Contact Center Metrics – An Overview

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Originally published by Penny Reynolds of the Call Center School, this guide lists the top 20 Contact Center metrics by the following stakeholder groups: Customers, Executives and Staff.

While the list is useful to know, it is a challenge to implement a real-time metrics strategy that addresses the varied metrics needs of multiple types of stakeholders, particularly executives and customers. Several of the metrics in this list are derived by combining other metrics to obtain derived or ‘compound’ metrics. This is often required to transform technical or operations-level metrics into metrics that make sense to business stakeholders. PureShare steps up to this challenge with CCM2, an end-to-end metrics management product for contact centers.

PureShare Contact Center Metrics Diagram

CCM2 automatically merges business context such as organizational hierarchies, revenue, compliance and productivity data with call center metrics. The result is a real-time window into how the contact center is performing in business terms, and in rollups executives can understand. With personalized, mobile-enabled views of performance, business stakeholders can make decisions using a metrics dashboard to optimize outcomes in real-time.

Call Center Metrics

The Top 20 Contact Center Metrics

In the 21st century, the call center has evolved into a multichannel contact center. Customers have heightened expectations of service and frontline staffs have new demands and requirements. As your contact center evolves, you must ask yourself if the measures of performance that have served you well in the last decade are the same ones that will determine how well your contact center is operating today. This article will examine the top performance measures commonly associated with personnel and the processes in today’s multichannel catalog center.

We’ll take the approach of looking at metrics that supply you with critical information related to each contact center stakeholder group. In other words, as you think about the three main groups of people you need to keep happy every single day, you’ll want to make sure you have measures in place to track how well you’re satisfying each group.

The three main stakeholder groups are pretty obvious. The most important group is, of course, is your customer base. The second group is the executive team. And the third group is your contact center workforce.

We’ll explore measures of service and quality related to customers, efficiency and profitability for senior management, and workplace and satisfaction concerns for the frontline staff.

Service measures

Customer concerns come first, so let’s begin with some of the metrics associated with how we define service to the caller.

Blockage is an accessibility measure that indicates what percentage of customers will not be able to access the center at a given time due to insufficient network facilities in place. Measures indicating blockage (busy signals) by time of day or occurrences of “all trunks busy” situations are utilized by most centers.

Failure to include a blockage goal allows a center to always meet its speed of answer goal by simply blocking the excess calls. This can have a negative effect on customer accessibility and satisfaction while the call center looks like it is doing a great job in terms of managing the queue.

The contact center must also carefully determine the number of facilities needed in terms of both bandwidth and email server capacity to ensure that large quantities of emails do not overload the system. While this provisioning is typically monitored by the IT or telecom department and not by the contact center, it should still be a measure that is reviewed regularly to make sure callers are not being turned away at the front door.

Abandon rate
Call centers measure the number of abandons as well as the abandon rate since both correlate with retention and revenues.

It should be noted, however, that abandon rate is not entirely under the call center’s control. While abandons are affected by the average wait time in queue (which can be controlled by the call center), there are a multitude of other factors that influence this number, such as individual caller tolerance, time of day, availability of service alternatives, and so on.

Abandon rate is not typically a measure associated with email communications, since the email does not abandon the “queue” once it has been sent, but it does apply to web chat interactions.

Self-service availability
More and more contacts are being off-loaded today from call center agents to self-service alternatives. In the call center, self-service utilization is an important gauge of accessibility and is typically measured as an overall number, by self-service methodology and menu points, and by time of day or by demographic group.

In the contact center, self-service utilization should also be tracked. In cases of Web chat, automated alternatives such as FAQs or use of help functions can reduce the requirement for the live interaction with a Web chat agent.

Service level/ASA
Service level, the percentage of calls that are answered in a defined wait threshold, is the most common speed of answer measure in the call center. It is most commonly stated as x percent of calls handled in y seconds or less, while average speed of answer (ASA) represents the average wait time of all calls in the period.

In the contact center, speed of answer for Web chat should also be measured and reported with a service level or ASA number. Many centers measure for both initial response as well as the back-and-forth times, since having too many open web chat sessions can slow the expected response time once an interaction has begun.

The speed of answer for email transactions on the other hand is defined as a “response time” and may be depicted in terms of hours or even days, rather than in seconds or minutes of elapsed time.

Summary of service measures
The most critical of these availability and speed of service measures is the service level number and it’s worthwhile to note here that this metric has evolved in recent years to provide a more practical, realistic view of the service being delivered to callers.

Traditionally, service level (or ASA) was measured and reported as a average number – typically an average number for the day. However, there are many problems with this measurement approach. Since most contact centers have peaks and valleys of calls throughout the day, the service level from one period to the next can vary greatly. The overstaffed periods of the day generate a very high service level, while understaffed periods have very low numbers. The end result is an average for the day that may come close to the goal, but a number that does not reflect the actual picture of service for the day.

Overstaffing results in needless expense for staff and low productivity, while understaffing means long delays, overworked staff, and higher costs and the measure of service for the day needs to be one that reflects this service better than just the average for day (or worse, average for the week or month).

A better approach for measuring service level is to have a measure that notes the number of periods of the day where service level was acceptable. If the goal is 80% in 30 seconds, then a reasonable measure may be to look at the number of half-hour periods of the day that were between 75% and 85%.

This measure provides more of a view of the consistency of service being delivered, which in turn affects customer perceptions, employee workload, and bottom-line efficiency and cost.

Quality Measures

In addition to the “how fast” measures outlined above, perhaps a more significant indicator of customer satisfaction is “how well” the contact was handled, indicated by the following measures.

First call resolution rate
The percentage of transactions that are completed within a single contact, often called the “one and done” ratio or first call resolution (FCR) rate, is a crucial measure of quality. It gauges the ability of the center, as well as of an individual, to accomplish an interaction in a single step without requiring a transfer to another person or area, or needing another transaction at a future time to resolve the customer issue.

The FCR rate is a crucial factor in customer perception of quality. The satisfactory resolution of a call is tracked overall in the center, as well as by type of call, and perhaps by time of day, by team, or by individual.

The one-contact resolution rate should likewise be tracked in the contact center for email transactions and Web interactions. The resolution rate will likely be lower for emails, as it generally takes multiple messages between two parties to resolve a matter to completion.

Recent studies have shown that the FCR rate is the single number most closely correlated with customer satisfaction. Nothing impacts customers’ perceptions more than simply getting their question answered or problem resolved on the first try. Therefore, this FCR rate should rank very high on your list of contact center KPIs.

It’s not always easy to figure out and may take some piecing together of information from your ACD and contact management system, but it’s worth the extra effort to track it and do whatever it takes to increase the rate. Remember, the higher your rate, the happier your customers!

Transfer rate
The transfer percentage is an indication of how many contacts have to be transferred to another person or place to be handled. Tracking transfers can help fine-tune the routing strategies as well as identify performance gaps of the staff. Likewise, tracking emails that must be transferred to others or text chat interactions that require outside assistance is useful to identify personnel training issues or holes in on-line support tools.

This transfer rate is an important number to track as it plays an important part in the FCR rate that impacts customer satisfaction so highly.

Communications skills
One of the critical factors that impact the caller’s perception of how well the call was handled is simple etiquette and customer service skills. The degree to which general communications skills and etiquette are displayed is generally measured via observation or some form of quality monitoring as an individual gauge of performance.

Email and web chat etiquette should also be observed. There are standard wordings that should be followed in both types of communications that should be carefully observed, reviewed, and reported as a quality measure of performance. This is particularly true since a written record of the interaction will exist.

One of the keys to measuring the effectiveness of communications skills is to make sure you have specific guidelines and definitions of what content and behaviors look like when done right. Define wording you want to hear (or see) and what processes should be followed and then watch and listen for compliance with the expectation.

Be careful about not clearly defining what a quality transaction contains, such as quality forms that specify “demonstrated professional attitude.” You will want to define the specific content that should be used and what should be avoided in customer conversations so that call reviews and coaching can continually fine-tune skills in the right direction.

Adherence to procedures
Adherence to procedures such as workflow processes or call scripts is another essential element of quality. This is particularly important to perceived quality in terms of the customer receiving a consistent interaction regardless of the contact channel or the individual agent involved in the contact.

In the call center, adherence to processes and procedures is typically measured for individuals through simple observation and through the quality monitoring process.

Adherence to processes and procedures is also important for other channels of contact. Written scripts and pre-approved responses are generally created, and adherence to these is monitored and recorded via observation or screen capture capabilities in a quality monitoring system.

Customer satisfaction surveys
Many of the numbers and metrics discussed so far focus on internal metrics – measuring inside the contact center and judging how well you’re doing based on your own standards of performance. But it’s also important to look outside the center and go straight to the source for measures of customer satisfaction.

Ask your customers regularly how they think your call center is performing. While your company may have regular customer satisfaction surveys to gather feedback on a wide range of questions about products, pricing, etc, it’s important to fine-tune and gather specific feedback related to the service they received in their interaction with the call center.

Most organizations can benefit greatly from some professional help in writing and fine-tuning their survey instrument, administering it in a way that ensures data validity and reliability, and analyzing survey results. A good starting place to help you understand the important elements and design surveys that maximize customer feedback is Fred Van Bennekom’s book, Customer Surveying.

Efficiency measures

Contact Center Team Metrics

Executives in every type of organization are concerned with how well the company’s resources are being put to use. That is especially true in a call center environment where the overwhelming majority of operating expenses are related to personnel costs.

Agent occupancy
Agent occupancy is the measure of actual time busy on customer contacts compared to available or idle time, calculated by dividing workload hours by staff hours. Occupancy is an important measure of how well the call center has scheduled its staff and how efficiently resources are being used. If occupancy is too low, agents are sitting around idle with not enough to do. If occupancy is too high, the personnel may be overworked.

Agent occupancy is the end result of how staffing is matched to randomly arriving workload in a call center. However, the desired level of occupancy may actually drive staffing decisions in a sequential work environment like processing emails. Since web chat interactions are essentially random events like incoming calls, the same measures of occupancy apply here as in an incoming call scenario.

Staff shrinkage
Staff shrinkage is defined as the percentage of time that employees are not available to handle calls. It is classified as non-productive time, and is made up of meeting and training time, breaks, paid time off, off-phone work, and general unexplained time where agents are not available to handle customer interactions. Staff shrinkage is an important number to track, since it plays an important role in how many people will need to be scheduled each half-hour. The same measures of shrinkage that are used for call center calculations apply to the multichannel contact center as well.

It is important to track shrinkage by individual category. While some time categories are unavoidable, such as paid time off and training time, other categories should be tracked with an objective of controlling the loss of available hours over time.

Schedule efficiency for responding to the randomly arriving web chats should be measured just like that for incoming call centers. Since emails typically represent sequential rather than random workload, the work fits the schedule and therefore overstaffing and understaffing measures are less relevant.

Schedule efficiency
Workforce management is all about getting the “just right” number of people in place each period of the day to handle customer contacts—not too many and not too few. Schedule efficiency measures the degree of overstaffing and understaffing that exist as a result of scheduling design. Net staffing may be measured by half-hour as an indication of how well the resources in the center are being utilized.

Just like for measures of service, it is likely that schedule efficiency varies over the day and week as peaks and valleys of incoming contacts make it difficult to get the exact right number of staff each half-hour. Rather than looking at the plus and minus status averaged out over the day, it is important to look at the variation that occurs by half-hour so that schedule plans can be adjusted to best match workforce to workload.

Schedule adherence is one of the most important measures the multichannel contact center as well. Specific hours worked is less of an issue in a group responding to emails rather than real-time demand of calls and Web chats, but is still relevant in processing the work in a timely manner, especially if response time guarantees exist.

Schedule adherence
Schedule adherence measures the degree to which the specific hours scheduled are actually worked by the agents. It is an overall call center measure and is also one of the most important team and individual measures of performance since it has such as great impact on productivity and service.

A common measure of contact handling is the average handle time (AHT), made up of talk time plus after-call work (ACW). To accommodate differences in calling patterns, it should be measured and identified by time of day as well as by day of week.

Average handle time is also a measure that is important in determining the other types of multichannel contact workload. It is much harder to calculate, however, given the difficulties of truly measuring how long it takes to handle an email or a Web chat transaction. An email may be opened and put aside for varying amounts of time before completing. Likewise, a web chat session may appear to take longer than it actually does since a web agent typically has several sessions open at once. Therefore each one takes longer based on start and end time. Automated tracking of these actual handle times is difficult with numbers coming from email management systems often overstated in terms of actual handle time.

While AHT is almost always one of the top metrics on any contact center’s list, it’s critical not to focus coaching efforts too directly on the AHT number itself. While it is often desirable to correct procedures that lengthen AHT, you don’t want to coach to AHT numbers. When this is done, AHT goals may be reached, but at the expense of proper call-handling techniques. It’s best to identify the specific steps, words, and behaviors needed on a call and coach to those, not to an AHT number.

System availability and accessibility
When response time from the computer system is slow, or if it is cumbersome to move from application to application, it can add seconds or minutes to the handle time of a transaction. In the call center, system speed, uptime, and overall availability should be measured on an ongoing basis to ensure maximum response time and efficiency as well as service to callers. For example, if the IVR typically handles 50% of calls to completion, but the IVR is out of service, many more calls will require agent assistance than normal causing overtime costs, long delays, and generally poor service. Or, if multiple applications are needed and it’s difficult to move from one to another, it can mean much additional handle time. Often this will be a measure of performance that resides in the IT department, but is also a crucial measure of contact center performance.

Profitability Measures

Another category of performance measures near and dear to your executives’ hearts includes those that indicate the inbound and outbound flow of money in the center, as indicated by the measures below. These next two measures are particularly important to catalog centers, where the calls typically focus on the placement of an order.

Conversion rate
The conversion rate refers to the percentage of transactions in which a sales opportunity is translated into an actual sale. It can be measured as an absolute number of sales or as a percentage of calls that result in a sale. Conversion rate should be tracked and measured for incoming calls, as well as outgoing calls, email transactions, and other web interactions.

Up-sell/Cross-sell rate
The up-sell rateorcross-sell rate is measured by many organizations as a success rate at generating revenue over and above the original order or intention of the call. It is becoming an increasingly common practice, not just for pure revenue-generating call centers but for customer service centers as well.

Although more prevalent in the telephone center, it is also an appropriate measure of performance for other communications channels.

Cost per call
The flip side of revenues involves the cost of running the organization. A common measure of operational efficiency is cost per call or cost per minute to handle the call workload, both in a simple call center as well as in a multichannel contact environment. This cost per call can be simply a labor cost per call, or it can be a fully loaded rate that includes wage rates in addition to telecommunications, facilities, and other services costs.

In setting cost per call, it is critical to define the components being used, and to use them consistently in evaluating how well the center is making use of financial resources over time. While commonly used to compare one company or site to another in benchmarking, this is not a good practice as the components included and the types of contacts will often vary.

Employee Measures

Unfortunately, many lists of call center KPIs ends with the above measures. However, it’s vitally important to include measures of success with one more stakeholder group – the frontline staff. Here are two final measures in our guide that address how happy the workforce is and these are critical measures since a happy workforce works more efficiently, provides better service, and stays around longer.

Staff turnover/retention
One way to measure the satisfaction of your workforce is to look at the percentage of staff who are leaving. There can be some telling information in these numbers and you will want to track and analyze the turnover rates in many ways.

Look at the rate associated with different call types, as it may be more stressful or less satisfying to handle certain types of calls. Look at turnover by team to see if there are any supervisory influences in keeping people or driving them away.

And you’ll definitely want to look at the level of performance of the people leaving. If it’s primarily the worst performers leaving, turnover is not such a bad thing, but if it’s your better performers leaving the center, it may be time to re-examine your compensation, recognition programs, and career path opportunities to see what’s preventing the retention of these staff.

Employee satisfaction scores
The final metric on our list is one of the most important ones. We stated earlier that the one metric most closely associated with customer satisfaction was first call resolution rate. However, running a very close second in terms of correlation with customer satisfaction is employee satisfaction. The happier your employees are, the better they’re treating your customers.

Once again, it’s important here to do your own employee satisfaction survey, as the general company one from HR (assuming they do one at all), may not address all the important areas that impact the satisfaction of your call center staff.

An employee satisfaction survey directed at call center staff should ask questions in the following areas: demographics, nature of the work, training and development, performance metrics, work schedules, physical work environment, health and wellness, supervisory support, compensation, and general attitudes toward the center and company.

You will want to perform these surveys regularly and share overall results with the staff so they can see how areas of concern are being addressed.