A Misunderstanding Between Executives and Contact Centers is Costing Billions

Content of this article is based on live customer deployments and outcomes. 

In the 1990s, NASA launched the Martian Climate Orbiter to study the atmosphere of Mars and relay messages from the Mars Polar Lander. And while everything appeared in good order, there was a problem: The Orbiter relied on metric measurements to optimize navigation, but the instructions were in pounds.


This simple discrepancy caused the Orbiter to arrive at Mars over 100 miles closer than expected. Nobody knows for sure, but it either went kaboom on the surface of the planet or shot through the atmosphere and off into space. The loss was not caused by a malfunction but by a misunderstanding between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lockheed Martin.


It turns out a similar disconnect is happening between senior executives and their contact centers, who each rely on different measures that do not translated accurately. And over time this misunderstanding can cost them a fortune, and for some, their entire business.

A simple discrepancy is a costly problem

Slight misunderstandings between executives and contact centers have been around so long that people accept them as a way of life.


As evidence,  the American Customer Satisfaction Index annually reports little to no change in customer satisfaction. This means growing investments in customer service yield little to no incremental ROI. And in in 2021 Qualtrics wrote that poor customer service results in a staggering $4.7 trillion lost every year worldwide!


In today’s economy, every competitive advantage matters. In 1977 the average lifespan of an S&P 500 business was 36 years, and for 2023 its forecast to be 19 years.

Misunderstanding creates a decision-making chasm

Executives seek financially fact-based answers to balance enterprise resources for the best return. Contact centers rely on time-based service levels and quality scores for the best customer experience. And while contact centers have hyper-granular agent information, none of it translates accurately into money that executives can confidently rely upon.



The root problem is that time and money in contact centers are not equal. That’s because agents are paid differently, with a varying mix of contacts, handle times, possess different skills and experience, learn at different rates and have different PTO.



The result is that contact center teams often feel executives do not understand their work—even if contact center leaders are making great decisions, executives can feel extremely uncomfortable that manageable financial data isn’t at the center of the process.


Most have heard examples of this communication gap in terms of executives who “get or don’t get” customer service. Some of the more serious responses are contact centers saying that money doesn’t really matter, and executives saying that contact centers are a cost center to be outsourced.

Existing measures of contact centers worsen the problem

Efforts to bridge the gap fail because traditional contact center measures are one-dimensional. There are several reasons.

  1. First, measures are indicators of outcomes only, and do not explain how their result was achieved. For example, what specific actions and decisions generated your latest cost per minute?
  3. Traditional measures mis-represent contact center performance. For example, PTO and break time are controlled by HR and the government, not the contact center.
  5. They hide false positives that reward agent engagement over customer engagement. Hold, wrap-up, transfer, and ready time count as agent engagement, but the customer, and therefore your business, gain nothing.
  7. Traditional financial measures falsely represent a level of control that does not exist.
  9. They can disadvantage good performance and end up increasing turnover and flattening customer service at ever increasing expense.
Just like NASA, the misunderstanding between enterprise and contact center measures can lead to decisions that are off just enough to be a big problem over time.

Conclusion: gain financial clarity

A financially fact-based contact center operated based on how smart money generates results. It reveals the exact dollar amount of work across all channels and teams, down to the individual decision, process, and agent in near real-time.


As simple as this sounds, it’s a financially understandable approach to contact center decision-making that bridges the gap between customer service and finance in a way that uncovers hidden financial problems that are the heart of CX, productivity and staff retention.

go beyond traditional metrics, and bridge the financial gap between your contact centers and the c-suite

Too see how financially optimized your contact center is performing, WiserOwl can provide a view of your operation without impacting data privacy issues, in 30 days or less. Don’t waste your next big decision!