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?”
Is your organization struggling with strategic measurement? You may be tracking the wrong things.
Chris Abel is a simple man. So, he isn’t quite sure why call centers continue to struggle with measurement. Call Centers excel at measuring everything an agent does, he says, but not necessarily how what they do better serves the customer.
I sat down with Chris, who is Director of Contact Center Operations at Bright Horizons to get see what he would answer the question; ”How do you become the most high-performing call center possible?”
Chris Abel: For starters, leadership needs to move beyond KPIs and SLAs. The goal instead should be to predict customer’s future behavior since they will dictate how centers will operate. For instance, internally the bulk of conversation around customer experience centers on handle time and talk time. That’s not the case at Bright Horizons.
“The talk time is the talk time,” Chris says. “What we manage to is what we do during the call and after the call that actually impacts our overall business.”
The most valuable indicators to measure progress within the call center – beyond performance – is customer experience. Bright Horizons measures their customer experience through CSAT Scores and Net Promoter Scores. Fortunately, their CSATs are relatively high at 96 percent and their Net Promoter range between 67-78 percent. So the challenge then becomes how do you move the needle? What should the focus be to really impact experience?
Chris has an internal quality team that measures whether or not the agents are providing complete and accurate information. One of the things that they are implementing in regards to quality is defining the customer’s experience. Questions that need to be answered include, “Did we answer all of their questions? Did we help educate them on any future needs that could actually be addressed today so they don’t have to call back tomorrow?”
Looking forward, measurement may not change very much or at all, but Chris thinks that whatever the future of measurement is, it will be dictated by the customers.
“What’s important to them should be what’s important to us,” he says.