CUSTOMER Magazine recently spoke with Mark Miller, contact center practice leader for J.D. Power, a leading market research company. We asked Mark to talk with us about some keys to utilizing customer-based research to drive performance improvement.
Unfortunately, most organizations don’t get nearly enough out of their VoC programs and end up wasting time and money, but there is hope.
We are fortunate at J.D. Power to be invited into some of the highest-performing contact centers in the world and some not so high-performing centers. We have observed some very successful Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs; however, more often than not, we have found that organizations are not getting the most from their VoC programs. Although the following tips barely scratch the surface, they provide some fundamental insights that can help you maximize the effectiveness of your VoC program and help you identify your true strengths and weaknesses, understand what can be done operationally to improve, and which activities should be prioritized to drive profits.
Data without perspective and context is not very useful
As seen in the graphic above, Client ABC has an opportunity to improve their customers’ ratings for Courtesy of the representative. Unfortunately, Client ABC went for years not even aware that this opportunity existed because they were focusing on their trending data (Courtesy was up year over year), and because they had no basic understanding of what good or great looked like. Not until they saw their score compared with a group of cross-industry top performers did they realize they had a significant gap not only in Courtesy, but also in many other attributes affecting customer satisfaction. Remember that customer satisfaction is the nexus between expectations and performance, and that your customers’ expectations are formed by interactions with any organization across any industry, and not just your industry competitors. Whenever your customers encounter excellence in any particular channel, their expectations for what their experience could be and should be are affected, and they will now compare you to this standard. By having the courage to compare their operation to cross-industry top performers, Client ABC was able to identify the areas of opportunity that they literally didn’t know existed before this exercise. This approach can also add perspective to your operational aptitude and help you know how well you are really doing operationally.
Is putting 40% of your callers on hold optimal or sub-optimal?
We all know that putting customers on hold is not ideal since it extends the call, costs money, and erodes customer satisfaction. But is there a realistic goal for this metric and other metrics that could help you determine if you are off base or not? The answer is yes, and it turns out that a 40% hold rate is not ideal, but it is better than some. Recently, one of our clients had an effective hold rate (customer perceived hold rate) of 70%, which seemed a little high to the client, but they were improving and satisfied with their trajectory. However, when we showed them the negative impact that putting customers on hold had on satisfaction and made them aware that the top performers put their customers on hold only 32% of the time, they realized that they should act to raise their bar much higher. Unfortunately, they were relying solely on their system-generated reports for hold rate information instead of customer-generated data that could be derived from including diagnostic questions on their VoC survey. The combination of knowing how customers perceived their experiences around holds, tranfers, number of contacts to resolve, need to repeat information, etc., (diagnostics), and comparing their performance to how high performers do in these same areas, allows for context that yields actionable insight. Without this context, they defaulted to what felt like the right things to work on but were wasting time and money on performance improvement activities that weren’t addressing their most significant weaknesses and weren’t going to move the performance needle.
The above examples illustrate the power of understanding the context of performance. Without comparing your performance to a known level of excellence, it’s difficult to know how you are really doing and, thus, what you should be striving for. When you do understand what “excellence” looks like, however, you can target your shortfalls and make prudent business decisions to put your scarce resources to work in the most effective way possible. The result is better performance in less time and at less cost.
Edited by Maurice Nagle