In conversation with Andrew Cook | Why a Contact Centre shouldn't try put a man on the moon

Recently, our CEO, Andrew Cook published his thoughts on how an inbound contact centre should measure their success (check out his eBook on his LinkedIn profile). We sat down with him to chat about his insight.

 Q: Tell us what putting a Man on the Moon has to do with contact centre measurement?

AC: Well, when Simon Sinek published “Start with Why” I think a lot of business leaders were inspired, but also sort of lost their way. The struggle is that as departments or teams move further out in the organisation, it becomes really difficult to link practical performance metrics with these really inspirational “WHY’s” that we see in company visions. Take the well-known story about the janitor working for NASA who said that his job was to help put a man on the moon. That’s really great, but its also difficult to measure the performance of a cleaning department against boots on the moon – trying to do this misses out on a many practical tasks and duties that a team needs in order to do their jobs well. I see the same thing in Contact Centres – they often get so tangled up in trying to tie what they do to these really inspirational visions, that practical day-to-day performance issues get overlooked – and ultimately, they fall short on delivering the performance the organisation requires, to be successful.

 Q: How do you recommend departments, like Contact Centres start to figure out how they fit into a greater “why” – in practical terms?

AC: I really love the “jobs-to-be-done” theory. This is a way at looking at department performance and asking: what are customers “hiring” us to do, or in other words, why do customers really get hold of a contact centre? Mostly, its not because they have this driving intrinsic motivation to achieve something life altering. Its usually for something quite functional and mundane such as to solve a query, update some information, perform an interaction – not really the stuff visions are made of but yet, still the stuff that builds successful organisations. This is then the actual “job-to-be-done” by a department like the contact centre: help your customers get done what they need to, effectively and easily…a lot simpler “why” than putting a man on the moon!

Q: How does acknowledging this type of more practical job-to-be-done help contact centres perform better?

AC: Firstly, coming to terms with the fact that customers use a contact centre for quite functional reasons helps us to build a better department. We stop wasting time with fluff, and can focus on understanding who our customer is, what they want and how we can assist them to achieve it. Also, we can stop focussing on this concept of delight, and concentrate, more reasonably, on avoiding disappointment.

 Q: Wait, hold on! Contact centres shouldn’t be pursuing customer delight? What do you mean?

AC: Let’s be honest – have you ever been delighted when calling to check your credit card balance, or when finding out the time of a movie screening, or from logging a claim? No! Were you glad you got done what you needed to the first time? Yes. Were you satisfied that the person you spoke to could help you and was polite? Yes. Were you delighted enough to recommend the business based on the call? Possibly not – it takes a lot more than a functional transaction going as intended in order to delight a customer. Now, I’m in no way saying abandon striving for customer satisfaction or delight. What I am saying is that the satisfaction in a contact centre is a product of the absence of disappointment: a customer didn’t have to call back; the agent was helpful and knew what they were doing; it was easy to do what needed to be done. Its these things that should be managed and measured – and in so doing, the result will be a contact centre that creates satisfaction.

 Q: So, what are the key things a contact centre should be watching and measuring?

AC: Four things are important: who is being served; why are they contacting you; how are you handling it and what tasks are you carrying out? These elements work together in my mind, for example, if we know that our customer persona wants to talk to a person when they have a question, let’s not cause frustration and waste effort building an AI chat bot. Again, lets deliver on the “why” of the contact centre – getting customers the help they need – and not create disappointment by forcing omni-channel on them. When it comes to who is being served, I often see teams getting so caught up in measuring the up-take of their new webchat channel for example, that they forget to even try to understand their customer and end up expending a lot of energy for very little result against their departmental “why”

 Q: Completely understand that contact centres should understand their customers, but you mentioned 4 elements?

AC: I did. The who, or customer, is obviously important, but so is the how. This pertains to the detail on how you handle engagements. This can be everything from compliance to process rules and quality measures. After that we get to what you are actually doing such as answering calls, handling transactions and so on. Taking a look at wrap-up codes, for example, will give you a really clear idea of what you are doing for customers on a monthly basis. Lastly, we get to the “why”. Remember: are we helping our customers do what they need to do? This would obviously be a little different for each business, but the principle remains the same and this is where that really functional measure of satisfaction is needed. Something like “Did we resolve your problem”; “Was agent X helpful” etc. It is also here that real-time feedback is so important – give every customer the opportunity to let you know if you have done your job.

Q: So a contact centre’s job is to deliver functional value, and this is the sum of the four elements you mentioned, which all need to be measured in order to create value – does that sum it up?

AC: Yes, it just about does. I’m not saying one should abandon aspirational goals for the contact centre, but what I am suggesting is that in order to make those goals more achievable, a practical and honest view needs to be taken on why a contact centre exists. When we get there, we can then really dig into the elements that are needed to make the contact centre better at what it does. And yes, of course it needs measurement, but stop asking if you have delighted your customer – you will probably always be underwhelmed by the score you get – rather ask: Did we do our job? Did you achieve what you wanted to when you called us? The answers to these questions will not only show you if you’re achieving your “why”, but also help you to do more of it every day.


To get more detail into Andrew’s insight on Inbound contact centre measurement, get his eBooks here

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