Off Center
In this age of social media, sound bytes and ADHD, people love quick and catchy stats. Unfortunately, in the contact center and customer care space, there seem to be only a handful of snazzy stats in circulation. The same ones just keep getting regurgitated over and over (yes, that’s redundant), especially on Twitter.

This is perplexing considering how dynamic customer care is and how much contact centers have evolved. It’s actually worse than perplexing – it’s depressing. Every time I see someone tweeting the old chestnut , “Satisfied customers tell only 3 people about their experience, while dissatisfied customers tell 8-10 people” (or some variation of this), a part of my soul dies. I even wept a little just now while typing that stat.

Rather than just complain about the lack of statistical variety being promoted by self-proclaimed customer experience experts in the Twittersphere, I aim to remedy the situation. Following are several fresh and captivating stats about customer care and contact centers that I believe you and everybody else will feel compelled to talk and tweet about:

  • 86% of customers would be willing to pay more for better customer service. 100% of contact center managers would be willing to pay more for even mediocre customer service.  

  • 70% of contact centers list Average Handle Time among their key performance metrics at the agent level. Of those centers, 100% need a clue.

  • Only 17% of contact centers really mean it when they say “Your call is very important to us”. Of the remaining centers, 38% feel “Your call is somewhat important to us”, 24% feel “It’s surprising how unimportant your call is to us”, and 21% feel “It’s hilarious that you are still holding for a live agent.”

  • 73% of contact center managers claim to know how to accurately measure First-Call Resolution. The remaining 27% of managers are telling the truth.

  • Engaged customer service agents are 35% more likely to provide a positive customer experience than are customer service agents who are already married.

  • The top three criteria contact center managers consider when selecting work-at-home agents are: 1) Past performance; 2) ability to work independently; and 3) body odor.

  • Every time a caller must provide his/her name and account number to an agent after having just provided that exact same information via the IVR system, a puppy dies.

  • 97% of contact center agents fantasize daily about sending a hungry Bengal tiger to the home of abusive callers. The remaining 3% of agents fantasize daily about sending a hungry Siberian Tiger.

  • 81% of contact center agents are empowered to do exactly what their managers and supervisors tell them.

  • Each year, over 150 customer care professionals die from overexposure to acronyms.

  • 50% of managers feel their contact center is highly unprepared to handle social customer care; the remaining 50% do too.  

  • The three people that satisfied customers tell about their experience are Sue Johnson, Dave Winthrop, and Bud Carter. All three are tired of hearing about these experiences.

  • 42% of contact center managers say they will not hire an agent applicant unless said applicant has a pulse and/or can work at least one weekend shift a month.

  • Four out of five agents represent 80% of all agents. In contrast, the remaining agents represent only 20% of all agents.

  • The average agent-to-supervisor ratio in contact centers is 20:1. The odds that this is enough to provide agents with the coaching and support they need to succeed is 2000:1.

  • 100% of managers destined for greatness and wealth purchase a copy of the Full Contact e-book. 0% of managers understand why the author of said e-book looks so angry and aggressive in the photo on the book cover.

Most contact center professionals will tell you how much they value their employees, and how the center has a lot of programs in place to keep agents – and thus customers – engaged and happy. However, few contact centers include Employee Satisfaction (E-Sat) on their formal list of key performance indicators.

And many of the centers that do consider E-Sat among their KPIs don’t do an adequate job of measuring/tracking the metric. Instead, they implement a plain-vanilla E-Sat survey once every year or two and take little action based on the findings.

The best contact centers give teeth and attention to E-Sat, using a comprehensive survey tool and implementing the survey once every six months or so. These surveys are designed to gauge not only traditional employee satisfaction, but also employee engagement. Engagement is satisfaction on steroids; engagement surveys help to identify which agents are not only happy with their job but also willing to maim others or themselves in the name of the company’s honor.
Most leading centers use an outside surveying specialist to design and implement the survey to ensure that the right questions are asked in the right ways, as well as to help foster a sense of privacy/anonymity, thus increasing the chances that agents will respond in a frank and honest matter. Surveying specialists can also help a contact center with evaluating results, pinpointing key trends and warning managers of a frontline mutiny.

Naturally, every contact center would love to achieve a 100% E-Sat rate, but that’s about as likely as a home agent bathing every day. As with C-Sat, anything in the 80%-90% range for E-Sat is impressive – and feasible, particularly if you incorporate into the survey process threats of physical harm for low ratings by staff. 

If E-Sat isn’t already on your contact center’s list of critical metrics, make some room for it. Bump AHT off the roster if you have to. And as for measuring E-Sat, don’t just go through the motions, or you’ll likely find that you have a bunch of agents doing the same. 

One of the best ways to increase employee engagement and retention is to give staff the opportunity to apply their unique personal skills and interests while on the job. You see, it’s human nature to want to feel individually valuable and valued, despite knowing that we are naturally mediocre and forgettable.

The most successful call center managers I have come across are able to overcome the general unexceptional nature of their staff and find ways for each agent to make an important and personal contribution to the center’s success.

Here are some proven ways you can do the same with your staff:

Look for the write stuff. If you have a few members on your frontline who were born before 1975 and thus know how to spell, consider letting them create a service-related blog for the company, or give them a column in the departmental newsletter. Or, if your company frowns upon such levels of empowerment, consider at least making the aforementioned literate agents complete your monthly expense report for you.

Use “speech recognition”. Let’s say you have an agent with the innate ability to not shut up. Why not let them speak on behalf of the call center at the next inter-departmental meeting? This is a particularly useful strategy if your center has recently been performing badly and you are expecting a lot of angry questions from senior management at the meeting. 

Tap the sadness. Maybe you have some employees with a penchant for being deeply depressed. If so, allow them to mentor some agents who are only mildly depressed and just watch how quickly the latter group starts to feel better about themselves, which will translate into better service for customers and lower outpatient mental health costs for your company.

Rage against the (Marketing) machine. Do you have some agents with anger management issues and a tendency toward physical violence? Put them together on a special task force responsible for seeking vengeance whenever Marketing forgets to tell the call center about a promotion that causes a 75% spike in call volume.   

Give staff starring roles. Got a couple of folks on your staff with some community theater experience? Encourage them to teach the rest of the frontline to act like they care about customers and are being paid a living wage.

These are just a few suggestions – some of which I’ve seen work in actual call centers, and some of which simply popped into my head last night while sipping my third scotch. There really is no limit to the ways you can empower your staff in a personalized manner when you start to think outside the bottle, I mean box.

So the next time you start thinking that you are burdened with a bunch of ordinary – or, worse, neurotic and unstable – agents, remember that with a little creativity you can find ways to help each of them make you look like a much better, more productive manager than you actually are.