Practical Perspectives…with Bill Kuipers

Q: What’s an acceptable call abandonment rate?

A: The industry average is about 2%-3% of calls received. Many companies have even lower abandonment rates. Conversely, some merchants with very specialized product lines can let their abandonment rate ride a little higher.

The industry has conditioned customers to expect their calls to be answered promptly. At a minimum, your abandon rate should be in the range of 3%-4%, and preferably lower. Yes, this will cost more to provide the necessary level of service, but in my view it is not an option.

A much more appropriate measurement of your performance (and guide for staffing) is service level and/or average speed of answer rather abandon rate. Service level is usually stated in terms of the percent of calls answered within X seconds; a typical standard is something in the range of 85% of calls answered within 20 seconds. This info is generally available from your automatic call distributor (ACD) reporting system. A similar metric is average speed of answer, where all calls are answered by a live operator within an average of X seconds (usually 15-20 seconds).

The trick to maintaining acceptable costs for an acceptable level of service is to fairly aggressively plan and manage your staffing levels, right down to the hour or half-hour of each day. Measure actual performance to determine actual average call times and after-call times, as well as the required amount of “idle” time required each hour so that the rep is available to take a call: You must have people signed on but not on calls available to answer the next call.

There is a real art to balancing occupancy with service levels and cost. There’s no question in my mind that the contact center is the hardest part of the business to manage and staff effectively–and it has the most immediate impact on your customer’s experience.

Bill Kuipers is president of Haskell, NJ-based operational consultancy Spaide, Kuipers & Co. (www.spaidekuipers.com) If you have a question for him, e-mail it to mark.delfranco@penton.com.

And if you want more tips on how to manage your contact center, be sure to subscribe to MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT/O+F’s new e-mail newsletter, the Contact Center Advisor at, www.multichannelmerchant.com/opsandfulfillment/contact_center_advisor

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Practical Perspectives….with Bill Kuipers

Q: I have a question about slotting. Is buying a software package necessarily the answer?

A. The clients I see doing the best job on slotting are simply using spreadsheets or basic reports from their own system. Focus and discipline are far more important than what software you use. The fanciest system in the world isn’t going to help at all if you don’t have dedicated staff reviewing and executing slot assignments on a constant basis. All you really need to get started is a report that shows you what locations have a capacity lower than X days’ demand for that SKU. It can be done on Excel.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t look into slotting software, but it’s even more important to first assign someone to it who will really dedicate himself to it and have enough resources to keep up with it. I am not recommending that you make that many changes–just the essential ones where the top items will have to be constantly replenished.

Like everything else in life, execution is more important than anything else.

Have a question for Bill Kuipers, president of Haskell, NJ-based operational consultancy Spaide, Kuipers & Co. (www.spaidekuipers.com)? If so, send it to mark.delfranco@penton.com.

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