Metrics – to fool or be fooled – that’s the question!

KPI’s should be about understanding what you need to improve to be better at meeting your Customer’s needs and desires. Designing a measurement framework, the metrics that go with that, and the cross-functional dashboards to ensure cross-silo understanding how improvement in one area effects another, should not be regarded lightly. At the same time putting together a Customer Experience Feedback Analytics team to keep tracking metrics, searching for new correlations and continuously increasing your understanding of what truly matters to Customers, as well as what you need to do about just that, I consider a must for every company.

Unfortunately, in the perception of many, KPI’s seem to exist only to please “the boss” or to show “the boss” how well one is doing. KPI’s or metrics are often not well designed, and are sometimes extremely well designed: Extremely well to suit an important purpose: Fool your Boss (e.g. for a bonus, for getting the money to launch that project you really want to do, or just to be able to not have to do anything).

Here are two examples of metrics that fit into that last category:

Pursuing your own desires, not your Customer’s:

A company understands that their customers desire a speedy turn-around time with regard to account-change-requests. They have asked their clients what they would consider a speedy turn-around time. On average the Customer has provided feedback that 10 business days would be fine. The manager therefore has put in place a metric: average turn-around time of account-change-requests. After a big ICT project (which they always wanted to do but did not have a sound business case for) they succeeded in getting it about right. Unfortunately Customer Satisfaction did not increase and the (complaint) volume in their Contact Center did not decrease either, it increased!

What happened: after analyzing the data on turn-around times it was discovered that the company has been successful in decreasing the turn-around time of requests, that were already being dealt with within 10 days before. They improved turning them around in 3 days. Great achievement, but clearly not in line with the desired outcome of their Customers. Worse even, the turn-around time of requests that were handled outside the 10 day limit, increased from 15 days to 18 days. A lot of money had been spend on reducing the average turn-around time (by system automation), only to find out it did not have any of the desired outcomes for the company. The manager is happy though, with a state of the art system and a good bonus for meeting the KPI-goals.

Little effort, maximum results

A company has analyzed that their Call Center First Contact Resolution-rate was too low, causing high levels of dissatisfaction among their Customers who contacted the Contact Center. They also analyzed that most of the repeat traffic occurred within 2 weeks after the first call. Hence the responsible contact center manager put in place a KPI to track and reduce the repeat volume that occurred within 2 weeks. After as little as one month they saw an increase in the new First Contact Resolution KPI and after 3 months they hit their target (95 % FCR). Unfortunately, and you feel it coming, dissatisfaction levels did not decrease, nor did call volume.

What happened: contact center management proved to be very effective. They implemented the new KPI all the way through to the level of Customer Services Representatives. They of course know exactly how to influence this, without structural improvements needed. The CSR’s made a great effort in managing expectations of the calling Customers: it will take at least 2 weeks before your requests will be dealt with. No improvements were made on the actual turn-around time of the Customer requests, hence all Customers kept calling back after the two weeks had passed. A good example of: little effort maximum result!

What kind of (bad) examples do you have to share? Or: how did changing the way you measured really improve understanding, what mattered for your Customers, for you? Please share your stories here.

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Don’t just rule the IVR out of the Customer Experience yet

Intelligent or Interactive Voice Response systems are often criticized. Just a few days ago, Shaun Smith, a respected Customer Experience Consultant and blogger on Customer Think, argued that IVR’s almost never build empathy and therefore do not contribute to a positive Customer Service Experience. You can read the post here.

Smith makes some very valid points with regard to the Customer Experience and the need to treat the Contact Center as being an integrated part it. I could not agree more.

When discussing the role of the IVR in the entire Customer Experience I believe it is important to understand the entire Customer Service Experience and not just focus on one touch point. Also it is important to understand the Customer’s desired outcome when seeking Customer Services.

I think it’s safe to say Customers desire a solution to their problems or answers to their questions. More precisely I believe the Customer desires a correct answer/solution within a reasonably (short) time-frame and with minimal effort invested to get it. I agree that the Customer, when in direct contact with an employee, desires the employee to be empathic to his situation. Also the Customer requires the employee to have all relevant information for his specific case available and not having to provide the details of his case or question over and over again.

When designing the Customer Service Experience companies need to carefully weigh meeting the need for speed, effectiveness, low Customer effort and personalized empathic resolution.

An IVR can play an important role in meeting Customer’s desired outcomes of the Customer Service Experience. For one it can provide compelling and easy to use self-service experiences (minimal Customer effort and speed). Secondly, when IVR’s are connected to company’s CRM-systems they can provide the Customer Service Rep with all available Customer information, even before the Rep answers the phone (minimal Customer effort and speed). Thirdly IVR’s have the ability to route Customers to the Rep with the knowledge and systems needed to answer the Customer’s question or resolve his problem (correct answer, minimal Customer effort and speed).

All of the above functionalities of the IVR can contribute to meeting Customer’s desired outcomes and therefore to a compelling and good Customer Service Experience. This experience will become great when talking to an empathic Customer Service Rep that is empowered to a level that he or she can take ownership of the Customer’s question, request or complaint and solve it in one call.

I therefore believe that the IVR is a necessary tool in the design of a Customer Service Experience. One does need to be careful with having too many options and too many layers in it as a consequence of the minimal Customer Effort principle. Also Contact Center forecasting and planning capabilities need to be on a high level to ensure minimal risk at long waiting queues (although Customer’s do weigh a first time right answer higher than short waiting times).

Last, but certainly not least, one needs to provide a compelling and great online customer self-service experience first. More and more (by now a vast majority I believe) Customers are searching your website or service communities before dialing into the Contact Center. If they do not find it there, you’re already 0 – 1 behind (customer effort increases, speed of resolution decreases). Making that up with an IVR and an empathic Customer service Rep will make the Customer Service Experience a zero-sum-game to the max.

This article was first published at Customer Think. You can read it here.
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Reconnect the Customer and the Employee with the company

– This article was first published at You can find the article there, here

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:

The probability that a service interaction will drive disloyalty is approximately four times greater than the chance it will create any positive loyalty impression

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”?

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Which Goose should you chase? – Invitation to co-create next generation customer service dashboard 2.0 –

A few weeks ago I posted a blog with the title: Why keep chasing the wrong Goose? At the end of that post I promised to come back to you with a more in depth post on what you should be chasing, or in other words: Which metrics should you put in place in the Customer Services environment to get “it” right?

I truly believe our “profession” is in need of a new dashboard. Current metrics have brought our customers and our companies too little. Most of the times when a company gets bad press it is about the bad service that has been provided through customer services. The existence of TV-watch-dog shows depends on this, and the number of shows is only increasing. Thus: we need to re-invent ourselves. We need to re-invent the way we do, act, live, breath and measure (the value contribution to the customer and the company of) Customer Services.

When reading lot’s of research on the link between the Customer Service Experience and Customer Loyalty, stuff on metrics like the ACSI, Customer Effort Score, NPS, ways to ask questions in customer surveys and discussing the theme on Twitter and other blog-posts, it quite dazzled me, so I let it rest for a while.

This week I came to think: why not use the power of Social Media to co-create, through collaboration, the new Customer Services Dashboard 2.0? Together we know more, we can discuss viewpoints and we can leverage experiences. I hope you share my thoughts and are willing to contribute.

A short introduction:

Before we can build the new Customer Services Dashboard 2.0 we need to have a goal (we do not measure because we want to measure, we measure because we want to improve something).

I would like to think that the main goal any Customer Services department should have, is to contribute to the company’s goal. Since I do not know all company’s goals I propose that we set as our goal:

  • Improvement of Customer Loyalty (Behavior)

Customer Loyalty behavior consists of three specific “actions” that companies aim for to boost sales and profits. These three are:

  • Buy again (i.e. extend a contract or repurchase the same product when used)
  • Buy more (i.e. buy additional products or services from the company)
  • Spread the word (i.e. tell friends and family about the great product/service and advice to buy it too)

To make it a little more easy to link this desired customer behavior to Customer Services I suggest you read some of the following:

So, I hope you are all warmed-up now. I am!

How will this continue?

First of all I need to know if you are up for the challenge? Do you also believe that our Customer Services Profession is in need of building a Customer Services Dashboard 2.0?

If yes, or no, please leave a comment below and share your views. Are you interested in contributing to build this dashboard, please connect to me through LinkedIn or Twitter, and let me know you’re interested. I’ll get back to you within a couple of days, to let you know how we are going to get this done and how you can contribute (and benefit from joining in).

Looking forward to the collaboration journey. Are your in?

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