Utilizing call center metrics

Learn ways to manage call center metrics, review common call center metrics and learn how to benchmark your call center against the best in this guide.

This section of the Call Center Manager Learning Guide was designed to review common metrics for the call center. Find information on the most common call center metrics and how to benchmark your center against the best. Once you've reviewed call center metrics, move on to the next section of the Call Center Manager Learning Guide to learn more about call center outsourcing.

Table of contents:

Call center management strategy
Overview of call center software
 Managing call center agents
Utilizing call center metrics
Call center outsourcing decisions
Case studies of call center best practices
More CRM learning tools
 

 

  Utilizing call center metrics  

Call center metrics covered in this section:

 

  • Adherence
  • Average handle time (AHT)
  • Average speed of answer
  • Call abandon rate
  • Cost per call
  • First call resolution (FCR)
  • Shrinkage
  • Utilization and occupancy

     

    Adherence

    When it comes to "adherence or adherence to schedule," most call centers will define a target percentage that allows some cushion; 93% adherence to schedule is fairly typical. The other factors you might need to consider are things like team meetings and any training, which may increase the off-phone time. Some call centers will go further with their schedule tracking and consider "compliance" -- measuring whether people were unavailable for those breaks and lunches not just the right amount of time, but at the scheduled times.

    For more information, read advice from Lori Bocklund:
     

  • Adherence to schedule in the call center

     

    Average handle time (AHT)

    Average handle time (AHT) can be impacted by many factors such as system response time, processes, training and incentives. As a call center manager, remember that reps' awareness of and focus on average handle time can also be influenced in many ways.

    Average handle time (AHT) is typically addressed as a call center-wide initiative if there are general opportunities -- for example, through process changes, new technology, script changes or training. An individual call center agent seeking to lower average handle time should first look at how they compare to any targets the call center has set, and to benchmarks or peers.

    Unfortunately, there is no easy formula for lowering AHT in the call center. You can start with some analysis of call center trends, comparisons between performance of top call center agents and others, and time and motion studies. You should analyze both the talk time and the wrap time in this process. Once you analyze the details of the current state, you can look for potential areas of improvement.

    Work with your quality monitoring team, training staff, process designers and systems staff to review opportunities for improvement. Then you can set a target for how much you can lower AHT, based on the types of changes you can make. Sometimes process changes and coaching is all you need to gain some noticeable improvements. In other cases, the AHT is fairly well-optimized and more significant investments in call center software are required to gain noticeable improvements.

    For more information, read advice from Lori Bocklund:
     

  • Analyze call center agent performance to lower average handle time (AHT)
  • Call center management tips for coaching on average handle time (AHT)
  • How do I lower the average handle time?

    Average speed of answer

    The right average speed of answer (ASA) and abandon rate for your company depends on many factors. Having said that, there are resources to benchmark your call center against others. Three sources I suggest you look into:

    Prosci's call center benchmarking study
    Purdue's Benchmark Portal
    • If you are a Gartner user, you can check into benchmarking information on the Gartner Web site.

    For more information on call center ASA, read advice from Lori Bocklund:
     

  • Industry standards for average speed of answer (ASA) and abandon rate
  • Call abandon rate

    There are no average call abandon rates, although you can certainly find benchmarking data from places like Prosci. Their best practices report (operations edition) provides call abandon rates for a variety of industries.

    For more information on abandon rate calculation in the call center, read advice from Lori Bocklund:
     

  • Call center benchmarking using call abandon rates
  • Cost per call

    Cost per call is calculated in a number of different ways depending on allocated costs, information available and other factors. There is no one way to calculate cost per call. Some companies will just divide loaded costs for the call center by call volumes. Getting into more detailed calculations for a specific contact requires prorated calculations based on handle times and volume distributions. The key is to determine how best to calculate cost per call in your environment based on the information and tools available, then consistently monitor it and make comparisons.

    In an operating environment where resources are equally allocated to all transaction types, it's easy to use this approach to calculate cost per call:

    (Operating budget/minutes) * Average handle time

    If all calls/transactions are not treated and billed equally -- which happens when transactions include different types (customer service, help desk, sales, etc.), and media (calls, emails, collaboration sessions, etc.), then it will be more accurate to use this approach:

    (Direct costs + indirect costs)/transactions

    There are two challenges with this formula. The first is that you have to identify and quantify all direct cost categories that are not the same on a per-minute basis for your various transition types. (All other direct costs can be distributed equally on a per-minute basis.) The second challenge is to have visibility on indirect costs. It then becomes primarily a question of which indirect costs to include -- only those directly attributable to your department's activities or also those that are corporate overhead. Occupancy and utilization charges are always included in total cost per call.

    Cost per call is one of several key performance indicators (KPIs) call centers use today. Cost per call is certainly a measurement of efficiency, but can reflect other things as well. It can't be viewed in a vacuum. Rather, you need to consider it in the context of your business goals, and your initiatives based on those goals. For example, a company with a big push to grow revenue per customer may happily see cost per call increase if corresponding measures of revenue per call or per customer are increasing at a greater rate. Using CRM tools and processes, the customer service reps (CSRs) may be spending more time with customers to up-sell, cross-sell and optimize the relationship.

    For more information, read advice from Lori Bocklund and Donna Fluss:
     

  • Measuring cost per call
  • Determining cost per call for the transportation industry
  • How do separate billing models affect cost per call?

    First call resolution (FCR)


    First call resolution (FCR) is a measure that reflects customer satisfaction (or dissatisfaction), as well as efficiency. FCR is something that must be calculated for the entire center through a defined process -- it is not something you can unilaterally calculate for one call center agent.

    The value of first call resolution measurement is that by analyzing this metric, you can figure out what can be done to improve first call resolution. If you are not meeting your goals, start with a careful analysis of why contacts are not closing. You can do this through some call observations, focus groups with staff and data analysis. Once you have a sense for why calls are not being resolved, you can begin to address the problems -- whether they reside in the center itself, or with some other part of the business that the center relies on. You may also need to dig into how the target was set. It may be that you have an unrealistic target and need to make the case for that.

    If a caller has to be transferred, that is not typically considered part of the true definition of first call resolution. Customers don't like to be transferred, and it is not efficient to have to transfer calls.

    For more information, read advice from Lori Bocklund:
     

  • First call resolution (FCR) -- what does it really mean?
  • FCR for an individual call center agent?
  • Improving first call resolution (FCR) percentage in an offshore call center

    Shrinkage

    Shrinkage rates can run from 15% to 35%. For a given center, shrinkage could include breaks (including meals), absenteeism (holidays, vacations, sick days, etc.), training, meetings, etc. The key thing is to clearly define what is included, and ensure a thorough workforce planning process to account for the various elements that may require you to ramp up staffing -- whether accounted for in shrinkage or other mechanisms.

    For more information about call center benchmarks for shrinkage, read advice from Lori Bocklund:
     

  • Industry standards for shrinkage
  • Utilization and occupancy

    Utilization is the percentage of time call center agents are on calls or in after-call work, divided by the time they are logged in. Most automatic call distributors (ACDs) and workforce management systems will give you this number in reports. You should use this metric in workforce planning and in assessing efficiency of the center. Keep in mind some of the key principles of call center operations that impact utilization: • Since customer service representatives (CSRs) cannot fully control their own occupancy, this metric is a "big picture" metric which provides a high-level snapshot of how resources are being used. Inversely, it reflects how much time CSRs on average are "waiting" for a call. When calculating occupancy, an 85% occupancy rate means that 15% of the CSR time is available and waiting for a call.

    Occupancy is a key factor looked at in workforce management and planning. The workforce planner and managers/supervisors should be accountable for occupancy. They should also model it and the targets should be realistically set based on the volumes, handle times, and size and staffing level of the center. • Occupancy will be lower for smaller groups and higher for larger groups. If occupancy runs too high, too often, it can lead to "burn out" and turnover.

    For more information, read advice from Lori Bocklund:
     

  • How is call center agent utilization calculated?
  • Find more call center metrics resources on SearchCRM.com:

     

  • Advice: Best practices for call center metrics

  • You need to set call center targets based on many factors about your business. Learn how to build your call center strategy using best practices for metrics in this expert tip.

     

  • Chapter download: The Executive Guide to Call Center Metrics

  • This chapter from The Executive Guide to Call Center Metrics includes useful information on call center metrics and the best ways to determine which metrics to use.

     

  • Advice: Call center performance metrics to use when starting a new center

  • Lori Bocklund discusses which call center performance metrics are most appropriate for a brand-new call center. Metrics like abandon rate and first call resolution are very important, she says.

     

  • Advice: Are call center metrics changing to account for customer intelligence?

  • Metrics are changing as call centers want to understand not just why their customers are calling, but who is calling, and what we can do for them or with them.

     

  • Advice: Best sources for call center metrics

  • Where can you find the best call center metrics information? Read advice from Lori Bocklund here.

     

  • Advice: Metrics for the smaller call center

  • One reader said, "My call center is much smaller than the 'industry average' and I would like help calculating these average metrics for call centers my size." Read Lori's advice here.

 

This was first published in May 2007

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