Contact centers are operationally-complex and offer no shortage of challenges for managers and front-line workers. Leaders have the responsibility of balancing agent productivity with ever-increasing customer expectations. It’s no easy task, but the key to thriving in this demanding and evolving environment is to focus on the critical drivers of contact center productivity.
There are four key categories leaders can investigate to gather insights and maximize productivity. They are:
- Agent Efficiency
- Channel Mix
- Overall Costs
- Contact Resolution
We’ll explore each of these categories and provide useful tips and best practices to measure and improve these key areas.
Measuring agent efficiency is typically the best and most obvious place to improve your customer care initiatives. There are three primary metrics managers can use to measure agent performance, efficiency, and capability:
- Agent utilization
- Average handle time (AHT)
- Contacts per agent
Understanding these metrics will give managers a baseline on how well they’re running their current program and provide crucial insights on which levers they can pull to improve productivity. Let’s look at each of these metrics individually.
Agent utilization is a ratio of work produced divided by work capacity. The formula for determining agent utilization can be somewhat complicated. Factors like breaks, vacations, and sick days may impact your calculation, but you can approximate agent utilization with a simplified formula:
Measuring Average handle time (AHT) is more straightforward. AHT is the average duration of the entire customer contact, from the time the customer initiates the communication to the termination of the support request, including any hold or transfer times.
Costs typically go up the longer an agent spends handling a customer issue. Investing in training, knowledge management systems, and other technologies that assist front-line workers can lower your average handle time so agents can support more customer requests. You can find your AHT using our calculator.
Contacts per agent is another essential indicator of agent productivity and should be monitored regularly. To calculate this, you’ll need to measure the average monthly inbound and outbound contact volume divided by the average agent headcount in your contact center.
A low number of contacts per agent per month may mean you aren’t correctly utilizing agents or being efficient with scheduling. A higher number typically indicates your using agents effectively.
While many organizations focus on agent productivity to control costs, channel mix can be an even more impactful way to improve efficiency. Encouraging customers to go through cost-effective channels like chat, email, SMS, or social media can significantly reduce costs and enhance the agent’s ability to support multiple customer requests at once. Some organizations are also turning to self-service options to save costs, but results may vary. According to a recent study by Gartner, only 9% of customers report solving their issues completely via self-service, so explore this option with care.
Understanding how each channel impacts your customers’ satisfaction is an integral part of achieving the right channel mix. Channels like voice provide more personalized experiences for customers and are a good investment for customer-centric organizations, but are typically more expensive than other channels and may be less desirable for younger customers. Auditing channel mix volume, costs, and business-outcomes regularly will help managers allocate resources appropriately.
Labor, training, and technology play a significant role in your contact center costs and ultimately your productivity. Here are a few helpful stats leaders should keep in mind to ensure their contact center doesn’t turn into an expense center.
Labor: The average call center representative’s wage in the United States is $28,499. Depending on the skill level needed and the location of your agents, compensation may vary drastically. Finding a balance between utilizing in-house and outsourced support staff may reduce contact center costs without sacrificing customer care.
Training & Retention: Ongoing training is a vital part of any thriving contact center. A training program brings new agents up-to-speed, keeps them aligned with business objectives, and can make or break your productivity. The average annual cost of training an experienced medical call center agent is $6,400 a year. If we use this average across industries, it’s easy to see that training can quickly become a considerable expense for even small contact centers. Investing in AI or other technologies that make employee training more manageable and efficient is a worthwhile investment.
Technology: Contact centers depend on a wide array of technology to thrive, combining typical office requirements with niche demands. On average, contact centers spend $3,900 per year per license on agent technology. This figure doesn’t include the additional resources or staff to support it. The rise of remote work also impacts these costs. Choosing technology partners that integrate with your existing technology, scale, and are invested in your success is imperative in the digital age.
The final piece of measuring and improving contact center productivity is contact resolution, often referred to as First Contact Resolution (FCR). FCR measures the proportion of support requests solved on the first contact, eliminating the customer’s need to make contact again.
FCR is typically measured in one of two ways. Either the agent checks a box at the conclusion of the customer contact to indicate the issue was resolved, or customers are asked in a follow-up customer satisfaction survey. Measuring contact resolution is crucial because measuring metrics like agent utilization, AHT, and contacts per agent don’t impact business outcomes if customer issues aren’t resolved promptly. According to a range of reports, the industry average for FCR is between 70 and 75%, but this may vary depending on the complexity of your business and offerings.
Monitoring these KPIs is critical for the health and success of every contact center. Organizations must strive to look beyond the day-to-day—and keep focused on both the customer journey and business productivity. Identifying, measuring, and improving the metrics listed above is a terrific way to increase productivity without drastically disrupting your current programs and workflows. For more information on how to optimize your contact center, speak with a Cresta representative today!