Don't Let KPIs Be the Death of Your Call Center

Richard Natoli

There are few business units that enjoy the robust reporting tools that call centers possess. Where else in the company can you get a true real time view of the overall performance of a department, team, or representative? Call center technology providers have done an excellent job developing tools to increase transparency into the performance of call centers. Unfortunately many call centers have failed to leverage this transparency into their processes.

Most call center directors believe they have a strong grasp on their center’s performance. Do you think you do? Take a look at the following list of common metrics used to manage call centers and take a mental note of which serve as KPIs for your call center.

Common Call Center Metrics

  1. Average Seconds to Answer
  2. Average Handle Time
  3. Average Work Time
  4. Average Talk Time
  5. Call Quality Scoring Average
  6. Work Quality Scoring Average
  7. Service Level Average
  8. Daily Average Call Abandonment
  9. First Call Resolution Rate
  10. Average Customer Satisfaction Rate

These 10 call center metrics are very common KPIs for call centers. Every week thousands of call center professionals pull together reports displaying their call center department’s overall performance in relation to these call center metrics. Unfortunately none of the preceding call center metrics are real Key Performance Indicators. Sure they give an idea of performance, but none of them are truly representative metrics.

As an example, lets take a look at average seconds to answer (ASA). Let us assume your company wants to provide an excellent pre-call experience to your customer base and has decided that the customer should be helped within 30 seconds of hitting your call tree’s queue. In many call centers an ASA of 30 seconds would be an indication of success.

I have talked with dozens of senior level call center executives who touted their ASA results and quoted them as an indication of the superior service provided by their department. Personally I would suggest an ASA of 30 seconds is a decent preliminary indicator of success but I need to withhold my actual appraisal until I receive more information. Here’s why:

Lets say this company has a 14 second ASA and handles 10,000 calls per month. After taking a closer look at the numbers behind the ASA, which of the following companies is truly providing superior service?


  • Company A: ASA of 24.75 seconds, with total call volume of 10,000 calls per month.
  • Company B: ASA of 30 seconds with total call volume of 10,000 calls per month.

At first glance many would very confidently declare company A as the clear provider of superior service. Their customers have indicated a ASA of 30 seconds and they are delivering (according to ASA) a 25 second experience. Now lets add more detail to each company.
  • Company A: ASA of 25 seconds, with total call volume of 10,000 calls per month. Of the 10,000 calls, 7500 calls were handled in 1 second, 500 in 60 seconds, 1,000 in 90 seconds, and 1,000 in 120 seconds.
  • Company B: ASA of 30 seconds, with total call volume of 10,000 calls per month. Of the 10,000 calls 1000 were handled in 15 seconds, 8,500 in 30 seconds, and 500 in 60 seconds.
This new information certainly sheds a different light on the situation. While call center A is delivering a shorter ASA, they are actually missing their goal on 25 percent of calls as compared to company B, which is missing on only 5 percent of calls. Based on this information you can see the case for measuring actual variability within the process rather than just focusing on the average. In this specific case company B is clearly the winner. The process is much more consistent and meets the needs of a much greater segment of the customer base.

Now take a look at the remaining nine KPIs I listed earlier. Are they truly indicative of your call center’s performance, or can you develop a metric that is more meaningful? If you were to take each of those metrics to a more granular level would you have a stronger understanding of your center’s true performance? Are you company A or company B?

If you don’t know, I suggest you start pulling your call center’s reports. Your customers will thank you for it.

FIrst published on Call Center IQ.