When life hangs in the balance, the speed with which a call is answered is critical. Contact centers that handle emergency 911 calls, therefore, often set their thresholds at around 100/3, meaning that 100 percent of calls must be answered within three seconds. But for most businesses, striving to operate at that level is neither reasonable nor warranted.
Instead, another figure has become the accepted norm: 80/20 (meaning that 80 percent of calls are answered within 20 seconds). But current research suggests that customers today don’t mind waiting on hold as much as was previously thought. A recent poll by PH Media, an audio branding service provider, found that more than 55 percent of callers were OK waiting on hold for more than a minute before speaking with someone, as long as the call ended with their issue being resolved. An American Express survey put the threshold at about 12 minutes before frustration really starts to set in.
That is why speed to answer is disappearing as a significant metric in the contact center market.
And it is hardly the only metric to be affected by new consumer expectations and demands. The contact center industry as a whole is being pushed to redefine its customer service key performance indicators (KPIs).
Anuj Bhalla, global lead of service analytics strategy at Accenture Management Consulting, suggests the contact center industry should abandon typical, long-standing CRM metrics that he considers to be operations-centric, focusing too much on statistics and not enough on how customers think about their journeys.
“Operational metrics have a place in shaping how you run your business,” but do little to improve the customer experience, he stresses.
Looking at contact centers from a strictly operational standpoint could mean that some fatal errors go unchecked, according to Kathleen Jezierski, chief operations officer at COPC, a contact center consulting, training, and certification company. “Say a customer calls in about a broken device. The agent says she can’t help him because the product is out of warranty. The customer hangs up, unsatisfied,” Jezierski explains. From an operational standpoint, the interaction might have been flawless for the company. But there is another factor to consider: “Did we resolve the customer’s issue? No. Did we commit a fatal error that could have a significant impact on the business? Definitely,” she says.
Operational metrics look primarily at the agents and could ignore other, more damaging issues. “A lot of problems within the contact center are not agent-related. They’re process- or technology-related,” Jezierski says. “We have to get smarter about some of the old metrics and how we use them.”
Experts agree that contact center managers must stop being so inwardly focused on operational metrics and, instead, pay more attention to customer-focused metrics. “The most important questions we need to ask today are what the customer expects and why,” says Justin Robbins, community services manager and senior analyst at the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI).
To that end, Bhalla has proposed a new framework that enables companies to model customer journeys and then apply journey-centric KPIs that reveal customer expectations and perceptions about companies and their products and services. KPIs should also provide superior predictive power into key outcomes for the business, he says.
The idea, according to Bhalla, would be to “look at the customer experience in the context of each interaction.” That, he adds, means using experience metrics “that look at things from the customer’s perspective.”
It starts with building a cross-channel customer journey map and then designing metrics that reflect customer priorities at each stage of the journey, according to Bhalla.
For most customers today, that journey could involve many different communications channels, so COPC earlier this year came out with version 6.0 of its COPC Customer Experience (CX) Standard, which expands proven contact center guidelines to address all key customer touch points, including both live-agent channels and nonassisted channels (such as web or mobile applications), and provides measurements and processes for managing multichannel customer experience operations.
It doesn’t end there. Contact centers “need to get better at looking at their sample sizes, too. You need statistically significant data that you can react to,” Jezierski says.
And that doesn’t necessarily mean gathering more data. MetricNet, a contact center and service desk benchmarking services provider, reported recently that though the average contact center tracks more than 25 metrics, most of them today are “only marginally relevant at best.”