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5 key call center metrics to transform your contact center

These call center metrics tell the bigger story behind the numbers

By Tara Ramroop, Senior content marketing manager

Published June 12, 2018
Last updated September 3, 2020

Call center metrics defined

    Call center metrics are KPIs (key performance indicators) that measure the success and efficiency of a contact center. Common call center metrics include things like time to resolution, number of tickets solved in a day or week, and more.

Managers can use these metrics to form insights, or conclusions about what the data means. Insights help teams identify concrete ways to improve a call center’s performance and showcase wins to higher ups. Tangible statistics also provide a vantage point leaders like to see when assessing the overall health of a 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.

5 critical call center metrics to track

  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 a team’s ability to handle different types of customer service scenarios. For example, let’s say a manager is 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 more than 10 minutes. Reviewing those 10-minute-plus call recordings can identify what types of calls or processes that agent might be struggling with. Or, it might point to a bigger problem, such as an underlying issue with the product or service.

    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 agents most. Use this information to develop knowledge base resources or targeted training that improves agents’ ability to answer similar calls more quickly in the future.

    For every rule, there is an exception. Average talk time is not always a mark of success at retail and lifestyle brand Magnolia. The reason: Approximately half of the calls are fans who call in to talk or share stories, drawn in by the company's relatable founders and TV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines. The lesson: KPIs should always take the unique qualities of the business into account.

  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 calls mean 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, managers 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 there aren't enough agents available during high-volume call times.

    Another issue may be the 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 the software license to see if the plan has a cap. If it does, it’s possible that calls are being declined because the system isn’t equipped to handle the volume of calls coming in.

    Once managers can pinpoint why calls are being missed or declined, they can identify the systems or personnel needed to resolve the issue.

  3. Transfer rate

    Transfer rate is the percentage of inbound calls that 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 transfer rate could indicate that callers are reaching the wrong first-touch agent. In this case, the call center’s internal routing system may be the problem. At the end of a call, encourage agents to ask the customer whether they found the IVR, or 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 the entire call center. Look for any outliers—agents who routinely surpass the average percentage, for example—to identify 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 customers are hanging up before they reach an agent, a feature to request a callback might make improve the experience. With this system, customers can still 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 abandoned the queue.

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  5. Average Speed of Answer

    Average speed of answer, or 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 agents lack the training or knowledge to answer customer inquiries in a timely manner.

    High ASA could also be an indication that the call center is understaffed. For example, if average talk time is low, but ASA is high, the 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 agents are struggling to meet this standard, it might be time to enhance the onboarding or ongoing training programs. Or, it may make a case to 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 leaders need to transform the contact center. Track these figures to identify areas of improvement and boost customer satisfaction.