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Rethinking customer support in a connected world

Re-thinking Contact Center Metrics in an IoT World: A Modest Proposal*

Rethinking (* with apologies to Jonathan Swift)

Ask managers in the contact center arena and they’ll tell you that they live and die by the same set of metrics they were using when they opened the doors: average handle time, first-call resolution, etc.

And why not? If you handle a million calls a year and lop an average of 20 seconds off each one, that’s three full-time employees and a bunch of money saved. If your goal is to minimize your support costs, you’ll be a hero.

Except…is that really the best goal?

What if you added two minutes to each call and thereby deflected a hundred thousand product returns? Sure, you’d have to spend another million or so on the support function, but if by doing so you dropped five million dollars straight to the bottom line, wouldn’t it be worth it? And that’s not even counting the financial value of additional purchases from those hundred thousand customers who are over-the-moon loyal to your brand by virtue of the extra time and care your support people took.

That might have sounded like a pipe dream back when we were supporting nothing but PCs, but in the interconnected world of the Internet of Things, this scenario is not only practical but mandatory. As we’ve pointed out in previous articles, the connected home market is already showing signs of distress. Demand for smart home devices is falling, and a staggering percentage of products being returned for refund are in perfect working condition but buyers couldn’t figure out how to work them.

The only way of turning this around is to change our approach to support. To do that, we need to stop measuring support centers by how much money they cost and start assessing them by how much benefit they provide to the larger business. Over 80% of buyers of consumer electronics encounter some kind of problem, and even though it costs six-to-ten times as much to attract a new customer as it does to keep an existing one, roughly half of recently surveyed consumers say that they had left at least one vendor because of poor service. So spending money to make sure those 80% end up happy isn’t a necessary evil; it’s a necessary investment in the most important metric of all: customer retention.

This is not to say that you don’t want to make your support operation as efficient as possible. Of course you do: Getting the same result at less cost is, quite literally, money in the bank.

What you don’t want to do is lose sight of the larger picture by focusing too closely on the cost side of support. It’s the benefit-cost ratio that matters.

So while you’re busy finding ways to spend less money on support, take a little time to see if there are ROI-rich ways to spend more.

Re-thinking Contact Center Metrics in an IoT World: A Modest Proposal*
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Re-thinking Contact Center Metrics in an IoT World: A Modest Proposal*
Rethinking customer support in a connected world
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Lee Gruenfeld

Lee Gruenfeld is Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at, responsible for shaping’s groundbreaking approaches to supporting the Internet of Things. He is a former management consulting Partner at Deloitte, where he was national director of education for the firm’s Strategic Information Systems Planning service line. Prior to joining he was SVP/General Manager of a SaaS product division he started for a software company serving the gaming industry.

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