Running a customer service call center services organization – whether it’s an in-house group or an outsourced provider – is a major challenge. So much of our time gets consumed with technology considerations and with the financial end of the operation that it’s a good idea to regularly pull together the leadership team and examine the quality of the customer service that the organization is delivering.
To do that at an organizational level you need an effective macro-level window into the quality question. At OnBrand24, we analyze quality on a program-by-program basis. At the outset of the partnerships we form with clients, we develop a framework of customer service program objectives, and our performance is measured against those objectives – usually referred to as a Service Level Agreement (SLA).
As we all know, the stakes involved in customer service are very high. In our “attention deficit culture,” we Americans want – and expect to receive – the information we need instantly.
How much will it cost to ship those pants from Oregon to Virginia?
My order was supposed to arrive yesterday and didn’t. Where is it?
How soon can a product technician contact me about the problem I’m having with my equipment?
Given the demand for instant, accurate and comprehensive response, one of the most valuable call center metrics is:
- First Call Resolution – Paramount Value
Sure, we all know this is critically important, but delivering on the need is not easy. It requires smart, well-trained customer service representatives who have access to plenty of real-time customer information at their workstations. And it requires representatives who have the drive to go the extra mile for customers, who have a “customer service ethic” that’s built into who they are – who enjoy helping people. These are the agents who provide the complete answer to the customer and send that customer happily on his or her way, the question resolved on the first call, ready to tell their friends, colleagues and family all about what a wonderful customer service experience they had. First call resolution is particularly important when dealing with an upset customer. If multiple call-backs are required, that customer may well seek out a competing vendor.
- Average Talk Time – A Matter of Give and Take
A primary goal of the outsourced call center, such as OnBrand24, is to keep the average talk time of a customer service call to a minimum in order to keep clients’ costs down and ROI up. But going too minimum can detract from a high quality customer service experience. ATT is a matter of balance – covering all the customer service bases comprehensively, yet moving the customer along rapidly as well. The point is this: ATT is a key subset measurement of call center quality but not an overall performance measurement. It should also be noted that ATT is an important measurement tool for comparing agent performance within a single client program team. Agents with unusually long ATT need to be watched and listened to by the quality assurance team; those with short ATT combined with high first call resolution should be held up as models for the rest of the team to emulate.
- Overall Agent Quality – Listening and Looking
Numbers and data are great tools, but subjective analysis also is required for assessing call center quality. This means having a dedicated quality assurance team listening live to calls and grading representatives on subjective qualities, such as having a friendly tone, degree of helpfulness and politeness, answering questions correctly, beginning and ending calls as representatives have been trained, and other similar considerations. Agents who earn outstanding grades should be praised in front of the team, and team meetings should feature listening to recordings of particularly good customer interchanges. Agents who rate low should be met with privately and told specifically where improvement is needed.
Mark Fichera, CEO
Portsmouth, New Hampshire