Using BPO Metrics to Create Stronger BPO Partnerships
In the age of the customer, contact centers cannot afford to provide anything short of top-notch customer service. Your organization’s Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) employees are your customers’ first (and sometimes only) point of contact. The experiences they deliver are crucial to your company’s bottom line and brand image, and their skills need to match up. For customer service-centric BPO, productivity levels need to be consistently high to keep customers happy around the clock. But how do you measure contact center productivity or performance in a way that is both meaningful and can be standardized across operations?
We believe it starts by setting the right performance standards. If businesses can align their operations to the right key performance indicators (KPIs), they can effectively evaluate productivity and gain insights into key areas of growth and improvement. Of course, this process is completely reliant on good data. Any organization looking to lay out a structured performance measurement plan, needs to first be ready with the necessary technological tools for accurate data capturing and analysis.
Metrics and Measurable Performance
A robust monitoring process calls for consistent engagement. When processes are closely monitored on a granular level, it opens up the scope for improvement across layers in both individual and collective performances. It also helps decision-makers assess areas of cost leakage and operational inefficiency.
Traditionally, the two most important metrics for managing costs in this respect are:
- Cost-per-call: the metric to assess the cost incurred on contacts over a specific time period
- Cost-per-inbound contact: the metric offering visibility into a contact center’s operating efficiency by dividing annual operating expense by annual inbound contact volume.
To measure productivity, the following metrics evaluate how efficiently a contact center is utilizing its resources.
- Agents as percentage of the headcount: This metric shows the exact percentage of the workforce that is actively involved in the resolution of customer queries at a given time.
- Inbound contacts-per-agent-per-month: This metric gives a clear idea if a contact center is utilizing its workforce effectively and is measures by dividing the total average number of monthly inbound calls the center receives for a client by the number of full-time agents it has dedicated to that purpose. It helps gauge whether the work pool is overextended or underutilized.
In terms of quality of delivery, service metrics are the KPI you need to watch to ensure your BPO is maintaining high standards.
- Average speed of answer indicates how long a customer needs to wait before they are attended to by a support agent.
- Response time measures the average duration of calls.
- Call abandonment rate indicates the number of calls that are disconnected by the customer before problem resolution or completion of the process.
- Service level indicates the percentage of calls a live agent answers within a specific number of seconds.
- Schedule adherence specifies if an agent is completing a number of daily tasks within a stipulated period of time.
The overall, objective quality of a contact center can also be monitored by assessing customer support quality. It answers the question: does your BPO adequately resolve customer queries and grievances?
- Customer satisfaction is perhaps the most critical (and obvious) metric here. It is quantified by tabulating the results of customer surveys, customer praises and complaints, and strictly monitoring customer-staff interactions.
- First call resolution indicates the percentage of total calls taken by live agents which require no further follow up for final resolution.
- Call quality is measured by the rating a call receives. Typically, managers or supervisors at the center rate calls on a numerical rating scale e.g. 1 to 10, in other cases it may be more multi-variant and complex by factoring in a customer’s experience as well. Essentially, this metric helps track call quality and is used for directing resources towards constant improvement.
Performance metrics illuminate how your contact center’s workforce is performing as a whole and offer organizations a quick bottom-line report card on the effectiveness of a BPO’s people and processes.
- Agent occupancy rate takes a look at how long an agent takes to conduct a call and the post-call process, and whether it meets the stipulated period dedicated to the task.
- Employee satisfaction, as the term suggests, highlights whether agents are satisfied with their jobs and whether tasks need to be reallocated.
Technology and Metrics
Every single one of these metrics helps organizations better understand how to gauge their BPO partner’s capabilities. But, more often than not, these values are dynamic and change constantly. This means that even the best-defined KPIs suffer from high latency in analysis which leads to delayed and sometimes misleading results.
For real actionable insights, businesses need access to real-time data and analysis. They need digital platforms that can offer up-to-the-second business intelligence. With advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, this is now a reality. The advent of chatbots allows companies to be available for personalized query resolution 24/7. AI-driven tools can even lower costs dramatically and free up specialized human agents for high value engagements.
Similarly, with advancements in Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology and speech analysis, customers can just state their queries and be routed to the appropriate department without having to go through pesky, multiple dial-in menus. In fact, Wired reports that emerging technologies in this area will soon be able to measure the tone and inflection of a caller’s voice to assess their mood and temperament. The call can then be routed to an agent who is best suited for the task.
In essence, as more automation technologies are deployed across contact centers, businesses will gain not only more precise metrics but also more control over how they adjust them for improved performance.
Using Metrics to Improve Performance
At the end of the day, your organization needs these metrics to assess if they’re getting a healthy return on their BPO investment. By aligning your business processes to the right metrics, you are also nurturing a culture of excellence, accountability with your service partners and for yourselves.
It’s also important to remember that there will be times when the numbers will disappoint. In these situations, organizations need to take a step back and consider the whole picture. Were the poor metrics a result of factors outside the BPOs control, such as a product defect? If yes, then there really is no need for change, and you need to ride it out. If, however, the poor metrics are the result of factors that are in the control of the BPO, then you need to carefully consider where the problem areas are and how to correct them.
Overall, a business-to-BPO relationship should be based on metrics that take into account situational variances in the market and the internal dynamics of the business. Ideally, these metrics should be in harmony with your business objectives. Apart from end-customer satisfaction, almost all metrics weigh against each other over time. A thorough resolution can take a longer average speed of answer, but it effectively leads to higher customer satisfaction. Businesses need to be cognizant of this fine balance.
If you and your service provider are in sync on the metrics that matter, then you can build a sustainable partnership built on transparency, collaboration, and constant growth. Performance can always be improved but it is an iterative process that requires a conscientious effort on the part of both parties.
- White Paper: “3 Ways to Transform Contact Centers”
- Checklist: “8 Critical Questions Your Organization Needs to Ask”
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- Article: “How to Incorporate Social Media Into Your Customer Experience Strategy”
- Article: “Customer Service Confessions”