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How to establish meaningful contact center KPIs

For contact center KPIs to have meaning and bring success, companies need greater visibility into what these metrics are measuring.

Like the rest of the business, contact centers are increasingly under pressure to deliver results. As the front...

lines of the organization, they are often the faces of customer service. Success or failure can turn on whether contact center agents resolve issues, are knowledgeable about products and make customers feel taken care of during an interaction.

Questions arise as to how to measure whether contact center agents are effectively resolving customer issues or whether customers are "satisfied." What metrics should contact centers use to measure these critical factors? Today, the key struggle for companies is identifying the proper metrics to measure contact center success. To that end, companies are honing key performance indicators (KPIs) to  assess contact center agent performance, contact center efficiency, as well as customer satisfaction and overall customer experience.

There are many critical contact center KPIs that companies should use to determine whether their efforts are effective: Three of the most common internal contact center KPIs are:

  • Service level
  • Average speed of answer (ASA)
  • Average handle time (AHT)

Contact centers often measure without enough visibility into what these numbers mean or whether their KPIs are truly achieving their goals. Let's explore how to think about these contact center KPIs to ensure that contact centers are measuring true levels of efficiency, service quality and solid customer experience.

Service level

Service level goals are established to ensure that call center agents answer the phone in a timely manner. Specific service-level goals vary among organizations and industries. One of the most common service-level goals is to target that 80% of calls are answered in 30 seconds or less. This is an effective target for those 80% of the customers who fall within the target. The weakness of the goal can show up with the 20% of customers whose calls aren't answered quickly.

Companies need to dissect their metrics to address whether they are truly meeting their KPIs.

The following hypothetical scenarios show very different customer experiences:

Scenario one. During a given day, a contact center receives 1,000 calls, 800 of which are answered in 30 seconds and the remaining 20% of which are answered in 40 to 60 seconds. These time frames would be acceptable for all callers that day.

Scenario two. During a given day, a call center receives 1,000 calls, 800 of which are answered in 30 seconds and the remaining 20% of which are answered in three to five minutes. Needless to say, the customers outside the target have a terrible contact center experience.

In both scenarios, the service-level target was attained and call center employees may be patting themselves on the back, but customers' experiences varied wildly depending on which scenario they encountered.

Average speed of answer (ASA)

Average speed of answer (ASA) is similar to service level, providing a measure for how quickly the phone is answered in the call center. A typical ASA goal may be 30 seconds. This is an effective target to ensure that, on average, phone calls are answered in 30 seconds. Most call center leaders in various industries have had experience achieving this goal in the "right" and the "wrong" way.

The following hypothetical scenarios demonstrate two different journeys:

Scenario one. During a given day, a call center receives 1,000 calls. On this specific day, the call flow is smooth and at forecasted volumes, resulting in calls being answered in between 20 and 40 seconds for the entire day, and the overall ASA for the day is 30 seconds.

Scenario two. During a given day, a call center receives 1,000 calls. On this specific day, a huge surge of calls come in during the first part of the day and the ASA for the first 500 calls is 60 seconds. For the second half of the day, additional staff is brought in, and call volume recovers. The contact center decides to "burn the numbers," running a zero-second ASA for the second half of the day. At the end of the day, the overall ASA is 30 seconds.

In both scenarios, the ASA goal of 30 seconds has been attained and the call center can attest that is has attained its goal. The issue is the inconsistent journey for customers and the poor use of resources.

Average handle time (AHT)

Average handle time (AHT) represents the average length of telephone interactions with customers and is a critical productivity measure in call centers.

A theory underlying an aggressive AHT goal is that shorter phone calls represent efficient interactions and, therefore, increase agent productivity. This theory is flawed in that it doesn't measure the interaction's effectiveness and customer satisfaction.

The following hypothetical scenarios provide two divergent customer experiences:

Scenario one. A customer calls with a billing issue complaining that he or she was overcharged. The agent issues a credit for the charge and completes the call within the AHT target of three minutes. But at the same time, the agent ignores the root cause of the issue: The customer is not on the correct rate plan. Noticing this issue would have taken an additional two minutes to fix and the AHT goal would not have been attained.

Scenario two. A customer calls with a billing issue complaining that he or she was overcharged. The call center agent issues a credit for the charge and, after realizing the root cause of the issue, adjusts the customer's rate plan. As a result, the length of the call extends to five minutes, and as a result, the AHT target isn't met.

Scenario one creates a situation in which the agent attains his or her AHT goal, but the customer will likely call back the following month as a result of the recurring billing issue, creating additional costs, inefficiencies and poor customer experience.

These scenarios indicate that companies need to dissect their metrics to address whether they are truly meeting their contact center KPIs and goals for success. These goals provide the key measurements of success and drive employee behavior.

The key to establishing effective targets is not only to examine the final outcome, but also to understand the journey required to achieve the outcome and the actions that are taken to achieve the targeted results.

Next Steps

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Agents need working knowledge of products to provide good service

Typical KPIs that contact centers measure

Contact centers intrigued by cloud telephony, omnichannel service

 

This was last published in October 2015

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