Underutilized Metrics
Illustration by Jean-Philippe Cabaroc

We have a great many data points at our disposal in contact centers. The best ones, though, are not necessarily those that are the most convenient or the most obvious. The measure of a good key performance indicator is tied to the action that it promotes. When it helps us make good decisions and build stronger support processes, then we know we found one worth the time required to socialize it into our centers. The following are three metrics that are rarely used but which really should be in your portfolio of closely monitored key performance indicators.

Contacts per Customer

Who do we attract as customers? How do we promote contact center services? How highly regarded is our service? The answers all affect the number of contacts you will receive per customer.

Tracking this metric helps you to understand the answers to the previous questions, but its value goes far beyond this information. Frequency of contact determines how much a customer is willing to invest in your service. For example, you may want your customers to handle basic inquiries via web or IVR self-service applications. Customers calling you frequently may view this as a worthwhile investment and will take the time needed to learn these tools. Those calling you once a year, however, have no reason to make the effort—why spend 10 minutes learning a self-service application when an agent can get you the answer in five? The contact per customer metric offers insight that touches many of the processes and responses that are used constantly in your center.

To get the most from this metric, don’t stop at a simple average. Use your CRM system to determine the percent of customers who contact you once, twice, three times a year, etc. It is those in the four times and above (annually) that fall into the “frequent flier” category where familiarity swings in your favor.

Cost per Second of AHT

Knowing the cost of a second of handle time empowers contact center leaders (and those in other departments) to make better-informed decisions. For example, many centers are asked to capture customer email addresses during an inbound call. The information is generally used for marketing reasons, often under the assumption that there is no cost to the effort (after all, we are not increasing call volume, right?). If you listen to calls, though, you will quickly notice that it takes anywhere from 5 to 20 seconds to have this question asked and answered. That may not seem like much, but in larger centers the cost for a second of handle time could easily be $50,000 or more. That means that more than a half-million dollars per year in a larger center could be spent attempting to get this information. That may be a worthwhile investment… or maybe not. It all depends on what is done with the information. Once we know the number, though, we can easily get to the answer. Simply ask the Marketing VP to cover the cost. The response will indicate if it is a worthwhile investment.

Percentage of Calls Held

I know… tracking the percentage of calls placed on hold by an agent seems like a very low-level, tactical statistic. Yet it is a metric directly tied to an agent action, and it occurs at a time when we are engaged with the customer. It has serious implications on both cost and customer satisfaction. And while placing a caller on hold is far preferable to providing a quick but incorrect (or incomplete) answer, the better outcome is to provide the right answer without utilizing hold.

Looking at this number on an agent level provides important insight. It helps a frontline leader to understand skill levels on a deeper level than a quality rate can provide. Good quality with a low hold percent means the agent is not only effective, but is also confident and efficient. Good quality with a high hold rate means there is more opportunity to improve.

The percent of calls held can provide arguably more value at an organizational level. The importance of the metric can be seen at the breadth of information it can convey:

  • By affecting handle time, it in part drives total staffing needs and operational costs
  • By affecting the customer experience, it is a factor in customer satisfaction rates and potentially sales per call and loyalty
  • It is an indicator of how effective our training programs are
  • It is an indicator of how efficiently we have designed knowledge management systems
  • It is an indicator of how well we are coaching our agents

Most centers have this metric at hand, but few use it as a tool for improvement. In many cases, placing a call on hold is viewed as a “necessary evil”—calls are more complex these days, and the more difficult ones are simply going to require some research. While that may be true, the goal here is not to eliminate hold, nor do we want agents to feel they must avoid it (which means that we should not put the number in front of agents and set individual goals regarding it). We want agents to feel that they don’t have to use it because they are confident that they have the right answer.