Part. 1: the essentials: produced quality
Produced quality, perceived quality, performance, satisfaction,… terms frequently used in customer relations vocabulary. Their common denominator: indicators.
All these aspects must be measured to understand, control and improve customer relations. As KPIs, reports or dashboards, indicators are essential to monitor the activity at all times during the customer request cycle. They are used to trace and even predict the incoming flows, know the current situation and types of request, measure the processing via the delays as well as the associated costs. While the main objective is to increase productivity, the second, which is as important, is to assess the satisfaction of customers and employees.
How can companies starting to measure their activity find the best indicator amongst the numerous KPIs available?
I will list and explain some of them, all dedicated to the customer service activities, and we will examine these indicators together, from the most traditional to the most innovating.
Let’s start with the contact centre’s traditional KPIs, mostly qualitative and focused on the produced quality.
The waiting time measures the delay between the time when the customer’s call is picked up and the time when the customer is actually put through to an adviser. Historically, this indicator was dedicated to calls. With the emergence of the new media, however, it is also relevant for chat sessions. This measurement is specific to hot flows. While it seems obvious that this delay should be as short as possible, it nevertheless represents a communication vector to be used to deliver information to the customer. This is the ideal time to provide details about your company, promote your products or direct the customer towards other contact channels that are easier to access, such as the customer space.
The answering rate, or quality of service rate, is the ratio between the number of calls answered and the number of calls presented. This is an essential indicator for call centres, since it gives the proportion of customers who managed to get through to the service. A poor rate is often due to a long waiting time, since the longer the time, the greater the risk that the customer will give up and hang up. Some structures also ask themselves questions if the rate is too high. If all the calls are answered, this could indicate a poor organisation, overstaffing and idle advisers.
The average call duration, or average communication duration indicator is progressively disappearing. Telephone calls used to be the main contact channel. Advisers were evaluated on the call duration which was a proof of performance. With the diversification of contact channels, telephone calls remain the most widely used, but in specific contexts. Customers prefer calling in situations requiring the added value of human contact. In these, often sensitive, situations the communication delay is certainly not a relevant indicator, and more qualitative indicators will be preferred. We must bear in mind that the trend – which is a good thing – is to place the emphasis on personalisation rather than standardisation and quality rather than quantity.
The average processing duration is calculated differently for hot flows (call, chat, etc.) and cold flows (email, messaging, etc.). For calls, this duration adds the call time to the wrap-up processing time. Several alternatives are available for emails. The duration can be calculated either from the request reception date until the processing end date, or from the request handling date until the customer answer date. The average durations are obviously quite different depending on each media. Like the previous indicator, this indicator is no longer used to measure the performance of the customer service but to control and plan resources.
The flow volume is used to weight the delay indicators but also to anticipate peak and off-peak activities and control the resources. The greater the number of requests, the longer the delays in fact. The difficulty is therefore to minimise the impact of volume on the delays. Concerning the control aspect, some activities are faced with “obvious” seasonal fluctuations like shops during the Christmas season and sales, while for others activity fluctuations can only be identified through experience and measurements. We may take the example of a public service for which the number of calls drops considerably during August. However, the measurement and monitoring of all its flows show that the number of visitors physically welcomed increases in proportion over the same period. In this case, while it would appear that the flow rate has dropped, this is not true for the overall flow rate. By monitoring this indicator, the right number of agents could be assigned to each channel during this period.
The number of requests by type (information, request, dispute, etc.), more or less accurate, is essential to divide the previous indicators and focus action plans on the relevant directions. For instance, a customer service which observes that 40 % of its requests concern the opening hours of its physical points of sale can launch suitable actions to reduce the number of these requests, for example by increasing its communication on the opening hours and by measuring the effect of this indicator.
The rate of absenteeism reflects the good health of the customer service and therefore the involvement of its employees. From time to time, it throws light on indicators such as a decreasing answering rate during a flu epidemic and therefore a reduced headcount. Over the long term, it can be used to detect underlying tensions, especially in terms of workload, and therefore to adjust the number of employees. Without being critical, this indicator helps to consider the previous indicators from an HR point of view.
Over the last few years, numerous more qualitative indicators have emerged, still from the perspective of produced quality.
The once and done rate, also known as the first call resolution, measures the proportion of customer requests processed on the first call. It is a proof of quality for the customer whose number 1 expectation is to obtain an answer without having to call back the customer service several times. We must nevertheless remain extremely cautious with this indicator, since it guarantees neither the quality nor the efficiency of the answer provided. Consequently, the quality of the answers must be monitored (by picking the written documents and listening to the calls) and by checking that the request has been solved correctly (no similar ticket opening within a given delay).
The handling delay is specific to cold flows and can be considered as the equivalent of the waiting time for hot flows. It is the delay between the sending of a customer request and its acknowledgement of receipt by the customer service. For some requests, in particular once and done requests, the handling delay and the processing delay may be the same. Handling of the request is extremely important since it demonstrates that the request has been received. It may be the opportunity to give a contact or resolution delay and avoids the need for customers to call back.
The offload or digitisation rate is related to the emergence of customer spaces. This media which is becoming increasingly popular gives the customer more independence through permanent accessibility and allows the customer service to focus on added value requests. The digitisation rate indicates the number of customer requests processed via the customer space and therefore offloaded from the customer service. The challenge is to identify these requests, develop features for the customer space to handle these requests, federate the employees around this media so that they can promote it and, lastly, educate the customer. This is a true way of levering greater customer satisfaction.
These first indicators are essential, the mainstays of the customer service. They all focus on performance and control and leave very little space for the customer’s voice. We must remember, however, that the customer is the sole judge and that it is therefore essential to take his perception of quality into account to move forward intelligently and in the right direction.