A new study featured in Science Noridic suggest that it maybe management not workload that causes depression in the workplace; We have explored for the past few months how the conditions in contact centre is a big contributing factor to the high attrition rate suffered within the call centre industry. This new study suggest that one of the best way we can mitigate our contact centre against the stress caused by high work load is through the use of effective management techniques, are you ready to meet the challenge? Dancing Lion can certainly help you and your company improve its management style to reap the benefits and avoid causing your employees further stress.
Commentary on call centre metrics from dancing lion.
Last week we explored why contact centre managers focus on Quality metrics over AHT (Average Call Handling Time). This week we examine why FCR First Call Resolution or First Contact Resolution at FPOC (First Point Of Contact) is the Holy Grail for many service based companies.
Definitions and implications:
First Point Of Contact (FPOC)
Lets begin by defining some of the popular terms used and looking at their implications. FPOC is a customer service term used to define the first point in which your business interacts with a customer or client. FPOC may not necessarily mean person-to-person contact, as FPOC is not restricted to the customer engaging physically with your company face-to-face, such as in a branch or retail outlet. FPOC also includes when a customer logs onto your website and begins interacting with your company via email or chat and when they telephone your help desk or contact centre to make a purchase, enquiry or complaint. With this in mind, it is important to understand the needs and wants of each layer of your customer demographic and offer as many options for contact as possible.
First Call Resolution (FCR)
First Call Resolution (FCR) has traditionally been an authorative measure of how effectively a customer’s request is resolved through an incoming telephone call to the call centre. It shows how capable the contact centre is at assisting the customer to resolve their enquiry first time in a single contact. FCR is an important KPI because it measures customer experience and operational efficiency and effectiveness.
As the contact centre is the mouthpiece of the organisation it is common for the call and contact centre to be measured on this metric, although there is frequently much discussion on what constitutes ‘first call resolution’. However, in the event of service failure we should bear in mind that the cause of the customer’s complaint may well not be the contact centre or the agent(s) they spoke with. It is quite likely to be elsewhere in back office or even another department in the business.
Setting targets for FCR
It is also probably not realistic to assume that all customer queries can be dealt with in first instance on the first call without referring to another department or further research. Therefore FCR targets should take into account the individual nature of the organisation and industry benchmarks. Be mindful that setting an FCR target will lead to staff wanting to avoid ‘repeats’ and possible cherry picking of customer cases when possible. If your business rules are not well written you may find that customer cases are closed before they are actually resolved and you have an artificially high FCR rate. This clearly impacts customer satisfaction metrics. However through setting targets, measuring FCR and analysing its causes for failure management will discover not just how well the customer is served at FPOC but also the robustness of the businesses working practices. In addition, it can throw light on the company culture and show how effective communication and cooperation is between the various departments that together provide an integrated service to the customer.
First Contact Resolution (FCR)
As the Internet continues to develop into a powerful FPOC tool, for some businesses, FCR as a metric is evolving into First Contact Resolution where repeat contacts across all interaction channels are monitored. The Internet is now first choice for many customers who once used the phone. They now expect to be able to resolve their enquiries, make purchases and receive information at the touch of a button. If these customers are not able to get satisfaction online they will contact the organisation via another means, the phone often being the most immediate and direct.
Give your customers choice and train your staff
Whilst root cause analysis can show why and when customers cross channels, the onus is on companies to provide a healthy choice of channels to resolve customer needs (hence the need to understand your customer demographic) through an automated system.
In tandem with this is skilling up your workforce. It is not enough to simply provide a good online FPOC service that ensures customer errors are minimised. Service providers must have well trained back office staff to support the promises made at the front line, ensuring customer requests are dealt with in a timely manner and in case of error ensure prompt resolution.
Common sense is not common practice
At first reading, this may seem like simply common sense, but as the saying goes, common sense is frequently not common practice. In reality it can be a challenge for organisations with a silo mentality to provide the seamless service that is promoted by the brand and expected by customers. If business units operate autonomously of each other and have conflicting service standards and KPIs, then ultimately these factors will impact negatively on the customer experience.
Let’s take a look at a couple of common customer scenarios:
Imagine you are a customer who has placed an order for goods that you are not satisfied with. You call the company regarding your purchase on a 0845 number. When you get through to the operator the agent is powerless to resolve your query and transfers you to another department.
As a customer, having to do all the legwork to get your query answered can lead to feeling angry and frustrated. These reactions are compounded if there is no one available in the department you are transferred to and you are obliged to call back. When you do call back, you are required to start a new enquiry from the beginning with a new agent who appears to have no idea of the background to your situation. Sound familiar?
This common example not only reflects badly on the image of the service provider but also demoralises it’s workforce who may have likely come to expect a high proportion of incoming calls to be from irritable if not angry customers. Low FCR will mean repeat calls and more stressed staff. Research has consistently indicated that a demoralised workforce leads to lower staff engagement and higher staff turnover. Both factors are likely to contribute to lower standards of service for the customer, which in turn will effect the company reputation and its profits.
Value all customers
Certainly public trust in the Internet has increased considerably and the degree to which customers are comfortable spending money online shows in the growing number of online transactions, evidenced by use of Amazon, PayPal and Ebay among others, but marketers should remember that many customers will not place an order without first speaking to a human being. Whilst those among us who have embraced all things digital may decry these people as luddites, to disregard this large section of the customer base because of their personal communication preference is at best short sighted.
The key to commercial success is therefore providing the customer with a choice in how they wish to interact with your company.
Causes of low FCR – external research
According to a survey conducted by Dimension Data in 2009, the top factor in low FCR was lack of access to customer information and systems data, followed by poor agent capabilities, cited by more than 60 percent of the respondents. Shortly behind that, 50 percent of all repeat calls are process- or training-driven—business processes are not in place to meet the customer’s needs, or agents have not been given the training required to meet the customer expectations that have been set by marketing or elsewhere in the business. In 2012, their findings still show advisor knowledge, communication skills and accessibility to team leaders as vital elements.
At dancing lion, our experience has been that business objectives and strategy supported by clear business rules, defined processes, easy to use technology and well-trained staff are key to ensuring customer satisfaction by resolving customer problems first time at FPOC.
Having competent and motivated staff, skilled in customer service and communication skills are a vital element in ensuring customer satisfaction.
You might be forgiven for thinking that customer service issues can be compartmentalised, minimised or even averted by simply shifting to some automated process on the internet, however for those hoping this solution is a shortcut to doing the necessary groundwork mentioned above, an automated system is not without its constraints. Should your system suffer a serious fault either through malicious activity or through external circumstances, poor customer service and a degraded customer experience is still likely. If the company has an over reliance on the automated system because it hasn’t made the investment in the fundamentals above, when disaster strikes it will be that much more difficult to respond to.
As stated above, whether you are measuring First Contact Resolution or First Call Resolution one of the best ways to answer customer queries at FPOC is to ensure that proper processes are in place and all staff are well trained. It is also important that on going staff development is encouraged to create a flexible workforce able to handle a variety of challenges.
A big thanks to everyone who attended the seminar. We look forward to hearing how much your business has changed since attending the seminar and applying your new skills!
As an extra special birthday treat Steve, dancing lion’s head, is jet setting off to the fragrant harbour AKA Hong Kong to deliver a two day seminar on successful competency framework; helping business plan for success and profit. The event hosted by UNI (United Network Intelligence) a major player in business education conference in the Asia Pacific is to take place over two days (between October 24 – 25) of intensive workshops and talks.
Here’s hoping he does not forget about the rest of us at Dancing Lion stuck in rainy old England.
Call Centres perform a variety of tasks ranging from providing expert support on IT and finance to outbound sales. For many contact centres a key measure of success lies in the amount of calls an agents makes or answers. It is for this reason that many call centres monitor an agents AHT as a measure of the productivity of staff. However, as experienced call centre managers know, this focus on AHT could be detrimental to the quality of services provided by the contact centre. Many call centres operate on a 0845 number which means that the customer is being billed for the call and in those instances AHT is a useful measure to monitor as the quicker the service is provided the less the customer pays. The biggest problem however is that not all customer enquiries are quickly resolved and in those instances where a contact centre places too much emphasis on AHT we can see a sharp decline in the service provided.
AHT assumes correctly that most customer want to be processed as quickly as possible; however there are many situations within a call centre whereby through either ethnicity, age, disability, or the complex nature of the customer’s circumstances, a customer requires the agent to take their time. It is in these situations, strict imposition of an AHT target damages the quality of service, as agents try to rush through a call in an attempt to adhere to AHT. It is important to differentiate between situations where the age of the customer suggests they might be better dealt with face to face and to provide an alternative method of resolving their enquiry (see are article on the internet), however this is not always best practice for every contact centre. An AHT target should not pressure the agent into simply fobbing of a client onto an alternative support network. Where possible, as a matter or service quality, the AHT target should be given leniency and especially where it is clear an agent is dealing with a difficult client in order to ensure service quality is kept.
Poor imposition of an AHT target also causes agents to develop bad habits on the phone. While a company can provide superb training programmes focusing on customer service quality, these can easily be disregarded when agents go live through focusing on a strict AHT target. As we mentioned before, a tight AHT target might force agent to cherry pick problems, ignoring vulnerable customers and choosing the ones that they know can be processed quickly. Too much emphasis on AHT also encourages bad practice such as cutting calls early and encouraging unnecessary transfers; to make matter worst heavy focus on AHT also has a tendency to cause agents to miss vital checks before performing actions on a customer’s account. The biggest problem here is that often these little problems causes more work for the call centre to handle while in the short term on paper the call centre seems to be doing well hitting all AHT targets and backing up its value to its client; in the long run the small scale errors caused by AHT pressure causes customers to call back more often and therefore does not really contribute to the effectiveness of the call centre. To make matter worse, there is no guarantee that a customer will receive the same agent which may leave the customer having to explain their issues again with their problems still unresolved. This obviously reflects very badly on your company’s image and contributes to a negative customer experience.
All organisations will have their own industry specific issues caused by over adherence to AHT. In the Financial Services sector, where a call centre is acting under the Data Protection Act 1998, processes like ID and A (Identity and Authorization) are vital to ensure the financial security of both customers and the business itself. Pressure on AHT is very likely to cause agents to miss out on telling signs of fraud and therefore fail to act on their suspicions and inform the correct authority within their organisations.
We have mentioned before the high attrition rate suffered by contact centres (see here). One of the key factors in reducing such stress in staff members is to ease off on the AHT target allowing staff to work at their own pace and naturally relieving some of the stress caused by AHT. Contact centre agents are mostly required to sound positive on calls when talking to customers. By alleviating some of the stress caused by AHT, managers will likely improve the manner in which the agents interact with customers. While this may sound unlikely initially, it is an association that can easily be tested as agents are monitored continuously via the contact centre platform. By keeping vigilant managers can ensure quality and service standards are reached whilst agents utilise a more pleasant working environment and abuses are prevented.
Does this mean there is no point in monitoring AHT? No, of course not, AHT represents one of the best ways to benchmark agent performance and a great indicator of call load at various times. It’s simplicity and accuracy ensures that it is an effective way to monitor the performance of a call centre. It is a key metric to consider for resourcing and workforce management that impacts directly on the profitability of a call centre. Quality measurements are also vital to ensure the result of each call and that the customers query was resolved satisfactorily; with the advent of cheaper storage and faster broadband storing reviewing the information required to evaluate call quality can now be easily achieved.