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Call Center Metrics That Measure Up

Jan 18, 2008
Managements of call centers generally assess their overall performance through pre-determined call center metrics. These metrics are often concerned with activities or processes that are vital to the company's operations.

Call center operations are generally characterized by large volumes of telephone calls that are either inbound or outbound. An inbound call center company is designed or equipped to provide product support or to handle inquiries or complaints from customers. On the other hand, an outbound call center contacts potential customers usually for the intention of selling or surveying. A common call center set-up involves individual work stations for each agent. Individual headsets or telephone sets are provided for each employee. A large percentage of call centers are outsourced companies. They offer their services to other companies that require additional manpower to interact with their customers. Some of these companies are mail order catalogue companies, computer hardware and software companies and utility firms.

A common concept used in optimizing call center operations is the queuing theory which is the central idea used in distributing and forecasting calls. Management usually considers the minimum number of agents needed to provide certain service levels. Through accurate call forecasting, a call center is able to handle a significant volume of calls coming in at the same time. These calls are screened and are forwarded to the agents. It is during the customers' interaction with the agents that most issues or product inquiries are handled and resolved. To continually monitor the performance of call center agents, aspects like proficiency level, customer service and quality control are looked into.

Most call centers use metrics or performance measures which are easily obtained as the primary basis of agent performance evaluation. Some of these include average talk time (ATT), mean dialing time, service level percentages, average handling time (AHT), or the number of calls that are handled by an agent. Different software applications and technologies are also used to measure different facets of agent performance. In the matter of choosing the performance metrics that are to be used, managements of call centers are faced with a dilemma. With the numerous metrics that can be used, it is difficult to determine which are more important than the others. In line with this, some companies choose to use a Balanced Scorecard, a management concept introduced by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton in 1992. This allows call center managers to focus on those areas that are critical to the success of the entire organization.

According to industry experts, only five call center metrics really matter. These key performance indicators (KPIs) are identified as aggregate call performance, agent utilization, cost per call, customer satisfaction and first contact resolution (FCR) rate. FCR, in particular, is highly regarded as statistics reveal that the higher this percentage is, the higher the customer satisfaction rate. Metrics may differ from one company to another due to difference in organizational objectives. Nevertheless, the metrics that should be chosen should measure those activities or processes that will help the company achieve its vision and strategic objectives.
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