Organizations must measure and report contact center agents' productivity and effectiveness to ensure the contact center resolves customer inquiries effectively.
Contact centers have several internal systems such as automated call distributors, workforce management software and quality monitoring software that agents can use to monitor and report progress and performance. When call center directors identify key metrics to measure agent performance, they should address the following two critical questions:
- Can the agent control the metric? Management teams should measure agents on metrics they can control. That is why metrics like average speed of answer and service level are not good indicators of an agent's productivity. Too many other factors, such as the pattern of incoming calls, can affect these metrics.
- Does holding the agent accountable for a metric create behavior that is not in the customer's best interest? It may drive agents to rush calls and not resolve a customer's issue. This is why management teams must take care when they measure an agent's average handle time (AHT).
Call center directors must use a balanced scorecard to measure productivity and quality as they analyze an agent's performance.
Call center management teams can follow this list of key metrics to measure and report contact center agent performance.
1. Average handle time
AHT refers to the amount of time an agent spends interacting with a customer and measures productivity. If management teams place too much emphasis on AHT, it may cause agents to rush callers off the phone before they resolve callers' issues.
Customers want their problems handled and resolved efficiently, but they do not want to feel rushed. Management teams must look at agents who are outliers of the contact center's AHT -- either higher or lower -- to ensure those agents effectively handle customer interactions.
To dive deeper into AHT, call center directors should monitor and analyze three key components.
Average talk time
Talk time measures the amount of time an agent speaks with a caller. The length of individual phone calls varies, but, over time, it settles to an average.
Management teams should analyze agents whose average talk time deviates from the call center's average. Teams can measure talk time with call monitoring tools to determine whether the agent rushes callers off the phone without resolving the customer issue -- low talk time -- or if they struggle to control the call's flow or desktop tools, resulting in a high talk time.
Average hold time
Hold time measures how much time callers spend on hold. If agents put callers on hold often, those agents may not know the answers to callers' questions and have to research them. Alternatively, they may struggle to toggle between multiple systems. Additional training, improved access to resources and simpler systems integrations can help resolve these challenges.
In general, customers do not like when agents place them on hold for an extended time and may perceive their time on hold as longer than the actual amount of time.
Average after-call work time
After-call work time measures how much time an agent performs tasks after they complete a phone call.
Improving processes and technology may reduce after-call work time. Examples include enabling agents to fax documents from the desktop and auto-generation of case notes and emails or letters to customers.
2. Quality monitoring
Quality monitoring occurs when quality assurance teams or supervisors listen in on agent phone calls and score them on multiple factors, including customer interaction, problem resolution and adherence to policy and procedure. The most effective quality monitoring occurs when a supervisor has access to a call's audio recording and a recording of the agent's screen interactions.
Quality monitoring results may not correlate to customer satisfaction, but the results can identify where agents may require coaching, feedback and additional training to reach proficiency.
Management teams must evaluate two critical elements in quality monitoring to identify where agents may require additional training: call control and first contact resolution.
During call monitoring, the quality analyst or supervisor should determine how well the agent controlled the call's flow. Some tough calls might take more time, which is fine if the agent needed the time to resolve the caller's issue.
If an agent controls the call's flow well, AHT is lower, which improves efficiency.
First contact resolution
During call monitoring, the quality analyst or supervisor should determine whether agents did everything within their power to follow policy and procedure to resolve callers' issues.
Sometimes, an agent can't fully resolve a caller's issue because of policy and procedure. The supervisor shouldn't mark down the agent as a result. Sometimes, a caller may have to call back with additional information before the resolution. From a departmental perspective, this initial call would not be the first contact resolution. Yet, from the agent's perspective, everything was done correctly.
3. Customer satisfaction
Agents can track customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction scores should focus on the key elements of customer interactions, such as agent politeness, courtesy and effectiveness, which are within the agent's control.
If management teams can dissect customer satisfaction scores at a more granular level -- e.g., by call type -- they may discover opportunities to provide additional agent training to handle specific call types.
4. Schedule adherence
Schedule adherence measures how well agents adhere to their schedules. For this metric, management teams should ensure agents arrive and leave on time and take their scheduled breaks.
When agents adhere to their schedules, they can contribute to the department and meet critical service-level agreements, such as average speed of answer and service level.
5. Dial transfer rate
The dial transfer rate measures how often an agent passes interactions to other individuals. Management teams may struggle to target this number, as policy and procedure drive many dial transfers.
Like other metrics, management teams should identify outliers to determine whether they require additional training or call monitoring.
6. Unavailable time
Unavailable time is when agents place themselves in a status where they cannot answer incoming calls. Management teams must separate this status from agents' break times or training periods to identify when agents are unavailable to work with customers, yet management expects their availability.
Call center directors should set a predefined amount of unavailable time for agents, but agents cannot abuse this time.
7. Agent occupancy
Agent occupancy measures the time agents are on calls or perform after-call work during their shifts.
Management teams should avoid using agent occupancy as a performance metric because many items outside of agent control can affect it -- e.g., call flow and volume, scheduling efficiency, etc. Instead, management teams can use agent occupancy as an indicator of burnout. High occupancy levels -- e.g., over 85% -- indicate that continuous phone calls may overwhelm agents, leading to reduced efficiency and burnout.
When management teams analyze call center agent performance, these metrics can provide a balanced evaluation and ensure agents effectively resolve customer issues in a cost-effective manner. Follow-ups occur after management teams evaluate the metrics. Follow-ups include coaching, training and recognition to ensure management teams address performance gaps and reward outstanding results.