Jeremy Booth feels like a broken record. He’s said time and again that the future success of call centers hinges on taking proactive performance measurements. Call centers need to stop looking at historical data that only depicts what’s already happened and instead they should focus on what is going to happen.
He is Associate Vice President of Cambridge Investment Research, which is an independent broker-dealer with 2,600 advisors around the country who are his clients. His call center has 40 agents, who field about 150,000 calls per year and they’re tracking to make $600 million in revenue this year. In this interview, he explains why call centers need to stop looking over their shoulders and start looking ahead.
Jeremy believes call centers keep looking over their shoulders. Traditionally, they focus on lagging measures – agent availability, average speed to answer, call length – and other metrics that track service when considering agent and call center performance.
While historical measures are great because trending analysis can be gleaned from them, it’s time now to focus on predictable, influence-able outcomes. The time is now to look into the top most important performance metrics looking forward to 2015.
The easiest and most impactful way to do this is by ensuring training is effective, hiring practices are in line with business need and other indicators that will have a direct impact on those lagging measures, Jeremy says.
“We’re of the mindset that if you focus on and are proactive on your upfront service — whether it’s operations or the service that’s built out (for example) … and don’t give our advisors a reason to call us for anything that’s not informational – if we cut out the issues, that our satisfaction scores will follow right along with that,” Jeremy says.
The future of call center performance, therefore, depends on the strength of its proactive measures. Centers need to be able to focus on predictable, influenceable outcomes. He likes to use the example of weight loss since it is a simple concept most people can relate to.
“If I stand on the scale every day, am I going to lose weight? No. It’s going to tell me I’m either going to go up, or I’m going to go down, or I’m going to stay the same. I’m still looking at it every day. It’s something that’s already happened. But if I know that my caloric intake and what I burn in calories are directly related, and those are influence-able things that I have going on in my life. If I can burn more calories that I can take in, I don’t have to check the scale every day. I can do it once a week or once every two weeks, and I will see progress if I stick with the plan,” he says.
Therefore, instead of focusing more on the numbers and the metrics, call centers should take a holistic view and then ask themselves, “Is this strategy aligned with the end business goal seeing?”
Save money. Save time. These are the main benefits to implementing a truly streamlined technology suite. Call centers all have the same end goal, but has anyone truly created the formula to successfully align technology with business strategy? What are the ways in which call centers or customer care centers can achieve that balance?
Liz Osborn, Vice President of Product and Solution Marketing at Five9, answers all these questions and more.
Your technology should help you achieve three things: Create a better customer experience, increase revenue and improve cross-sell and upsell capabilities, says Liz Osborn, Vice President of Product and Solution Marketing at Five9, which is one of the leading providers in the cloud contact center space and offers inbound, outbound, blended voice services, contact center infrastructure and multichannel.
The modern customer is self-sufficient and prefers self-help customer care models. It’s ever more important, therefore, that your company’s technology works across all channels to not only aid your customers, but more efficiently support all roles in the contact center. Agents, administrators and management all benefit from the universal view achieved with a unified platform and interface.
Complexity is the enemy when it comes to customer service. Call center agents and management need to think about service from the customer’s point of view. The way to do that is by using a unified interface that maintains simplicity for both the agent and the customer. This leads to the question of what next generation multichannel interactions will look like.
The first thing call centers need to recognize is that customers don’t think about the channels they’re using to interact with your company. They don’t understand that – and are unforgiving if – information about them is lost between their interactions with you. Whether they contact you via social media, by picking up the phone, by using live chat, or by physically going to the store, customers expect the company’s technology to follow their touch points and journey.
Context – the ability to seamlessly move from one channel to another and still have memory of previous interactions – should be the main technology piece call centers should look for in the future.
Further, call centers need to utilize technology to analyze predictive behavior based on buying patterns, Liz says. We need to “be able to take that context and add a number of other external triggers of customer history, skills, a number of other SLAs, and make real-time decisions about how to treat that customer and send them to the best resource available,” she says.
But there are three main inhibitors to maximizing agent productivity; the first is in regards to the customer, the second is in regard to the agents,and the third is the operations around the contact center.
1. With the customer the challenge is servicing them in the channel that they really desire. Five9 conducted a survey of customers,
consumers and contact centers. Customers said over 50% of them would move to a competitor if the competitor offered a channel that the current company didn’t.
More and more people want to be served on social. Customers are asking to be served on social, and yet 60 percent of contact centers surveyed aren’t servicing in social.
2. When it comes to the agents, there are a number of challenges involving the rolling complexity of the different channels. Most
contact centers are still in silos, so they have different applications for chat. If they do operate on social channels, they use a different application for it than for other channels such as voice. Five9’s survey found that around 50 percent of agents use more than four applications to service a customers – and many use up to fifteen. These multiple applications are non-productive for an agent and frustrating for a customer.
3. Operationally, call centers need to take a step back and take a holistic look across channels. This can be very challenging, since
most centers have silo channels and struggle to figure out what the customer journey is and what their best SLAs are across channels.
This is further complicated by the dependence on four or five different applications.
To remedy this issue, Liz and her team developed Five9 Connect, which combines email, chat, social, visual IVR and mobile, which she says is “a secret weapon to allow contact centers to really focus their resources on the highest priority interactions. It includes natural language processing that helps contact centers understand what’s important, relevant and trending in all of the text channels, social, email, chat. It includes business roles to apply your policies, and be able to decide where that interaction should go and what priority it should take. And then finally it includes a number of agent assistant tools to allow the agent to quickly resolve what the issue is, whether it’s a customer service or a sales issue.”
The future of call centers is bright. “I love the words of Peter Drucker. He says that, ‘The whole goal of business is to create and keep customers.’ And I think in the future, as time goes on and companies are understanding that the customer and customer service is a competitive differentiator, that contact
centers have more and more of a strategic role to play … creating and keeping customer service and becoming a profit center and more strategic to the business. So I think it’s exciting times ahead.”