Great Experiences and a Poor Choice of Metrics

By Ric Kosiba, Ph.D.

Have you ever been surprised by a truly excellent customer experience? I was recently.

I have a Traeger grill, which I absolutely love. I mean I am a huge fan. As a matter of fact, I may be one of Traeger’s best customers, because over the years, I’ve bought many of these grills to give away as a thank you to employees when they did something special. I love them (grills and employees) so much.

But my personal grill was on the fritz — it wouldn’t fire up. So I called Traeger and had one of those fantastic experiences: their support agent was wildly knowledgeable about my model of grill, seemed to have all of the time in the world to help me fix it, and she seemed truly interested in my success. I had to call her a few times as I took apart the grill, and she made herself available until we came to a conclusion. I probably spent 45 minutes with her. They used my cell phone as a video call so she could look inside the grill; her guess was that we would need to swap out a specific part, and they would ship it out right away.
But she sent two parts.

I replaced the first part she mentioned and, sadly, it didn’t fix the problem. But because it was very cold here in Indiana, I waited for it to warm up before I tried the extra part. Soon after the parts arrived, I got a call with a Utah phone number, and lo and behold, it was my Traeger rep wanting to know if the parts fixed the problem. It hadn’t, so she patiently explained to me why she sent out the extra part and explained step by step how to install that (it was all pretty easy). And the extra part did the trick. I am smoking a brisket tomorrow.

Let’s Talk Metrics: ACR

I bring this up for a couple reasons. Reason one: I love my Traeger and if you have ever thought of getting one, I’d suggest you get off the fence and order it. Life is too short! They are truly a fantastic company with great products. Reason two: This amazing customer support highlights some problems with the metrics that we have discussed in previous episodes of this column.

When we discussed Active Contact Resolution (ACR), we showed the correlation between ACR and CSAT scores. If you recall, ACR measures whether the customer’s problem was fixed, and whether they had to call back. There was a shockingly clear correlation between CSAT and ACR — higher ACR meant higher CSAT — customers who never had to call back are generally happy.

But is it the same when a call/contact is a complex interaction? The nature of my call with the Traeger rep almost by definition would never be a “one and done.” And measuring and reporting the agent’s ACR would always show that those contacts were failures, when instead they were wild successes.
It could have led to behaviors that are worse for the customer.

When using ACR as a performance metric in your contact center, it is important to understand the complexity of your calls — agents will likely object to ACR as a measure if a significant number of contacts are complex or require multiple touch points. It is very possible that ACR is not a good metric for you.

Let’s Talk Metrics: AHT

There are a few things that we should always keep in mind, when it comes to average handle time (AHT). AHT is a great measure when calls are transactional and straightforward. When the nature of the call is such that the customer experience can be frustrating (my Traeger contacts weren’t, mainly because of the great agent) or difficult, the factor controlling satisfaction is likely patience (not empathy!), and anything motivating agents away from patience will be a CSAT-killer.

Next, AHT is not a true measure if repeated calls are the norm. If I am speaking to the same agent, as in my case, or several agents, a single contact’s AHT has no real meaning. In a previous article in On Target, we spoke of how multiple contacts are more expensive than longer, more successful single contacts. Forcing a customer into a second contact is almost by definition a terrible experience, and is counterproductive efficiency-wise as well. But our normal measure of AHT may incent rushing a call, even if it is unfinished.

In a similar vein, when looking at the effectiveness of your organization, it might make sense not to measure transactional handle times of the agent, but the level of effort of the customer. Ask how much time the customers had to put in to get their questions answered. AHT for efficiency is neat, but you also want to look at the cumulative AHT to understand the customer’s experience.

What is Success?

In my case, success is certainly not measured with ACR.

It may be captured a number of ways, through surveys, or by the QA team, who can listen and understand the context of the call. Call analytics could help, but I am pretty certain I swore when dropping a screw in my mulch, and the analytics may have dinged the agent for that!

Another measure of success may be that I did not try and return my grill (I would NEVER!), or that in the end they could see from their WIFI-enabled grill, that indeed my grill was working.

What Sorts of Companies Does This All Apply To?

There are many sorts of contacts where this sort of logic applies. Some groups within Mortgage Companies (discussing mortgage applications is usually a multi-step process with many steps), healthcare insurance, business-to-business contacts, billing contacts, collections, etc…

The important thing is that your measures reflect the true activity, that it understands success, and it knows when your customers are likely happy. Like I am with my grill.

Ric Kosiba is a charter member of SWPP. He can be reached at or (410) 562-1217. Please follow me on LinkedIn! (