Metrics for call centers: FCR (1st contact resolution), AHT (average handle time), SL (service level), ASA (average speed of answer), QA (quality assurance), etc., — what they mean for customers and customer experience?

By Colin Taylor

In the daily operation of our Call and Contact Centers we throw around metrics and performance measures like they were candy. It has been said that Call Centers produce more data and more measurement opportunities than is possible in almost any other communications channel. But while we know what each of these acronyms stand for, our callers and customers may have a slightly different perspective based on their experience. So with ‘tongue planted firmly in cheek’, I present a customer translation for commonly used Call Center metrics;

SL – Call Center operators know this as Service Level; the percentage of calls that are answered within a defined period of time. To our customer however this metric becomes “Sucks Less” – the better the Call Center Service Level the less the service being realized sucks.

AHT – We know this as Average Handle Time or the time it takes to complete an interaction with a customer. For the customer however it can be the “Average Hang-up Time” – this is the time it takes to change the customer’s optimism at having reached a live agent to completely sour and make them want to hang up and ‘forget the whole thing’.

ASA – Average Speed of Answer, but from the customers perspective this is all too often the wait time “Anticipating Surly Agent”. It is not that the customer wants to speak with an unhappy or surly agent; it is just that all too often that seems to occur. I am reminded of the Monty Python skit ‘the Argument’. In the skit both the ‘argument’ and the ‘complaints’ sections can ring frighteningly true to some Contact Center operators.

FCR – The current ‘holy grail’ of metrics for Call Centers the much sought after First Contact Resolution. We know that if we can resolve a customer inquiry on the first call they will not need to call back (saving costs) and in addition a successfully resolved inquiry can lead to high satisfaction, repurchase and loyalty. Of course most centers strive to resolve the inquiry to the customer’s satisfaction. In center where resolution of any kind is acceptable then resolving an inquiry to the company’s satisfaction can be FCR as well. In this latter case from a customers point of view FCR becomes “Forced Company Response”. For a complete picture about FCR, download a white paper here.

QA– Quality Assurance is an overarching strategy to assess and improve agent interactions with customers through monitoring, review and coaching. Unfortunately it can also be construed as “Quality Absent” in a customers mind when they have a call where quality is weak or missing.

Metrics aren’t the only area where customer can reinterpret the meanings of the acronyms. IVR – Interactive Voice Response that tried and true tool for call streaming and allocation can become “Indifferent Voice Response” when no matter what the customer enters (or says) the path and result all seem to keep them cycling over and over through IVR Hell.

Announcement messages can be particularly frustrating to customers;

“Your call is important to us please hold”- Is it just me or does this sound like a form of oxymoron? Logic would appear to suggest that if my call actually was important I wouldn’t have to hold, would I?

“We are experiencing higher than normal call volumes…” There is any number of possible endings to this message but all suggest that the customer plans on a long wait or call back later. I am reminded the words over Dante’s entrance to Hell, “Abandon All Hope Yee Who Enter”. Perhaps this might be a more fitting announcement message. The one thought that goes through my mind when I hear the “higher than normal volumes’ message, especially if I call the same center many times and always hear this message, is that if the calls (and customers) were really important, then the company would have done a better job forecasting for demand and staffing to meet this demand.

Please Contact ApexCX for all your customer experience needs.

(May 18, 2018)