Off Center
“Smile, you’re on Customer Camera.”

Such a statement isn’t quite as silly or absurd as it sounds. Video calls are no longer just a whimsical fantasy. The technology that drives video interactions with customers is ready for prime time, and has been for a while.

Not a lot of contact centers have experimented with video calls to date, but some have and even report success in the visual medium. These centers claim that video calls aren’t just a gimmicky trend but rather something that many customers want – particularly those who are voyeurs and/or exhibitionists.

Video calls break down the barriers that exist with faceless phone conversations (and emails, chats, tweets), thus enabling companies to establish stronger rapport and more personalized relationships with customers. And because video lets customers put a face with a name, it makes it much easier for a disgruntled customer to find the exact agent he wants to slap after driving (or flying) to the contact center site, thus saving innocent staff members from any harm.

Achieving success with video calls, however, requires careful planning and strategy. Easy to overlook when implementing video are the unique performance metrics the center needs to measure in association with this new contact channel. While many of the metrics used for traditional phone calls also apply to video contacts, there are a few new measures that are particularly essential for success with video, including…

Food Particles In Teeth Per Shift (FPITPS): Agents who handle traditional voice-only calls can get away with having a piece of spinach or broccoli caught between their teeth, even if it does disgust their coworkers. For video agents, however, such a common occurrence can cause a customer experience disaster. In fact, a recent study found that video callers are 87% less likely to continue doing business with a company whose video agents fail to floss effectively.

Video agents should be coached and trained not only on proper pre-call flossing but also on the use toothpicks and hand mirrors to ensure that their FPITPS numbers remain very low. While there is no industry standard for FPITPS, the best video-enabled contact centers aim for between 0.0 and 0.2 food particles in teeth per shift for the entire center. The exception is suicide prevention hotlines, where higher FPITPS numbers are not only tolerated but encouraged, as studies have shown that agents with food caught in their teeth on camera helps emotionally distressed callers feel a lot better about their own lives.

Agent Smile Radius (ASR): Agents have historically been told to “put a smile in your voice” (and your emails/chats/tweets). Despite being an annoying and ambiguous command that makes agents feel like punching their supervisor, this practice has been shown to increase customer satisfaction. Now, with video, agents must learn to put an actual physical smile on their face when interacting with customers – no easy task when you consider the long hours, verbal abuse, physical confinement, low pay, and corporate motivational posters that agents must contend with each day.

To ensure that agents smile widely on a consistent basis during video calls, it’s important to hold them accountable and reward them for achieving an ambitious yet feasible Agent Smile Radius (ASR). ASR is the distance from one corner of an agent’s mouth to the other when forcing a smile during customer interactions. When choosing an ASR objective, select one that requires agents to smile big enough to make customers feel warm and special, but not so big that the customer mistakes the agent for Julia Roberts or Mick Jagger.
If you have some agents who simply cannot force a smile onto their face during video calls, consider using some strategic tools and props to help elicit genuine grins from these grumps. Possible smile-inducing tactics include having a supervisor stand off-camera wearing a pinwheel hat, and investing in workstation chairs that tickle.

Average Eye-Roll Rate (AERR): For traditional phone agents, the rolling of eyes while speaking to bothersome customers is as common a practice as sobbing alone in the break room or beneath a workstation. However, video agents must strive to keep such insulting actions in check. If customers see an agent rolling his/her eyes, they will feel the company doesn’t value them – thus increasing the likelihood of them taking their video contacts to a more caring company where agents merely have food particles stuck in their teeth.

Given the idiocy of some customers today, it’s unfair to expect video agents to completely refrain from rolling their eyes. Still, it’s important to keep eye-rolling to a bare minimum. Establishing a strictly enforced Average Eye-Roll Rate (AERR) objective and educating agents on said objective will help in this endeavor.

For best results, reward and recognize video agents who maintain a low AERR over time, or who last more than 10-15 minutes without rolling their eyes even once during a shift. And be sure to deal with problematic eye-rollers swiftly and sternly, either by docking their pay or by telling them that if they don’t stop rolling their eyes, their face is going to stay that way. 

Got any good (read: funny) metrics for video-enabled contact centers you’d like to recommend? Please share them in the comment section below.

JR Hardenburgh
7/10/2013 11:28:01 pm

A regional bank tried video contacts several years ago after closing several branch locations. The concept was abandoned after six months. The center director lamented "not only did we need agents who were articulate, patient and knew how to navigate our systems, they also had to be reasonable attractive and dress well every day. There are just not enough of them in the hiring pool." Looks like vanity killed the video call!

7/10/2013 11:50:03 pm

"Vanity killed the video call." Positively brilliant, JR! It's very early in the morning to be that clever.

Perhaps companies need to consider outsourcing their contact centers to modeling agencies.

Thanks for your 'funny because it's true' comment.


7/12/2013 02:15:04 am

aside from sounding like an american for a typical agent the ability to "look like an american" if you're business is outsourced in the philippines would be an additional load. recent study shows that callers terminate the calls and their membership as soon as they've seen that an asian looking guy is talking on the video.

7/15/2013 03:26:07 am

How about a Nervous Habit Quotient (NHQ) where agents have to limit how many times they bit their nails, play with their hair, chew their lip, etc during the video call? Nervous habits make nervous customers!

7/15/2013 03:32:19 am

Nice one, Trish! Consider NHQ added to the list.

Managers could keep NHQ down by handing out muscle relaxants, or by sending electric shocks through agents' headsets every time they fidget or twitch. Of course, the shocks may cause even MORE twitching, but over time I think conditioning would set it and agents would learn their lesson(s).

7/15/2013 06:43:46 am


I would like to nominate WES, otherwise known as Wandering Eye Syndrome. This is caused by the agent losing eye contact with the customer and being distracted by whatever objective of their fantasy passes by immediately behind the video camera. Customers feel queasy yet faintly sympathetic to this effect, being suddenly reminded of classmates at kindergarden who they had teased with genuine wobbly eye. The Quality team of course know better when leafing through the footage and immediately blackmail the agent with threats of sending the footage to HR and the grim prospect of after work harassment therapy

7/15/2013 09:44:46 am

Another good metric, Martin, and one that would be easily managed -- simply put blinders on video agents, and/or have them work in cubes enclosed by four very tall partitions.

Thanks for the well-thought-out comment!



7/18/2013 12:00:34 am

You guys are really good at this metric thing. Wish you could be here to see the looks on the faces of our Engineering team when I take these to them and ask them to add them to the LightLink Real Time Performance Metrics KPI Library!
Keep em coming, Greg. God knows we need to keep laughing :-)

7/18/2013 12:21:15 am

Thanks, Pete. And wow, that KPI library you mentioned is a mouthful. I suggest you take the typical approach in the contact center industry and give that library an acronym: LLRTPMKPIL. There, that's much easier to say.

And I DO promise to "keep em coming" -- we all need a little contact center-tainment to survive the madness.

Best of luck!


7/23/2013 07:52:44 pm

Great suggestions for the Contact Centre future that is almost upon us. We may actually need to reverse how AHT is used. Longer the better when that bright future hits us. And the customer pays for it!!


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