The Des Moines Register reported on Monday that four employees of Nationwide Insurance’s Des Moines call center were fired for hanging up on customers. At least one of the fired CSRs stated that she was trying to keep her stats up:
Gillum testified that she hung up on policyholders to boost her job-performance statistics."I
didn’t think about the fact that it could be someone that was needing
help right then and there, that their daughter may have just got in an
accident and was in the hospital and they were needing help," she
testified. "I wasn’t really thinking about the customer. I was thinking
about myself and my stats."
The fired employee went on to claim that hanging up on customers to keep up their call metrics is a common occurrence in the call center.
While this may simply be an angry ex-employee blasting her former employer, the reality is that call center managers and supervisors often use metrics and phone stats (e.g. Talk Time, Average Call Time, Average Handle Time, Abandon Rate, Average Hold Time) to hold front-line CSRs accountable and confuse it with "quality". They do so because the statistics are easily retrieved from the phone system and it requires little effort to look at the number.
I remember talking to a local call center supervisor who told me that her company had just "spent a lot of money on a ‘Quality Program’." When I asked her to tell me about the program she replied, "It’s great. We get a report telling us how many calls the CSRs are taking, how long they spend on the phone, how often they put the customer on hold. That kind of thing."
The problem is that a statistic like Average Handle Time is not a measure of service quality. Holding CSRs accountable to a number will result in situations like the one alleged at Nationwide, where reps focus on their "numbers" instead of the customer. The only way to measure quality is to measure what is actually happening and what the customer is experiencing within the call. That requires listening and objectively measuring the content of the call.