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When customers decide to stop doing business with you, they rarely call your office upset and yelling, “The hell with you. I’m out of here!” Instead, they gradually grow distant until one day they decide to leave. You probably didn’t even realize you were drifting apart.

Science tells us some of this is predictable and human nature: customers naturally have buyer’s remorse, shifting attention spans and a preference for being pursued rather than caught. However, companies can minimize customer “drift” and subsequent loss by measuring the customer service experience. You can do this by tracking call center key performance indicators (KPIs) and acting on that intelligence to improve overall customer satisfaction.

The Broadvoice b-hive virtual call center makes this easy for small and medium businesses (SMBs). It’s an agile and intuitive web-based cloud solution that is integrated into the Broadvoice b-hive UCaaS (Unified Communications-as-a-Service) platform, giving you the ability to improve the customer experience with capabilities, such as call routing (by queue, day, time and customer service rep) so customer problems are handled quickly and by the best available agent.  While calls are in progress, your supervisors can monitor agent-customer conversations or privately coach (whisper to) the agent and even join the call to speed resolution and/or improve the outcome.

Where the rubber meets the road, however, is in real-time analytics and historical call statistics. These give you metrics like how long it takes to answer the phone and how long it takes to resolve problems. They are the KPIs that you need to measure, understand and act on. Here are some common ones and what they might say about the quality of your customers’ experience.

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Virtual Call Center KPIs for SMBs

  • Speed of Answer: If customer service reps (CSRs) are consistently waiting three or four rings to answer a call, odds are good they aren’t very engaged in the service they’re providing. This begs some questions: Are customers calling upset, making reps reticent to answer right away? Are customers asking the same question(s) repeatedly, making reps bored and unmotivated? Are reps doing other tasks or otherwise distracted? In any case, management can monitor and/or interview agents to get to the root cause and take actions, such as creating contests and other incentives, to improve answer times.
  • Average Call Duration: Also called Average Handling Time, this KPI measures the time reps spend on individual calls. Lengthy times can reveal inadequately skilled agents or inefficiencies in the resolution process that need to be addressed. While keeping time-to-resolution as short as possible is important, your goal shouldn’t become ever-shorter resolution times. You want to provide your customers with a solution as quickly as possible but not hustle them off the phone. Being too hasty to hang up can lead to repeat calls.
  • Hold Before Answer: Also known as On-Hold Time, this metric gives managers a view into how long the average caller waits on hold before being connected to a CSR. The industry standard is answering 80 percent of calls within 20 seconds. That’s because extended hold periods frustrate customers and increase the chances of customers abandoning the call and their relationship with your business. To keep that from happening, companies with long wait times usually staff up, introduce more self-service options or let customers opt for a callback.
  • Abandoned Call Rate. This call center metric measures the percentage of callers who hang up before reaching an agent. This KPI is closely tied to overall customer satisfaction since customers dislike being stuck on hold and only have so much patience before hanging up. Tactically, a real-time view of this metric can be used to identify problems as they occur to stop abandoned calls from escalating into customer loss. Strategically, this KPI should be monitored over the long term to identify patterns that can be fixed through staffing or technical solutions.
  • Hold Time Before Abandon: Similarly, this metric, also known as the “abandon by interval,” shows the percentage of callers who hang up before reaching a customer service rep. If customers on average are abandoning at 4 minutes, it might be time to change your auto attendant to include frequently asked questions or give customers the option to leave a message after 3 minutes.
  • Timeout Calls: Timeout calls are lost calls that are deliberately disconnected by the call center when they reach the maximum threshold for waiting time set by the Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) system. Let’s say your preset threshold for total hold time is 5 minutes. If more than 25 percent of your calls are hitting that threshold, it’s probably time to consider how you’re routing calls. You might need to hire more CSRs or encourage customers to use self-service options.

In today’s competitive business environment and “connected” economy (online customer reviews and social media buzz), providing a satisfying customer experience is essential to success. That’s why an entire industry has emerged to rigorously measure and strategically target the emotional motivators that drive customer behavior and loyalty.

Some organizations are making emotional connection part of a broad strategy that involves every function in the value chain from product development and marketing to sales and service. However, in practice, the bulk of their energy is directed toward the pre-sales and sales part of the equation.

But consider this: Acquiring a new customer costs five to 25 times more than retaining one, according to Harvard Business Review. Clearly the most cost-effective way to generate new sales is to make existing customers so happy they keep buying from you and send referrals your way.

Conversely, a business with a low customer-retention rate is like a bucket with holes in it. You can keep pouring in more and more liquid to make up for the leakage, or you can patch the holes, stop the leaks and fill your bucket. Monitoring virtual call center KPIs can help you patch the holes.

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