Speed Vs Quality – Keeping Your Balance

September, 2014

A successful contact center sets and maintains an appropriate balance of speed and quality objectives, appropriate to their business goals. But keeping a proper balance is not easy. This blog looks at how balance is set.

Bob and Joe walk into the hospital with stomach pain.

Bob is seen in 15 mins. After a short examination, he is sent home with paracetemol, being told that symptoms should improve.

Joe waits 90 mins to be seen, and after a more detailed examination, he is told he is suffering from appendicitis and given an urgent appointment to see a specialist.

Two days later, Bob returns to A&E in even greater pain. After a longer examination, he is told he too has appendicitis…

Who do you think is the more satisfied? Who has expended less effort and is more likely to speak highly of the staff?

In contact centers, as in hospitals, the issue of speed versus quality is a balancing act.

One the one hand, speed keeps costs down, achieving maximum productivity and highest turnaround from your resources. It reflects a view of the contact center as ‘cost generator’ which must be streamlined and optimised.

On the other hand, achieving and maintaining a high quality service pleases customers, converting them into brand advocates. It reflects a view of the contact center as ‘revenue generator’, as loyalty builder, as value-adder.

A successful contact center sets and maintains an appropriate balance of speed and quality objectives, appropriate to their business goals.

The right balance depends on the nature of the business; outbound/ sales operations may lean toward speed/ throughput. For customer service operations, the culture is shifting toward quality. This is partly due to the rise in self-service options. Back when people called the call center for a balance enquiry, a price quote, or simple help query, it was quite reasonable to measure success as cases handled per hour. But these types of calls are increasingly handled by IVR, or online FAQs, and the remaining calls are of a more complex nature, needing more research, knowledge and careful handling. Speed is no longer necessarily a good thing.

But keeping a proper balance is not easy. Let’s look at how balance is set.

Whether by choice or accident, the balance within your organisation is largely set by:

  1. measuring something
  2. letting agents know that you are measuring it
  3. feeding back to them their performance in that area

Agents as a rule want to do a good job, and will aim to reach whatever standard is set for them for the high priority metrics.

This means that what you are measuring and feeding back to them is what will improve. To a large extent, the data you are collecting and reporting on is dictating your balance of speed and quality.

Promoting either can cause side-effects. If you communicate that your highest priority metrics are speed-related, e.g. calls handled per hour, average handling time, idle time, etc, effects may include

  • bad quality contact and unhappy customers
  • repeat calls
  • customers feeling rushed/ brushed off
  • missed opportunities for up-sell/ cross-sell
  • reduced politeness
  • loose adherence to script and policy

Agents may rush through calls, take shortcuts, or transfer to colleagues – anything to keep what they are measured against from looking bad.

On the other hand, quality can be promoted by immediate and easy to measure metrics such as longest wait time, number of calls in queue, as well as those which are valuable but rather harder to measure, such as CSATcustomer effort score, agent score, first contact resolution. But place too much emphasis here and turnover may slacken, idle time may increase, or agents may take longer over wrap-up.

What’s needed is a holistic approach. There is a sweet spot where agents are motivated to aim for the right balance of speed and quality for your business. A well designed set of metrics tailored to your business goals is critical. This is why the concept of a balanced scorecard makes sense, placing several productivity metrics and several quality metrics side by side. In this way, all stakeholders from management to agent workforce get a balanced view of business priorities, resulting in improvement on all fronts.

The right balance will not only create harmony throughout your organisation, it will also produce the greatest satisfaction for the customer. After all, if you have to be told you have appendicitis, it’s much better to know within 15 mins! (I think…)

What We Offer

Sytel Limited develops and supplies Softdial Contact Center® (SCC), offering multimedia, multichannel, fully blended cloud contact center solutions, for quick and easy deployment by partners offering CCaaS or enterprise users. All Sytel cloud components are secure, resilient and scale seamlessly from 10 agents to 10,000+, whether local, mobile or remote.

  • Flexible Contact Center Platform

    Softdial Contact Center™ – tightly integrated modules, designed to deliver at scale

  • Blended Media Desktop

    Fully customisable, multi-channel, multi-session workspace

  • Work Anywhere

    Browser-based tools, no software installation required

  • Cloud Or On-Premise, Multi-Tenant

    Scalable, resilient, secure, proven

  • Customise, Localise, White Label

    Design all user interfaces to individual requirements

  • Integration Via APIs

    ‘Swap out’ components and integrate with 3rd party apps

  • World Class Development

    Continuous evolution pushing technical boundaries

Capabilities

Softdial Contact Center™ (SCC) is designed to be flexible, extensible and scalable, integrating with any legacy equipment, and meeting the most complex of requirements.

  • All Media Types

    Voice, chat, email, social, etc – fully integrated and blended

  • Agent Multi-Tasking

    Work with multiple live contact sessions of any media type

  • Dynamic Media Blending

    Automated, ‘best available’ decisions to blend and balance work load across all media types

  • Predictive Dialing

    Best-of-breed performance under compliance

  • Intelligent Routing

    Smart rules and ‘best-available’ decisions to drive great customer service

  • Agent Scripts

    Help agents achieve and maintain excellence

  • Voice and Screen Recording

    See and hear exactly how agents are interacting

  • Analytics and Data Feeds

    Measure and evaluate performance at every level

  • IVR, Bots & Conversational AI

    Design effective automated flows or integrate with 3rd party providers

  • Customer Journey Tracking

    Stored customer contact history, to aid routing and add context to conversations

Modules

A complete suite of tools, with unique flexibility to extend and swap out modules to deliver a tailored contact center solution for any environment

  • Softdial One™

    Highly flexible unified web UI for agents, supervisors and administrators

  • Softdial Scripter™

    Create complex process flow scripts for agents, IVR, chatbots and other applications

  • Sytel AI Dialer™

    Best-of-breed predictive dialing under any compliance rules

  • Softdial Pathfinder™

    Precise routing rules for ‘best available’ connection

  • Softdial Media Server™

    Core telephony functions to manage all inbound/ outbound SIP calls

  • Softdial Reporter™ 5

    Fully customisable performance stats, charts and reports, across all channels

  • Softdial Publisher™

    Comprehensive data output to build your own reports

  • Softdial Recording Monitor™

    Audio and screen recording of agent activity to ensure the highest standards

  • Softdial Campaign Manager™

    Comprehensive configuration and control for outbound campaigns

  • Softdial Repository™

    Central storage and configuration of common resources

  • Sytel Global Compliance™

    Flexible ‘no contact’ rules to protect contact center and consumer

Markets

Performance and efficiency for a wide range of business applications

  • Customer Service

    Connect quickly to well equipped agents

  • Sales & Telemarketing

    Maximise agent productivity with best-of-breed predictive dialing

  • Healthcare

    Secure, highly-configurable multichannel communications for excellence in patient care

  • Market Research

    Best-of-breed predictive dialing with CATI integration

  • Collections

    Automated inbound/ outbound blending integrated with any debt management app