Benchmarking Performance and Quality
Contact centre managers are constantly on the lookout for new ways to improve quality of service and one of their biggest challenges is how do we get the best return on our investment? This is an almost impossible question to answer without a detailed understanding of the contact centre operation however regardless of how thorough your knowledge is, most would agree it can always be improved. This is where benchmarking is important. Benchmarking allows you to compare your key metrics, processes and procedures with those of your direct competitors and those companies offering similar products or services in non-competitive organisations. To those new to benchmarking in the call centre there can be a bewildering array of operational metrics, processes and working practices that can be measured and compared. These can include AHT (Average Handling Time), FCR (First Contact Resolution) Service Levels and Utilisation to surveying random customer satisfaction after wrap up, and everything in-between. To further add to the confusion benchmarking may not necessarily be conducted in-house and is frequently outsourced to various specialist providers.
Advantage and Disadvantage of keeping Benchmarking In-House
How do you decide whether to outsource benchmarking or whether you want to keep it in-house? The first question to ask is do you have the necessary expertise in-house to design the benchmarking framework (utilising quality scoring/net promoter) and secondly do you have the resources to carry it out, on a continued basis. If you have both then keeping benchmarking in-house certainly has its benefits. It will allow you to customise and fine-tune your programme to monitor exactly the components essential to your business. Furthermore there are hundreds of different tools to help benchmark your contact centre at various prices. Tools such as ‘CCPlus’, the open source enterprise software that helps you monitor AHT, ATR (Average Transfer Rate) and agent wrap up times and programs such as ‘Passion and Will’s Sweety Suite‘ which whilst more expensive are regarded as generally more user friendly and offer more in-depth analysis.
Whilst the option to customise is certainly there, In-house benchmarking is not the best route for everyone. Smaller companies may lack the skills to benchmark their operation effectively in which case outsourcing helps cover this know-how gap. A serious disadvantage is that in-house benchmarking can be unconsciously biased and as result skew customer data, telling managers what they want to hear and giving an inaccurate picture of customer perceptions of service and satisfaction. This can manifest in lost customers, costly fixes, and impact negatively on staff morale. In our experience, such bias (the product of Groupthink, a psychosocial dynamic, where everyone thinks the same) can still persist even when the company uses an in-house audit department.
Advantage and Disadvantage of Out-Sourcing Benchmarking
Out-sourcing can provide an excellent platform to address skill gaps in identifying problems and bringing them to management’s attention. It allows companies to bring in a fresh perspective on the contact centre operations and in many cases highlight errors that an in-house audit simply would not spot. An independent company can provide mystery caller services, which also include checks on websites, and social networks giving an objective mark on the overall quality of service delivered by your contact centre. Consulting companies such as dancing lion provide a cost efficient way of bringing new insight and cross sector experience into your company, offering real solutions and training to help increase the quality of service delivered.
Different methods for Bench Marking Contact Centres In-House
Benchmarking in-house need not be a complicated process. In many industries, such as financial services, it is a standard operating procedure to record customer service agent’s calls for legal purposes. Such recordings may be used to monitor each agents approach to customer service. From this you can build a profile on how agents respond to different situation and help coach them to improve their weaknesses. There are a wide variety of tools for benchmarking using voice-recording solutions in the market place. One example is the ‘Gema Tech – Call Analyser’, which offers a recording solution that detects the tone of agents helping them regulate how they speak to customers and also identifies when customers are feeling stressed. Regardless of whether you choose to use a voice analyser, recording and assessing your agent’s calls with customers is an excellent and affordable way to benchmark customer service quality.
Another popular method employed by some contact centres is to call back the customer and survey them on the service they had just received. A major benefit of conducting such a survey is that it gives a firsthand account of service quality without having to second guess the satisfaction level of the customer as you would listening to a call recording. When conducting this type of benchmarking we should be aware that customers are not always open to being phoned to answer a telephone interview. Unless permission is freely given this can have a negative impact on the answer given or reflect poorly on the overall quality of customer service the customer reports they received.
AHT, FTR and Wrap Up Review
We mentioned two pieces of software earlier CCPulse and P&W Sweety Suite. Both pieces of software help the contact centre monitor their AHT and Wrap Up time, both vital in helping determine how staff should be assigned. Such tools provide a powerful insight into how your call centre agent are spending their time and the efficiency in which your call centre is at handling calls.
As we have briefly explored, there are many different methods and tools for Benchmarking. Both conducting benchmarking in-house and outsourcing have their own advantages and disadvantages. Each organisation has its own unique opportunities and challenges, therefore an impartial review of the pros and cons of each option, taking into account the company context, can help management make an informed decision about which option is best fit for your company. Dancing lion can help you with this review and with continued monitoring of service quality.