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It’s time to rethink targeting Net Promoter Score at the Frontline

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

It’s time to rethink targeting Net Promoter Score® at the Frontline.

In the old days, suspected witches were tested by throwing them into the water.

If they sank, they were innocent. If they floated then they were indeed witches.

And if they were deemed to be witches…well you know how that went.

Today, some Frontliners go through an equally questionable test with regard to their service on a call or chat.

Let me explain.

I toured a big Contact Center that targeted Net Promoter Score at the Frontline

I was touring a big Contact Centre that conducted a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey at the end of each call.

As soon as the survey was completed by the Customer, that score – along with the Agent name – was beamed across large wall monitors placed around the Centre.

There was even a large lounge area with monitors so that Agents could watch the screens and see the scores for themselves and others scroll by.

But NPS is not really useful as an individual performance metric.

And much of what can go into a Customer NPS score – or overall CSAT score – lies outside the control of the Agent.

NPS is best and most used as a measure of overall brand value.

When it comes to your Frontline, it’s more effective to identify and set goals around the drivers of ‘good’ NPS scores.  What drivers positively impact the NPS and what drivers (or behaviours) to avoid.

Drivers that Frontline folks can support and realistically achieve in the work they do.

That takes some research of course.  But doesn’t that research pay off for everyone?

Sure – measure NPS or CSAT and take the actions you need to take. That’s a given.

But targeting Net Promoter Score scores for Frontliners isn’t much more sound than throwing suspected witches into the water to see if they float.

10 CCXP Exam Practice Questions for Voice of Customer, Customer Insight & Understanding

The big German bank

We’re in the process of finalizing the set-up of OmniTouch International in Germany.  Exciting times.

So a few days ago we went to the bank here in Wiesbaden Germany to open our official company account.  And here I should mention it is one of the top 2 German banks.

And our experience turned out to be a classic case of targeting Net Promoter Score at the Frontline.

There was the Corporate Banking Officer and a university student doing a work-study assignment attending to us.  The service was fine, the setting was fine and in 45 minutes it was all sorted.

At the end the Officer asked – “Is it ok if someone calls you to rate the service I provided to you today?”

He has to ask for this permission before a call is made.

We said yes.

Then he said, “You will be asked to rate us on a scale of 1* – 10  and in our bank a 9 or 10 means you are satisfied.”  *(Not a typo on the “1” but the NPS scale actually begins at 0).

He continued, “So may I know what score you will give?”

To which my partner Marcus answered, “7”.

The room got quiet.  Then Marcus explained.

“If you had pre filled up the forms for us you would have saved us 20 minutes time and I would have given a 9 for this interaction.  But we understand the forms part is a process issue and not you – you were great.

The ‘7’ is my honest assessment of this interaction based on the 1 (sic) – 10 scale.”  It’s not an assessment of you personally.

It was so awkward but instructive to watch this dialogue.  To see the anguish.

I piped in, “I have to ask guys.  Do you find this rating question that you have to ask very stressful?”

They both nodded emphatically.

Because to be fair to them – the question isn’t fair to them.

In closing

I think what surprised me the most was that we were told that 9 or 10 represented ‘satisfaction’.

But that’s not at all how the NPS scale works.

And I don’t think the banking staff misrepresented NPS to us.

I have a feeling that NPS was misrepresented to them – and they were simply sharing what they had been told and what they are measured on.

I’m looking forward to seeing if we receive the follow-up survey call and I’ll report back if/when that happens!

Thanks for reading,


Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score and NPS are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

Contact Centre KPIs & The Green Jaguar

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I share the true story of my former boss, her green Jaguar automobile and how they taught me lessons about Contact Centre KPIs.

The background

Back in the early 90s I landed my first VP Operations role running Call Centre & Warehouse operations for an American entertainment company.

I had not come up through the ranks.

I was the VP Finance and I was offered the VP Operations job after the existing VP Operations resigned.

So I went straight from numbers, financials & analyses to operations.

At that time we didn’t have easy access to reliable Call Centre training – especially in operations domain.

The entire management team, including my boss the Executive VP, had to figure out how to run a large and growing Call Centre without any formal education or background in the industry.

Call Centres are very unique environments and cannot be understood purely from an intuitive or gut level.

There are some very real and complex mathematical realities which need to be mastered to perform well.

But I didn’t know those lessons and my boss at the time most certainly did not either.

We built our Los Angeles-based Call Centre from the ground 

One of the milestones of my career was watching a brand new Call Centre being built from the ground up.

Engineers were consulted, building crews were brought in, technology folks began to install, people began to be hired and it was all very exciting.

The Centre was located in a small beach town about 20 miles from the company’s chic and shiny Santa Monica based headquarters.

That gave our pioneer team a sense of independence and also some welcome distance from corporate ‘politics’.

My boss – the Executive VP

My direct boss was a life-long record company executive.

She stood about 6’1” (186 cm), wore big statement jewellery and could do multiple currency calculations in her head.

I loved her but feared her just ‘enough’ – others feared her more.

Every year she also got a new company car – and in the year our Centre went live it was a shiny green Jaguar sedan.  Gosh I loved that car.

Our new Centre was a single story building with glass windows all around.  That allowed us to see cars pulling in and out of the driveway.

And soon you will see how important this was to this story.

When the Centre opened

Our formal launch day was set.

And about 3 days beforehand my boss called me and asked if she could drop by on opening day to see the live operations.

She wanted to see people taking calls and experience what she and the Board had ‘gotten’ after spending so much money.

My answer was of course – yes, come on over.

Was there really a choice?

This is when things got a bit messy

One of the lessons I share now in my training is never let your boss walk unescorted through your Call Centre.

It’s too easy to draw incorrect conclusions based on what you see – a lot of what goes in a Centre is actually invisible!

But I let her go unaccompanied out into the Centre and here is what happened.

Armed with a little notebook, she walked around and observed each and every one of the 60 or so Agents we had in place at launch.

If the Agent was talking on their headsets or typing on their keyboards she was pleased and walked on by.   If they weren’t doing anything she wrote down their name on the notebook.

When her 6+ foot frame appeared in my doorway, she wasn’t very happy.

“Daaaaan” she drawled in her Southern accent, “You’ve got a big problem.

“You’ve got a lot of lazy people out there not doing anything.  So your interviewing skills must not be all that great.  And I’d say you’re also overstaffed.

“If you don’t fix this we are going to have a serious problem – do you really think we’re made of money?”

With that, she turned, went out, got into her car and drove back to Santa Monica.

A surprise visit

A week later, at about 10:00AM, the Receptionist ran into my office and blurted out “She’s here, she’s here!”

She had spotted the green Jaguar pulling into the front drive through the windows.

So I did what any fast thinking VP Operations would do.

I ran out to the floor, grabbed the first 3 Agents I could reach and said “You, you and you, sign off and go hide in the pantry!”

As they ran around the corner in walks my boss.

She looked at me for a moment and then strode right into the Call Centre floor.

And what did she see?

Here’s what she saw

As any good Call Centre person knows, when I pulled through 3 folks off the phone, the Occupancy rate for all the remaining folks immediately shot up.

Welcome to the Power of One.  Everyone was either talking or typing.

She wandered around the Centre for about 20 minutes in total and this time I made sure I went with her.

As she headed back to the front lobby she turned to me and said “Good”.  She then walked out, got into the car and drove off.

Here’s what was really happening 

You need to know more than just the individual definition and purpose of each KPI.

The most interesting part about Contact Centre KPIs is how they interrelate and interact with each other.

Contact Centre KPIs aren’t just dials on a dashboard to be monitored and tracked in isolation.

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

So I came up with what I call ‘The Chicken Dance’ – based directly on the story of my boss and her green Jaguar.

And this has always been one of my favourite teaching moments.

To do the Chicken Dance, you start by raising your arms up so that they are parallel to the floor.

Ok here goes –

When I pulled the 3 folks off the phone – the Service level went down (flap down).

That means the Occupancy went up (flap up).

– Quality potentially began going down as the call queue grew (flap down).

– Abandonment rate likely went up as the call queue grew (flap up).

– Available time for the Agents went down (flap down).

– In the short run AHT might go down but as time goes by AHT goes up (flap up).

– Customer Satisfaction with wait time goes down (flap down).

-and # of Calls Handled per Agent went up (flap up) – but not because they were more productive!  Because we were understaffed at that time.

I dedicate The Chicken Dance to my former boss in Los Angeles

Since I introduced the Chicken Dance in my classes way back in 2003, thousands of people have sat in a training room or hotel conference room and watched me perform the dance.

I think that this has been a fun and useful way to convey the complexity inherent in Call Centre operations.

Operations training doesn’t need to be dry and boring.

It should be interesting and useful and be easily linked to the Employee experience and the Customer experience as well.

People should be able to ‘speak’ its unique language with ease.

So in closing, I dedicate the Chicken Dance to my boss with the green Jaguar.

And I thank her for the wonderful 8 years I had working with her and gaining such wonderful experience that I share with students to this day.

Thank you for reading!



Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article we talk about Contact Centre Average Handling Time.

So put your feet up on the couch and tell the Dr. – for heaven’s sake, why are we all still talking about Average Handling Time?

The more you talk about AHT, the less you talk about Quality

A psychologist with a patient

I have a theory that’s been proven out over the years.

A see-saw going up and down

Contact Centre Average Handling Time & Quality

The more a Centre and its inhabitants talk (or fret) about Contact Centre AHT – the less they talk (or fret) about Quality.

Sure – Quality gets lip service (who’s going to bash Quality?) – but it’s AHT that reigns supreme.

And for some inexplicable reason, it’s almost always about the Agents.

Yeah – you know – those Agents who brush their teeth in the bathroom mirror every morning and plot how to sabotage AHT.

A young man brushing his teeth“Hmmmm (they say to themselves) – how could I drag the calls today?”

“A few more holds and a bit of nonsensical small talk and I’m sure I can knock AHT out of whack.”


Any Quality Assurance professional will tell you a simple truth

AHT flows from Quality.

Exhaust coming from an automobile tailpipe

Average Handling Time is an outcome

It’s an output…a byproduct…an emission.

You know those Monitoring Forms with the checklists and standards that QA likes to hand out to let you know how you’re doing with regard to Quality?

Those Forms dictate your Contact Centre Average Handling Time.

Want Agents to use the Customer’s name 3x? Ok – that’ll be about 15 seconds.

Want Agents to say “Is there anything else I can do to help you today (and mean it)?” – that easily adds 7 more seconds.

Need Agents to conduct 2 levels of verification – yup – takes time.

Are you fearless enough to put First Contact Resolution on your Form? Well that’s gonna cost you too (in time that is).

If your Agent scores 100% quality on their call and you still have to talk to them about their AHT something’s wrong with the Form or something’s wrong with your Quality process.

A guru floating in the air As I like to say when I transition into ‘guru’ mode – when your Agent achieves Quality – and it just feels right – then AHT will be what it will be.

Contact Centre Average Handling Time flows from Quality.

But most assuredly Quality does not flow from Contact Centre Average Handling Time!

A delicious piece of chocolate lava cakeDid you ever order chocolate lava cake for dessert in a restaurant? It’s delicious.

But the menu often says “please order early, or just be aware it will take about 20 minutes for us to make you this delicious chocolate lava cake”.

I’ve never seen it happen that a Diner bangs the table and says – “Hey, Chef baby – make me one of those delicious chocolate lava cakes in 10 minutes – you hear? ”

So what’s the best way to correct Contact Centre AHT at the Agent level?

The best way has always been – and it will continue to be – conducting root cause analysis at the Agent level.

Watch the Agent at work, listen to calls, correct what needs to be corrected (sometimes it’s a piece of equipment, sometimes it’s knowledge or skill).

When you fix Agent Quality – you automatically fix AHT. It’s an outcome – not a driver.

Of course having a guideline helps.

Contact Centre AHT lends itself beautifully to measurement as an ‘acceptable range’.

A graph showing acceptable range

Contact Centre Average Handling Time Acceptable Range

For example an ‘acceptable’ range for your Centre AHT in the mornings might range from a low of 3 minutes to a high of 6 minutes.

I’d set my ‘acceptable’ range based on my high performers in quality – if your call is great quality-wise – then by default the AHT is acceptable. (if it isn’t something is broken in how you measure quality).

Armed with a range, you can track performance across your Team Members and identify outliers – for example those who are consistently above or below the acceptable range for that time period.

This approach allows you to focus in on folks who may have some barrier in their way.

Do remember though –

Acceptable ranges are not consistent throughout the day – most Centres see longer AHT in the night hours as compared to the morning hours (for example).

You have to adjust your ranges based on your call mix, Customer mix and the like.

If you’re in WFM or Process AHT matters

Of course – if you are in WFM (Workforce Management)or you are in Process improvement and/or Customer journey mapping, AHT is super important.

And WFM folks tend to understand that the biggest improvements in AHT come from technology and process improvement.

When you look at all the factors that ‘drive’ AHT, Agents themselves have only minor control over AHT – namely applying their knowledge, skills & abilities as trained and coached.

Industry-wide AHT for voice calls is going up

Children in front of a fun-house mirrorAs the world increasingly becomes digital, Customers reach out to voice channels when their issue is complex or they are confused or unhappy with something.

Coupled with the digitization of ‘simple’ inquiries the outcome is clear – while voice volumes may be ‘stabilizing’ in volume for some Centres, AHT continues to climb.

Feel better? I do

In an era of Customer experience, it won’t do you or your Team Members any good to have an artificial clock ticking in their ear while trying to listen, empathize and resolve a Customer call.

If you’re a Manager or Team Leader who still harps on individual Agent AHT it’s time to rethink your value.

It’s not 1973 anymore.

Thanks for reading!


[email protected] / https://www.omnitouchinternational.com

A picture of Daniel Ord

Daniel Ord


The risks of channel blending in a Contact Centre

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

This article is about the risks inherent in channel blending in Contact Centres.

Channel blending is defined as having Agents work on different types of contacts coming in – simultaneously.

This is a different scenario than having multi-skilled Agents handle different types of contacts coming in – but at different time intervals.

These days with more channels of communication – channel blending seems like a logical approach to improve productivity.

But there are risks inherent in channel blending that Contact Centre management need to factor into planning decisions.


If you don’t know already – please learn your Erlang C

Yup – your Contact Centre Agents have Available time.

Available time results from the dynamic of random contact arrival – with the outcome that at some times your Agent is ‘occupied’ while at other times they are ‘available’.

The following formula applies:

Occupancy Rate + Available Rate = 100% for any given period of time

So if your Agent is 85% occupied that means they are experiencing a 15% availability  rate over the same period.

Let’s do some math using an hour as time basis:

  • 85% Occupancy x 60 minutes = 51 minutes of being occupied
  • 5% Available x 60 minutes = 9 minutes of being available

But those 9 minutes – spread over the course of an hour – come in bits and bursts.

5 seconds here…42 seconds there…1 minute here and so on.

So the question is – does it really work to ask your Agents to handle other contacts at the same time during these bits & bursts of Available Time?

Obviously, when Occupancy rates are very low, it makes sense to switch attention to other work.

But in Contact Centres which aim to achieve Service Level interval after interval, Occupancy rates don’t fluctuate wildly.


Channel blending – handling multiple channels of contact at the same time 

Can Agents viably handle channels such as Live Chat or Emails while logged in to handle Voice calls at the same time (or over the same time period)?

Smart practitioners and organizations that pursue Customer Experience say no.

It all sounds so good on paper so why not?

It’s simple.

Quality and the Customer Experience (and all that goes with it like First Contact Resolution) will suffer in this scenario.

Try writing a clear and well presented reply to a Customer email while being interrupted any number of times by Voice calls.

Try jumping back and forth between a Live Chat (or three) and a Voice call and ensure you handle them all well.

Now try doing this hour after hour, day after day, month after month.

I watch a lot of industry recruitment videos and in these videos you hear about the need for a Contact Centre/Customer Service professional to listen well and give their undivided attention to the Customer. To create a memorable and positive experience to build loyalty and trust.

All noble stuff.

But the implementation of channel blending (as defined in this article) flies directly in the face of great Customer Service and is a bit hypocritical at the end of the day.


Wikipedia gives us this gem for multi-tasking

Human multi-tasking is an apparent human ability to perform more than one task, or activity, over a short period of time.

An example of multi-tasking is taking phone calls while typing an email and reading a book.

Multi-tasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching and apparently causing more errors due to insufficient attention.

Jeff Toister, a Customer Service expert, writes –

Multi-tasking and Customer Service don’t mix.

  • We can only process one conscious thought at a time
  • Multi-tasking slows us down
  • We make more errors when we multi-task

I recommend reading Jeff’s full article on the topic at the link below – it’s a winner.


Wikipedia carries on with the origin of the term ‘multi-tasking’:

The first published use of the word “multi-task” appeared in an IBM paper describing the capabilities of the IBM System 360 in 1965.

In this context, “multi-tasking” refers to the ability of a computer to apparently process several tasks, or computer jobs, concurrently.

The term has since been applied to human tasks.


It’s not about the attitude of your Frontline Team Members

Recently I met a Contact Centre Agent at a workshop and she said that yes – it had been hard to handle multiple channels at the same time – but she seemed to chalk it up to attitude.

‘Dan – it was hard – especially at the beginning. But I have a correct attitude so I really tried and got used to it over time…’

But let’s take that argument a bit further.

For those who struggle with handling multiple channels at the same time does this mean that they don’t have the right attitude?

Her statement made me sad because I had to wonder – how many others out there in the industry are blaming attitude on their failure to achieve ‘success’ in channel blending.


The world has changed

Most Contact Centres recognize that their call mix has changed radically over the past years.

Nowadays the voice channel is not the ‘first choice’ for most and tends to be utilized for only the more complex or challenging situations.

This means the Agent job role has become even more difficult than it was before (just ask an Agent).


Organizations that focus on Customer experience allow their Agents to deliver on the Customer experience – especially when faced with increasing complexity.


Channel blending is not about being Omni-channel

Omni-channel is about the Customer experience.

Being able to maintain a seamless, ‘single’ conversation with a Customer across multiple channels of communication.

But being ‘Omni-channel’ – a Customer experience strategy – is not the same as Channel blending which damages the Customer experience (as well as the Agent experience).

Does it make sense to train Team Members across different channels of communication?


This is where the work can get really interesting for the Agent and the planning gets much easier for the Centre.

Handling different channels, at different scheduled intervals, is a sign of healthy forecasting & scheduling.

Channel blending, though beautiful on paper, is a misguided attempt to achieve productivity.

Thank you for reading!


daniel[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com