The Only 7 That Matter

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There’s no question that call center benchmarks matter. As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

But the question is, what are the metrics that actually matter?

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the information out there telling you what benchmarks you should be tracking at your call center. Most articles will name dozens.

But there are only seven call center benchmarks that actually move the needle in your business—that means benchmarks that directly drive revenue and put money into your pockets.

Benchmarks May Vary (but Not by Much)

Depending on the type of call center you run, the most important benchmarks vary, given that each operation has its own objectives.

That said, at the end of the day, the most essential call center metrics will mostly remain the same.

Here’s a quick rundown of the different types of call centers out there and what each one does:

  • Inbound call centers take incoming calls to answer questions that clients may have or resolve conflicts.
  • Outbound call centers are often more sales and marketing oriented. In these call centers, agents make outreach efforts to prospects to promote products or gain customer feedback.
  • Multichannel contact centers handle both incoming queries and outbound calls along with other channels, such as emails and messaging.
  • Offshore call centers operate overseas, which is in a different location from your business’s headquarters.

Benchmark 1: First Call Resolution Rate

First Call Resolution Rate (FCR) is a metric that measures the percentage of customer issues that get resolved during the initial interaction with an agent. This means customers don’t need to call back for the same problem. Here’s why FCR matters and how call center managers can make the most of it:

  • Customer satisfaction boost: This is pretty straightforward—customers are much happier if their issues are resolved on the first call. It shows them that your company values their time and is effective in solving problems quickly.
  • Time and cost savings: One-and-done resolutions save time for both customers and the call center. In turn, this cuts down on operational costs for your call center.
  • Efficiency indicator: FCR serves as a key indicator of how well the call center is performing in terms of efficiency and problem-solving. A higher FCR indicates that your call center is adept at resolving issues promptly.
  • Enhanced customer loyalty: Customers appreciate quick and effective solutions. A high FCR contributes to building trust and loyalty, as customers are more likely to stick with a company that consistently resolves their problems on the first try.

Call center KPIs serve as a yardstick for evaluating the FCR performance against industry standards. This comparison provides managers with a clear understanding of their standing in relation to other call centers, and it also helps them identify areas for improvement.

If the FCR falls below industry averages, you can use benchmarks to pinpoint specific areas that require attention. This allows you to develop and implement targeted strategies to make sure customers are getting their issues resolved upon their first call to your call center.

It also serves as a tool for recognizing top-performing agents in terms of FCR. Managers can identify those who consistently achieve high rates, figure out what’s working for them, and leverage this understanding to benefit the entire team.

The (Non) Industry Standard

According to most industry norms, the standard for the First Call Resolution rate is about 70%.

That being said, we think that’s too low.

Essentially, this means that 30% of customers need to call back to the company about the same problem or inquiry.

If you want to boost revenue and make customers happy, we recommend shooting for at least an 80% rate. However, the FCR rate varies by industry as some industries are more complex.

For example, not-for-profits and retail companies have the highest FCR rates, since customers usually have very simple complaints like refunds or product questions. But industries with high call complexity, like tech support, typically have the lowest FCR rates.

If you want to calculate the rate yourself, you can use this formula:

Total Resolved Cases on First Contact /Total Number of Cases x 100% = First Contact Resolution Rate

Why You Should Use It (and When)

If you want your business to provide great customer service, focusing on FCR is important. Here’s why:

  • Keep customers happy: Simply put, if a customer’s problem is addressed promptly, they’re more likely to stick with your business. Delayed or poor service might make them switch to your competitors.
  • Boost agent productivity: Resolving customer issues in the first interaction reduces the number of repeat requests. This not only leads to shorter wait times for customers but also allows your support team to focus on more complex issues. It maximizes the efficiency of your support staff.
  • Turn unhappy customers around: About 32% of customers may leave a brand after just one bad experience. A good FCR can change dissatisfied customers into happy ones, turning potential critics into promoters of your brand.

The FCR benchmark can be used for a wide range of purposes. For example, it’s a good way to identify pain points and find a common thread of complaints or escalations that customers are having.

Also, it helps to evaluate your call center efficiency and better train your agents, which ultimately provides a better call experience.

Mistakes to Avoid

FCR is arguably the best benchmark to measure the effectiveness of your call center and helps monitor the quality of your customer support.

That said, it shouldn’t be the only metric to use.

As mentioned, some industries have more complex issues that require multiple calls to resolve. Setting overly ambitious FCR targets without considering the nature of the business may lead to frustration among agents.

Benchmark 2: Customer Satisfaction Score

CSAT, which stands for Customer Satisfaction Score, is a way to figure out how happy customers are with a product, service, or support experience. To get this score, you’ll need to ask customers to rate their satisfaction on a scale, usually from 1 (not happy at all) to 5 (very happy). Then, add up all the scores and find the average to get the CSAT score.

The (Non) Industry Standard

The industry benchmark for the average CSAT score is 78%, meaning that 78% of customers are very satisfied with the customer service experience from brands.

While that’s a good metric to hit, we think it’s best to strive for a score of 85% or better. Only about 5% of call centers are actually able to achieve this.

Setting the bar above the industry norm will put you above your competitors and is a good way to ensure you’re delivering better customer service than your rivals.

Why You Should Use It (and When)

CSAT tells us what customers think about their experiences with the service team. It’s like a report card for businesses to check how good their customer service is. A high CSAT score means customers are really happy, but a low one tells us there might be problems.

By keeping an eye on CSAT scores, your business can enact changes to make customers even happier, keep them coming back, and boost earnings. It’s a handy tool for improving your overall customer service.

Now that you know why it’s important, let’s cover when you should use them:

  • After customer lifecycle moments: CSAT is best used during onboarding and post-purchase stages, capturing feedback after key milestones in the customer’s journey. You can survey customers after their first encounter with your brand to gather valuable insights on improving the overall customer experience.
  • Prior to renewal: CSAT surveys are effective six months before subscription renewal, providing a good checkpoint to assess customer satisfaction. Triggering CSAT surveys on a time-based schedule ensures a continuous feedback loop and helps monitor customer sentiment regularly.
  • After customer support interactions: CSAT is valuable after customer support or education touchpoints, such as demos, troubleshooting, or follow-up interactions. That way you can make targeted improvements on key activities that drive first-time or repeat purchases.

Mistakes to Avoid

Customer satisfaction surveys are often an afterthought for customers as they tend to hang up immediately after a support message.

It’s a good idea to offer an easy incentive such as a 5% discount on the next purchase to get them to follow through with the post-call survey.

Otherwise, there’s a good chance that mostly customers with bad experiences would take the time to complete the survey, which isn’t indicative of your call agent performance.

It’s also a good idea to set up multiple channels for collecting feedback, such as sending surveys via email.

This ensures that even if callers don’t complete the survey on the call, they can still complete it via email.

Benchmark 3: Average Handling Time

Average Handling Time (AHT) shows how much time an agent takes to finish one customer interaction.

Generally, it includes the hold time, agent talk time, and the after call task time.

While it’s a bit more nuanced than this, a simplified way of looking at AHT is it shows how quickly agents can solve problems, which ultimately leads to reduced wait times for customers. The shorter the AHT, the more efficiently the agent is taking care of customer issues.

The (Non) Industry Standard

The benchmark for AHT varies significantly based on the source, with some reports indicating an average of 10 minutes.

We think that’s way too long, and your team’s AHT should be around 6 minutes. Most basic queries can be done in just a few minutes. These are the types of repeat questions and issues that agents should be well versed in handling.

However, like we mentioned above, there’s a ton of nuance here. Do you want your agents to speed through complex issues just to reduce their AHT? Absolutely not.

Additionally, the metric varies significantly based on the industry and company size.

Why You Should Use It (and When)

??Understanding how long it usually takes to handle calls can reveal valuable insights into your contact center’s performance and customer satisfaction. For instance, analyzing these time estimates can help you:

  • Meet customer service expectations: Today’s customers want quick, even instant, support, and that’s why services like chatbots and live chat are gaining popularity. By keeping an eye on AHT, you can ensure you’re keeping up with customers’ expectations.
  • Turn your support calls into a revenue driver: Look at agent costs, including pay and benefits, and compare them to operational expenses. If your team takes a long time to handle tasks, and your service is costly, it’s time to think about ways to make things more efficient and profitable.
  • Discover internal bottlenecks: Often, the key to faster solutions lies in smooth communication and sharing ideas between different departments. Average handle time estimates can show where you need to improve processes, automate workflows, and encourage collaboration across different parts of your company.
  • Assess the product complexity: If you see that helping customers with a particular product takes more time than usual, you might decide to create more knowledge base tools or provide more agent training. Not only will AHT decrease, but the total number of calls regarding this issue may decrease as well.
  • Add or redistribute resources: If your company has extra resources but still isn’t reaching its goals, think about changing the schedules of the support team or giving them different tasks that suit their unique strengths. On the other hand, if you find out that your support team is having a hard time keeping up with more requests, you might want to consider hiring more people.

Generally, all call centers should be using AHT as part of their plan to monitor the overall performance and efficiency of their agents.

Mistakes to Avoid

AHT focuses on efficiency, but it may not reflect the quality of customer interactions. Emphasizing AHT alone could lead to rushed or incomplete resolutions, negatively impacting customer satisfaction.

Beyond that, AHT also doesn’t differentiate between simple and complex issues. Agents might (and should) take more time to address intricate problems, and penalizing them based solely on AHT may discourage thorough issue resolution. That’s why we always recommend focusing on prioritizing the first call resolution rate over the average handling time.

Benchmark 4: Call Abandonment Rate

The abandoned call percentage, or abandonment rate, shows how many callers give up and end the call before talking to a representative in a call center. It’s not just a performance metric; it’s also connected to customer satisfaction and success.

To calculate the call abandonment rate, simply follow this formula:

[Number of calls abandoned / total number of calls] x 100% = Abandonment Rate.

The (Non) Industry Standard

In the call center industry, the typical benchmark for the call abandon rate is 5%. Generally, having a call abandonment rate below 5% is considered good. It’s also acceptable if the rate falls between 5% and 10%, but anything over 10% is too high.

The abandonment rate can vary based on factors like the industry, reason for the call, type of business, time of day, and day of the week. Most call centers with high customer satisfaction aim for a call abandonment rate of 3% or less.

It’s important to note that false abandoned call rates, which occur within the first 10 seconds of a call, make up about 2% of call volume.

Why You Should Use It (and When)

Finding out why calls are being abandoned isn’t just about reducing the number of hang-ups. It’s a way to make the whole call center work better, improve how customers move through the system, and uplevel the customer experience.

Here are common reasons for calls being abandoned:

  • Long wait times: Nobody likes waiting on hold forever. If a customer can’t schedule a call back at a time that suits them, they might hang up and not call again.
  • Lack of/poor IVR system: The system that asks you to press a specific button or speak to get transferred to the right department should be easy to navigate. If it’s confusing, customers might hang up. Having no system at all can be a problem, too.
  • Technical issues: Problems with the technology, like bad call quality, can also result in hang ups.
  • Lack of follow-up: If customers have to call again and again about the same problem and don’t see any improvement, they might give up. Having a good plan for following up and calling back can lower the number of abandoned calls.

Generally, abandonment rates should be measured across the board for all types of call centers.

Mistakes to Avoid

Call abandonment rates only tell you how many people are abandoning the line. It doesn’t tell you the reason.

Don’t make the mistake of relying on this benchmark without doing your investigation into why abandoned calls are happening. Look into factors like long wait times, technical issues, and a confusing IVR system.

Benchmark 5: Agent Effort Score

Agent Effort Score (AES) is a key measure in call centers that shows how easily agents can help customers. AES helps you find out where agents face difficulties that may affect their ability to provide excellent support. It’s the only metric that gives a view of agent performance from the agent’s point of view.

To figure out AES, send a survey to agents and ask them to rate how easy it is for them to support customers. Then, add up all the scores and divide the total by the number of agents who responded. This gives a simple but insightful way to understand how agents feel about the ease of supporting customers.

The (Non) Industry Standard

There isn’t an industry standard for an AES, but this one isn’t rocket science. You want agents to feel confident and comfortable in handling just about all issues.

When agents aren’t confident, it shows in the numbers. Calls are delayed due to longer hold times as agents try to find solutions.

Why You Should Use It (and When)

Unlike many other metrics that focus on customer feedback, AES taps into the agent’s viewpoint, offering insights into their experiences and the ease with which they can assist customers. This metric is important because it sheds light on potential obstacles that agents encounter, helping identify areas for improvement in training, processes, or tools.

AES is particularly valuable when used to assess and enhance the overall effectiveness of a call center. By regularly incorporating AES into performance evaluations, managers can pinpoint issues affecting agent morale and productivity, leading to targeted improvements that contribute to a more positive work environment.

Beyond that, AES can be especially useful during periods of change or when implementing new systems, allowing managers to gauge the impact on agent experience and make informed adjustments for optimal performance and customer satisfaction.

Mistakes to Avoid

Like many of the survey benchmarks here, AES relies on the subjective responses from agents. Call center managers should be aware of potential bias in self-assessment and look to gain a large sample size before drawing conclusions.

Additionally, you want to go one step beyond the survey and actually speak with agents so you can understand which questions they’re getting stumped on and what kinds of issues take the most time to resolve.

After getting feedback from agents through the surveys, it’s important to act on what you learn.

For instance, if agents mention they struggle to find helpful answers for issues they don’t have as much knowledge on, investing in a quality knowledge base solution could be a solid solution.

Ultimately, AES is a workforce management metric to help guide your employee training and make sure your agents have access to the resources they need to do their job.

Benchmark 6: Percentage of Calls Blocked

Percentage of calls blocked is a way to measure the amount of incoming calls that don’t get through to an agent because your phone system intentionally disconnects them. This happens automatically when there are too many incoming calls, going beyond a limit set by your business.

Instead of reaching a contact center agent, the customer hears a busy tone. Ideally, they also get a recorded message explaining why they can’t get service at that moment.

This metric counts how many people calling in hear a busy tone. Here’s why this might happen:

  • There aren’t enough available agents or no call queues are set up (or they’re full), leading to callers getting a busy signal or going straight to voicemail.
  • The call center software isn’t ready to handle the high number of incoming calls.

The (Non) Industry Standard

There’s no industry standard here, but you should try to keep the percentage of blocked calls under 2%.

If the number of blocked calls is high, it could mean your business is losing potential sales because customers can’t connect with you. You may also lose existing customers due to the frustration of not being able to get quick access to live support.

Why You Should Use It (and When)

Use the percentage of blocked calls to understand if your call center has enough resources to handle the incoming call volume. If the percentage is high, it may indicate a need to scale up capacity.

As a result, a high percentage suggests that customers are having a hard time reaching your business, which reflects poorly on your brand.

Mistakes to Avoid

Like most of the metrics mentioned, the percentage of blocked calls won’t tell you the reason why it’s happening.

A sudden spike in blocked calls might be due to unexpected events or marketing campaigns rather than a permanent capacity issue. Managers should consider the context and assess whether the increase is temporary or indicative of a sustained problem.

In addition, not all calls have the same priority. Blocking outbound telemarketing calls may have different implications than blocking customer service calls. Managers should differentiate between call types to better understand the impact on business goals.

Benchmark 7: Average Time in Queue

Average wait time, or average speed of answer (ASA), is the average time it takes for a customer’s call to be picked up by an agent once they’re in the waiting line. It doesn’t count the time the customer spends pressing buttons in the phone menu (IVR), but it does include the time they’re waiting in the queue and the phone is ringing until an agent answers their call.

Essentially, it’s a measure of how long customers typically have to wait before talking to a real person.

To calculate this metric, you just take the total time customers spent waiting for calls that were answered by an agent and divide it by the total number of calls that got answered. It gives you a simple way to figure out, on average, how long customers are waiting before their calls are picked up by an agent.

The (Non) Industry Standard

The typical service level goal is known as 80/20, meaning agents aim to answer 80% of calls within 20 seconds. By examining data on call abandonment and customer satisfaction, we can determine a suitable average wait time (AWT) standard for good customer service.

On average, customers abandon calls after waiting for about two and a half minutes. We recommend that you should aim to answer calls within two minutes. Waiting one to two minutes isn’t a huge deal for most customers. But anything beyond that can get frustrating quickly, which can lead to hangups.

Why You Should Use It (and When)

What’s considered a good wait time for callers depends on various factors. For businesses like food delivery services, long wait times are a big no-no. (Hungry people want their food.)

However, for less urgent matters, slightly longer waits might be acceptable.

Even with these differences, businesses focused on customers should always be on the lookout for ways to improve the customer journey. If your ASA is higher than the norm, simple improvements in your system can go a long way.

For instance, using customer-centric call center features like skills-based routing helps match the right agent with the right issue, speeding up the average time it takes to answer calls.

Mistakes to Avoid

While reducing average wait times is generally positive, managers should also assess the impact on overall customer satisfaction. You don’t want your agents rushing through calls just to get to the next customer and rush through that interaction, too.

Also, you may want to differentiate between urgent and non-urgent matters. For businesses with time-sensitive services, a short wait time may be vital, while customers with less urgent inquiries may tolerate longer wait times. Understanding the urgency levels helps you set appropriate benchmarks.

How to Start Tracking Your Call Center Benchmarks

Gone are the days of having to track call center benchmarks with manual call logs, customer surveys, or quality assurance checks. These methods are incredibly tedious and often don’t give you a clear or accurate picture of what’s really going on with your call center.

By far, the easiest way to track metrics is to use call center software. It’s a tool that helps businesses handle a high volume of outbound and inbound calls. It automatically performs certain tasks such as routing calls, triggering prerecorded FAQ answers, collecting caller information, and transferring calls to the right agent.

On top of that, it offers a treasure trove of data. Inside the dashboard, you’ll get real-time analytics to call stats that can help you run your call center more efficiently.

That said, you’ll want to look for call center software with the right features, such as:

  • Performance visibility: Modern KPI monitoring tools let managers see what’s happening in the call center right away. They can help you notice call center trends so you can quickly fix issues if there’s a problem. Customer experience management platforms come with clear dashboards that show KPI data in a simple and easy-to-understand way.
  • AI-driven data analytics: Using advanced data analytics and reporting tools for customer service provides useful insights, helping organizations make their customer support processes smoother. As a result, call center managers are able to make smarter choices and create strategies to boost agent productivity, make customers happier, and improve overall efficiency.
  • Agent performance optimization: Tracking KPIs helps call centers assess how each agent is doing and find areas for improvement. Managers can then provide special coaching, training, and recognition based on this information, ultimately enhancing agent engagement and retention.
  • Real-time monitoring: This helps you spot emerging issues and take proactive steps to solve them. Additionally, customer service solutions powered by AI enable agents to keep an eye on customer-related KPIs in real-time, addressing problems before they become bigger.
  • Omnichannel customer management: Today’s call centers manage interactions through various channels like phone calls, emails, social media, and live chat, using comprehensive omnichannel customer service solutions. A top-notch solution with strong omnichannel abilities gives your agents a complete view of client interactions across all touchpoints.

For all these reasons and more, we recommend Nextiva as the best call center software on the market. Nextiva connects with popular CRMs, allowing you to sync your data across platforms. Beyond that, you can really dig deep into the trenches and track just about any call center performance metric, allowing you to increase profits and deliver better results for your clients.

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