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Customer Service Should Be More than a Transaction

Contact center operations have traditionally been based on managing transactions. The proof is in the disconnected key performance indicators (KPIs) and the way they’re used to evaluate contact center vendors.

Take, for example, Average Handle Time (AHT) and First Contact Resolution (FCR). The first is based on speed, the second on solving the customer’s issue during their first contact with customer service. Both are focused on cost reduction based on the combination of less time spent and lower volume of repeat calls. However, these metrics can be directly opposed depending upon the complexity of the issue for the customer.

Additional evidence of a transactional approach includes the scripts and processes that communication service providers (CSPs) provide to contact center vendors. If the CSP contracts for a certain number of calls at an average length of time per call (5M calls at 8 minutes each, for example), they try to manage to those numbers by providing the vendors with tasks to do to achieve the outcome.

In essence, this transactional approach to customer service renders vendors as commodities, discounting their expertise and precluding a partnership that brings additional value beyond the terms in the contract. As such, there’s no incentive for the vendor to do much beyond take the call volumes the CSPs contract them to handle—even if the scripts and processes provided don’t help to satisfactorily resolve the customer’s issue.

Where in any of this transactional operations approach is the customer? The customer is simply the recipient of a transaction designed to be operationally efficient first; satisfying runs a distant second.

Counterintuitive Approaches Improve Customer Experience

What if, instead, the contact center provider was invited to improve upon the scripts and processes and was evaluated against the overall outcome, rather than by disconnected KPIs that don’t take customers into account?

Here is one example of how to allow your contact center vendor’s expertise to shine—to your benefit, as well as your customers’:

  • Conduct a survey to evaluate customer effort scores.
  • An audit of calls for dis-satisfiers can identify which call types result in more expenditure of effort for the customer.
  • Root causes can be identified by applying customer analytics to call data.
  • By working with your vendor, new processes can be developed to make agents more effective during calls, lowering customer effort and increasing CSAT.
  • While the calls may take longer, increasing AHT, repeat call volume will decrease. Using the example above, if the contract is for 5M calls at 8 minutes each, but the reality becomes 4M calls at 10 minutes each, the total minutes used and paid for is the same.
  • But the outcome from the customer’s experience is transformed. The result of lowering customer effort will translate to an improvement in CSAT and, likely, a bump in your Net Promoter Score (NPS).
  • By incentivizing your contact center vendor to do the right things for your customers, they will take up the challenge to equalize their margins through process improvements and efficient management, given the lower call volume. The vendor can also help you to develop and implement new programs, such as sales through service, creating knowledgebase content, and community management. The results include lengthening customer lifecycles, increasing share of wallet, advocacy, and loyalty.

Your contact center vendor has the expertise to become a strategic partner, if you invite their participation. Rather than trying to shave pennies off transactions, seeking opportunities for continuous improvement that may be counterintuitive can produce tangible outcomes that put your customers first. If you continue to treat a service call as a transaction, you’re doing your company a disservice—as well as your customers.