What Contact Center Metrics Actually Matter?

Contact Center Metrics

Change is happening at a dizzying pace. Nowadays instead of flagging a taxi, you request an Uber or Lyft. Or, if your destination is just a few blocks away, you might just zip over on a Lime or Byrd. Rather than having cash in your pocket, you may use Apple Pay and a Venmo account. Home for the evening? You’re likely binging on Netflix or Hulu instead of live TV. Social media is evolving too, now impacting not just our personal and business lives, but changing the political landscape as well - in Brazil YouTubers are winning elections.

Your contact center is changing rapidly also -- evolving from voice-only to include email, chat, SMS and social media. You’re adding or evaluating artificial intelligence-infused apps like chatbots, intelligent self-service and virtual agents.

Perhaps it’s time to assess the relevance of traditional metrics you’ve used to manage your contact center, too.

Are Traditional Contact Center Metrics Still Relevant?

Take Average Speed of Answer (ASA), for example. A few years ago when most or all of your customers were still calling, how fast you answered calls was a quantifiable measure of your responsiveness. A high ASA usually equated to high abandon rates -- and translated to repeat callers or lost business.

Today, you give your customers alternatives to waiting in the queue. You can give them the ability to request a callback (and hold their place in the queue) instead of hanging up or wasting time waiting. This can help keep abandonment low even in periods where ASA is higher. You can suggest other options, too, such as self-service through a mobile app or checking your web site, or contacting customer service through another channel.

ASA might be more aptly called “response time” for channels like email. For the modern contact center responding to customers using multiple channels, it’s best to shift from ASA to metrics that measure accessibility (Service Level and Response Time) for all channels, as well as abandonment rates from one channel to another. In other words, are some channels taking too long for a response and driving customers to move to another channel with faster answer rates?

As you shift focus from ASA to accessibility, aim to keep your responsiveness consistent across all support channels. This ensures that customers aren’t forced to use one channel because the company doesn’t respond to another. For example, if an airline doesn’t answer calls promptly, customers may post on Twitter. Or, if they take hours or days to respond to email, customers are forced to call.

How about Average Handle Time (AHT)? Yes, it still matters -- time is money, and the longer your agents spend with customers, the more agents you need and the higher your costs. But today you should expect your AHT to be higher, and it’s not necessarily a negative. You’ve offloaded the easy stuff. You enable customers to get immediate responses to easy or redundant needs (such as address changes or renewals) via self-service or by beefing up your web site. They may have delved into your FAQs or searched online forums.

The bottom line is this - when your agent gets a call, email or web chat today, it’s probably not an easy-to-answer inquiry. They may have to dig for answers or find an available expert to help. Longer handle times, however, can be a good thing for your business. CEO of online retailer Zappos, Tony Hsieh, finds a phone call to be their single best marketing opportunity. In fact, Tony suggests we divert our focus away from a shorter AHT. In his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, Tony says “..we really view each contact as an opportunity to build the Zappos brand into being about the very best customer service and customer experience.” In his eyes, a focus on AHT “translates into reps worrying about how quickly they can get a customer off the phone, which in our eyes is not delivering great customer service… We just care about whether the rep goes above and beyond for every customer.”

So, rather than focus on a low AHT, or taking the sky-is-the-limit approach of Zappos, evaluate whether there are correlations in your business between longer talk times and higher customer satisfaction, or higher revenues or increased first contact resolution (FCR).

Speaking of first contact resolution, does that still matter? Yes. Not only is this metric still relevant, it’s MORE important than ever before. Chances are good that your customers have already sought answers on the web before they reached out to your contact center. They may be frustrated by their lack of success through self-service avenues. If customers reach agents who deliver what they need, their frowns change to smiles and you’ve boosted customer loyalty. On the other hand, a lack of FCR could send them down the path to your competitors.

What other metrics should be reevaluated? As we’ve just seen, it may not make sense to strive to improve measures just because that’s what we’ve always done in the past. Are there other metrics that you no longer find relevant in your contact center? How do we recognize when to break the rules and when to follow them? We’ll explore that topic in my next blog post.

In the meantime, feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts about what you deem important to measuring success in your contact center, or to discuss how 8x8 contact center reporting and customer experience analytics can help your business measure what matters.

Kay Phelps


Kay Phelps is a contact center professional who has worked in the industry for more than 20 years. Her experience spans systems engineering, defining requirements for new products and new releases, as well as product management and product marketing. Kay is a frequent speaker at conferences and webinars, has authored numerous industry articles, and has blogged extensively on all things contact center. Kay holds a Masters in Computer Science from Colorado State University as well as a BA in Computer Science and Journalism from East Tennessee State University. [...] Read More >

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