Nearshore Americas

The “Killer KPIs” That Every Contact Center Executive Should Watch Closely

Knowing what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to focus on can be tricky, although most contact center executives have an idea of the core ones to track. So what are the KPIs that every contact center exec should know and measure?

Cheryl Flink, Chief Strategy Officer for Market Force Information, differentiated between types of KPIs. In terms of measures of customer experience, she looked at service level, first contact resolution rate, and average handle time as the KPIs to focus on.

“Customer experience measures identify key factors that impact a customer’s perception of the service being offered and can directly impact the brand image,” she said. “How quickly contact center agents respond to inbound customer queries (service level), how adept the customer service associate is at understanding and taking action on the customer request (average handle time) and how effectively and frequently issues are resolved on first consumer contact (first contact resolution) are all key variables that make-up the customers perception around the willingness of the organization to ‘make it right’. This has a direct impact on customer re-visit, re-purchase and brand recommendation rates.”

In terms of measures of productivity—financial spend health—she emphasized the importance of forecast accuracy, contacts per hour, and schedule adherence. Flink said: “Contact center operations are costly predominately due to the cost of labor to support consumer contact resolution. Ensuring that customer service associates are scheduled efficiently with respect to the work:labor ratio (forecast accuracy), are executing their work in an effective and efficiency manner (contacts per hour) and are maximizing productive time (schedule adherence) will ensure that the organization is paying a reasonable expense for its contact center efforts.”

Lastly, she looked at measures of consumer dialogue in terms of QA standard compliance, contact type trend rate deviation, and post-call survey ‘Net Promoter’. “As the contact center organization is the front line of consumer communication and sentiment identification, it is important to use this channel to identify the consumer voice,” Flink said. “It is also important to measure the effectiveness of delivering the brand voice to consumers contacting your operations.”

Engaging Customer

She explained that using a quality standard program that reviews customer engagement, call handling mechanics, resolution and issue identification strategies will ensure the agents are correctly engaging customers and doing so in the most positive brand manner.

“Reviewing key contact types for trends over months or quarters can help companies proactively identify satisfaction challenges with specific aspects of business operation or identify new trends in consumer concerns,” Flink said.

Finally, she noted, it is critical that a company hears directly from its customers about the service being offered within the contact center to ensure it is meeting all of the customer engagement requirements and is driving the highest level of customer loyalty and retention.

Aaron Fulkerson, CEO of MindTouch, said that one of the KPIs that every customer contact center executive should measure is Net Promoter Score (NPS). This, he explained, is a measure of customer loyalty and determines how likely a customer is to promote your product/service/brand to their friends or colleagues. This affects buying decisions and customer-spend. “The big question that most executives have is – how do I increase NPS? Simple, with the Customer Effort Score (CES) which measures how much energy a customer has to exert to complete a task,” Fulkerson said.

He cited research from CEB, which found that 94 percent of customers who report low-effort (easily finding what they need) would repurchase a product or service again. Only four percent would repurchase if they report high-effort, that is having to jump through a lot of hoops to find what they need. The research further found that 88 percent of customers who report low effort would have an increased spend/share of wallet, while 81 percent of customers who report high effort, would say something negative to their social network about your brand.

Fulkerson advised: “To reduce customer effort, give your customers what they want with – instant answers. In other words, create a central repository where they can self-serve. Make it easy for your customers to become a product expert and they’ll cheerfully promote your brand.”

Lisa Anderson, President of LMA Consulting Group Inc., agreed, saying that one important KPI is ease of getting to a live person/ time to resolve issues. “This could be two metrics depending on the needs.  One of the easiest ways to annoy customers is to make it challenging to get to a ‘live’ person,” she said.

Anderson added: “It is well worth the cost of a receptionist to avoid customer aggravation.  You can measure this by the amount of steps required to get to the ‘live, correct’ person and the amount of time that process takes.  In today’s marketplace, speed is valued.  Customers are generally willing to pay more for speed.  Thus, wait times are unacceptable.”

Anderson advised that contact center executives should measure the amount of time it takes to answer questions or resolve issues for categories of topics. “It doesn’t make sense to track in generality as you don’t want your representatives to rush people off the phone with concerns; however, you do want them to rapidly handle issues and requests,” she said. “Thus, if you can categorize types of calls and track the time to resolve, you will have a much better idea of customer satisfaction.   If your organization can deliver consist, excellent service rapidly, you will grow the business.”

Jeremy Curley, Director of Business Solutions at Bomgar, said that many leaders have a hard time knowing where to focus their attention from a metric perspective. “If you are like many centers, there is a lot of data,” he said. “To drive improvement you need to prioritize and understand the metrics that demand your attention. There are a lot of people in services that can talk the talk. They have read all the books and can rattle off all the catch phrases: customer satisfaction, first contact resolution, employee engagement, empowerment, and service level. It takes another level of understanding to know what these metrics truly mean and how they impact your center. Knowing the story they tell is another skill all together.”

Curley offered this advice regarding the six service metrics and actions he believes every leader should know or do on any given day:

  • Customer Satisfaction: “Every day you should know what the customer satisfaction score is within your center. You may focus on net promoter score or overall satisfaction, but either way, you should know your score. Even more important, you need to know why your score is what it is,” Curley said. “Hopefully you allow customers to leave feedback as to why they gave the score they did. Dive into the data by business, by manager, by process. Your biggest areas of opportunity and actions lie in this data.”
  • Service Level: Every day you should go in with an idea of what your service level should be, Curley advised. “You need to know this so that if things do not go as planned, you can take immediate action in terms of scheduling, prioritizing skills, and driving a sense of urgency as a leader. So many people just focus on the average. Make sure you understand the customer experience. Know the standard deviation of your service level to fully understand your customers experience in contacting your center,” he said, adding that this is a metric that has many variables that impact it.
  • Resolution: Every morning when you get to work, review the documentation of issues you received the day before. “This gives a wealth of information. I can look at the issues our customers called in about, which ones we resolved and where additional action needs to be taken,” Curley said. “I can see if there are any trends in terms of changes in the types of calls we are receiving, and how well our agents are handling them. This can also allow you to make sure the team is correctly closing out issues so that customer satisfaction surveys are unbiased and actionable.”
  • Calls/Remote Support/Chats/Social Channels: After the first shift starts, Curley advised that contact center executives should listen to some calls, review some remote support recordings and chats (where relevant) and review the current social pulse from a service perspective. “These should be randomly selected and the objective is to just hear your customers, what issues they are having and how the team is handling both from a soft skill perspective as well as from a knowledge and resolution perspective,” he said. “There is no better way to get a pulse of the customer and the service other than to listen to them or to take some calls yourself.”
  • Walk the Floor: Get out of the office and walk around. Talk to people and listen to them as they are servicing your customers. Get a pulse of the morale of the team as well. You will learn a lot about the issues your team is facing and what you can do to put them in a better position to be successful.
  • Quality: Look at the quality scores for the team. Know where the team has areas of opportunity and what actions you are taking to make sure the quality of the service you provide is consistently improving. “Too many centers just check boxes when it comes to quality. Make sure you have a framework that actually drives effective coaching and positive change in your center,” he said.

This article was originally published by NSAM’s sister publication Customer Experience Report.

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Bianca Wright

Nearshore Americas Contributing Editor Bianca Wright has been published in a variety of magazines and online publications in the UK, the US and South Africa, including Global Telecoms Business,, SA Computer Magazine, M-Business,, Business Start-ups, Cosmopolitan and ComputorEdge. She holds a MPhil degree in Journalism from the University of Stellenbosch and a DPhil in Media Studies from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

1 comment

  • Some thoughts:

    1. Most contact centers’ KPI”s should have a direct correlation to published service standards. This includes both external and internal customers.

    2. Team engagement is essential to meeting customer expectations. Team members should know at least on an hourly basis how they are doing. Delivering excellence requirers a relentless focus on the goal.

    3. Savvy leaders use teams and well defined analytical tools to eliminate costly rework and redundancy from the companies bottom line. This can also allow more resources to be allocated to revenue generating positions.

    4. An enlightened team framed by a robust service quality culture can protect KPI’s by detouring inbound calls thats origin was unexpected service or company issues. Simply setting up a separate queue with an announcement that indicates awareness and planned resolution allows members to meet KPI’s.

    5. Sophisticated KPI’s can also be established to record retention, cross sell and up sell accomplishments.