Off Center
True contact center success comes when organizations make the critical switch from a “Measure everything that moves” mindset to one of “Measure what matters most.” Given that we are now living in the Age of Customer Influence, “what matters most” is that which most increases the likelihood of the customer not telling the world how evil you are via Twitter.

No longer can companies coast on Average Handle Time (AHT) and Number of Calls Handled per Hour. Such metrics may have ruled the roost back when contact centers were back-office torture chambers, but the customer care landscape has since changed dramatically. Today, customers expect and demand service that is not only swift but stellar. A speedy response is appreciated, but only when it’s personalized, professional and accurate – and when what’s promised is actually carried out.

AHT and other straight productivity measurements still have a place in the contact center (e.g. for workforce management purposes as well as identifying workflow and training issues). However, in the best centers – those that understand that the customer experience is paramount – the focus is on a set of five far more qualitative and holistic metrics.

1) Service Level. How accessible your contact center is sets the tone for every customer interaction and determines how much vulgarity agents will have to endure on each call. Service level (SL) is still the ideal accessibility metric, revealing what percentage of calls (or chat sessions) were answered in “Y” seconds. A common example (but NOT an industry standard!) SL objective is 80/20.

The “X percent in Y seconds” attribute of SL is why it’s a more precise accessibility metric than its close cousin, Average Speed of Answer (ASA). ASA is a straight average, which can cause managers to make faulty assumptions about customers’ ability to reach an agent promptly. A reported ASA of, say, 30 seconds doesn’t mean that all or even most callers reached an agent in that time; many callers likely got connected more quickly while many others may not have reached an agent until after they perished.

2) First-Call Resolution (FCR). No other metric has as big an impact on customer satisfaction and costs (as well as agent morale) as FCR does. Research has shown that customer satisfaction (C-Sat) ratings will be 35-45 percent lower when a second call is made for the same issue.

Trouble is, accurately measuring FCR is something that can stump even the best and brightest scientists at NASA. (I discussed the complexity of FCR tracking in a previous post.) Still and all, contact centers must strive to gauge this critical metric as best they can and, more importantly, equip agents with the tools and techniques they need to drive continuous (and appropriate) FCR improvement.

3) Contact Quality and 4) C-Sat. Contact Quality and C-Sat are intrinsically linked – and in the best contact centers, so are the processes for measuring them. To get a true account of Quality, the customer’s perspective must be incorporated into the equation. Thus, in world-class customer care organizations, agents’ Quality scores are a combination of internal compliance results (as judged by internal QA monitoring staff using a formal evaluation form) and customer ratings (and berating) gleaned from post-contact transactional C-Sat surveys.

Through such a comprehensive approach to monitoring, the contact center gains a much more holistic view of Contact Quality than internal monitoring alone can while simultaneously capturing critical C-Sat data that can be used not only by the QA department but enterprise-wide, as well.

5) Employee Satisfaction (E-Sat). Those who shun E-Sat as a key metric because they see it as “soft” soon find that achieving customer loyalty and cost containment is hard. There is a direct and irrefutable correlation between how unhappy agents are and how miserable they make customers. Failure to keep tabs on E-Sat – and to take action to continuously improve it – leads not only to bad customer experiences but also high levels of employee attrition and knife-fighting, which costs contact centers an arm and a leg in terms of agent re-recruitment, re-assessment, re-training, and first-aid.

Smart centers formally survey staff via a third-party surveying specialist at least twice a year to find out what agents like about the job, what they’d like to see change, and how likely they are to cut somebody or themselves.

For much more on these and other common contact center metrics, be sure to check out my FULL CONTACT ebook at

9/21/2012 12:35:37 am

What?! No AR?! I'm so shocked that I used ?! twice!

//end sarcasm mode

I'd be curious to see any follow-on posts discuss if/how they were able to get execs to buy into this. The concept is spot on, but most executives talk c-sat or client focus, then force a management style best used in brothels and child labor sweat shops.

On the FCR topic, you can't make that point enough! LinkedIn had a pedantic and eternal thread going on with a topic of defining FCR. I would argue that the customer knows best what FCR means, though they may not understand the contact center process around FCR.

Most CC leaders think it is difficult to define, but it isn't. Call your customers and get information from them to help define FCR. Apply that view to your case and call management tools and processes for a more-accurate view of FCR and you will see CSAT soar!

But it is not just process. Tools, empowerment, training, reward, retention, surveys that yield *action*...these all lead to improved FCR and, thus, CSAT.

Once again, GL, your articles never fail to impress!


9/21/2012 12:56:01 am

And your insightful and entertaining comments never fail to impress, Kevin. Great additions above.

By the way, everyone, Kevin here recently submitted a very intriguing and satirical guest blog post on benchmarking that will appear on my site sometime soon. Stay tuned for that -- it's a doozy.



9/22/2012 01:48:23 am

You've nailed it! I think contact centers have resisted moving to metrics that matter because they're a bit more challenging to measure (way too much illiteration in that last sentence!)
E-Sat - I completely share your view that it is key - we've said for years that agents who feel good about what they do provide an excellent customer experience but I've never seen it as a KPI.

Love your wit! Hacking your website now.


9/22/2012 10:47:27 pm

Thanks, Trish! You are one of my favorite readers -- I love people who completely agree with me... and who push the alliteration envelope.

Grateful for your comments!



9/23/2012 09:43:48 am

I really need to use spell check or consume less wine - or I may be considered illiterate ... I'll continue to read and enjoy your posts.


9/23/2012 11:45:48 pm


You've attracted another lush! Well done! Are you up to 13 followers now? Do you have any business intelligence detailing demographics on wine drinkers vs. tequila drinkers? Is it only I would find the poetic justice in illiteration? Perhaps I should switch to wine.


9/27/2012 09:52:04 pm

Great article Greg!!

Glad to see we are on track with the services we provide our clients on measuring FCR and the Customer experience.

Do you have a suggested scorecard we can use to measure these 5 metrics?

We have to influence senior management off purely tracking employee performance and onto tracking customer experience - not only through surveys...

We will definitely be signing up to receive your newsletters!!

Desiree - South Africa

1/26/2014 08:41:34 pm

Wonderful post. I am searching awesome news and idea. What I have found from your site, it is actually highly content. You have spent long time for this post. It's a very useful and interesting site. Thanks!


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