How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Call Center

By Walter Lash

Your call center is the frontline of your operations, requiring ongoing, diligent monitoring. To effectively manage your customer experience, you need consistent tracking and measuring of metrics which are fundamental to determining agents and call center performance.

Why is call center performance evaluation so important? More than ever, your call center is intertwined with every other aspect of your business. Call centers don’t work in vacuums. Rather, they must be closely aligned with sales, marketing, manufacturing and nearly every other department so that they can be a successful customer touchpoint. What happens or doesn’t happen in your call center enables your business to achieve greater success just as it can seriously tarnish your brand.

WHAT CALL CENTER PERFORMANCE MEASURES ARE MOST IMPORTANT?
There are two primary focuses when evaluating a call center. Call center analysis, which captures and analyzes performance data and call center process improvement. Ultimately, data collected should be used to improve customer satisfaction and lower costs while also increasing revenue.

To determine the success of your call center, there are several key metrics that should be consistently reviewed.

First Call Resolution
How often are your callers obtaining resolution during their first call? This important metric is closely aligned with customer satisfaction. According to Service Quality Measurement Group, a leading customer contact research and consulting firm, there is, on average, a one percent improvement in customer satisfaction for every one percent improvement in first call resolution. Top ranking customer satisfaction ratings typically have a first call resolution rate of greater than 85 percent. And, call centers that have high first call resolution rates have, on average, lower operating costs and higher employee satisfaction.

Response Time
How quickly are customer interactions handled? This important metric can be measured by minutes, days or hours to determine the amount of resources required to effectively field calls. Many industry experts consider response time to be the most obvious indication of what customers experience when they dial a call center. Faster response times reflect a better customer experience. Yet, call efficiency needs to be followed up with solid call management to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Self-Service Accessibility
Self-service channels have become increasingly embraced by customers because they offer speed and convenience. For businesses, they deliver enhanced service efficiency and reduced costs. However, they shouldn’t be considered channels that are simply deployed and forgotten. Just like with assisted-service channels, your IVR system and other self-service channels require ongoing evaluation to determine how effectively they assist customers.

If your call center relies heavily on self-service channels, it’s important to watch closely for glitches, siloes and hindrances that prevent customers from shifting to assisted-service when they want to escalate an issue. Specialized monitoring tools, as well as shop techniques, can help identify failures and weaknesses that need to be addressed.

Customer Satisfaction
Evaluating your customers’ satisfaction shouldn’t be a one-time or annual task. With customer preferences shifting faster than ever before, it’s important to grade their experiences while they are still fresh in their minds. IVR-based, post-call surveys enable you to rate interactions, usually on a numeric scale and provide the opportunity for the customer to give feedback.

The most advanced survey apps are programmable to instantly pick up when a customer gives a poor rating to send an alert to a call center or quality assurance manager. This allows a manager the opportunity to call the customer back to correct the problems and restore loyalty and trust.

Contact Quality
Through monitoring and recording of agent interactions, contact quality can be evaluated consistently to highlight what is working and what isn’t. Key focuses can include:

  • Proper use of greetings, scripts, terminology and grammar
  • Providing correct information to customers
  • Resolution success
  • Professionalism and courtesy
  • Data entry and call coding accuracy

Adherence to Schedule
This includes a list of metrics that evaluate agents’ performance and efficiency, including:

  • Handling time
  • Being logged into the system
  • Performing after-call work
  • Outbound calls
  • Waiting for calls to arrive
  • Time taking lunch, breaks or in training

The average handle time and calls per hour used to be the most important call center metric. However, they aren’t always under the control of agents. With improved measurement capabilities, there is more of a clear picture of the delivery of quality than just meeting numbers.

Forecasting Accuracy
Every call center has peak times and lulls in call volume. Evaluating the forecasted caller load versus the actual caller load is a metric that is critical in effectively staffing a call center to minimize queues, maintain customer satisfaction and manage staffing levels.

Social Media Spillover
Relatively new, this call center metric determines the number of callers that take to social media channels to comment or complain about service they did or didn’t receive when dialing a call center. For example, a cable provider that experiences an outage is likely to get an influx of calls that drives up the hold time. A growing percentage of callers facing longer than normal hold times will turn to social channels like Facebook and Twitter to get the help they need for their problem. Customer posts, mentions and tweets highlight call center and operational failures in a way that can have long-term impact on a brand.

Social media channels are no longer just platforms for pushing out marketing-driven content. With customers using them specifically for service, they need to be closely monitored to manage comments and feedback and effectively integrated with other communication channels.

Evaluation through metrics and monitoring is a fundamental aspect of call center management. Data collected and evaluated provides insights, as well as direction on how to make improvements to the customer experience. It also can highlight key areas for reducing operational costs and lowering employee churn. With the right tools for measuring call center metrics and a commitment to effectively using the data derived from them, you can gain a competitive edge over the many businesses that continue to manage operations without data-driven guidance.