Reduce Your Cost per Contact: 5 Tips


Today’s contact centers use so many metrics to evaluate the health of their contact center (CC). However, many of the most well-known metrics (e.g., handle time) do not show any direct impact to revenue; which is why “cost per contact” should be considered the king of CC metrics. It shows the direct link between operational changes and the increase/decrease of your bottom line.

There are high-level changes and practical changes that can reduce your cost per contact while increasing customer satisfaction, increasing employee satisfaction, saving money, and reducing the abandonment rate.

What is Cost Per Contact?

Generally, cost per contact is defined as the sum of all costs associated to running a contact center (e.g., salaries, facilities, software, hardware, etc.) divided by the number of contacts handled. As a best practice, calculate the cost per contact by channel (e.g. Phone, chat, Social media, email, self-service, etc.) so you can see which channels are the most cost effective.

Ways to reduce cost per contact:

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Optimization

Optimizing your IVR can provide telecom usage savings. An efficient call center has an efficient IVR. Calls cost less the faster callers get to the right agent/place for their request. Be one of the leaders who recognize that “unlimited minutes” only applies to your cellphone plan, not your call center bill. In the CC world, every second that a caller is in your IVR is billable. The only thing unlimited is the amount your CC can be charged for telecom usage. The faster callers get to the right agent, the more money saved (and, thus, a lower cost per call).

Some of the questions that should be asked before optimizing your IVR are:

How much information does the caller need to provide before they get routed to the right agent for help? If a CC IVR is asking the caller for more than the bare minimum its wasting the caller’s time and their own money.

How should the IVR handle unresponsive callers or those who don’t hit the options outlined in the IVR? A CC that does not have logic set up to disconnect, or quickly route, unresponsive callers will spend more on telecom usage charges.

Use a Callback Feature in the IVR

Using a callback feature can provide both telecom usage and port allocation savings. Remember, you’re being billed for every second a caller is connected to your IVR. The callback feature finds its value by disconnecting the caller from your IVR until there is an agent available to speak with them. This is not only convenient for the caller, but reduces the cost per call by reducing your telecom usage charges.

Secondly, the amount of ports required are less since those calls are queued, but not connected to the IVR. This may present an opportunity to lower the amount paid for ports (further reducing the cost per call).

Use Skill-based Routing

Overall operations cost savings can happen by utilizing skill-based routing, which can benefit all call center channels – phone, chat, email, etc.

Skill based routing (SBR) has two major financial benefits. First, SBR can connect callers with the agents best suited to serve them. We have all had “that” experience where you call with an issue and after 10 minutes of clarifying, three holds, vague responses, and escalating to a supervisor you get the answer you were looking for.

Wouldn’t it be better if when you called you spoke to someone who was familiar (or even specialized) in the topic you needed assistance with? Your caller’s think so, and you should think so too. It will reduce your cost per call because handle times will decrease, increasing the amount of calls agents can handle (the divisor in cost per call). If those extra calls generate revenue that is an added financial benefit. There is also a higher likely-hood that these agents would achieve first call resolution reducing unnecessary contacts and costs in the future.

Secondly, SBR allows you to prioritize contacts. Priority determination may require the use of those “prince” metrics. Try using the Average abandon time (ABT) metric. If skill one has an ABT of 30 seconds and skill two has an ABT of 2 minutes, then that means callers in skill one don’t wait for an agent as long as in skill two (deep, I know). That means that skill one should have a higher priority so less calls abandon. Less calls abandon means more calls are handled and the cost per call goes down.

Another good metric to help with prioritization is handle time. Calls with the lowest handle time could also be prioritized with the ends being more calls handled with the same overhead costs (and a lower cost per call).

Use Workforce Optimization Tools

Workforce optimization tools do just that, and can help reduce costs related to staffing and telecom usage.

Although there are many workforce optimization tools the two that reduce costs the quickest are Workforce Management and Workforce Intelligence. Workforce management tools evaluate historical data to make predictions about how much volume you will have in the future, and the distribution of the volume throughout the day (forecasting). More importantly, this tool will then use the forecast and provide the schedules your agents should work to answer the most calls. In many cases, this tools shows contact centers they can answer more calls with less staff- greatly lowering the cost per call.

Workforce intelligence (WFI) is a tool that automatically makes changes based on business. For example, if an agent’s handle time is longer than the average for a particular skill WFI can lower that agent’s proficiency in the skill so they will only get calls from that skill if the more proficient agents aren’t available. In many cases, you can reference quality scores, service levels, and many other metrics to make these “auto-magic” changes. Workforce management has the agents in the right place at the right time, and WFI can further optimize your center ensuring agents get the calls they are most proficient at first, while still following your skill prioritization settings.

Have Self-service Options

It is no secret that it is cheaper to have a customer help themselves, then pay someone to help them. That’s why if you are able to provide self-service option(s) you should. Does a caller really need to wait for an agent to be available to hear their account balance, or can you use an API to have that information be provided to them by the IVR, website or text message? If you have robust self-service options you will see drastic decrease in operational costs (staffing requirements, telecom usage, port utilization) and thus cost per contact. Another great, and often overlooked, self-service option is allowing your customers to schedule a call time through your website or application. These scheduled calls are the cheapest calls for a CC- there is no telecom usage or ports being used until an agent is available for the customer.