The Gist

  • CX importance. Customer experience drives loyalty and higher revenue.
  • KPI impact. Call center KPIs directly influence caller experience and satisfaction.
  • Balancing act. Managing conflicting KPIs is essential for optimizing call center performance.

Customer experience continues to be a key contributor to business success and growth. Study after study shows that a good CX not only helps foster loyalty, but also contributes to a higher revenue — with 86% of customers reporting they would pay more for exceptional customer experiences.

And a big part of delivering an optimal CX is solid communication.  

This is where call center key performance indicators (KPIs) come in, as they help you quantify the effectiveness and efficiency of your operations. So, you can craft the best experience for your customers. 

Let’s get into it.

Call Center KPIs and How They Affect Customer Experience

Call center KPIs are metrics that allow you to measure the performance of your call center operations and call handling methods. They are essential for tracking the overall success of your voice communication services and ensuring you reach your business goals.

On top of that, call center KPIs also give you a deeper insight into the caller’s experience and customer satisfaction (CSAT) levels. And this is because you can use these metrics to measure aspects of customer interactions that have a profound impact on their overall experience with your company.

James Wilkinson, CEO of Balance One Supplements, speaks to this idea:

“There is a strong relationship between call center KPIs and customer satisfaction. For example, if agents are unable to resolve customer inquiries on the first call (low First Call Resolution), it may result in longer wait times or multiple calls, leading to decreased satisfaction.”

As such, tracking call center KPIs is a must for businesses since they reveal your call center’s wins and areas in need of improvement. With this information, you can optimize your service and improve caller experience across the board, leading to higher customer satisfaction and retention rates.

Related Article: What Is a Call Center? How They Work

Which Call Center KPIs Impact Caller Experience?

Since caller experience is part of the customer experience, you need to pay attention to your KPIs and how they impact your callers. 

Now, one could argue that all call center KPIs affect caller experience in one way or another. And there are certain metrics that directly measure customer experience such as Customer Effort Score (CES), CSAT and so on. 

But, let’s narrow our focus on three call center metrics that directly impact caller experience and are more in your control — because these KPIs specifically focus on your call handling and will contribute to customer experience as a whole.

First Call Resolution (FCR):  Measures the percentage of calls where agents fully resolved a customer’s needs or questions on the first attempt. In other words, no callbacks, escalations, or repeat calls required. 

Adam Saad, founder and CEO of Tech Stack Advising, says, “Typically First Call Resolution (FCR) is the leading indicator of CSAT…because it means the customer was able to get their issue resolved with only calling one time, and getting connected to one customer service agent. It’s very important. The higher the FCR, the higher the CSAT.”

Average Handling Time (AHT): Tracks the average time of your agent’s calls, from the moment an agent answers until the call disconnects. 

Calvin Kim, CEO of Coverland, explains AHT’s effect on CX, “When the AHT is too low, staff may be rushing customers through the service without giving them the attention they deserve. On the other hand, if the AHT is too high, it means that the customer is not receiving service quickly enough, which can be detrimental to customer satisfaction.”

Average Speed of Answer (ASA) / Average Waiting Time / Average Time in Queue: Goes by many names and records the amount of time callers spent waiting on hold before their call was handled. 

Robert Dwyer, VP of customer engagement at Customer Direct, comments, “No one likes hearing, 'Your estimated wait time is 30 minutes.' In fact, a good ASA is typically measured in seconds, not minutes. This is critical because long wait times can not only frustrate customers with urgent issues, but they can also cause them to reach out on different channels (chat, email, social media, etc.) which could end up with agents duplicating efforts, exacerbating the issue.”

The Biggest Challenge of Managing These KPIs

There are many challenges when it comes to managing call center KPIs. Simply choosing which metrics to focus on is difficult because of the sheer number of existing data points. And the act of improving your KPIs? That's a challenge in and of itself!

But, when looking at even just the 3 metrics mentioned above, there’s one struggle that stands out from the rest — balancing conflicting KPIs. In other words, achieving improvements in one KPI may have a negative impact on another metric or business goal.

Lisa Richards, CEO and creator of the Candida Diet, explains further:

“Conflicting KPIs can arise when two or more KPIs are interdependent and have opposing goals, making it challenging to optimize performance without sacrificing one KPI over the other. 

For example…[AHT] can impact the number of calls that representatives can handle in a given time period, which can affect overall efficiency. However, shorter AHTs may lead to lower quality calls, which can impact customer satisfaction. In this case, the call center must balance the conflicting goals of shorter handle times for efficiency and higher-quality calls for customer satisfaction.”

Although there’s no one way to overcome this issue, here are some call center tips to help you face this challenge head-on:

  1. Identify Your Business Objectives: Understanding your business objectives allows you to better prioritize metrics that are most critical to achieving your goals.
  2. Determine Conflicting KPIs: Identifying conflicting KPIs helps you understand the trade-offs that may be necessary to optimize call center performance.
  3. Prioritize KPIs: Focusing on call center KPIs that have the greatest impact on your goals enables you to direct your resources on the most critical areas of your operations.

Best Practices for KPI Management and Improvement

No matter what metrics you choose to measure or what challenges you face, there are a few best practices you can follow to set your business up for success and improve your target call center KPIs.

But before we jump in — it’s important to note that to improve your KPIs you must start by improving aspects of your service like agent performance and management techniques. 

Dwyer from Customer Direct, further elaborates, “...Metrics are simply representations of behaviors. You cannot coach a metric but you can coach behaviors that will lead to metric improvement. Just like saying “swim faster” will not make someone a better swimmer, saying “get your AHT down” will not make for more efficient customer interactions.”

With that in mind, let’s look at some best practices that will help you better manage your KPIs and enhance your service — with the ultimate goal of improving your metrics and CX. 

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: Call Centers: What You Can Do to Meet Customer Expectations

Measure Up to 10 KPIs at a Time 

Business management author and founder of The Table Group, Patrick Lencioni, said it best, “If everything is important, then nothing is.” And this concept applies here. With 30+ call center metrics to choose from, it’s vital to prioritize the ones that make sense for your business goals. This way, your teams can focus on improving the KPIs that matter most. So, instead of tracking a laundry list of metrics, pick up to 10 KPIs to measure and improve at a time. Or select 3 to 4 KPIs to measure per goal. 

Continuously Monitor Call Center KPIs and Adjust 

No business or call center operation stays the same forever. They are dynamic, meaning performance can change rapidly. So, you need to continuously monitor call center KPIs. Consider using real-time monitoring software so you can identify potential service issues and make adjustments quickly. And as your business or team grows, don’t forget to periodically adjust KPI targets to reflect changes in goals or customer needs. 

Communicate KPI Goals to Your Team

Your teams can’t work toward a common goal if they don’t know what it is. Communicate your target KPI goals to all agents and make sure they’re realistic and achievable. Don’t forget to explain why you want to improve a certain metric and associate it with a larger business goal. This simple step gives your teams a clear purpose and motivates them to achieve the objective. 

Keep Your Focus on CX 

Yes, it is possible to focus too heavily on call center KPIs. Don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal — to deliver a positive customer experience. You’re trying to improve target KPIs to improve CSAT. Remember, CSAT is the goal and improving KPIs is one way to get there. If an agent’s handling time increases because they are ensuring the customer is happy, that’s still a win.

Alan Superfine, VP of operations and service delivery at GlowTouch, agrees with this point, “...Average handle time can vary based on the complexity of the customer’s issue. The call may take longer than the prescribed length, but if the customer hangs up happy, then CSAT is likely to be in the particularly good to excellent range.”

Empower Your Agents 

Instead of expecting new hires to “hit the ground running” or throwing agents to the wolves, give your teams the tools and guidance they need to be successful in a customer-facing role. 

And this means:

  • Providing ongoing support and training opportunities, so agents gain essential knowledge, skills and even confidence in their role. 
  • Saying goodbye to micro-management and hello to giving your teams the autonomy to go off script, make decisions and take action when needed. 
  • Setting clear and realistic expectations including specific goals and metrics.
  • Offering feedback and recognition whenever warranted, so agents know when they need to improve AND when they are succeeding. 

By empowering agents to take ownership of their roles, you’ll foster a more effective workforce — meaning you can hit your target call center KPIs. And if you apply these strategies, you’ll also notice a more engaged and motivated workforce, higher job satisfaction, improved productivity, and overall better business results. 

Create Customer-Centric Training Programs

As part of your ongoing employee training and support, set up customer-centric training programs to help employees understand customer needs and how to meet those needs effectively. 

Consider covering the following topics and concepts:

  • Top customer pain points.
  • Target audience and buyer personas.
  • Proactive customer support.
  • Relationship building.
  • Empathy in customer service.
  • Adding value at each touchpoint and so on. 

With this knowledge, your teams can better address customer pain points, personalize interactions, and ensure positive experiences at every step — all leading to improved KPIs. 

Implement Effective Call Handling Tools

Your team is not the only thing that affects call handling metrics and caller experience. The technology and handling strategies you have in place also have a large impact on CX. And this could be for better or worse, depending on how you implement them. 

Here are some call center technologies that help streamline the caller’s experience from the get-go:

  • Hosted IVR systems automatically answer inbound calls and help callers reach the right department — resulting in lower hold times and quicker resolutions for customers. 
  • Advanced call routing software allows you to route incoming calls according to your needs. So, if your call volume spikes during a certain time, you can forward overflow calls to one of your backup teams, relieving the pressure from your teams.
  • CRM platforms help you record and manage interactions with customers and prospects. So, you can track the caller’s previous interactions and reach a resolution faster. 

Analyze Calls Using Call Recording

In addition to the tools mentioned above, call recording also comes in handy. This feature allows you to listen to recorded business calls, meaning you can monitor and analyze them to find areas of improvement. And, it gives you an opportunity to learn more about your customers, and why they call your business. So, you can work toward improving your call center KPIs. 

Establish a Positive Call Center Culture

Establishing a positive call center culture not only leads to happier employees, but also happier customers.  And this is because happy, content, and engaged agents are more likely to perform better and deliver excellent customer experiences. So, you can reach those KPI goals. 

In addition to empowering your employees, you can develop a positive culture by:

  • Promoting open communication.
  • Recognizing your team’s achievements both individually and collectively.
  • Acting on agent feedback.
  • Providing a comfortable and supportive work environment.

Wrapping Up: Prioritize Caller Experience, Optimize KPIs

And there you have it! 

Tracking call center KPIs helps you identify areas of improvement and take proactive measures to enhance the overall customer experience. By prioritizing caller experience and continuously optimizing KPIs, call centers can not only meet but exceed customer expectations. And this leads to increased loyalty, brand advocacy, and ultimately, business growth.

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