Call Center Benchmarking
Call center benchmarking is a phrase used to describe the process of comparing performance to and against others. Call center benchmarking is done in a variety of different ways.
What’s the big secret? You sold me. Someone wanted to buy me, so there! Now that you have me, why are you trying to hide from me? Why would you put customer relationships at risk; not to mention the immense pressure on your call center agents to field the angry customer calls when we figure it out?
My home alarm company practices the avoidance principle as a customer service strategy by burying their customer service numbers so deep that no one can find them. When I got around to updating my billing information with my home security system, I went to their web site to find the customer service number. The home security section on the site had vanished without explanation. My auto-payments are still being debited and my alarm system still appears to be monitored. What gives?
After an hour of searching the internet, I discover that a competitor has taken over their home security division. I finally found the customer service number on the competitor’s (er, my new service company) web site, and by the time I made it to a live customer service agent I was told they couldn’t find my information because the data merge had not been completed. They did give me an alternate number to call, but it’s too little too late. I was never told about the merge, never given a new service number to call, never told how the merge might affect my service or the contract I had with my former company. You can imagine the conversation with the contact center agent. Continue reading “Emerging customer retention model: hide your contact center information.” »
One of the best things to do if you want to be one of the customer experience leaders is listen. This requires that you pay attention to trends, you try new social media channels and most important you effectively listen to your customers. Through actively engaging customers in dynamic conversations (and then quantifying this data) about their needs, over time, you can proactively cause those customer relationships to grow and evolve making your customers brand advocates. What your customers want (the how, what, when and how often), contributes to how your customers view your call center, your company, your brand and your products. While there are many drivers to business today, the leaders in customer experience management are using analytics to improve their decision making. Why? Because, just when you think you have your customers pegged, their needs change, their standards are raised even higher and you must go back and re-evaluate your products and services.
What analytics (Newbies: this is more than surveying we are talking about here) are you using to stay connected to your customers needs? What should you be doing to raise customer satisfaction? Can you afford to ignore your customers? These customers were heard and will surely be customers for life!
“Thanks for adding a free three-day shipping option to your web site for orders over $50. I felt like with all the money I spend with your company it’s the least you could do.”
“The new 3-in-1 printer is everything I need! I’m so glad you made a compact and affordable option for home offices.”
“I really appreciated you providing a direct customer service number with my appliance. I had some issues operating it and it was so nice to get to a call center agent directly and not go through an IVR phone system.”
In late May, the QATC (Quality Assurance, Training and Connection organization) published the results of their quarterly survey on critical quality assurance and training topics in call centers, focusing on quality monitoring call calibration practices. Having worked for a third-party call monitoring company for 8 ½ years, I found the survey results to be quite interesting (sometimes scary), but for very different reasons than highlighted in the QATC report.
1) Quality Monitoring Calibration requirements – According to the survey, 24% of respondents indicated that calibration participants were not required to review calls prior to the call calibration meeting. In these cases, it is a feel-good, group-think exercise and not a true call calibration session. Yikes! Assuming the Quality Assurance team in the call center does not grade every call by committee, such an exercise is ineffective at gauging the degree of disparity that exists within the current call monitoring process. And since disparity is not being measured, the effectiveness of call calibrations cannot be quantified. Result: Waste of time.
I recently ordered two wall hangings for my child’s room and they showed up damaged. I was undecided about the picture situation, but since I bought them so cheaply on clearance ($5!) I decided against the hassle to return them. The store’s customer service rep told me I would have to the store in person, bring a driver’s license and I couldn’t get my money back, only store credit. So I tossed my damaged pictures in the trash because ultimately I felt my time was more valuable in the end. This experience will not affect future purchases from this store. They had a return policy which they were enforcing which I was aware of (albeit in the fine print on their web site). I chose to forgo the policy. It had little to do with how I was treated on the phone by their customer service agent, she was perfectly nice. My decision had more to do with how I valued the purchase and what I was willing to go through to make it right. Does your company weigh the risk versus reward for your return policy and analyze how the good will extended beyond the policy ultimately affects the bottom line, including the customer experience and satisfaction?
“I had to fill out four forms, come down to your store twice and spent countless hours on the phone with your contact center agents to get my damaged TV replaced. You’re practically doing everything you can to avoid returns and that does not feel right to me.”
“To my surprise you took back my kitchen appliance with zero hassle. It was my fault the lid broke but you took it back without any issue – talk about customer satisfaction. You have me for life!”
“I was so upset when my bookcase arrived with a huge scratch down the side. It took a bit of complaining to your call center agents (and their supervisors) but I got a full refund.”
After a very frustrating call trying to navigate my way through a certain furniture company’s IVR system, I couldn’t help but think, “Who the heck is this IVR system designed for?” The choices didn’t seem to match up with any common problems that might prompt someone to call (assembly instructions, lost shipment, damaged products/returns, etc.) and when you pressed zero to get to an agent, you were met with a ‘good-bye’ and then disconnected.
Far too often our clients design overly complicated IVR systems that aren’t intuitive for the customer and end up causing frustration versus helping route callers correctly. When it comes to the IVR, keeping it simple is the best strategy. Oh, and then put on your customer hat, give yourself a specific problem to solve and then try to use the IVR. If you can’t be impartial about it, ask your spouse or a friend to try it out. Do your agents a favor and try to eliminate this built in frustration that gives them unhappy callers to handle right from the start.
We’re told all the time to ‘think outside the box’. In school it meant looking at a passage in a book to see the symbolism; that the words were more than mere words. In the call center it means something as simple as creatively solving a customer’s problems.
I recently tried to book a summer vacation house and after tireless research and dead-ends I called the Board of Tourism. There I spoke with a lovely woman that gave me countless phone numbers to try, web sites to further my research and even offered to call some of her contacts in the area to see if they could assist me. I was blown away at her resourcefulness and willingness to help. She called me back the very next day with vacation packages and pricing as well as the personal phone numbers of her contacts. Too often agents lose that can-do, problem solving spirit.
Here are some recent customer comments from External Quality Monitoring programs:
Many of us in call centers chase the holy grail of higher agent tenure, assuming that agents will use the additional knowledge and experience attained through tenure to better serve customers. The unfortunate reality, according to customers, the more tenured agents don’t deliver a better customer experience; they deliver a worse one, despite being armed with all of the knowledge and skills that “rookies” are thought to be acquiring. And, that customer experience continues to diminish the longer your agents languish in your call center.
During our recent Customer Insights to Action meeting (a quarterly meeting open to all of our existing business customers), Customer Relationship Metrics refreshed a 2007 study of this same subject. In 2007, analysis of the customer experience found that agent performance peaked in month 11. At the time, we hypothesized that the peak of this performance bell curve would vary based on industry, management style, new-hire training, company culture and a number of other variables. What we found just recently is that peak service performance is rated by customers when the agents’ tenure is between 9 and 11 months.
My friend Julie has taken call after call as an agent for nearly 10 years. I have it on good authority that Julie is one of the best agents out there, but it’s been my experience that Julie is the exception and not the rule. In fact, we recently completed analysis that revealed agent performance to peak and then decline at about 10-months of tenure. Customer evaluations indicate the service peak and decline is related to tenure of the agent, not time of day, month or year! This makes me think about the complaints we get from customers about the lack of knowledge and care that they receive from lackadaisical agents. When customers can voice their opinions about service engagement so quickly and publicly, a positive agent experience is paramount. Where are these agents on the tenure life cycle? Continue reading “Who knows when call center agents burnout first?” »
I think the expression I use most frequently is, “cheap can be expensive”. Sometimes when you’re out scouring for a deal you lose sight of that fact that good service is often rolled into the cost of a name brand. What you may save on the initial price of an off-brand item may cost you big in the long run. This philosophy transfers from our individual consumer situation to our business life as well (think build it versus buy, as an example).
An important element of consumer behavior is the level of engagement that a customer has with a product or company. When I’m in the process of making a pricey purchasing decision, I read the consumer reports, I survey my friends and family, and I look at the brand with the best track record for service and support. If I do have a problem with my new T.V. or exercise equipment or whatever it is, I want to know that when I call about it my problem is going to be addressed quickly and efficiently to get me back up and running with the least amount of hassle. I mean, after all, my time is expensive too and I take that into account when I’m making purchasing decisions. I’m willing to forgive any bumps along the way of my name-brand purchases because I know they’ll meet my expectations of service and support. This train of thought defines brand loyalty.
In order to remain competitive in the marketplace, many manufacturers (also including some of our business partners) have responded to shrinking margins by buying cheaper, lower-quality parts. Are you doing the same? The current economic environment has compelled many consumers to repair failed products rather than replace them. This combination has placed a growing burden on call centers and customer service departments responsible for the balance between customer demands and corporate profitability.
While serving the product support space during this time of conflicting paradigms, Customer Relationship Metrics has encouraged its business partners to heavily scrutinize the ways they choose to do business – everything from their business rules, to their back-office processes to the ways in which they communicate with customers and relationship management strategies. Customers have reacted positively to these changes, as can be seen from the call center benchmarking figures below.
In looking at the data in these call center benchmarking charts, unnecessary repeat calls have been decreased all the while protecting the opinion about the agents’ service delivery. Protection of the brand cannot be more important and has demonstrably improved. Most notably, this increased focus on the customer satisfaction and the use of customer intelligence analytics services has also resulted in greater profitability and market-share for our business partners – a perfect win-win situation in an environment where this would not be expected!
Customer Relationship Metrics (CRM) has been supporting business partners in the product support space for more than 10 years providing unmatched business intelligence services. Through our customer intelligence services, voice of the customer data and call center analytics are captured through post-call surveys and then rigorously analyzed by human development. For over 20 years, CRM has provided customer service intelligence that improves employee productivity, business efficiency and sets our business partners apart from their competition.