Review of Report on CIO/CFO Alignment

I just read an interesting report released by CFO Research Services & Search CIO; Study sponsored by Cisco; Released March 2012)

Although the report somewhat states the obvious, it does include some interesting statistics from the 600+ respondents, and is worth the read and digestion if you have the time.

Here is my breakdown…


  • Seeks to understand how aligned CIO/CFOs are when it comes to selecting technology that supports their business strategy.
  • Covers areas that they agree and work together well, areas they disagree and need work, and some ideas for making progress.

Gist of the study

  • Although it is recognized that technology has become a core component of the success of many facets of businesses, the pace of its evolution makes it challenging to use that technology, and to communicate the benefits and impact of it.
  • In order to harness today’s technology businesses must move from siloed technology to ‘business technology’.
  • In order to do so IT (CIO) and Finance (CFO) must understand and support each other in order to ensure that they align themselves with the business strategy
  • Challenges to this include a lack of understanding of each other’s priorities/goals as they relate to the business goals, lack of communication and understanding of the benefits and drivers of technology selection
  • Solution to this is having CIO understand CFO and vice versa; having CIO think more strategically; having CFO have a better understanding of the growth potential and long term benefits that new technologies offer

The study does a great job of pointing out the challenges that are faced by both the CIO and CFO. But it is definitely written from the IT perspective. I say this because I see quite a few suggestions that seem to benefit the CIO but not many that benefit the CFO. Lastly, the summary by the sponsor concludes with recommendations for the CIO in working with the CFO – not the other way around.

Here are a few take-aways

  • Challenge
    When the ROI and business cases are not portrayed clearly, IT risks being seen as a cost center. On the other hand, if finance insists on receiving the ROI, it risks hampering its ability to deliver long term benefits that may be hard to measure initially.
  • Response
    Since technology has assumed such a central role in industry, it has required both the CIO and CFO to change their perspectives – with the CIO adopting a more strategic view on technology’s impact business performance, while the CFO has to recognize the overall affect technology has on areas like the customer experience and growth.
  • What CIO/CFOs agree on – Priorities in the following categories when it comes to selecting technology (See Study for details)
    • Business Impact
    • Ease of Implementation
    • Ongoing Cost
  • What they disagree on
    • Who has the most influence on technology acquisition?
    • Who has the power to buy?
  • Opportunity for growth
    • CIOs could engage CFOs earlier in the process so that they understand the business area that is driving the acquisition
    • CFOs could help the process by keeping business units focused on the business need VS. the want
  • Challenge in perception
    • CFOs feel that the metrics used to assess technology investments are clear and demand not just demonstrable ROI but improved KPIs as well
    • CIOs feel that those metrics are not as clear, have issue with CFOs “rigid definition” of ROI, and feel that a good percentage of CFOs have a poor understanding of “how technology supports business strategy and generates value”.

Report’s Conclusion

Although differences in view point, do present a challenge for those that are looking towards the goal of “integrated business technology”, an understanding one another’s priorities and the metrics that guide technology investments do make it possible.

You can read the entire report via the following URL


Review of The Expert’s Guide to Customer Service: First Call Resolution” by Rosanne D’Ausilio, PhD.

The break on the 4th gave me some time to review a recently released guide on first call resolution – “The Expert’s Guide to Customer Service: First Call Resolution” by Rosanne D’Ausilio, PhD.

Here is my high-level feedback on the report

–          The report does a good job at arguing the importance and impact of first call resolution on the organization in terms of its impact on both operations and customer satisfaction.

–          Agent performance is cited as the biggest impact on the customer experience.

–          Repeat calls and their impact are discussed in detail. Included is a calculation chart that can assist in measuring the financial impact repeat calls have on your own organization.

Many reports and their statistics are cited. Here are a few that grabbed my interest:

–          45% of repeat calls stemmed from emotional disconnects between customers and representatives – Harvard Business Review, Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers 201o

For me this points to the importance of identifying the root cause issues that cause those repeat calls. Categorizing the issues, addressing each group, finding solutions and then training agents accordingly will help you increase your CSAT and decrease those repeat calls in one stroke.

–          57% of inbound calls came from customers who went to the website first

–          More than half of phone contacts have a self-service interaction related to them either before or after the call.

This suggests that we still have a long way to go in unifying the customer experience across channels – which I have seen firsthand. When I recently logged onto my mobile provider and checked on my billing I realized that something was not right and wanted to give them a call in order to investigate. For one thing I could not seem to find the phone number (are they trying to make it difficult for me to find them?). Then when I finally did get to the right department, they were unaware of my website activity. How much time would this have saved me, their, IVR and their agent if my web experience was integrated into their call center?

Lastly, here are a few take-aways. Although these are common knowledge when it comes to addressing first call resolution, I do not think it hurts to hear them repeated.

–          Measure! ~ 51% of companies measuring FCR for more than one year reported improvement ranging from 1 to 12% in a study by The Ascent Group in 2010.

–          Ask your customers if their issue was resolved!

–          Use multiple methods to measure FCR

–          Don’t stop measuring – continue so that you can measure your improvement

–          Stop those repeat calls! ~ SQM Group suggests there is a 20% point drop in customer satisfaction for each additional call required to resolve the customer call. (SQP Group, FCR 2008, p. 3)

Outline of the guide.

  1. Introduction
  2. Survey  | Reports
  3. Best Practices
  4. How to Measure
  5. What do those repeat calls cost
  6. Common Techniques for Measuring FCR
  7. What are the benefits of FCR?
  8. What Metrics are impacted by FCR?


Implementing a First Call Resolution Process

We have been discussing first call resolution (FCR) on this blog. A first call resolution solution should, at a minimum help you in evaluating and understanding your contact centers first call resolution rates, repeat caller trends, and the ability to apply a second call treatment plan to retain and balance the resulting customer experience. The underlying technology that assists you in this quest should be able to direct your repeat callers to the correct resource and provide important call information to your agents when developing a repeat call strategy.

You need the ability to gather and view your data. Many contact center systems and applications offer reports that can give you a glimpse into specific areas but do not give you the global view that is necessary to gauge your centers inclusive FCR effectiveness. You should be able to use a product that can give you top and bottom performance indicators for ACD groups, agents, and views into your centers overall success (or failure) rate. Low performance is the place you want to start your investigation and may give you the ability to identify port jamming, fraud, or other issues creating excessive traffic on the phone system. It is also the beginning for finding the possible cause for the low performance.

Identifying telephone numbers with excessive activity and visually identifying large call volumes from the same customer number or ANI can be used to identify fraud, telemarketing, mal-functioning auto dial systems, or other systemic troubles that could be locking up ports. This can also be used to identify ways to reorganize resources or routing schemes to redirect calls or change business strategy.

The goal of attaining first call resolution every time is not a realistic view of the real world. Putting technology into play helps you to identify and control repeat callers and implement a second call treatment strategy plan. Your planning will pay off when you use the technology to track and report your FCR improvements over time.

Customer Service or Customer Rage?

This blog site has been focusing on the importance of providing great contact center customer service, and the added value of satisfying your customers the first time they contact you (first call resolution). One recent story (definitely not FCR) that particularly caught my attention was the disgruntled 78-year old customer of a cable company. She was so upset by her many attempts to get phone service she finally took matters into her own hands.

Inadequate customer service is regularly in the news. There is a consumer blog site called the Consumerist that is helping consumers with typical big (and small) business transactions and the resulting customer experience. One place you don’t want your company to be listed is the Consumerist “Worst Customer Service Ever.”  Take a look at what consumers are up against on a daily basis when you have a few spare minutes.

Although many companies offer consistently excellent customer service, the level of companies who don’t has created a new designation called customer rage. A 2004 National Customer Rage Study was issued by Arizona State University. It stated that 73% of people who “experienced a problem with a product or service… were extremely or very upset (defined as rage).” Reflecting back on our emphasis on first call resolution, the study reported that “it took customers an average of 4.3 contacts (called ping-ponging) to get their issue resolved. By that time, the aggravation and wasted time nullifies most resolution efforts.”

How you treat your customers; from internal staff to customer facing personnel, and that does include the contact center, is important to your bottom line. Giving your customer’s the best service is a key driver of brand loyalty and customer retention.

Benefits of Great IVR Design

Automated self-service has become commonplace in contact centers. Not only does it save the contact center valuable human resources, it is also a time saver for customer’s calling in for simple tasks, and lately, more sophisticated transactions. The automated menus can quickly take care of many requests that once required a human to accomplish. Although there are still many customers who dislike “talking” to IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems, a well-designed system has value, practicality, and is easy to maneuver. If you don’t believe me, measure your IVR system to one of your key competitors and see how you compare. Which system do you think your customer’s would find more accepting and be willing to use?

IVR Benefits

Modern IVR systems are capable of personalizing calls, taking advantage of your own office automation (CRM), and are always available 365 days a year.  Several key benefits:
• Customers get immediate response – time savings
• Handles routine calls and frees agents for more complex transactions
• Enables skill based routing directing callers to the best agent or agent group to handle their transaction
• Collects caller information for agent screen pop when the call is connected
• Using ANI, every customer can receive a personalized message (better customer service)
• Multiple language selection is not an issue

One thing is certain, there will always be changes. Company processes, new management, products or technology are constantly changing. Is your IVR keeping up with those changes and reflected in new menus and other customer focused benefits? Start with design, an IVR is based on a well written, tested script. One common mistake is assigning the design task to a developer and not a design specialist. Over developing a script will make your customer’s frustrated and add additional overhead to your operations. This will add repeat callers that potentially will end up with an agent – in most cases, exactly what you are trying to avoid.

A good design must focus on a human approach: what is the purpose of this script, intended audience, usefulness, and above all it must be customer-friendly. The only way you will know for sure if the script design is robust, but not overcomplicated, is to test all of your script designs both internally and externally. As mentioned, compare your new design to your competitors. Is it easier to use, have the correct options and flow, targeting the right audience? When was the last time you reviewed your IVR scripts or performed an analysis on containment rates? Look for a vendor like Primas who has 15 years of script design, development, consulting, and the expertise in migrating legacy IVR systems to new platforms.

Benefits of Customer Self-Service Solutions

Customer service has emerged as a key business differentiator in a crowded and competitive marketplace. The dilemma companies face is the expense of supporting live (human) customer interactions, or offering less expensive customer self-service applications that are not always appreciated by the same customers you are trying to please. This is especially important for utility companies who interact with their customer’s for basic information to complex billing questions.

One company that has successfully migrated to automated customer self-service is Time Warner Cable (TWC) in upstate New York. Implementing a host of customer self-service applications on their IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system, they have enabled their customers to perform many tasks without ever speaking to a live customer service representative. This has not only benefited TWC’s bottom line, but improved customer satisfaction with their IVR system that was well-designed by Primas. The automated system reduces calls to agents by 50% or more, gives customers no waiting on hold, fast response, and frees up live call center agents to handle complex tasks.

FREE – FCR Analysis Video from Primas

We have been discussing first call resolution in the contact center environment on this blog, why it is important and why you should know your centers FCR percentage rate.  What technology tools are available that can help us learn our own first call resolution rate?  Primas has just released a video that will show you how to capture your own data and create a FCR Analysis report based on your contact center data.   No more excuses, now is the time to challenge your team, try something new and unbelievable as it sounds, and get some free personalized information!

The end result of the Primas FCR Analysis video is to enable you to view your current contact center FCR percentage rate over a one week period of time.  A free report from Primas is included that will advise you on best practices and include a benchmark FCR percent displaying your contact center FCR rate compared with other contact centers.

Why is Primas offering the FCR Analysis video for free? Primas hopes you will benefit with a free and quick look into your organization’s FCR performance. You will probably be very surprised.  As with any marketing campaign, Primas believes that once you have sampled some of the data and learned more about other Primas performance and productivity tools, you will definitely want to see the full-blown Evolution FCR™ product.  Evolution FCR can deliver all types of data on your current and historical FCR rates, customer satisfaction via automated surveys, management reports, call tracing, and many other valuable tools in one package to help you understand your contact centers operations.

Are You Tired of Waiting on Hold?

When you need to call in for customer support the situation may have already reached a critical stage, for example, maybe the cable is out and you have no Internet. If you work from home that can be catastrophic, so you pick up the phone hoping to get back online for your customer sales call that is starting in 15 minutes.  Well, if you are like many call-in customers to a support contact center, you will be intercepted by some type of auto-attendant device (IVR) before you get to a live person.  Once you have navigated the IVR menu, you will probably be subjected to irritating ads that are too loud and distorted to understand or drop into the bottomless music pit, listening to tunes that will either put you to sleep or slap you in the face with too much bass.

So why don’t more companies invest in technology tools that will end this brutal practice of keeping customers hostage while on hold? I think this would generate incredible customer satisfaction.  One such tool is a solution from Primas called FreedomQ™.  It is a contact center virtual queuing solution that enables callers to keep their place in the queue and get a callback when an agent is available.  How about that?  So in the scenario above, if all of the customer service reps were busy the IVR menu, and customer experience, could be much different. 

Here is how it works: when the expected hold time exceeds a set threshold, customers can hear a message that tells them the expected wait time and gives them the option to “continue to hold or request a callback” in the same amount of time they would have waited on hold, without losing their place in line.  Implementing a FreedomQ solution tells your customers that your company respects their time. It allows them to be productive while a virtual placeholder saves their place in the queue.

There is also a reasonable business case for this type of technology.  It eliminates hold times, reduces costs, and has a fast ROI. Industry analysis of virtual queue technology (ROI) demonstrates:

  • Reduces abandoned calls an average of 50%
  • Increases agent productivity and improves customer service levels
  • Eliminates long hold times, reducing toll costs and abandoned calls
  • Improves the customer experience, contact center efficiency and agent morale

While waiting in the virtual queue, callers are free to go about their business.  When it is the caller’s turn, they receive a callback within the time quoted.  When their phone rings, they are connected with a specialist who has the right skills to handle the call.  Implementing a FreedomQ solution results in a fast ROI and shows your customers that you care and respect their valuable time.

Defining Second Call Treatment

Repeat call tracking is a powerful first call resolution (FCR) measurement tool. It allows a business to define a second call treatment range, track FCR rates and automatically collect information that can be used to determine root causes of problems.

The greatest benefit to understanding second call treatment comes from available technology that can locate resources more easily. When a repeat caller is identified the caller can be transferred to an agent with specific training or a managed queue with the proper expertise. This has the benefit of using the extensive efficiency and optimization technology within the contact center queues to enhance performance.

Another way this can be achieved is by having the integrating software perform a series of automated data “dips”, to examine the database for the information needed to route the call to the proper agent.  Another possible benefit is the real-time notification to a CSR that a caller is indeed a repeat caller.  The CSR can immediately see a real-time screen pop on their desktop with valuable customer information.

You now have all of the data from the completed repeat call transaction and as far as you know, the customer is satisfied. How can you be sure? Invest in an automated IVR survey like the one that is included in the Primas Evolution FCR product solution.  As discussed in a previous post, an IVR survey captures the customer’s view of the call right after the interaction. Remember to close the loop all the way to the end and know for certain that you are doing a better job.

FCR is difficult to achieve, and when it is not you must have a plan for second call treatment. Primas offers the perfect solution for identifying and handling repeat callers with real-time desktop agent tools, management reports and follow up surveys that can give you the knowledge you need to satisfy and retain your valuable customers.

It Might not Seem like the Good Old Days but Compared to 100 Years Ago… FCR and Second Call Treatment

There have been several articles circulating lately about the “good ole days.”  Every era has its own set of problems and issues.  Things may be bumpy for a while, but we always seem to survive, including the current economic trials and tribulations the world is currently experiencing.  Turning back the clock one hundred years to 1910 would yield the following fun facts:

• The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.
• Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores only, and there were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads, with a maximum speed limit in most cities of 10 mph.
• The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower!
• The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour.
• The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
• Sugar cost four cents a pound, eggs were fourteen cents a dozen, and coffee was fifteen cents a pound.
• Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.
• Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

Assuming you were lucky enough to own a telephone back in 1910 odds are you would wait patiently on the phone for an operator, tell her the number you were trying to reach and then after several minutes you might get connected to your party. If there were any hang-ups, interference or disconnects it was understandably the “system” and not you intentionally hanging up (abandon) because you lost your patience.

Jump ahead one hundred years to 2010. Our modern day contact centers greets you with an automated menu (IVR) system that if well designed could be fun to use and offers voice prompts for self-service questions and answers. As mentioned, if designed correctly the IVR is a time saver for you the customer, and a time and cost saver for the companies that have implemented them. Where am I going with this? The best designed IVR and the most customer focused contact center staff cannot guarantee that all calling customers will have their needs met on the ever important first call.

What I am talking about is of course a common theme on this blog site, namely, first call resolution or simply FCR. In a recent study by the Ascent Group more than 90% of companies measuring first call resolution reported improvement in their performance. Another study by reported a dramatic fall in call volume — identifying that a minimum of 20% of all calls were repeat calls from customers needing an answer or help they didn’t get on the first call.

Even with a first call resolution plan in place you will never eliminate all repeat callers. The reasons are many and varied by industry and unforeseen events. You may even encourage repeat callers depending on your business model. Implementing a Second Call Treatment solution (like Primas’ Evolution FCR™ product)  offers special attention be given to the repeat caller and can diffuse hostile interactions between the customer and CSR (Customer Service Representative), and even save a valuable customers business. Building a Second Call Treatment process is imperative to avoid a third or subsequent customer contact, remember operating without a first call resolution process was found to account for a minimum of 30% of a call center’s operational costs!

There will be more insight and ideas on second call treatment later this week.