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Key Performance Indicators: Objectively Evaluate Call Center Performance

May 7, 2008
Call centers are customer service centers that receive and transmit multiple requests by telephone (and also usually by email and other online channels). These were originally introduced as extensions of telecommunications services especially for large companies with customer support needs. They provide an effective, streamlined way of providing consumers with customer and/or technical support. Many companies, including telemarketing companies, mail-order companies, and even computer dealers use call centers to provide customer support.

Typically, call centers handle fairly high volumes of both inbound and outbound calls. Inbound calls consist of consumers phoning in for inquiries, and to ask for product or service support. These calls are forwarded to skilled support staff employees, who then help to resolve the issue as quickly and easily as possible. Outbound calls, on the other hand, are usually company telemarketers promoting the company's products and services to customers via telephone.

Dealing with customers directly is of course a very sensitive matter, and every company strives to put its best foot forward with its call centers. These centers represent, after all, one of the company's fronts or faces to the public. Careful management is required, and this is usually performed using KPI's and benchmarking.

This can help avoid the common complaints of customers about call centers, which include non-expert operators, poorly trained agents unable to process simple requests, long waiting times due to automated queues, scripted agents, and so on. Benchmarking is closely related to the KPI concept, and basically aims to reform an organization from the ground up by making use of new, possibly more effective practices and methods. This presupposes, of course, a working way to evaluate performance, which is exactly what KPI's are useful for.

Some of the more obvious and common key performance indicators for call centers include the average amount of time that a call takes to resolve, or what is known as AHT (average handling time). This combines the average time that a caller waits on hold and the average time that a caller spends talking with the agent (ATT, average talk time). Other possible measures (or metrics) include the percentage of successfully resolved calls, the number of calls per hour per agent, and many more.

Careful monitoring of these indicators can help managers to build up a complete and objective picture of a call center's performance. Specific indicators may also point to areas of the most shortcomings, which would require immediate action. It should be mentioned here that these are only sample indicators; each particular case might come with its own set of useful key performance indicators. Thorough analysis and careful selection are key to the successful application of the KPI system.

A successful call center is an invaluable asset to any company. It can ease the communication flow between customer and company. It can greatly improve customer retention and satisfaction. It can even help to resolve emerging customer service issues before they get out of hand. The proper use of KPI's to evaluate call center performance, and thus to make the necessary management decisions, can transform mediocre centers into stellar assets.
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