The six call center metrics that really matter

A recent Temkin report on Experience Ratings showed companies at the top and bottom of the customer experience spectrum and its clear there are opportunities for improvement. Read on to learn the six call center metrics that really matter in judging the effectiveness of your own customer’s experience across the components of Success, Effort, and Emotion.
Companies should pay attention to call center metrics year-round, not just when they are up for a rating.

Customer experience is a prime differentiator for many organizations. Many products and services are becoming commoditized and today, the experience a company provides can set them apart. This was recently showcased in the Temkin report on Experience Ratings which highlighted companies and industries at the top and bottom of the customer experience spectrum and considered their performance based on three components: Success, Effort, and Emotion.

But this got me thinking: why should a company have to wait to see their customer experience ranking until a report is released? So I determined six call center metrics that really matter in judging the effectiveness of your own customer’s experience, so you can track how you’re performing on an ongoing basis.


Success Metrics

When we call a company to resolve an issue we just want it fixed. That’s all we, as customers, care about: a successful resolution. The questions any organization needs to ask themselves then are:

  • How well does a customer successfully solve their issues in our call center?
  • How well do they navigate our IVR?

The ‘Success’ metrics that address these questions are ultimately the most critical areas of focus.

First Call Resolution (FCR): This is one of the most important metrics for any company. First call resolution (FCR) is how well your company takes care of the customer on their first attempt to resolve an issue. It’s calculated formulaically as number of calls resolved / all incoming calls.

Why it matters – FCR is important both as an indicator of external customer satisfaction but also an internal metric for effectiveness of your company’s processes and technology. Get this wrong and customers must call in multiple times – putting a strain on their patience and your systems.

Containment: This is a surprisingly straightforward measurement. All call center executives want to improve the ability of their IVR to accurately and effectively answer customer questions without having to reach a live agent. That is keep them within the IVR, i.e. containment. Containment is measured by the number of incoming calls resolved within the IVR as a percentage of total inbound calls. If the IVR is poorly designed and confusing, customers will not progress and instead “zero out” to a live agent. We’ve all been through that scenario.

Why it matters – Getting containment right keeps other metrics on track. Increasing the number of people who effectively self-serve increases their satisfaction and helps the company’s bottom line. Customers are happier, agents are happier due to decreased call volumes, and CFOs are happier due to decreased need for investments.


Effort Metrics

Nobody wants to spend a ton of time dealing with issues with their bank, insurance company, or TV provider. If this becomes necessary, we want to minimize how much time we put into it. Our effort must be low. And in fact, research shows the lower the effort, the greater the loyalty and satisfaction a customer will show to a company. Consumers like to be delighted with minimal effort and reduced friction on the way to problem resolution.

Misroutes: Put simply, misroutes occur when a company’s IVR sends a caller to the incorrect destination. When someone calls a customer service line and ends up someplace they didn’t intend, it’s usually the work of a misroute. Misroutes occur for a variety of reasons, including outdated technology that incorrectly recognizes speech or confusing phone menus that force annoyed customers to ask for a live person.

Why it matters – Misroutes directly increase the effort required to close a query. Each stop along the way creates more work and extends the call. Key metrics eroded by misroutes include average handle time, containment, first contact resolution, and more. Plus, misroutes dramatically increase costs and irritate customers, decreasing satisfaction and driving churn.

Average handle time: Some calls seem to take forever, going on and on with pushing buttons and repeating information. Looking at an aggregate view of all calls together allows a company to track the average handle time (AHT), or length of time a customer is on the phone. This is a very popular call center metric and is traditionally measured from the moment the customer calls to the time they hang up – including hold times.

Why it matters – In addition to wanting to lower handle times to improve the customer satisfaction, AHT is a prime factor when deciding call center staffing levels. Knowing the typical duration of a call allows companies to successfully model the number of agents they’ll need and how best to balance workloads during peak hours.


Emotion Metrics

We live in a world driven by feelings. Consumers want “Likes” on their Facebook posts. They enjoy videos showing the good in people. They are quick to rave – or rant – on social media about how a company made them feel. Organizations that tap into these emotional needs positively will generate great interest in their brand.

Customer satisfaction: “Cust Sat”. NSAT. CSAT. The shorthand and acronyms vary and every company uses one or another. No matter which one is chosen, the two most important aspects are to 1) know that it’s the measure of the overall satisfaction of the interaction or service and 2) to get it right.

Why it matters – Customer satisfaction is the number one indicator of how well you are doing to satisfy your customers. It’s also a great way to gain insight into customers’ thoughts on the products you offer today as well as identify future direction for product development and feature updates. By keeping tabs on overall customer satisfaction, companies can make adjustments quickly to improve service levels, reduce wait time, or address frequent queries. Call centers are often the front line of issues and companies can get instant feedback as to how they are doing.

Net promoter score: If customer satisfaction is the number one indicator of IF your customer likes you, then Net Promoter Score (NPS) helps you understand just HOW much they like you. Customers may like your product or service after they get off the phone with you. But if they really liked it, they’ll pass it along to friends or post on social media. The Net Promoter Score essentially allows you to measure customer loyalty. It classifies customers into one of three categories:

  • “Promoter” – customers are enthusiastic and loyal, continually buy from the company and ‘promote’ the company to their friends and family.
  • “Passive” – customers are happy but can easily be tempted to leave by an attractive competitor deal. Passive customers may become promoters if you improve your product, service or customer experience.
  • “Detractor” – customers are unhappy, feel mistreated and their experience is going to reduce the amount of which they purchase from you.

The Net Promoter Score is derived by subtracting the percentage of detractors from promoters to get an overall NPS result.

Why it matters – As you’d guess, the more detractors you have the lower your NPS and the increased likelihood that your service isn’t very good. Detractors are more likely to spread negative word of mouth and do so much faster than if they receive average or great service. A continually low NPS score will spell trouble and ultimately impact the brand. Companies that successfully track NPS and spark action from a high number of Promoters can improve customer loyalty and drive long term growth.

Understanding and effectively balancing the metrics based on Success, Effort, and Emotion will help you achieve your IVR goals.

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Chris Caile

About Chris Caile

Chris Caile joined Nuance in September 2015 as senior solutions marketing manager for Nuance Conversational IVR (Interactive Voice Response). Before joining Nuance, Caile worked in various marketing and sales support positions at Microsoft and Motorola and has over 20 years of experience in the high tech industry. Caile holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Illinois State University with minors in mathematics and economics.