Overwhelmed With Call Center Metrics? Only These 5 Matter

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If you’ve ever worked at a call center, you know the conversation of KPIs and performance metrics is never-ending.

At a certain point, it just becomes too much—especially now, when pretty much anything can be tracked.

But instead of doing every single thing your competitors are doing and assuming that more metric tracking equals better performance, you may be better off focusing on the five call center metrics that actually matter.

1. Average Call Abandonment Rate

If your customers are hanging up before they get through to your call center, then you’ve got a big problem. That’s why your average call abandonment rate is arguably the most important metric—because it’s the foundation upon which all the others are built.

Calculating your average call abandonment rate is simple: It’s the ratio of customers who abandon the call before they get to a live agent versus the total number of calls. Obviously, the lower the percentage the better.

Think about recent times when you’ve needed to dial a customer service number; assuming all of the agents were actually able to help you with your problem, your most positive experiences were probably the times when you were speaking with a live agent only moments after dialing the number. Meanwhile, the times when you heard a machine tell you something like, “Your estimated wait time is 37 minutes” were probably your least favorite.

Besides the emotional woes of your customers, the problems with a high average call abandonment rate are twofold.

First, it makes it way harder to reach your call volume goals. Second, the more customers that abandon their calls, the fewer caller issues your call center gets to resolve—which is why most call centers exist in the first place.

Altogether, a high average call abandonment rate can be the result of several factors, including:

  • Agent call avoidance: This is when agents are either not looking forward to answering calls (so they don’t), or deliberately avoiding certain caller issues that might hurt their performance numbers.
  • Long hold times for customers: This could be caused by agent call avoidance, or by simply not having enough agents in the call center to meet customer demand.
  • Poor IVR systems: Interactive Voice Response systems are AI phone menus that greet customers and route calls. A mismanaged IVR can confuse customers and lead them to disconnect more often.
  • Bad call routing: Sometimes customers are told they’re going to be transferred to an agent, but then the call just hangs up due to badly configured routing.

Some of these causes, like agent call avoidance, are easily recognizable. Others, like bad call routing, might go totally unnoticed for long periods of time—that is, unless you’re actively tracking your call abandonment rate. Focusing heavily on this metric will allow you to fix these undetectable issues sooner rather than later.

Most call centers have a 5-8% average call abandonment rate. For your call center, you’ll want to do your best to get this figure at 5% or below—and avoid going over 10% at all costs.

2. Average Handle Time

Things get a little more complicated with your average handle time, which significantly differs from your average call abandonment rate because a lower metric doesn’t always indicate success.

Average handle time is literally just how long it takes for an agent to solve a customer’s problem—from the moment they pick up to the moment they hang up.

Here’s why this metric can be complicated:

On the one hand, you shouldn’t be rushing through customer calls because you’ll have a harder time solving issues, and the overall customer experience will be worse if they feel like they’re a burden. On the other hand, you still need to keep things moving.

Most call center agents have goals for how many calls they need to make per day, and if each call takes longer than expected, it’s hard to reach those goals.

Keep in mind that average handle times vary between industries. For example, a call to Apple’s IT department will probably take much longer than a call to Walmart’s retail center.

Within every industry, it’s key to find a balance between assigning quality time to each and every customer and keeping things moving well enough to hit your call volume goals.

If you manage a call center, a good strategy is to use call center software like QEval to identify employees with average handle times that are well above those of your other agents. Make a point to speak with those agents and get to the bottom of why they take so much longer than their fellow agents. A lot of times the reasons are simpler and easier to rectify than you might think.

3. First Call Resolution Rate

One thing that inbound IVR systems tend to do very well is get customers to the right agents the first time around.

First call resolution rate measures how often a customer’s issue is solved after the very first time they call in, meaning they didn’t have to call back multiple times or be transferred from agent to agent.

A really high first call resolution rate should be a goal for every call center regardless of industry or nature caller issues. At the end of the day, customers don’t really care about your call center’s metrics or call volumes—they just want their problems solved and their questions answered as soon as possible.

Just like with average handle times, managers can use call tracking software to identify agents who have first call resolution rates that are much lower than those of their peers. If there are legitimate reasons why this is the case, you’ll be able to pinpoint them and fix them. If there aren’t legitimate reasons, it might be time for some hard conversations.

4. Agent Utilization Rate

Call center agents cannot be expected to be fielding calls for the entire workday. They need time to rest and reset between calls, access customer files, take breaks, eat meals, and more.

This is why a healthy agent utilization rate is critical for any call center. It’s simply the percentage of the workday that a given agent spends on the phone.

For most call centers, the average agent utilization rate is around 50%, which may seem a bit low. However, a high agent utilization rate should not always be the goal.

Just like with the average handle time, finding the right balance is key. Once again, it depends a lot on your specific industry and the nature of your customers’ requests (and attitudes), as some will drain agents’ energy much faster than others.

The best rule of thumb here is for managers to prioritize their agents’ health and wellness. This is important not only for ethical reasons, but also for financial ones. If you’re a manager and you run your call center agents into the ground day after day, they’ll probably start leaving one by one. This is called having a high employee attrition rate, and it’s not a good look for your business.

Finally, another benefit of agent utilization rate is that it provides an extremely accurate window into which employees do and do not take their jobs seriously. Once the data is in for this metric, you’ll be able to hone in on those underperforming agents and figure out if you need to take action.

5. Net Promoter Score

Graphic from Nextiva showing how Net Promoter Score is calculated.

At the end of the day, the people in the best position to judge your work as a call center agent are not your managers, but your customers.

The net promoter score is probably the simplest metric out there for measuring what your customers think about your call center.

To calculate it, you can survey your customers with questions like, “How likely is it that you would recommend this agent or company?”

If your customers are able to answer on a scale of 1-10, the average of all their answers becomes your call center’s net promoter score. In this case, higher is obviously better (assuming that 10 was the most likely option).

When it comes to how happy your customers are with their service, this metric cannot be understated. Just keep in mind that managers can look at the data as it applies to individual agents as well as the call center as a whole.

Call Center Metrics: The Bottom Line

Average call abandonment rate measures the percentage of customers that abandon the call before reaching a live agent—the lower the better.

Average handle time measures how long it takes your agents to solve customer problems—shorter is better, but not always.

First call resolution rate measures how often the first connected agent is able to solve the whole problem—the higher the better.

Agent utilization rate measures how much of the workday agents spend actually on the phone—there should be a healthy balance here.

Net promoter score measures how satisfied customers are after consulting with your call center—the higher the better.

Using these five metrics will allow you and your managers to see the forest for the trees and make quality, results-oriented decisions for your call center.

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