How to review customer service performance through peak season

January 2017


For retailers, it is important to plan for season peak periods such as summer holidays, Christmas, and season sales periods such as Black Friday. With these peak periods, it’s important to sit down and carefully review your contact centre and customer service performance to include Black Friday through until the end of January.

When looking at service levels, we like to use the following metrics across voice, email, and social media in order to gauge performance:

  • First contact resolution:

The percentage of contacts that are resolved the first time around. Solving a customer’s problem on the first contact does two things. Firstly, it gives the customer the best possible experience, and secondly, reduces cost and improves efficiency in the customer service department.

  • Call abandonment rate:

Every abandoned call is a potential lost sale or unhappy customer. A high abandonment rate suggests calls are not being answered quickly enough, and hold times are too long. A by-product of a high abandonment is low first contact resolution, as customers will often turn to email and/or social media in order to get their queries resolved.

  • The average speed of answer:

The industry-standard service level is often quoted as 80/20. I.e Answer 80% of calls within 20 seconds. Although some customers will wait longer, many won’t, and will use alternative channels to get their issue resolved.

  • Average handling time:

Perhaps the most commonly tracked metric in all contact centres, average handling time (AHT) is a measure of efficiency. The challenge all customer service teams face is to reduce AHT whilst also improving first contact resolution rates to provide the best possible customer experience. It’s also important to track AHT across each channel in isolation to identify trends and patterns. You may find for example that the time to resolve one particular type of query is resolved quicker via email than phone. In those scenarios, it would make sense to direct all queries of that nature to the email channel.

  • Average response time:

Perhaps one of the most important metrics from a customer point of view, every customer service contact centre will be judged on how quickly a customer has his/her email or social media post responded to. From the customer’s perspective, the response time can often shape the overall level of satisfaction in the whole customer service experience.

  • Contact to order ratio:

The contact to order ratio is a measure of the number of contacts received versus the number of orders received and is particularly important in the retail and eCommerce sector. A high figure of 30% or more suggests that there are issues somewhere in the customer journey, such as product quality, or a lack of information in the shipping and postage process. It is important to have a sophisticated reporting platform in place in order to record and report on the reasons for customer contacts. Once you understand the reasons for the contacts, you can put processes in place to reduce contacts and improve the contact-to-order ratio.

  • Employee Engagement:

Perhaps the most important metric of all, if your people are satisfied and engaged in their work, all other metrics should be delivered. Here at Whistl, we became the first contact centre to adopt a cloud-based employee engagement platform that allows us to measure employee engagement on a weekly and anonymous basis. It’s been invaluable in helping us better understand our people, and in turn deliver exceptional service to our clients. 

3 ways outsourcing customer services can drive revenue growth in retail
As an outsourced contact centre provider, we’re typically appointed to reduce operational costs, improve service level performance and offer the customer a better experience with our client. As a result of achieving those results, customers get a better experience and increase their loyalty with our clients, leading to revenue growth. Here are three ways to work with us to achieve those goals:

1. Overflow and Out of Hours Cover

One of the issues most customer service teams face is that of flexibility. I.e The ability to maintain service levels at peak periods, whilst also keeping agents utilised for 85% of the day and therefore minimising customer service costs.

Outsourcing customer service on an overflow/out of hours basis in these scenarios simply gives brands a ‘Plan B’. Where no in-house advisors are available to take a call, we make our team available (with some prior training) to ease the strain on your team and ensure service levels are met. The same applies to email. Where service levels are behind, Whistl can step in to provide assistance.

This applies to both day-to-day operations, and out-of-hours coverage. This model allows brands and retailers to operate with fewer FTE, and benefit from a cost per activity rate where Whistl is called upon to manage calls or emails, increasing flexibility and maintaining and improving service level performance.

2. Customer Service Outsourcing

A complete outsourced solution naturally gives brands less day-to-day ownership of the customer service function but does provide a number of strategic advantages. Cost savings are made through removing the financial impact of employee retention, churn, recruitment and training, whilst there is often a greater ability to increase or decrease the number of Full Time-Equivalent (FTE) to meet service demand.

Whistl works with a number of retailers, particularly seasonal demand. Team sizes can flex from 15 FTE one month to 55 FTE the next. For many in-house customer service teams, recruiting and training to this level can be particularly challenging, especially where physical office space is limited. Outsourcing removes those challenges and also provides additional scope for growth.

3. Customer Retention and Reactivation

Most customer service teams are focused purely on delivering a great customer service experience. As a result, teams are structured to meet foretasted contact volumes, leaving little scope for other revenue-generating activities, such as customer retention or reactivation programs.

Outsourcing your contact centre needs can help create and deliver both short and long-term customer retention campaigns. 

To find out more about our Contact Centre outsourcing options, charges and models

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