Are You Measuring the Right Call Center Metrics?

Ann All

Call centers metrics have long focused on categories like cost per call and average handle time. But are those the right metrics?


They weren't at Dell. In a half-hour webcast at DataInfoCom, Dick Hunter, the former VP of global consumer support services, discussed how Dell shifted from measuring call time to measuring how often problems were solved during the first call. He said:

It's always cheaper to solve a problem in the first call than to try to do it in multiple calls.

That makes intuitive sense. Yet companies tend to focus on average handle time because it's easy to measure and to tie directly to call center costs, Hunter said. It's about finding the right balance between efficiency and effectiveness in the call center, said Pete McGarahan, founder and president of consulting company McGarahan & Associates, when I interviewed him in 2007. He said:

Metrics stuff is so intricate and complicated. If you are not aware of the effect of one metric on another, you could create behavior that allows you to achieve that metric but sacrifices some other type of important behavior. ... the emphasis on quantity sometimes sacrifices the quality of the experience. You need a quantity/quality balance, an individual/team balance, a cost/effectiveness balance, and of course you need to look at the efficiency and effectiveness of your agents as well.

When Dell told its agents to focus on solving customer problems rather than the length of time they spent on calls, the average time of a technical support call not surprisingly increased from 22 minutes to 32 minutes, said Hunter. But the number of incidents resolved on the first call rose from 44 percent to 65 percent. Though it took some time for the move to pay off, Hunter said it did because total call volume fell. In addition, customer satisfaction scores increased. Instead of cost per call, Dell began measuring cost per resolution.


More interesting takeaways from the webcast:

  • To help call operations pay for themselves, Dell began encouraging its agents to take cross-selling opportunities. "If you've solved a customer's problem, then you've just earned a lot of credibility with them. What better time to try to make a sale?" said Hunter. So an agent might mention that he or she noticed a customer's laptop was 3 years old, an age at which it makes sense to consider buying a battery.
  • To help better gauge customer satisfaction, Dell began offering short IVR surveys after calls. A bonus benefit, said Hunter, was an uptick in agent satisfaction. "That way we were able to give them feedback before they left for the day," he said. McGarahan also mentioned these types of "transactional" surveys in my interview with him, emphasizing they should be used to improve agent performance, just as Dell did.


I was so taken with Hunter's webcast that I tracked down some other information about his efforts at Dell. Well worth a read is a three-part interview with Hunter from 2007 that appears in Dell's Service Untitled blog.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 30, 2009 6:07 AM Tom Vander Well Tom Vander Well  says:

Thanks for the great post, Ann. Excellent insights. You're singin' my song!!

Oct 1, 2009 2:00 AM Atanu Basu Atanu Basu  says:

Thanks for reviewing Dick's webinar, Ann. 

Dick's 2 minute video on this topic can be found here, 

We did a follow-up webinar to provide more details on some of the topics Dick discussed on his webinar - hope you get a chance to watch it.

As you have noticed in Dick's webinar, there is no sales pitch in any of these webinars,

Thanks again.


CEO & President

DataInfoCom Inc.

Oct 7, 2009 2:05 AM preetpal preetpal  says:


For your call centre solutions needs here is an all-in-one platform for call center software that provides solutions to IT related functions in the call center such as Multimedia recording, Screen recording, Quality monitoring & reporting and much more solutions are provided. The call centre software also provides interactive contact centre for consultation for advanced IP telephony product solutions.

Oct 13, 2009 4:35 AM Call Center Blogger Call Center Blogger  says:

In today's outsourcing world, CPC still prevails over CPR. Clients' mindset is solve as many calls as you can and see the bigger picture. First call resolution, however, seems a more noble cause especially from a customer stand point.

Oct 29, 2009 11:49 AM Call Center Observer Call Center Observer  says:

The challenge seems to be in hiring knowledgeable, trainable call center agents with superior problem-solving, listening, and communication skills.

Apr 6, 2010 2:46 AM registry cleaner comparison registry cleaner comparison  says:

There is a one more possibility. If for a particular entity there is the need of having to map a private field.

May 15, 2010 4:46 AM Vicky Vicky  says:

Call management systems are one of the many ways. They have a wide variety of features that allows flexibility in every aspect. They have mostly replaced the old PBX machine with automatic virtual PBX. Even if your company premises are closed your employees can take customer calls. Inbound calls to 0800 Numbers or 0845 Numbers can be routed to your employees fixed landline or mobile numbers and carry out business in a usual manner without getting affected.

Jun 17, 2010 10:16 AM Support Support  says:

Does anyone know where I can go to get International standards for evaluating the success of a telesales campaign?

Sep 21, 2010 9:48 AM christinejoseph christinejoseph  says:

You have some great pointed puts here. I really find nice informative and innovative call center measuring metrics. I am also associated with software outsourcing company and worked with call center management software team. Great to tweet here your points! Software Outsourcing

Oct 25, 2010 9:13 AM pihu pihu  says:

The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need!


Aug 22, 2012 10:55 AM jreed jreed  says:
This article is right on, Focus Services has been implementing there kind of metrics for years now with great success. Every call center should be looking at how to improve their metrics. Reply
Sep 14, 2012 7:41 AM Taylor Parker Taylor Parker  says:
I've always wondered how call center software can calculate the time that an average person spends on a call. One of my friends sisters works for a call center, and she explained to me that once a week, she is required to have a review, where her supervisor shows her all of the numbers for the week. She said that the meter calculates all of the time that she spends on the phone that week, how many minutes she spends on a call, and the average phone call time. What kind of technology do they implement into a call center? What kinds of programs do they use to calculate those numbers? Reply
Nov 7, 2012 11:01 PM Sybil Sybil  says:
There are many other parameters that can be used to assess and compare metrics and it all depends on what is valuable to a call center. Reply
Mar 19, 2013 12:44 PM cheyserr cheyserr  says:
With the changing world today, the needs and the demands of the consumers are also changing. Before call center metrics like Handling time and following the script for quality are the only numbers that matter. However, right now customer engagement, first call resolution, and customer satisfaction are as highly important like the rest. Reply
Feb 11, 2014 8:20 AM Tech Support at Call Centers Tech Support at Call Centers  says:
Great post! Been looking into getting some tech support for my call center. Thanks for the info! Reply

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