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Call Center Metrics that Matter Most – Part 2: Metrics for Performance Management

December 8, 2014 / Rich Fox


Average handle time, number of transferred calls, unavailable reasons, sign in / sign out time, number of outbound calls, number of callers put on hold… These are some of the many agent metrics that supervisors like to look at in the call center, which are indicative of agent behavior that you can use to coach/mentor your staff to improve their performance.

In reality, there are only a few metrics that you should use to truly judge your agents’ performance. The first two impact the caller expectations, while the last one ensures the agent is performing the right activities at the right time:

  • Call Quality:

This typically comes from quality monitoring performed by Supervisors or a separate QA team. If the agent is wowing your customer and excelling at your Quality Monitoring objectives like their customer service skills, product knowledge, and system expertise, haven’t they achieved nirvana? They are pros…they build rapport with the customer…they give them accurate information…they log everything in the system correctly….they move efficiently through the call…these are the things that the agent can control. Ultimately the agent’s handling of the call is one of the key factors in caller satisfaction. You should focus heavily on call quality and have on-going reviews of agent performance. You may spend more energy on your newer employees than your seasoned ones since the more tenured agents are more likely to behave in the manner you expect. The goal of a quality initiative is to raise the performance of all agents. Imagine if you could get the middle of the pack agents in your call center to perform like the top 10% of your agents. THAT would be a game changer and a crowning achievement for you.

  • First Call Resolution: This is calculated based upon the number of calls resolved upon initial contact divided by the total number of calls. Since labor is the largest cost in any call center and every caller wants their question resolved right away, completing more and more calls as a “one and done” is key to cost and customer satisfaction. Evolve IP’s customers typically capture this information from either their CRM system or through the use of Disposition Codes tracked in the phone system. This is a critical component to customer satisfaction.
  • Adherence to Schedule: This metric comes from the marriage of workforce management (WFM) and the call center information to answer the question “Are my agents doing the right things at the right time?” This information comes from the WFM system after it’s fed real-time agent state information and compares that to the agent’s schedule. Are they making an outbound call when they are supposed to be available? Did they come back from lunch late? Are they available when their shift begins or are they still grabbing a cup of coffee in the break room? If agents are following their schedule, they are doing what you asked. So, now the responsibility falls back on you to make sure that you are generating accurate forecasts and schedules that align the right number of agents to meet your Service Level goals.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR
It’s important to note that metrics aren’t always delivering what we THINK THEY ARE. That’s why you need to understand the interrelationship between the various metrics and most importantly the impact on the customer’s experience. Believe it or not, all agents may not always have the customer’s best interests at heart. They may actually be more focused on their own success, their own wallet, and the metrics you are using to motivate them. When THAT individual success is linked to the agent’s metrics you need to be careful, and you need to understand the data and make sure you have the right checks and balances.

Metrics are NOT necessarily the silver bullet answer that solves all the call center’s challenges. In fact, managing exclusively by those metrics may actually have an unintended and negative impact on your customer experience. This means that you need to understand the cause and effect and interdependencies between the various metrics.

For instance, if you manage your agents to an “average handle time (AHT)” KPI, they will hit that goal – but, you may not like the reason why. As an agent’s day unfolds and their AHT is too high, how will they get it back on track? They are going to rush through customers; they are going to take shortcuts with some callers so that their overall AHT falls back in line with expectations. I’ve seen agents feign a bad phone connection and terminate the call, or put the customer on hold and then terminate the call blaming technology. Now the customer must call back and start all over again. That’s a horrific customer experience!

Similarly, if you manage to “calls per hour” you’ll see some agents taking similar actions to increase their calls per hour: “Whoops dropped that call.” “Oops that transfer failed.” “Oops must be a bad connection.”

Instead of judging an agent by AHT, calls per hour, or some other efficiency measure, consider adding some additional items to score your agents during your Quality Monitoring activities. Focus on their ability to control the call: did the agent take all steps possible to complete that call in an efficient manner? Coach them on how they could have better handled that call. Not only will the agent get the proper coaching & training that will achieve the same results, it will ultimately will drive down AHT but in a healthy way.

So, you might be wondering about setting higher goals, say moving from an 80/20 Service Level goal to a 90/20 Service Level goal? You’d answer more calls quickly and make more customers happy right? Seems like a great idea! Well, there is too much of a good thing too. Going back to the laws of physics and unfortunately there are some opposing forces at play here too.

To achieve a higher Service Level goal, you’ll need more people on the phones. Achieving 90% of anything is tougher than achieving 80%. As we all know, that last 10-20% of results requires much more effort than first 80%. This is the law of diminishing returns that applies everywhere in our lives. To increase your Service Level goals, you’ll need to add more staff to the phones, plain and simple. You’ll need to answer more calls more quickly, and staffing is the way to achieve that.

OCCUPANCY
Let’s briefly talk about Occupancy, which is defined as “the percentage of time an agent is actually involved in call handling versus sitting in the idle state waiting for a call. This is a function of call volume, staffing, and service goals”. This can be interpreted as “productive inbound time on the phone.” So the more time agents spend on the phone, the higher their occupancy. However, as you increase your Service Level goals, your overall agent occupancy goes down. It’s an inverse relationship. As more agents are added to the same call volume, their occupancy decreases, because agents must spend more time sitting available for the next call in order to answer a higher percentage of the calls.

Putting this all together, your call center’s performance goes up because you’ve added more agents and are achieving higher Service Level goals, your callers are happy, BUT your agent occupancy goes down and your overall cost goes up and agents spend less time on the phone.

That’s the “opposite force” in this scenario, and YOU get to explain to your boss at your next budget review why more agents spending less time on the phone is a good thing.

Let’s take that discussion a step further, considering employee satisfaction and focus on the impact of Occupancy on your call center agents. As agents spend a higher portion of their day on the phone, they become increasingly weary at the end of the day. The frenetic pace of answering dozens of a calls in a day eventually gets to even the highest motivated agents. Now your CFO might say “I’m paying them 100% of their salary and I expect to see them on the phones 100% of the day.” We all know that’s not practical nor remotely feasible in a call center.

As agent occupancy goes up, employee motivation and morale goes down – and we all know a happy employee means a happy customer right. So, an unhappy employee means what kind of customer? RIGHT…NOT the kind you want.

An agent can’t control occupancy, if they are doing what you ask of them – that is being available for inbound calls at the times you expect them to be available. Occupancy is actually a byproduct of a few factors:

  • your incoming call volume
  • the Service Level goals you have for your call center
  • the number of agents you have on the phones to answer that volume

So, occupancy is actually in YOUR control, not the agents. So you need to find the right staffing and Service Level goals that keep your agents engaged and productive, but don’t lead to burn out and dissatisfaction.

Now that you have learned about the metrics that matter most to the call center, you might be interested in seeking a call center solution that enables you accurately and easily track these metrics. Click here to download our “Cloud Call Center Cloud Brief” to learn more about cloud call center solutions.

Categories: Call Center
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