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Exploring U.S. call center industry standards

Read part two of this answer here: Measuring call center abandon rates

Our contact center in Australia uses a baseline metric of 80/20/5 against which agent performance is measured. This translates as 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds with five percent of calls abandoning. We manage both CRM and tactical campaigns for a range of clients both inbound and outbound in nature.

My questions are:

  1. What is the industry baseline or standard for US contact centers?
  2. What is the industry baseline or standard for non-voice channels contacts for US contact centers? Could you answer be broken down into each channel or web requests, web chat, email response, email acknowledgment and response.
  3. Do you know of any standards for the non voice channels in the Australian contact center environment?
  4. When measuring abandonment rates what is the most popular point at which the abandon is counted? Is it form 0.5 rings, 6-20 rings, 10 rings and above? Do you know of any US or other country standards for this?
  5. When measuring abandons can you advise if the abandon measure is also counted if the call is routing within an IVR solution or if the counting starts once queued to an agent?


What is the industry baseline or standard for US contact centers?

A: I'm sure you're not surprised to hear that there is no single answer for this. Depending on the type of contact center (sales, support, export help, etc.) and the vertical market (health care, manufacturing, retail, etc.) customers' willingness to wait changes dramatically. Hence the targeted performance metrics change as well. The best thing I can tell you is to contact an organization that specializes in compiling benchmark data. The ones I recommend are the Purdue University Center for Customer Drive Quality,  the International Call Center Benchmarking Consortium and the E-mail Benchmarking Association.

What is the industry baseline or standard for non-voice channels contacts for US contact centers? Please break your answer down into each channel or web requests, web chat, email response, email acknowledgment and response.

A: As with voice, it varies greatly by industry and reason for contact. But I'll give you what I can:

E-mail and web-requests: I am assuming that by "web requests" you are referring to web forms in which customers request information -- essentially the same thing as sending an e-mail. The industry norm in the U.S. right now is to respond within 24-48 hours. However, a couple of interesting notes: First, there are still a great number of companies that are responding to e-mail in more than 48 hours and no response at all is still very common. Second, studies of e-customers show that customers expect a response in less than 24 hours and best practices respond in less than four hours. Further, customers expect an instant automated response acknowledging receipt of the e-mail or web request. Companies that are ahead of the curve are using technology that includes an average time to respond in the automated acknowledgement -- telling the customer when to expect a response greatly increases customer satisfaction, even when that average time to respond is slow.

Web chat/web collaboration: Like voice calls, performance here is across the board. It is further complicated by the fact that so few web sites offer chat as a customer interaction channel (despite the positive impact it has on customer satisfaction and abandoned shopping carts). Again, I suggest seeking hard numbers from the resources I mentioned above -- but our experience has been that customers expect Web chat response equal to or faster than a voice call.

To read Part 2 of this Ask the Expert exchange,  please click here.

For more information, check out searchCRM's Call Center/Customer Interaction Center Best Web Links.


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