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Measure and Manage Your Contact Center Work

Measure and Manage Your Contact Center Work Effectively

Knowing what to measure and how to manage contact center work effectively is essential for any organization aiming to deliver a winning customer experience (CX) without breaking the bank.

Customized Contact Center Metrics

It’s no longer possible to take a one-size-fits all approach to contact center metrics. Each industry and every brand has its own priorities and potential pain points that ultimately dictate which key performance indicators (KPIs) to apply. Nevertheless, some metrics – such as first contact resolution (FCR) and abandonment rate – still exist for all seasons and all customer experience-related reasons.  

You need absolute clarity regarding business goals and your contact center’s role in achieving them to identify the metrics that matter. Likewise, it’s important to consider how the metrics traditionally applied to voice extend to digital channels from self-service to live chat and chatbot performance.  

Important Contact Center Metrics

It’s also important to take a less-is-more approach. Tracking too many data points can prove counterproductive to performance. This may result in reduced contact center efficiency as frontline customer experience employees, supervisors and managers find it difficult to identify the KPIs that should take priority or where to focus to drive continuous improvement.

Task-Related KPIs
While metrics are crucial for day-to-day contact center operations, these KPIs, if carefully selected, can directly inform the management of business operations as a whole. They can provide insights that could improve products or services and in turn elevate customer experience within and beyond the contact center.

First Contact Resolution (FCR)

First contact resolution is the percentage of all incoming contacts that are resolved by the agent receiving the question or query without having to transfer to a superior, a different department, or having to call the customer back. First contact resolution can be calculated in several ways. For example, it can be the number of contacts resolved in the first interaction divided by the total number of contacts received, or as the number of contacts resolved in the first interaction divided by the total number of first contacts received. While there are several ways of defining FCR, the best is to ask customers directly with a post-contact survey.

For 40% of U.S. consumers, first contact resolution is the most important element of a good customer experience. It’s a metric that highlights not just how easy it is for agents to access the right information or customer data but also any potential gaps in agent training.

All of this makes first contact resolution a crucial metric for organizations focused on optimizing customer satisfaction. Therefore, make sure it is properly measured and if your organization uses several different contact center providers, all partners are aligned.

First Call Close (CCC)

FCC is to outbound sales teams what first contact resolution is to inbound customer service teams.

First call close highlights how many sales an agent makes via an initial customer contact. Aligning this metric with agent behavior will uncover first call close trends that can be adopted by others in the outbound team to improve their closing and therefore productivity. The better the first call close rate, the greater the overall business efficiency because it enables you to generate more income and do so faster.

Average Handle Time (AHT)

Average handle time is the average time a contact center agent spends handling a contact. It includes any time the customer spends on hold or completing tasks as a result of the conversation, as well as the length of the conversation itself.

When most contact center work was telephone-based, average handle time was often a key metric; the theory going that the longer an agent needs to be on the phone to resolve a customer’s issue, the more that call is costing the company and the less time the associate has available to service other callers.

However, call centers are now contact centers and customers are just as likely to interact with a chatbot or use self-service as they are to interact with a live agent via voice or live chat.

Comparing AHT and FCR

This proliferation of choice serves to reduce the flow of traffic into live channels, but it also means that increasingly, those customers looking for a human interaction are doing so because they have an emotional need or a complex issue to resolve. Therefore, average handle time should be compared with first contact resolution data to give a full picture.

Average handle time also continues to be a good metric for planning contact center staffing levels and for highlighting potential weaknesses in scripts or knowledgebases. Likewise, it can be used to compare performance between different channels for resolving the same issue. For instance, a chatbot should be faster at answering certain queries than even the most highly trained agent.

Escalation to Live Agent

Escalation to Live Agent is the percentage of interactions that your digital agent escalates to a live agent. There will always be instances where a live agent needs to step in to fully resolve an issue; however, if your organization has an omnichannel engagement platform, escalation should be the exception, not the rule. Monitoring this metric highlights pain points in self-service options – maybe information pertaining to certain common contact drivers has not been updated. As organizations move toward chatbots for augmenting customer experience, tracking instances of escalation to live agents will provide insights regarding chatbot performance. If the escalation rate is too high, the chatbot could require further training to continue deflecting live contact volumes.

Escalation is a key element, no matter how an organization chooses to gauge its customer experience. In fact, 60% of U.S. consumers say not wasting their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer experience. If it’s necessary to move from one channel to another on the path to resolution, 75% of customers expect their information to move with them so they can pick up where they left off without repeating themselves. Instances where escalation is inevitable, ensure the customer remains in their channel of choice. If the path to resolution began with a conversational interactive voice response (IVR) then moving to voice with a live agent is preferable. If the customer stated with self-service or a chatbot interaction, escalation should be to online chat.

Quality-Related Metrics

Beyond task-related KPIs, there are a wide range of quality-related metrics you should consider when measuring and managing your contact center effectiveness. When it comes to quality-related metrics for the contact center, these metrics can be used to identify areas of weakness where digital solutions could be used, ensure compliance and improve agents’ soft skills.  

When viewed together with task-related KPIs, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of your contact center’s effectiveness and improve the overall customer experience for your brand.  

Adherence to Schedule

Adherence to Schedule is the amount of time agents spend working in line with their assigned schedule.

Adherence to schedule focuses on the time agents spend interacting with customers, managing post-call work but not on time needed for breaks and training. Studying it can highlight areas for improved efficiency and productivity. This is easier for organizations that use outsourced contact centers as they use proprietary workforce management tools that track and calculate adherence to schedule.

Unlike other KPIs, adherence to schedule is a metric over which agents themselves have most control. This makes it a useful tool for unearthing best practices that can be passed on to other agents to help increase their productivity and operational efficiency.

Call Quality

Call Quality is the number of calls that met defined quality standards.

A call quality score, often expressed as a percentage or a rating, sets out how well contacts are performing against defined quality standards. These standards might include the stating of an agent’s name at the beginning of the call, asking if a customer requires any further assistance before closing a call and sharing any industry or action specific compliance statements.

Because it takes on average 60 minutes to manually select, listen to, analyze and quality assess a single 8-minute call, organizations increasingly turn to speech and text analytics solutions for monitoring quality and adherence of all contacts across all channels to determine the true quality score.

Abandonment Rate

Abandonment Rate is the number of customers who abandon the contact before they are able to reach an agent.

This is another key customer experience metric as 56% of customers will not wait on hold for 2 minutes and 11% of customers say that no amount of hold time is acceptable. Therefore, the higher the wait time, the higher the likelihood that a customer will hang up or quit the session. A high abandonment rate may mean more agents are required to handle call volumes or that agents assigned to online chat need to improve on concurrency. However, it can also highlight the need for better gatekeeping. A customer shouldn’t be on hold for an agent unless they have first passed through a visual or conversational IVR while those in a chat queue should be waiting because they have been escalated following an initial chatbot interaction.

Average Time in Queue

Average Time in Queue is the length of time the customer spends waiting to interact with an agent.

A high abandonment rate is usually the result of the average time in queue being too long, making the two metrics inextricably linked. The more serious or complex an issue, the more likely a customer is prepared to queue before connecting with a live agent. However, for many other issues, customers should have the opportunity to self-serve.

86% of consumers, globally, now take it for granted that your organization will offer a self-service option while 73% will have already visited your website to try and solve a problem before moving into a live channel. So, ensure everything is in place to help customers help themselves.

Average Concurrency

Average Concurrency is the number of chats agents handle at the same time.

Unlike voice-based contacts, one of the benefits of chat is that it is possible for agents to manage multiple contacts at the same time. Concurrency is a fine balance between efficiency and effectiveness and the optimum concurrency will be determined by the types of contact your agents are managing. Complex questions require more focused attention, while several simple interactions can be managed simultaneous often with initial canned responses for optimum efficiency.

However, keep in mind that high rates of concurrency can also increase average handle time. For this reason, it’s important to monitor multiple KPIs to gain the clearest picture of how well customers’ needs are met without deviating from ultimate business objectives.

Measure, Monitor, Repeat

Once you determine the KPIs that most closely align with your business goals, monitor each metric individually and in combination to understand where you excel and the areas for opportunity. Without careful analysis, it may not be clear what to target in order to drive continuous improvement. Organizations who partner with one or more outsourcing providers for their customer experience delivery have a clear advantage in this regard. Leading providers can pinpoint exactly where to focus efforts for unlocking efficiencies. These providers can also share and apply best practices that are proven to make a measurable difference and for pooling resources and expertise to ensure consistency across all touchpoints.

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