Call Center Terms and Metrics (KPI) - What You Need to Know



Agree or disagree? Your “call center” serves as the voice of your company, brand, products, and services. This is true whether your call center is located in the United States or abroad. Your overall customer experience is largely by two factors. The first, contact center agent training and performance which largely falls on systems and processes, supervisors and management. The second, equipping your agents with the tools and technologies to achieve key performance indicators (KPIs).


Why is this important? Having an average or even below average call center will put you behind the competition. Ignoring your team’s performance and applicable call center metrics can sink your brand, customer service reputation, sales and repeat customers. It’s never a good position to be in.


Delivering customer satisfaction is the business within a business. However, how can you know whether you’re really meeting your customers’ expectations? By measuring customer sentiment and how much you’re willing to invest in customer experience.

So, where do you start? If you’re new the space, a good place to start is call center terminology and key metrics used to gauge call center performance. Sure, the basic principles of the call center are the same, but it’s the underlying technology that has changed.


In this article, we will examine the Top 30 Must Know Call Center Terms and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Metrics. We’ll also look at some common call center technologies. This will serve as a great resource and a comprehensive call center terminology and glossary.


Let’s get started…


The following call center metrics are some of the most useful indicators of how well your call center is performance and how well your customers perceive your customer services. Wow!

1) Net Promoter Score® (NPS®)

Net Promoter Score is obviously a highly trademarked metric. All jokes aside, NPS is perhaps the most accurate measure of how customers perceive your brand. When you think of this metric, think of it as a recommendation. There is some math involved, but I promise it’s easy.


Here’s the main point. NPS relies on a straightforward question: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our company to your friends and family?”

Promoters are those that give scores of 9-10, while Passives And Detractors provide 7-8 and 0-6.


Here’s the Formula:


(Number of Promoters ÷ Total Number of Customers in the Sample) — (Number of Detractors ÷ Total Number of Customers from the Sample)

*Remember: The best way to collect NPS is through well-timed customer surveys.

2) Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Much like NPS, CSAT is an excellent indicator of overall customer satisfaction. A good CSAT score means that there is an upward increase in call center performance. On the other hand, a poor score means that adjustments must be made to improve customer satisfaction.


How do you calculate/figure CSAT? Great question. Unlike NPS, there isn’t a standard calculation to figure this call center metric. Ordinarily, organizations often ask for customer feedback on whether an agent has successfully resolved an issue.


Many organizations classify customer responses by Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Not Satisfied, Very Unsatisfied. The total score for CSAT is the ratio of Very Satisfied/Satisfied to the total number of survey respondents.

3) First Response Time (FRT)

This is huge so pay attention. Many of us including today’s customers want instant gratification. They get upset, frustrated and even downright angry when they have to wait too long. FRT simply refers to the “time” it takes for a customer to reach a qualified agent after making a call. This is very closely related to the service level – another important KPI for inbound call centers. How do you calculate FRT?


Here’s the formula:


(Total Wait Time for All Calls ÷ Total Number of Calls)

4) First Contact Resolution (FCR)

This is the cousin of FRT. We’re talking about First Contact Resolution (FCR) of course. FCR can be defined as the successful resolution of a customer issue within the customer’s first call. Sounds simple enough!


Solving an issue quickly without a customer having to callback almost always leads to excellent customer experience. First Contact Resolution is a superb way to assess call center success and agent effectiveness. This metric reflects the common philosophy and saying “do it right the first time.” How do you calculate FRT?


Here’s the formula:


(Total Number of Reported Issues Resolved on First Call ÷ Total Number of Calls)


You can also use this formula:


(Total Number of Reported Issues Resolved on First Call ÷ Total Number of First Calls)

* It’s important to note that this is an important indicator of excellent call quality. You should also note that it is sometimes called First Call Resolution Rate.

5) Customer Effort Score (CES)

This one involves the customer. Yikes! Customer Effort Score, also known as CES, simply indicates the ease in which your product or service solves a customer use case. Like CSAT, there’s no standard for measuring CES. Some organizations use a five-point scale; others can use up to seven points.


Here’s an example… “On a scale of 1 to 7, where 7 stands for Strongly Agree and 1 to Strongly Disagree, did the product or service make it easier for you to solve your problem?” Generally speaking, the higher the CES score, the better the customer experience.

6) Channel Mix

You might be thinking… what in the world is “channel mix?” This is yet another important metric for your call center. It measures the relative proportions of your service changes and what your customers prefer, aka how they want to contact you.


So, what are they? Service channels include the following: phone calls (voice), mobile, social media, email, SMS, live messaging/chat, online self-service pages such as FAQs or DIY videos. How do you calculate channel mix?


Here’s the formula:


(Total Number of Customer Service Sessions Per Channel)

7) Customer Retention Rate (CRR)

You definitely want to pay attention to this one. Many organizations have “loss leaders” and rely on repeat business from their customers. It leads to questions like – what is the lifetime value of the customer? Without CRR, you have no repeat customers. Yikes!


Here’s the formula:


(Number of Active Customers at End of Given Period – Newly Acquired Customers During the Same Period ÷ Number of Customers at Start of Period X 100 Percent)


* Quick side note, the period can be 30 days, 90 days, 360 days, or some other measure.

8) Customer Churn Rate (CCR)

The big brother of CRR is Customer Churn Rate (CCR). What’s this? CCR measures the proportion of customers who have ceased using your service in a specific period. Again, something that you want to pay close attention to as a contact center manager.


Here’s the formula:


(Number of Customers Lost During Period ÷ Number of Customers at Beginning of Period) X 100 Percent)

9) Adherence to Schedule

Now we’re looking at the individual agent performance specifically. This call center metric looks at how an agent spends their time when handling customer calls. A low adherence score contributes to is a contributing factor to an increase in missed and abandoned calls. This will negatively impact customer satisfaction and NPS. How do you calculate it?


Here’s the formula:


(Number of Hours Agent Spent Handling Calls + Net Available Time) ÷ (Paid Hours x 100 Percent)

10) Agent Utilization Rate

What is Agent Utilization Rate? We’re glad you asked… This metric covers the average amount of time that an agent spends handling calls in a given period relative to the total number of work hours. For example, an agent that works an average of five hours during an eight-hour workday has a utilization rate of 62.5%.


Like Adherence to Schedule, this metric is a great indicator of agent performance.


Here’s the formula:


(Average Number of Handled Calls x Average Handle Time) ÷ (Total Work Hours in Given Period) x 100 Percent

11) Agent Attrition Rate

Poor work environment, overwhelmed employees, burnout? Agent Attrition Rate shows the speed at which a call center’s agents resign or retire. This is particularly important! A high attrition rate erodes a call center’s ability to serve its customers. Think about it… What if you have to train new call center agents over and over?


Here’s the formula:


(Number of Employees that Left During A Given Period) ÷ (Average Number of Employees for Period) × 100 Percent

12) Occupancy Rate

What is Occupancy Rate? When it comes to contact centers, this metric measures the time that call center agents spend engaging customers on live calls and perform admin tasks related to those calls. A low occupancy rate can be caused by things like duties not call-related, longer breaks, frequency of meetings/events/training sessions, poor agent work habits. How do you calculate it?


Here’s the formula:


(Total Customer Handling Time ÷ Total Logged Time) × 100 Percent


13) Average Speed of Answer (ASA)


Answer the phone… Average Speed of Answer, also known as ASA, calculates the average time to answer customer calls. This metric is often associated with First Response Time (FRT). Both of these time-based quantities both set an ideal threshold to respond to customer calls. How do you calculate ASA?


Here’s the formula:


(Total Wait Time for Answered Calls ÷ Total Number of Answered Calls)

14) Average Handle Time (AHT)

The Average Handle Time, also known as AHT, is the average amount of time to handle a customer call from start to finish. It includes hold times and after-call tasks. You can use this metric to establish benchmarks and identify which agents need further training to handle customer calls. How do you calculate AHT?


Here’s the formula:


(Total Talk Time + Total Hold Time + Total After-Call Work Time) ÷ Total Number of Calls

15) Average After-Call Work Time

After call work time? What’s this about? All joking aside, Average After-Call Work Time refers to the time it takes for agents to finish tasks relating to the customer calls they handle. High values for post-call metric suggests inefficiency on the part of the agent, workflow, or tools. Basically, are your agents spending too much time on after call work?


Here’s the formula:


(Total Time to Complete All Post-Call Tasks) ÷ (Total Number of Calls)

16) Cost Per Call (CPC)

Cost Per Call, or CPC, refers to the average cost incurred by a contact center for each call it handles. It’s all about a mix of efficiency, satisfaction and cost, right? CPC shows how much it costs for a call center to run its operations. It also provides insight into whether or not a call center is operating cost-efficiently. It also provides insight into how the department is allocating resources.


Many organizations set an ideal CPC and work to achieve/maintain this threshold. How do you calculate it?


Here’s the formula:


(Total Cost of All Calls ÷ Total Number of Calls)

17) Service Level

Service Level is a call center metric that serves as a reliable indicator of overall call center performance. Most organizations place their ideal service level around cost efficiency. For example, an organization might aim to answer at least 80% of all inbound calls within 20 seconds.


This metric is largely influenced by agent training, process improvement, technology upgrades. When talking about technology, many organizations are turning to virtual call center software and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions. How do you measure or calculate the service level?

Here are the formulas:


(Number of Calls Answered in X Seconds ÷ Total Calls Received) x 100 Percent

(Number of Calls Answered in X Seconds) ÷ (Total Calls Answered + Abandoned Calls)) x 100 Percent


((Number of Calls Answered in X Seconds) ÷ (Total Calls Answered + Abandoned Calls After X Seconds)) x 100 Percent

18) Call Volume

Call Volume… This is an especially important metric for call centers. It measures incoming and outgoing calls handled by the call center within a specific time period. Many organizations categorize call volume into the following: total calls handled by an agent, and total calls handled by an automated system (IVR).

19) Peak Hour Traffic

What is Peak Hour Traffic? This call center metric is related to Call Arrival Rate. It describes the specific times of the day with greater call volumes. For call center managers, knowing peak hour traffic helps organizations plan and allocate sufficient resources to handle the increases in call traffic.

20) Call Type Mix

Call Type Mix is a metric that shows the relative share of the various call types handled by a call center. What’s included in the call type mix? For most call centers, it includes account inquiries, upgrades, claims/refunds, tech support, campaign-related actions, complaints, change requests, applications, account terminations.

21) Call Abandonment Rate

This is a big deal, right? How many times have you hung up the phone after being placed on hold, passed around to agents and managers, or frustrated with an agent? I bet a lot. Customers want their issues resolved quickly. Not surprisingly, many customers hang up when they’re frustrated. Call Abandonment Rate indicates the average level of customer frustration and the potential loss of confidence in your company, brand, product, or service.


Here’s the formula:


(Number of Calls – Number of Handled Calls) ÷ Number of Calls x 100 Percent

22) Average Waiting Time

Pop quiz, what is the longest that you have been on hold while waiting for a customer service representative? Average Waiting Time is a call center metric that describes cases where agents place customers on hold. While there may be legitimate reasons, contact centers should always focus on minimizing the Average Waiting Time. How do you calculate it?


Here’s the formula:


Total Number of Seconds Customers Spend Waiting ÷ Total Number of Calls)

23) Call Transfer Rate

Please hold while I transfer you to another agent. How many times does that happen to you? It’s sometimes true that contact center agents need to transfer calls to other resources for better call resolution. While the majority of these transfers are necessary, customers do not necessarily like being handed off to the next agent or manager in line. As a rule of thumb, call centers should aim to maintain call transfers to a minimum.


Here’s the formula:


(Number of Transferred Calls ÷ Total Number of Calls) x 100 Percent

24) Call Arrival Rate

Here you go… Call Arrival Rate is the total number of calls that a contact center receives within a specific time period. The time frame can be expressed by day, hour, or minute.

25) Repeat Calls

Related to FCR, this call center metric shows types of problems that are difficult to resolve from the first call they reported. Workarounds include self-service solutions and additional agent training. Where these are unsuccessful}, content on your website, and social media must show common solutions.

26) Percentage of Calls Blocked

Have you ever received a busy signal when calling customer service? Yikes! This should never happen and the mere thought of it would make all contact center managers cringe. Customers should never receive a busy signal. Auto-transfer, IVR, along with other call center features are helpful in avoiding these types of situations.


Here’s the formula:


(Number of Calls that Fail to Reach Agents ÷ Total Number of Incoming Calls) x 100 Percent

27) Active Waiting Calls

Active Waiting Calls measures how well your teams cope with call volume in real-time. This gives contact center managers an idea about the number of calls that their agents handle versus those that are placed on hold. Too many calls that are held back will lead to poor customer experience.


How can you resolve extremely highly active waiting calls? Here are some ideas… Recruitment of additional agents, efficiency coaching, and smarter workflows and processes.

28) Average Age of Query

What is Average Age of Query? It describes the average amount of time that a customer issue has not been resolved as the first call remains open. Related to FCR, this metric provides a glimpse into which issues or engagement approaches lead to longer resolution periods. How do you calculate it?


Here’s the formula:


(Total Time Hours, Days or Weeks) Current Open Queries Remain Open ÷ Total Number of Open Queries)

29) Longest Hold Time Rate

You’re not trying to set records here… Longest Hold Time Rate is a call center metric that describes the longest time that a customer was placed on hold without the customer abandoning the call.


Frequently, this involves a single incident unless multiple incidents registered exactly the same call waiting periods. Organizations should strive to keep/maintain this metric at a minimum.

30) Callback Messaging

Callback Messaging is the number of callback requests from customers who would rather avoid long holding times. Because the vast majority of customers want to resolve their issues immediately, keeping this metric to a minimum is ideal.


Now You Have the Numbers … What Next?

There are dozens of call center metrics, but you don’t necessarily need to track everything. Actually, there’s probably more than 60 call center terms and metrics for… If you’re a SMB, you might focus on the essentials, monitoring, and optimizing the right mix of important KPIs that can help streamline your call center operations.


Now that you’re here, you might want to know that we can provide you with side-by-side comparisons of CCaaS providers and solutions – all from one company. First, we help you streamline the process of selecting, purchasing, and implementing contact center solutions. Contact me to learn more.


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