Key Contact Center Metrics
Service Level (SL): Every call center runs ona certain goal for ‘Service Level’ (SL in contact center parlance), which is simply a measure of percentage of total incoming calls handled within a certain time. SL is essentially a measure of the Turnaround Time (TAT). For example an SL of 80 / 30 requires 80 percent of the incoming calls to be answered within 30 seconds.
Abandons: This is the percentage of thetotal customers (incoming calls) who hang up before the call is answered.
Relationship between SL and Abandons:
SL and Abandons are inversely proportional. The higher the SL the lower is the abandon rate, as shown in the graph below:
Average Speed of Answer (ASA): Measuresthe average amount of time the callers wait in queue or on hold before their calls or chat requests are answered.
Customer Tolerance: Measures the timecustomers would typically wait in the queue before they decide to hang up.
Contact Center: Your Opportunity to Make the First and Lasting Impression
For many global businesses, world-wide, the contact center serves as the first interface between the organization and its customers. The quality of service offered by the contact center often becomes a yardstick by which customers evaluate the organization.
The customer today is sophisticated, picky, and extremely hard to please, thanks to globalization, the digital and technology boom and a multitude of product, brand and service options. Customer loyalties have become fickle, and organizations have to go an extra mile or perhaps even a hundred to win, more importantly, retain customers. As the first point-of-contact between the customer and the organization, the contact center thus assumes a very key position as a service channel.
Contact Center: At the Revenue Generation Cross-roads
Despite the role it plays in creating customer satisfaction, the contact center occupies a strangely contradictory position in the revenue generation cycle. It is as much an important source of revenue as it is a cost center! For organizations, therefore, it is a challenging task to ensure that the skew does not swing too much towards the contact center being the cost center. Winning organizations are those that are able to work around challenges and create an ecosystem that drives the contact center into becoming a revenue generating center. This is true for both captives as well as third-party BPOs.
Contact Center Analytics:
Tracking and Analyzing Metrics of the New Age Contact Center
Given the position the new age contact center occupies in the customer lifecycle and revenue generation mesh, it becomes imperative for enterprises to track and improve upon the call center’s Key Performance Indicators (KPI).
The list of contact center metrics may seem tad long, but contact center managers, in particular, and enterprises in general, cannot afford to ignore any of these, as revenue and customer satisfaction are closely tied to each metric.
All activities in the contact center must be effectively measured and analyzed to enable marketing, sales and other decision-making departments to use the ‘contact center analytics’ to make critical management decisions, which ensure that the following two key deliverables for the contact center are met:
- Maximizing revenues while keeping costs low and staying profitable
- Keeping Customer Satisfaction (C-Sat) high and creating customer delight (to retain, grow business and earn referrals)
Schedule Adherence: A schedule is a timeplan for the nine hours that an agent typically spends in office. All the productive and non-productive activities, therefore, have a certain pre-defined start and stop time. Schedule Adherence is a measure of the variance between the ‘actual time’ of the activity versus the ‘planned time’ of activity, where both the start time and the stop time are tracked. For example, if the agent was to be on a call from 1400 – 1430 hours,
but had to take a break during such time, it would be captured as 30 minutes of non-adherence.
Line Adherence: Defines the number ofagents scheduled during a given time of the day (normally blocks of 15 or 30 minutes) to be on calls. Line Adherence measures the variance between the number of agents actually on calls versus the number of agents planned to be on calls. Line adherence offsets the non-adherence of agents. Line adherence ensures that even if an agent, scheduled to take a call at say 1410 hours is away, his absence is accounted for by another agent, who fills up for him.
Occupancy: Occupancy is the percentage ofthe agent’s total time in the day (minus all planned off-phone activity) that is spent on a productive / on call activity. By definition it is:
(Total Talk Time + Hold Time + After Call Work) / (Total Talk Time + Hold Time + After Call Work) + (Available Time)
Available Time: Implies the time for whichthe agent was logged into the Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) and was available to take a call, but did not receive a call.
WFM – The Basics, The Challenges and Tips to Overcome Them
Workforce Management or WFM in the context of the contact center comprises four key processes:
Though the WFM function can be broadly categorized into four straightforward steps, in reality, the process is far from being simple and straight-forward. Complexities arise at each step of the WFM processes owing to the number of metrics that are controlled and impacted by WFM. The outsourcing manager and / or the contact center manager thus have to continuously deal with many important, but difficult questions.
The key to turning the contact center into a revenue-generating hub despite the challenges lies with having effective WFM processes run by an efficient team. With its long-standing experience in contact center and workforce management, WNS has identified four key challenges that outsourcing managers / contact center managers are constantly faced with. This WNS guide throws light on tackling these tricky challenges efficiently and effectively.
Challenge 1 – what is the measure of good performance
SL is essentially (and should be) a measure of the tolerance level of a customer when contacting a customer service center. It is part of the expectation the customer has and influences C-Sat.
SL would also depend on the contact medium chosen. For instance, a call or a chat would be more real-time; whereas an e-mail or a white mail communication could be spread over days. The SL goal, therefore, should be in line with the ‘customer expectation’ and ‘tolerance’ depending on the ‘urgency’ of the need / response and the type of product or service.
WNS suggests a few simple strategies fordetermining the measure of good performance and using it strategically to differentiate from competition and retain high-value customers:
(a) Collate data on the SL provided by competitors in the same industry, for the same type of service (Travel and Hospitality, Retail, Consumer Products, Telecom as the case may be) and the medium of communication chosen by the customer and only then arrive at the benchmark for your contact center. You need to decide on the SL benchmark depending on whether your organization wants SL to be a ‘differentiator’ for the end-customer and if there is value in ‘investing’ in it.
(b) Another strategy is to sieve out premium and high-value customers by revenue, profit, references and / or any other criteria and strategically provide them a better SL.
Challenge 2 – how consistently should I provide superior service level and customer experience
It may seem that a similar level of SL is required through a 24/7 window to ensure consistency in customer experience. However, as you keep increasing the demand on SL consistency from a monthly frequency to a weekly, daily or intra-day interval, you will need to deploy a larger number of resources. This will get you into a diminishing marginal utility situation – for each incremental dollar spent, the incremental benefit will keep reducing.
Also, another important factor to bear in mind is that customer ‘tolerance’ may be different depending on the time of the day and day of the week. Therefore, understanding customer behavior and tolerance is critical.
WNS suggests that rather than increasing the headcount to handle more number of calls across the 24/7 window, it is a better alternative to look at providing a consistent service level during the peak calling hours. This ensures that customers get a consistent experience when they call during a specific window rather than any time of the day or week. Since the bulk of the volume is within this time period, a larger percentage of customers can be provided with a consistent experience in terms of wait time without really increasing the cost.
While some organizations use the above strategy as a means of providing a more consistent experience during peak windows, this can be used as a tool to shape demand and customer calling behavior.
There may be other inherent ‘controllable’ processes / metrics that drive a demand pattern, which if tweaked smartly, either by you as a business or by your outsourcing partner can cut costs for contact center operations and provide a more consistent experience to the callers.
While SL is an output metric, others like schedule adherence, line adherence, occupancy are all part of the staffing pattern designed to deliver a certain SL goal. In certain cases, organizations focus on metrics like calls abandoned and ASA, which are often, by-products of the SL or are purely triggered by customer behavior. At times, organizations also chase the design along with the output metric. The focus, however, must truly be on the output metric. Efforts can also be made to ensure efficiency in others. If one chases the input metrics (like Line Adherence), at times, the output metric (in this case SL) may be over-achieved and at a higher cost.
This is perhaps the most important question that baffles WFM teams. Forecasting and scheduling, keeping multiple parameters like C-Sat, E-Sat, law of the land and costs in mind, can be an uphill task.
Here WNS looks at some key situations encountered and puts forth some possible strategies to counter the challenges.
Intra-day call arrival forecasting is the core activity behind creating schedules to ensure that SL goals are met. However, there may be certain events that trigger a change in intra-day call arrival pattern. The change could be seasonal or cyclical in nature, and therefore, predictable. Some of the variance may be purely within statistical limits and must not be read
too much into, unless there is a sustained pattern observed over a period of time, which then calls for an adjustment in the forecast and requires scheduling.
In case of short-term blips, before making decisions, detailed discussions must be held between all parties in the partnership (business – outsourcing service provider) and available options (cross skilling and flex-up through onshore, nearshore, offshore teams) weighed out against the overall outcome and only then should the agents be moved around to maximize alignment to the changed call pattern.
Another risk, business managers and WFM managers on either side run, is when trying to determine when and how much to tweak schedules. This becomes an even more critical parameter in an environment, which does not embrace frequent change. Lifestyles are fast changing and organizations are expected to be more and more employee-friendly, allowing employees more room for work-life balance, and this puts a further constraint on how much scheduling flexibility (efficiency) is available (achievable).
In addition, geography, transport, local labor laws are the other important parameters that influence strategizing and scheduling.
The bottom-line is that you can never have one set plan despite standardizing, staffing and scheduling, forecasting and meeting SL goals. Organizational and business dynamics will have an impact on the long-term capacity planning, and you will need to customize your staffing and scheduling based on the immediate business needs and the environmental forces.
Challenge 4: How Do I Manage Contractual Staffing (Basis Forecasts) and Keep Costs Under Control Simultaneously?
In a typical contact center scenario, managers are required to meet 110 percent or more of the forecasted call volume. This can be a challenge on either side:
In a dropping volume scenario: Contact centermanagers are saddled with a higher cost of operation if they staff up to 110 percent of the forecasted volume and they receive only 90 percent of the forecasted call volume.
In an increasing volume scenario: Contact centermanagers are potentially exposed to penalties depending on the contractual agreement.