, we actively monitor and evaluate sentiment on every email, tweet, call, and community post. We evaluate the needs of our customer base, both on the diner and restaurant side, and advocate for and represent them internally. That is the mandate of every support team and we’re fortunate enough at OpenTable to have a great relationship with our product and engineering teams to get these initiatives the attention they deserve.

ICMI: What’s next on your customer service radar? Are you preparing for any big trends in 2017?

Nate Deeds: Machine learning and self-service play very well with my favorite support channel, chat. Compared to calling and having to wait in queue, or email and wait for a response, chat allows me to contact a company in real time in a way that is convenient and allows me to continue with other activities at the same time.

Customers have expectations around your company always being available, and technology can help bridge that gap. While chatbots can provide a low effort, always on experience, it's important to give these bots situational awareness and allow for in-channel, seamless switching to a live human should the need arise.

Giving chatbots access to backend systems and infrastructure will allow instant, real time solutions for the simplest of problems. This will benefit customers because their issues are resolved in real time with no wait, and it will benefit contact centers because it will allow us to focus on what we do best – solving the more complex or high touch issues.

ICMI: What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a new contact center manager?

Nate: Oh man, so many ways to approach this question. I guess if I had to give one piece of advice, I’d say be skeptical of everything you do with an eye towards the customer.

Ask why…a lot. Why are things done this way? How could they be done differently, or better? And keep that question going with every support interaction that comes through your contact center because, at the end of the day, customers don’t want to have to contact you. They are doing it because something didn’t work for them, or they were unable to do something they can’t do themselves easily that your team can do for them.

Ask yourself how customer-friendly is your product and what does your team spend the majority of their time doing, then work towards improving that experience for the customer every single day. That’s the job.

ICMI: Other than yours, which session are you most looking forward to attending at Contact Center Demo & Conference? Why?

Nate: I’m really looking forward to Session 102, First Contact Resolution: Evolution from Traditional to Social Media Service. Justin and Jeff and the rest of the panel are smart, progressive thinkers and I’m looking forward to hearing the discussion and their thoughts around FCR.