Part 6: Call Centre Trends: Customer Experience

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Call Centre Trends Customer Experience

So far, our series dedicated to call centres has maintained a narrow focus. We’ve examined the contact centre niche and some of the principal trends within it. We’ve looked at automation, omnichannel support, and cloud-based solutions, amongst others. The contact centre industry, though, isn’t an island. It’s subject to broader trends in the commercial world.

One such trend is towards customer experience (CX). Across niches and in many areas of business CX has become a hot button issue. Brands – and consumers – are increasingly seeing CX as a vital differentiator. And that broader trend has had a profound impact on the contact centre field.

In this post, we’re going to look at precisely what CX is and why it matters. We’ll also examine how a focus on CX has altered the way contact centres track their performance. Finally, we’ll get into what methods and systems modern centres use to monitor quality.  

What is Customer Experience & Why Does it Matter to Contact Centres?

Customer experience (CX) is a phrase that’s come to define an attitude in the business world. CX describes the view a customer has of a business as a result of their interactions with that firm. So CX is the sum total of all the touchpoints that make up the customer journey.

The best CX results from a collection of positive, satisfying interactions. Poor CX can come from any single interaction proving unsuccessful or frustrating. But let’s remember that consumers have been interacting with businesses for as long as businesses have existed. The bare bones of what makes up CX, then, isn’t new. What’s new is the primacy given to it by both brands and customers.

Modern customers have more purchase options today than ever before. In all industries, there’s more choice, and it’s easier to switch between brands. Consumers are increasingly viewing the experience given by firms as a vital way to choose between them. For instance, Salesforce research found that 80% of consumers say CX is as important as products.  

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Source: Super Office 

Today, businesses have latched on to this change in consumer priorities. Across industries, firms now see CX as a way to get a leg up on their rivals. Instead of trying to compete on price or product, brands now battle to provide the best CX. Customer service and support is an essential part of the overall CX any brand offers. That’s why CX – and the greater focus upon it – matters hugely to the contact centre niche.

Indeed, 32% of customers would abandon a brand they love after just one bad experience. That means a weak customer interaction has a one in three chance of losing a firm business. And as we know, the contact centre niche comprises nothing but customer interactions. Centres exist to offer channels by which customers can contact companies.

Therefore, contact centres must keep the quality of interactions as high as possible. The broader trend for a greater focus on CX has made this even more evident. Modern call centres are devoted to tracking and improving the quality and value of the experience they give.     

Monitoring Quality to Improve Customer Experience

Of course, call centres have always assessed their agents and the quality of work they do. It’s the only way that such organisations can improve processes or identify workers who need more training. However,  what centres track, and how they do it, is changing.

Traditional call centres often focussed on efficiency. Yes, when they tracked agent performance, they were most concerned with speed or cost-saving. Metrics such as call time, number of calls per hour, or adherence were the most essential. But the need to improve and maintain CX has changed things.

You see, contact centres are now more interested in quality and value of service. And that fact rang through loud and clear when we spoke with Cymphony and FM Outsource. The people we spoke to at both firms made it clear that the quality of agent interactions was paramount.

What, then, does quality monitoring at a modern contact centre look like? Well, there is a range of methods, systems, and metrics at play. Let’s take a look at them and how they combine.      

Methods & Systems

Precisely how the quality of CX offered by a centre gets tracked depends on the centre in question. There are a few processes and systems, though, that persist throughout the niche. The following is a brief rundown of some of the most ubiquitous:

  • Post-contact surveys
  • Call evaluation
  • Tracking third-party reviews
  • Quality monitoring scorecards
  • Speech, language, or sentiment analytics

As you might expect, no one knows the CX provided by a call centre better than the customers it serves. That’s why many centres use post-contact surveys as a central plank of quality monitoring. Both FM Outsource and Cymphony invite contacts to complete post-contact surveys or reviews.

Furthermore, precisely what questions get included in a survey are tailored to each contact centre. The queries provide centres with the data needed for some of the vital CX metrics we’ll discuss a little later.

Even though most contact centres now have many channels, voice calls are still vital. While inbound calls remain the most popular channel for most centres. For that reason, call evaluation remains one of the most widely used means of quality monitoring.

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Source: Business Systems UK 

A significant Business Systems UK study found 92% of centres recorded and evaluated agent calls each month. The majority of those centres (69%) select the evaluated calls at random. Close to three quarters (74%) reported two main reasons for evaluation. They were either “to develop agents” or “to provide a better level of service to customers”. Both justifications reflect the broader drive to boost CX.

In an ever more digital world, new methods for quality monitoring are forever arising. At FM Outsource, one method they use to track CX by examining third-party review channels, such as Trustpilot.

In fact, the people we spoke to revealed that such channels are useful for garnering qualitative feedback. By reading good and poor reviews, they can identify areas of strength or weakness in their service. Agents who get namechecked, meanwhile, can get held accountable. That’s whether they’ve delivered a superior or substandard performance. 

Social listening can also deliver similar insights. By tracking brand mentions via social media, a contact centre can also see less official reviews. More customers, after all, may complain or wax lyrical about a customer service experience on a social network than a dedicated review site.  

Another way contact centres measure performance and CX is via quality monitoring scorecards. These are checklists or templates that contact centre managers can generate. They can be as simple as an Excel sheet on which to collect vital metrics and data. And they bring together the critical elements of a superior call or interaction.

Contact centres build scorecards around the essential elements of their own operation. They include the metrics and measures that can get used to determine service quality. Once you have a scorecard, you can more easily compare and track changes in service provision.

But some more advanced analytics are starting to get employed by some contact centres, too. The research from Business Systems UK found that 6% of centres used speech analytics to support their quality monitoring. 

Such analytics examines the language and sentiments present in customer interactions. It can help ID callers’ needs and guide agents toward how best to fulfil them. The most advanced of these types of solutions can even deliver insights in real-time. AI-driven software will help agents recognise and fulfill customers’ demands while they’re on the phone.

Essential Metrics

Whatever processes contact centres use, they need to make sense of the data they gather. Many metrics can help to do precisely that. The following are four of the most essential, used across the niche:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSat)
  • First or Best Contact Resolution (FCR/BCR)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)

Now, NPS is a metric to determine how likely people are to recommend something to friends or relatives. In the case of contact centres, the metric can get worked out via post-contact surveys. The survey would have to include a question along the lines of this:

“On a scale of 1-10, based on your recent interaction, how likely would you be to recommend our service to a friend?”

An overall NPS can then get generated by taking an average of responses. Our pros at Cymphony and FM Outsource reported using NPS. That’s to track both customer and employee satisfaction.

According to a recent Call Centre Helper survey, contact centre professionals see CSat as a vital metric:

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Source: Call Centre Helper 

CSat is an even more straightforward metric that gets generated via surveys. All you need to ask customers is to rate on a numerical scale how satisfied they were with the service they got. Despite its simplicity, CSat is an ideal metric for judging CX.  

However, FCR is a somewhat more complicated metric. The idea behind it is to judge how efficiently agents resolve issues at the first time of trying. FCR gets expressed as a percentage, and you can work it out with this formula:

FCR = (Issues Resolved First Time / Total Issues) X 100

Unsurprisingly, it’s not always easy to generate accurate FCR figures. One of the easiest ways to use the metric is to ask customers in a survey if their issue got solved at first contact. Another method is to track how many times a customer contacts you in a given period. To get the most accurate FCR, you would need to ask agents to tag each contact according to issue or subject.  

A final vital metric in monitoring a contact centre’s CX is that of the CES. The CES quantifies the ease – or otherwise – for customers to get the answers or solutions they need. Once again, the only way to gather the data for this metric is via post-contact surveys. 

Quality Monitoring Software to Automate Processes

Tracking performance and CX across a contact centre is no simple task. To get a good grip on the quality of the service they provide, centres must handle many metrics. They’ll also need to employ a variety of processes and systems for gathering data. That’s why an increasing number of centres turn to quality monitoring software.

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Source: Business Systems UK 

Business Systems UK found that 30% of centres used quality monitoring software. Such solutions help automate the processes related to tracking performance and CX. Those processes can include selecting calls to evaluate, gathering data, and calculating metrics. 

Why more centres aren’t already using these kinds of solutions is likely down to entropy. Centres often stick with the more traditional methods (manual call evaluation) rather than entirely reshaping their processes. As maintaining and boosting CX becomes ever more crucial, though, it’s safe to assume that uptake of this software will also rise.    

Contact Centres – The Frontline in the Fight for Better Customer Experience

Businesses in all niches are looking to superior CX to help them stand out from the crowd. With more consumer choice than ever, CX is often a better differentiator than price. It’s for that reason that brands are trying to improve all interactions with their customers.

Contact centres are interaction hubs. They exist specifically to facilitate conversations between consumers and businesses. The rise in prominence of CX, then, has had a profound impact on the niche. Tracking the quality of service offered is even more crucial to contact centres.

Quality monitoring at contact centres is varied and diverse. Different operators take their own tacks. Some measures and systems, though, remain popular industry wide. They include things like post-contact surveys, call evaluation, and quality monitoring scorecards.  

Originally published Jun 16, 2020, updated Jan 17, 2023

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