A fresh measure for call centers: ‘Helped’ over ‘handled’
Have you observed lately that retail call center agents seem to intentionally spend more time on the telephone with customers? Rather than being in a hurry to end a call and move to the next call in queue, agents are concentrated on resolution. Often, the final question from an agent is a form of, “Have I solved this issue for which you called?” Perhaps “helped this time” is the new “handle time.”
Call centers have existed since the early days of the telephone. They were planned for uncomplicated issues and often regarded as a cost center. Keep “handle time” costs in check and value the fastest agents were the gauges of success “back in the day.” Those measures are a remnant of an outdated service realm.
Today, the call center is a solution center. With the arrival of self-service, members can handle straightforward issues on their own. Last year, research revealed that 61 percent of American consumers prefer to manage their banking activities online or via their mobile devices (up from 52 percent the year before). When a call extends to the call center, it’s for much more than a balance, check clearing, or closing time. It’s a call where expertise is anticipated and resolution is necessary.
What matters nowadays – what needs systematic measurement – is “Did you solve the member’s issue?” Handle time, Net Promoter Score, satisfaction and more all take a back seat. Being “spot-on” for the member is more important than being “expeditious.” Measuring and holding agents accountable to excellence, communication, and result is more important than pace.
If you reason that a shift away from handling time will produce excessive costs, think again. Our research indicates that the actual benefit is a falloff in escalations and same-issue callbacks. When the focus moves from watching the clock to active listening and resolution, the opportunity shifts to delivering the right experience regardless of time. For members – when their effort is low and their issue is solved, their experience is high.
As managers of call centers, the emphasis swings to managing and coaching the experience, rather than emphasizing the recorded metric. Members recognize when they are being rushed. Members get exasperated with a standard approach that produces nothing. Members detect when they are being handled and not helped. Far better results occur when agents are enabled to exercise more professional judgment, share their success outcomes (and shortcomings) together, and focus first on providing a superior member experience.
Productivity measures, like handle time, are beneficial for understanding cost drivers. However, call centers today have three areas of focus: resolution; retention; and, revenue. Those areas affect your credit union’s top line much more than expediency helps your bottom line. Members who are “helped” the right way – every time – have a way of handing more business to your credit union over time. That’s an upshot of strategic significance to continue driving your credit union forward.