Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Holy Twitterfeed Batman- How do we manage Social Media in our Call Center?

Social media exposure doesn’t equal success. I know this may sound like heresy to some, but the facts speak for themselves. One of the most successful ads in recent history; Old Spices’ “The Man, Your Man could Smell Like” has racked up impressive social media numbers 94 million YouTube views. 630,000 fans on Facebook and an estimated 1 billion aggregate impressions in one week according to Fast Company. However sales of the product the ad promotes is actually down 7% according to SymphonyIRI . So as Carla Peller said in the most famous ad of its time “Where’s the Beef”? It is interesting to note that while the campaign was very popular “Where’s the Beef” didn’t equate to more sales for Wendy’s either.
So we have a dichotomy, popularity doesn’t equal success in either the current social media age any better than it did thirty-five years ago in the pre-social (anti-social?) media age. The inverse is also similarly true; being unpopular doesn’t mean you will fail. Often there is a small cadre of unhappy folks who can and frequently do spend all their time blogging, tweeting and posting about the object of their hearts distain (can you say wireless or cable providers?) The simple mass of negative POV doesn’t in and of itself doesn’t cause a company to fail. Observers will quickly note that it is the same individuals making the disparaging remarks. There is likely some version of the Pareto principle at work here, where 80% or some other similar number of total complaints originates with 20% of customers or users.
Being popular or liked isn’t the same as being trusted or respected. This difference will drive the next generation of social media overlaying trust and respect on top being known, liked or popular. It will be interesting to see the results of the Fast Company Influence Project which is underway now to see who the most influential person is on the Internet. This project is still underway but to date there are almost 20,000 people registered for the project. I am curious to see if this really does inform us as to who is influential or if it simply becomes a popularity contest.
Regardless of whether we are talking about influence, trust or popularity there is a lot of content flowing by us in social media channels and some of it will mention our company name and our products and services. There will be kudos and many more complaints and critiques.
So what does this mean to the operator of a call or contact center? At minimum it may be time to take your head out of the media is real and your customers are using it. Where your choices are to ignore what they are saying or trying to figure out how to monitor it, there really isn’t a choice. We must listen. The first task in integrating social media into your contact center is to define your role and mission. We have to concede that there is no way we can look, listen to or respond to all social media channels for mentions of our companies, there are simply too many channels and too much content. Sturgeons Law which says that “90% of everything is crap” (or crud, if you prefer) is in play here. Much of what passes for content is self promotion.
Given the volume of content and the inability to respond to all of it an organization must limit themselves to what they can do consistently. The most common model is to establish a ‘listening post’ to ‘listen’ to the social media dialogue. This involves searching on Facebook, Twitter and Google for references to you company and products and on-going monitoring for future references. Some companies endeavour to try to respond to each individual post, tweet or comment. While this is a noble ambition it is often doomed by the speed of growth of social media channels and users and the absence of tools. We recommend that in place of 100% individual response to each comment or post you strive to ensure that you have visibility to those who have complained...follow them on Twitter, add them to a customer list and send list messages with the call center toll free number and/or send an direct response asking them to phone the call center, post a response to the question or comment if it is found in forum, LinkedIn or similar, send them a friend request and write on their wall on Facebook. In addition by developing tweets, posts and links that address frequent customer service questions and that include the call center toll free number the time to complete each response can be significantly reduced.
Simply by doing the above you will gain so valuable knowledge regarding the number of negative statements that are distributed through social media, they types and nature of the complaints, insight into your own 80/20 of complainants, and you will have established a presence within the social media milieu.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

First 30 days for new Call Center Manager

As a call center consultant when I meet or speak to somone who has just been given the job of Call Center Manager, my response is always the same, "Congratulations or condolenses on your promotion, whichever you feel is more appropriate". Seriously, managing a call center can be one of the hardest jobs in the world.

So what can the new manager do in the first month to dramatically improve their chances for success? In this post we examine the critical steps in brief.

Many centers were not designed, but rather evolved over time without a masterplan or a strategy. Often these same centers have not applied rigor to the process of staff selection nor staff promotion. The result can be a center where the single biggest asset and indicator of operational success, the ability to manage, being absent. This can make the job of the manager very difficult indeed.

So job one is to assess your supervisory and leadership staff compare their skills and capabilities and contrast these with the job functions and activities. Once you have completed the assessment and know which or your line staff can complete their duties, you can look at the actual operation of the center.

Once you have completed the above you can then begin to examine the operations. This is done by examining the 'thousand moving parts' of any call or contact center and 'bucketing' these elements under:
People.- Recruiting, hiring, career path, quality, rewards & Recognition
Process- Map all processes in the center as well as those that begin or end elsewhere
Technology- Assess the capabilities of the technology to optimize processes- are there better technology fits
Methodology- what you measure, KPI's etc as well as what you do with them.

With your results in hand ask yourself-Are our proceses causing us to fail and Is the call center aligned to support our corporate objectives. The answers to these questions will help you to focus your attention over the next weeks and months.

If you complete the above exercises you will be well equipped to manage you center moving forward.

Monday, July 26, 2010

New Center Manager - toughest job there is

Congratulations or condolenses on your promotion, whichever you feel is more appropriate. Seriously managing a call center can be one of the hardest jobs in the world. Many centers were not designed, but rather evolved over time without a masterplan or a strategy. Often these same centers have not applied rigor to the process of staff selection nor staff promotion. The result can be a center where the single biggest asset and indicator of operational success, the ability to manage, being absent. This can make the job of the manager very difficult indeed.

So job one is to assess your supervisory and leadership staff compare their skills and capabilities and contrast these with the job functions and activities. Once you have completed the assessment and know which or your line staff can complete their duties, you can look at the actual operation of the center.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Video Case Studies

Long before my career in call center consulting and call center operations and management I took Radio and Teleivsion in college, but never worked a day in this field, so using youtube is the closest I have come.
Video may have killed the radio star according to the Buggles, but we will see how video treats call center consultants. Taylor Reach has just posted our first video case studies on youtube, Part 1 is found here and you can view Part 2 of this case study interview with Carla Kearns of Summerhill Group and Colin Taylor here discussing the Retire Your Ride automotive recycling program. We will be working hard to create one new video case study each month and well as producing videos which will help educate and inform our audience.

Please share your ideas regarding video topics and suggestions by emailing Colin Taylor at

Monday, July 19, 2010

What is Poor Service Costing your Call Center?

Anyone that operates as a call center consulting firm has heard this question before: what is the cost of poor service to my organization? According to recent research the answer may be $243. Is one call, email or chat in your center worth $243? That’s the cost that a Greenfield/Ovum study found in a 16 country survey completed last December. $243 is the average value of a lost relationship based upon the 8,800 consumers surveyed. Where do these lost relationships go you might ask? According to the survey 63% of relationships are lost to competitors while 37% are abandoned completely.

We know inherently that there is a cost to poor service, but it has been difficult to pin down. Of course this is a survey and is still not specific enough to each of our businesses or companies, but it is yet another data point. To get a sense of how appropriate this figure is to your organization, look at this figure ($243) and compare it to your own estimate of Lifetime Value (the amount of money a customer is expected to spend with your company over his/her life), if your Lifetime Value is higher than $243, then the $243 figure may be on the low side. Regardless of your actual cost and whether or not you can pin it down to the penny, it is a significant figure.

You as a call center operator can influence this cost. In fact you can look at the call center’s role as protecting hundreds of thousands or even millions of these $243 relationships. The call center is the front line. This is where the rubber meets the road. Customers call and email and chat and write letters because they want and or need your help. On each and every contact your agents are the company to the customers. These agents are the individuals who are guarding the bank $243 at a time. Are you treating each call or contact with center as if it could be worth $243 to the company?

Probably not, few organizations are. Call centers are designed to efficiently manage a number of call and contact types that are recurring and similar. When handling these types of contacts the center generally does well and meets the customers’ expectations. For many center the problems do not lie with the 95% of calls or contacts that reflect their common contact types, but is with the 5% that are infrequent, unusual or complex. We know customers can be fickle and we know that even if the `customer isn`t always right, they are always the customer`. We cannot please 100% of any population. We inherently know this but if the majority of our customer churn occurs in 5% of our contacts then the price we need to attach to these calls/contacts maybe far higher than the $243 price tag. While I do not have empirical data to support this point of view I do have 30 plus years experience in operating and managing contact centers.

The key to addressing this 5% problem is to fully understand the problem or situation or in the absence of experience with any particular problem to have the processes in place to ensure that these inquiries are addressed rapidly, completely and communicated to the customer. These processes include escalation and root cause analysis. By ensuring that a defined escalation process is in place the company gains an opportunity to listen to the customer, confirm that their situation is not simply another retelling of an existing call type told from a different perspective and to probe to fully understand the situation. Once the situation or problem is completely understood a solution can be sought. This solution often is found through a detailed root cause analysis to drill down through the customer’s experience of the product or service to identify the underlying issue(s) that have created or allowed this situation to be created.

Of course poor service costs companies millions of dollars annually, by ensuring that your center has ‘bullet-proof’ escalation processes and employs root cause analysis you can go a long way to protect your customer relationships and succeed on those $243 calls.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sturgeons Law, Customer Service and Twitter

Sturgeons Law or revelation states that 90% of everything is crap. Now there is some debate as to whether he was speaking just about Science Fiction (he was a sci fi author) or literally about everything. Regardless of his target this quote first made in 1951 seems incredibly prophetic today when considering social media.

I have dipped my toe in this ‘pond’ and have found the law to be correct; 90% of everything on the net and on social media is in fact crap. I mean really, who cares what you or I for that matter, had for breakfast? The social media ‘pond’ is incredibly wide, but disturbingly shallow. To explore this premise I first looked at Twitter, life in 140 characters.

A review of the Twitter clickstream reveals congratulations to the Jonas brothers Mothers birthday for giving birth, a retweet of a link to Lance Armstrong’s crash at the Tour de France, homage to Harvey Pekar (a cartoonist) and Steve Nash’s goodbye to a former Suns teammate. Perhaps the clickstream is too broad to really mine any great value from this social media channel.

Drilling down to search just customer service on Twitter helps to demonstrate this fact...of more than 200 tweets under the topic of customer service revealed perhaps a surprising result;

more than a third of all tweets in the search were job postings to hire customer service staff, 19% were posts of a promotional my posts, buy my services etc, 16% were ‘darts’ of tweets saying that company XYZ has terrible customer service (it is interesting to note the only repeated company was AT&T), 12% were ‘How to Guides’ for social media and/or customer service (many of these could also have been categorized as promotional, they just don’t appear to be gratuitous, 10% were Kudos to companies with good or great service tied to a specific event, 6% were mundane observations; on my break watching the customers in line, hoping they will be gone before my break ends etc, and lastly 4%of the tweets were actually focused on customer service via twitter; company XYZ suggests that @colinsataylor calls our call center at 1-877-XXX-XXXX so we can resolve your problem. For all the talk, chatter and blathering about leveraging social media to support your customer service a remarkably small number of companies actually appear to be doing so.

Sturgeons’ Law is really akin to the Pareto principal, better known as the 80/20 rule that says that 80% of you Revenues come from 20% of your customers. We know that the 80/20 split is arbitrary but there is a number for most companies that will reflect something close to this ratio. Sturgeons’’ Law is an arbitrary number also and in some situations the content that is not crap may be more than 10%. In my small study if we remove the Jobs, gratuitous promotion, ‘How to’ guides and the mundane observations we are left with kudos, darts and actual Customer Service activities totalling 30%. If we examine only the actionable opportunities; the darts and true requests for Customer Service the number drops to 20%. In this case it appears that only 80% of everything on twitter is crap.

So, how are we to employ Twitter in our call centers to improve our customer service? I suggest it is by looking at the 20% cited above that is not crap. Too many companies and individuals simply employ Twitter as a ‘broadcast’ media, that is to say they simple write a promotion message and keep tweeting it, over and over. This would be the majority of the Promotional and at least half of the Educational Tweets cited in my mini study above or fully 25% of all tweets reviewed. The constraint of 140 characters regardless of how small your tinyurl is can be little more than “trust me I can help you, tweet call or email me”. If instead of trying to cram a promotional broadcast message into such a small space we are better to try and find out the problems, pains and challenges that need solving. To do this on Twitter as in life we need to listen. For my money the best application for Twitter in a customer service call center is as a listening post. By monitoring the clickstream and identifying the 16% of dissatisfied customers and reaching out to them, you may be able to help them resolve their issues. Please direct those needing assistance to the call center, don’t try to deliver service via Twitter. If we can help a customer or prospect resolve their issue, not only will they stop slinging ‘darts’ they may actually provide positive word of mouth and even kudos via Twitter and other social media channels. At the end of day Sturgeon is right and most of everything is crap. If we ignore the crap and listen to our customers, try to help those throwing darts, retweet those sharing kudos and direct those actively seeking support we will have done our part to assist these customers but also to support our companies and brands.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Measuring FCR in your Call Center

FCR is a popular topic we see on our call center consulting engagements.
Yesterday’s post dealt with the cost of ineffective call or contact resolution, citing an 80% First Contact Resolution (FCR) rate will add 25% to your average cost per contact and the importance of budgeting accurately to reflect the actual costs. In today’s post I wanted to examine a number of ways that FCR is measured in call centers and risks, benefits and various ‘gremlins’ that can influence the accuracy of your FCR statistics and present some ideas to help address or mitigate these issues.

Increasingly pundits and call center consultants like ourselves are promoting the use of FCR as the most valuable metrics for call center operations. It is difficult to argue against FCR as the perfect measure. On the surface it looks easy. We know customers and prospects are calling us to do something (pay a bill, order a product, get technical help etc.). Studies have consistently shown that when people get what they want, they are happier than when they do not.

For the time being let’s put aside the fact that successfully resolving an inquiry may not give the customer what they want: I want a refund says the customer and we quote David Spade in those old Capital One TV ads and say ‘No’. But FCR should be measuring whether the contact; call, inquiry was resolved, not whether the customer liked the resolution.

It can be challenging to measure FCR in a contact center environment. If you ask ten people how they do it you will hear a number of different responses. Some of the measurement approaches we have heard of include:

• Telephone Call Detail based – If the customer calls back within ‘X’ hours/days (48 hours, 72 hours 1 week), so the theory goes then we did not resolve the customers issue.
• IVR Survey based – What could be better than offering customers the ability to tell us how we did by offering them a post call survey.
• Agent based – The agent asks the customer if they have resolved the customers issue and this is then entered into the CRM or similar system.

Each of these approaches has benefits and potential risks or shortcomings. For example the Telephone Call Detail approach has the benefit of presenting a black and white picture of FCR. Once you have accepted the time window associated and accept the premise that the customer could have no other reason for calling again then the results have a good level of consistency.

Of course there may be reasons for the customer to call back: they ordered the wrong size, provided the wrong ship to address, received a new bill in the mail, have a second account with different issues etc. In the absence of robust analytics to provide a high level of data interrogation most centers will end up with a level of ‘false negatives’. That is to say that they will identify calls as not resolved when in fact the subsequent contact could be unrelated. This will mean a lower FCR score than they may actually be the case.

In contrast the Agent based approach of asking the customer if their inquiry was resolved before ending the original call, can also result in “false positives’. All of us who have worked as agents or with agents knows that there is a different perspective when speaking with a customer versus listening to the call or being the customer. The agents may ask the customer the question “Have I fully resolved your Inquiry” or something similar or they may not. The agent may simply check the box thinking that they asked the question or because they provided the appropriate response from the knowledgebase, so it must be resolved, right? Of course if the customer sounds unhappy or rushed the agent may choose to answer on the customers behalf etc. All of these scenarios will result in ‘false positives’ that is to say reporting that will indicate a higher FCR rate than likely exists.

One of the most prevalent solutions these days is the IVR survey, which in most cases 3 to 5 questions dealing with the call, as well as with overall satisfaction or net promoter etc. On the surface it appears to be a valid approach. What could be better than asking the customer? But depending on how it is deployed: by the agent seeking consent or before the agent answers the call by the IVR, you can have significant problems.

First as we looked at above the agents will not always offer the survey…in short they will or could play a triage role in limiting who gets into the IVR. Second if the caller agrees to participate before the call is directed to an agent, they may change their mind based on what happens with the call. Consumers and customers will ‘self-select’ whether or not to participate in any survey. If they believe it will help them they often participate, if there is little perceived value then they often will not participate. In consulting projects we have seen customers who ‘believe’ that their problem was resolved and are satisfied with the resolution they participate at a far lower rate than those who feel it was not resolved or who did not like the resolution. This illustration of ‘vested self interest’ can skew the results and reflect a lower FCR than actually exists.

Regardless of which of the above solutions is employed there are some other relevant issues that will influence the FCR reported. For example the customer believes or is promised that they will receive a credit, but that doesn’t appear on their next bill. In this case the customer and even the agent may believe the original contact was fully resolved, but it wasn’t. The same will be true if the product doesn’t arrive when expected (consumers hear 4 to 6 weeks and will expect it in exactly 4 weeks). The service isn’t restored when expected (told it would be back by 5 pm and at 5:01 they will call again); or the tech support routine they are told to run, doesn’t solve the problem. These are all examples of the customer not receiving what they expected, when they expected it. Of course the customers also contribute to FCR failures by not executing what they were to do (not following instructions) or providing inaccurate information of the original call (wrong size, incorrect address, an over limit credit card etc.) which will require a subsequent call.

As you can see effectively managing FCR is not easy and whatever approach you choose to employ, you will need to expect that it will take time for you to work out all of the exceptions, bugs and kinks. Remember that at the end of the day even if your model drives false positive or false negatives if you employ it consistently you will be able to chart improvement and declines period over period.

Let me know if you would like more information on this topic please email me directly at or visit our website at as we have a number of resources which may assist you in the process of implementing effective FCR measurement and reporting in your call center.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Calculating the Cost of FCR

As a Call Center Consulting firm we have access to numerous studies and interesting research articles. A recent study by the CFI Group suggested that one in five customers come away from a contact centre interaction with unresolved issues. This would suggest to me that the issues in question were not resolved and the First Contact Resolution (FCR) can be no higher than 80%. This will lead to additional contacts and additional cost to the call center operator. But what will this cost really be?

I like to walk through the following process to help clients gain some insight into this hidden cost. I say hidden because most centers do not effectively track resolution. Instead they ask customers through the agent of an IVR survey or worse based upon the agents judgment if the issue was resolved. Of course the customer may not even know if the issue is truly resolved...will the billing credit appear on the next bill? Will the promised gift card be received? Will their service be restored by 5 pm today? None of these issues can be truly labelled as resolved until the required processes and activities are completed. But that is fodder for another post.

Back to the financial costs for an 80% FCR rate: if your average call (or contact) is $5 at an 80% FCR your average resolved contact on first call will cost you $6.25 or 25% more than your cost per contact. Of course those whose issues were not resolved will call back and once again they will receive an 80% FCR and those callers will only receive at best an 80% FCR and so on and so on. After the second call your overall cumulative FCR will be 96% and after three cumulative calls over 99%. But your costs for resolved calls will be $6.25 each and not the $5.00 that is likely in the budget. If you had 10,000 calls/month the annualized savings associated with just a 5% improvement in FCR would be more than $44,000.

This calculation does not factor in the likelihood that the call types that go unresolved are often the more complicated or difficult ones, that will by virtue of their nature represent a significantly larger percentage of Wave 2 and beyond calls than they represented in Wave 1. Nor have we factored in the fact that when the unresolved calls are received they will increase the volumes and adversely affect the scheduled agent hours and by extension the ability of the center to meet its service level and other KPI's such as schedule adherence.

So the costs are far greater than just the cost of repeat callers. Keep this in mind when you are setting your goals and targets and when you establishing you budgets.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Free Agent Retention eBook Available.

Labor represents two thirds of the operating costs in most call centers.Managing Attrition, staff retention,turnover is an essential to all centers.
Created by; The Taylor Reach Group, Inc. the new eBook “How to Improve Staff Retention in Your Call Center” is the result of thirty plus years of hands on Operational management experience by its author Colin Taylor. Similar content has been delivered at countless workshops Colin has completed around the globe. The average price for these workshops is over $1,000 per attendee. You can gain the same insights today for zero cost.
In the eBook you will discover;
• The reasons why turnover and attrition are never-ending processes,
• The significant impact turnover can have on your agent productivity,
• How to calculate the ‘real’ cost of attrition in your center,
• The impact of turnover on Wages, Morale, Quality, and the Customer Experience,
• How to assess you centers’ agent career process,
• Leadership strategies that lead to reduced attrition,
• How to employ Rewards and Recognition to gain the best result,
• How to motivate Gen X versus Gen Y,
• How to Align your hiring and training process to deliver the desired results,

To receive your complimentary copy of “How to Improve Staff Retention in Your Call Center” please register here

About the Publisher: The Taylor Reach Group, Inc. (Taylor Reach) is a contact and call center consulting firm. All we do is Call Center consulting. With four offices and consultants who each possess more than 20 years of hands-on operational experience, we do not sell the pyramid. At Taylor Reach we sell the knowledge and experience of our consultants who have faced similar issues as our clients. Through our proprietary methodology we assist our clients to develop strategies and processes to overcome their challenges.

How to Improve Staff Retention in Your Call Center | The Taylor Reach...
Staffing represents approximately two thirds of the operating budget for an average call center. Reducing attrition and staff turnover is essential for any call

Taylor Reach

Updated Taylor Reach Credentials deck

Monday, July 5, 2010

Understanding Service Levels & ASA

Despite all of the information that is available on the net regarding call center operations, it is often difficult to find good, credible sources for clear, and accurate information. In this article Turaj does a great job providing an overview to Service Level, ASA, Occupancy and WFM.

Here is the Link to the article