Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are essential for effective operations in a call center. The specific types of KPIs that are most useful depend on the role of the person reviewing them. For example, executives need strategic KPIs to make the business case for their call center solutions, while operational managers are more interested in real-time metrics that allow them to make decisions about their workforce. The total number of call center KPIs is quite large, but only a fraction of these require careful, consistent monitoring over a prolonged period.
Call centers also need the technology to improve reporting efficiency. These solutions should be able to extract real-time and historical data that provides meaningful insights into business operations and agent behavior. However, the specific goals of this data can be highly dependent upon the call center. The following 12 KPIs are some of the most important metrics for measuring and improving agent productivity in a call center.
Call Center Metrics
Call center metrics may be classified into the following categories:
- Customer experience
- Agent productivity
- Call initiation
- Call center operations
Business executives should be well aware that a minor mistake in customer service can result in the loss of that customer to a competitor. Not every interaction with a customer is perfect, especially those that require a lot of time or effort with a customer service agent. It’s therefore critical to monitor metrics with a proven ability to ensure that a call center is living up to its customers’ expectations. First Contact Resolution (FCR) is a key customer experience metric.
1. First Contact Resolution
FCR measures a call center’s ability to resolve its customers’ problems on the first try. Many call centers consider this KPI to be the most important, due to its high correlation with customer satisfaction. A high FCR also reduces the number of repeat calls, resulting in a lower cost-to-serve. Call centers must also decide on the specific formula for calculating FCR.
The calculation of FCR commonly uses one of the following two formulas:
- FCR = (Calls Resolved on the First Attempt) / (Calls Received)
- FCR = (Calls Resolved on the First Attempt) / (Calls Received – Repeat Calls)
The key difference between these two formulas is whether they consider repeat calls when calculating the FCR. The first formula above counts all calls received, resulting in a lower FCR. This calculation may provide a better overall picture of how well call center agents are resolving issues, while the second gives a more accurate FCR because it excludes repeat calls. It’s essential to ensure that all team members understand how FCR is calculated in their call center.
Customer-facing agents should be able to handle inquiries as completely and efficiently as possible. These KPIs provide an understanding of agent performance at the individual, team and center levels. Directors and managers can both use the insight these KPIs provide to improve performance by correcting deficiencies in agent behavior. They can also use them to reward top performers. KPIs that relate to agent productivity include the following:
- Agent utilization
- Calls answered per hour
- Average handle time
2. Agent Utilization
Customer service is a labor-intensive process, so call centers need to ensure that agents are using their time as efficiently as possible. Agent utilization measures this with the following formula:
Agent Utilization Rate = (contacts handled by the agent during the reporting period)*(average handle time)/(work time in the reporting period) * 100
The formula above expresses agent utilization as the percentage of the agent’s work time spent handling a call. For example, if an agent works eight hours a day and spends six of those hours handling calls, that agent’s utilization rate would be 75 percent. However, a more accurate calculation of utilization would consider additional variables such as breaks, lunches, training, vacation and sick days.
3. Calls Answered per Hour
Calls answered per hour is the average number of calls that an agent touches during each hour of work time, which usually doesn’t include abandoned calls. Many call centers break this metric down further into calls answered by an agent and calls answered by the call center’s interactive voice response (IVR) system. This metric provides a good measure of productivity, provided you account for variables such as shift changes and fluctuations in call volume.
4. Average Handle Time
Average handle time is the average amount of time agents spend on a call, from the time they pick up to the time they finish working on the call. It uses the following formula:
Average Handle Time = (Total Talk Time + Total After-Call Work Time) / Total Number of Calls
Tracking this metric over time allows you to determine the average amount of time needed to handle each type of call and set benchmarks for agents. Agents who routinely exceed the benchmark may not have all the skills they need, while agents with an average handle time below this benchmark may not be completely addressing customer concerns.
Occupancy is the amount of work time an agent spends handling calls, which is a good measure of agent productivity across all call-related duties. A low occupancy rate indicates that an agent is spending a lot of time doing things that aren’t related to calls. This could include non-work related activities as well as additional duties besides taking calls.
Customers’ initial contact with a call center greatly influences their overall impression of it. Contacting a business requires an investment of time, which is why over three-fourths of customers say that valuing their time is the single best thing that a business can do to deliver good service. Customers often base their first impression of the call center by the length of time they remain on hold, before even speaking to an agent. Metrics in this category include call abandonment and active waiting calls.
6. Call Abandonment
Customers will disconnect, or abandon, a call when they’ve been on hold long enough, which often causes them to drastically lower their opinion of the call center. The length of time a customer is willing to wait on hold may depend on many factors outside the call centers control, although customers are more likely to wait longer for technical support than sales. Call centers generally consider and abandonment rate less than five percent to be acceptable.
Call abandonment may be calculated with the following formula:
Abandonment Rate = (Calls Offered – Calls Handled)/(Calls Offered)*100
Most call centers also exclude calls abandoned within five seconds, which typically indicates a misdialed number.
7. Active Waiting Calls
Active waiting calls is the number of callers on hold at a given point in time. Operations managers typically use this metric on a daily basis to assess the performance in real time. A large number of waiting calls could indicate that agents need coaching to work more efficiently. Reducing waiting calls can also drive other metrics like abandonment rate and response time.
Call Center Operations
Metrics related to call center operations provide a broad view of its performance over time. They allow executives to identify peak periods and current trends in the call center, which is vital for forecasting staffing requirements. Managers also rely on operations metrics to monitor daily operations. Additional uses of these metrics include assessing the effects of initiatives like marketing campaigns and product launches. Call center operations metrics include the following:
- Call volume
- Longest call hold
- Peak hour traffic
- Call arrival rate
- Call completion rate
8. Call Volume
Call volume is the number of calls the call center receives in a given time period, and is most often measured in calls per hour. This is a simple metric to measure, but it’s highly useful for determining the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Managers also monitor call volume throughout the day to determine when customers typically place calls, which is highly useful for predicting staffing requirements.
9. Longest Call Hold
Longest call hold is the longest period of time that a customer had to wait for an agent during a given time period. This metric is particularly valuable for assessing call center performance since hold time is such a well-proven pain point for customers. Most call centers use this metric to determine the maximum acceptable whole time.
10. Peak Hour Traffic
Peak traffic is the hour of operations with the highest call volume. Call centers need to monitor this metric to forecast staffing needs and prepare their teams for the increased call volume.
11. Call Arrival Rate
Call arrival rate is the rate at which the call center receives incoming calls over a given time frame. Call centers may look at calls received by the minute, hour or day, depending on the size of the contact center and role of the person reviewing this metric. For example, operational managers may monitor this metric daily, while executives will look at trends in call arrival rate over longer periods.
12. Call Completion Rate
Call completion rate is calculated by the following formula:
(Calls Completed Successfully)/(Calls Answered)*100
In other words, this metric is the percentage of answered calls that agents are able to successfully complete. Managers often monitor call completion rate to determine if their teams require more training.
Key Impacts of Agent Productivity on a Call Center
Agent productivity tells call center managers if they’ve hired the right people. It’s particularly important to assess productivity in call centers due to their notoriously high turnover. A recent Gallup poll shows that 53 percent of agents make the minimum effort required of them and will leave for even a slightly better offer. The specific benefits of agent productivity include greater profits, improved morale, better customer satisfaction and a stronger company culture.
Research consistently shows that productivity has a strong correlation with profitability. The most successful businesses maintain a high level of engagement with their employees by providing continuous security and support that make team members feel valued. This type of work environment is most likely to give team members a vested interest in the business’s success, inspiring them to remain highly productive. These employees will want to do more than their minimum job requirements because they’ll form trusting relationships that help them share innovative ideas with coworkers. All of these benefits of productivity help ensure that a company remains profitable.
Improving efficiency is one of the most important things managers can do to reduce the attrition of experienced agents in call centers. Low morale is one of the driving factors behind this high turnover, so almost anything that makes agents’ lives better is worth considering. Key methods of improving agent morale include a better understanding of their goals and expectations, along with technologies that help them perform their jobs more efficiently.
Call center managers routinely look for ways to increase the productivity of their agents. However, long-term gains in this area require managers to minimize stress, which improves customer satisfaction and the company’s reputation. Response time is a key factor for customer satisfaction, which requires a combination of well-trained, responsible agents and efficient customer service tools.
A company culture supports agent productivity and motivates employees by striking a balance between their work and personal lives. A negative culture or even the lack of a culture at all is often a major cause of the high turnover and low-quality work in call centers. Businesses must invest in developing a culture of productivity because it won’t evolve on its own.
This process can produce employees who are highly competent and take pride in their work, allowing them to benefit the company. The right culture also helps employees become enthusiastic about collaborating with their coworkers based on mutual respect and trust, which is often lacking in call centers. This investment in culture can thus contribute to a call center’s success by unifying the team, setting it apart from its competition.
How Can Call Centers Improve Metrics?
The process for improving call center metrics include the following steps:
- Focus on call center performance metrics
- Engage call center agents
- Focus on customer flow
- Hire the right agents
- Train agents
- Improve self-service options
- Decrease interruptions
- Create incentive programs
- Use call center software
- Measure and adjust
Focus on call center performance metrics.
Call center managers often make the mistake of improving agent productivity at the expense of call quality. However, this practice simply results in handling more calls poorly, which no manager should want. The solution to improving productivity without sacrificing call quality is to implement a scoring system that rates each customer interaction according to criteria specific to each call center. These criteria should reflect the call center’s goals for characteristics such as accuracy, customer satisfaction and professionalism.
Engage call center agents.
Active engagement with employees is a key requirement for high productivity. A recent Gallup study reports that 85 percent of all employees are disengaged from their work, resulting in $7 trillion in lost productivity worldwide. Engaging call center agents helps them feel like a valued member of the team, giving them greater incentive to handle calls well.
Providing agents with ways of participating in decision-making processes is one of the most effective ways of engaging them. Soliciting agent feedback requires a positive environment that allows agents to provide frank criticism without fear of retribution. Gaining agent participation can be beneficial for all aspects of managing a call center, but it’s particularly effective for quality assurance (QA).
Prioritize customer flow.
Poor workflow can hurt productivity more than just about any other factor. The most effective way of improving workflow is to ensure that customer interactions are routed to the most appropriate agent as directly as possible. This practice includes minimizing the number of transfers while maximizing FCR.
Hire the right agents.
A McKinsey study shows that the most competent workers are up to eight times more productive than the average. Furthermore, a strong onboarding process can improve employee productivity by over 70 percent, according to a Glassdoor study. Onboarding new employees is a particularly long process in call centers that greatly affects their productivity. Hiring the right agents the first time is essential for building an effective team and minimizing training costs.
The current trend of moving away from traditional call centers that only handle phone calls is one of the significant changes affecting hiring decisions. Most contact centers are now omnichannel, so managers should give preference to agents who are already experienced in this setting. Omnichannel solution providers support the communication channels that are most convenient for a call center’s customers.
In addition to phones, agents also need to be experienced with other platforms such as chat, email, instant messaging and social media. Call centers that don’t support their customers’ preferred channel risk losing them to businesses that do. Hiring agents for multichannel call centers also helps them interact more effectively with their customers, improving the call center’s quality of service.
Training a call center agent primarily consists of regular coaching sessions based on monitored calls. This practice can be highly effective, provided it’s done frequently. Each agent should receive at least one coaching session each month, with comparisons between successful and unsuccessful customer interactions.
SaaS contact center solutions often include scorecards that allow managers to easily grade an agent’s performance on a particular call and provide comments for improvement. Another useful feature for training agents is multiple call monitoring modes, allowing managers to listen in on live calls. These modes may be known by various names such as call barging, hidden mode and whispering, and are especially effective in training new agents during onboarding. The ability to provide these agents with feedback after each call helps prevent them from developing bad habits that will be hard to break later.
Improve self-service options.
Providing customers with the means to find answers to their questions without agent involvement is often one of the easiest ways to improve agent productivity. In addition to FAQs on a website, chatbots and IVR are also common forms of self-service for call centers. These methods can greatly reduce agents’ workload, thus increasing their productivity. Call centers usually have these self-service options already, but it’s important to review them regularly as this information can change frequently. Furthermore, managers should solicit customer feedback for information that isn’t available through self-service.
A study from the University of California found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to resume a task after an interruption. However, agents still need breaks to relieve stress, which is a major cause of lost productivity. The solution to this dilemma is to schedule short breaks throughout the day while avoiding idle time that doesn’t reduce stress.
Create incentive programs.
Rewards for good performance are an effective way of motivating agents to do their best. A recent Gallup poll shows that recognition causes 69 percent of employees to work harder. An incentive program should also foster professional development and growth in addition to increasing employee satisfaction in the short term.
Use call center software.
A study by Ultimate Software shows that 92 percent of employees believe technology improves their work satisfaction by improving their efficiency. Call center software provides agents with access to call center real time reporting, helping them understand their performance and showing them how to increase their productivity. Assume, for example, that agents want to know how their call handle time compares to that of their coworkers over a specific time period. The right software can display this information more clearly than a plain spreadsheet or template.
Measure and adjust.
Call center managers should conduct QA checks on a regular basis to determine what they need to do to improve their metrics. Much of this process can be automated without negatively impacting productivity by using the right software. However, it’s essential for these checks to analyze metrics that align with the call center’s overall goal while still providing the necessary efficiency. This process ensures that the metrics being measured are related to the call center’s performance.
Effective call center management requires you to keep a close eye on KPIs. Dozens of these metrics are in common use, but you need to pick the most appropriate ones for your call center. Monitoring the right combination of KPIs can help you maximize your operational efficiency while maintaining customer expectations. Measuring metrics also requires the right software to help you track it. For example, Aceyus’ data-reporting tools provide actionable data in real time.
Are you ready to see the difference that a call center dashboard can make to your team’s productivity? Contact one of our team members today to request a demo and receive your free solutions consultation.