The 5 key call center metrics to transform your contact center

There are a few call center metrics that tell a broader story beyond the number—they can even provide details you weren’t looking for in the first place.

By Tara Ramroop @Senior content marketing manager

Published June 12, 2018
Last modified June 16, 2020

At the heart of every thriving business is an exceptional customer service department. And as most customer service managers know, building and improving upon your department’s success is an ongoing process.

For contact center managers, that means analyzing key call center metrics to identify opportunities for growth.

Call center metrics are KPIs (key performance indicators) that measure a contact center’s operations, such as how long it takes to resolve a ticket over the phone.

As a manager, you can use these insights to identify ways to improve your call center’s performance and showcase wins to directors. Tangible statistics also provide the vantage point your directors like to see when assessing the overall health of your company.

The problem is, there are so many potential call center metrics to analyze—and tracking every metric isn’t always feasible as a busy manager. The key is to prioritize the data that is the most critical for understanding call center performance. To help you find this information, we’re highlighting five critical metrics that every call center manager should track.

Let’s dive in.

1. Average talk time

Talk time refers to the number of minutes and seconds that elapse between an agent answering the phone and hanging up. Although sometimes confused with average handle time, talk time is different in that is does not account for hold time or time spent wrapping up after a call has been completed.

To calculate average talk time, use the formula below:

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Average talk time helps measure your team’s ability to handle different types of customer service scenarios. For example, let’s say you’re analyzing the performance of an individual support agent. That agent’s average talk time is five minutes or less. However, this month the agent had a few calls that lasted over ten minutes. You can review those ten minutes+ call recordings to identify what types of calls or processes that agent might be struggling with.

Agents deal with a variety of calls (some more stressful than others). Average talk time can help reveal the types of calls and inquiries that trip up your agents most. Use this information to develop knowledge-base resources or targeted training that improves your agents’ ability to answer similar calls more quickly in the future.

2. Missed and declined calls

Missed calls are when an agent doesn’t answer the phone in time, so the customer is sent back to the queue. Declined means the agent actively refused the call, most likely because they were on the line with another customer. A large number of missed and declined calls naturally leads to low customer satisfaction rates.

Many call center software tools will automatically track missed and declined calls. With Zendesk Talk, you can even view this metric by individual support agent:

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Keep customers happy by identifying the root cause of these missed and declined calls. One common reason is understaffing. Look for spikes in missed and declined calls. If they tend to occur during specific shifts or hours of the day, it could be an indication that you aren’t dedicating enough agents to high-volume call times.

Another issue may be your call center software. For instance, some tools have limits to the number of calls that can wait in the queue at any given time. Check your software license to see if your plan has a cap. If it does, it’s possible that calls are being declined because your system isn’t equipped to handle the volume of calls coming in.

If you can pinpoint why calls are being missed or declined, you can identify the systems or personnel needed to resolve the issue.

3. Transfer Rate

Transfer rate is the percentage of inbound calls your agents end up transferring to another team member or department. Here’s how to calculate this call center metric:

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A high percentage could indicate that callers are reaching the wrong first-touch agent. In this case, your call center’s internal routing system may be the problem. At the end of a call, encourage your agents to ask the customer whether they found your IVR (interactive voice response) system confusing or difficult to navigate. In this case, reducing transfer rate could be as simple as reworking the IVR menu options to make the system more user-friendly.

If calls are being routed to the right department and transfer rate is still high, it might indicate a lack of training. Measure the average transfer rate across your entire call center. Look for any outliers — agents who routinely surpass the average percentage — to find employees in need of additional training or resources.

4. Abandoned in Queue

The abandoned in queue call center metric reflects the total number of customers who hang up while waiting to speak with an agent.

If your customers are hanging up before they reach an agent, you might want to add a feature to your call center software that allows customers to request a callback. With this system, customers can speak to the next available agent without having to wait on hold.

Some call center software, like Zendesk Talk, can automatically create tickets from abandoned calls, provided a callback number is available. This system can help agents save potentially poor customer experiences by following up with customers who have abandoned the queue.

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5. Average Speed of Answer

Average speed of answer (ASA) is how long it takes a customer to reach an agent once they’ve been routed to the right department and placed in the queue.

Managers use the ASA metric to learn how long it’s taking their average agent to answer and solve inbound calls. A high ASA might indicate that your agents lack the training or knowledge to answer customer inquiries in a timely manner.

High ASA could also be an indication that your call center is understaffed. For example, if average talk time is low, but ASA is high, your call center might lack a sufficient number of agents needed to answer the volume of calls coming in.

Here’s the formula for calculating average speed of answer:

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According to research by Call Centre Helper Magazine, the industry standard for ASA is to answer 80% of customers’ calls in 20 seconds or less. If your agents are struggling to meet this standard, it might be time to enhance your training program or hire additional staff.

Improve customer satisfaction with these call center metrics

A positive customer experience is paramount to the health of any company. And because most customers still prefer to resolve their support issues over the phone, building and improving call center performance should be a priority for any business.

The five key call center metrics above can provide the bigger-picture insights you need to transform your contact center. Track these figures and you’ll be able to identify areas of improvement and boost customer satisfaction.

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