Off Center
 
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. 


 
If the key call center metrics were to form a rock band, Forecast Accuracy would most likely be the bass player – less flashy and famous than its fellow members like C-Sat, FCR and Service Level, but no less critical for an effective performance.

Forecast Accuracy is sometimes referred to as “forecasted contact load vs. actual contact load”, but only by managers who like to make things more painful than necessary. The metric shows the percent variance between the number of calls (or chats) predicted to arrive during a given period and the number of contacts that the call center actually receives during that time. Most managers consider a 5% variance to be acceptable, though they naturally shoot for better (a lower %) than that. Those that regularly achieve a 15% variance or worse are sent directly to workforce management prison.



Missed it by That Much

So how exactly does one go about tracking Forecast Accuracy?

I’m glad I asked.

Call centers can retrieve data on forecasted contact load from whatever system or tool they use for forecasting (e.g., the center’s WFM system or Excel spreadsheets), then compare that to the data on the actual contact load received, which comes from the center’s ACD, email/chat management system as well as other report sources. The best call centers report forecast accuracy at the half-hour or hour interval level, rather than across days, weeks or months, as interval-level tracking gives a much clearer view of how horribly you botched the forecast.  

Accurate forecasting is paramount in any call center that gives a darn about customers, agents and cost efficiency. Without a measure in place to gauge the effectiveness of the center’s forecast, under-staffing can often occur, causing queues to fill with furious callers, furious callers to verbally eviscerate innocent agents, and innocent agents to throw fists through expensive equipment. Of course, all of this adds expensive seconds and minutes to wait and handle times, causing irritated executives to cut budgets and rescind their promise to add a window in the call center. 

Inaccurate forecasting may result in costly over-staffing, as well. And while this may make customers happy, it will certainly ire senior management -- as well as give agents too much free time between calls to think and figure out that they could probably earn more money making balloon animals for children in the park.


If you don’t have anything nice to say, share it in the comment box below.

Nice comments are also accepted – after careful review.



 
I’m only 42, but I have the mind of an 80 year-old. It’s not that I easily forget things or enjoy shuffleboard or easily forget things; it’s that I’m cranky and crotchety well beyond my years. Where I used to be playfully irreverent and relatively good-natured, I now simply complain at the drop of a hat. In fact, I get really aggravated when somebody drops a hat.

In other words, I’m no fun to be around. But I am fun to read on occasion – especially if you are a call center or customer service professional who’s been forced to keep quiet about bothersome things in the industry and your job. Customer care folk are expected to be forever positive and optimistic and cheerful and accommodating. And many of you truly are, which is why we rarely hang out.

Call centers and customer service are evolving and improving in a lot of ways, but I didn’t come here to talk about that. I’d rather rant about some of the current bad ideas and troublesome trends in our field.


Personality-based call routing. This recent call center technology development is sort of like skills-based routing on steroids. And, as all of you who do not make your living as a football player, baseball player or professional cyclist know, steroids are bad.

The thinking behind personality-based routing is this: If a company can match each customer with an agent who shares similar traits and behaviors, positive experiences and increased loyalty (and sales) will result.  Sounds good in theory, but so did Windows Vista.

There are several inherent flaws with personality-based call routing:

1) Many customers, like myself, are obnoxious jerks, and when we call with a problem or complaint, we don’t want to speak to anybody even remotely like us. Give us a sweet and empathetic sap who will kiss our butts while we roar and rant -- not some fellow cranky smart-ass who’s going to try to steal our thunder.

2) Personality-based routing assumes that your agents all have a personality. I have called your company and happen to know for a fact that this isn’t the case. What this means is that, if you deploy personality-based routing, many of your employees will be sitting around doing nothing while the members of your staff who are even just the least bit interesting or annoying will be getting slammed with calls.

3) By matching up individuals who are highly compatible, you risk having your center’s Average Handle Time (AHT) go through the roof. Rather than efficiently handling strangers’ inquiries and issues, agents could very well fall in love with some of their callers – or vice versa – thus turning your ACD into a sort of call center Match.com apparatus that fosters intimate relationships rather than profitable ones. 

(For those of you who think I’m making personality-based routing up, you can read more about it here: http://bit.ly/9fYSYX -- but please return to my website or I’ll come looking for you)  


Video calls. I continue to hear talk about how video is going to take customer service by storm and greatly humanize the caller experience. Keep in mind most of that talk is coming from desperate vendors who over-invested in video-over-IP software back when they were hooked on illicit substances in the mid 1990s.  

There’s nothing wrong with the actual technology that drives video interactions; it’s been ready for prime time for years. The problem is that allowing callers to see the faces of employees whom you pay $8.50/hour and whom you cram into tiny cubicles is risky business. Your agents may be able to put a “smile in their voice”, but their attempts to force an actual smile onto a face that’s attached to a body that’s suffering from wrist, back and eye maladies can end up making them look like somebody punched them while they were sucking a lemon.       

Granted, there are a few call centers that have effectively implemented video calling, but most of them are located in Europe, where agents get four weeks of vacation and are encouraged to drink wine between calls. 
  

“Customer Effort” as a KPI. Is it important to gauge how easy it is for customers to do business with your organization and agents? Absolutely. But good luck precisely measuring that effort in any real quantifiable way. Fanatics of the latest metric craze – “Customer Effort” – would have you believe that you can accurately track not only whether each customer’s issue has been resolved or not, but also how many times each customer smashed their head against a wall or desk while awaiting such resolution.

I’m certainly not against the idea behind Customer Effort, but I can’t imagine how it could be a formal KPI in the call center. I suggest you forget trying to put a number to something so ambiguous and subjective. It’s best just to maintain a comprehensive quality monitoring program that incorporates C-Sat results into scores (“Voice of the Customer”), and then just assume if those scores are decent, you’re making things easy enough for most customers.

If, on the other hand, you discover that customers have started a Facebook hate-page dedicated to your organization and/or some of your agents, you need to either dramatically improve the service you provide or replace your existing customers with some who don’t mind putting in a little work to get what they need. Customers can be so lazy these days.


I look forward to your comments, as long as they are extremely positive and full of exaggerated praise. You’ve already seen what happens when I get cranky.