Why it's time for a step change in call centre measurement
Many traditional metrics only tell a small part of of the overall customer and agent experience story. But a new approach to measurement is possible if you capture and analyse every customer interaction helping your agent performance and customer experience.
Most call centres are great exponents of the philosophy of: "If you don’t measure it you can’t improve it". But this only delivers the right outcomes if you measure the right things. And, there lies one of the key issues for call centres. Many are measuring transactions traditional metrics like Average Handle Time and Net Promoter, but they only tell a small piece of the overall customer and agent experience story.
Ultimately, call centres exist to deliver a service that keeps customers loyal by satisfying their needs, solving their problems and providing them access to the right products and services. So, sending customers away happy should be the desired outcome. And there lies another challenge for call centres. Most customers arrive in a negative frame of mind.
The CallMiner Churn Index uncovered that over a third of customers (36%) say they arrive annoyed; one in six (16%) arrive angry and the same number arrive ready for an argument. Measuring things like average call length won’t change that. But measuring the actions the agent takes - such as listening, showing empathy answering the customer’s questions and feeling empowered to support the customer beyond just sticking rigidly to a script or timeclock - will enable the right changes to be made.
Measuring behaviour and not just transactions will make all the difference
As the CTO and founder of an analytics company, it won’t surprise you that I look at these issues through an analytics lens. Don’t worry, I’m not about to wax lyrical about analytics technology. I am, however, going to recommend a new approach to measurement that is made possible if you capture and analyse every customer interaction helping your agent performance and customer experience.
I have four key recommendations:
1. Measure whether you send customers away happy
It’s true that measuring silence can impact customer satisfaction. If you identify and eliminate silence, you can increase the number of calls you can handle and therefore reduce one of the biggest sources of dissatisfaction - customer waiting times. But, just measuring when silence exists is not enough. Silence can be unavoidable in certain situations, like when a customer is looking for their credit card to make a payment or confirm secure information. You therefore need to understand the causes and context of what you measure, not just create statistics that won’t drive the right changes in systems, processes and behaviour.
I’m passionate about helping companies deliver great customer experiences. That’s why I believe metrics should help you to manage a call in a way that converts an unhappy customer into a happy one.
This means you need to be able to identify words, phrases and acoustic qualities that demonstrate whether a customer is happy or unhappy. You also need to identify what triggers positive and negative reactions and outcomes on a call. For example, you could have a metric for when customers compliment or thank agents for the service they have received. You can then create metrics to praise agents who are doing a great job, and coach those who are not. If agents and supervisors review individual scores after every shift, they’ll know what improvements need to be made for the next shift – or even during the shift - and deliver targeted coaching to achieve them.
2. Improve customer satisfaction and loyalty by making every customer feel listened to
If you want your call centre to stand out amongst your competitors, you need to make sure you are really listening to your customers. The same CallMiner research showed that listening is critical to success. When asked about their emotional state before a call to a call centre, the top response by almost half of consumers (46%) is that they just want someone to listen to them. Listening to a customer seems like a relatively simple ask, but shockingly, only half the number of people (23%) reported they felt listened to after contact with a call centre agent. This means that 50% of callers went away unhappy! This is a completely avoidable failure in the delivery of a great customer experience.
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If almost half of your customers just want to be listened to, you need to make sure you have metrics for showing empathy. There could be a variety of these – depending on your sector or circumstances. But measuring ‘active listening’, such as summing up the gist of what the customer has said, or adding value to their comments, could be two very positive things to measure.
If you make listening a part of your company’s DNA, you will create a powerful positive customer experience that sets you apart from your competitors. It’s worth making the effort. The same study found that 68% of consumers are very likely to switch after a bad call centre experience. But, more consumers (74%) are very likely to stay loyal if they have a good call centre experience.
3. Convert unstructured and unsolicited data into rich insight that drives the right measurement
There are many reasons why many of today’s metrics aren’t effective. One is that they are based on a very small sample of interactions, and another is that they are often captured after the fact. Net Promoter is a case in point. Measuring your NPS is great, but it often doesn’t give the content and context behind the score. If you analyse every interaction you will be able to identify the sources of detraction and promotion – and then your NPS data can reinforce your findings.
You can receive all kinds of CX insight when customers have freedom of expression beyond a directed format – such as when they are on a call with an agent. So, when your customers call your contact centre, you need to convert the content of a call into structured data that is categorised to define intent, sentiment and more.
Every customer interaction provides unsolicited feedback that is full of context and insights that could be used to influence customer experience and satisfaction. Despite this transformational potential, much of the vast volume of speech and interactions data, that is available, remains unused.
4. Don’t wait until the call is over to use your metrics to advantage
One of the other disadvantages of today’s metrics, is that they don’t enable you to change the outcome of a live call – only recognise success or failure after the fact. If you really care about delivering successful customer outcomes, you need a proactive approach to measurement that can identify when a call needs rescuing or when a customer is signalling a desire to buy. This requires real time measurement that can guide your agents during a call, so they can use active listening and deliver exactly what each customer needs.
So, in my view, it’s time to move away from metrics that constrain your performance, to a measurement environment that drives successful customer outcomes.