“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
– (Late) Peter F. Drucker, Austrian-born management thought leader, consultant and guru

Contact centers all over the world take Drucker’s words very seriously (as they should).

This is because they know that metrics provide a powerful way to set goals and track progress in meeting those goals. By eliminating the need for subjective intuition and sub-optimal guesswork, metrics support more robust decision-making. They also provide clarity into performance, create feedback channels, and improve accountability.

Moreover, industry standards for these metrics enable contact centers to objectively review how they stack up against the competition. Plus, they can have a positive impact on the contact center’s customer service capabilities as well as its profitability.

So what are some of the key metrics every contact center must measure?

And what are the industry standards for these metrics?

#1: Service Level and Response Times

Traditionally, most contact centers aimed to follow the 80/20 Rule: answer 80% of calls in 20 seconds. But according to a 2019 Call Centre Helper Survey, many are now attempting to answer 90% of calls in 15 seconds.

A recent HubSpot study found that 90% of consumers rate an “immediate” response from customer service as important or very important. This particular expectation must provide the impetus for contact centers to improve their response times.

So what are the benchmarks for “ideal” response times? According to Call Centre Helper, these vary by channel:

  • Email – 100% answered within four hours, 80% within 15 minutes
  • Live Chat – 80% answered within 20 seconds
  • Social Media – Difficult to define, but responding to 100% of queries within 60 minutes is a good benchmark
  • SMS/Messaging Apps – 80% of messages responded to within 40 seconds

How to improve response times and surpass industry standards for different channels

Use a customer case management tool to automate common responses to emails. A social engagement tool can identify relevant, actionable social media posts, and move them into the case queue for easy follow-up and resolution. A self-service chatbot is a great way to speed up response times across live chat or SMS. In-context guidance and an integrated knowledgebase within the agent desktop enable them to find quick answers, which again shortens response times across these channels. Providing customers with a self-service portal reduces call volumes so customers that really require a human touch can reach an agent with little or no wait time.

To speed up response times across all channels, integrate agent desktops with your organization’s CRM. When agents have a single interface to access customer data and communicate with customers, they can speed up case resolution.

#2: Average Handling Time (AHT)

Average handle time (AHT) is the total duration of one customer transaction. It includes talk time, hold time and any follow-up tasks involved in the transaction.

A good AHT industry benchmark (average) provided by Call Centre Helper’s “Erlang Calculator”: 6 minutes, 3 seconds.

AHT can be a useful metric to evaluate agent efficiency. However, it can also be misleading because a shorter AHT (i.e. faster resolution) does not necessarily mean effective resolution. That’s why it’s important to not consider AHT in isolation but to also look at other metrics like FCR and CSAT.

How to improve AHT and surpass the industry standard

To make interactions shorter, find ways to shorten hold times, and to shave time from tasks involving information search, data entry, or case follow-ups. To do this, record and review calls to find gaps and pinpoint possible causes (e.g. inadequate training).

Create cheat sheets for popular call types or FAQs to provide agents with ready answers or useful guidance. An effective call center agent script can also help agents deliver fast and efficient service – streamlining the call-handling process and reducing AHT.

With a unified agent desktop, agents can quickly access relevant customer information and get a 360° view of the customer lifecycle so they can deliver prompt and effective service, and dramatically reduce AHT.

#3: First Contact Resolution (FCR)

FCR indicates a contact center’s ability to resolve a customer’s problems the first time they call. In today’s omnichannel contact center milieu, it’s not always easy to measure FCR, since it can be difficult to gauge which interaction was truly the customer’s first contact.

Nonetheless, the industry benchmark for FCR is 70 – 75%.

How to improve FCR and surpass the industry standard

It’s good practice to measure FCR for an issue based on the first interaction, regardless of the channel used. You should also measure FCR at two levels: aggregate and per channel. These metrics can help you compare channel effectiveness, and pinpoint gaps that you need to address with solid actions – expand chatbot knowledgebase, improve website navigation, etc.

CRM integration, as well as tools like click-to-dial, can provide the relevant customer information, context, and insights to streamline the support workflow and improve FCR.

Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) software ensures that the agent with the right skills interacts with customers for a particular query type. This can help reduce escalations and speed up resolution.

#4: Case Escalations

In this article, a case (or call) escalation refers to an escalation from an agent to a supervisor. This is an issue that needs to be tackled on priority because it could indicate serious gaps in an agent’s skills or training.

The industry benchmark for case escalation: Less than 10% (of cases)

How to lower call escalation rate and surpass the industry standard

Training – or rather re-training – agents is a good way to rein in case of escalations. Use call recordings to understand where they’re struggling, and deliver training that addresses those key lag areas.

Another proven strategy is to provide agents with the knowledge and context they need to successfully resolve issues to the customer’s satisfaction. CRM and other integrations (ServiceNow, Zendesk, etc.), click-to-dialer, and agent scripts can be useful.

Another way to reduce escalations is via a Supervisor Desktop. With real-time data about agent performance, this tool enables supervisors to monitor agents’ performance, and take the necessary decisions to re-skill or upskill the “back-benchers”. They can also drop in on live calls to assist agents (and customers), reduce hold/wait times, and prevent escalations.

#5: QA scoring (Call Quality Analysis)

QA scoring is a way to assess a call center’s call quality. It involves analyzing recorded calls and comparing them to preset standards around professionalism, courteousness, greetings, etc.

This is a very popular metric with an accepted industry standard of 75-90%, i.e. scoring 4 random calls per month.

Many contact centers don’t meet this industry standard. This can be problematic because QA scoring is a useful way to identify common issues, enhance agent performance, standardize/benchmark communication processes, and improve customer experiences. It is also a critical tool to measure improvement over time and to identify the steps needed to consistently deliver the ideal customer experience.

How to improve QA scoring and surpass the industry standard

Peer feedback sessions where agents randomly analyze each others’ calls can help improve QA scoring. This can be a weekly exercise, with the scoring agent (this can be a rotating role with each agent assigned as the scorer for one week) providing feedback on each scored call. This powerful technique can eliminate conflicts with the quality department. It is also a great way to build a culture of coaching, learning, and continuous improvement.

Interaction analytics provide a data-driven method to improve QA scoring. An automated scorecard measures various performance indicators, such as advisor quality, customer satisfaction, and compliance risk. It also provides objective feedback to agents and empowers them to improve their own performance. It can also be used to design and personalize training programs for agents.

Before We Wind Up…

Now you have a good starting point to track the right KPIs for your contact center in 2021. But do remember that there are other metrics like maximum occupancy, shrinkage, customer retention, abandonment rate, etc. that might also be useful. Find the most relevant ones, and measure them against industry benchmarks regularly.

NovelVox works with contact centers all over the world to boost their efficiency, improve customer satisfaction, and meet their business goals. Want to know how we can help you surpass these industry standards? Get in touch with us today!