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

This is the first in a two-part article on the top 20 performance measures commonly associated with personnel and the processes in today’s multichannel contact center.

The evolution of a simple call center into a multichannel contact center doesn’t happen overnight. You may need to add or upgrade technologies, and certainly staff skills will need to expand as customer contacts begin to include e-mail and Web chat in addition to incoming phone calls.

It’s also important to rethink what performance measurements are important for this new breed of operation. Are the measures of performance that served you well in the call center the same ones that will determine how well the multichannel contact center is working?

You can organize contact center standards into four categories: service, quality, efficiency, and profitability. Today we’ll look at the top 10 metrics for service and quality.

Service measures
The most important measures of performance in the contact center are those associated with service. Some of these measures are the same for both the old-fashioned call center and the modern-day contact center, while some will need to change slightly to reflect the new types of transactions.

1) Blockage An accessibility measure, blockage indicates what percentage of customers will not be able to access the center at a given time due to insufficient network facilities in place. Most centers measure blockage (busy signals) by time of day or occurrences of “all trunks busy” situations. Failure to include a blockage goal allows a center to always meet its speed of answer goal by simply blocking the excess calls. As you can imagine, this damages customer accessibility and satisfaction, even though the contact center appears to be doing a great job of managing the queue.

The contact center must also carefully determine the amount of bandwidth and e-mail server capacity to ensure that large quantities of e-mails do not overload the system. Likewise, the number of lines supporting fax services must be sufficient.

2) Abandon rate Call centers measure the number of abandons as well as the abandon rate, since both correlate with retention and revenue. Keep in mind, however, that abandon rate is not entirely under the call center’s control. While abandons are affected by the average wait time in queue (which can be controlled by the contact center), a multitude of other factors also influence this number, such as individual caller tolerance, time of day, availability of service alternatives, and so on.

Abandon rate is not typically a measure associated with e-mail communications, as the e-mail does not abandon the “queue” once it has been sent, but it does apply to Web chat interactions.

3) Self-service availability More and more contacts are being offloaded from contact center agents to self-service alternatives. In the contact center, self-service usage is an important gauge of accessibility and is typically measured as an overall number, by self-service methodology and menu points, and by time of day or demographic group. In cases of Web chat, automated alternatives such as FAQs or use of help functions can reduce the requirement for the live interaction with a Web chat agent.

4/5) Service level/average speed of answer Service level, the percentage of calls answered in a defined wait threshold, is the most common speed-of-answer measure in the call center. It is most commonly stated as X percent of calls handled in Y seconds or less. Average speed of answer (ASA) represents the average wait time of all calls in the period.

In the contact center, speed of answer for Web chat should also be measured and reported with a service level or ASA number. Many centers measure both initial response as well as the back-and-forth times, since having too many open Web chat sessions can slow the expected response time once an interaction has begun. The speed of answer for e-mail transactions, on the other hand, is defined as a “response time” and may be depicted in terms of hours or even days, rather than in seconds or minutes of elapsed time.

6) Longest delay in queue Another speed-of-answer measure is how long the oldest call in queue has been waiting—the longest delay in queue (LDQ). Many centers use real-time LDQ to indicate when more staff need to be made immediately available.

Historical LDQ is a more likely contact center measure, to indicate the “worst case” experience of a customer over a period of time. Historical LDQ is measured in two categories. One is the longest delay for a customer whose transaction was finally handled by an agent (longest delay to answer), and the other is longest delay for a customer who finally abandoned the contact (longest delay to aAbandon), as might be the case in a Web chat scenario.

Quality measures
In addition to the “how fast” measures outlined above, perhaps a more significant indicator of customer satisfaction is “how well” the contact was handled.

7) First resolution rate The percentage of transactions completed within a single contact, often called the “one and done” ratio, is a crucial measure of quality. It gauges the ability of the center, as well as of an individual, to accomplish an interaction in a single step without requiring a transfer to another person or area or without needing another transaction at a future time to resolve the customer issue. The one-call completion rate is a crucial factor in customer perception of quality. The satisfactory resolution of a call is tracked overall in the center, as well as by type of call, and perhaps by time of day, by team, or by individual.

The one-contact resolution rate should likewise be tracked for e-mail transactions and Web interactions. The resolution rate will likely be lower for e-mails, as it generally takes multiple messages between two parties to resolve a matter to completion.

8) Transfer rate The transfer percentage is an indication of what portion of contacts has to be transferred to another person or place to be handled. Tracking transfers can help fine-tune the routing strategies as well as identify performance gaps of the staff.

Likewise, tracking e-mails that must be transferred to others or text chat interactions that require outside assistance is useful to identify personnel training issues or holes in online support tools.

9) Communications etiquette One of the critical factors that affect the caller’s perception of how well a call was handled is simple courtesy. The degree to which telephone communications skills and etiquette are displayed is generally measured via observation or some form of quality monitoring as an individual gauge of performance.

E-mail and Web chat etiquette should also be observed. Standard wordings that should be followed in both types of communications should be carefully observed, reviewed, and reported as a quality measure of performance.

10) Adherence to procedures Adherence to procedures such as workflow processes and call scripts is particularly important to perceived quality in terms of the customer receiving a consistent interaction regardless of the contact channel or the individual agent involved. In the call center, adherence to processes and procedures is typically measured for individuals through simple observation and the quality monitoring process.

Adherence to processes and procedures is also important for other channels of contact. Written scripts and preapproved responses are generally created, and adherence to these is monitored and recorded.

Next week we’ll look at the top 10 measurements for efficiency and profitability.

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

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