What Call Centre Metrics and KPIs should you use?

call centre metrics and kpis
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Popular Call Centre Metrics and KPIs

You may have inherited a call centre in your leadership position or perhaps what started with a ‘few people on the phones’ has now grown into something more substantial. Or maybe you are now a call centre manager but never really received some proper training on the way up the corporate ladder.  Either way, if you find yourself wondering what call centre metrics and KPIs you should be using then this article will help steer you in the right direction.

Firstly, a word of caution:

There is no industry standard, or a ‘one size fits all’ set of KPIs that you can just copy and paste and solve all your problems.

I’ve spent 30-years working in contact centre management and I’m still learning. Truth is, contact centres (as they are now more widely referred to) are a lot more complex than people given them credit for and knowing the right KPI’s to choose and how they all relate to each other is a professional skill built over years of experience.

Take a quick look at today’s contact centre manager. They have to balance people, technology, budgets, internal and external stakeholders, processes, reporting, analytics and more all while providing strong leadership, defending (and trying to improve the broader business) and satisfy customers.

And it’s not just calls they have to manage. Live chat, emails, video chat, Social Media and more all typically reside in the contact centre as well.

Impressive hey?

Anyway back to KPIs. KPI’s need data and the good news is there is more than enough data and KPIs to choose from in a contact centre! From obvious things like the number of phone calls answered through to things you may not have heard like occupancy rates, abandonment rate calls, FCR and more, there are literally hundreds of metrics you can look at. The skill is knowing which are the critical ones to look at that can be used to drive your business.

I’ve put together this list that I trust will serve as a great base for most contact centres.

The 10 Most Popular Call Centre Metrics and KPIs

  1. Grade of Service/Service Levels
  2. Average Speed of Answer (ASA)
  3. Abandonment Rate
  4. Average Handle Time
  5. Shrinkage
  6. First Call Resolution
  7. Occupancy
  8. Cost per Call (Contact)
  9. Turnover (Attrition)
  10. Call Quality

Apologies to…

It was a tough call coming up with the top ten. Truth is there are plenty of other metrics that are all very important in managing a contact centre. 

  • Adherence
  • Attendance/Absenteeism
  • Net Promoter Score
  • Customer Effort
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Forecast Accuracy
  • Employee Satisfaction
  • Calls Blocked

But even ten KPIs is a lot to focus on right? And what do they all mean? This guide is designed to provide you with some insight into the common call centre metrics and KPIs along with a few examples and explanations to help you wrap your head around it.  Is it an exhaustive list? No.

Does it replace years of call centre management experience? No.

And do these popular call centre metrics and KPIs work for all call centre environments? No.

But what these popular call centre metrics and KPIs will give you is a great starting point on what to implement in your centre or which ones you should consider if you are contemplating building your own call centre.

By using all, or a combination of the metrics below, you will be able to:

  • Gain insight into the customer experience.
  • Measure productivity and optimise your resources.
  • Get an insight into your culture.

The key thing to remember in contact centres is that it’s impossible (well highly risky) to look at just one metric in isolation. Most contact centre metrics are intangibly linked – and it’s understanding the cause and effect where some of the skills lie.

But let’s not over complicate things hey? Not in any particular order, please find attached the 10 most popular call centre metrics and KPIs.

The 10 Most Popular Contact Centre Metrics and KPI's

1. Grade of Service (aka Service Levels)

Grade of Service level (aka Service Levels) is usually defined as the percentage of calls answered within a predetermined number of seconds. As we love to do in Australia, we shorten everything so within the call centre industry you’ll commonly hear Grade of Service referred to as ‘GOS’ and the metric as something like 80/30, meaning 80% of calls answered within 30 seconds.

But despite common belief, there is no set industry standard for GOS.

On my CX Hustle Podcast I recently interviewed the head of the Triple Zero emergency services contact centre in Victoria. Clearly, aiming to answer 80% of calls within 30 seconds just wouldn’t work in an emergency setting, with their target to answer 100% of all calls within 5 seconds.

That’s an expensive target to achieve but when it’s literally a matter of life and death, you can understand why it’s important. At the other end of the scale, in some Public Sector contact centres in Australia, the target is to answer 70% of calls in 30 minutes. Ouch.

So that’s an example of two ends of the scale. What’s important is setting a Service Level target that is right for your business.

We don’t want to dive too deep here so the quick takeaway is the higher your service levels (e.g. 100%/5 seconds), the more expensive it is to achieve than lower ones. E.g. 70%/30 minutes

Want to learn how to calculate your Grade of Service? Listen to my Podcast below with Daniel Order where we discuss Erlang C – it’s a great introduction into how the mathematical formula is used to determine Service Levels in contact centres. As well as the podcast, you can read this article or download our free Erlang C Calculator and modelling your data.

Listen to the podcast:

2. Average Speed of Answer (ASA)

One of the risks of solely using Grade of Service as a metric is that it doesn’t tell you what happens to the customers that don’t meet the target. For example, if your Service Level is 80/30 we know that 80% of calls were answered within 30 seconds.

But let me ask you this… How long did it take the remaining 20% to be answered? No idea right? Hence lies the problem with just looking at Grade of Service.

Average Speed of Answer (commonly referred to as ASA) is the average number of seconds it takes for all calls to be answered. If calls are, on average, answered in 25 seconds, the ASA is 25 seconds for the contact centre.

Generally, the shorter the ASA, the better your Service Levels and the lower your abandonment rate is. Remember though, they are averages – you may have still of had a call that waited 30 minutes to be answered and it’s usually those outlier calls that will be the ones that cause you a headache (escalated complaints, in the media etc).

3. Abandonment Rate

Abandonment rate is the number of callers that have been placed in a queue waiting to speak to an agent, but then they hang up before getting connected to an agent.

Usually, people hang up simply because they got sick of waiting or listening to your terrible hold music! Abandonment rate does not include those calls that receive an engaged/ busy signal or calls that never even made it to your queue waiting to speak to an agent.

Formula:  Abandoned Calls / Total Incoming calls = Abandonment Rate

Example: 100 calls are placed into your queue in one hour. Of those calls, 10 people hang up before speaking to an agent, so your abandonment rate for the last hour has been 10%.

Typically, abandonment rates are linked to your service levels and how many staff you have available to answer calls. When the call centre is very busy and there are long wait times you can expect to see a higher abandonment rate.

Recent data in Australia reports that the average time a customer waits before hanging up is 109 seconds.

High abandonment rates can also have the potential to artificially inflate your real call volumes as the initial customers who could not get through on the first call continue to call back until they are connected to an agent.

Hot tips:

Not all abandonment rate is bad. For example, you may have some important information playing during your hold music. Once the customer has heard the information, and that has satisfied their enquiry, then it’s not really a bad thing is it?

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4. Average Handling Time

Average Handle time (or AHT for short) is actually made up of two key components:

  • Average Talk Time – the time an agent spends talking to the customer
  • After Call Work – the time the agent spends after the call completing activities related to that call (e.g. entering notes into the system)

Add the two together and that’s your AHT.

Formula:  Average Talk Time + Average After Call Work  = Average Handle Time

 Example: On average, Agent X spends 180 seconds on every call and a further 60 seconds in After Call Work. Agent X has an Average Handling Time of 240 seconds.

AHT is often a big focus for call centres as a higher AHT typically equates to increased costs and a lower customer experience (customers are busy and don’t want to spend hours talking to your agents on the phone either).

So should you have an AHT target for your agents? Hell no! Read this article that explains why.

Food for thought!

Did you know that AHT across the industry is actually increasing? With self-service and automation becoming increasingly common, the calls coming into your call centre are typically more complex.

5. Shrinkage

Shrinkage is probably the most confusing metric to understand and even with the contact centre community, you will often find very different answers to the question of how you calculate shrinkage.

Shrinkage typically refers to a percentage of paid time absorbed by off-line activities of your call centre workforce and this number is a critical component of forecasting the number of required staff required to meet service level targets.

As a general rule, the following activities are typically included in shrinkage calculations

  • Training
  • Coaching
  • Meetings
  • Annual Leave
  • Public Holidays
  • Paid tea breaks
  • Unscheduled Leave (sick leave)

It is critical to understand the shrinkage percentage as it allows you to predict the base level of staff required to meet service levels when using an Erlang C Calculator (try ours, it’s awesome!).

How to calculate shrinkage:

If you think of it in annual terms it makes it a bit easier to understand. If one person was employed full time to work for a single year they would on average work 261 days per year after we take away weekends. So 365 days in a year minus 104 days for weekends equals 261 days.

Now in a perfect world for the Employer, the employee would be at work for the 261 days and will be ready to take calls for their entire shift for every single one of those 261 days.

But that just doesn’t happen. In Australia for example, they will get 20 days annual leave and perhaps 10 days sick leave. Then there are some public holidays which vary between the states so let’s just settle on 8 public holidays. So adding that all together, that’s 20 + 10 + 8 = 38 days  (14.55%) out of 261 days that you are paying for, but they will never answer a single call on those days.

But even on the remaining 223 days (261-38=223 days) there will be times the agent will not be able to take calls. It could be due to training, coaching, team meetings, paid tea breaks etc. All these activities form part of shrinkage.

Let me show you in annual terms the shrinkage for the agent described above:

Days available to work = 261

Total Days lost over a year:

  • Annual Leave (20)
  • Sick Leave (10)
  • Public Holidays (8)
  • Training (5)
  • Coaching (5)
  • Team Meetings (2)

20+10+8+5+5+2 = 50 days

50 days lost / 261 paid days of work x 100 = 19% shrinkage.

So this agent will only be available to handle calls for 81% of the time you are actually paying for. So imagine if you had done all your workforce planning but forgot to incorporate shrinkage? Hopefully, now you realise the significant impact of that little oversight…

6. First Call Resolution

First Call Resolution (FCR) is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult metrics to implement in a contact centre. The concept itself is fairly straightforward:

The percentage of customer calls that are resolved the first time.

How to calculate: Number of FCR calls / Total Number of Calls

Example:
If 7 of 10 calls are resolved on the first call then that centre has reached an FCR of 70%.

The difficulty, however, is defining whether an issue is ‘resolved’ and if it’s driving the right behaviour for your business. Years ago I used to manage the call centre for Australia Post so I’ll use an example to illustrate my point.

Customer: Hi, how much would it cost to send a 3kg parcel from Melbourne to Sydney?

Agent: $6.50

Customer: Awesome, thanks so much. Bye.

OK sure that call would be now handled online but stay with me… Would you say that call was resolved? The customer asked a question and received an answer so yes, lets tick that box for First Call Resolution.

But could the agent have done more? Some other questions could have been:

  • (A) What size is the parcel? (A big box of pillows may only weigh 1kg but Australia Post use a cubic metre rate for large, light parcels.  The cubic weight may have worked out at 10kg so the customer could have been charged a lot more when arriving at the Post Office)
  • (B) How quickly do you need to get it there? (There are different options like Express Post for example that cost more but get their quicker)
  • (C) The agent could have advised the caller to next time use the online calculator to avoid having to call back again.

So while the customer did get an answer to their primary question, it would have been a poor experience when they arrived at the post office with a big box of pillows using scenario (A), the end customer may have been impacted if they needed the pillows in a hurry (B) and we have made no effort to help transition the customer to more effective channels (C).

Another issue with first call resolution is the time elapsed before the customer calls back. Using the same example above, let’s say the customer called back at the same time the next day with some additional questions like “Can I get insurance on my parcel, how do I make sure someone signs for it’.

Would that original call still count as First Call Resolution? Clearly, the customer had additional questions so one could argue strongly that it wasn’t. But what if it was 72 hours later the customer called? Or two weeks?

Having clarity on the time frame before the customer makes contact again is also a key consideration.

Bottom line, FCR can be a good metric but the devil really is in the detail and that’s where most centres get it wrong.

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7. Occupancy

Ok remember back to the Shrinkage metric and we discovered that an agent is never going to be 100% available for their paid work time due to annual leave, breaks etc? Well, Occupancy is another figure that is very important in determining the efficiency of your contact centre.

In simple terms,  Occupancy is the percentage of time agents spend handling calls (and after-call work) compared with the total amount of time they are ready and waiting for calls to arrive.

It’s often used as an indicator of how hard your team is working and it’s very much an outcome of your workforce planning. Think of it like this:

  • Low occupancy: You’ve got too many staff rostered on and you are literally paying for staff to sit around and do nothing.
  • High occupancy: You don’t have enough staff on and wait times blow out (equals unhappy customers) and your call centre agents are just getting pounded with call after call (equals unhappy staff).

Whilst ever centre is different, a generally accepted target for occupancy is around 80% – 85%.

How to calculate: Total Call Time / (Total Call Time + Available Time)

Example:
If your contact centre has 100 hours of time your agents can take calls, and they are speaking to Customers for 80 hours of that 100 hours (or waiting for a call), your occupancy is 80/100 or 80%.

In general terms, as Grade of Service (aka Service Levels) increase (goes up), occupancy will decrease (go down) for a given call demand. It’s mathematically impossible to have high service levels and a high occupancy at the same time!

If you use our Erlang C Calculator you will be able to test out theory!

8. Cost per Call/Contact

Head spinning yet? Hopefully not so lets tackle Cost per Call.

The simplest way to calculate the cost per call is adding up the entire cost of your call centre operations and dividing it by the number of calls you answered.

So assuming the entire budget for your call centre was $1,000,000 and you answered a total of 40,000 calls that would be $25.00 per call.

total budget / number of calls (or contacts) = cost per call/contact

This is what is often referred to as ‘fully loaded’ – the figure incorporates all the costs of running your call centre including the building, managers, team leaders, technology etc.

Once you understand your cost per call, you can then make informed decisions on what’s best for your business. For example, if you know the cost per call is $25, however, each call results in a $1,000 sale then chances are your business is probably OK with that. But what about if there is no direct revenue associated with the call? What price is acceptable to provide support to your customers?

That really does open up a can of worms that we’ll leave shut for now but remember “what gets measured gets done”. But at least by understanding your costs you’ll be empowered to have informed discussions with your key stakeholders.

9. Turnover (Attrition)

Employee turnover (aka attrition) is a widely used metric in the contact centre industry and it can often be a good indicator into the level of engagement within your workforce. But not all turnover is bad.

There is typically two types of turnover:

  1. Voluntary – When employees choose to leave
  2. Involuntary – When you ask employees to leave

Turnover measures the number of people who leave your contact centre and is normally expressed as a percentage.

Calculation: (Number of employees who leave the business) / (average number of total workers during the period).

If there are 100 full-time positions and 12 employees leave in a year, your average turnover is 12% for that year (1 person leaves, on average, each month).

As I mentioned earlier, turnover can be a positive or a negative:

Positive turnover

If people are leaving due to poor performance then it’s not a bad thing, notwithstanding it was probably a bad hire in the first place (and if it is happening a lot I would be really reviewing your recruitment practices). If your people are leaving because of other opportunities within your business then from an organisational perspective, that’s not a bad thing either (however it can really suck for the call centre).

Negative turnover

Pretty obvious but if your employees are leaving for greener pastures outside of your business it would suggest issues such as poor morale, poor leadership, conditions etc. Conducting independent exit interviews can be a great way to uncover the real reasons why employees are leaving your business.

High turnover can be expensive for four reasons:

  1. Increased recruitment and training costs.
  2. Lower performance as new staff take time to become competent and proficient (e.g. a new employee may take six months before they can perform at the same level as an experienced employee).
  3. Inconsistent customer experiences which can lead to broader issues (e.g. the customer experience depends on whether they get a ‘newer’ agent or an experienced one)
  4. It can have an impact on morale as the remaining staff have to work harder to “make up the deficit”.

Low turnover may not be good either:

  • It may be a sign that performance is not being actively managed.
  • Costs can increase as wages typically increase with tenure.
  • Employees can become ‘set in their ways’ making it harder to drive change.
  • There can be an increased risk as experienced staff often know the shortcuts and how to bypass the system.

The benefit, of course, is that you have highly experienced agents who understand your business and the customer!

10. Call Quality

Sadly Call Quality can also fall into the too difficult basket for many centres as it is often perceived as too difficult to measure. But without having clear expectations on what quality means to your business, how are your employees meant to know what and how they should go about things?

Defining what is call quality can also be a very subjective measure – what is a quality call to me may not be interpreted the same way by you. Again, there is no magic formula or industry standard for measuring quality, however, it often consists of the following core components:

  • Greeting
  • Resolution
  • Closing

Of course, that a very simplistic view. If we just take ‘Greeting’ for example you could include the following:

  • Did the agent use the standard greeting (assuming you have one that is defined)?
  • Did the agent make attempts to build rapport with the customer?
  • Was the tone of the agents voice friendly?

Often compliance can also be weaved into the mix as well so staying with the greeting section, did the agent perform the appropriate ID check for example.

Whatever the model that is used, the key to any quality program is using it to set clear expectations for your employees (they should know exactly what makes a good call), and enable the collation of data to provide specific feedback and coaching to help them to improve.

Typically a Quality Score is expressed as a percentage so if there are ten components to measuring quality on a call and an agent meets nine of the components then they have achieved a quality score of 90%.

How many calls should you measure?

There is no industry standard however in my experience anywhere between 5 and 15 calls per agent per month is common.

Conclusion

Firstly well done on getting through the list! I hope that this has helped you determine some of the KPIs you should be measuring in your contact centre.

Remember though, none of these metrics can be looked at in isolation. There is often a direct correlation between many of them. For example, having a high grade of service (e.g. 90%/10 seconds) can result in a lower abandonment rate and lower occupancy rates.

Like most professional skills,  knowledge is power so keep reading, learning, talking to others etc. I’ve listed some of my key resources below that can help.

Where to get more information

Running a contact centre is no easy task but thankfully there are lots of ways to get support:

  1. CX Skills – we run a range of public training courses for frontline agents, emerging Team Leaders and managers. All our courses are delivered by experienced contact centre professionals so you are learning from the best practitioners in the world.
  2. CX ConsultSometimes it’s either nice or essential to get an industry professional to come and lend a hand. We specialise in centres under 100 seats offering a range of services from Health Checks, Optimisation, KPI’s and more
  3. CX Connect – our free smart sourcing solution. If you need a solution for your business, from technology, consultants, outsourcers and more we are here to help. Just tell us what you need and we’ll connect you directly suppliers that will save you time, money and stress!
  4. CX Central Business Directory – Search through hundreds of suppliers of products and services for contact centres.
  5. CX Central – jam-packed with great articles like this along with free resources like our Call Centre Calculator. Or read more articles with Tips for Managers.
  6. CX Central Facebook Group – a great place to ask questions, benchmark, network and more.

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Justin Tippett
I've been working in the contact centre/CX industry for close to 30 years and I unashamedly still love it.

I'm the founder of CX Group Australia, a group of businesses that provide a range of products and services to those working in the CX industry, and for businesses looking for resources, support and services to improve their Customer Experience.

You can also catch me on my CX Hustle Podcast on iTunes where I cover CX & Contact Centres for businesses and CX professionals.