5 Best Ways to Improve Your Call Center Reporting and Analytics
One thing we all love about contact center systems is that they provide tremendous amounts of data about the caller’s experience, the call flow, and the agent’s performance. A typical PBX & ACD produces hundreds of data elements and oftentimes it can be difficult to turn the mountains of data into just the key metrics.
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One thing we all love about contact center systems is that they provide tremendous amounts of data about the caller’s experience, the call flow, and the agent’s performance. A typical PBX & ACD produces hundreds of data elements and oftentimes it can be difficult to turn the mountains of data into just the key metrics. Contact Center leaders need insights instead of swimming in a sea of data elements.
Over the past 5+ years at Evolve IP, I’ve spoken with hundreds of contact center leaders who struggle to find the right metrics to manage their business. In many cases, this has been an on-going struggle for years and they are limited by organizational knowledge. This is typically one of the hottest topics when speaking with organizations who are looking to replace their existing technology.
In our recent survey of contact center professionals, one of the top investment priorities for the coming year is Metrics, BI, and Reporting. Similarly, a survey of the attendees for this month’s Call Center Week conference also stated that “Improving call center reporting & analytics” was one of the top challenges they currently face.
In my mind, there are 3 distinct stakeholders in the contact center’s performance – the customer, the organization, and the employee. So let’s take a deeper dive into these topics.
So let’s start with the customer. First off, the customer wants you to respond quickly to their inquiry and they want the ability to communicate via their preferred channel (call, text, email, chat, social, etc.). They want to work with a knowledgeable friendly person who can help them and provides them accurate information. They want the agent to address their need on first contact, they don’t want to be transferred all over the company and have to repeat their story multiple times. If the agent can’t resolve things on that interaction, the customer wants to know what will happen next, they also want clear expectations on WHEN things will occur. The worst thing we can do is not address the initial inquiry, fail to complete the promised actions, and never communicate with the customer again.
So what does the organization expect….now of course there are zillions of expectations and I’m just talking about the very high-level or strategic goals that translate into much more specific tactical goals. Deliver great service. We are only as good as our last interaction with a customer so every interaction counts! Every day is game day! Maximize ROI – this is a very broad goal that means we need to hit our budgetary goals around costs, revenue, cross-sell, up-sell, customer retention, cost or revenue per interaction, and the list goes on and on.
Operate efficiently. This means leveraging our resources to deliver maximum impact. In the contact center, it means having the right staff on the phones at the right time, delivering high quality interactions, offering customers alternative means of addressing their needs, and even better proactively identifying ways to eliminate the reasons that customers are contacting us in the first place. This too is a very broad goal and 1 that can get too much focus from leadership team since efficiency taken to the extreme conflicts with our other goals. And of course, we have to be compliant – with industry regulations, internal processes, procedures, disclosures, etc.
And of course our employees are a critical stakeholder in the success of the contact center. NOW our employees have LOTS and LOTS of expectations that I’ll boil down to a few high-level categories. Agents want you to provide them with the proper tools, training, technology, and supporting resources that empower them to deliver great performance. They want to be paid fairly, they want a healthy work-life balance, and they want to clearly understand your expectations of them. They want a place where they can grow a career, learn new skills, and continue the climb the stairs to new levels of success and satisfaction. They want to be judged based upon the things in their control.
So what are the key steps to improving your reporting. You need to understand the underlying data that is available to you and how it’s calculated. You need to focus on the RIGHT metrics because there are so many and some are the WRONG metric. You need to monitor the results every day….not everything needs to be looked at each day and we’ll discuss which things you should be looking at and how often. You need to consider the impact that metrics have on your organization, your compensation, your agent’s motivation. How will these KPIs impact morale? Who gets more desirable shifts? Who advances in their career? Who gets extra perks? You need to put extra energy into Change Management and communicating repeatedly with your teams about any changes, especially when it impacts them personally. And the final step is to recognize when the insights are telling you that corrective actions are required and taking the RIGHT steps to achieve your desired outcomes.
So let’s delve into the details…what are the RIGHT metrics to consider when evaluating the ease in which customers are able to engage with your organization. Service Level – my favorite metric…its very simply calculated as what percent of inbound interactions where answered within your organizations goals. The most common goal in our industry for voice interactions is still 80/20 or 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds. This SL goal offers the optimal balance of customer satisfaction and contact center efficiency. I could spend a whole webinar just on this topic. I intentionally avoid ASA which for some organizations serves as a substitute for SL. Because it is an average, it’s very misleading – many callers answered before ASA and many who wait far longer. Many callers are answered right away without waiting and many callers wait in queue much longer. I also don’t like this metric because it ignores abandon callers. This metric is typically applied to non-deferrable interactions like calls, chat, & web callback.
Response Time is often used for deferrable transactions like email where the customer isn’t expecting a live agent to be waiting to assist them. A response time goal is how quickly the customer will receive an agent response. For example, if your goal is to answer emails within 1 business day, the expectation is that 100% of those emails will be answered in that time period. You still need to measure how consistently you are able to achieve that goal.
Answer rate is simply the % of interactions that were answered. At the end of the day, this is critical….our goal is to address every interaction and perhaps we don’t get to them as quickly as we would like but do we get to them all? I typically focus my secondary call routing approaches to ensure that my customer get as many interactions handled as possible to minimize those abandons. In reality, all organizations have a few percent of interactions abandon and that’s normal.
Now let’s talk about additional metrics to consider. Should be reported by interval not as an average across intervals. What % of intervals did you hit SL? Occupancy – after all, you pay the call center agent to be on the phone so any time not on the phone may be considered unproductive….that may not be entirely accurate. Occupancy is a by-product of leadership’s ability to properly staff the call center and set the right SL goals. The higher the SL goal, the lower the Occupancy. Does occupancy = productivity? At what point does Occupancy lead to agent burnout and morale issues? Idle Time – this is another leadership measure to gauge overall resource capacity planning.
If agents are sitting idle too much, are your SL goals too high? Are you overstaffed? Do you have non-phone tasks they could be handling? Turnover – This is another measure of organization’s ability to provide strong leadership, the right tools, the right compensation, etc. WFM – for customers that have deployed a WFM solution, key metrics include forecast vs. actual volume and scheduled staff vs. actual. We have customers using various WFM tools and many have standardized on Monet for forecasting and real-time adherence that are fed data by the ACD. Our customers typically can achieve 95% forecast accuracy. Having accurate forecasts, leads to optimal schedules, aligning staff with the inbound interactions which leads to higher SLs and customer satisfaction.
Now shifting gears to the measuring your agent’s performance, there are many many agent metrics….in reality there are only a few metrics that I recommend to judge your agent’s performance. Contact Quality – typically comes from quality monitoring performed by Supervisors or a separate QA team. If the agent is wowing your customer and excelling at your QM objectives, what else do you want? Isn’t that nirvana? First Call Resolution – defined as interactions resolved upon initial contact divided by the total # of interactions. Since labor is the largest cost in any call center and every customer wants their question resolved right away, completing more and more calls as a “One and Done” is key to cost and customer satisfaction. Our customers capture this information from either their CRM system or through the use of Disposition Codes tracked in the phone system. Adherence to Schedule – comes from the marriage of workforce management and the ACD information. Are my agents doing the right things at the right time?
This information comes from the WFM system after its fed real-time agent state information and compares that to the agent’s schedule. Are they making an outbound call when they are supposed to be available? Did they come back from lunch late? Are they available when their shift begins or are they still grabbing a cup of coffee in the break room? Once an organization takes the leap to WFM, they find it quickly becomes part of their DNA and they don’t know how they functioned previously without it. If you don’t have a WFM solution (and not every organization is a candidate) then Unavailability % and the associated reasons would be the best alternative measure. This will help determine how much of your overall capacity is actually diminished. Many organizations are surprised when they learn that agents might spend 30-40% of their time Unavailable to answer calls. There are many valid reasons why this occurs and tracking Unavailability will allow leaders to understand how much of their agent capacity is actually in play handling inbound interactions.
Unavailability percentage and more importantly where agents are spending their non-phone time are critical pieces of information for any leader especially those that lack a WFM solution. Many leaders need to take a hard look at the legitimate time needed “off the phone” for their employees. Many organizations place many conflicting demands on their agents including outbound calls, non-phone or project time, and then become frustrated when calls are queueing and many agents aren’t Available to answer the phone. By tracking and understanding the real reasons Agents are Unavailable to answer inbound calls, leaders can gain real insights into their operation. Hold Time – Another indicator of agent performance includes the number of times they put callers on hold and the length of those holds. Is the agent asking their neighbor for help? Fumbling through your systems? Is their workstation running slow or encountering issues? Or are they simply a newbie and this is expected behavior because they aren’t sure of the answer or how to proceed? Transfers – Similarly, you need to assess calls that are transferred. Are your agents transferring too many calls instead of handling them directly?
Are they transferring calls to other departments because they don’t know what else to do with them? Call Types Received – this is another transformational piece of information and sheds insights on both customer behavior AND agent performance. Enabling your agents to track call level details about the nature of each interaction (was it a call for a particular product, a particular marketing promotion, a billing inquiry, a product defect, etc.) provides a whole new source of information for the organization. From a customer perspective, this arms you with the actual reasons for each interaction that can be used to take that feedback and drive process or product improvement back into the organization. Are certain products more costly to support? Do certain customer types need more interactions to be successful? Do we need to alter our processes to make them more effective and eliminate these interactions? From an agent perspective, the ideal approach is to link this information to the actual customer record in your organization’s CRM or other business application.
That empowers you with a holistic view of each customer to not only provide better customer service but to further understand the dynamics and demographics of your customer base. Missed Interactions – when an interaction is delivered to an Agent and they don’t accept it, this could be indicative of employees that are “avoiding” work or certain types of work. An occasional missed interaction is normal and I usually allow each agent 1 per day. Anything beyond that can be improved upon through normal leadership practices. Be sure to look at the “norm” for your teams and start with the outliers to drive overall improvements.
These metrics don’t solely come from the ACD and often require the marriage of ACD data with other data sources. These metrics typically align with the strategic goals or core functions of the organization or call center and revolve around business transactions. Common ones are cost per call, revenue per call, average call value, sales conversion rate, cross-sell, etc.
Each organization defines these goals and how they calculate them. The only other consideration I’ll mention is that in many Sales environments, these metrics drive agent skill levels. We have many customers that adjust agent’s skill levels based upon their performance. If an agent has a higher conversion rate for a particular product or call type, they are given higher priority in the queue than agents that aren’t performing as well. If an agent is better at a particular call type, they will receive more of those calls than other call types. It becomes an incentive system and sometimes a self-fulfilling prophecy too.
I had a recent healthcare customer who began tracking conversion rate per marketing campaign to inbound call to doctor appointment scheduled. From those metrics, the campaigns seemed very successful since callers were scheduling appointments at a high rate. However, when the customer added the last few legs of that customer journey – appointments held (in other words….those customers that actually showed up for their appointment and were not considered a “no-show”) and actual revenue produced, some significant insights were found. Namely, although those appointments were made at a very high rate, customers were not showing up for them. Additional analysis determined that those appointments were too many days away from that initial phone call and the customer’s simply went elsewhere. When they adjusted their scheduling practice and made those appointments within 1-2 days of that initial call, THEN the customers actually showed up.
Customer Satisfaction – The ultimate measure of your organization’s success. We are only as good as our last interaction with a customer. They don’t care if they had a great 6 months where you nurtured that relationship and it began to become fruitful. If the last interaction that customer had with your Customer Service team didn’t meet their expectations, it can wipe out all the goodwill you earned during those months of nurturing. Many customers still focus on a net promoter score that is typically captured via surveys. These can be post-call surveys or those that take other forms such as email or web-based surveys.
In some organizations I meet, Customer Sat or CSAT is the lifeblood of the organization and is very engrained in their culture. These are typically more mature organizations that have understood the power of this metric and rallying the entire company around it. I also meet many organizations, that are NOT tracking this information and haven’t harnessed this powerful information to continue improving. I can’t stress enough, if you are not measuring customer satisfaction, you need to start tomorrow.
Employee Satisfaction – another key measure that some organizations implicitly or subjectively track but do not systematically or quantitatively track this information. A happy employee results in a happy customer. A genuine smile on the other end of the phone goes a long way.
First off….you need to really dig in to the data….you need to understand the data….you need to NOT REACT to the data…you need to take some time….to put all the moving parts together that will help you paint the holistic picture of what’s going on inside your call center.
It’s like a symphony orchestra….they are lots of different elements coming together to make beautiful music. You can’t alter one section of the symphony or call center without impacting other elements of the music performance. So I strongly advise that you tread lightly….truly begin to see the picture like a symphony conductor and THEN begin making changes. I’ve seen many call center managers react to a single metric, focus on that, and then impact other metrics because they didn’t look at the complete picture. This is the ART of running a call center. It’s a major balancing act with many moving parts.
So let’s talk about the top considerations:
Remember our workload….so the biggest driver of our call center capacity is availability. The more your agents are available, the more capacity you have. After all, they are usually paid to be available. Sooo….what is you availability expectation? Should they be available 80% of their shift? 90%? What’s the norm for your agents? What are the valid reasons that people are NOT on the phone? How much non-phone time is required as part of their job?
There are lots of reasons an agent is legitimately Unavailable and your cloud-call center can help you track them. Are they spending more time in training than you realized? Are lunches running long? Did they spend too long doing their non-phone work?
What types of calls are your agents handling? What is their mix of inbound/outbound calls? Are they handling lots of non-ACD calls? Who are they calling? What are they discussing? You need to dig into these metrics…contrast one agent versus another….listen to their recorded calls….find the reasons that agents are spending time on activities you didn’t expect. Are your phone prompts confusing? Was their a glitch on your website? Are callers misdialing you? Are your back-office systems/processes supportive of the call center’s needs?
You need to spend a decent amount of time understanding “what’s normal” in your call center. Look at the attributes of those agents you consider your top-performers….how do they compare to the rest of the staff? Start with the agents who are at the extremes of any metric – those with really low and really high numbers. What do they mean? How do they impact your goals? How do you take the “right” behaviors and have all of your staff operating that way. If you have a really chatty agent but they get great results is that OK? If they are really “matter of fact”, addresses the caller’s needs very efficiently, but don’t take the opportunity to build rapport…is that OK?
Remember….this is a symphony and its your job as a conductor to get the optimal performance out of each individual so that collectively the music your create is melodic and beautiful.
Back to our capacity conversation….many call centers focus on AHT as a way of reducing their workload. The thinking is “If I can shave 20 seconds off each call multiplied by the number of calls I receive, I’ve just reduced my workload”….that’s a good thing right? WELLLL….it may be a good thing if the customer is still being served….you are completing the transactions expected of you (like FCR, products sold, cross-sale/up-sale opportunities etc.)….and the customer is satisfied. If you focus on AHT….you’ll often find that has a negative impact on the overall call center goals.
Avoid efficiency measures that are outside of the agent’s control – including contacts per hour, AHT, Occupancy. An agent can’t control how many calls they receive…agents working different shifts may receive different volumes of calls on an hourly basis.
In my experience, many organizations neglect Contact Quality and Customer Satisfaction measures. Quality falls by the wayside because staff isn’t dedicated to that function and the contact center Supervisors are already up their eyeballs in day to day operational challenges or fires. Quality is one of the 3 things I mentioned that an agent CAN control. Moreover, the only way for agents to improve is to provide them coaching & mentoring based upon how they are performing today. They need immediate laser-focused feedback consistently in order to improve. Having agents doing the same thing and expecting different results is a recipe for leadership failure.
COMMUNICATE! COMMUNICATE! COMMUNICATE! Over-communicate – Why are we making this change? What are the benefits? How does this change our operations? How does this align with our values and our organizational goals?
Communicate in different ways….in team meetings….in town halls….via email….hang up posters in the lunchroom…talk it up among your teams informally. Don’t forget that we all see these changes through our own lenses…..and we listen to our favorite radio station….WIIIFM….WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME. A few naysayers who don’t understand the goals….perceives things in a negative way….can quickly torpedo your team’s morale and create a toxic climate. Know who are your influencers….who do others listen to….respect….who are the loudmouths?
ALWAYS! ALWAYS! ALWAYS! Pay close attention to the influencers…..they are often the lifeblood of the organization and if you take care of them….the others will follow suit. You know who I’m talking about in your organization, don’t ya?
The good news is that a modern contact center gives you complete transparency of the customer experience and your agent’s performance…..the bad news is that you now have complete transparency of your agent’s performance….and they don’t like it. I suggest you share the data and insights with your team….let them see how they are performing….how they perform against the rest of their team….let them understand the calculations…your expectations….and why. They will try to poke holes in the data and after they get over the initial disbelief, they will accept the new insights and performance expectations. Establish goals – set minimum metrics, establish acceptable ranges, segregate those expectations by seniority or position level, use them to drive staff promotions, link the metrics to perks like the ability to work from home, or make them a requirement to change to a more desirable shift. Basically, make these metrics part of the culture and your organization’s vernacular. Over time the bar goes up for everybody. I recommend you carefully navigate these waters…especially if this insight is new to your organization….tread lightly….REALLY understand the data before you react….establish new baselines….introduce new metrics or performance expectations in a slow and very conscientious manner….to avoid a mutiny.