What Are the “Right” Contact Center Metrics?

In the contact center, metrics drive everything.

Measurements drive behavior and you can’t manage what you don’t measure. But in most cases, management focuses on quantifiable metrics that may or may not actually drive agent behavior.

In my earlier post, The Numbers We Don’t Look at Drive the Numbers We Do, we looked at some of the numbers leaders don’t look at enough that ultimately drive other important contact center metrics — namely, employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. This time, we’ll focus on two more high profile metrics to watch in 2015.

Table Stakes

When we talk about table stakes in the contact center, we are primarily talking about Average Handle Time and service level – how fast you answer the customer’s call, text or e-mail. This represents how you measure speed in your center.

You can measure speed by average speed of answer (how fast you are answering calls, e-mails, chat, etc.), or by what percentage of calls are abandoned, or even by what percentage of calls are answered in a set number of seconds.

All three measurements are different ways of saying the same thing. They all have to do with speed. And in the contact center, speed has to do with how many agents are available or waiting for the next call.

If you want calls to be answered in a certain number of seconds, for example, then you must have enough agents on the floor literally doing nothing but waiting for calls. This requires a good forecasting and scheduling methodology and an intraday management process. Though this assures speed, it has little or nothing to do with accuracy or overall customer satisfaction.

Many call center executives focus on speed because it drives other things like hiring, the number of agents required on the floor, and the number of support people needed on a shift, but these table stakes don’t necessarily drive customer service.

The truth is, just because their call was answered quickly doesn’t necessarily mean that it was answered correctly or that the customer is happy.

Similarly, AHT can be manipulated. I have seen agents with hourglasses on their desks set for three minutes. They turn it over when they answer the call and when the time is up, they quickly finish the contact.

Remember: Average Handle Time is just that – it’s an average. Some calls take longer to resolve, others can be resolved quicker. AHT is just an indicator. It has nothing to do with customer satisfaction.

Profitability

This is a number that a lot of call center managers are not responsible for, but you can be sure that someone in the organization is looking at it.

Since a large majority of a contact center’s expenses – some 60-70% – are related to employee expenses, how you manage your agents will ultimately determine how profitable you are.

If you have high turnover, for example, you lose productive people and have more training expenses. If you have people who are available for long periods of time and service levels are higher than objective, then you are essentially paying people to sit and do nothing.

It is critical to look at your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and make sure that they match up with your profitability goals.

For example: If your service level is 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds and you answer 90% of calls in 10 seconds, you are exceeding expenses because you have more agents sitting around idle.

Now, if you had technology that allowed you to use that wait time more effectively – to train, coach or develop agents – then you would at least be spending the time making your agents better rather than having them just sit idle. And it doesn’t have to stop with training and coaching. Time is, essentially, another data point. In the contact center, seconds and minutes really do matter, and manual responses to metrics data can negatively impact customer experience, revenue and profits. You can apply that same notion of “finding time” to your other contact center metrics to drive communication, adherence, staffing levels, queue balancing, and on and on.

And by the way, the longer agents wait, the shorter the AHT because the call is an interruption to their wait time. Always be careful when it’s “slow” in the center.

About the author

Bob Fletcher

Bob leads the sales and solution delivery initiatives for Intradiem’s global business process outsourcing (BPO) clients, helping to transform their business models and drive profitability via Intraday Automation. He brings a wealth of operations, management and consulting acumen to the BPO practice, having delivered guidance to more than 1,000 call centers and trained over 5,000 managers and supervisors worldwide. Bob's experience includes executive management of Arvato's customer service operations and as executive vice president for Deutsche Telekom. Bob has also served in critical management roles in engagements with leading companies such as T-Mobile, Verizon, Pitney Bowes, TeleDenmark, Gateway of Dublin, DecisionOne, Delta Dental, Wells Fargo and Cox Communications.

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