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Top Leading and Lagging Metrics to Track to Improve Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

by Ashlee Hinds Customer loyalty and retention are at the top of the list when it comes to contact center goals. But driving loyalty and retention takes more than just measuring the customer satisfaction score (CSAT) or the net promotor score (NPS) and calling it a day. There are a lot of other indicators that impact customer loyalty and overlooking them can lead to missing the mark on customer experience. So how do you improve customer loyalty and retention rates? And what contact center metrics should you be measuring to get there?

Let me start by telling you a quick scenario that influenced me to be a loyal, lifetime customer.

A Story of a Truly Satisfied Customer

One time I purchased a pair of hiking pants – and if you’ve ever stepped foot into an outdoor apparel store, you know hiking pants aren’t cheap! I went on a hike in the pants, snagged them on a tree and ripped a hole in the knee. I was devastated and mad at the company for selling me such low-quality pants! I called the company who sold them to me and was immediately assisted by a friendly customer service representative who was empathetic toward my situation, asked me about my hike and quickly sent me a new pair of pants. I was SO satisfied with the way the situation was handled and how the agent quickly found a solution. Since then, I have purchased three new pairs of pants, shared them on my social media and recommended them to all my friends.

The moral of the story is that the key to customer loyalty and retention is not the perfect pair of pants that don’t rip, but it IS phenomenal customer service that leaves you highly satisfied when they do.

According to the NICE Contact Center Glossary, customer satisfaction is a measurement of how well a business is satisfying its customers with the products, services, or interactions it provides. In most contact centers, CSAT for individual interactions is typically measured after an interaction with a customer service agent.

How You Can Improve Customer Satisfaction

Most of us in the contact center industry understand the importance of customer satisfaction (CSAT). It’s usually the first metric any new agent or leader learns about upon starting in the contact center. But, the problem that arises when contact centers put all their focus on CSAT is that they often neglect the KPIs that actually drive CSAT. So instead of drilling down to the root cause of the problem, they constantly push agents to just improve CSAT scores. This can be really discouraging for agents who are trying their best but feel like they are taking a shot in the dark.

It’s like a basketball coach who tells their players to score more points but doesn’t coach them on how to make better shots. A much more effective basketball coach knows that to score more points, players need to improve KPIs such as free throw percentage, rebound percentage and ball control. Suddenly, the steps to improve become tangible.

The same concept goes for contact center agents. If an agent has a low CSAT score, it’s best to focus on improving contact center metrics that drive customer satisfaction like First Call Resolution or Average Speed of Answer. This concept can be described as leading vs. lagging measures.

Measuring Leading and Lagging Metrics

In simplest terms, a leading measure is the action/behavior change associated win something, and the lagging measure is the result.

Some examples of leading vs. lagging metrics look in everyday life are:

So, if you feel like your contact center is focused on lagging metrics but and not attending to leading metrics when it comes to customer satisfaction, here are five important leading metrics you can measure and improve to truly impact your CSAT scores.

  1. Average Speed of Answer (ASA): Average speed of answer is the speed in which an agent responds to waiting customers. Every second that goes by without an answer increases the odds of a customer hanging up the phone. Efficient ASA is a simple way to show your customers that you value their time and will provide top-notch customer service. A typical rule of thumb is to follow the 80/20 rule. If 80% of your calls are answered within 20 seconds, you are probably headed towards happier customers!

  2. Pro Tip: Ensure that each agent has access to a personal dashboard that displays ASA in real-time, historical ASA and their peers’ ASA. This keeps them accountable and lets them know when performance falls out of objectives.

  3. Average Handle Time (AHT): Average handle time is the time elapsed from when an agent answers a call until they hang up. It is often related to customer satisfaction and for a good reason: according to Forrester, 66% of adults believe that the most important thing a company can do is value their time.

  4. Pro Tip: Knowledgeable agents are more likely to immediately resolve calls without having to dig through a knowledge base, escalate to a supervisor or transfer the call. So, it’s important to equip your agents with ongoing training that helps them feel competent in their roles. You can do this through company-wide coaching sessions on new product knowledge or personalized coaching sessions designed to help individual agents close specific knowledge gaps.

  5. Average Abandonment Rate: Average abandonment rate is the percentage of callers who hang up before reaching an agent. A healthy abandonment rate for most contact centers is between 4-8%. When customers hang up, they typically aren’t thinking rainbows and butterflies about your company. It is more likely they are thinking negative thoughts about your company and possibly sharing it on their social media rant!

  6. Pro Tip: If metrics like Average Speed of Answer (ASA) and Average Handle Time (AHT) are high, then Abandonment Rates will be high because customers will be left waiting too long for an available agent. A good first step in improving abandon rate is to make sure those metrics are solid first (using the tips above). If both ASA and AHT are strong and your abandon rate is still high then you may want to consider other ideas like:

    • ·offering options to your customer such as receiving a callback or text when an agent becomes available

    • improving your self-service options

    • evaluating your IVR for any potential issues

    • displaying wallboards in your contact center so everyone can see queues in real-time

    • looking at volume forecasts and adjusting schedules and breaks to ensure adequate staffing levels

    • ·offering support over other channels.

  1. First Contact Resolution (FCR): First contact resolution is the percentage of customer contacts resolved within the first try. Customers whose issues are fixed with just one phone call or chat session are typically more satisfied than customers who requires multiple interactions to achieve resolution.

  2. Pro Tip: Motivate agents to improve their FCR rate by gamifying it! Set up games with FCR thresholds based on individual skill levels to give each agent the opportunity to be rewarded. For example, a new agent may win 50 virtual coins by maintaining a 50% FCR rate while a more tenured agent could win the same number of coins by achieving an 80% FCR rate. Both agents would be happy and feel competent, and eventually achieving a strong FCR rate would become a habit. Then you could continue to set higher thresholds for both agents!

  3. Agent Turnover Rate

Not only does high agent turnover cost your company money to recruit, hire, and train employees; it also has a significant negative impact on customer experience, which is even more detrimental to your bottom line. If you do not know where to start, begin with measuring your turnover rate and understand if it is low, average or high for your industry. Then implement tactics to improve employee engagement (see below)!

Pro Tip: According to Forrester, engaged employees generate 81% higher customer satisfaction and half the employee turnover. So, improving agent engagement and decreasing turnover should be one of your key tactics to improving customer satisfaction. You can do this by recognizing your agents, asking for feedback, keeping them challenged, helping them set a career path and providing coaching. For more ideas about how to improve agent engagement watch Four Keys to Improving Agent Satisfaction.

Taking Action to Improve Customer Satisfaction

As you know, there is a lot that goes into providing a good customer experience. If you are feeling overwhelmed, start with improving one leading measure at a time! It is a far better approach than just trying to improve CSAT as a whole.

When you’re choosing a leading metric, make sure to have a way to monitor both the leading metric and lagging metric it impacts. It’s important that both management and agents can view and track performance improvement, whether it be on individual dashboards or company-wide wallboards. You can do this automatically through technology like CXone Performance Management.

Having highly satisfied customers is a surmountable goal. Start small, dream big and implement the right technology to make it possible. Remember- like in my case --customers are not a lost cause when their pants rip. If you can provide a positive customer experience to solve their pant-ripping problem, you might just create a more loyal, satisfied customer than you had in the first place.

For more information on how CXone can help you improve your CSAT, check out this case study video on how CXone helped Konica Minolta track key metrics!

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