25 tips for optimizing your contact center's QA practices
Quality assurance does more than ensure regulatory compliance, it helps contact centers deliver the best outcomes for customers. Read our blog for tip...
The Team at CallMiner
January 13, 2020
There are tons of call center metrics. Many are the focus of management, rather than call center reps. We asked a panel of 20 call center pros about the most important call center metrics reps and agents should be aware of (but many aren’t) and what managers should be doing about it.
Your call center agents (hopefully) understand the importance of listening to the customer, and they’re probably aware that your company tracks dozens of call center metrics to track performance and monitor customer satisfaction (among other things). While there are some metrics that have little direct impact on your call center reps, there are plenty that do – many of which most reps are unaware of, or if they are aware of their existence, they’re rarely top-of-mind when it counts.
Digital channel frustration is driving more frustrated customers to the phone, and a positive call center experience is still (and increasingly) the key to maintaining customer loyalty. Call center reps who are well-informed of key success metrics are best equipped to mold their behaviors and shape interactions to ensure the successful outcomes you’re looking for.
Whether you’re using speech analytics to monitor interactions and gauge customer sentiment or tracking important agent performance metrics such as first-call resolution or average handling time, there’s a variety of data that can be quite valuable to your call center reps. But what metrics are most important for call center reps to be aware of, and what should you, as a manager, be doing to increase awareness? To find out, we reached out to a panel of call center pros and asked them to answer this question:
Read on to find out what our experts had to say about the most important call center metrics your reps should be aware of (but probably aren’t).
Balmore Aguilar is the Customer Service Manager for AnyPromo.com, an online promotional products distributor. He manages the customer service and sales teams, which bring in a combined $5M a month. Balmore has more than 8 years of experience in quality control, culture building, customer service consulting, and management training.
“I’d say the conversion rate…”
Many call centers do not focus on this enough, the reason why? ‘Cause you need to learn how to sell!
Usually, reps will ask for a bonus structure and that is costly both money-wise and time-wise. But, let’s do the math: If there’s no focus on conversion rate, the company might have 100 opportunities to sell a product or service, but they only take advantage and capitalize 20 or 30.
With proper training and a lot of motivation, you can take advantage of all 100 of those opportunities and increase sales.
A customer is calling, so there is an intent; there is interest! So, we will try to move the customers who are a definite Yes or Maybe towards the end of the funnel.
Josh Meah is a marketing entrepreneur who has built 4 different profitable marketing companies that serviced over 15 industries. Through his personally branded agency, JoshMeah.com, Josh and his team currently operate successful client acquisition systems affecting 27 different industries.
“Anyone cold-calling should consider their conversion rate from phone to meeting or phone to sale – which the key conversion point is…”
One of the biggest challenges for call center managers is increasing the total number of dials, and as a center increases in size, it seems easier to optimize for total dials rather than conversion rate. However, there is a clear methodology for improving the conversion rate: (1) install a playbook that is used initially to drive initial calls; and (2) once a caller has a certain amount of experience converting using the existing playbook, invite them to a collaborative session with other callers to discuss what they would do differently. This invites the participation of the caller and facilitates greater buy-in to the subsequent strategy. Not only can this evolve phone scripts, but this is often a positive means of advancing the overall call center culture. Positive and negative changes to the conversion rate are the guidepost to substantiate whether the team is moving in the right direction. As a manager of many callers, this technique has proved very successful for me.
Patsy Nearkhou is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Talkative UK.
“Particularly for call centers who look after high volumes of existing customers or members, it’s important to understand…”
What their customer’s total lifetime value is to the company. For clarity, the way you would calculate this is: MRR (or) Average Sales Price x Number of months expected to stay with us
So, for someone who is spending an average of £100 per month with you and you expect them to stay with you for a year, the Total Customer Lifetime Value would be £1200.
Making this metric visible to customer service reps will highlight the value of that customer to the business, bridging the gap between the sales and service departments. If the customer service rep can see how their value is growing (or decreasing) over time, they can adjust the service they provide to make it more appropriate for where they are in their customer journey. Overall, by monitoring this metric, you can encourage your customer service reps to understand the impact of their good work to the overall profitability of the company – and throw in a few rewards too if the department impacts this growth!
Shawn Breyer is the Owner of Breyer Home Buyers. Shawn got bit by the real estate bug in 2014. Since then he’s built a rental portfolio for his family and has experienced the joys and headaches of rental property ownership. After meeting with hundreds of other investors, he decided to build a real estate company to bridge the gap he saw – caring about the customer and not just the deal. Besides real estate, Shawn loves his wife (gotta give credit), woodworking, mountain biking, and spending as much time as possible with family and friends.
“Our cold calling team tracks meaningful conversations instead of tracking how many people they spoke with…”
We don’t really care if they talked to 15 people, of whom 9 of them just yelled and hung up the phone. We care about the 6 people that we were able to carry a meaningful conversation on with because they are more likely to be a true lead in our business. Meaningful conversations turn into leads, and we know exactly how many leads it takes to close a deal for our team.
Reuben Yonatan is the Founder and CEO of GetVOIP.
“As you probably guessed, we work with a lot of call centers. Here is what we’re hearing…”
Agent utilization rate is critical. We hear a lot about this, because agents are busy vetting numbers, studying prospects before calls, and not spending enough time on the phone. It’s only natural that we hear about this, as we connect call centers to solutions that reduce idle time with continuous and automated calling. But conversion rates are not enough to measure a call center’s success – expenses are a factor, and idle agents rack up huge expenses. Call center managers can easily employ software that completely eliminates this issue – automatic calling means your agents have a new call queued up the moment their previous call ends. They can study calls as the phone rings, rather than take extra minutes studying in between calls. It’s an easy, no friction solution.
Chris Henrich is the Director of Customer Solutions at AWeber, where he leads an award-winning team of customer solutions professionals. Chris is passionate about building and nurturing a collaborative culture, and is highly skilled at developing effective and accountable teams. He is focused on the growth of his team through true partnerships and development opportunities.
“When you look at SaaS businesses with a strong customer experience model, call center representatives are generally aware of standard indicators and metrics around satisfaction, speed of service, and resolution times…”
Of course, these metrics are tremendously important. But what I’ve come to find, especially in those individuals who have worked in call center environments prior to working with us at AWeber, is a lack of understanding of how those metrics connect with the actual business, beyond satisfaction benchmarking or (yuck) quotas.
Customer churn is by far the metric that most support individuals should be aware of but aren’t, with speed to adoption and activation as leading indicators, both of which our Customer Solutions team at AWeber influences heavily.
Most new support individuals don’t understand how to quantify the impact of the customer experience, which they cultivate and drive, on customer churn and speed of activation and adoption. We help our team members understand that every interaction they have with a customer is a retention opportunity, and that every influencer they turn into a loyalist becomes a potential brand ambassador.
Managers need to help the team understand how they can (and do) influence prospects and new customers. They need to ensure that team members are encouraging customers to use the service early, and can speak to the value of using the service often. They need to teach team members how to measure the rate at which the customers they interact with, churn. And they need to drive the team to find ways to move the needle by enhancing the customer experience.
Andrew Tillery is the Marketing Director of MAP Communications. MAP Communications has been answering phones for some of America’s finest companies and covering the small tasks to keep employees focused on what is important. Andrew has been cited in articles on Business2Community, Young Up Starts, Customer Think, and many others.
“One of the most undervalued call center metrics is also one of the most common…Average Call Time”
Just because you are likely to see Average Call Time whenever you investigate call processing data doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. It can be easy to dive right past this metric in an effort to have a look at some more complex or sexier analytics, but monitoring and understanding Average Call Time can be incredibly powerful. Having a baseline for your Average Call Time and keeping your finger on the pulse (looking for statistically significant trends up or down) can allow you to make hugely impactful decisions when it comes to Operations, Customer Experience, Sales and Marketing. Once you detect a growing or decreasing trend in Average Call Time, then you have a great opportunity to monitor calls and find out why. These are the types of insights that can drive some seriously positive organizational changes.
Jack O’Connor is a Business Analyst at Clutch.co conducting research on the call center industry, speaking directly with buyers and working closely with industry executives to help market their services.
“A call center metric all reps should be aware of is the measurable impact their work is having on the company they’re representing, quantitatively and qualitatively.”
Quantitative metrics include conversion rates, ROI, and customer turnover. Qualitative metrics include any feedback or anecdotes from the client company or the client company’s customers on the rep’s performance.
Many call center reps are the first point of contact for their client company’s customers – but these reps may have little knowledge about the direct impact their work has on the firm’s operational performance. When companies evaluate whether a call center is helping their business, they cite increased conversions and steady ROI as key metrics. Additionally, when client companies reflect on the measurable success of their call center partnerships, they often cite client satisfaction.
Reps who are aware of these qualitative and quantitative results can be more motivated to perform well and see the bigger picture of their efforts.
Managers can change this by keeping their reps more in the loop and engaged with client relationships. Monthly or quarterly updates on a client company’s operational successes, as well as any qualitative feedback for the rep, can help encourage reps and reveal the greater impact of their work.
Ryan Alovis is the Managing Partner of 1-888-GO-ANSWER!, a leading outsourced contact center that specializes in legal intake, 24/7 live answering service, custom call center solutions and virtual reception services.
“First contact resolution is paramount…Hiring the right agents is everything. Centers need to hire critical thinkers who can remain focused on the reason a caller is reaching out in the first place. What do they REALLY want? (i.e., Do they want their money back, or do they just want to know that their concerns are being empathetically heard?)
I think (to paraphrase Stephen Covey), many agents listen with the intent to respond rather than to truly understand. On the same token, agents need to be properly trained and empowered to make the decisions to make the customer’s contact one and done. These skills need to be honed and reinforced with consistent coaching and role play.
Chris Wain is the Director of Sales at Africa Travel.
“Adherence is an important yet often overlooked metric…”
This metric calculates the percentage figure of how much time a single advisor will spend working in relation to their work schedule; this includes everything from being on the phone, answering emails or carrying out any after-call work.
Adherence is easily confused with conformance or occupancy, but in an industry with a reputation of having large numbers of absenteeism, it is a very important metric. If an employee is scheduled to man the phones from between 10am and 12pm, but instead they start and finish at 10:10am – 12:10pm, they have not hit a 100% adherence rate.
Mandeep Kwatra is a digital customer experience transformation professional and design thinking with 19+ years of experience in customer service, call center, digital solutions, automation and business transformation. Mandeep is the Vice President for CX Strategy, Solutions and Capabilities at HGS Ltd., a global outsourcing company.
“In today’s changing scenario of outsourcing and with the evolution of self-help and digital channels, outsourcing clients are getting more focused on total cost of ownership than ever in the past…”
In my opinion, this has to be the cornerstone of any outsourcing relationship between a client and an outsourcing service provider. In order to drive this successfully, many outsourcing call centers have relied heavily on technology by bringing in new channels, etc. But one key area where they fail on such transformations or delivering these benefits is the culture part, which comes from its people.
We need to start involving the team members at the agent level by bringing in cost per contact to their metrics and empowering them on managing cost per contact for the calls that they handle. This will help agents drive more customers towards alternate channels. How it gets cross-linked to other metrics like CSat and NPS per agent will ensure that the customers are not abandoned or dropped like a hot potato to the other channels.
Managers can create a dashboard of cost per contact at an agent level (currently used in management reporting by many companies) and create it as a gamified dashboard for the agents. Along with a connection between high CSAT, high FCR and less cost per contact, the agents can progress on the dashboard and can be incentivized.
Kevin Tash is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Tack Media, a full-service digital marketing agency in Los Angeles.
“I have run many call centers, and it’s important to note reps that go out of their way to lead the client towards a successful conversion…”
I like to look at this single metric that I feel is a truly unique feat: How many obstacles have they overcome? Because it’s not always about, “Let me ask my manager.” It’s about that rep understanding how to use constructive thinking to overcome that situation and please the customer without extending out additional resources. That has been a successful metric we have used, and it has worked for us to show that these employees, who are the most effective, should be training other employees. That is the key to success in any call center, and many companies miss the point.
Margie Brickner is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Reliant Capital Solutions (Reliant). Reliant is a leading provider of collection services that focuses on resolving debt and finding solutions to improve financial futures. From asset recovery to contact center outsourcing, Reliant provides strong customer service and effective results to a wide variety of clients in the higher education, government, retail, automotive, healthcare and commercial industries.
“We are long overdue for a comprehensive review and modernization of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)…”
The FDCPA was approved in 1977 and the TCPA was approved in 1991. Neither act has been amended to materially recognize current consumer practices. For instance, the TCPA specifies many requirements for fax machines and restricts text messages received by cell phones, but does not recognize the reality that most consumers use a mobile phone as their primary point of contact. These laws need to be amended to better balance consumer privacy with legitimate business communication.
Ketan Kapoor is the CEO and co-founder of Mettl, a HR technology company and leading talent measurement firm that enables businesses to make precise people decisions in Talent Recruitment, management and training across industry verticals.
“Customer sales or call center services are of profound impact on any organization…”
There’s huge competition in the market for any industry we talk about, unless you are a part of a monopoly economy.
If your customers are not satisfied with your services, resolution of their queries, or even worse, have a bad experience with your company, there are high chances of them changing their choice of the company for the same service. They will leave you, without another thought.
That’s why building trust and confidence in customers is of utmost importance to a company. It’s a big responsibility as well as an opportunity to create brand advocates who vouch for your product and influence others to go for your products and services. All the more reasons why organizations must not pay lip-service to the domain and strengthen it for a seamless and robust process.
For the same, it’s essential to engage one customer completely at one single step.
The number of calls per ticket is an effective metric that can say a lot about the overall experience of your customer service strategy. It’s the best metric which many aren’t aware of and has some exciting attributes, which are:
Sue Duris is Co-Founder/Director of Marketing and Customer Experience at M4 Communications, a customer experience consultancy that helps organizations build, nurture, and scale their brands. M4 helps clients become customer-obsessed by coaching them on how to be customer-centric and creating customer experience programs that engage employees and drive customer value.
“I’m a big believer that customer advocacy starts at the contact center level…”
Reps/Managers play an important role in identifying advocates and recommending them for reference or advocacy programs, or even perhaps a customer advocacy board (CAB). Or obtaining their feedback to help customer marketing teams optimize these programs. Unfortunately, monitoring advocacy metrics are often overlooked.
When a loyal customer – you’ve determined this through your effort score – contacts you, you should have on hand the following via whatever customer metrics/dashboard you have on hand: cross-sell/upsell revenue, retention rate, customer referrals made, revenue of those customers referred, active engagement with your products, active engagement with you on social and are positively talking about you on the social vines, and active involvement in providing feedback within your voice of the customer program. If these numbers are positive, and you can determine the thresholds you want to monitor for; these are your advocates and these are the ones that deserve a high-touch approach. Also, don’t overlook taking NPS of your advocates. This is very important because not all promoters may be candidates for advocacy programs. But NPS of those advocates, your high-value customers, is very key to driving growth.
What managers can do is work with IT or whoever is tasked with creating customer metrics dashboards to integrate these metrics in. Perhaps you want to have dedicated reps so they can provide a high-touch here. Regardless, advocates, who are highly influential, should receive a highly personal treatment. Managers should know that if they aren’t in a referral or advocacy program or CAB, have the ability to ask them if they would like to participate, and if they are in such programs, have means to obtain their feedback on these advocacy type programs. Doing so, the contact center turns into a profit center and growth engine to drive customer lifetime value.
Richard Pummell, Human Resources Lead at DevelopIntelligence, has over 25 years of experience working with people, process and technology particularly in HR and Operations. He is currently focused on issues relating to organizational culture, process improvement, change management and strategy.
“Many organizations will publish first call resolution, customer satisfaction, average call time, etc. These are great metrics, but…Abandon rate can point to opportunities to improve the business that may otherwise be overlooked.”
Abandon rate will impact customer satisfaction overall as having to attempt to contact a company multiple times to resolve an issue is not acceptable. A high abandon rate can be the result of the following issues:
Kaye Chapman is the Learning & Development Manager at Comm100, a global provider of AI-powered digital customer conversation software. She has a wealth of experience working alongside contact centers, improving processes and delivering engaging, effective and fun learning and development solutions.
“Traditional time-based call center metrics like AHT and FCR are well-known by reps but can be damaging when used in isolation, as they can discourage flexibility in service and cause reps to disregard quality outcomes…”
Even when used in partner with quality measures, these metrics can still work at odds with each other, causing confusion and role uncertainty for reps. If you’re looking for a response metric that works in concert with quality, de-emphasize these traditional metrics and instead, coach agents to pay attention to first touch time. Encourage them to get to the customer quickly but then take the time they need to deliver quality, resulting in interactions that are both quick and considered.
“As an executive coach now and prior certified help desk manager in an old life, I believe there are two very important metrics leaders need to keep their eye on in this environment…” The first is customer satisfaction. Did the caller’s issue get resolved; were customers happy with the service they received and the knowledge provided by the representative? Some might not care about happiness, but I sure did as a help desk manager. If customers were not pleased with the service, it impacted our brand negatively and was a bad reflection of our leadership, and most likely we got a repeat visit back to the desk.
The second is abandoned rate. As a customer now, it baffles me that companies think it is acceptable to leave a customer on hold for 60 minutes and depend on them to hang up. I have done it for fun sometimes, just to see how long it takes. Your abandoned rate is a key indicator of just how many people are throwing their hands up and giving up. Impressions matter and if it takes that long to get help, there is something wrong with your resource model. Times have changed a bit too, so offering other ways to get service seem efficient, like Twitter and Facebook to access customer service teams, but the same theory rings true. If you are going to offer a service channel, make sure it is resourced and someone actually answers to avoid a customer walking away with a terrible impression of your company.
Steve is an Indonesian-born serial entrepreneur and marketer. He has launched and runs tech and F&B companies, and is responsible for content marketing and growth strategy of Nine Peaks Media, a performance-based digital marketing agency. He’s addicted to great stories and creating great content.
“One of the most overlooked metrics regarding call center practices is…After Call Work Time, which in a nutshell is a measurement of how much time is required for post-call works. This is because the true value of call center customer service is the finished work, when we can provide solution to the customers, and that often doesn’t happen during the call, but after.
To calculate this, we can use a simple formula:
After call work time = (time to complete work for call A + time to complete work for call B + ….time to complete work for call N) / number of calls
If the number is high, there can be several causes:
By measuring this metric and acting accordingly, we can significantly improve customer experience, mainly in improving the time to actually provide a solution.
Christine Brosnahan is the Senior Vice President of Aspire and an expert in global call center strategy and management.
NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Top Key Performance Indicators to Track via Aspire Marketing.
“Hold Times & Abandon Rates…”
These two key figures are closely connected. What do you normally do if put on hold for a long period of time? You hang up. No one likes to wait, including your customers. If you’re lucky, they’ll call back. Most likely the business is lost. Not only that, when a significant number of callers hang up or call back, statistics get skewed and you lose the ability to determine your true call volume. You must be able to assess your call flow to staff appropriately and meet customer demands and expectations. Every call center should have less than 5% call abandonment. This can be tricky, especially for smaller centers with significant hourly peaks and valleys in call volume. Every organization will have some abandoned calls. Don’t count callers who abandon in the first 10 seconds or less. Do focus on reducing hold times and abandonment through accurate measurement of call volume and effective staffing.
Setting goals and not sharing them with the people most able to impact results directly is a huge mistake. Let your staff know what you’re measuring and why. Post your key measurements. Announce them at meetings—especially as they change—and send out reminders. Develop systems and processes to support your staff in achieving these goals, and ensure your staff fully learns and understands them.
How do you ensure that these important call center metrics are top-of-mind for your reps? Comment below.
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