Contact centers are a highly metrics-oriented part of an organization. Measuring the right key performance indicators (KPIs) is crucial for gauging the success of your contact center. Over the years, we have conversed with dozens of contact center leaders and used those learnings to develop the Burnie Group benchmark. This benchmark measures approximately 40 traditional, progressive, and unique-to-industry KPIs. The key is to arrive at the ideal KPI set that balances your approach to achieve quality, speed, and resolution when handling customer inquiries across channels.
Measure all channels customers use to engage with you
From an omnichannel standpoint, there are four significant supported channels: interactive voice response (IVR), phone, email, and live chat. In addition, short message services (SMS) and text are gaining popularity, but there is still debate around their ideal metrics.
These channels are suitable for different needs and vary based on the complexity of the inquiry. While all channels can be used for any inquiry type, SMS and virtual chat are best suited for simpler queries, while the web, IVR, and live chat better suit inquiries with moderate complexity. The phone remains the best choice for complex problems.
The phone is still the channel of choice for live help
Despite automation and technological advancements like ChatGPT, the phone remains a primary choice for moderate to complex problem-solving. Over 90% of interactions in financial services still occur on the phone when comparing phone use to email and live chat. If we consider these assisted channels, phone interactions continue to dominate. However, chat has been making progress in industries such as retail, particularly for online ordering.
Demographics are unlikely to affect this trend. Instead, determining the most appropriate channel for each need is essential while acknowledging and accommodating customers’ preferences.
The pandemic pushed more people to self-serve and increased dependency on the phone channel as brick-and-mortar locations became inaccessible. In addition, customer behavior is shifting towards mobile-enabled channels such as SMS, text, and live and virtual chat. This growth is fueled by advancements in conversational and generative AI. In-person experience is still highly valued, but businesses must remain mindful of their customers’ circumstances and preferences. Moreover, they need to develop an omnichannel strategy that serves customers on their terms.
Important KPIs to measure
When evaluating which contact center KPIs to measure, focus on three key areas: speed, quality, and resolution. Balancing speed, quality, and resolution is a surefire way to differentiate your customer experience. Furthermore, these categories apply to all channels.
1. Speed KPIs
Average speed of answer (ASA) – how long it takes to answer a call on average – and service level (SL%) – the percentage of calls handled in a specified time – provide a real-time view of customers waiting in a queue. Both metrics are a starting point for measuring telephone speed. Deciding on the best speed measurement for the phone varies by industry, call type, and budget – answering calls quickly often requires more employees and a targeted focus in operating efficiency. Understanding your customer’s needs is essential; some may not mind a longer wait for a great experience. However, companies still require guidelines for acceptable ASA and SL%. Burnie Group’s guideline is to aim for an average speed of answer of 30-60 seconds. Along with this guideline are two caveats: the first is that all customers are ideally answered in no more than two to three minutes, barring unique circumstances. Second, once arriving at a live person, the customer should have a good experience that includes inquiry resolution.
Achieving 100% of any defined service level is difficult – even more so for large-scale contact centers, many of whom would have been thrilled with a five-minute ASA at the height of the pandemic. Therefore, a solid operational structure is required to manage wait time. Attention to workforce management principles and practices, including interval management and strong partnership with operations, is crucial to ensure that frontline employees can answer calls in a minute or less and that the customer experience is optimized.
Speed KPIs are essential to other channels, too, including email turnaround and resolution times and chat and SMS handle and response times. These channels often fall behind the phone as priorities and sometimes have no associated measurement. It is essential to treat each channel with equal importance and ensure they are measured.
2. Quality KPIs
Net promoter score (NPS) is a key performance indicator determining customer loyalty. While the significance of NPS varies across industries, anything higher than 60% is often considered global best practice. However, fluctuation in NPS is industry-specific, and there can be variations within businesses. Benchmarking data is useful here as it offers comparative insights to measure an organization’s performance against competitors and peers.
Customer satisfaction (CSAT) is another significant metric. However, there needs to be a standard that indicates what the score should be. It’s essential to ask the right questions through a methodology that enables customers to provide honest feedback. CSAT is an internal measure for incremental improvement, and it’s best to look at the benchmark over time.
Organizations often have a transactional survey to measure the quality of customer experience and ask customers a series of questions related to their recent experiences. NPS and other customer satisfaction measurements, such as an in-house survey, can provide a holistic view. A measurable quality program that includes listening to calls, observing chats and emails, or using speech analytics and AI-type technologies is essential to measure, manage, and work with the data.
Lastly, customer-led focus groups provide an opportunity to interact and hear directly from those using your service or buying your product. They provide insights shaped by context that is not always possible via other avenues. These can be done in person or virtually.
3. Call resolution KPIs
A global best practice is to achieve – or better, exceed – a 70% first call resolution (FCR) rate. Contact centers can achieve a 70% FCR rate by ensuring the representative is well-equipped to handle the query.
Suitable benchmarking data for email, chat channels, and text-based communication have yet to be defined. Due to each channel’s unique nature, resolving issues in just one exchange can be challenging. For instance, upwards of six exchanges often occur over email before resolving a case. Customer authentication is essential for these lesser-used channels to be fully effective. Without it, only transactional queries can be resolved.
Other important omnichannel and contact center KPIs
Maintaining a good containment ratio is a guiding KPI to inform whether your IVR is easy to navigate and transact with. The containment ratio indicates the percentage of customer calls that are successfully handled by an IVR system without the need for human intervention. The global best practice for containment ratio is 75% and higher.
Other measurements used to gauge IVR performance include the percentages of customers exiting at each menu selection, requesting a live person, or hitting a menu choice more than once, and the amount of time spent in different areas of the IVR. All KPIs inform how effective the IVR is as a channel and help shape ways to improve it.
Conducting customer surveys represents the second component of measuring IVR system performance. IVR systems should provide users with a smooth and effortless experience and offer the ability to speak to a live person quickly. However, depending on the organization and structure, some IVR systems may need help becoming more user-friendly and intuitive. For example, survey questions could ask if customers had to repeat themselves, if they could resolve their inquiry within the IVR system, and to what extent their IVR experience was efficient or enjoyable.
It is advantageous to have insight into the daily routine of frontline employees. Understanding how they use their time can help improve efficiency and productivity. Relevant metrics for phone, email, chat, and SMS handling times are essential in benchmarking performance.
Average handle time (AHT) measures the average length of a customer’s call. AHT can vary significantly depending on the communication channel and the business segment. AHT is calculated as:
(Total talk time + total hold time + after-call work time)
Total work calls
Hold time is the amount of time a customer spends in a frontline employee-initiated hold. After-call work (ACW) time, also known as wrap time, includes an employee’s administrative work related to a completed call, such as updating notes about the conversation and processing orders.
Customer experience is highly influenced by hold and wrap time. Hold time impacts customers because they can feel disengaged and irritated when placed on hold once for an extended period – more than 30 seconds – or multiple times during a call. Wrap time impacts customer experience because the more time frontline employees spend on after-call work, the less time they have to answer customer calls. After-call work also takes away from the time employees can spend learning how to serve their customers better.
Factors contributing to high hold time and ACW time include inefficient or complex processes, a lack of frontline employee knowledge, and slow systems and technologies. Measuring hold time and wrap time can help contact centers identify ways employees can improve their skills and enhance efficiency and productivity, such as keeping a customer engaged while on hold and efficient ways to wrap a call. Keeping customers informed and involved throughout their experience can help increase their satisfaction.
Another valuable efficiency KPI is our proprietary metric: the CAR reflects the utilization of a contact center, including how much time frontline employees spend handling customer calls. A consistently high CAR indicates a contact center with high utilization and employee engagement. Read out more about the customer assistance ratio in our article on the best KPIs for tracking contact center utilization.
Employee engagement KPIs
One of the hottest topics in the industry is employee retention. To effectively measure attrition, companies should look at three different ways:
- Promotions from within the company
- Employees who leave to work for another organization
- First-year attrition, which is often overlooked.
Companies should aim to have attrition rates of <10% per quarter to excel in this area. This is champion-level performance, as the best practice worldwide is 5-7% or below per quarter. It’s worth noting that these figures typically reflect large enterprises with a minimum of 250 frontline employees. Ultimately, companies that maintain an attrition rate of less than 30% annually – including positive attrition, whereby employees are promoted internally – are doing well in comparison to others.
Choosing the right KPIs and benchmarking your contact center
It is essential to define the right KPIs to best assess the performance of a contact center. The KPIs must measure quality, resolution, and speed. While several traditional KPIs serve all contact centers well, including average handle time (AHT), attrition, NPS, and CSAT, some contact centers require a tailored approach based on size, industry and geography. For example, a company could measure the percentage of customers who ended their call to go to a digital channel before an inquiry was resolved. Other more progressive KPIs measure customer effort when interacting with a channel.
In addition to selecting the most relevant KPIs, contact centers should develop a scorecard and robust processes for how results are tracked, reported, and communicated. Moreover, companies must determine what actionable insights these KPIs produce so the contact center can continuously improve and evolve. Benchmarking is a great way to compare the contact center against direct competitors, the broader industry, and global best practices. Understanding how you perform across a wide range of KPIs is highly informative. It provides the quantitative means to make operational decisions for how to improve all facets of contact center performance.