Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Business of Call Center Reporting

The results of a recent call center survey, “Merchants Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report 2005“ proves what many have suspected for years; our patience is wearing thin. Dimension Data’s recent report clearly highlights that more and more of us are choosing to hang up rather than wait for an agent to take our calls. For the third year in a row, the rate of abandoned calls has reached a new high: 13.3% of all calls placed never reach an agent. Appears agents are not being added to keep up with the increasing volume of calls.

Not surprising when you consider that at the same time, almost half of the call centers surveyed report that cost savings is a major focus of management. Seems that in the battle for cost savings versus service quality, cost savings is winning. Perhaps this singular focus on cost savings within the call center is simply a logical outcome of the data provided to the managers upon which decision are based.

Take a look at the content in the ACD reports supplied to the managers of a call center. In them will be found numbers indicating peaks, valleys, totals and averages for things like speed of answer, call arrival rates, talk times, abandon rates and hours worked; all valuable data that illustrates how efficient the call center staff is at taking and completing calls. Also included in these reports are figures indicating the cost of the staffing the call center for the reporting period.

While these reports are great for the managers overseeing the work of the agents, from a business perspective, these reports provide a very myopic view of the outcome of the work performed. An ACD report in the hands of a P & L owner represents a guide to where a lot of money is being spent. In other words, the call center represents a very big “L”. When a P & L owner is being asked to find ways of reducing costs and the ACD report appears, is it any wonder that reducing the number of agents appears to be a great way to achieve the goal with a minimum of impact. When you realize that 60-70% of the cost of operating a call center is personnel related, reducing staff is an easy solution. It’s also the worst when made based on ACD data alone.

The better decision starts with the call center implementing reporting tools that capture effectiveness data alongside the efficiency data. Effectiveness data measures the outcome of each call; was anything sold, how much, to whom, based on what incentive, is the problem resolved. These types of data points mapped against the individual agents can provide terrific insights into the customer base as well as the real agent skills. Effectiveness data allows the business to measure the impact of changes in service against changes in customer behavior.

Effectiveness reporting requires a system through which the raw data can be captured, stored and indexed as well as a system through which the data can be analyzed. Unfortunately, current ACD systems are not equipped to capture the necessary data elements much less analyze the captured data.

Not to worry. Today, there are software solutions from a handful of vendors that can provide true effectiveness reporting. These solutions capture the necessary data to highlight relationships between service delivery changes and customer behavior changes.

The results of implementing effectiveness reporting can be profound. Which customers are receptive to up-sell and cross-sell offerings? Which customers will increase their purchase if the agent spends a couple of extra minutes describing add-on extras? Which agents are better able to sell to which segment of the customer base? Which customers are willing to accept help from an agent when having trouble with a self-service system like an IVR or web site?

When effectiveness reporting is combined with traditional efficiency reporting, the business then has the information it needs to make truly intelligent business decisions.

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