Over the last 5 years, I have carried out 5 benchmark research into various aspects of how companies understand and interact with your customers. In each of them I have examined how companies monitor their performance, what measures they use, and the outcomes they are seeking. The results have been remarkably consistent – the number one tool has always been spreadsheets, the number one measure has always been average call handling time, and the number one targeted outcome has always been to improve customer satisfaction.
As I have dug into improving customer satisfaction, the question I ask myself is that although this seems like a laudable target, is it really? Let me give you an example; I would rate my satisfaction level with my bank as 100%. They have never messed up, they have kept up with the times by transitioning from telephone banking, to internet-based banking, to text message banking, and on the rare occasion I need to call the contact center then without using IVR, after 2 questions they recognize who I am and they have all the information needed to resolve my issues, normally during the first call. But as far as I can determine, they don’t make a penny out of me; money goes into my checking account and most of it flows out within 48 hours, and that is it. So I ask myself is this good business and what good is it to the bank to have me with a high customer satisfaction score. Especially in the current economic circumstances surely they and other companies must move on and change their key performance measures so they also relate to positive outcomes for the business.
This takes me back to the number one measure – average call handling time. This does indeed show how efficient agents are at handling calls and this of course relates directly back to the required number of agents and so to the cost of running a contact center. But how does it relate to customer satisfaction. Customers want their issues resolved and whether this take 10 seconds or 10 minutes isn’t nearly as important to them. Of course if it takes 10 minutes because the agent doesn’t know what they are doing or can’t access the right information, then the customer won’t be happy. So in the same way that companies need to review their targeted outcomes so they are more business-related, they also need to look for new measures that relate directly to those outcomes. One simple example is first call resolution rates which relate to agent efficiency but they also relate to customer satisfaction since customers are likely to be happier the more times their issue is resolved first time. A more complex example would be lifetime net value of a customer since this would show how much it is costing to achieve the targeted income from different customers.
This of course goes to the heart of the issue, which is how to produce these measures – and spreadsheets are not the answer! The good news is that there are now a large variety of products on the market that can deliver the answers and are a key part of what I call Customer Performance Management. These range from some of the larger enterprise BI vendors like MicroStrategy, Oracle and Teradata that have create analytics and templates to deliver customer-related information, to best-of-breed products like Enkata and Symmetrics that deliver information and metrics for customer and contact centers using structured data and from key applications, products like Genesys with their Informiam product that use real-time event data to analyze contact center performance , products like Clarabridge, Nexidia and ResponseTek, that are capable of analyzing voice recordings and text data sources to deliver more of the “voice of the customer” , and the very latest developments that can extract data from social networking sites and blend that in with other customer information like Overtone and SPSS.  What is not quite there yet is a vendor capable of producing the total 360-degree view though using any and every source of customer content, data and events, but with the rate of developments that day may be closer than we think.