Simon and Garfunkel sang “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”. Isn’t that how most contact centers run their operations? By service managers using a set of pigeon-holed metrics to manage their business to – like average hold times, number of emails processed per agent, and in some cases customer satisfaction ratings on their service.
Being a good manager is a craft that is learnt through practice and experience, and some contact centers are very successful as serving their customers well at a cost that makes sense to the business. However, I believe that managers can practice their craft more effectively if they are guided by the best logic and evidence.
No contact center that I have been in uses a process akin to the scientific method to optimize their service experience. This would involve designing an end-to-end service process, testing it on customers, measuring the outcome, changing the service process, re-testing and re-measuring. The optimal service is then derived by hard data to guide decisions. That is Evidence Based Service.
Why don’t contact centers use the universally accepted scientific method to tune their offerings? Mainly, because it’s hard. First, there are few companies that have extended the rigor of business process management to customer service. That is, most agents hunt and peck through back end data and knowledge sources to try to find the information that they need to solve a customer’s issue with no real consistency of process. And secondly, our customer service tools are un-integrated, don’t work together cohesively, and are so hard wired to one another that it takes  a ton of energy to change the way that they work together.
There are now tools and technologies on the market that allow you to make your IT wiring easier – think SOA, webservices, cloud computing. There are also many BPM vendors moving into the customer service space that allow you to change service processes easily and quickly.
Whatever solution you do use, wouldn’t it be a very interesting exercise to extend the rigor of test and measurement to customer service? Your service offering could then be data driven instead of being based on strategic snake oil or outdated management philosophies.