Call Center Efficiency

Call Center Efficiency

What is Call Center Efficiency?

Call center efficiency, or contact center operational efficiency, is a term used to describe when processes are flowing smoothly and costs remain at a minimum.  Doing more with less is a big focus for many customer experience executives. Targets are often set to measure the success of the business.  Eliminating inefficiencies and improving overall agent performance are the key objectives for any contact center because it drives customer experience, increases customer retention, and builds brand loyalty.  In a time where retaining loyal customers is critical, finding ways to create more agent efficient and optimized processes is top of mind for most companies.

Call Center Efficiency Metrics

Several  common contact center performance metrics can help you keep a pulse on your overall agent efficiency.  We recommend building visibility of these key metrics into your performance dashboards so everyone has a clear picture of the efficiency of the contact center. 

  • First contact resolution (FCR): FCR tracks whether contact center agents are able to resolve customer queries on the first call/ interaction or whether follow-up is necessary.  
  • Abandonment rate: Also known as abandon rate, this is the percentage of callers/ customers that hang up or leave a conversation before connecting to an agent.  This is a metric that will validate if your forecast is accurate by channel.  Watching this metric intraday will help you identify changes you need to make to drive agent to be more efficientcy. 
  • Response time: It is the average amount of time a customer service agent takes to respond to a customer interaction. It is often inversely related to the abandonment rate and is a great indicator if your staffing is optimized for the volume of interactions. 
  • Service level: This metric measures the percentage of customer interactions or the percentage of calls answered within stipulated periods of time.  Remember service level metrics are calculated very differently in asynchronous vs synchronous channels, so make sure you understand the goal per channel.  
  • Average First Answer Handle Time (AFAHT): When you are working in an omnichannel environment, it’s important to measure the average time it takes for the first answer to the customer.  Many times digital interactions may require multiple teams to help resolve, in order to plan efficiently, you need to understand the time it takes for the first answer of a customer.  

Customer satisfaction (CSAT): Customer experience is top of mind, and a great way to measure it is through a Customer Satisfaction score.  This can be measured through a survey, or can be a cumulation of customer satisfaction metrics that’s measured through a variety of quality processes.

Call Center Efficiency Formula

There is no silver bullet to calculating contact center efficiency because inefficiency could be lurking throughout many different areas of your business.  It could be within the IT department of your organization and impacting system navigation or system crashes.  It could be within your employees because there is a lack of understanding how critical efficiency is linked to customer experience.  It could be in your forecasting and scheduling processes because you are not using contact center performance metrics that are relevant across all of your channels to plan appropriately.  It could even be in your quality processes if you are still using manual processes to calibrate or dispute scoring, or even in choosing your sample and how you are scoring customer calls.  Understanding all of your core processes and looking for ways to automate any step will be the easiest ways to quickly impact your efficiency and drive a higher quality of service.

How to Improve Call Center Efficiency

Before you can make an attempt to improve it, you need to understand where your opportunities are for improvement are.  Since we are talking about efficiency, it would NOT be efficient to try to figure this out with humans. The best way to understand where your agent inefficiencies are is by using an automated analytics tool that will help analyze all of the conversations automatically and create topics or categories to help you identify indicators in bad processes or issues that are impacting customer experience.  For example, you may get a lot of inquiries about your website.  It could mean that the self-service you have established is not meeting the customer needs.  As a business this is an area to address to ensure the interaction volume reaching your staff is reduced and are the more complicated customer issues.   Another example is the software identifies that agents are placing customers on long periods of hold.  This could indicate there are issues finding a solution or that your systems are slow.  Regardless, These experiences create customer dissatisfaction and are inefficiencies your staff is encountering while trying to service your customers.

Now once, you have the insight, you will be able to hone into a few different areas of your business to optimize contact center efficiency. 

First, let’s look at your agent’s performance. As we discussed, there are many contact center metrics to measure the performance of your staff.  But let’s discuss some of the performance areas that may not be as visible.  First, let’s discuss your quality management processes.  Are you leveraging saved filters to help drive your interaction sampling?  Or better yet do you have automated rules to deliver the proper interaction sampling to your evaluators to eliminate the time it takes to search?  How about your calibration processes?  Are they fully automated, meaning you can share the interactions with all participants and deliver the proper scorecard and allow them to score individually? How are you delivering coaching and training material to your agents?  Is it automated based on their performance scores or does someone have to spend time finding the right material and reviewing with the agent? And finally do you give your agents a voice in the process, and can they express their feedback in a system, or is part of a discussion that probably never gets tracked?  These are all questions you should ask yourself to identify where automation in your quality processes can save you time, and money, and help drive better quality of customer service.  

Adherence to schedule is another area where you can identify agent inefficiencies.  If your staff are not working on the scheduled tasks, it’s typically one of two issues.  First you are not forecasting volume properly and they are needed to cover different types of interactions.  Or it’s taking them longer to help in the channel they are assigned, which is bleeding into other scheduled tasks.  Either way, you need to assess your forecasting model and ensure it calculates the proper staff accurately across all of your business.  Other areas that could be creating agent inefficiencies are the processes to update staff intraday or even your long term planning.  How much manual effort goes into those processes?  Also, are your agent schedules created automatically based on the rules in place, the staff availability, and the forecasted volume?  These are all high areas of inefficiency that need automated processes, especially when you are supporting multiple customer communication channels. 

And finally, it is critical for a business to eliminate extra costs, which is easier said than done.  But the good news is as you introduce more automation into your business around workforce management and quality management, those costs will naturally be reduced.

Call Center Efficiency Tips

Be realistic in the baseline for agent efficiency.  Humans can only do so much work at a given time.  Do not be unrealistic in your agent productivity goals because this will only drive attrition and dissatisfaction, which means more hiring and training, which is a huge cost for the business.  

Make sure the contact center performance metrics that are measuring efficiency are visible to all staff, and this will create more employee engagement.  This stresses the importance of efficiency, and helps all employees remain focused on the most important objectives of the business.

Additional Resources