Popular Call Centre Metrics to measure performance in a contact centre

Popular Call Centre Metrics and KPIs

With contact centres being one of the most measured workplaces on the planet, there is no shortage of call centre metrics/KPIs to choose from that can be used to measure performance, customer service, efficiency, quality and lots more.

And with 74% of contact centre managers starting on the phone, it’s not uncommon that they inherit the existing KPIs in the contact centre as a basis for measuring performance without any fundamental understanding of why those KPIs have been implemented and whether the targets are even achievable or suitable for the business.

This article aims to educate you on the most common call centre metrics/KPIs, along with tips and insights to enable you to make informed decisions about which call centre performance metrics are right for your call centre.

A female call centre manager revealin her 10 most popular call centre metrics and KPIs

Contact Centre Industry Standards and Benchmarks

Despite what you may have heard or been led to believe, there is no industry standard or a ‘one size fits all’ set of call centre metrics you can copy and paste and solve all your problems.

I’ve spent 30 years working in contact centre management, and I’m still learning.

The truth is, contact centres (as they are now more widely referred to instead of call centres) are a lot more complex than people give them credit for and knowing the right call centre KPIs or call centre metrics to choose from and how they all relate to each other, is a professional skill built over years of experience.

Take a quick look at today’s contact centre manager.

They have to balance people, technology, budgets, internal and external stakeholders, processes, reporting, analytics and more all while providing strong leadership, defending (and trying to improve the broader business) and satisfy customers.

And it’s not just calls they have to manage.

In the 2023 Australian Contact Centre Best Practice Report, it was clear that the contact centre is becoming the central point for all customer contact management.

Aside from phone calls, the contact centre manager is also accountable for:

  • Emails (91%)
  • Live Chat (55%)
  • SMS (45%)
  • Written Communication (44%)
  • Social Media (38%)
  • Chatbots/Intelligent Assistants (26%)
  • Video chat (6%)

They each come with their own challenges and KPIs, which will be covered in other articles.

Anyway, back to call centre metrics and KPIs.

From obvious things like the number of phone calls answered to things you may not have heard like, ACW, True Calls Per Hour, Intervals and more, there are literally hundreds of call centre metrics you can look at.

The skill is knowing which call centre metrics are the critical ones to use that can drive your business.

Sincere Apologies…

Firstly, some apologies.

It was a tough call coming up with the top ten call centre metrics.

The truth is there are plenty of other metrics that are all very important in managing a contact centre, some of which are directly related to the contact centre, and some more broadly on the overall customer experience/customer sentiment including: 

  • Adherence
  • Absenteeism
  • Hold time
  • Net Promoter Score
  • Customer Effort Score
  • CSAT
  • Forecast Accuracy
  • Employee Satisfaction
  • Calls Blocked

Perhaps they will find their way into another article at some point but don’t despair, you’ll find more information about the majority of these KPIs, along with common abbreviations, industry jargon etc in the ACXPA CX & Call Centre Glossary >

The KPIs Australian Contact Centre Managers found the most important

In a recent Australian Contact Centre Industry Benchmarking report, contact centre managers were asked about what metrics were important to them.

In order, their responses were:

I’m pleased that this aligned somewhat to my 10 most popular call centre metrics/KPIs below, although one of the things you quickly learn in this industry is that there really is no one-size-fits-all and as you will learn below, there are some risks associated with most of the call centre metrics so understanding those risks, pros and cons will ensure you are better informed to make the right choices for your contact centre.

Disclaimer

This guide is designed to provide you with some insight into the popular call centre metrics, along with a few examples and explanations to help you wrap your head around it.

Is it an exhaustive list? No.

Does it replace years of call centre management experience? No.

And do these popular call centre metrics and KPIs work for all call centre environments? No.

But what these popular call centre metrics and KPIs will give you is a great starting point on what to implement in your centre or which ones you should consider if you are contemplating building your own call centre, or perhaps you are just looking to make sure your existing ones are on the money.

By using all, or a combination of the call centre metrics below, you will be able to:

  • Gain insight into the customer experience.
  • Measure productivity and optimise your resources.
  • Get an insight into your culture.

The Top Ten Call Centre KPIs and Metrics

I’ve listed below what I believe to be the most popular call centre KPIs and metrics below but I can’t stress enough that you should never just look at one particular metric in isolation.

Most of the main contact centre metrics are intangibly linked – and it’s understanding the cause and effect where some of the skills of being a contact centre manager lie.

So not in any particular order, please find below the 10 most popular call centre metrics and KPIs.

1. Grade of Service (aka Service Levels)

The first of my popular call centre metrics is the Grade of Service level (aka Service Levels) which is usually defined as the percentage of calls answered within a predetermined number of seconds.

As we love to do in Australia, we shorten everything, so within the call centre industry, you’ll commonly hear the Grade of Service metric referred to as ‘GOS’ and the KPI as something like 80/30, meaning the target is to answer 80% of calls answered within 30 seconds.

It’s a popular metric as it’s an easy one to understand and a top level, it provides some insights into the type of customer experience you’d like to provide for your customers.

But despite common belief, there is no set industry standard KPI for GoS.

Rather, your Service Levels should be aligned to your business requirements.

If you are the emergency services contact centre, for example, then the aim is to answer calls very quickly as it’s a life and death situation – so their target is typically something like 100/5 – 100% of call calls answered within 5 seconds.

In a sales environment where customers are calling in to make a purchase, if you have long wait times, that could also result in fewer sales, which is obviously undesirable so they are also more likely to have high Service Levels KPIs to ensure there is minimal wait times.

In a customer service contact centre where customers are ringing for service-related issues or complaints, it might be OK if there is a longer wait time, but again, it all depends on what level of service your business wants to achieve.

For some businesses, they may be more than happy for complaining customers to wait longer, other businesses may be mortified by this and aim to make the complaints process as easy as possible for customers.

The critical point to note is that there is a direct correlation between your Service Level KPIs and cost – the higher the Service Levels, the more expensive it is to achieve.

So your current Grade of Service target is a decision that someone in your business has made at some point.

Industry Benchmarks for Service Levels

As I mentioned, there is no industry standard for Service Levels.

But what I can share is the five most common targets in Australia (as of 2023) are:

  • 80/30 (16%)
  • 80/20 (14%)
  • 70/30 (11%)
  • 80/60 (10%)
  • 70/40 (5%)

Using an Erlang Calculator to help determine the right Service Levels 

The good news is there is an easy way to model the best Grade of Service metric for your business using an Erlang Calculator.

An Erlang Calculator uses purpose-built formulas that enable you to model various parameters to determine their impact on your contact centre.

For example:

  • If call volumes increased by 10%, how many additional agents would I need to maintain Service Levels?
  • If Average Handle Time decreased by 30 seconds, how many fewer agents would I need?
  • If your budget was cut by 15%, what impact would it have on your Service Levels?
  • If your boss wants you to deliver a better Service Level, how many extra agents will you need?

An Erlang Calculator will answer all of those questions and lots more so it can be a powerful tool in taking the emotion out of determining the right (i.e. affordable) GoS target for your business.

2. Average Speed of Answer (ASA)

One of the risks of solely using Grade of Service as a metric is that it doesn’t tell you what happens to the customers that don’t meet the target.

For example, if your Service Level is 80/30 we know that 80% of calls were answered within 30 seconds.

But let me ask you this… How long did it take the remaining 20% to be answered?

No idea right?

Hence lies the problem with just looking at Grade of Service.

Average Speed of Answer (commonly referred to as ASA) is the average number of seconds it takes for all calls to be answered.

If calls are, on average, answered in 25 seconds, the ASA is 25 seconds for the contact centre.

Generally, the shorter the ASA, the better your Service Levels and the lower your abandonment rate is.

Remember, though, they are averages – you may still have had a call that waited 30 minutes to be answered and it’s usually those outlier calls that will be the ones that cause you a headache (escalated complaints, in the media etc).

But one of the most key things people don’t realise is that ASA call centre metric EXCLUDES calls that are abandoned.

That’s right, if a customer has waited a long time and decides to hang up, the data for that caller is not included as it technically wasn’t answered.

So ASA can be a little misleading if you just look at it in isolation.

Industry Benchmarks for ASA

I’m going to keep saying it; there is no industry average or industry standard for the right ASA.

That’s something you need to determine what’s best for your business.

What we did see across the industry was a decrease in the ASA reported, down from 132 seconds in 2022 to 101 seconds in 2023.

3. Abandonment Rate

Abandonment rate is the number of callers that have been placed in a queue waiting to speak to an agent, but then they hang up before getting connected to an agent.

Usually, people hang up simply because they got sick of waiting or listening to your terrible hold music (which you can avoid by finding great suppliers of hold music here >)!

The abandonment rate does not include those calls that receive an engaged/ busy signal or calls that never even made it to your queue waiting to speak to an agent.

How to Calculate Your Abandonment Rate

The formula is:  Abandoned Calls / Total Incoming calls = Abandonment Rate

For example: 100 calls are placed into your queue in one hour. Of those calls, 10 people hang up before speaking to an agent, so your abandonment rate for the last hour has been 10%.

Typically, abandonment rates are linked to your Service Levels and how many staff you have available to answer calls.

When the call centre is very busy and has long wait times, you can expect a higher abandonment rate.

High abandonment rates can also have the potential to artificially inflate your real call volumes as the initial customers who could not get through on the first call continue to call back until they are connected to an agent.

Not all abandonment rate is bad!

For example, you may have some important information playing during your hold music.

Once the customer has heard the information, and that has satisfied their enquiry, and they then hang up, then it’s not really a bad thing, is it?

If I ring my local power company because the power has gone out and I hear a recorded message saying they are aware of the issue and advised power will be restored in 30 minutes, I’d happily hang up.

I really don’t need to wait 15 minutes to speak to an agent who is going to tell me the same thing.

Am I dissatisfied? NO!

Industry Benchmarking Data on Abandonment Rate

Recent data in Australia reports that the average time a customer waits before hanging up is 109 seconds. The average across the industry for call centres suggests that 9% is the average abandonment rate in 2023, up from 7% in 2022.

This correlates with Zendesk’s CX Accelerator Report that found 66% of customers have become increasingly impatient (sorry I’d link to it but they hide everything behind a subscription wall ?).

4. Average Handle Time

Average Handle Time (or AHT for short) is actually made up of two key components:

  • Average Talk Time – the time an agent spends talking to the customer
  • After Call Work – the time the agent spends after the call completing activities related to that call (e.g. entering notes into the system)

Add the two together and that’s your AHT metric!

How to Calculate the AHT 

The formula is: Average Talk Time + Average After Call Work  = Average Handle Time

For example: On average, Agent X spends 180 seconds on every call and a further 60 seconds in After Call Work. Agent X has an Average Handling Time of 240 seconds.

AHT is often a big focus for call centres as a higher AHT typically equates to increased costs and a lower customer experience (customers are busy and don’t want to spend hours talking to your agents on the phone either).

So should you have an AHT metric/KPI for your agents? Hell no! Read this article that explains why.

Food for thought!

Did you know that AHT across the industry is actually increasing?

With self-service and automation becoming increasingly common, the calls coming into your call centre are typically more complex.

Across the call centre industry in Australia in 2023, the average AHT was 507 seconds.

5. Shrinkage

Shrinkage is probably the most confusing metric to understand and even with the contact centre community, you will often find very different answers to the question of how you calculate shrinkage.

Shrinkage typically refers to a percentage of paid time absorbed by off-line activities of your call centre workforce and this number is a critical component of forecasting the number of required staff required to meet service level targets.

As a general rule, the following activities are typically included in shrinkage calculations

  • Training
  • Coaching
  • Meetings
  • Annual Leave
  • Public Holidays
  • Paid tea breaks
  • Unscheduled Leave (sick leave)

It is critical to understand the shrinkage percentage as it allows you to predict the base level of staff required to meet service levels when using an Erlang Calculator (try ours, it’s awesome!).

How to calculate shrinkage:

It makes it a bit easier to understand if you think of it in annual terms.

If one person was employed full-time to work for a single year, they would, on average, work 261 days per year after we take away weekends.

So 365 days in a year minus 104 days for weekends equals 261 days.

Now in a perfect world for the Employer, the employee would be at work for all 261 days and will be ready to take calls for their entire shift for every single one of those 261 days.

But that doesn’t happen.

In Australia, for example, they will get 20 days of annual leave and perhaps ten days of sick leave.

Then there are some public holidays that vary between the states, so let’s settle on eight public holidays.

So adding that all together, that’s 20 + 10 + 8 = 38 days  (14.55%) out of 261 days that you are paying for, but they will never answer a single call on those days.

But even on the remaining 223 days (261-38=223 days), there will be times the agent will not be able to take calls.

It could be due to training, coaching, team meetings, paid tea breaks etc. All these activities form part of shrinkage.

Let me show you in annual terms the shrinkage for the agent described above:

Days available to work = 261

Total Days lost over a year:

  • Annual Leave (20)
  • Sick Leave (10)
  • Public Holidays (8)
  • Training (5)
  • Coaching (5)
  • Team Meetings (2)

20+10+8+5+5+2 = 50 days

50 days lost / 261 paid days of work x 100 = 19% shrinkage.

So this agent will only be available to handle calls for 81% of the time you are actually paying for.

So imagine if you had done all your workforce planning but forgot to incorporate shrinkage?

Hopefully, now you realise the significant impact of that little oversight…

The ACXPA CX & Contact Centre Glossary contains common KPIs, metrics, jargon and abbreviations used in the contact centre industry.

View the Glossary >

6. First Call Resolution (FCR)

First Call Resolution (FCR) is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult metrics to implement in a contact centre. The concept itself is fairly straightforward:

The percentage of customer calls that are resolved the first time.

How to Calculate First Call Resolution

Number of FCR calls / Total Number of Calls

For example, if 7 of 10 calls are resolved on the first call, then that centre has reached an FCR of 70%.

The difficulty, however, is defining whether an issue is ‘resolved’ and if it’s driving the right behaviour for your business.

Years ago, I used to manage the call centre for Australia Post so I’ll use an example to illustrate my point.

Customer: Hi, how much would it cost to send a 3kg parcel from Melbourne to Sydney?

Agent: $6.50

Customer: Awesome, thanks so much. Bye.

OK, sure that call would be now handled online but stay with me…

Would you say that call was resolved?

The customer asked a question and received an answer so yes, let’s tick that box for First Call Resolution.

But could the agent have done more? Some other questions could have been:

  • (A) What size is the parcel? (A big box of pillows may only weigh 1kg but Australia Post use a cubic metre rate for large, light parcels.  The cubic weight may have worked out at 10kg so the customer could have been charged a lot more when arriving at the Post Office)
  • (B) How quickly do you need to get it there? (There are different options like Express Post for example that cost more but get their quicker)
  • (C) The agent could have advised the caller to next time use the online calculator to avoid having to call back again.

So while the customer did get an answer to their primary question, it would have been a poor experience when they arrived at the post office with a big box of pillows using scenario (A), the end customer may have been impacted if they needed the pillows in a hurry (B) and we have made no effort to help transition the customer to more effective channels (C).

Another issue with the First Call Resolution metric is the time elapsed before the customer calls back.

Using the same example above, let’s say the customer called back at the same time the next day with some additional questions like “Can I get insurance on my parcel, how do I make sure someone signs for it’.

Would that original call still count as First Call Resolution?

Clearly, the customer had additional questions, so one could argue strongly that it wasn’t.

But what if it was 72 hours later the customer called?

Or two weeks?

Having clarity on the time frame before the customer makes contact again is also a key consideration.

The bottom line, FCR can be a good metric but the devil really is in the detail and that’s where most contact centres get it wrong.

7. Occupancy

Ok remember back to the Shrinkage metric and we discovered that an agent is never going to be 100% available for their paid work time due to annual leave, breaks etc?

Well, Occupancy is another figure that is very important in determining the efficiency of your contact centre.

In simple terms,  Occupancy is the percentage of time agents spend handling calls (and after-call work) compared with the total amount of time they are ready and waiting for calls to arrive.

It’s often used as an indicator of how hard your team is working and it’s very much an outcome of your workforce planning. Think of it like this:

  • Low Occupancy: You’ve got too many staff rostered on and you are literally paying for staff to sit around and do nothing.
  • High occupancy: You don’t have enough staff on and wait times blow out (equals unhappy customers) and your call centre agents are just getting pounded with call after call (equals unhappy staff).

Whilst every centre is different, a generally accepted target for occupancy is around 80% – 85%.

How to calculate Occupancy:

Total Call Time / (Total Call Time + Available Time)

For example: If your contact centre has 100 hours of time, your agents can take calls, and they are speaking to Customers for 80 hours of that 100 hours (or waiting for a call), your occupancy is 80/100 or 80%.

In general terms, as the Grade of Service (aka Service Levels) increase (goes up), occupancy will decrease (go down) meaning in an emergency services call centre for example where the Service Level target is 100% of calls to be answered in 5 seconds, the Occupancy will be very low as agents need to be available to quickly answer a call as soon as it comes in.

It’s mathematically impossible to have high service levels and a high occupancy at the same time!

8. Cost per Call or Cost per Contact

Head spinning yet?

The next in my list of call centre metrics is Cost per Call.

The simplest way to calculate the cost per call is by adding up the entire cost of your call centre operations and dividing it by the number of calls you answered.

So assuming the entire budget for your call centre was $1,000,000 and you answered a total of 40,000 calls that would be $25.00 per call.

total budget / number of calls (or contacts) = cost per call/contact

This is what is often referred to as ‘fully loaded’ – the figure incorporates all the costs of running your call centre including the building, managers, team leaders, technology etc.

Once you understand your cost per call, you can then make informed decisions on what’s best for your business.

For example, if you know the cost per call is $25; however, each call results in a $1,000 sale, then chances are your business is probably OK with that.

But what about if there is no direct revenue associated with the call? What price is acceptable to provide support to your customers?

That really does open up a can of worms that I’ll leave shut for now but remember “what gets measured gets done”.

But at least by understanding your costs, you’ll be empowered to have informed discussions with your key stakeholders.

9. Employee Attrition

Employee Attrition (aka turnover) is a widely used metric in the contact centre industry and it can often be a good indicator into the level of engagement within your workforce.

But not all turnover is bad.

There is typically two types of turnover:

  1. Voluntary – When employees choose to leave
  2. Involuntary – When you ask employees to leave

Turnover measures the number of people who leave your contact centre and is normally expressed as a percentage.

Calculation: (Number of employees who leave the business) / (average number of total workers during the period).

If there are 100 full-time positions and 12 employees leave in a year, your average turnover is 12% for that year (1 person leaves, on average, each month).

As I mentioned earlier, turnover can be a positive or a negative:

Positive turnover

If people are leaving due to poor performance then it’s not a bad thing, notwithstanding it was probably a bad hire in the first place (and if it is happening a lot I would be really reviewing your recruitment practices).

If your people are leaving because of other opportunities within your business then from an organisational perspective, that’s not a bad thing either (however it can really suck for the call centre).

Negative turnover

Pretty obvious but if your employees are leaving for greener pastures outside of your business it would suggest issues such as poor morale, poor leadership, conditions etc.

Conducting independent exit interviews can be a great way to uncover the real reasons why employees are leaving your business.

High turnover can be expensive for four reasons:

  1. Increased recruitment and training costs.
  2. Lower performance as new staff take time to become competent and proficient (e.g. a new employee may take six months before they can perform at the same level as an experienced employee).
  3. Inconsistent customer experiences can lead to broader issues (e.g. the customer experience depends on whether they get a ‘newer’ agent or an experienced one)
  4. It can have an impact on morale as the remaining staff have to work harder to “make up the deficit”.

Low turnover may not be good either:

  • It may be a sign that performance is not being actively managed.
  • Costs can increase as wages typically increase with tenure.
  • Employees can become ‘set in their ways’ making it harder to drive change.
  • There can be an increased risk as experienced staff often know the shortcuts and how to bypass the system.

The benefit, of course, is that you have highly experienced agents who understand your business and the customer!

Industry Data on Contact Centre Attrition

Attrition has always been a concern in the Australian Contact Centre industry and in 2023, there was a significant increase from 26% in 2022 to 32% in 2023.

Of note, attrition tends to be higher in the larger contact centres where, perhaps, agents don’t feel as valued and noticed as in the smaller centres where you typically know most of the people in your contact centre/business so it feels more personal.

10. Call Quality

All good things must come to end right so the final of our popular call centre KPIs and metrics is Call Quality.

I don’t think anyone disputes that measuring Call Quality is important to do, however, I’ve found that it often falls into the ‘too difficult’ basket for many centres as it is often perceived as just being too difficult to measure.

But without having clear expectations on what quality means to your business, how are your employees meant to know what and how they should go about things?

Defining what is call quality can also be a very subjective measure – what is a quality call to me may not be interpreted the same way by you.

Again, there is no magic formula or industry standard for measuring quality, however, it often consists of the following core components:

  • Greeting
  • Resolution
  • Closing

Of course, that’s a very simplistic view. If we just take ‘Greeting’ for example you could include the following:

  • Did the agent use the standard greeting (assuming you have one that is defined)?
  • Did the agent make attempts to build rapport with the customer?
  • Was the tone of the agents voice friendly?

Often compliance can also be weaved into the mix as well so staying with the greeting section, did the agent perform the appropriate ID check for example?

Whatever the model that is used, the key to any quality program is using it to set clear expectations for your employees (they should know exactly what makes a good call), and enable the collation of data to provide specific feedback and coaching to help them to improve.

Typically a Quality Score is expressed as a percentage so if there are ten components to measuring quality on a call and an agent meets nine of the components, then they have achieved a quality score of 90%.

How many calls should you measure to assess quality?

There is no industry standard however in my experience anywhere between 5 and 15 calls per agent per month is common when manually assessed by a Team Leader, Quality Assessor etc.

With the rapid arrival of AI, however, it is now possible to evaluate ALL calls with the caveat that you need a very robust quality framework in place (which most centres do not have).

Conclusion

Firstly well done on getting through the list!

I hope this has helped you determine some of the KPIs you should measure in your contact centre.

Remember though, no contact centre metrics can be looked at in isolation and there is often a direct correlation between many of them.

For example, having a high grade of service (e.g. 90%/10 seconds) can result in a lower abandonment rate and lower occupancy rates.

Like most professional skills,  knowledge is power, so keep reading, learning, talking to others etc.

We’ve got some great resources on ACXPA to help – from our Private Group for Contact Centre Managers, our monthly Member Symposiums, a range of downloads/templates and a great Members Directory that makes it easy to search, connect and engage with other contact centre managers in Australia.

If you found this helpful, click on the heart button below and I encourage you to leave your feedback and other suggestions/observations in the comments either here on the page or on social media where you saw this article.

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