call center forecasting

5 Essential Metrics Making Call Centers Successful

The abundance of information we are experiencing in society actually makes it hard to winnow what’s useful and important from what’s not. Thanks to call centers. They keep fetching a vast range of data through calls. However, some of that proves helpful in finding out what will improve their service quality for better customer satisfaction.

Five key benchmarks for information processing were identified in a study conducted by a group – ICMI, top-performing contact centers and top industry stakeholders. The benchmarks were:

1. First call resolution

First call resolution (FCR) is a KPI that has better customer satisfaction compared to any other. A research study for customer contact says that with 1% FCR improvement, there is 1% hike in consumer satisfaction. Figures quoted from a study on 150 call centers find that call centers with high consumer satisfaction had an average FCR of 86%, while poorly performing call centers averaged 67%.

Contact centers with high FCR also enjoy low operating expenditure, lower rate of customer abandonment and reduced employee attrition.

2. Average Response time

Response time and service levels are essential parameters that remain fundamental to managing a contact center and its consumer experience effectively. The two parameters gauge the accessibility for customers, the number of agents required for efficient service, and how the center fares amidst competitors.

To establish and assess objectives of response time and service level, the vital point is not just how high the overall mentioned objectives are, but the consistency with which those objectives are met by the contact center.

Solid performance or accessibility does not guarantee customer delight or quality. Poor quality is one metric that has to be carefully understood by the center to ensure consumer loyalty.

3. Adherence to schedule

Companies can measure the total hours an agent has logged in during the shift and for how long the person was available to handle contacts. For most centers, schedule compliance stands between 85-90%, which means each agent should ideally be available for 54 minutes per hour on system to handle contacts.

Adherence applies to the time used to interact with customers as well as the after-call work time. During the after-call time, employees are expected to use it for desk work, essential outbound calls and wait for fresh calls to arrive. Adherence applies to all three. It has been more significant with call centers learning to focus on relevant and important matters while testing employees on what they can control. Earlier, average call time and calls in an hour were the main performance metrics, but centers now understand better.

Adherence, employee vigilance and use of technology are multiple but equally important facets of call-center management. It therefore requires the supervisors to depend on micro-management.

ICMI recommends good adherence practices that are non-intrusive:

  • Familiarize every agent with the need to satisfy customers in optimal time so that others don’t have to wait painstakingly in queue.
  • Establish prudent objectives around response time and the service level that is known, accepted and understood by all.
  • Explain the vital steps of resource planning to agents so that they understand the production process of schedules.

4. Forecast accuracy

It is the ratio of forecasted contact load to actual contact load. The ratio, observed over a particular period, may be used as a percentage. It is a high-level and critical objective in all call centers.

Workforce management spreadsheets are used to forecast call load, while actual load gets tracked by using ACD, email, workforce management systems, web servers and several other data resources available.

5. Accessibility to self service

Most contact centers have adopted the option of deflecting agent queue to interactive web processes and IVR. It helps enhance service efficiency, and thus also cuts costs. It also helps agents to use their skills for assisting customers facing complex issues. Certain contact centers lure customers to self-service but totally miss treating them with the relevant features.

Many call centers conduct surveys on customer experience after a self-service and gather feedback. Surveys surely are good methods to understand how customers feel about self-service metrics, even though it is not the most definitive or proactive mode of measuring the self-service option.

Call centers simply can’t ignore the metrics they embrace, as they impact their customer experience. However, every metric is not a totally customer-centric one. One needs considering the business needs and operations costs, as strictly focusing on productivity metrics and primarily running as a cost center does not work any longer. By using these metrics, contact centers will definitely meet high customer satisfaction and help the center to become a high-performing, efficient and progressive business unit.

Author Bio:

Abhishek Jain, a veteran industry expert working with a prestigious outsourcing contact center service, has been writing about industry technologies and their positive effects on organizations. Abhishek started out his career as a customer support executive, marking his entry in the customer service industry. He has a rewarding experience of working in various BPO industry processes for more than 10 years.  Abhishek’s unique passion for providing useful tips and information for customer engagement and customer experience reflects in his articles.

When is it Time to Ditch the Old Contact Center Forecast?

This blog is contributed by Ric Kosiba, Interactive Intelligence

My last post discussed the attributes of a good contact center resource plan. We hinted at another aspect of contact center planning—that it truly is itself a process—and I wanted to elaborate here. In the 1990’s, a company would put together a plan and a budget for January and use it to restrict all additional resources and spending for the next twelve months– which is why “The Budget” was so important.

Over the last 10 years businesses have recognized that as operations change, business resourcing might also change. But the question we have to ask is when does an operation change so much that it is time to alter the previously sacrosanct budget?

The short answer is this: you alter the operational plan when it becomes too risky or too costly not to. But how do contact center planners know it is time?

Here are some guidelines for evaluating when it is time to change your forecasts:

  1. Monitor the plan for variance: Important performance drivers change, and it is up to the contact center planners to monitor and determine how much the real-world varies from the “planned-world”. Items to monitor include contact volumes, handle times, agent attrition, agent sick time, outbound contact rates, sales or payment rates, and customer experience scores.
  2. Determine the impact of the variance to the network’s performance: It is important to determine whether the variance is significant. Sensitivity analysis graphs are perfect for this. These graphs show the relationship between a performance driver and performance. For instance, it would make sense to plot volumes (if there is volume variance) against service level. If the volume difference takes the company far from its goals, then something needs to change. Simulation modeling is great for providing variance graphs.
  3. Reforecast and determine the range of “possibilities”: When important metrics, like call volumes, start to vary from the forecast it means that something is changing in the real world affecting that metric (it doesn’t always mean “the forecast is off”). New forecasts can be developed, but given that the particular metric is changing, it also makes sense to put bounds around the possible changes associated with that metric. Confidence levels might help determine “the possibilities”.
  4. Determine the effects of different management responses: Significant variance to performance drivers requires a management response. Executives should be shown, via an operational simulation model, the effect of the possible alternative resource decisions. If we assume the forecasts will come back into the “normal”, but they don’t, what will be the service performance? If we decide to staff for the worst-case scenario, what will be the costs if forecasts do come back into line? These are possibilities because, well, the future is hard to predict!
  5. Choose the resourcing decision that is appropriate for your company’s risk tolerance: Is your company focused on costs? Service delivery? Revenues? Choose the resource plan and forecast assumption that minimizes your operational risk.

We are excited about this year’s educational webinar series titled, Contact Center Forecasting, Planning, and What-if Analyses. We’ll discuss the forecasting and operational risk in more detail, along with tips and tricks about how to put together a great plan. Please feel free to join us for our first webcast on February 24th.