A New Look at the Contact Center’s Top 20 Metrics, Part II

This is the second in a two-part series on Call Center Metrics. In the last edition, we discussed the first 10 metrics. To view the first article, click here

Efficiency Measures
Executives in every type of organization are concerned with how well its resources are being put to use. That is especially true in a call center environment in which more than two-thirds of operating expenses are related to personnel costs.

11. Agent Occupancy
Agent occupancy is the measure of actual time busy on customer contacts compared to available or idle time, calculated by dividing workload hours by staff hours. Occupancy is an important measure of how well the call center has scheduled its staff and how efficiently it is using its resources. If occupancy is too low, agents are sitting around idle with not enough to do. If occupancy is too high, the personnel may be overworked.

Where agent occupancy is the end result of how staffing is matched to randomly arriving workload in a call center, the desired level of occupancy may drive staffing decisions in a sequential work environment such as processing e-mails. Since Web chat interactions are essentially random events like incoming calls, the same measures of occupancy apply here as in an incoming call scenario.

12. Staff Shrinkage
Staff shrinkage is defined as the percentage of time that employees are not available to handle calls. It is classified as non-productive time, and is made up of meeting and training time, breaks, paid time off, off-phone work, and general unexplained time where agents are not available to handle customer interactions. Staff shrinkage is an important number to track, since it plays an important role in how many people will need to be scheduled each half-hour. The same measures of shrinkage that are used for call center calculations apply to the multichannel contact center as well.

13. Schedule Efficiency
Workforce management is all about getting the “just right” number of people in place each period of the day to handle customer contacts—not too many and not too few. Schedule efficiency measures the degree of overstaffing and understaffing that exist as a result of scheduling design. Net staffing may be measured by half-hour as an indication of how well the resources in the center are being used.

Schedule efficiency for responding to the randomly arriving Web chats should be measured just like that for incoming call centers. Since e-mails typically represent sequential rather than random workload, the work fits the schedule and therefore overstaffing and understaffing measures are less relevant.

14. Schedule Adherence
Schedule adherence measures the degree to which the specific hours scheduled are actually worked by the agents. It is an overall call center measure and is also one of the most important team and individual measures of performance since it has such great impact on productivity and service. Schedule adherence is one of the most important measures the multichannel contact center as well. Specific hours worked is less of an issue in a group responding to emails rather than real-time demand of calls and Web chats, but is still relevant in processing the work in a timely manner, especially if response time guarantees exist.

15/16. AHT/ACW
A common measure of contact handling is the average handle time (AHT), made up of talk time plus after-call work (ACW). To accommodate differences in calling patterns, it should be measured and identified by time of day as well as by day of week.

Average handle time is also a measure that is important in determining the other types of multichannel contact workload. It is much harder to calculate, however, given the difficulties of truly measuring how long it takes to handle an e-mail or a Web chat transaction. An e-mail may be opened and put aside for varying amounts of time before completing. Likewise, a Web chat session may appear to take longer than it actually does since a Web agent typically has several sessions open at once. Therefore each one takes longer based on start and end time. Automated tracking of these actual handle times is difficult with numbers coming from email management systems often overstated in terms of actual handle time.

17. System Availability
When response time from the computer system is slow, it can add seconds or minutes to the handle time of a transaction. In the call center, system speed, uptime, and overall availability should be measured on an ongoing basis to ensure maximum response time and efficiency as well as service to callers. For example, if the IVR typically handles 50%of calls to completion, but the IVR is out of service, many more calls will require agent assistance than normal causing overtime costs, long delays, and generally poor service. Often this will be a measure of performance that resides in the IT department, but is also a crucial measure of contact center performance.

18. Conversion Rate
The conversion rate refers to the percentage of transactions in which a sales opportunity is translated into an actual sale. It can be measured as an absolute number of sales or as a percentage of calls that result in a sale. Conversion rate should be tracked and measured for incoming calls, as well as outgoing calls, email transactions, and other Web interactions.

19. Upsell/Cross-Sell Rate
The up-sell rate or cross-sell rate is measured by many organizations as a success rate at generating revenue over and above the original order or intention of the call. It is becoming an increasingly common practice, not just for pure revenue-generating call centers but for customer service centers as well. Although more prevalent in the telephone center, it is also an appropriate measure of performance for other communications channels.

20. Cost-per-call
A common measure of operational efficiency is cost- per-call or cost-per-minute to handle the call workload, both in a simple call center as well as in a multichannel contact environment. This cost per call can be simply a labor cost-per-call, or it can be a fully loaded rate that includes wage rates in addition to telecommunications, facilities, and other services costs. In setting cost-pre-call, it is critical to define the components being used, and to use them consistently in evaluating how well the center is making use of financial resources over time. While commonly used to compare one company or site to another in benchmarking, this is not a good practice as the components included and the types of contacts will often vary.

Penny Reynolds is a founding partner of Nashville, TN-based The Call Center School, a consulting and education company.

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