First-call resolution – a measurement of the percentage of customer queries that are answered in just one call – is one of the most important metrics around. This is because resolving an enquiry immediately, at the first time of asking, not only keeps customers happy, it also reduces costs for the company – provided the query needs to be answered by an agent and can’t be covered by AI. The fewer interactions it takes to resolve a customer problem, the less that problem costs the business.
However, with first-call resolution, you need to ensure that you’ve carefully defined what constitutes “resolution.” Is a call resolved if there was no need to transfer it? Or when there’s no additional work to complete after the call? If you’re looking for a comprehensive definition, it may be best to define a “resolution” as when the customer explicitly states that their problem has been resolved.
The industry standard for first-call resolution is approximately 70-75%. However, this can vary considerably from sector to sector and industry to industry. For this reason, you’ll need to think carefully before you benchmark against other organisations or the industry standard. Is there anything that makes your circumstances unique? Are there any other factors that may inflate or push-down your first-call resolution rate?
It’s also necessary to differentiate between first-call resolution and first-contact resolution. Whereas the former deals exclusively with calls coming in via the telephony system, the latter covers all types of communication channel. The two should not be confused and managers should be aware that comparing resolution rates across channels is neither easy nor useful. Some channels are simply more conducive to a first-contact resolution.
If you’re looking to improve first-call resolution, one of the most effective ways of doing so is by ensuring customers reach the most appropriate human agent at the first time of asking. While this can be achieved via intelligent use of relevant customer data, IVR also has a role to play in efficient routing.
A carefully considered and well-designed IVR script will improve the accuracy of your call routing and give you the best possible chance of connecting the caller with the right agent for the enquiry. As a result, the enquiry will have a much greater chance of being resolved at first contact.
While first-call resolution is important, it doesn’t mean much if customers are abandoning their calls in droves before agents have the opportunity to resolve their problems. The abandon rate measures those customers who hang up before reaching an agent. This is an important metric for various reasons.
First and foremost, a high abandon rate suggests customers are frustrated with the call centre and are likely to complain of poor customer service. Abandoned calls will also lose you sales opportunities and additional revenue. Finally, a high abandon rate can have a detrimental effect on the accuracy of other important call centre metrics and statistics.
For instance, a simple figure, such as call volume, can be artificially inflated by a high abandonment rate. Those who abandon are likely to phone back at a later time or date, pushing up your call volume, even though their call is essentially an extension of their previous attempt.
It is generally accepted that the industry standard for abandon rate is somewhere around 12%. However, in some industries, such as business services, this can go as low as 5-8%, so it’s worth looking into your specific sector’s standard.
Interestingly, the device from which a customer makes a call also seems to make a difference to abandonment rate. Recent research has demonstrated that enquiries originating from a mobile device, rather than a landline, have a much higher abandonment rate – roughly 20%. This means that contact centre managers need to be aware of the type of device their customers are predominantly using if they’re to benchmark against the industry standard.
The principal reason callers abandon is too long a wait time. Consequently, the most efficient way to tackle abandonment rates is through the introduction of technology that minimises queues. In this respect, there are two main options;
1. Self-serve technologies
Self-serve technologies, such as Chatbots, FAQs, and other online resources, allow customers to access information without having to call the contact centre. Implementing this type of technology reduces the number of calls being made and, as a direct result, the number of callers in a queue and the amount of time a customer has to wait.
Well-designed IVR reduces abandon rates in three ways:
- It allows for efficient call routing. This means customers reach the best agent at the first time of asking – reducing abandons due to misroutes and minimising the amount of time it takes to come to a resolution.
- It provides businesses with a means of communicating basic information without having to engage a human agent. If a customer wants to find out a store’s opening hours, the attention of a human agent probably isn’t required.
- Callers are likely to wait longer if they feel they’re making progress. For many callers, passing through the IVR menus resembles progress and they’ll wait longer, giving your agents a little extra time to answer before the caller abandons.
Service level and response time are two of the most prominent metrics in any call centre and possibly the most visible of all customer service metrics.
Most businesses will have established targets for these metrics and it’s typically a big deal if the team falls short of those figures. Service level is usually calculated as a percentage over time figure and expressed as “x% of calls in y seconds.” For instance, a call centre may have a service level target of 90% of calls answered within 20 seconds.
On the other hand, response time deals with all interactions, including those that don’t have to be processed as they arrive (such as emails). It’s expressed in the same way as service level but the percentage figure is usually set at 100%. This makes it a more absolute target, as 100% of enquiries will need to be handled in x amount of minutes, hours, or days. In other words, it’s a limit.
Your service level target will vary depending on whether you want to prioritise high-quality interactions when a customer reaches an agent or minimise their time spent waiting. However, the industry standard is typically set at around 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds.
There is no real industry standard for response time. This is due to the fact that there are simply too many variables at play for the figure to be meaningful. For instance, Company A may receive 20% of enquiries by email, 60% by phone, 15% by chatbot and 5% by post. If Company B receives 80% of enquiries by email and 20% via chatbot, the difference in the way the two companies receive enquiries would be so large as to make benchmarking both impractical and unhelpful.
In the end, technology and customer service agents are there to ensure that everything possible is done to satisfy the customer. If a customer is satisfied with the service they receive, they’re likely to remain loyal to the business, spend more money on its products and services, and tell others about their experience. This is all good news for business.
There are numerous ways of calculating customer satisfaction, each with its own particular focus and specific purpose. However, almost as important as how you measure satisfaction is how you deliver the required survey.
In recent years, IVR has become a popular means of requesting real-time feedback, as it doesn’t require interaction with a human agent and a score can be input via a phone keypad after the enquiry has been dealt with. Extremely low scores can also be automatically flagged for inspection by a supervisor, ensuring that unsatisfactory calls are monitored and improvements made.
As we’ve already mentioned, there are a number of customer satisfaction scores you can use to measure the success of your calls. With Net Promoter Score (NPS), for instance, any score above a 0 is considered positive, though the average is typically somewhere between 30-45. With Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores, the industry standard is typically between 70-80.
In the modern business environment, it all comes down to cost efficiency. That’s not to say that the cheapest is always best, but that the quality of customer service has to be set against the cost of providing that service.
The cheapest customer service system is likely to lose you customers and eventually put you out of business. An expensive customer service system is likely to push your profit margin below that of competitors and also threaten your business’ existence. A balance must be found.
There are two widely accepted means of establishing the cost per call. The first is a basic calculation that approaches the issue from an agent-centric perspective. The calculation is expressed as;
Calls per hour / Cost of agent (their hourly wage) = Cost per call
The second is a more comprehensive examination of cost per call. It is calculated as;
(Annual operating cost + cost of agents) / Total number of annual calls = Cost per call
While both are useful in their own way, the second calculation incorporates the entire cost of running a call centre and is therefore considered more accurate.
When looking at cost per call in a practical context, you must consider what your agents are trying to achieve on the phone. If you’re asking your agents to handle complex enquiries that require longer calls to resolve, cost per call will inevitably rise. However, that may be a price you feel is worth paying for truly satisfied customers. That being said, in the UK, the industry standard for cost per call is approximately £4.00.
Automation and self-serve technologies can result in enormous savings that will have a direct impact on your cost per call figure. To provide you with a concrete idea of just how much this kind of tech can save you, it’s helpful to take a look at a specific case study.
When the City of Edinburgh Council integrated Inform’s self-service telephony system into their service, there was a radical shift in the way calls were handled and how much they cost. The self-service telephony system successfully processed 41% of all inbound calls without human intervention, performing the work of 13.4 full-time employees and generating annual savings of £280,329. These savings resulted in a drastic reduction in the cost per call figure.
This list is by no means an exhaustive account of all the call centre metrics available to customer service professionals. Other metrics, such as quality scores, customer effort, and schedule adherence, all play an important role in measuring performance. However, the metrics listed above are those that should be used in every call centre. No matter what the product, business, or industry, they’re the numbers that count.