Call metrics matter to your propane operation

April 5, 2019 By    

Many of you remember the days of the almost-indestructible rotary phone, and some of you even admit being old enough to remember those days.

Despite their importance, CSRs may, in some cases, be underappreciated and undertrained. Photo:

Your VOIP system can help measure your customer service performance. Photo:

Unless customers walked into your office or mailed you something, you only communicated with them when you were at their home delivering gas or servicing their propane system.

Well, today’s sophisticated retailer of any size has moved beyond the rotary phone and touch-tone phone lines to Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phones. If you’re doing it right, your VOIP system helps you measure your customer service performance.

For example, here’s what our business knows about our customer service performance:

  • Number of inbound calls
  • Number of calls answered (and as percent of inbound calls)
  • Number of missed calls (and as percent of inbound calls)
  • Number of voicemails (and as percent of inbound calls)
  • Number of calls put on hold (and as percent of inbound calls)
  • Average handle time (both inbound and outbound)
  • Average hold time
  • Number of calls on hold abandoned (hang-ups)
  • What was said and how it was said (we record our calls)

How do you know what the numbers mean? One way to measure performance is to compare your numbers to call center industry standards. Here are some common standards:

  • Answer 80 percent of calls within 20 seconds.
  • Solve the customer problem on the first call 75 percent of the time.
  • Average handling time (call length) should be 5 minutes, 40 seconds for retail businesses.
  • Abandon rate should be less than 3 percent.

In an earlier column, I mentioned that many retailers say they have “great service at great prices.” Well, my Google searches continue to show that no propane retailers are touting crappy service at high prices.

There’s no market differentiation in saying you have great service at great prices. But that doesn’t mean you won’t lose customers if, in fact, you don’t provide great service.

That’s why it’s important to look at phone statistics. We may live in a digital world, but most of our customer interaction is still tied to the phone.

Let’s take a look at a case study involving a certain small retailer located in southern Michigan and its January performance:

  • Calls answered: 70 percent in 7 seconds versus 80 percent in 20 seconds standard
  • Average handling time: 2 minutes, 11 seconds versus 5 minutes, 40 seconds retail standard
  • Abandon rate: 2.7 percent versus 3 percent standard
  • First-call resolution: 79.4 percent versus 75 percent standard

This retailer concluded that it wanted to reduce call volume rather than increase office staff to improve its calls-answered performance but otherwise was satisfied with its performance during the coldest month of the winter.

It’s able to do this by encouraging customers to use its website and smartphone app to place orders and make payments. Increasing website and app orders and payments to only 30 percent of volume would reduce call volume by almost 40 percent, which in theory would improve calls answered to more than 90 percent.

Best of all, the retailer can measure the success of its decision by continuing to monitor its call metrics as it increases customer website and app usage.

Retailers of all sizes are using technology to evaluate call metrics to measure and improve customer performance. And you’ve just read a real-world example of how one retailer used this information to make business decisions to improve customer service. The retailer also reduced its cost compared to traditional phone service. Maybe it’s time to ditch that rotary phone.

*Featured image:

Christopher Caywood is a co-owner of Caywood Propane Gas Inc. in Hudson, Michigan.

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