How CX Is Changing in a Post-COVID World

Consumers have been complaining for years that service quality is bad and getting worse. During the worst of the pandemic, service quality and service levels worsened, but most people were patient, as they understood that many companies were doing their best under very difficult circumstances. But once the pandemic passes, things are expected to evolve to the new normal or new paradigm, whatever you want to call it. And the issue of delivering an outstanding customer experience (CX) is hopefully going to become an important goal for companies once again.

There is a major disconnect between what companies view as good service and what customers think. For the past few years, many blamed the lack of omnichannel support for this misalignment. While this is a major limitation in the market, it's only one component of a larger problem. The broader issue is that companies are not looking at CX from the perspective of their customers. Instead, too many of them are using internally oriented key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure CX, and most of them are not important to customers.

Standard KPIs Used for Measuring CX

Contact centers around the world use some of the following KPIs to measure the performance of their contact centers, agents and, by extension, CX:

  • Average handle time (AHT);
  • Abandonment rate;
  • Revenue generated daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually;
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS), a one-question survey that asks customers if they would recommend a company to other people; and
  • First contact resolution (FCR).

While these are good metrics and have been around as long as contact centers themselves, all of these standard KPIs are internally oriented. For example, AHT is the primary measure of agent productivity. Managers who use this metric argue that it's important to both the contact center and customer to get inquiries resolved as quickly as possible. While this is a directionally accurate reflection of how many consumers feel, it doesn't always apply. There are many situations when long talk times are highly beneficial to the customer relationship, especially in times of trouble, as we have seen recently with COVID-19. Similar arguments can be made about the other KPIs in the list. All of them, including NPS, are primarily for the benefit of the contact center and enterprise, not the customer. (If an NPS survey were externally oriented, it would need to ask a series of questions to help identify underlying issues, not just ask a single CX-oriented question.)

Customer-Centric KPIs

It's not as easy as it might seem to measure CX because there are so many components to each customer experience. As a result, it requires a portfolio of KPIs and systems to capture and measure every customer's or prospect's experience. During the past few years, a number of externally oriented KPIs have emerged to measure how customers feel about the CX. A few of them are the following:

  • Customer effort;
  • Customer journey;
  • Sentiment; and
  • Emotion.

These are all great concepts that will provide useful and actionable insights into how customers or prospects feel about their interactions with companies. The challenge is to find an accurate way to measure each KPI. There is a lot of work going on in the industry to come up with the right techniques and tools for collecting, measuring, and applying this data.

The New World of Implicit KPIs

For years, companies could collect explicit information only about CX, which is another reason they depended on the standard KPIs. Most contact center managers know these are not ideal metrics for evaluating CX, but they were better than nothing. Today, using artificial intelligence (AI)-based applications, such as interaction analytics (speech and text analytics), customer journey analytics, and predictive analytics, just to mention a few, enterprise and contact center leaders can capture KPIs designed to provide insights into CX as well as customer needs and wants. When these externally oriented KPIs are captured and applied, they yield a wealth of implicit information about customers' and prospects' perceptions of experiences, as well as the information needed to take corrective actions, where necessary. Some of the implicit KPIs are as follows:

  • Complaints;
  • Customer satisfaction;
  • Specific ideas for new products and services and suggestions for enhancements to existing offerings;
  • Sentiment; and
  • Unidentified trends, a catch-all category that includes discovery of things companies didn't know to ask about.

The goal of the implicit KPIs is to capture the information in every channel and touchpoint and consolidate it to obtain a complete and detailed understanding of CX.

The right KPIs give executives and managers the information they need to understand how customers and prospects feel about companies, how easy it is to do business with them, their preferred channels, new products and services they desire, as well as enhancements to existing ones, and a whole lot more. To improve CX, companies must measure both implicit and explicit KPIs so they have the information needed to identify customer concerns and bottlenecks throughout the company. This does not mean that it's no longer necessary for contact centers to capture and track standard KPIs about productivity and whether agents are adhering to internal policies and procedures. Instead, it recognizes that companies that capture and measure both explicit and implicit data, using traditional and innovative AI-based solutions, will have the information and means to deliver optimal CX.

Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, is an expert on contact centers, analytics, and back-office technology. She has 30 years of experience helping organizations build contact centers and back-office operating environments and assisting vendors to deliver competitive solutions. She can be reached at