I have had the opportunity to talk to people delivering customer support in many different industries from waste disposal to global consulting. In several cases I have been told “We are not a Call Center”. I heard that recently from someone who provides 24×7 telephone support, answering many thousands of calls monthly, and creates business opportunities for customers around the country. They then added that “well, we are not like other call centers.” How are call centers similar? They want to succeed but what does that mean and how do you know when it happens?
First and foremost, somebody is paying for them – all of them. Even in a non-profit people are paid, resources (telephones, web access, CRM/service tracking tools, office space) are secured, and customers are served. An inflexible rule of business is that if someone is paying for something, he/she wants to see what value is being provided for that cost. That is where measuring success becomes critical because to be frank, if there is not value then there is not justification to maintain that function.
Armed with this knowledge you walk into the board with your binder full of metrics, beaming because you have more data than you will ever need to demonstrate what great stuff you are doing (ASL, Accuracy, Adherence, CSAT, KPI) and you are greeted by blank stares. This brings me to my next point: we speak a language all to ourselves. For some of us the answer to success seems as simple as meeting all of our KPI – 80% in 30 seconds, 82% schedule adherence, > 8.7 CSAT and north of 62% on the NPS. What does that mean to the business? To really talk about success with business leadership, the first step is to define the success you are working to attain.
I have seen cases where a philanthropic mission statement is trumped by stakeholders’ earnings – and before you say it, no the two are not mutually exclusive. But before you go to that senior leadership meeting you must know what part of the services you provide is really important to the business. If you talk about how your team has averted X number of crises by high availability but the thing your leader need to convey to the stockholders’ meeting is what it costs and what you are doing to control those costs you will paint the wrong picture (and yourself into a corner). Be comforted in the knowledge that our space is so unique you can (and should!) be involved in defining that success yourself, using support and call center metrics translated to business jargon. If profit is the real driver, then your metrics must demonstrate how you generate profit or at the very least minimize loss. For instance, instead of dropping ASL, Accuracy, and Adherence numbers you may present a metric of customer satisfaction reflected in your customers’ comments about how you are “always there” and “always have the right answer”. If you can draw the line between this level of Customer Satisfaction and Customer Retention, mores the better! It is imperative that you discuss whatever you define as success with your stakeholders and gain their buy-in. At the end of the year is the wrong time to discover that you have been chasing the wrong thing for 12 months.
Which (finally) brings me to the real point I need to get across. Whatever business your center is in, the voice of your customer is the key to measuring success. In internal support you can translate ASL to “minimizing lost billable time” for those field people you support. For commercial, end-user support point to retention, expansion, and that ever popular Net Promoter Score are all things business leaders understand very well.
To gather this data, you have to do one other thing extremely well – listen to your customer! Creating a survey that will give you actionable data and not lead your audience to provide a predefined answer is an art form. Google is my friend and a search on “help writing a customer service survey” returns about 321M options to look into. This is not an endorsement of an service but follow those first two or three and take a look at Client Heartbeat, Qualtrics, or National Business Research Institute to name a few. The message in all cases is the same; ask about your customers’ experiences, understand what that experience was compared to what the customer expected and what you tried to deliver, and take action to close the gap between expectation and delivery. Sometimes the gap is closed through agent coaching, product modifications, or any number of things your support team has no control over like pricing, features, or release schedule. Maybe the gap cane be narrowed by simply adjusting your customers’ expectations. In an overly simple example, if feedback says your callers are frustrated because you never answer at 6:00 and you don’t open until 7:30 there is an opportunity…
In our industry, whether you are a Service Desk, Call Center, Contact Center, Service Center, or anything else, we are very lucky to have more metrics and measurements at our disposal than ever before. We know what our staff is doing, we know how our customers are being cared for, and we know, without a doubt, exactly how our efforts tie directly to the core mission of our organizations. The challenge is not in the measuring – it is in what we do with the data already at our disposal. Join HDI Music City at our September meeting in the new Tractor Supply Company Store Support Center in Brentwood, TN at 11:00 am on September 15th as Jeff Brooks (Gartner) brings his expertise in the matter to bear and answers questions like “What does it mean?” “What is good?” “Now what?” Bring your infrastructure leaders for Jeff’s follow-on session, Predicting Service Outages. There is another area where all of our data can become decision driving information for others in the organization!