Contact Center Metrics That Matter

Contact center key performance indicators (KPI) show customer service managers what good looks like. But not all measures are equal and while many are easy to create they can be distractions that cloud what's most important. It's a good idea to collect metrics, of course, but are you collecting the right ones? And what are you doing with them once you have the data?

Most contact center managers focus on KPIs that measure efficiency—metrics like average call handling times, average wrap-up time and call script adherence. Those are fine, and they can help improve contact or call center performance, but some would argue that they are not the metrics that make the biggest difference to the customer service mission.

Instead of using performance metrics that measure from the inside looking out, try turning it on its head, and focus on the effectiveness of the contact center as measured by the customer, not the company itself.

If you do that, you’ll surface the most influential KPI to impact customer satisfaction: First Contact Resolution. FCR gets a lot of press these days—and for good reason. It's one of the few performance metrics that serves more than one purpose. First, if you improve your first call resolution rate, your customers will be happier with your company. This improvement will be reflected in customer feedback, your CSAT or NPS scores, and later in your customer lifetime value and retention measures. Secondly, if you can handle a customer's request or concern in one contact (phone, email, instant message, whatever) instead of two or three, it creates significant customer and call center benefits while at the same time cutting your cost by half or two-thirds.

Contact Center Dashboard

"Customers want to be connected quickly to an agent who is able to resolve their query right away," said Oke Eleazu, managing director of think outside in and vice-president of the Institute of Customer Service. "Measuring customer satisfaction is great, but many traditional measures are nebulous and imprecise and can make it difficult to know what to focus improvement initiatives on," he said. "With FCR, you have an actionable measure - you can work on people, process and technology to improve the customer experience. You can very quickly and accurately observe and report on the effectiveness of those actions."

"Companies that want their contact centers to deliver a good customer experience, must measure FCR rates. Those companies that do not will lose touch with customer perceptions, damaging their brand."

— Oke Eleazu, VP of the Institute of Customer Service

Many companies are tracking first call resolution, but many are not. Ken Landoline, principal analyst of Customer Service Consulting Group in Bay Point, Calif., routinely talks about FCR in call center forums around the country. He says that at a recent forum, he asked for a show of hands for how many contact center managers were tracking the KPI. Three people raised their hands.

Why? Well, for one thing, it’s a lot harder to capture than traditional metrics. There are many ways to do it, and some are much less scientific than others. For example, managers can ask agents to check off a box at the end of the customer communication if the incident has been resolved and it’s the first contact the customer has had with the contact center. But that’s subjective; the agent may be wrong, or less than diligent. Another idea is call monitoring: Listen to a small percentage of calls and judge how many you perceive are being resolved on first contact. Again, it’s subjective, and labor-intensive.

One automated method is to send customer satisfaction surveys to customers and let customers advise if their case was resolved. However, a downside of this method is that most customers do not respond to surveys. In fact, many surveys don't even make it to the customer as they filtered out by spam programs. A better automated option is to use CRM or contact center software analytics that employ algorithms to analyze call flow via the customer ID or name.

None of these methods is perfect. The Ascent Group, which follows this sort of thing, recommends that companies use multiple methods to measure first call resolution. The key is to gather different types of FCR-related information, such as how frequently your customers contact the company, and the number of repeat calls by type of contact.

Social media creates less structured data and more customer channels, which makes improving FCR a more difficult challenge. One solution is to implement a Business Process Guidance (BPG) system. "With contact centers consolidating, they require agents to have a broad knowledge base. However, agents cannot be experts in every product and service and can struggle to resolve complex customer enquiries in the crucial first contact," said David Frenkel, CEO of Panviva. "Agents need easy real-time access to detailed knowledge, often hidden in existing systems or databases. They need a system that immediately steers them through the process at hand; a BPG System."

Once you’ve got some actionable data, what does it mean? For example, what is your FCR percentage? If it’s 60%, what does that mean? Well, it’s a benchmark you can use to measure and trend over future period increments. But it also means that only 60% of your contacts are being resolved on the first contact. Not great. That means 40% of your customers are contacting you twice or even three times to get resolution. That means more call volume, higher expenses and unhappy customers. But if it makes you feel any better, a study Ascent Group did last year found that companies measuring this KPI ranged from 30% to 98%. With that perspective, maybe 60% isn’t that bad.

So, now is the time to do something about it. Implement the processes to get the data and use it to drive change. Look at your processes, your agent experience, your tools, and your customers. Get everyone involved. Make it work for you by gaining an initial baseline measurement, showing incremental progress over time and demonstrating how customer service contributes to the company.