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Six Best Practices to Prevent Metrics from Crushing Your Culture and Morale

Successful customer service relies on effective operational analysis.  With the adoption of analytics, statistical analysis is more complicated than ever, but how the metrics are used determines the value of your insights.  Unfortunately, many contact centers use the metrics as the cold, inflexible rule that inadvertently undermines the heartbeat of what is, and should be, a people business.

As an illustration, a high attrition rate was confounding one of my clients.  The staff turnover was costing them a lot of money.  A Gartner study estimates the cost to replace a customer service agent can range from $17,000 to $42,000.  And that expense only puts a novice person in the seat. 

The resulting lack of agent tenure was also hurting customer satisfaction as customer satisfaction is directly affected by the tenure of the agent. Forrester recently found that the #1 factor to positively impact customer experience is the tenure of the agent.

Having seen this elsewhere, I analyzed how they measure and optimize Customer Satisfaction. Their process was to survey all customers quarterly by eMail and respond to any negative comments with immediacy and urgency.  This brought each issue to the full team's attention to remedy the tactical issue and to prevent reoccurrence.  The all-hands on deck approach may be a great way to repair systematic problems, but since the communications to the team were based on a small subset of urgencies, the contact center staff felt like they were failing in customer satisfaction and became highly demotivated.  Over time, the consistent barrage of bad news started taking a toll on morale.  Too many of their trained and experienced staff became emotionally beaten down and left.

Statistical analysis on the unstructured text in +10,000 survey responses found a surprising insight. Customer sentiment was highly positive for their customer contact services, in direct contrast to the perception of the contact center staff.  After sharing my results, the leadership had a HUGE floor to ceiling mural painted of a word cloud I developed of the positive sentiment in the survey responses. After developing a more balanced response communication procedure, attrition reduced by 60% in the next year.

So, how can you use metrics to keep your team motivated, your customers happy, and your customer interactions successful?  I suggest considering these best practices – 

1.    Share good news and bad news.  See the above cautionary tale.  And don't forget to communicate with your work at home and remote based agents. 

2.    Define Key Performance Indicators that match your specific desired business outcomes. Most competitive companies list providing excellent customer service as a primary goal, but a majority operate by closely monitoring productivity-based metrics. If your business is positioned as delivering premium service, use experiential metrics, rather than performance-based metrics as your KPIs. It's helpful to your bottom line to watch the average talk time, but those businesses promoting optimal customer experience should use CSAT and FCR as barometers for success. Other metrics may be valuable, but if they're not directly impactful to your CX outcomes, they could override your business' specific mission.

3.    Reward success. Gamification is a great way to motivate agents for increasing productivity but using similar rewards for team success can benefit full team morale.   If you've followed best practice #2 above and tied to your contact center's KPIs to your business results, practically rewarding team achievement will encourage the most positively impactful behavior from your team.

4. Don't miss the real headline of Customer Experience insights.  Looking at a single data source limits perspective in misleading ways.  As an example, many companies use survey responses as a basis for changing their service level targets.  As most get 3-6% response rates (and typically from customers who either really love you or really hate you), the sample size basing the analysis is not reflective of the typical customer sentiment. You'll change essential elements of your operation to please the extreme few, and not the majority of your customers. A customer journey, even if in a single channel, is a combination of several events, from caller inter determination, to queueing, to resolution, and finally after-action perception.  Looking at any of these events myopically limits the scope and thereby the value of any insights. This increases as more channels are adopted.  The idea is to merge several data sources, normalize the data, and visualize the output for easy consumption.

5.    Keep your keys as key by limiting your KPI to a maximum of 5.  Keeping a tight focus on the metrics that truly impact your desired customer experience keeps the operational focus on those metrics that matter to success in your business.

6. Don't be confused by inconsistently calculated data from varying sources. Contact centers can get data feeds from 10+ sources that often calculate similar metrics differently. Be sure to normalize the data before analysis and publication. 

How many KPIs are you using?  What are they?  Please share your comments below to help us all learn and please connect with me on Twitter at @RobertLambcxpro.   

Spotlight on Metrics: Last chance to join your peers at ICMI Contact Center Connections next week (October 28-30) in Chicago. Take a deep dive into case studies and expert guidance for mastering your metrics!