What is The Next BIG Thing In Call Centres ?

A Solution That Delivers:

  • Increased Customer Satisfaction
  • Increased Agent Satisfaction
  • Increased Revenue, and
  • Reduced Costs

This is a article that was published by Dr. Jon Anton,  Director of Research, Purdue University Center for Customer-Driven Quality  & Anita Rockwell, Director of Business Intelligence, BenchmarkPortal, Inc.             

PLEASE NOTE:  This 2005 White Paper has been reproduced by VIRTUATell to show the reasoning and innovative thinking that was behind our range of products and services when we first launched our services in 2004. It cannot say better, why we developed our fully automated survey solution, ASMA

For “Emerging Model” read VIRTUATell’s current product offering!

We recently visited multiple world-class call centers and interviewed their leaders to determine the best practices in agent monitoring and coaching. We expected these world class organizations to have implemented the kind of best practices for effective agent monitoring and coaching that would result in increasingly better customer satisfaction scores. Our plan was to document their best practices for the rest of the call center world. Well, surprise! What we found was that, when it came to agent monitoring and coaching, almost every call center was struggling

While some were doing better than others in this arena, even the best performing centers didn’t have this process nailed down. What those centers that were doing agent monitoring and coaching better than the others had in common is that they weren’t using the Traditional Model. (The Traditional Model involves the use of a quality criteria checklist to randomly audit a set number of calls per agent per month.) As part of our research, we went back to understand where and how the Traditional Model was developed. We found that it was adopted from the manufacturing world.

Because processes like automotive assembly lines benefited greatly by being strictly defined, call center leaders of the time assumed (because they didn’t know of any other way) that the same approach would work in call centers.

Some of the principles applied were: _ reduce variation _ study the best and replicate _ define and measure metrics _ define quality by “making the numbers” While the criteria companies used in most centers were well-intended, we found that it didn’t produce the desired and/or necessary results. At best, it provided a lower floor for the results delivered, meaning that no customer would receive terrible service (because agents quickly learned the basics they needed to do to pass an audit). But, it didn’t produce the kind of experiences that customers raved to their friends about. In short, we found that the Traditional Model was intrinsically flawed. Next we looked at why the Traditional Model didn’t work.

To illustrate, we’ll look at three of the most common elements of the Traditional Model.

1.Traditional Model – Sample Size: Five Calls Per Agent Per Month

First, we asked,” Who came up with that number?” There is no magic in monitoring 5 calls per agent per month. It’s similar to the arbitrary service level of 80 percent of the calls being answered in 20 seconds. From a statistical standpoint, this sample size is hardly valid. Yet, many call centers include an agent’s QA score as a significant portion of an agent’s performance evaluation. You don’t have to be a statistician to realize that a sample of five calls, randomly selected out of 1,000 to 1,500 calls does not a valid statistical sample make.

2.Traditional Model – Sample Selection Criteria: Calls to be Monitored are Usually Randomly Selected

The odds of finding any significant coaching/learning examples within a random sample are minimal, in fact, almost non-existent. We have found that a natural bell curve applies to most service experiences. The vast majority of calls are routine or repetitive, non-emotionally based contacts.

A much smaller volume of calls are slightly better or worse than average. Very few calls are exceptional or horrible. Imagine if you could isolate the horrible calls and learn from those interactions. Those are the contacts that your customers are telling their friends about. But, you can’t isolate and evaluate those types of calls within the Traditional Model, which requires that you evaluate agent performance primarily from QA scores that were based on a small and randomly selected group of calls.

3.Traditional Model – Evaluation Criteria:

A Checklist Approach to Evaluating the Call

While many centers have shifted the actual criteria on their checklists to better align them with satisfaction drivers, the core premise of this approach is flawed. We need to ask ourselves,” Why do we evaluate the call in the first place?”   As the chart illustrates, there are two reasons:

  1. To evaluate the customer’s service experience:
  2. To ensure that the agent provided accurate answers and adhered to company policies and/or procedures. When we and/or a supervisor and/or QA team member evaluate the customer’s service experience by listening and completing a checklist, we’re essentially acting “as if ” we ARE the caller.  Kind of silly when, in fact, the caller is often quite willing to tell us how they actually felt about the experience, if only we could ask.

While we need to check for accuracy, most companies don’t realize they can use “gold star” type programs which limit the degree of monitoring based on the agent’s experience and historical accuracy. Once agents move to higher levels (think mentors, senior reps, etc.), they really only need spot checks done. There are also philosophical principles that factor into why the Traditional Model isn’t effective in the call center environment – never was and never will be for the following two reasons: _ Call centers are a business-within-a-business _ Call centers are a blend of art and science .

These call center philosophies illustrate why the Traditional Model fails. The Traditional Model is fundamentally trying to measure an art as if it were a science. Also, the Traditional Model assumes that the call center is just like any other department within a company, when it is not.

The Next Big Thing…the Emerging Model

In the process of confirming that the Traditional Model does not work, we discovered our Emerging Model as a better approach to agent monitoring and coaching. We’ve seen measurable positive results from call centers that utilize most or all of the components of our Emerging Model. Let’s look at some of the ways that the Emerging Model for agent monitoring and coaching differs from the Traditional Model:

With the Emerging Model:

  1. The caller self-selects to provide feedback to the agent.
  2. Callers evaluate their service experiences.
  3. Caller feedback, not feedback from team members acting as callers, is forwarded directly to the agent in real-time.
  4. The agent is unaware that the caller has volunteered to monitor the call, just like having a secret shopper monitor the call.
  5. The caller’s satisfaction is top-of-mind for the agent.
  6. Callers are aware that they are monitoring the call throughout the call; this heightens their awareness of the agent’s performance.
  7. The sample size used in the survey design is statistically significant.
  8.  Instead of using call monitoring scores as a measure of agent performance (possibly tied to compensation), the caller’s feedback is used strictly for agent coaching and thereby agent development
The Five Components of the Emerging Model

There are five main components of the Emerging Model. There are additional nuances and enhancers, but for purposes of this overview, we will outline the primary aspects.

1. The Agent Receives the Feedback Directly From the Calling Customer.

While the entire company exists to serve the customer, it only makes sense that the agent, as the primary point of contact, would be the most focused on satisfying each customer. With the Traditional Model, we have skewed the emphasis to drive the agent’s attention to an internal measure (i.e., the QA scorecard, or checklist) rather than doing whatever it takes to meet each customer’s needs.

Agents love getting feedback from their own customers. So when one of their customers has an improvement suggestion, they take it seriously because there is no built-in bias (feeling that the feedback or suggestion is that of the QA person, rather than that of the customer).

By having the customer provide the feedback on the service experience, it also eliminates the need for lengthy calibration sessions. Most of us agree on accuracy issues. The debates are usually around judgments on the approach an agent took and perceptions around what the customer’s reaction was.

2. The Metrics That the Agent (and Direct Supervisor) is Measured Against are Aligned to Promote the Right Behaviour.
  1. Comparing top-box caller satisfaction (namely, a five out of five caller satisfaction rating) with the team average.
  2. Comparing a quantity measure, like calls/agent/hour, with the team average. The Emerging Model uses top-box as determined by your customers (instead of a QA Team or auditor) as the primary metric for evaluating an agent’s performance. Caller satisfaction should be what’s most important to your agents, so focus their energy and efforts on achieving this metric first.

Few companies would survive without being efficient, so we also support a metric on quantity (like number of calls handled per hour, or time spent in “talk” mode).This metric should be secondary to the focus on top-box scores. Also, both the agents and their leadership should be evaluated on basically the same measures of performance.

3. Every Dissatisfied Case is Reviewed by a Dedicated Review Team.

 The above chart shows the impact of having an effective service recovery process for dissatisfied customers.

In the Emerging Model, bottom-box satisfaction (dissatisfied customer feedback) is a gold mine. The customers who rate their service experience at the low end of the scale want to be heard. They are extremely unhappy with the company.

The good news is that they’re still engaged with you as proven by their willingness to take the survey. There’s a chance to change their perception of the company, if you act quickly. While you may not achieve a 180-degree turnaround, you can usually at least neutralize the negative emotion from their experience.

The dedicated review team does four things as they review the dissatisfied customer’s situation:

  1. Determine if the situation was within the agent’s control.
  2. Determine if there is a chance to recover the customer. c. Determine the root cause of the customer’s dissatisfaction. d. Determine potential coaching comments and behavioural change suggestions.
4. Valuable customers are routed to agents with the highest satisfaction scores.

Inbound call routing is very common in call centers. Routing criteria include:

  1. The simplest routing is to the next available agent – very traditional.
  2. Slightly more complex is to route the call to the next available agent with the proper training to handle a specific kind of call – about 50 percent of call centers use these criteria.
  3. Even more complex is to route high-value customers through a shorter queue to reach agents that are most capable of handling their call quickly. Only about 10 percent of call centers use these important criteria.
  4. Finally, the Emerging Model allows for the routing of high-value customers through a shorter queue to reach agents who are not only the most capable of handling the call quickly, but also to those agents who have the highest caller satisfaction scores. This is the trend that we predict will become the New Model in the months ahead.
5. Reporting of Caller Feedback Results are Available in Real-Time at All Levels.

A critical component of the Emerging Model is that caller feedback data is processed in real-time, and actionable reports are available to the agent, the supervisor, and the call center manager through personalized dashboards via their computer. This immediate availability of caller feedback information allows for self-directed corrective action to be implemented at all levels.

Other Benefits of the Emerging Model

In addition to the benefits highlighted so far, there are other benefits when the Emerging Model is used:

  1. Increased agent satisfaction/reduced turnover.
  2. Increased morale in the call center overall.
  3. Reduced costs/more for your money.
  4. Pinpoint service improvement initiatives and instantly monitor impact.
  5. Increased customer satisfaction – especially top-box satisfaction. Seldom have we been so excited to be at the forefront of change in customer service contact centers.

To actually witness a paradigm shift in a key call center process is, quite frankly, extraordinary. In conclusion, we would summarize:

  1. 1.     The Traditional Model of agent monitoring and coaching does not produce the intended results, yet it is both expensive to maintain and time consuming.
  2. 2.     Call center managers are seriously searching for practical alternatives to achieving their call volume goals (productivity), while maintaining their caller satisfaction goals (quality).
  3. 3.     The Emerging Model is a much better utilization of resources to produce quantitative changes within a contact center, including behavioural change at the agent level, plus policy and procedural change at the supervisor, manager, and company levels.