5 Contact Center Laws Debunked

Contact centers run on both spoken and unspoken rules. While perusing Ted Talks, I came across a fascinating session about the impact of public narratives that claim science when it’s really ideology. It got me thinking about what’s law versus what’s legend — a story we’ve told ourselves so long we believe it — and what’s transforming in our contact center world.

In this article, I highlight five accepted contact center rules and explore whether they’re immutable laws, legends or part of a transformation in that they’re being challenged by new technology.

Contact Center Rule 1: 80% Answered in 20 Seconds Is a Best Practice

I can’t find how 80/20 as a service-level goal started. While it’s common and has variations like 80/30 and 80/60, it’s not a law of what humans expect for wait time or even a best practice.

The implication of this legend is significantly variable experiences for the 20% of interactions that “miss,” and the expensive staffing that tries to meet the goal. However, the actual law is that customers want to be served successfully. Answering quickly but failing to deliver is a bigger irritant than having to wait. A better practice is to understand customers’ actual patience thresholds then build a staffing plan to meet those patience targets.

Contact Center Rule 2: Personalized Service Means a Human Touch


Truthfully, this “rule” has always been a legend. As a general statement (not a law), people prefer self-service for a sense of control. Therefore, rejection of self-service usually is the rejection of poorly designed self-service. I claim transformation here because of new bot technology that uses conversational artificial intelligence (AI).

The implication of offering personal touch broadly is that it’s expensive and won’t satisfy the customer who wants self-service. A better practice is to design good, personalized self-service where good equals easy, accurate and appropriate. Definitely explore bots (voice and chat) using conversational natural language understanding as a tool and use UX experts to design the experience.

Contact Center Rule 3: Digital Needs Different Metrics Than Voice


Legend might not be the right word for the tendency to confuse new with different. Communication with humans is the goal, and media is just a part of it. I think this rule comes from the fact that digital experience has been nurtured outside the contact center, and traditional contact center metrics have the word call in them.

The implication of siloed data is that it doesn’t add up, which makes blending agents and managing cross-channel customer journeys difficult — if not impossible. Your actual goal is to serve the customer, not the channel, so a better practice is to:

  1. Create consistent measures across all media
  2. Vary targets for operational metrics, but keep consistent targets for result measures
  3. Monitor results across and per media

Contact Center Rule 4: Most Agents are Only Good at Either Voice or Text


This rule has the same genesis as Rule 3: Channel isolation creates agent isolation. It’s also complicated by the fact that, for some agents, it’s true. But it’s not an immutable law.

The implication of this rule is limited agent career paths and disjoint omnichannel experiences. A better practice is to test agents for omnichannel skills and assign them accordingly, then support them with omnichannel tools and ongoing quality assurance insights.

Contact Center Rule 5: We’re Special

Law, Legend and Transformation

“Of course, you matter.”

The law dimension of this rule is that respect for others is always key. Knowing your internal or external customer — and what they uniquely need or want — drives positive outcomes.

I am so unique you can’t reuse anything you already have.”

This is the legend part of this rule, and it drives unnecessary complexity. Examples are a new organization wanting dedicated resources or a new service strategy that won’t review existing routing strategies but has plenty of time to rebuild. Another example is an acquisition that’s going through so much change already that the organization decides it wants what they already have.

The transformation part of this law is that machine learning, combined with context about who/what (the law), provides a new level of personalization. It anticipates and responds to needs, particularly for external customers.

The implication of serving every organization differently is unmaintainable code that’s hard to modify and improve. A better practice is to define and describe repeatable routing and reporting patterns that special teams can fit into. Be prepared for people change management that helps people embrace commonality while still respecting them individually.

Laws, Legends and Transformations With the Contact Center

As a traditionally conservative discipline, contact centers tend to hold onto legends that aren’t the laws we make them out to be. Given the pressure for change, it’s important to reflect on whether what we hold as a law is actually a legend that we can change or transform. I’ve listed five rules in this article that I see frequently — and how data, consistency and personalization are basics that contact centers can use to modernize their operations.

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