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How to determine which help desk metrics to use

I was recently hired to manage a three-tiered help desk that supports various chains of retail stores across the U.S. For most of the year we receive about 3,500 to 4,000 calls per month (at Tier 1). I know that may be relatively low compared to many call centers, but due to the technical troubleshooting involved we can accept slightly longer talk times in order to get to resolution. Can you recommend metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) we can implement that accurately represent acceptable levels of service?

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The most common KPIs or metrics used to measure performance are service level (the percent of calls handled within a given number of seconds -- X% answered within Y seconds), average speed of answer (the average amount of time it took all calls to be answered) and abandoned calls (the number of callers who hung up and abandoned before being helped). In addition to these, there are a number of other metrics which measure call quality, resolution rates, customer satisfaction, cost per contact, etc.

Prior to establishing or modifying metrics for your center we suggest you develop a complete metrics strategy which identifies and aligns your center's KPIs with the overall business goals and drivers. While this may seem very basic, it is a major point of failure for many call centers. KPIs and metrics drive behavior and results; alignment with business goals is critical to your success.

I would recommend reading Call Center Management on Fast Forward by Brad Clevelend. In addition to an excellent chapter on "Establishing the Right Measures and Objectives," the book is an excellent resource for anyone managing a call center.

This was first published in June 2007

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