Customer concerns come first, so let’s begin with some of the metrics associated with how we define service to the caller.
Blockage is an accessibility measure that indicates what percentage of customers will not be able to access the center at a given time due to insufficient network facilities in place. Measures indicating blockage (busy signals) by time of day or occurrences of “all trunks busy” situations are utilized by most centers.
Failure to include a blockage goal allows a center to always meet its speed of answer goal by simply blocking the excess calls. This can have a negative effect on customer accessibility and satisfaction while the call center looks like it is doing a great job in terms of managing the queue.
The contact center must also carefully determine the number of facilities needed in terms of both bandwidth and email server capacity to ensure that large quantities of emails do not overload the system. While this provisioning is typically monitored by the IT or telecom department and not by the contact center, it should still be a measure that is reviewed regularly to make sure callers are not being turned away at the front door.
Call centers measure the number of abandons as well as the abandon rate since both correlate with retention and revenues.
It should be noted, however, that abandon rate is not entirely under the call center’s control. While abandons are affected by the average wait time in queue (which can be controlled by the call center), there are a multitude of other factors that influence this number, such as individual caller tolerance, time of day, availability of service alternatives, and so on.
Abandon rate is not typically a measure associated with email communications, since the email does not abandon the “queue” once it has been sent, but it does apply to web chat interactions.
More and more contacts are being off-loaded today from call center agents to self-service alternatives. In the call center, self-service utilization is an important gauge of accessibility and is typically measured as an overall number, by self-service methodology and menu points, and by time of day or by demographic group.
In the contact center, self-service utilization should also be tracked. In cases of Web chat, automated alternatives such as FAQs or use of help functions can reduce the requirement for the live interaction with a Web chat agent.
Service level, the percentage of calls that are answered in a defined wait threshold, is the most common speed of answer measure in the call center. It is most commonly stated as x percent of calls handled in y seconds or less, while average speed of answer (ASA) represents the average wait time of all calls in the period.
In the contact center, speed of answer for Web chat should also be measured and reported with a service level or ASA number. Many centers measure for both initial response as well as the back-and-forth times, since having too many open web chat sessions can slow the expected response time once an interaction has begun.
The speed of answer for email transactions on the other hand is defined as a “response time” and may be depicted in terms of hours or even days, rather than in seconds or minutes of elapsed time.
Summary of service measures
The most critical of these availability and speed of service measures is the service level number and it’s worthwhile to note here that this metric has evolved in recent years to provide a more practical, realistic view of the service being delivered to callers.
Traditionally, service level (or ASA) was measured and reported as a average number – typically an average number for the day. However, there are many problems with this measurement approach. Since most contact centers have peaks and valleys of calls throughout the day, the service level from one period to the next can vary greatly. The overstaffed periods of the day generate a very high service level, while understaffed periods have very low numbers. The end result is an average for the day that may come close to the goal, but a number that does not reflect the actual picture of service for the day.
Overstaffing results in needless expense for staff and low productivity, while understaffing means long delays, overworked staff, and higher costs and the measure of service for the day needs to be one that reflects this service better than just the average for day (or worse, average for the week or month).
A better approach for measuring service level is to have a measure that notes the number of periods of the day where service level was acceptable. If the goal is 80% in 30 seconds, then a reasonable measure may be to look at the number of half-hour periods of the day that were between 75% and 85%.
This measure provides more of a view of the consistency of service being delivered, which in turn affects customer perceptions, employee workload, and bottom-line efficiency and cost.