Translating the Art of Customer Service into the Science of Quality Measurement

In Quality Assurance World, customer service and customer experience are both vague concepts, given that they are not always easily quantifiable in hard numbers. But as a company that focuses on improving call center quality, it’s our job to capture and measure those obscure data points.

Translating the art of customer service into the science of quality measurement is itself something of an art form. I’m reminded of the story of ‘the blind men and the elephant.’

The Blind Men and an Elephant
It’s a well-known parable: a group of blind men touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part of the elephant, and when they compare notes they discover that they completely disagree about what an elephant actually looks like.

The story is widely-used as a metaphor in business, and it applies equally as well in the case of call center quality.

How so?

Know What You Are Measuring
All too often, we encounter companies who have settled upon certain performance metrics that don’t align with their stated business goals. Encouraging rapid call turnover for example, and using it as a key performance criterion isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if your business goal is for call center agents to resolve the caller’s issue or concern and build a relationship with them regardless of time spent, the measurement becomes far less valuable (and much more confusing to the front line agents who justifiably feel pulled in two different directions).

It’s common for businesses – as they shift their focus or change their methodologies – to fall behind the curve in updating employee performance criteria or metrics. The business environment today happens to be one of those periods in which there is significant shifting occurring. C-suite execs are seeing the rise (and success) of a customer satisfaction & experience-driven model, and are beginning to change the behaviors and approaches of their organizations accordingly.

As I mentioned in my last post, building a customer-focused organizationrequires a massive commitment, and – in some cases – a complete shift in organizational thought and guiding principles. Proactive businesses take steps to keep their call center procedures & metrics aligned with business practices. In some cases, they bring in firms (like ours) to review and update documentation, procedures, metrics, methods, training and more.

For companies that truly work towards elevating the customer experience, customers notice and pay attention. But the inverse is also true: companies that fail to deliver on their avowed focus on the customer will injure their brand. There’s a cautionary tale in here: adopting a customer-centric attitude without proper implementation or intent to follow through will cause more brand damage than sticking with the ‘old-fashioned’ way of doing business. Unlike the blind men in the story above, customers aren’t blind – and putting lipstick on a pig will not convince them your brand has become an elephant. At best, they’ll think your company does a very poor job of pretending to be an elephant.

Beyond the KPIs: Measuring Success in Customer-Centric Organizations
It is a complex combination of factors that indicate quality improvement – the various parts of the elephant, so to speak, that all come together to shed light on the company’s overall progress towards their objectives.

Next month, I’ll be writing more in-depth on some of the specific metrics that we feel are important to keep an eye on, beyond KPIs that have been handed down from senior management.

Do you work with an organization or company that has committed itself to customer experience/customer engagement? What has been your experience?