Call centers have been named the drains of the organization. Unfortunately this is a true statement. Anything that goes wrong, within an organization’s attempt to sell and deliver products and services, will return in Customer Services. Also the people working in Call Centers are viewed and treated as Production Capacity, not as one of the most important assets of the company.
Reducing the P-side of the equation
The starting point for Customer Services Call Centers, as we know them today, has been the desire to concentrate the work (handling customer calls) which was viewed “disruptive” of the higher valued (administrative) work. The clear signs are still there today: Administrative work usually gets higher pay and working conditions in “the back office” are significantly better.
Over the past decade or two call centers have been managed on the P side of the equation: P (price per contact) x Q (volume of contacts). Almost all innovations in call center or customer service management have been aimed at reducing the human factor in the equation, because that’s where the costs were considered to be highest. Even Quality and Knowledge Management systems could only be implemented after proving ROI through reduction of employee costs (e.g. of monitoring & coaching).
Sadly, for a long time, The only “quality” parameter in play has been Average Speed of Answer or Call SLA and until recently one was considered a specialist in call centers if one understood how to increase accessibility whilst increasing productivity.
We need to change the course of evolution..
I believe that all of the above has resulted in the following “shocking” fact:
I see this statement as “our” main challenge for the upcoming decade. It proves that we are not doing a great job. We have disconnected the customer from the company, by disconnecting the Customer services call center employees from the company first. The above examples prove to me that it is part of our genetic structure. This is not an easy fix. We are in need of genetic manipulation, we need to change the course of evolution: We need a new course, a new map, and a new compass to support that.
What should call centers of tomorrow chase? – How do we reconnect the customer?
Actually I exaggerated a bit above. The course of evolution is being changed. We already see smart companies like Amazon and Zappo’s following the new course. It is likely that more have followed. We just do not hear as much of them as we do from the companies that have a bad service reputation. And frankly I do not encounter a lot myself in my daily work as consultant. Smart companies follow a course that is build upon a few simple building blocks and which is resulting in Loyal Customers: Customers that buy again, buy more and are spreading positive word of mouth.
When we choose the course of Loyalty there is a clear map to follow. Several researches show that there is a high correlation with loyalty through the Customer experience (ease of use, usefulness, delight) as well as Customer engagement and last, but not least: Through employee engagement. It’s these three roads, “we” should follow to get to goal.
What does this mean for call center KPI’s
When targeting Loyalty, call centers should adapt their compass, their KPI’s, metrics or balanced score-cards, in accordance with this goal. So what does this mean:
How successful your Customer’s Experience is, will not be driven by continuously reducing the human factor in the interaction with Customers. It will only do so if the alternative makes the customer service experience easier and more useful for Customers. E.g.: How easy it is for the Customer to find the solution to his problem, how easy it was to find the correct phone number and how easy it was for Customer Service to solve the problem. And also: how empowered is the Customer Service Rep to solve even difficult cases. Those are factors that will increase the likelihood of the Service Experience being a contributor to the full Customer Experience and Customer Loyalty in the end. Those are the factors that need to play a key-role in your Customer Services Call Center score-card.
Employee loyalty will increase not by focusing on AHT, but if you empower employees with knowledge, skills and tools to have better conversations, it will. Employee loyalty does not increase by business rules or scripts that limit employees to deal with Customer problems themselves. Employee engagement does not increase by focusing on 10 critical errors out of 20 potential errors when you do (distant) call monitoring. Engaged employees are less ill, have higher productivity and are more likely positively contributing to the Customer Experience. Engaged employees are also your most loyal Customers. Measurement (and improvement) of Employee engagement should be a key-indicator for your scorecard.
Does the above mean that you can throw out all your old KPI’s? Do Call SLA and AHT no longer matter? From my perspective it does not. It does imply that it is significantly more important to focus your efforts and investments in areas where it does truly matter to increase customer loyalty.
By improving on the above I bet that your “old” KPI’s will improve too. Most of all your company’s profits will grow through increased sales, reduced customer churn and growth of the customer base. How’s that for an ROI? The question that remains: does this suffice for “genetic manipulation”?