Measure Customer Service Quality, Not Just Call Time

The call time report is an often misunderstood customer service call center report. Too many customer service managers place too much emphasis on reports focusing the number of phone calls or the amount of time spent on phone calls. Phone call reports need to be taken in context because they offer no indication on the quality of service.

Let’s face it. Long calls, don’t necessarily mean bad service, I’ve seen superstar customer support people spend hours on the phone with a customer resolving a customer issue. This is a good thing, we need to encourage engagement in our teams and taking the time needed to solve the problem. I’ve also seen the other hand where individuals not comfortable with an issue will take much longer than needed to solve the problem, resulting in longer phone calls.

Measure Quality, Not Call Time

Call center metrics today, too often, are too focused on usage of equipment and not enough on helping customers. That’s probably why customer service today is measured in customer satisfaction and not customer loyalty. Zappos, the online retailer, has a reputation for awesome customer service and customer loyalty, without resorting to your traditional phone call metrics.

There are only 4 metrics questions you ever need to ask your customers. Zappos takes a unique approach to measuring their customer service work. Zappos doesn’t measure call times, in fact, they often tout stories about 6-hour support calls and have even sent inquiring customers to a competitor because they were out of stock in a particular item.

Zappos understands that customer service is much more than measuring call times or the number of phone calls an agent takes. If you are focused on calls times and discuss that with your team members, you’re not focused on the customer. Fortunately, real customer service, customer-focused, quality-based metrics aren’t hard.

The only 4 customer service metric questions you ever need to ask (call time is not one).

Customer-focused quality metrics are the gateway to great customer experience. Customers are looking for problems solved and not as much for a specific amount of time on the phone. Successful customer service is about creating great customer experiences where customers come away with a renewed sense of value from working with you, looking forward to work with you again, and willing and wanting to share about you with everyone they know. You don’t get that from a call time report.

You can follow the Zappos quality model and find how effectively you’re serving by focusing metrics around these 4 key questions (notice that call time is not included in any of these):

Question 1: On a scale from 1 – 10: How likely would you be to recommend Zappos to a friend or family member?

Question 2: On a scale from 1 – 10: How likely would you be to request the person you spoke with again?

Question 3: On a scale from 1 – 10: How likely would you be to recommend this person to a friend or co-worker?

Question 4: On a scale from 1 – 10: If you owned your own business, how likely would you be to try and hire the person you spoke with?

Don’t throw out the call time report and other metrics. They can still be valuable.

Traditional call center metrics are valuable, in the right context. Call center metrics are part of the key to great customer service. Since great customer service and awesome customer experiences involve having team members available to work with customers, that’s where traditional metrics comes in, they give you an idea of where you need to staff people.

Call time reports shouldn’t be the primary measure of employee performance because they don’t give a full scope of the actual service being done. Instead, customer service and call center managers can implement the following practices for utilizing call time reports:

- Review long-term call times (over 1 month is best since shorter times lend to inaccurate information).

- Get average times for your entire team (compare only employees working similar shift hours).

For team members with statistically significant higher call times, review longer phone calls and look for potential issues causing slower service responses.

Incorporate findings into your on-going regular individual employee training, but not specifically pointing out that the training is being done because of longer times.
Why? Because you don’t want to have discourage employees from taking the time to help customers. You’re only addressing long call times if there is a legitimate need to address it. Good service is not a legitimate reason. That’s what you hope for.

The next time you see the call time report, take a minute and think about what it really means. There’s a lot of good, quality customer service taking place in those precious minutes.

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