In contact centers where inbound customer issues and queries are expected to be answered during a single interaction, there is arguably no more important KPI than SERVICE LEVEL. Is that a surprise?
It shouldn’t be. Service level, simply put, is the percentage of inbound customer contacts answered within X number of seconds. Many contractual Service Level Agreements (SLA) or mandated governmental minimums are usually around 80% in 30 seconds, 90% in 30 seconds, and so on. But the “stretch goal” for many organizations in their call centers or omni-channel contact centers might be 80% in 20 seconds, or 80/20.
If you ever called your cable/internet provider or your health insurer, you are probably thinking that getting someone to “pick up” in 20 seconds is a dream. Rest assured, there are companies out there who do engage with the caller in 20 seconds or less. The organizations who can respond to the customer in 20 seconds or less and do it most (80%) of the time are usually considered to be Best-In-Class by their customers and competitors based upon customer satisfaction data.
So how do those Best-In-Class do it? What is in the secret sauce? Do they have endless supplies of cash to afford this kind of service level?
To answer these questions, let’s start with staffing. It’s the basis of customer service. If you do not have the right number of staff to begin with, your customers will be waiting in the queue. To determine the right number of people for each queue, you need to take into consideration:
- number of contacts received during each time interval (hour or half hour)
- the duration of each interaction including wrap up work
- the fact that every person does not work every hour with customers on every day of the year
We need to account for things like 15-minute breaks, training, coaching, vacation, jury duty, illness, and so on. All of this time spent NOT working with inbound customer issues is considered to be “labor shrinkage.” You can plug all of these factors into any Workforce Optimization (WFO) tool that is out there.
Once you have spent at least 90 days recruiting the people who you think can do the job, you need to train them on the company’s products, policies and procedures. This can be done with a trainer in a classroom with PowerPoint slides, binders and other aides. Some of this training can also be done by individuals remotely and online. In fact, many organizations have matriculated up to utilizing Process Guidance tools in the training environment, reducing the time-to-competency. Those same tools are then in use on the agent’s desk top.
After the recruits have been trained, undergone a nesting period, and have passed all assessments, they are ready to go, right? What about technology? How does that affect the contact center 80/20?
In a perfect world, if the call channel aspect of the omni-channel contact center is equipped with Skills-based Routing (SBR), and assuming that the caller has pressed or spoken the correct selection, the call should arrive to the appropriate queue where the trained agents are ready and willing to answer 80% of the calls within 20 seconds. This assumes that (1) the queue is adequately staffed based upon the modelling done with your WFO application, (2) the agents have in fact been adequately trained and coached, and (3) the agents have the right technology on their desk tops to efficiently and effectively answer the customer questions. If any one of these three assumptions are inconsistent or lacking, 80/20 will not be easily attained. Those are some big “If’s”:
- If the quantity of staff working the phone queue is inadequate, customers will remain on hold (or hang up).
- If the staff were not properly trained or coached on a perpetual basis, the resolution of each call could take longer than assumed in the WFO model.
- If the agents do not have a guidance tool on their desk tops, callers may be placed on hold while answers are being sought or, worse, the caller may have to be transferred or escalated to another queue of experts, keeping newer callers still waiting in the queue.
The right mix of staffing, training and technology makes all the difference when it comes to achieving 80/20!Those of us who have been in the customer experience business for a long time understand that you cannot substitute recruiting great people, providing them with great training, and then giving them the tools to do their jobs with just adding more people to answer the phones. Buying and using the WFO and SBR tools is just not enough. Adding more and more people to answer the phones does not align well with already diminishing profit margins. Additionally, we also cannot cut corners, demanding that the agents simply cut the calls shorter. We are all accountable for quality and customer satisfaction and retention.
To summarize, getting to 80/20 will get you closer to Best-In-Class. Being Best-In-Class will grow your business.
Written by Peter Lore, Business Solutions Advisor at Panviva. Peter brings more than 20 years in customer service experience to Panviva, with an emphasis on healthcare providers. Peter understands and advocates the right solutions to provide the highest level of service to our customers.