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Balancing Your Call Center KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Balance your call center KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). 'Weigh Scale' photo (c) 2009, haven't the slightest - license: It’s all about managing trade-offs.  There is no single blueprint for building a successful company, and there is no such thing as a perfect way to always do anything. It’s all about recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of your company, and the opportunities and threats around it, and then making the best of all of them.

As a part of doing this, organizations use many different strategies in order to differentiate themselves from the competition:

  • Some companies focus entirely on quality, offering premium products and services at higher than normal prices.
  • Others take the opposite approach, appealing to the frugal consumer by offering very basic products or services at rock bottom prices.
  • Some companies focus on technological innovation, producing the most up-to-date, technically advanced products and services to help them stand out.
  • Others try to appeal exclusively to a very specific market segment, and offer niche products or services to generate sales.
  • Yet others attempt to do several of these things at once, and end up falling somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, either establishing a comfortable position or getting lost in the crowd.

No matter what strategy a company adopts to help them stand out, there will be unique balances that must be considered. Such trade-offs must also be taken into account when managing a call center.

Two of the most common call center Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) often in direct conflict are Average Handle Time (the average length of the calls) and First Call Resolution (the percentage of calls that saw an issue completely resolved, with no follow-up calls made).

Many businesses emphasize a low average handle time because it can drive down overall call center costs.  Logically, the quicker an agent can get through a call and move onto the next one, the more calls he or she will be able to handle during a work shift, and the fewer agents a company will have to employ overall.

However, focusing entirely on average handle time can be a problem if other performance metrics suffer.  By being rushed through a call, a customer may not feel his or her issue was entirely resolved, and may need to call back later, resulting in poorer first call resolution statistics.  It may also cause the customer to become annoyed with the company, starting down a slide that no one enjoys.

To help manage your call center trade-offs and determine an appropriate level for these various KPIs, first have a clear idea as to what type of business you are running.

If your company operates on very slim margins, or if customer relationships or repeat business are not critically important to your company’s strategy, then it might be a viable business tactic to focus primarily on a low average handle time, to help bring down your call center costs. However, if your company offers subscription-based services or depends heavily on customers making repeat purchases, establishing a strong relationship with the consumer base is absolutely critical.  In such cases, first call resolution becomes much more important. A focus on maintaining a low Abandon Rate (the number of calls that hang up before connecting to an agent) and a high Service Level (the number of calls answered within a certain number of seconds) would also be strategic.

No matter what type of business you operate, understanding your customers’ needs and how to best meet them will help you balance your call center’s KPIs, and turn your customers into BFFs!

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