call center analytics

Just how much customer experience dysfunction am I paying for here?

Is your company's customer experience dysfunction index leading to customer pain?

Last week I told you about my alarm vs. phone company customer experience drama and raised the question of what part of each dollar spent on your products and services is needed to fund your company’s dysfunction.  I bet it’s more than you thought.

To last week’s point, I just received my phone bill.  I usually skim my bills and just pay what’s required.  This time my paranoia of dysfunction got the best of me and I started reading the bill line by line.  The bill was littered with this fee and that fee.  Hard line fee?  Gross receipts surcharge?  Fees that I’m now convinced are disguised to cover the phone company’s dysfunction because they cannot just raise the base monthly cost without everyone noticing.  Then I study the alarm monitoring company’s invoice and try to calculate what the monthly fee SHOULD be – I think I have to pay the fully loaded dysfunction fee of $39 when it should be more like $29 without the dysfunction subsidy. Continue reading

Your quick start to the customer experience gold mine

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

What are you teaching your children about customer experience respect?

customer experience consumerisim respectAre you teaching your children to be good consumers?  Not to be consumers of a lot of things but to BE a good consumer?  You practice the art of leading by example at the office in your role as a manager but are you mindful what the little ones are watching at home?  I’d say that most of us in the service industry try to be good consumers because we understand being on the receiving end of pleasantness or ugliness.

Here we are at the end of 2011 with a whole bunch of people who haven’t learned to be good consumers; who haven’t been taught.  There are tens of millions of people in the service industry – we have the numbers to do things differently, to lead by example and to show our children that those serving us deserve respect and the chance to earn the right to keep it. Continue reading

Customers are demanding greater product quality in tough times

At the end of October 2011, Customer Relationship Metrics published its quarterly Real-time Customer Experience Benchmarking Report to business partners.  One of the more interesting findings that emerged from analysis of the benchmarking data was a relatively unexplained spike in problem-related calls to contact centers that provide support to the automotive, appliance, and electronics industries after the point of sale.  The percentage of calls in which the customer is calling because of a (perceived) problem is a Key Indicator about the customer experience and operational costs for our business partners, especially in benchmarking, because it speaks to the relative level of challenge inherent in the calls handled by the call center, and therefore the call center’s opportunity to perform, delight, resolve, and retain customers during that time period.  An increase of the magnitude seen in the figure below represents a significant “hardening” in doing business for our partners.

Analysis of unstructured customer comments in the Survey Calibration process revealed two primary drivers to this trend:

  1. Economic hardship is causing customers to seek to repair instead of replace products.
  2. There is a growing perception on the part of customers that things are no longer “made to last.” Continue reading

Tips to prevent creating your own contact center analytics shelfware

Recently, I walked into my classroom for the upcoming term and braced myself for the exasperating questions that seemingly every class insists on asking:  “Will you be sending out lecture notes after class?”, “will this be on the test?”, and “why do I have to take this [any variation of math] class?”  The answers to which are “Ha ha, ha ha, ha ha,” “maybe” and “because you may want to choose to work in the fast food industry, because I’m guessing you’d prefer your Thunderbird T-top to rest on tires and not blocks, because maybe someday you’d like to have tires on your car but not on your house.”   But, this time around I was pleasantly surprised.  A student’s question about the merit of using paper and pencil (and whiteboard) to do math in a world of ever-accelerating computational speed led to a discussion of the priorities businesses place on subject-matter expertise versus technological skill.

The unfortunate reality is that many well-intentioned businesses spend millions of dollars each year on good, even great, tools designed to make their businesses more efficient and provide greater visibility into the inner-workings of the business.  They spend time and money making a business case for the purchase, calculating the product’s ROI, payback period, etc.  Unfortunately what is often lacking is the subject-matter expertise required to make good on the ROI projections.  Continue reading

Emerging customer retention model: hide your contact center information

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

Is your call center customer experience shocking or numbing?

Like many of you I am frustrated when I make a customer service call and I am asked for my account number (and other information) by the IVR, only to be asked to repeat it when I make it to a live call center agent.  We’ve become numb and expect this sort of inefficiency as the norm, so much so that I was shocked when last week I called into my insurance company and found the opposite to be true.  When I made it to a live agent she had my account number, my name and the date of the procedure, all there in front of her – just as it should be.

What is the experience for your customers?  Do they have to repeat information when they get to one of your call center agents?  How much agent time is wasted either a) explaining to the caller why they are asking for the information again, or b) actually taking the information again so the request can be resolved.  How big of a deal is this wasted agent time to your call center?  Is this wasted step a big deal to your customers?  

You probably have a feeling about the answer, but the true impact is difficult to quantify without using Speech Analytics.  Most companies we work with have to simply say “I don’t know.”  They cannot quantify the impact because they are unable to analyze the whole call – from dial-to-disconnect (not available to all Speech Analytics Software) – to prove where resources are wasted and at what point the customer starts to feel pain.  

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Reducing volume in your call center is simple, hide your number

I recently had a small issue with Verizon that I wasn’t able to resolve on the web site.  Not a big deal.  But when clicked on ‘Contact Us’ and then ‘By Phone’, instead of giving me the phone number, I was met with a pop-up window that said:  “We’re sorry…we are not able to process your request.”  Great, if you are going to hide the number you need to cough it up when we follow the clicking path to get it!  Is this a new call avoidance tactic that I missed? Now my small problem is bigger.  Understandably miffed, I relayed this story to a co-worker who had just called Verizon a week prior and had a completely different experience.  She said she got right through to a knowledgeable call center agent and after the billing issues were resolved was transferred to another live agent in service to get the phone line checked.  She even said how surprised she was that a company so big had such good customer service, while I on the other hand, couldn’t even locate a number to call.  Do you worry about the consistency of the customer service experience?  Are you protecting your brand by having a uniform calibration process and parameters for evaluating service?

While collecting scores and customer comments for analysis as part of our External Quality Monitoring (EQM) managed services we uncover significantly more than ratings about contact center agents.  See what I mean:

“I tried calling your service number and each time it rang once and disconnected me. Talk about poor customer satisfaction.”

“I usually get right to a contact center agent whenever I have service issues but this time when I called I was on hold for 30 minutes.  I got so frustrated I finally hung up.  What gives?”

“Every time I order from your company my package is delivered quickly but this time it took almost a month and it was damaged.  I don’t know what’s going on with your customer service.”

“Last week I was told by Kevin that I would get a form in the mail to request my refund.  I didn’t get the form so I called today and was told by Susanne that I am not eligible for a refund and she’s not sure why Kevin told me that I was.”

Happy Monday!

Trash the Canned Emails in Your Call Center

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a blog entitled Self-serve: Cheap can be very expensive about the high customer experience cost of the self-serve model. Imagine my delight to see a recently published study conducted by TSIA and Coveo supporting Customer Relationship Metrics’ conclusion. Among the study’s findings was the fact that while voice and face-to-face contact are the most expensive ways to support customers, they also result in the greatest customer satisfaction.

I realize this study is not going to make anyone shut down their email, web chat and self-serve programs, so instead this three-part blog series is designed to help you make these types of interactions better for your customers and provide you with greater customer insights into the customer experience results for the various channels handled in your call center.

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Do you need Steve Jobs to do your Call Center Analytics?

The success of any Business Intelligence project is contingent upon people, not technology. Analysts and end users must work in concert to ask a concise question, identify the data available to answer that question and, validate interpretation of analytic outputs in context of the business environment.   From there, the subject-matter experts (statisticians, data analysts, data miners, etc.) must be allowed the freedom to draw upon their breadth of knowledge and experience to select the best methodology for the job.

I cannot tell you how many times a business unit manager has come up to me and with all of the confidence of a just-learned-to-stand toddler and declared “I need a model!”  “Really?” I respond.  What type of model?  Logistic?  Linear?  What kind of data do you have for me to work with?, and a plethora of other rather technical questions.  My point is that predictive models have been used quite successfully in marketing for many years.  In a business environment where “half of the organizations surveyed do not take advantage of analytics to help them target, service, or interact with customers” according to Accenture’s Customer Analytics survey, predictive models have gained the esteem and notoriety akin to Steve Jobs.

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Great web content is key, but does anyone know it’s there?

Aren’t we all focused on enhancing the customer experience using our web sites to handle common customer service issues and questions to help reduce call center costs (headcount, resources, etc.)?  What I find to be a bit of sad irony is that while time and energy is being spent to beef up web site content, few people within the company have the slightest clue as to what is on their web site.  I know I’ve been guilty of this myself.

I recently called a company about a service issue and the call center agent promptly let me know that my issue could be solved by going to the web site.  I say, “thank you for letting me know that.  I did try to serve myself and couldn’t figure it out.  What exactly do I need to click on to get the information?”….radio silence.  The agent had no idea.  So, we both think this should be possible but neither of us knows how to do it.  The shame is that I am not the only one having this customer experience problem.

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Is your IVR hurting your customer service?

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.

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How to deliver bad news to smart meter customers

The deployment of smart meters has generated a tidal wave of data for utilities to manage and beyond the initial data storage challenge, there exist real questions about how to use and share this information with consumers.   In an article published on back in 2009, Jack Danahy estimated that 140 million smart meters installed over a period of 10 years would generate 100 petabytes (1 quadrillion bytes) of information.  That’s a lot of data and the effort to store this data is a wasted exercise if the analysis is never used to better project consumer demand and to help consumers better manage their consumption.

One of the utilities that Customer Relationship Metrics supports recently decided to make use of the data they were gathering, and for very good reason.  According to OPOWER, an energy efficiency and Smart Grid software company, consumers who receive data about their electricity usage reduced their energy consumption by 1.8% (which, according to the EDF could curb CO2 emissions by 8.9 million metric tons annually).   This utility mailed customers a snapshot of their electricity usage compared to the usage of other customers in their immediate area, along with tips on how to decrease energy usage.  A company proactively informing customers how to use less of their product!!! What’s not to love?  Apparently a lot.  Customers who were notified that their electricity usage was comparatively high began contacting the utility’s call center in droves, complaining of over-charging, bad meter-readings and malfunctioning meters.  The call center and its agents were unprepared for both the volume of calls and the negative response to the letter.  And I was as surprised as everyone for the backlash.  Continue reading

You vs. your competition, head-to-head, how’d you do?

A few weeks ago I had a mishap with an electronic billpay that brought together – and then set apart -three financial institutions.  Admittedly, I made a mistake in creating the electronic payment request.  My local bank generated a physical check rather than transferring the funds via ACH (Automated Clearing House), and sent it on to institution #2 to process for financial institution #3 located in the United Kingdom.  This error took hours of my time over a number of weeks to resolve.  When it was finally over, I wanted to blast one financial institution on every social media platform I could find, wrote a thank-you letter to another and felt as indifferent about the third institution as they felt about me. 

My local bank, First National Bank of Omaha took an electronic request for the transfer of funds and executed it via paper and then sent it via pony express (kidding, it was US mail), losing the tracking capabilities possible with an ACH.  But the moment I called their customer service department, I had their attention and their commitment of assistance.  My agent, Tania, conferenced me into First National Bank’s billpay department, inquired about next steps and stayed on the phone with me for over two hours as we made our way through the phone-tree-from-hell and more transfers than I could count at GIANT BANK (not their real name).  My local financial institution received a thank-you letter, along with my business for as long as I remain a resident in their coverage area.  Continue reading

If good customer service is so easy, why isn’t everyone doing it?

You can fix stupid! 

For all the bad customer service that we see, feel (and sometimes even deliver), there are companies that consistently delight their customers.  Do you also wonder, ‘if they can do it, why do we struggle to achieve that level of service?  Why is it so hard to duplicate a successful customer service model?’  Continue reading

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