Operations ManagementTrends

A Better Way To Measure Success In Your Contact Center

Bob Furniss is the Director of Bluewolf’s Service Cloud Practice
Bob Furniss is the Director of Bluewolf’s Service Cloud Practice

Metrics have always been a staple of the contact center industry. Most leaders are never far away from a report or dashboard with historical or real-time data. In my role as consultant, I have the opportunity to engage with many industry leaders and discuss the value of metrics and analytics in the contact center. During our conversations, I often hear questions like, “What are the right metrics to measure?” “What are other companies measuring?” and “How do we make what we measure actionable?”

“Organizations need the ability to blend case-specific data with more traditional metrics. The goal is to understand the entire experience as it relates to customer service.”

With the advent of many new channels (previously called multichannel), and the need to track a consistent experience across all of them (now called omnichannel), the scope of metrics only grows bigger each year. With the addition of effective CRM tools and the ability to track the customer experience across multiple channels via a single case path, there are countless new ways to measure success. But the question still remains: What are the right metrics?

Success metrics are often very specific to the business. A B2B company may define success differently than a B2C company. A support center that manages mostly transactional, technical inquiries may have a different set of metrics than a full-blown customer service organization that handles general questions from the customer. Metrics are even more complex when interactions include more than one channel. The key is to outline what your organization defines as success—and to find metrics that support those needs.

I believe there are three areas of measurement to consider: traditional contact center metrics, customer experience/customer journey metrics, and agent metrics.

Traditional Contact Center Metrics

Even in a world where new contact center measurements have become popular, there is still real value in understanding basic metrics like average handle time and occupancy rate. Traditionally, these were pulled from the telephony system and are still a valuable way to measure key aspects of the center. While there are many metrics that may be relevant to your success, service level, average handle time (across every channel) and occupancy should still be a part of every contact center.

And while these productivity metrics are valuable to managers, I have been a longtime advocate of not sharing average handle time with the frontline agent, since it often puts pressure directly on the agent to reduce it. I believe it is our role as leaders to provide integrated systems that allow agents to be more efficient—and not their role as agents to find shortcuts to reduce handle time. I remember walking into a contact center several years ago where a small sign read, “Yesterday’s average talk time=136.8 seconds—Great Job!” I immediately wondered, “Why would someone measure to a tenth of a second?” My fears were confirmed when I heard an agent ask a caller if she could call them back. She said, “My manager expects our calls to be as quick as possible, and this one is running a little long. Can I call you back so I don’t get dinged?”

The agent had been programmed to worry more about the length of the call than the quality of the call. While supervisors should coach an agent when their averages are outside the mean (and short calls are often just as bad as long calls), the discussion should be about the nuance of the call path and not about the metric itself. Telling someone to talk less almost always leads to poor customer experience. While there are many metrics relevant to your success, I think there are three that are typically a part of every center: service level, average handle time (across every channel) and occupancy.

Customer Experience/Customer Journey Metrics

As companies begin to integrate new channels, it becomes even more important to be able to track the entire customer journey—not just specific “siloed” interactions. Organizations need the ability to blend case-specific data with more traditional metrics. The goal is to understand the entire experience as it relates to customer service. If the customer uses self-service to open a case, sends an email to ask a question about it, calls later to provide additional information, and lastly tweets about the positive (or negative) experience, our goal should be to tie all of that data together into one experience or journey. We need to work to understand gaps and issues within our process.

We recently worked with a client with a particularly complex process who brought this data together using the Salesforce Service Cloud platform and the Salesforce Partner app, Cronsights. The client was surprised to find that a large percentage of their “journeys” were taking 11 to 14 “siloed” interactions to solve. While each interaction might be noted as “first-call resolution,” we discovered that was not really the case—and the experience was not acceptable.

This brings us to the four key metrics that we believe should drive customer experience: first-contact resolution, customer effort, customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score.


Considered by many as the only metric that matters, first-contact resolution (FCR) is a great way to understand customer success. As consumers, we hate contacting a company more than once to resolve the same issue. FCR allows customer service professionals to understand if problems are being solved quickly. It can also signify ineffective training, unsuccessful knowledge bases, and a lack of agent coaching.

“The agent had been programmed to worry more about the length of the call than the quality of the call.”

There are several ways to measure FCR. Most companies start with a systematic approach—measuring things like case closure without reopening within a specific timeframe, or measuring when an agent marks a contact as a “second contact” about the same issue. To confirm they resolved a problem on the first contact, the best companies ask for direct confirmation from the customer, either while within the contact (verbally on a call, live in a chat, via a follow-up email, etc.) or via post-contact surveys.


Matthew Dixon, executive director of the Financial Services practice and Customer Contact Leadership Council at CEB, recommends that companies measure customer effort. In a world where all of us are moving faster than ever before, I think we can all see the value in working with a company that makes the customer experience easier.

To measure customer effort, break it down by channel type, contact type and by agent. In my opinion, customer effort is the No. 1 key measurement of a successful customer experience. The CEB offers a Customer Effort Score Starter Kit that can help you to benchmark your customer effort scores


Customer satisfaction has been a part of most contact centers for many years. This metric can be as simple as asking, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied were you with your latest interaction?” or you can expand the scope and ask, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with your overall customer service experience?” Some companies have replaced this metric with Net Promoter Score, but I think there is still room for overall satisfaction.


Simply put, Net Promoter Score looks at the question, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to your friends and colleagues (or family)?” I find this is a love/ hate metric. If the score is good, service professionals consider it a good measurement; but if it’s bad, they hate it and think it doesn’t tell the whole story. There are thousands of resources that focus on Net Promoter Scores (start with https://www.netpromoter.com/ know/).

Agent Metrics

When we think about agent metrics, we usually think about average handle time, average cases/interactions handled and schedule adherence. Agent metrics typically focus on the productivity of the agent, group or center overall. I believe there are several other metrics that can help measure whether we are providing the right tools and support to the agent to allow them to be successful.


Knowledge availability is a new metric designed to track how often agents can “find the right answer at the right time” to successfully solve customer issues. You’ll be able to both measure the success of your knowledge team and understand how well they are support your agents as they look for answers. If your business is complex (as most are), the agent’s frustration with not having solutions at their fingertips can greatly affect the next two metrics.


We hear a lot about customer satisfaction, but recent research shows that employee satisfaction directly impacts customer satisfaction. Researchers at the University of Missouri found that company executives who focused on their employees’ job satisfaction boosted customer satisfaction and even repeat business (“How Employer and Employee Satisfaction Affect Customer Satisfaction,” Journal of Service Research, bit.ly/1TeFHfM). They also found that the link between customer satisfaction and loyalty was nearly twice as strong when employees were highly satisfied with their jobs.

Christopher Groening, one of the researchers involved in the study, told Business News Daily, “We found that keeping your employees satisfied with their work experience, providing them with challenges, and allowing them to have a sense of ownership in the business can have a tremendous effect on customer satisfaction and loyalty.” Understanding the satisfaction of your employees especially the front line—is the first step.


Employee turnover is one worth considering. When looking at employee turnover, make sure that you note forced turnover (terminations) versus employees choosing to leave. If your turnover rate is high, it is critical to conduct agent surveys—with detailed questions—to understand why. But there must be action based on the results.

A New Path to Success

Contact centers are never short of data, metrics and measurements. But perhaps it is time to ask, “What are we measuring and why?” and “What changes have we made based on what we are measuring?”

New technology and new channels continue to require that contact centers adapt and change as they seek to improve customer service. With a renewed focus on customer-facing data, you’re sure to see a new path to action—and a new path to success.

Bob Furniss is the Director of Bluewolf’s Service Cloud Practice.

– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline, http://www.contactcenterpipeline.com

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