The Tricky Business of Call Center Metrics

Ann All

Not long ago, I wrote about a DataInfoCom webcast with Dick Hunter, the former VP of global consumer support services at Dell. I was fascinated with Hunter's forthrightness in discussing how Dell made the transition from focusing on call length in its call centers to how often problems were actually resolved. While measuring customer satisfaction rather than transaction time is seemingly a no-brainer, not many companies do it.


That's not such a surprise, though, says Cheryl Coppens, a director at Customer Operations Performance Center (COPC), a group dedicated to contact center benchmarking, and one of the sources quoted in a destinationCRM story. If companies are still struggling with satisfying customers' basic needs, it's a mistake for them to try to emulate such customer-service champs as Zappos.com.


A well-known anecdote about Zappos, related in this Inc. story as well as others about the online shoe retailer, involves a woman seeking help in returning some shoes she'd ordered for her husband, who died in a car crash. The call center agent ordered flowers for the woman. But offering such touches will backfire if agents aren't able to solve common problems. Said Coppens:

To throw "wow'" campaigns on top and expect bottom-box people to move up because you're nicer is not going to do it.

Instead of a vague focus on "wowing" customers, Coppens said companies must come up with specific objectives and create appropriate metrics to measure performance against those objectives. Metrics must allow for variations, since no two customer calls are the same. Ideally, they will also involve other areas of the company. The accounting department, for example, plays a role in enhancing customer satisfaction by quckly and effectively responding to billing inquiries.


Like Hunter, the former Dell executive, marketing consultant David Raab, author of "The Marketing Performance Measurement Toolkit," said many companies simply focus on what is easy to measure rather than what's really important.


It certainly can be tricky, said Coppens, Raab and other experts quoted in the piece. Companies must measure both internal efficiency and external satisfaction, and determine how to improve both in a cost-effective manner. They must also strike an appropriate balance between long- and short-term metrics. It's all about balance. From Hunter's webcast:

Metrics stuff is so intricate and complicated. If you are not aware of the effect of one metric on another, you could create behavior that allows you to achieve that metric but sacrifices some other type of important behavior. ... the emphasis on quantity sometimes sacrifices the quality of the experience. You need a quantity/quality balance, an individual/team balance, a cost/effectiveness balance, and of course you need to look at the efficiency and effectiveness of your agents as well.

Another key is context, said Raab. While companies can readily measure activities such as number of clicks and the cost to attain them, it's harder to determine what the clicks are worth to them. And companies must measure with a long-term plan in mind. Said Raab:

Any measurement system has to have some sense of what you expected to happen so you can compare against it. That, in many ways, is more important than this absolute measure of business value.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Oct 26, 2010 6:26 PM Phillip Eastwood Phillip Eastwood  says:

I definitely think call centers of any big companies play a big role in customer satisfaction. It is how a customer reaches for information about the company's service. As a consumer, I stay loyal to the product I use when I get positive call experience from their hotline, whenever I need to inquire. For me, that's very important. So, customer satisfaction should be included in that objective and customers' response should be one of the metrics.

Oct 23, 2012 6:59 PM Looking at a call center Looking at a call center  says:
Does anyone know of any call centers that specialize in catering? I don't know if it would benefit my business or not but I think it might be a great idea! Reply
Nov 30, 2012 9:56 AM Tamil Kadhal Kavithaigal Tamil Kadhal Kavithaigal  says:
In my experience each and every call center must satisfy the customer for their business success. Reply
Feb 25, 2014 9:26 PM Call Center Info Call Center Info  says:
Looking for info. Thanks! Good stuff. Reply

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