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Contact Center Metrics Part I - The Origin Story: Transactional Metrics

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Would you drive a car thats missing its speedometer or fuel gauge? What if these elements were replaced with an altimeter? … We know that a reliable [dashboard] is essential to operating your vehicle… safely [and] lawfully. Now liken this to a contact center trying to operate using incomplete dashboards. Reporting and dashboards are the lifeblood of the contact center, and metrics are their building blocks; if key metrics are missing, supervisors wont have the crucial information they need to drive performance toward a better customer experience.

Shifting business priorities have drastically impacted operations in many contact centers, though the changes have yet to propagate to the metrics used to measure performance. Many contact centers still measure success using KPIs from a time when they were the traditional call centers made up of inbound and outbound voice channels.

These KPIs are the transactional metrics that have been the foundation of call centers since their inception. Average Handle Time (AHT), Service Level (SL) and Workforce Management attributes (forecasting, scheduling, and adherence) are still widely used to track channel efficiency. They were developed based on the voice channel and the perception of the call center as a cost center with efficiency as their primary focus. Call centers eventually became the target of cost-cutting initiatives that drove tunnel vision for transactional efficiencies at the expense of both the customer and agent experiences. Unfortunately, this created an environment known for high turn-over rates and bad customer service.

With the advent of smart phones, social media and new communication channels, the landscape has drastically changed as the traditional call center has evolved into a multi-channel contact center where the standard transactional metrics don't easily transfer. For example, Hold Time and ACW typically do not apply to social media, a channel that has drastically different expectations tied to it than the traditional voice channel. Handle time could apply but is probably not the most fitting metric for social media. Additionally, process issues or agent behavior may not be easily identified across channels using the same transactional KPIs. In other words, are these metrics still able to track channel efficiency in a multi-channel contact center?

For many environments, the answer is no. But what metrics should be used? Customer experience (not operational efficiency) is now the primary driver of the contact center. Most contact center reporting doesn't align with this, and it has created a lingering problem for the industry as customers now expect personalized service in the channel of their choice. Businesses can no longer force their service models on their customers, and their performance measures (KPIs) and corresponding dashboards must evolve to meet this rule. Failure to adjust or support customer expectations has a drastic impact on customer sentiment and brand loyalty i.e., Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES).

Contact centers are all over the spectrum in how well their metrics align with their purpose. This series will cover the maturation of contact center metrics, beginning with familiar transactional data and ending with the metrics most contact centers should aspire to include in their reporting and dashboards. Next month, we will cover the shift toward an omni-channel service environment.

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