Transform Your Call Center into a Value Performance Monitoring System

Reg Goeke

I’ve observed the workings of call centers in a variety of industries, and I have always been chagrined at their reactive nature and the lack of focus associated with call center activities. It seems to me that the call center could become an extremely effective listening post if a) the call center were to be just a bit more proactive and b) if the call center were more focused on the customer segments and product/service offerings that are most important to company growth. That’s not to say that the current function of the call center in your organization is unimportant, just that the call center could be enhanced if it were more explicitly linked to the organization’s competitive strategy. And that minor shift in functionality could have a positive effect on the morale and enthusiasm of call center representatives as well.

Shifting from a reactive to a proactive stance in the call center is a relatively simple thing to do to increase customer value. All it really entails is re-allocating some of the call center representatives' time from receiving inbound calls to placing outbound calls. Does your call center occasionally experience over-capacity? Could that time be used for making outbound calls to customers who have recently interacted with the company? Does your organization outsource some sort of customer satisfaction measurement system? Could some of those funds be re-allocated to add one or two call center positions so that this measurement could actually be conducted by your own call center personnel? If so, there are really only three additional issues to be addressed:

  1. What are the right questions call center representatives should be asking customers by phone, and when should customers be asked?
  2. How do you deploy such a system in the call center?
  3. How do you link the results back to key strategic initiatives?

Asking the Right Questions to Improve Customer Value

We already know that the metrics of customer value are the very best predictors of business performance, including the key performance measures of market share and revenue growth. That being the case, it only makes sense to track your performance on those attributes that are critical to the creation and delivery of value. This means that your call center managers must consult with your business unit marketing team to find out what those key attributes are. This assumes, of course, that the marketing team has been doing its job of understanding and measuring customer value in the organization’s targeted market segments.

Suppose, for example, that your company was targeting the pre-retired market segment with Investment Services. The marketing group within that business unit should already have a quantitative model of market value that provides the relative importance of Quality, Image and Price, as well as the factors that are Critical-to-Quality (CTQs) and their relative importance. An example is provided below. (Click on diagram to enlarge.)

The marketing group should also be able to tell you what the specific attributes are that constitute "Interactive Account Relationship," "Trustworthy Advice" and so forth. For example, the performance attributes for "Interactive Account Relationship" might include:

Interactive Account Relationship To Impact Customer Value

  • Providing confirmations about changes you've made to your investments
  • Making it easy to find out how your investments are allocated
  • Providing you with notifications that can affect the value of your accounts
  • Providing notifications that help you make timely decisions regarding your investments
  • Providing an easy way to make transfers from one investment product to another
  • Providing an easy way to buy or sell investments
  • Providing the option to make your investments electronically
  • Providing electronic links to stock market information
  • Providing the ability to download statements for printing
  • Providing an easy way to get the paper forms for those transactions that require them
  • Providing timely trade confirmations

The list of performance attributes within each of the CTQs are the right questions to be using for outbound calls from your call center. These questions will have come from customers themselves, based on qualitative research from your market research group, and their relative importance has been empirically derived from performance ratings by customers—both yours and those of your competitors. The only thing left for the call center management team to do is to align these performance attributes with key customer touch points along your existing customer value streams.

Suppose, for example, that a customer has recently requested a transfer from one investment product to another. That request may have been in the form of a phone call, a sales call or a Web-based interaction. That customer "touch point" should trigger an "alert" to the call center to prompt an outbound call asking seven or eight questions about how effectively that request was handled. Of course, every touch point won’t trigger an outbound call. Your organization will need to determine some random or systematic basis for sampling touch points.

Deploying the System to Increase Customer Value

There are several keys to the effective deployment of a proactive call center system. They include:

  • Access to a strategically focused value measurement system, with value models, CTQs and value performance criteria
  • A list of current strategic initiatives, identifying ongoing improvements to products or services, processes, or sales training initiatives
  • Identification of customer touch points corresponding to those improvement initiatives
  • An internal call center reporting system to trigger an outbound phone call within 24 hours of a touch point event
  • An internal CATI (Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing) system that will prompt call center representatives with the right questions when making that outbound phone call
  • There are numerous systems available to assist call center personnel in making outbound phone calls and recording performance ratings for the customer survey questions. One example of such a system is shown below. (Click on diagram to enlarge.)

A well-designed system will import customer contact information pertaining to the randomly- or systematically-selected customer event, prompt the call center representatives through the telephone interview and retain the performance ratings for future aggregation.

Linking Results to KPIs and Strategic Initiatives for Customer Value

Of course, collecting customer feedback merely for the sake of collecting it is a meaningless exercise. The deployment of a proactive customer feedback system in the call center should be designed to monitor and track call center performance on those strategic and tactical improvements initiated by the marketing and operations groups, and should be linked to the organization’s KPIs. Managers in the call center and throughout the organization should have routine access to "real time" data revealing trends and patterns pertaining to their areas of responsibility. A very simplistic example is shown below. (Click on diagram to enlarge.)

Transforming your call center from being reactive to proactive provides the added benefit of re-engaging call center representatives and linking them more intimately with the organization’s competitive marketing strategy. You might even consider encouraging call center representatives to provide their own perspectives on the customer feedback they are actively collecting. Who knows—there may be some real strategic thinkers hidden in your call centers!