What is Contact Center Efficiency?

Definition of Contact Center Efficiency
Call center efficiency is the technical implementation of a simple necessity – supporting your customers. If your business has a call center (or even an online chat box), chances are you’re concerned about performance: How do customers interact with your call center? Are they satisfied? Or, are they running for the hills (a.k.a. your competitors).

On your end, is there a way to streamline your customer service? Can you eliminate any unnecessary steps, be more effective, and better allocate your human resources? Can you reduce costs without sacrificing customer satisfaction?

That is the definition of contact center efficiency – all of the above. In other words, it’s a complex equation that blends customer needs and satisfaction with internal processes designed to eliminate inefficiencies and improve performance.

How to Improve Contact Center Efficiency
When it comes to efficiency, it’s best to be, well, efficient: don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture. Instead, look to each individual contact center metric, analyze current results, compare against current standards, and then brainstorm ways to improve overall customer satisfaction, based on a single metric.

If you want to dig in immediately, there are two factors that consistently have a major impact on customer satisfaction, and therefore on your overall efficiency: talk time and handle time.

The goal, both with customer satisfaction and reduced costs in mind, is to reduce talk time. Often, this can be achieved through simple improvements, such as properly routing calls to the correct agents, a process that can be handled with greater accuracy and efficiency with the aid of interactive voice response (IVR) and other technologies. Likewise, reduced handle time is also important to overall customer satisfaction and contact center costs, often by improving internal IT (e.g. through speech analytics and other tools).

The result of reduced talk and handle time: Your customers’ concerns are resolved faster; your customers are happier, because they weren’t bounced from agent to agent; and your agents are able to handle greater call volume, thus reducing your costs.

Beyond these, your company should also look to:

  • Optimize agent performance through increased first-call resolution (FCR).
  • Provide customer service across channels, including email, chat, and self-service help.
  • Segment your agents, to allow targeted team operations within established measures and metrics and boost call routing accuracy.
  • Reduce or eliminate the costs associated with third-party contracts and/or manual effort.

Examples of Contact Center Efficiency
Let’s look to two metrics we’ve already discussed: talk time and handle time.

Talk Time: Using CallMiner Eureka, one organization updated its call routing and as a result, effectively reduced talk time by 82 seconds per call. Even better, when call volumes increased the following year, the organization’s contact center agents were able to handle a 12% increase in calls.

Handle Time: Another company leveraged CallMiner Eureka to identify a problem with long silence blocks during their billing calls; the blocks occurred every time agents waited for the billing system to respond to voice prompts. As a result, the company was able to hand off the problem to their IT team, who tweaked the billing system, and literally overnight reduced the company’s average handle time by 11 seconds.

Benefits of Contact Center Efficiency
Happy customers are, unquestionably, the most important factor in a successful business. And yet, for most businesses, customers are not automatically happy; there will always be questions, problem-solving, and other customer service issues to handle.

And that is the heart of contact center efficiency: solving problems, answering questions, and attending to other customer concerns, in a timely and helpful manner.

We repeat – in a timely manner. Because timeliness, when it comes to customer satisfaction, is a crucial factor. In fact, consulting firm Service Quality Measurement (SQM) Group found that for every 1% boost in first-call resolution rates, customer satisfaction also jumps 1%. What’s more, poor wait times could cost U.S. businesses a staggering $100 billion a year.

Customer satisfaction isn’t the only benefit to greater contact center efficiency; improving various metrics also lowers your operating costs – you’ll have fewer repeat callers – while improving your employee satisfaction rate and reducing your risk of unhappy customers abandoning your product or service. In other words, everyone wins when your contact center operates efficiently.

Challenges of Contact Center Efficiency
As with many other plans for your business, the greatest challenge to contact center efficiently is execution: How can you establish, and then execute a plan for an efficient contact center?

Wrapped up in this challenge, is the question of metrics: Which metrics are the best measure of efficiency? Where should you focus your efforts first? Which brings us to…

Best Practices for Contact Center Efficiency
The good news is, contact center efficiency boils down to a few standout metrics, from which your company should develop company standards and expectations. Use these metrics to track, test, analyze and build, to achieve optimal efficiency and customer satisfaction:

  • Response Time: Your company’s response time is typically tracked as the average amount of time it takes to respond (answer) a customer’s call.
  • Service Level: Service level, which measures the percentage of calls answered within established goals (ex. 20 seconds), is an important metric to compare / contrast with response time. If your call center is performing efficiently, your service level should reach toward 100% – in other words, your representatives should answer most calls within your established response time.
  • Abandonment Rate: This refers to the percentage of customers who hang up before connecting to an agent. This metric is often inversely related to your response time.
  • Average Handle Time: Track the average length of your calls. The goal, obviously, is to keep your handle time low, while still resolving issues.
  • First-call Resolution: Another important goal, this metric (also known as FCR) tracks whether your reps are able to resolve customer problems on the first call, or whether follow-up is necessary.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Regarding call center efficiency, customer satisfaction refers specifically to how customers view the result of their calls.

Never rest on your laurels. Best practices require you to constantly and consistently track, evaluate and improve upon these metrics. Which brings us to our final point, call observation. Recording live calls and, in some cases, observing live calls, will help you further evaluate the effectiveness of your customer service representatives, and eventually to establish even better standards to boost call center customer satisfaction.

What tools and technologies do you utilize to measure and improve contact center efficiency?

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