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Call Center/CRM Management Scope
May 2002


Measuring The Reality Of The Customer Experience

By Marlene Rosati, Eyretel Inc.

Contact center reporting has traditionally focused on simple measurements of agent efficiency, such as talk times, wrap times and idle times. The data to create these reports are easily accessible from ACDs and predictive dialers, and although manually compiling the information and presenting it in understandable reports can often be a tedious and labor-intensive process, the easy access of the information has led call center management to place a disproportionate value on these agent-centric efficiency reports. Missing from this type of report is the effectiveness side of the equation, which highlights both the customer-centric view of the overall customer experience as well as integration of contact center efficiency with overall corporate objectives.

Customer interaction analysis technology has evolved so that contact centers can now run an operation that aligns its measurements with the organization's business goals, focus on improving customers' experiences and still keep productivity up and costs down. True ROI comes from delivering the best customer experience possible with the ability to improve all areas of the business based on sophisticated, closed-loop data capture, and analysis from the gold mine of actionable information found in the contact center.

Measuring Effectiveness And Quality
At the most basic level, measuring efficiency is agent-centric and delivers interaction optimization; measuring effectiveness is customer-centric and delivers business optimization. In a world where costs must be kept in check, too often productivity goals can get in the way of efforts to optimize customers' experiences. When contact centers focus only on agent-centric measurements, other indicators of business success such as customer satisfaction and loyalty, or upsell success and closure rates, might be ignored.

Business performance data are scattered across multiple systems within the contact center. Because these data have traditionally been difficult to collate, interdependencies among key metrics are not recognized, tracked or managed. As a result, it is almost impossible to evaluate the real business costs and benefits of decisions made within the contact center.

By correlating both hard and soft metrics, managers can identify which agents are best at meeting quantitative goals and providing superior customer service at the same time. For instance, by comparing talk time with first call resolution, you can identify agents who excel at solving the customer's problems in the briefest amount of time ' key candidates for best practices modeling. At the same time, you can identify those agents who take the most time to achieve call resolution and earmark them for more training (see Figure 1).

Similarly, when a decision is made to increase productivity, it can often adversely affect quality, as in the case of mandating a restriction on talk times. One undesired effect would be a reduction in customer satisfaction, but unless the contact center is measuring both, no one will recognize the link. On the flip side, recording customer satisfaction surveys immediately after a call is finished and including these scores on the agent's score card gives a more exact overall picture of the agent's capabilities.

Measuring effectiveness and quality is just as important as measuring efficiency and quantity. Business objectives should become the bottom line in deciding who, what, where and when to measure, i.e., what key performance indicators (KPIs) are important for the contact center. Then data capture, consolidation, analysis and reporting can become a closed-loop process that benefits everyone when the information is distributed to the entire organization and the customers' experiences are improved.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): The Who, What, Where And When Of Measurement
To ensure success, any performance management system must incorporate metrics that are appropriate and relevant. These measures include subjective metrics, such as evaluation scores and call outcomes, as well as more traditional quantitative metrics such as call handling times and number of transfers. Users can balance multiple objectives by understanding how different metrics are interrelated. When monitoring KPIs, the effect of new training programs, improved customer-facing processes and tailored product offerings quickly becomes clear.

With the right KPIs and analysis technology, contact centers can understand not only what happens in the call center, but also why it happens. The ability to roll up, drill down or drill across data at any level ' including listening to the actual call recordings underlying the data ' gives an unparalleled opportunity to understand reality from the customer's perspective. Detailed analysis can include drilling down through different levels of the organization, across time for trend analysis or comparing departments or product lines against each other. A data mart that includes recorded customer interactions delivers a full understanding of what is happening in the contact center and helps pinpoint the best opportunities for management action.

A few examples of KPIs from different data sources that can provide extremely useful information can be found above in Table 1.

KPI Data Source Strategy
Talk time vs.
call resolution
ACD, predictive dialer and CRM/ desktop application

Use this KPI to determine the relationship between talk time and call resolution. Resolution could be a closed sale, a promise to pay (collections) or a completed work ticket in a help desk or customer care environment. Benchmark those agents with the lowest talk times and highest resolution rates. Record these agents' calls for "best practices" training.

Quality monitoring scores vs. customer satisfaction scores Quality monitoring application, customer satisfaction surveys

This KPI can help you identify areas of subjectivity in your quality monitoring process. Use it to identify supervisors that consistently score agent quality out of alignment with customer feedback. Use the recorded calls to identify training opportunities for agents and supervisors and to create more objective scoring forms.

Call resolution vs. agent pay ACD, CRM/desktop apps, payroll software

This KPI can help you determine whether your best-paid agents are really your best performers. Use this KPI to create incentive plans that balance tenure with productivity and quality.

Calls per hour Predictive dialer, ACD

Simply mandating agents handle more calls within each hour may reduce revenue results or customer satisfaction, so the goal for this KPI should be to balance productivity (number of calls) with quality (accomplishing objectives).

Current Technology For Complex Data Analysis
Traditional query and reporting tools tell only a part of the story and cannot achieve sophisticated analysis. New central performance management systems can integrate data from different sources and incorporate metrics that are directly relevant to key business objectives. These systems can then distribute the critical business intelligence captured by the contact center to all areas of the organization.
Until now, contact center managers have spent precious time each week compiling performance statistics rather than coaching agents. Today's technology eliminates the need to manually gather performance data, instead providing on-demand or on-schedule data import from identified sources, without any human interaction. Performance management systems allow for different KPI configurations and goals for different workgroups or contact center divisions, enabling everyone to be measured using the right metrics and goals. Score cards provide a clear summary of performance in relation to selected KPIs.

When researching a performance management system, be sure it can:

  • Provide KPIs that reflect the needs and goals of the business,
  • Share information quickly and cost-effectively across the entire organization,
  • Use score cards to provide an intuitive summary of performance,
  • Identify performance against user-defined goals,
  • Drill down through the data to uncover what happens in the contact center and then drill across to understand why it happens, and
  • Link recorded calls directly to performance statistics.

Contact Center Analytics Benefit The Entire Organization
The potential of the information gathered in the contact center is extraordinary. Are there business processes that limit agents' ability to provide customers with superior service? Are there technology issues that result in long idle times between calls? Are there training needs that, if met, could boost quality across large groups of agents? This information exists within the contact center and analysis identifies where and how to improve business processes, enhance the quality of the customer experience and impact the bottom line.

Executives can better understand why customers choose to leave the company, product managers can listen to actual customer opinions about their product, win-back teams can become more effective and trainers can build their programs based on real interactions between agents and customers. Causes of variations in customer satisfaction and customer retention rates can be better understood.

Departmental managers in sales, marketing and finance can see the impact of new programs, campaigns and trend performance. Recorded customer feedback can provide the development team with important information for future product releases.

When agents can see individual, team and corporate performance against goals, they are more likely to perceive their roles as a critical component to the organization's success.

Contact centers no longer need to be perceived as a back room where money flows out and nothing of value comes in. They contain a gold mine of insights into the organization and its customers' experiences with the company, and by acting on those insights, the contact center can be transformed from a cost center into a value center.

Marlene Rosati is director of marketing for Eyretel Inc., a provider of voice and data recording, quality monitoring and analysis systems designed to support and enhance customer experience management (CEM).

[ Return To The May 2002 Table Of Contents ]

Quality Monitoring The Web Experience

By Oscar A. Alban, Witness Systems

As call centers have evolved into multi-media contact centers, companies have invested a wealth of time, resources and dollars building a true multichannel business strategy. The ability to achieve consistently high service standards across these media ' including the telephone, Web chat and e-mail ' has led organizations to rethink the training as well as the processes they have put in place to equip their staff for success. Now, however, a powerful, around-the-clock, easy-to-access channel is taking companies to a new level in the world of e-business. As a service channel, the Web has been in place for some time in the majority of organizations, but has never been fully leveraged for its ability to cut costs, increase revenue and serve as a one-stop-shop. It's one that many have been forced to avoid while focusing on other evolving channels such as chat and e-mail. However, it holds great opportunities for those who can use it to their sales, marketing and service advantage ' especially in the areas of increased revenue and reduced costs. Web self-service continues to emerge as the most cost-effective customer touch point available today, averaging $0.35 per contact.

Today, more and more customers want to 'help themselves' to research and gather information, find answers to their questions and purchase goods and services. Increased traffic to this channel has caught most organizations' attention as customers flock to the Web to 'serve themselves.' As a growing phenomenon, the Web holds enormous opportunities. In fact, analysts predict the number of individuals seeking online customer service will more than double, approaching 70 million, by 2005.

Quality Monitoring At The Next Level
In essence, organizations must embrace the concept of 'many channels, one customer.' Consumers have a choice in how they wish to do business and companies must be prepared to meet their expectations. This need is already realized by many forward-thinking organizations. In fact, a recent Yankee Group study indicated that companies consider the deployment of Web-based self-service options a crucial priority in their future customer care plans. The report cited 47 percent of contact center managers ranked Web self-service as their top budget priority in 2002.

Due to increased competition and the fact that consumers can easily click a competitor's Web site to fulfill their needs, companies must place a renewed focus on the power of the Web. Consumer push, along with the competitive nature of business, has made it an imperative for organizations to have a Web presence ' and a strong one at that. For some, the pressures to implement a site quickly have overshadowed taking the time to really think out their e-business goals and the measurements necessary to ensure those lofty metrics were achieved. What for some may have started out as having a simple online presence has now evolved into a source that is expected to house vast loads of consumer information, service options and sales capabilities. Not all companies are using this powerful resource to its fullest potential ' and many don't even know how to implement needed change. Most don't have an understanding of how their site is perceived and used by consumers ' the true influencers that can drive their revenue and significantly lower their costs by simply 'serving themselves.'

Those in call centers have faced this challenge in the past and many have successfully countered it by implementing a quality monitoring program to evaluate not only agent performance ' the ability to meet customer needs, demonstrate product/service knowledge and upsell/cross-sell to drive revenue ' but also to gauge the impact and effectiveness of the business processes that have been set up, and how well their technology resources, such as their CRM system, are being utilized. Capturing and analyzing actual customer interactions has proven its value in the contact center. Now, companies are seeking to extend that very same success to the Web.

While Web initiatives have historically been a function of the IT and marketing departments, increasingly, contact centers are taking the lead in managing the self-service revenue channel to ensure the Web serves as a profitable, consistent service media. Typically, calls initiated through toll-free numbers and Web-based 'contact me' requests are routed to the contact center, making it the logical choice for management of this touch point. Who better knows the answers to consumers' most frequently asked questions than those fielding the customer requests directly? This alone makes those in the contact center the best-equipped resources to help companies determine what FAQs in scripts, as well as on the Web, should look like. By applying the call center quality monitoring principles to a Web environment, companies can extend consistency and quality of service to all channels. Just as with telephone calls, organizations can now use advanced technology to capture and review samples of actual customer experiences to identify clear steps for improving Web effectiveness. Taking the guesswork out of how visitors interact on a site, companies can improve service through better self-help, as well as focus on keeping site design and performance on track.

Capturing samples of customers navigating the Web and then graphically replaying them can proactively identify and enhance the customer self-service experience. Using quality monitoring and its key functionality, such as advanced 'business rules' recording, companies can predetermine the types of contacts they wish to capture on their sites, and then measure how well they're performing against customer and business-focused goals, as well as consistency standards. In some cases, that may be recording all interactions that result in the sale of a new product or particular campaign. In others, a company may wish to capture all contacts that result in the selection of the 'call me' button ' an action that is defined by consumers' frustration and driven by the inability to find the information they need ' or the point at which a consumer abandons his or her loaded shopping cart. In this instance, however, the price of the once cost-effective self-service interaction has now skyrocketed to the most costly medium: communication with a live agent by telephone. Moving forward, companies can avoid this scenario by simply capturing samples of what their visitors are trying to achieve, and then taking the actions needed in advance to ensure potential obstacles, roadblocks and difficulties are eliminated.

Quality monitoring for Web self-service is designed to help eliminate the speculation around what consumers are trying to do by showing how they're actually doing it. With a view of how visitors interact with a site, contact center and enterprise management can find out firsthand:

  • How well customers navigated the site,
  • What information they were looking for and how easy it was to find,
  • Whether the site housed the right content in the right place,
  • How easy it was to receive service, locate/update information, fill out an application or make a payment,
  • How well the checkout process worked,
  • When, where and why error messages occurred, as well as broken Web links,
  • What actions led consumers to abandon their shopping carts, and
  • What sequence of events led them to click the 'call me' button, in lieu of continuing to serve themselves.

Eliminating Web Self-Service Speculation
Companies engaged in e-business initiatives already have access to Web metrics that provide quantitative assessments for measuring Web effectiveness, such as the number of clicks a site receives. However, to truly enhance the customer experience and ensure the Web is an easy-to-use, profitable medium, companies need much more analysis. What pages did customers visit? What information were they looking for? Which products did they select? In what order did all of these movements on the Web take place? Did their Web user experiences flow well from a design, content and navigation perspective? Is this channel proving to be a profitable medium for the organization, as well as an easy medium for consumers to track information, receive service assistance and purchase products? All of this information serves as a form of intelligence that helps an organization react in a positive manner to consumers' buying patterns. Existing software provides little perspective into visitor intent, end user behavior and visual flow ' which is where Web self-service monitoring really comes into play.

Clickstream analysis through Web tools offers some basic and important reporting. It does not, however, get to the heart of the customer's experience. Web activity statistics and the ability to drill down and replay a visitor's experience offer two different sets of data and insight. By monitoring a company's Web site and storing recorded samples of visitors' sessions, contact center management can gain perspective into the content, navigation, purchasing and IT requirements needed to ensure a successful customer experience. Coupled with advanced monitoring technology that enables the contact center to share this insight with other departments in the organization, the contact center can work in tandem with IT, marketing, product development and engineering, for example, to make necessary adjustments, as well as enable them to see customer experiences firsthand. Measuring self-service effectiveness helps companies eliminate the speculation surrounding what their customers are trying to accomplish.

Companies need a targeted solution for evaluating Web site customer satisfaction, a critical component of Web site effectiveness. Recorded customer interactions can reveal consumer intentions as they show what visitors were trying to do when they called the telephone number provided, selected the 'call me' button, initiated a Web chat, sent an e-mail or abandoned a shopping cart. As Web initiatives evolve, measurements must follow suit to include qualitative assessments pinpointing the customer experience. This evolution intersects quantitative data with observed user behavior gathered through qualitative means.

Talking Dollars
In addition to meeting customer needs on the Web, companies stand to benefit significantly from an effective site and e-business strategy. Moving potential telephone calls to Web self-service results in an average savings of $5 per contact when compared to telephone contacts. Web self-service interactions average about $0.35 per contact, whereas a call to a live agent averages $5.50, with the range spanning to up to $40 per call.

For consumers who can't find what they need when serving themselves online, the result to a company can be damaging, equating to lost revenue. Worse yet, customers could become so frustrated that they opt to have their sales/service needs handled through another vendor's site or center. In the end, Web-based customer self-service offers tremendous potential for companies to build customer satisfaction.

In an age when the competition is only a click away, the time to start taking action to implement and improve self-service channels into the customer service function is now. Capturing real-life Web visitor scenarios can not only strengthen the end user experience by fine-tuning site design, navigation, content and ease-of use, it also can drive company revenue, decrease operational costs and heighten customer loyalty and repeat business. To have an effective, efficient and, above all, user-friendly encounter is unique ' but very attainable.

Oscar A. Alban serves as principal, market consultant for Witness Systems, a global provider of multimedia customer interaction recording, performance analysis and e-learning management software that enables companies to optimize their customer relationships.

[ Return To The May 2002 Table Of Contents ]

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