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Finding Your Independence from Old Metrics

You know your contact center metrics like the back of your hand. You've been using these metrics for years, eons even. Average handle time, average speed to answer, hold time, first call closure, abandon rate, NPS, uptime (if you support an Internet-based solution), maybe even a few more. For leadership, there may be metrics tied to attrition rate, employee satisfaction, and other people-related measures.

In the spirit of freedom, I'm going to challenge you to take a look at some of these metrics from the customer side of the street. Why? Because sometimes in contact center work, we can lose focus on what the customer really wants. We can become enamored with our idea of what we think the customer wants and miss the truth of what they really want.

Recently, I've been seeing contact centers change their focus, and as a result increase their customer and employee satisfaction. So, let’s dig into the who, what, and why of the value each metric adds to the customer experience.

Average Handle Time

This is a strictly business-value metric. How long, on average, it takes to answer a customer question is a metric that contact centers use to forecast and staff accurately, ensuring we have enough agents.

A customer might care how long they're put on hold, or how long an agent takes to find the right answer, but if the customer is dealing with an agent that is actively answering their questions and providing extra details, instructions, or insights to their problem and how to solve that problem – that is one happy customer. 

Average Speed to Answer

This is often thought of as a customer-driven metric: “Get me an answer, stat!” But maybe we've been thinking about this with a 1990s mentality, especially given that there are so many ways to contact agents these days: phone, chat, SMS, email, online forms, etc. As a customer, you don’t care if it takes 3 or 30 seconds to answer a phone call, as long as the person answering the phone has the right answers to your questions and can address your pain points.

The key to ASA is setting the right expectations. If you schedule a call back in 30 minutes, the phone better ring in 30 minutes and not appear as a spam phone call by being accurately labeled. If the SMS has a response time of 2 hours, then by golly, the customer must get their response in less than 2 hours.

You get the idea, freedom for the customer is setting the right expectation, and then DELIVERING on those set expectations.

First Call Closure

What can I say? Yes, get the answer right the first time. Misinformation causes customer pain, frustration, and loss of reputation for the business, not to mention the cost of poor quality. Having to provide answers twice for the same issue, or not providing a complete answer, is rough on both the customer and the agent who gets that second call.

Make sure that you have clear, crisp instructions for your agents to follow that provide the entire answer. If you don’t limit the call duration, you might see your customer and your agent satisfaction grow, reduce the rework, and decrease second calls for the same issue. Additionally, it’s not that easy to find the second contact for the customer issue that wasn’t resolved the first time, so you may have slightly inflated FCC and be missing the cost of the rework.

Abandon Rate

These are those customers who get tired of waiting to speak with an agent and hang up. There are those situations where the customer gets on the phone and then the pot boils over, the baby cries, etc. Normal procedure is to exclude those calls that are less than XX duration (XX being the duration for your contact center that makes sense). In this way, you can ignore the noise that isn’t really due to poor service.

However, sometimes over-complexity in your process may cause abandonment. If the IVR is too complex, customers may be dropping and you won't even had the chance to serve, survey, or support.

Think about this: Do you have enough resources staffed to take the contacts coming in? Is there an environmental impact that is causing increase in contacts to your center? If so, were you prepared to support that increase? Can you account for it via seasonality, etc.?

Hold Time

Okay, some contact centers don’t really have hold time, no long delays waiting for the agent to...what? Look up the answer? Read a book? Take a break? If you're the customer, it can be hard to tell exactly why you've been put on hold or why it's taking so long. That's why agents often ask if they can put you on hold, and they set a hold expectation time. And this is an improvement, but is it optimal? Are you freeing your customers to feel awesome about their interactions with you?

Removal of hold time can come down to several factors: Is your technology slow or old? Is the software outdated? Are your agents properly trained? Are there resources at the agent’s fingertips? Is the agent empowered to make decisions to support the customer?

You may be thinking, "Seriously? Now you're tying my hold time to agent decisions?" To that I say, yes! If your agents can make supportive decisions for the customer’s best outcome, while actively on the phone with the customer, then this can reduce your hold time. No more holding while the agent asks a supervisor.

The Ultimate Freedom

You know your business best, and sometimes taking the customer perspective can give you new insights into better ways to improve the customer experience. Freedom from the same old measures and methods means freedom to focus on creative and innovative ways to solve the same old problems in new ways.