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The Ultimate Blog for Using Call Center Metrics to Improve Agent Performance

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Author: McKay Bird

You don’t know what you don’t measure. That is, you might have a general idea about call center performance. You could feel that agents are working well. However, you don’t know either of those two things with any sort of clarity. It’s all guesswork and gut instinct.

Unfortunately, the qualitative method provides few, if any, long-term benefits. Successful call centers are those that establish key performance indicators (KPIs), set milestones, track progress, and fine-tune efforts based on data. With those hard, and oh so quantitative numbers, call center owners demonstrate true impact and improve agent and business performance.

Call Center Metrics

Call center metrics give definition to your work. They provide minimum and maximum standards for performance. That performance, however, usually takes two avenues: agent, or individual, performance and business performance.

While the metrics sometimes overlap and definitely inform both personal and organization-wide goals, they can be placed in separate categories. Some metrics, after all, hold more import for the organization than the lone call center agent. That doesn’t mean the agent shouldn’t be aware of those metrics; in fact, sharing business performance metrics can help agents feel they’re part of something bigger. The numbers give them a reason for showing up every day and doing their very best.

To help you start setting call center objectives, goals, and metrics, use the following list.

Average Speed to Answer

Average speed to answer is the average amount of time it takes for calls to be answered in a call center during a specific time period. The higher the number, the longer it’s taking agents to answer the call.

To improve this number, call center managers may need to increase their staff, route-specific calls to agents who are best suited to talk to particular customers, or improve the interactive voice response system so fewer customers are being routed to agents.

First Call Resolution

First call resolution is when a customer’s queries are satisfied the first time they call, with the first person who answers the phone.

To increase the rate of first call resolution, make sure (again) that customer calls are routed to agents who have the skills and expertise to solve their problems. But also, give agents access to as much information as possible at their desk so they don’t have to hunt for the answers to a customer’s questions.

Often, FCR can also be increased by increasing target call handling times. While call centers always want the lowest handle time possible, FCR is the gold standard of good service. Play with targets to see where the golden FCR/handle time ratio falls.

Lastly, from a workforce optimization standpoint, FCR can tell you which agents should field calls in your busiest times. Why? Customers will frequently call back immediately after an unsatisfactory call outcome, hoping for a different agent. That means more lost time and a heavier per-call impact on high-volume periods. Promote those agents to the critical shifts for great results.

Customer Satisfaction Rating (CSR)

A Customer Satisfaction Rating is usually measured on a 5-point scale with 1 being “very dissatisfied” and 5 being “very satisfied.”

This is a critical metric that tells call center managers if a) agents solved the customers’ issues effectively, or b) they didn’t, or c) the customer didn’t like the answer they were given.

Depending on which rating agents get (and how often they get them) satisfaction ratings will reveal whether you have to improve that agent or use whatever they’re doing to teach the rest of the agents.

Customer satisfaction ratings can also guide future workforce optimization efforts. Look for consistently lower ratings when sorting by call type. A high-performing agent with low satisfaction scores in a single call category can mean one of two things, more training and side-by-side calls are needed with better agents, or, some part of the process needs an enhancement. Could they need more data on the fly? Does training need to be changed or updated? These metrics are a doorway to answers.

Auxiliary Time

Auxiliary time is when an agent is no longer available to make or answer calls coming in.

This metric can become confusing if managers don’t create clear parameters and definitions for different types of aux time. Sometimes agents are on break, sometimes they’re in training, and sometimes they’re handling calls or emails.

To make this metric work, create definite standards for aux codes.

Schedule Adherence

Schedule adherence is a measurement of agents doing the work they were scheduled to do.

A high rate means they are, a low rate means they aren’t.

But agents can’t be expected to answer calls for 8 hours straight, so schedule adherence will never be 100%.

Instead, help agents learn how to manage their time, remain productive, streamline other tasks like email, and quickly get back to work.

Tip: A great place to start looking for adherence improvements is around the edges of breaks and the beginning and ending of a shift. These are often areas where extra time away creeps in.

Average Handle Time

Average handle time is the amount of time it takes for an agent to resolve a call. From speaking with the caller to related tasks after the call ends.

Of course, managers should aim for the lowest possible handle time, however…with the highest possible satisfaction rating.

This means agents should be trained to be efficient, but not rush people off the phone or perform sloppy work. Keeping resources handy also dramatically reduces AHT. Unified customer profiles in TCN’s platform keep all prior call, IVR choices and previous call notes close at hand, to keep agents performing efficiently.

If your goal is workforce optimization, however, take a close look at very low AHTs. Often, process that can be optimized to an IVR or automated processing solution become very routine, very robotic. Perfect for automation! Free up even more agents with this killer insider advice.

Agent Occupancy

Agent occupancy is the amount of time agents are handling calls or performing after-call tasks during their work shifts.

If the number is very high, that means the call center is receiving a lot of calls and all the agents are busy most of the time. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. It may be a sign that some agents will experience burn out and managers need to hire more agents to handle the influx of calls.

Service Level Agreement Status

A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an agreement between call centers and their clients that define the services they deliver, the responsiveness clients can expect, and how performance will be measured.

The status can be changed in a number of ways. For example, an agent may pause the status of the SLA while waiting for additional information from the customer.

SLA status helps managers measure many of the other KPIs on this list.

Number of Calls until Resolution

According to customer experience consulting company SQM, customer satisfaction drops by 15% every time they have to call back to resolve the same issue.

And that’s on top of the operational costs call centers incur when handling repeat callers, as well as the loss of employee morale that can happen when a repeat caller continues to become more and more frustrated with agents each time they call back.

So, in addition to FCR, it’s important to track the average number of calls until resolutions are reached – if it moves much beyond 2-3, your call center may be at serious risk of failing to meet cost and satisfaction goals.

Number of Active Calls

The number of active calls is the total amount of callers being handled by agents.

This metric will tell managers how busy their call center is and is a great KPI to measure against other KPIs on this list.

For instance, If there is a high amount of active calls AND a high average handle time, that may signal agents need additional training in first call resolution. Cloud contact center solutions like TCN let you visualize exactly who is on the phone, who is waiting for a call and who is away from their station.

Number of Waiting Calls

The number of waiting calls tells managers how many callers on sitting on hold.

The goal should always be to minimize or eliminate this number. The longer customers wait, the more likely they’ll have a bad experience, or worse, hang up.

Too many waiting calls may mean too few agents, inefficient handle times, an ineffective IVR, or a combination of these and more.

Right-Party Contacts

Right-party contact is when agents call the decision-maker instead of some other employee, household member or staffer.

The more right-party contacts agents make, the faster they’re able to collect debts, for example, or settle up any other issue.

Tracking this KPI helps managers improve their outbound calling strategy.

Commitments to Pay

For collections or sales-focused call centers, commitments to pay are important to track as this is a key business objective the call center is supposed to fulfill.

While the ultimate goal in these cases is to secure actual payment from clients, customers, and debtors, getting a clear commitment to pay is a good step forward in that process so tracking this KPI and taking steps to improve it has a high likelihood of improving revenue generation efforts.

Hold Times

Hold times are the length of time a caller is kept on hold.

Like wait times, this number should be drastically reduced or outright eliminated if possible.

Higher than average hold times typically reveal a difficult customer who has a complex problem or an agent who is not well-suited to handle their needs.

Try optimizing your call procedures for call categories with exceedingly long hold times. Often, this points to agents digging through interfaces to find the right data – either answers or details on the customer. Not to brag about TCN (too much) but these workforce optimization solutions are part and parcel of the cloud-based contact center offering.

Agent Performance Roundup – The Takeaways

The secret to improving agent performance is simple: share the metrics and analysis with them. Metrics outline objectives, which gives agents a target to hit. Analysis and feedback shows agents how they can improve their aim and hit the target more often.

In the past, you might have conducted those sorts of assessment on an annual or quarterly basis—the so-called performance review. Many organizations are getting away from traditional performance reviews; they can’t keep pace with the speed of business. As a result, many businesses and organizations turn to real-time performance reporting and couple it with in-person conversations, trainings, and teaching.

TCN makes this reality possible with the Agent Gateway. Any time your agents log in for a scheduled shift, they see how their customer communications have fared. They can then use that information to change their approach.

You can use that information, too, to nudge employees along. When you look at agent performance data, you might see that one agent excels in complex conversations while another performs well with outbound calling. Use the data to shift their workload so that they get to do more of what they’re good at. When agents get to use the skills that are hardwired into them, they usually come and go to work happy.

Business Performance

Business performance rarely transforms overnight or leads to positive changes through broad, sweeping initiatives. Rather, it improves by focusing on something small, something like agent performance. Agent productivity and efficiency are small stones dropped into a pond. As the ripples spread outward, they touch everything within the organization.

But you can facilitate that progress. By integrating data from a CRM and other applications in a secure cloud-based platform, you make it easier for agents to increase productivity and work more efficiently. You also mitigate aggravation—you know there’s nothing worse than searching for customer information when you need it, right here and right now.

You also can set organization-wide goals. It’s a good and wise thing to do. Sharing the goals can develop a sense of mission, helping agents see that they are doing good work. It also helps with creating a shared belief in your company’s vision so that everyone works toward the same goal.

You then follow up those goals with objectives and metrics. By measuring the objectives, you have a better chance to meet them. More importantly, you know how your call center and agents are performing in concrete, quantitative terms.

Want to see how the TCN platform could help drive agent and business performance at your organization? Request a demo today.

About the Author: McKay Bird

Mckay Bird is the Chief Marketing Officer for TCN, a leading provider of cloud-based call center technology for enterprises, contact centers, BPOs, and collection agencies worldwide. Mckay oversees all marketing operations, campaigns and conferences including; content production, email marketing, and other inbound marketing activities.