First contact resolution, first call resolution, FCR, there are many names for it in your call center or contact center. In any instance, you must measure it and manage it. From the customer’s perspective takes the highest priority.
As a customer experience consultant, I look at every consumer experience as a learning experience. Last week, I conducted a “quality review” at Chick fil-A® to better interpret the contact center experience.
I purposefully arrived during the lunch time rush and joined the line to order just outside the door. It was just like being in queue for a contact center agent. But I never mind waiting at Chick fil-A® because I get to watch, instead of hearing IVR messaging. It’s so interesting to watch the team behind the counter when they have a queue.
“Does your quality department have the authority to make changes to your knowledge base platform?” is one of the questions asked in the 29 Quality Assurance Mistakes to Avoid e-book and self-assessment. Our intent in asking this question is not to assess the quality of your contact center knowledge tool, but instead to determine if it’s being managed properly. The e-book contains diagnostic questions to help you identify issues affecting your Quality Assurance program. We want to offer insight to help illuminate missed opportunities, especially those which are pervasive in the contact center industry. For contact center agents, access to company knowledge is a vital component to being able to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
It’s easy to make your contact center knowledge base a foe
“Do other parts of your business take responsibility for FCR performance?” is a question that was included in the 29 Quality Assurance Mistakes to Avoid ebook and self-assessment. The ebook and self-assessment includes a series of diagnostic questions to uncover long-term problems of Quality Assurance in contact centers. It’s likely that you have seen benchmarking information on FCR, but beware – it’s easy to focus on common practices that position FCR as just a contact center metric. With FCR, it’s difficult to benchmark considering that this contact center metric is not calculated in a comparative format. Benchmarking activities has resulted in a narrow Quality Assurance definition that, for most, has not developed past the middle/average service experience. This ebook was developed to help you be much more than average and position FCR as more than a contact center metric. Continue reading
“Do you agree automating the process for callers to participate in post-call IVR surveys will prevent agents from cheating?” is a question that was included in the 25 Mistakes to Avoid with Post-call IVR Surveys eBook and self-assessment. The eBook and self-assessment includes diagnostic questions for you to uncover problems in your program that I have come across since inventing post-call IVR surveying in contact centers 20 years ago. Many of the misunderstandings have become false truths, and this question is part of a topic that is widely misunderstood.
Why is this a problem?
Automated is not the same as fool-proof. Dictionary.com defines automated: to apply the principles of automation to a mechanical process, industry, office, etc. Nowhere in that definition does it state that doing so will create a perfect, fool-proof process. In this case, automated means customers answering ‘yes’ they would like to participate in a survey when prompted by the IVR at the start of the call will then be transferred to complete the survey once the agent disconnects. Sounds fool-proof and simple enough, right? Not so much. Continue reading
Real-time post call IVR survey alerts are a must, because where within your customer experience engineering plans do you meet head-on the failed service experiences? Is it only after multiple complaints? Is it only after your company president shows up in the contact center? Is it after you are on the 5:00 news? Do you ignore the ones that are not loud? Do you make an attempt to gain back loyalty points that were lost during a failed call experience?
Callers make judgments about your entire organization based on their interaction with your contact center agents. Why is it so important to focus on the recovery of customers who had a dissatisfying service experience? Although the caller may not have been satisfied with the service experience in general, satisfaction with the service recovery experience is significantly related to their intention to repurchase (Boshoff, 1999). Continue reading
Voice of the Customer; a catch phrase commonly uttered in offices around the globe. But what does it mean exactly? Where does it come from? How does a business decipher constructive (and valuable) feedback from noise? It is not uncommon to hear a manager say that you need to listen to the voice of the customer (VOC), but often that’s where the initiative stops. Proclaiming the need to listen and actually listening are two very different things. So is acting on the information heard.
One of our clients focused on turning such a proclamation into action and made some changes to the internal processes causing customer dissatisfaction. The External Quality Monitoring program using a post-call survey methodology revealed that only 51.6% of their callers stated that their question or problem had been resolved on the first call. With barely more than one out of every two calls yielding a resolution, FCR was obviously an extremely costly issue for them because repeat calls have direct and indirect costs. It was definitely time to take action. Continue reading
Mining and analyzing customer comments to understand sentiment is no longer a wish. It’s a must. Based on years of experience, I suspect many of you are like the business partners I work with: you understand the value of the activity, would love to be able to get your hands on the insight, but don’t have the resources to do the work.
But there is good news. Using basic business intelligence approaches, it is possible to get a quick start on sentiment and text analysis to better understand what your customers think and say about your business. This information can then be leveraged to better serve customers and ultimately, improve the bottom line.
The rate at which customers provide commentary in customer experience surveys in itself can be very telling. Below are examples of insights that can be gained simply by examining the relationship between key real-time survey metrics and the propensity of customers to provide verbal feedback.
For the business partner depicted in the chart below, customer comments and real time alert rates were highly correlated. The more likely a customer was to comment, the more likely alert rates were to increase, and vice versa. This suggests that dissatisfied customers who required a follow up call from a manager were more likely to leave negative comments than positive ones.
While this may seem troublesome at first blush, understanding customer complaints is often an untapped gold mine. Reading and mining these comments could offer significant intelligence and gains for this business partner which can then be woven back into continuous improvement initiatives. Continue reading
I primarily shop online and therefore get many packages delivered. My UPS deliveryman never makes eye-contact, never says hello; he just tosses me the package and has me sign. Conversely, whenever I get a package from FedEx, this cheery fellow smiles while he asks me how I’m doing, and tells me to have a nice day; once we even had a laugh about my crazy dog that started licking him uncontrollably. While in both cases I received my packages, my customer service experience is drastically different.
So let me ask you, based on my delivery customer experience, would you shop more at online retailers that use UPS or FedEx? Would you be more lenient when a package does not arrive as expected with UPS or FedEx? Would you wait longer to call the retailer’s call center to track the package when you know it’s UPS versus FedEx?
We talk often about the importance of positive service over the phone in the contact center, but quality face-to-face interactions can affect the calls you are receiving in your call center and your first contact resolution rates (FCR); even if your service providers/vendors are involved in the service experience.
Are you willing to take responsibility for creating this much noise for your organization? Assuming you responded ‘No’ from the previous blog post, below are a few steps you can begin taking today to minimize your social media threat. And, since Mom always told us kids that we need to focus on the bright side, that’s exactly what I will do. From here you get to choose your own remedy based on the current structure and capabilities of your existing survey program and its tools:
There are actually a lot more than three call center metrics that can kill your business. I often get opportunities to help clients identify problems they were innocently unaware of that lead to solving problems they were aware of. Working with metrics often results in situation like this. It is fun to help clients identify problems they didn’t even know they had. If your organization doesn’t have a data czar, analytic rock-star or business intelligence guru, you need one. What you don’t know may be a ticking time bomb! Below are three real world examples of how analytics and applied business intelligence stopped the ticking of the time bomb and saved the organizations money and headaches.
First-contact resolution has been a hot call center metric for years now. There are white papers and articles galore on the topic, and entire conferences and online forums dedicated to it. Most telling is that numerous managers have gotten “FCR Forever” and/or “One and Done” tattooed on their necks.
The majority of conversations about FCR center around two things: 1) the huge potential impact of FCR (on operational costs, customer satisfaction and agent satisfaction/retention); and 2) how the hell to measure this mega-metric accurately (no simple task, as you’ll see in my upcoming ebook, Full Contact).
What often gets lost amidst the FCR hype and the confusion surrounding its proper measurement is something even more critical: What processes, practices and tools a contact center can put in place to help improve FCR. Customers don’t care if you know how to measure FCR, they simply want you to achieve it. Following is a list of tactics to help you do just that:
Excellent agent training and tools. If your agents lack skills, knowledge and/or immediate access to key information on calls, your FCR rate is going to be lower than the average winter temperature in Greenland or the average morale level in a billing contact center. Top centers provide comprehensive new-hiring training to rookies and frequent ongoing training to veteran agents, forever keeping staff abreast of new products/services, information and approaches to help them provide the most efficient and effective service. In addition, these centers equip agents with user-friendly, fast and frequently updated desktop tools and knowledge bases that enable staff to find crucial customer data and product/service info a flash, thus reducing the number of times customers must be placed on hold, transferred, called back, or physically restrained.
World-class workforce management processes. Even the best-trained and equipped agents on the planet will die without oxygen, thus it’s critical to schedule enough staff to enable each agent to take at least two breaths between calls. Agents can’t resolve calls if they are having a stroke, or if the customer – who has been caged in the queue for 15 minutes – is screaming at them for taking so long to answer the phone. Thus, accurate forecasting and sound scheduling based on those forecasts is critical, as is mastering skills-based routing so that callers get sent to the right agent with the skill-set to handle the customer’s specific issue, and not to Bob – the quiet guy in the corner cubicle who makes paperclip sculptures of his mother.
No conflicting performance objectives. Many contact centers tell agents to focus on FCR, but then pressure them to achieve strict productivity objectives that interfere with agents’ ability to truly focus on the customer. Conflicting performance objectives are the number-one cause of agent-on-manager violence in America. Making FCR a KPI in your center but then punishing agents for not handling a certain number of calls per hour/shift or for going a little over the desired AHT average will not only hinder your center’s chances of achieving FCR success and customer satisfaction, it may result in you being killed or worse by furious frontline staff.
Incentives around FCR goal achievement. It’s always a wise practice to align agent incentives with the contact center’s and the enterprise’s performance goals. And since FCR success should be a top priority for nearly all customer care organizations, nearly all customer care organizations should reward and recognize agents when they consistently meet or exceed individual, team and center-wide FCR goals. Top contact centers do more than just order pizzas or pat staff on the back to celebrate current and propagate future FCR success; rather agents in these centers receive cash prizes, meaningful gifts/gift certificates, as well as public recognition at interdepartmental meetings and via internal newsletters/the corporate intranet. In addition to incentivizing and rewarding agents for FCR success, some centers de-incentivize and punish agents for FCR failure. This typically includes taking cash and gifts away from agents, publically humiliating them at meetings and via newsletters/the intranet, and forcing them to spend an hour alone in a room with somebody from IT.
Agents empowered to improve FCR-related processes. Your agents know customers and customer care better than anyone, assuming your center’s hiring and training programs don’t blow. Smart contact center managers actively solicit suggestions and insight from agents regarding how they may be able to enhance FCR performance. Given the opportunity, agents will tell you what tools, training and workflows are lacking, and what processes and metrics are interfering with their ability to effectively resolve customer issues. They will also tell you what color they would like the contact center to be painted and why they need a new headset that doesn’t shock their ears, so be sure to cut them off before they stray too far from the topic of FCR.
I’d love to hear some of your ideas on FCR improvement, and/or about any tattoos you have gotten to show your dedication to this key metric.
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The financial calculations behind the First Call Resolution (FCR) issue are simple to calculate if you have the proper variables. To provide a valid response to the cost of repeat calls, a real-time customer feedback program is needed. Call centers must measure the effectiveness of the service delivery and the customers’ perception of call resolution immediately after the service interaction. The cost assessment will not be accurate without the voice of the customer. Customers should evaluate the service received on a call that includes, among other things, overall company, call and agent satisfaction, whether the call is about a problem, first call about the problem and was the problem resolved on that particular call.
Real-time surveys can effectively capture the information you need to combat the cause of the repeat calls. For those who had a problem that was not resolved on the call, the survey has to branch to an open-ended question to capture the customer’s description of the problem. This qualitative information adds the explanation to the dramatic quantitative information you now have available. The cause of the unresolved calls is invaluable to correcting process issues.
Many call centers have employed technology and manual solutions to help them answer their FCR rate question. Some of these solutions cost thousands of dollars to implement. But not one of them can answer the question better than the customer. Reviewing phone records and running a software application is the ultimate beating around the bush in this case. Stop trying to get to your FCR rate via the back door. The customer is the one experiencing the pain, so go to the source.
Do not make the mistake of underestimating the effect of repeat calls on your call center and your company. Customers are willing to accept and forgive the occurrence of a problem and increase their level of loyalty with a successful resolution but they will not tolerate repeat calls to resolve the same issue. Don’t believe me…ask them.
Still struggling with FCR? Find out how you can improve First Call Resolution now!
Consider your average number of calls per month, say 80,000 for example, at an average fully loaded cost of $8.00 per call. You are looking at $640,000 to cover these customer interactions taking place in your call center. Now consider your repeat calls, say 30%, and you can see that it’s costing $192,000 to have non productive, low value calls. We all know why First Call Resolution (FCR) is so important! “Knuggets” like these can capture reasons why multiple calls to your call center are needed, the root cause of the problem (call center agent, process or product problem) and help you get closer to an ideal FCR percentage with a few changes to your organization.
“It took four phone calls to get a pink slip. I’ve paid the car off, I deserve the pink slip. The first call I made said I would get it in 10 days; it’s now been 6 weeks. This phone call said it was mailed yesterday. Somehow I doubt that, but we’ll see. If I don’t get it, I’ll call you back. I don’t mind. I’m retired. I’ve got nothing to do but call you folks until I get what I need.”
“The agent was very helpful today in resolving my issue. She’s the only person who has ever found out where my limited warranty was on page 35 of the manual. I’ve talked to numerous people at your place, people at the store, and people with your company. I’ve talked to at least 12, maybe 15 people. Finally she got everything settled to the best of her ability. I am very appreciative. I would name my child after her. Thank you.”
“Maybe someone three calls ago could have told me to look behind the webpage for the date range selection box? There is no reason for someone to assume that it’s there and just hiding. And, telling me that this happens a lot and not to feel bad for calling makes me no longer happy that I got help but mad that I needed it in the first place.”
“You’d think you would tire of hearing how to avoid this common problem that I know everyone and their brother is having. How do I know? I took a poll at my son’s high school baseball game last week, and at the grocery store and the bank. Maybe you are waiting for me to be hired as a consultant? I’m not interested because you can’t fix stupid.”
Still struggling with FCR? Find out how you can improve First Call Resolution now!
A few weeks ago, I was reading an interesting article about schizophrenia. It talked about the statistics, symptoms and treatment for this terrible disease. At first I was alarmed by the recent research numbers, an estimated 3.2 million Americans suffer from this mental illness. Wow. As I read on, I learned that four types of “delusions” exist in schizophrenics, and from that list of four, “Delusions of Control” is one that really struck a chord with me. Naturally, I started to draw some parallels between this particular symptom and people I know, myself and those in my line of work. I do believe it’s fair to say that based on the delusion of control alone, we all have a touch of schizophrenia from time to time. Perceived control is a way of life in the call center.
When reflecting on the life inside a call center, it’s easy to believe that we are patients that are often not medicated to control our delusions. The call center as an asylum may not be a stretch! Not only is it insanely intense, it is also a place of constant contradiction. We often have expectations of our employees and our call center agents to adhere to a specific model intended to produce a controlled response (a great service experience). In the same breath, we also expect that model to produce the opposite results (do it fast, right and cheap). Isn’t this setting your team up to feel schizophrenic? We allow agents to believe they are in control, but in reality, they are not.
I was reminded of this parallel when speaking with one of our partners last week. This particular client had three service centers that were using the “Pay for Performance” model with their agents. As he elaborated on the damages this was causing, I began to recall the correlation between my recent revelation on call center schizophrenia and the “Pay for Performance” model (particularly in service orientated call centers.) In this particular model, agents are being paid based on metrics such as number of calls handled and number of minutes spent on those calls. This is the expectation set forth. At the end of the month, organizations are left scratching their heads as to why customer satisfaction scores are so low. Well, the innate service component is being squished out of the agent as they are trying to hurry on to the next caller. But yet, we are expecting an outstanding customer service experience to come from our service orientated call center, right? Insanity in its true form and we’ve all had this conversation with ourselves and everyone on the management team.
This will be the first in a two-part series focusing on designing the perfect, or as-perfect-as-you-can-get, model for service call centers. Part One will discuss the “Pay for Performance” model, how it has been incorporated in the service call centers and how it is affecting your agents and your customer service scores. Part Two will discuss how to build effective balanced scorecards and, in turn, a more appropriate model to your service call centers. We need to control the insanity!
What is “Pay for Performance?”
“Pay for performance” also known as incentive pay, rewards workers based on the outcomes they achieve as opposed to the traditional model of paying for time worked. These models have been wildly popular in outbound telemarketing for many years, advancing the earning potential of skilled salespeople while “weeding out” those who in a conventional pay model would largely rely on their base salary to pay their bills. More sophisticated (sales) incentive pay models financially penalize agents for “buyer’s remorse,” encouraging quality sales acquisition methods.
Sales vs. Service
While time and outcome-pressured compensation models may work in a sales environment, they represent the antithesis of what is needed in the service world. Conventional wisdom states that in a sales environment, there is only one outcome that matters — sales that “Stick”. Certainly there are complexities in how a call center agent reaches a “Yes,” but that does not negate the fact that there is only one outcome that is guiding the call flow. A customer service call center is far more complex. Customer service call center agents are tasked with resolving calls in a manner that is pleasing to customers, builds brand loyalty while remaining sensitive to everyone’s time – the customer on the phone and the one waiting to be helped. That is quite a tall order especially when a case can be made that the Sales team is often responsible for the call to the Service team. At the end of the day, incenting agents based on a single outcome may expose your organization to a very high level of business risk.
“Why are my customer service scores so low?”
The correlation between time spent and outcome is much more fluid. Let’s examine some of the unfortunate outcomes of ill-conceived pay for performance models in customer service centers:
As an assignment, add your metrics to this list and evaluate them against the delusion of control construct.
“If not “Pay for Performance”, then what should we use?”
In a service center, a balanced agent scorecard is a far more effective way to pay and incent agents. Balanced scorecards force agents and their managers to focus their attention on more than a single Key Performance Indicator (KPI). Some of CRM’s existing customers have access to an important tool which assists them in determining the relative importance of agent skills, from the perspective of the customer – predictive (regression) modeling. In the figure below, the beta levels on the left indicate the level of impact each agent skill had on the customer’s overall perception of the agent’s performance. The right side of the figure indicates the current performance level of that skill (on a 1 to 9 scale).
One business partner uses this regression output to not only set priorities within their agent scorecard, but to also set priorities for ongoing / developmental training for the upcoming quarter. The figure below indicates the degree of improvement in customer satisfaction this business partner has been able to achieve by linking customer, agent and training priorities.
Companies using the “Pay for Performance” model in their service call centers will remain to be at war with themselves. If you are paying your agents on the number of calls they take, then you will get a high number of repeat callers and lower FCR rates due to customers being rushed off the call. If you are currently using the “Pay for “Performance” model in your service center, have you experienced similar results?
Now that we identified a much more suitable, more effective model to adopt in your service call centers, it’s time to discuss “how.” Part two will discuss just how you can build effective balanced scorecards to incentivize your agents.