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24-MINUTE WEBINAR How to Setup an In-House Call Center

A 24 minute webinar presented by Rich Fox, Contact Center Director at Evolve IP. We’re going to talk about metrics, what callers really want, ways of measuring the call experience, and agent KPIs.

Listen to the podcast:


Well thank you for joining today’s webinar, call center metrics that matter most. This session will be recorded and you’ll receive a link via email to play back the recording along with a copy of the presentation. All phones will be muted during the webinar and we will unmute lines at the end of the presentation for questions. My name is Rich Fox, I’ll be your speaker for the day. My background spans operations and technology and telecom and a whole list of different fun activities along the way. I brand very large call centers and now I run the call center practice and Evolve IP. So you’ll probably won’t find many people more evangelist from a cloud call center than I and I’ve been both leg call centers as well as been responsible for them from a technology perspective and I’m look forward to sharing my experiences and those of some of our customers today.

So what are we going to talk about? Well we’re going to talk about metrics and metrics and metrics and there’s certainly lots of metrics as you all know in the call center world. We’re going to talk about, you know, what do callers really want. Ways of measuring the calls experience, customers experience. We’re going to talk about agent KPIs and a couple copy that along the way of be careful that which is measured and one about how it’s a balancing act that many of you will all know all too well. So there are many metrics, you know many goals, for a call center and no lack of them and some of them, some of those metrics are captured by the ACD in the phone system. Others require additional systems or processes to collect that data and that was required a matter of data from multiple systems to give you a holistic picture. So at a high level we have an ACD the typical metrics of service level and average speed an answer, abandoned rate, things along those lines.

We have your business drivers, so what’s important to your organization? Typically the core functions you know of your organization or your call center and revolve around those transactions. So often comparing up those metrics with ACD information to generate things like cost per call, revenue per call, average call value, conversion rates, cost cell rate, things along those lines and so our customers typically marry up phone data with those other systems reduce these insightful business metrics. Quality management typically involves are very conscious and consistent effort to review each agents customer interactions, grade them, provide coaching feedback and needs to operate continuously to provide improve agent performance. This evaluation typically includes customer service skills, product knowledge, system expertise, and usage and various other efficiency and effectiveness measures to create an overall call quality score for each agent. From a customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction perspective obviously measuring how the impact your organization has on customer satisfaction are they a net promoter or not, does a happy employer result in a happy customer, these two metrics are typically captured the survey first call surveys or those that can take other forms of email or web-based surveys and the last bucket is workforce management. So for customers that have the total workforce management solution, metrics around forecast versus actual volume, scheduled staff versus actual agents adherence of schedule, forecast accuracy, various tools along those lines that our customers integrate with what their workforce management systems like IEX and Monet to based upon historical data feeds and real-time agency data feeds.

So let’s talk about what the callers really want from you and let’s do that by looking at what they don’t want from you. So they want you to, the callers wants you to answer their interaction quickly and by quickly I mean right away, otherwise it feels like I’m waiting forever as that caller. Whoops, I want to speak with a knowledgeable friendly person that can help me and emphasize with me. We can tell me that that, the agent can tell me they’re going to help me and they can provide me with accurate information. Please resolve my inquiry on my first call please, please, please, do not have me chasing my tail and don’t transfer me to 14 different departments and ask me to tell my story over and over again and please follow through on your committed actions. Make it happen, do what you say, don’t let me fall through the cracks so to speak.

So how do we measure the customer experience to ensure these things happen or don’t happen? Certainly from the call center ACD perspective is a couple of metrics that you should use to judge your call center performance in other words did you answer the callers quickly. Service level, so typically calculated as the number of calls you answer within your goal, say 20 or 30 seconds, divided by the number of calls that you received. This is indicative of the percent of the callers that were answered within your organization target goals. So a common goal of advanced of eighty percent of your calls within 20 seconds. I reckon I’d recommend you look at this interval not as an average across all the intervals in a day, but rather not as an average across all your intervals in a day. In other words, what percent of interval did you hate your service level goal. That way your sure that the customer experience is consistent throughout the day. Many call centers are seeing the first hour or two or last hour or two of the day has the poorest result since there’s the minimal amount of staff you know skeleton staff of agents around. During the middle of the day, when all the shifts are in the office you know the results are phenomenal making the overall results for the day look great. However, if you were one of those callers that called in a very beginning of the day or at the very end of the day and you waited several minutes you wouldn’t consider that a great experience, so that’s why I should look at that service level across all intervals of the day since that daily result can be misleading. Average speed of answer, so the total amount of time all callers waited divided by the number of HDD calls received. So this sucks, often times it’s a substitute for service level because it’s an average, it is very misleading. Many callers are answered before that average speed of answer and many wait far longer. So for example, in this red blue graph above, the blue bar represents the ASA, while the red bar represents individual callers experience in wait times. So jerk call centers consistent hitting an 80-20 service level. Your average speed of answer will likely be about 15 to 17 seconds. However, that’s because many colors are answered right away. So those below on the right as we get lower and lower their answer right away so in reality about thirty percent of the calls queued in this scenario, but a lot of the callers are answered right away and several the callers waited several minutes. So that 15 or 17 second average speed of answer really doesn’t represent a true picture of the customer experience. I consider our average speed of answer a fallback position from service level since it’s much less indicative of a of the customers experience. Answer rate and abandon rate, abandon rates being obviously the inverse of answering these metrics are secondary service level and average speed of answer and more byproduct of the staffing lined up the handle incoming call line. This metric offer represents caller behavior more so than call center performance and you have far less control over this this set. I like to look at this metric, but I certainly don’t judge buy it, it’s not as black and white as an average speed of answer or a service level and it’s very difficult to build a staffing model to achieve it’s to the specific answer rate or abandon rate. These are some of the many metrics that we look at from an agent perspective and people like look at many of these and many more in the call center. They are indicative of agent behavior, they can use the coach and mentor your staff to improve their performance, but which one should you really manage to which ones are informational and you know which ones you know should, should I avoid.

So of those many, many agent metrics there’s really only a few key metrics you should really look at to truly judge your agents performance. The first to hear impact the caller’s expectations that we discussed earlier, where the last one ensures the agents perform the right activities at the right time. So call quality, this typically comes from your quality monitoring performed by your supervisors or a separate QA team and if the agents wowing your customers and excelling at your quality monitoring objectives. In terms of customer service and product knowledge and system expertise they they’ve achieved nirvana. So if there, if there are pros and they’re building rapport with a customer and they’re giving them accurate information they’re locking everything and assisting correctly and they’re moving very efficiently through that call, these are all the things an agent can control and ultimately the agents handle the call is one of the key factors in customer satisfaction we talked about earlier. So focusing heavily on call quality having ongoing lousier agent performance it is key and obviously new hires are going to spend more time listening to more calls providing more coaching than more seasoned and tenured agents who are already operating and understand those expectations. The goal of the call quality initiative is to raise the performance of all your agents. Imagine if you get the middle of the pack agents in your call centers to perform like the top 10% of your agents. Now that would be a game changer and a crowning achievement for, you profits out of a job, the great create new opportunities for yourselves.

Next one first call resolution, so calculated based upon the number calls received, resolved excuse me, upon initial contact divided by the total number of calls received. Since labor is the largest cost of in any call center and every caller wants their questions resolved right away. Completing more and more calls as a one and done as I like to call it, is a key to buy the cost and customer satisfaction. Our customers typically capture this information through their CRM system or through the use of disposition code tracked in the phone system. This is a critical component to customer satisfaction, so if you can have a one and done, the caller calls in they get answered quickly and they get their answers they got the question answered and there’s no need for further follow-up that that is a the ideal transaction and the last metrics is adherence to schedule.

So this comes to the marriage of workforce management systems and an ATV call center information to answer the question, are my agents doing the right things at the right time? This information comes from the workforce management system after its fed real time agent Spade information and compare that to the agent schedule. Are they making an outbound call when the switch be available, does it come back to lunch late, are they available in the ship begins or they still grab in that cup of coffee. If agents are following their schedule they’re doing what you asked. So now the responsibility falls back on you to make sure that you’re generating accurate forecasts and schedule that align the right number of agents to meet your service level goals.

We have tons of metrics in the call center and we’ve gotten very, very good at managing our staff towards those goals. In the call center we absolutely live by the monster of that which is measured gets done. However, metrics aren’t always delivering what we think they are. It’s important to understand the interrelationship between the various metrics and most importantly the impact they have on the customer’s experience. Believe it or not, an agent may not have the customers best interest at heart they may actually be more focused on their own success, their own wallet, where the metrics you’re using to motivate them. When that individual success is like to those agent metrics you need to be very careful and need to understand the data and make sure you have the right checks and balances. Metrics are not necessarily the silver bullet that answers, silver bullet that answers and solves all your call centers challenges. In fact, managing exclusively biometrics may actually have an unintended and negative impact on your customer experience. This needs you to understand the cause and effect and interdependencies between the various metrics.

The laws of physics tell us that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, if you manager agents to certain metrics be careful what you ask for. For instance if you manage to your agents or an average handle time KPI, they’ll hit that goal and you may not like the reason why. As an agent’s they unfold and their agent error average handle time is too high, how they going to get it back on track? They’re going to rush through some customers, they’re going to take some shortcuts with some callers to so their overall handle time falls back in line with your expectations. Wait what do you mean? Are you telling me Rich that agents may take actions that benefit them at the cost of the customer? No. Yeah I’ve seen agents take a bad phone connection, I’ve seen them and terminate the call, I’ve seen to put the customer on hold and then terminate the call blaming technology. Now what they’ve done is assured that customer experience by hanging up on them, now the customer’s got a call back and start all over again, which is a horrific experience, but help that agents metrics. Similarly if you manage the calls per hour we’ll see agent taking action to increase their calls per hour, whoops drop that call, oops that transfer failed, oops must be a bad connection. So instead of judging by some of those metrics or some other efficiency measure that that may drive the wrong behavior. Consider adding some additional items to your scorecard to focus on during your quality monitoring activities. Focus on the agent’s ability to control the call, did the agent take all the right steps possible to complete that call in an efficient manner? Coach them on how they can better handle that call. Not only will the agent gets a proper coaching and training they will achieve the same results and ultimately drive down average handle time, but do so in a healthy way.

So if I’m achieving my service level goals and answering the phones quickly I’ll improve my customer experience right? So if I exceed my service level goals, how about I set higher goals. Sam moves from an 80 20 service level goal to a 90 20 service level goal. I’ll answer more calls quickly and make more customers happy right? Great idea. Well, there is too much of a good thing to going back to those laws of physics and unfortunately there are some opposing forces at play here too. To achieve a higher service level goal you’ll need more people on the phones. Achieving ninety percent of anything is tougher than achieving eighty percent. So as we all know that last ten to twenty percent of results require that a lot more effort and it’s not a linear it’s an exponential effort than that first eighty percent. So this is that law of diminishing returns it applies everywhere in our lives seen same thing true in the call center. So if I want to set a higher goal and I want to increase my service level goals, I’m going to need to add more staff to the phone plain and simple. Whether their new hires, whether they’re getting more time from existing agents or pulling into existing staff in any event I need more people on the phones and to answer more calls quickly and that staffing is the only way I’m going to get there.

So let’s talk about occupancy, occupancy is defined as the percent of a time a team player actually involved in call handling versus sitting in an idle state waiting for a call. This is a function of call volume staffing and service goals in many call centers this commute turbulence productive inbound time on the phone. So the more time an agent spends on the phone the higher their occupancy. However, as you increase your service level goals your action or overall agent occupant, occupancy actually goes down, it’s an inverse relationship. So wait that doesn’t make any sense which are you saying what doesn’t make any sense, so let me explain. As you add more agents to the same call volume their occupancy decreases. Agents spend more time sitting available waiting for the next call in order to get to entire percent of the calls answered within your goal. So putting it all together your call centers performance goes up, your service levels go up, through sort of you added more agents and you have achieving those higher tougher goals and your callers are happy, but your agent occupancy goes down and your overall cost goes up as agent spend less time on the phone. So that’s the opposing force in this scenario and you get to explain this formula to your boss at your next budget review to explain why more agents are spending less time on the phone and why that’s a good thing.

So let’s take that one step further, we all want happy employees and there are many reasons why an employee may be unhappy and that’ the joys of you get to have from a leadership perspective. Fortunately for me I’m only going to focus on occupancy in this scenario and its effect on your agents. So as agents spend a higher portion of the day on the phone the more wherry they become as by the end of the day that’s phonetic tapes of answering dozens of calls in a day eventually gets to even the highest motivating agents. Now your CFO might say, well I’m paying them one hundred percent of their salary and expect them on the phones one hundred percent of the day. You and I all know that’s not practical, nor even remotely feasible in the call center world. As agent occupancy goes up, employee motivation and morale goes down and we all know that a happy employee means a happy customer right. So an unhappy employee means what kind of customer? Yeah not the kind you want. So an agent can’t control their occupancy. If they’re doing what you asked to them, that is being available for inbound calls and the times you expect them to be available they’ve done the right thing.

Occupancy is actually a byproduct of a few different factors that are that are in your control. Your incoming call volume combined up with the service level goals you have for your call center, that’s the charge you can control and the number of agents you have on a phone to answer that volume. So the volume and the goal and the number of agents dictates occupancy. So it’s actually in your control, not the agents. So you need to find the right staffing and service level goals that keep your agents engaged in productive, but doesn’t necessarily to burnout and dissatisfaction. We will now open up the floor to questions, you will have the ability to ask a question. So I’m going to unmute your phone, please hit star one and feel free to ask your question. So it’s to 2:22 by my clock we were shooting for a 24 minutes. So we have a few more minutes left to answer any questions that may come. So if you have any questions feel free star one and then you’ll be able to answer, uh ask your question.

– I have a question

– yes

-and you talk about the importance of call quality and my committee doesn’t have a regular TA program in place. How critical is that and how hard is it to get started?

– well you know it’s absolutely critical and a lot of companies call quality and a call quality initiative often fall by the wayside, do the other challenges day-to-day challenges of the supervisor team. So it’s absolutely critical. You know the fact that matter is you know the agents are are the main asset in your call center. We have good agents, we have bad agents, and now I don’t mean I mean low performing agents not, not bad people and you have some rock stars. So QA allows you to understand that performance you know at a much deeper level. So and it gives the opportunity to improve the performance of every agent. So you know in many call centers if you could have your entire staff operating like you’re rock stars you know you two would be a rock star. So it’s not really that hard to get started it just takes some time energy. You need they need to dedicate the time to perform you know those quality monitoring activities every week, you gotta develop your evaluation standards around customer service and product knowledge that’s you know, what are your expectations for the agent on on every call and you need to listen to recorded calls on a regular basis and provide that feedback to your your agents. The magic you know really in the secret sauce is just delivering a healthy and playful feedback to your agent and it’s barring them to improve. So in the end of the day it really just takes a swim at a time to get off the ground so, but certainly you know of the three things I I described it as one of the three tellers from an agent KPI perspective that is critical.

-okay great thanks

-thank you, other question?

– yeah could you go over the service level interval formula that you mentioned, you know near the beginning of the call I miss

-sure, sure, so I mean so service level is your traditional percent of you know what percent of the call so the number of calls I answer within my service level goal divided by the number of calls I received. So if I receive 100 calls in a day just for a simple you know example and I answer you know 87 of them within my my service level goal of 20 seconds. Then my service all for the day is you know 87 percent, so I answered 87 percent of the calls within 20 seconds. You know what but what I was the interval piece that I mentioned really is looking at that as a more granular perspective. So if your call center is open eight hours a day and you look you broke that those eight hours up into sort of intervals that’s 16 intervals in a day. So you what you often find is the beginning of their, the end of the day your service level results are not as good because you have less staff. So instead of looking at it that that eighty-seven percent if you looked at of those 16 intervals and what percent of them did you did you achieve your service level goal it’s a tougher standard. So I’m looking, I’m not, I’m not allowing you to sort of average out across the day I’m saying every half hours a day did I hit that service level goal and therefore what percent of those intervals that I hit that goal. It’s a higher standard so something you may not want to report elsewhere, but one way for you to see you know if you want to set a little bit the higher bar for yourself and see how you’re doing. So sometimes in some kinds of situations where you’re outsourcing call sometimes I’d like it’s metric on the lines to make a little bit of a tougher bar to reach.

– great thank you yeah thank you

-all right any other questions out there

-I have a question pertains to this or not, but I was wondering if you have any recommendations for software packages that could measure the metrics for retention of outbound calls?

– in retension you mean what?

– like member retention customer retention

– Well I mean that’s one of those, those metrics that our customers typically are tracking in you know outside the phone system. So either tracking it in, if you’re making outbound calls to retain or getting inbound you know cancellation call you know. Either tracking that disposition of that call so on the in downside does make the example, tracking that that call with a cancellation call and that member was retained would be things you could do either in your CRM system or you could do you know inside the phone system if you didn’t have that level of sophistication to your existing application. Instead of tracking that it was a cancellation call and then the final status was member cancel to member you know retained is one way to do on the inbound side. Outbound side there’s some similar tools, but it’s a little bit harder to get at you know. What we see more and more in our customer base is people moving sort of all that’s left in metrics and capabilities to inside their business applications so that the data that I described as marrying up its becomes our integrated together so that every time I initiate an outbound call for instance from my CRM system. For a member to contact that member my phone is dials for me it automatically tracked the rich box placed an outbound call to that person and then the same disposition tracking is done inside the CRM system, but you know more and more we’re seeing that that functionality moved to not marrying it up and sort of embedding the telephone system inside you’re your business application.

-okay thank you

-hi how do you balance email support with agent occupancy and then also can you apply the same call metrics to email metrics well I mean email metrics?

-Yeah I’m not sure I’m gonna have enough time answer that one before we run out of time here. I’m happy to follow up with you I pull my content information up on screen here if you want feel free to shoot me an email or give me a holler we can discuss that one a little bit more. I do want to just make sure I wrap up on time here. So I apologize for that, but let’s follow up separately I want to thank everybody for your time and participation we hope you found that today’s session valuable. Here’s my contact information you’ll get an email link within the next day or so with this recording as well as the presentation I shared and I just want to say thank you very much and have a great day.


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