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Balancing quality with quantity

What quantifiable metrics do you suggest that a "true" customer care center use to measure a customer service representative's performance as well as the performance of the care center as a whole? We focus solely on building relationships through solving our customers questions, problems and concerns. While talk time, number of calls, etc. is not our focus, we are always concerned with number of calls in queue and how long those calls remain in queue. Where do we find our balance for measuring ourselves?
Since you focus on solving customer problems and questions, I will assume you are a service, not sales, oriented center. Understand that the metrics you would track would differ somewhat depending on the specifics of your product, size and service goals.

In general, I recommend you focus first on metrics that illustrate how accurately you are answering customer questions. This is indicated by the number of times a customer has to call to solve a specific problem. Determine how often customer problems and questions are properly addressed in the first contact. In a service-oriented center, the worst case situation is to put your customers through CSR Roulette where customers are calling multiple times, likely getting different agents each time and, disastrously, different answers.

Excellent answer times and short talk times per call mean nothing if the customers are not getting the information they need. This actually results in longer talk times per customer problem if the customer has to call repeatedly. Not to mention the impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Once you've determined how effectively you are handling customer calls, then begin looking at secondary metrics like time to answer, interaction time and calls in queue -- always keeping accuracy your first priority.

An analysis of number of times customers call on the same issue will be immediately productive because improvement in that area will reduce the total number of calls and positively impact all the secondary metrics. This analysis can be even more exact if you have a CRM system that can correlate the data.

If your center handles emails, you will want to understand how many interactions are required before a customer gets the information they are looking for. Ideally, your email management system supports capabilities like:

- Email Tracking - When a customer receives a response from an agent and then sends back a re-reply, the system can identify this and direct the re-reply to the agent that handled the original request. This helps ensure that there is consistency in the process between agent and customer.

- Email Escalation - When the system detects that a customer and an agent have gone through 2 or 3 interactions, then it is likely that the customer is either not receiving the proper information or does not understand it. So the email management system will escalate the email to a lead agent or supervisor.

The key to measuring how well you are doing as a "true" customer care center is built around understanding how effectively, not just how efficiently, your customers are being served.

For more information, check out searchCRM's Call Center/Customer Interaction Center Best Web Links.

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