Contact Centre Efficiency Metrics Demystified

If there’s one lesson I’ve learnt in my time in the contact centre industry, it’s that what gets measured gets done.

Contact centres that regularly measure their performance against their target metrics are the ones who reach their goals.

And because what gets measured gets done, there’s a direct correlation between the metrics you measure, and the performance outcomes you achieve.

Clearly, then, it’s important that you set the right KPIs and goals in the first place.

So in this post, I delve into 4 key efficiency metrics every contact centre should be measuring. These metrics are all indispensable, and, like the links in a chain, each is strongest when it’s complemented by the others. 

Forecast Accuracy

A critical ingredient to the success of the contact centre operation is effective forecasting.

In the contact centre environment, forecasting of expected customer transaction volumes allows you to plan your resourcing. But for this to be effective, your forecasts need to be as accurate as possible. Inaccurate forecasting can create resourcing problems such as under- and over-staffing, and all the associated challenges that stem from this. As such, your forecast accuracy is a key metric that you need to measure and set appropriate goals for.

Forecast accuracy is a measure of how well your forecasted transaction volumes matched the actual volumes your contact centre experienced. It should be measured not only at a monthly and daily level, but also at an intraday level, as demand for your agents will vary across the day. As such, you should also have monthly, daily, and intraday targets.

Forecast accuracy applies to traffic volume and to handling times, and should be measured separately for each transaction queue. It’s calculated by deducting the total actual volume of traffic from your total forecast volume, and then dividing the variance by the forecasted volume. You can apply the same calculation to forecast and actual handling times.

Your forecast accuracy should be a primary KPI for whoever is responsible for forecasting the demand on your contact centre. Both volume and handling time should be measured and targeted, as both are key drivers for ensuring the success of your resourcing strategies.

Once you know your forecast accuracy, you can begin to develop strategies for improving it. This may include reviewing the type of data you use for forecasting, altering the set assumptions that inform your forecasts, getting marketing or other departments involved in the forecasting process, or providing your team with additional tools or training.

Schedule Efficiency

Schedule efficiency is the next link in the efficiency KPI chain. After all, if you don’t schedule your staff to meet the demand you’ve predicted, it doesn’t really matter how accurate your forecasting is, does it?

Schedule efficiency is the variance between the staff you scheduled, and what you predicted you needed. This is a complex metric, but in its simplest form, it’s calculated like this: if you predicted that you needed 10 people to be available in an interval based on your transaction volume and handling time forecast, but you only scheduled 8, you have a variance of -2. Any variance (in this case, -2) is divided by the forecasted requirement (which was 10) to give you your schedule efficiency metric (in this case, -20%).

Your schedule efficiency should be a KPI for those responsible for creating your schedule, and should be measured from the point in time that your schedule plan was completed.  As with forecast accuracy, schedule efficiency will impact your centre on an intraday level, so set both intraday and daily targets for this metric.

If you have a particularly volatile arrival pattern in your inbound transactions or handling times, or a staffing pool that is quite inflexible, it may be challenging for your team to roster to this.  Account for this in the targets you set to ensure you are measuring a realistic and achievable outcome.

Once you begin to measure your schedule efficiency, you can begin to improve it, and track your progress in doing so. Strategies for improving your schedule efficiency may include providing training to staff to improve average handling time, implementing more flexible staffing strategies, utilising off-phone time more effectively, or applying strategies to smooth your arrival patterns.

Schedule Adherence

Your schedule is the staffing and workforce management plan that you put in place. Your schedule adherence measures how well your team follow the plan. It’s the third link in the efficiency KPI chain.

Humans have a tendency to be… human. And, as the more polite version of the saying goes, “stuff happens”. Because of this, you cannot expect your schedule adherence to consistently sit at 100%. However, you should still set high expectations.

Schedule adherence is calculated by dividing the total time out of adherence by total time scheduled, and then multiplying this figure by 100 and inverting it to produce a percentage figure. Sound complicated? It is, but the example below should help.

A team member may be scheduled for total of 450 minutes of the day with a range of scheduled activities. Every minute not completing a scheduled activity is a minute “out of adherence”. So if your team member goes to lunch 3 minutes late and takes their full break time (arriving back 3 minutes late), but otherwise perfectly adhere to their schedule, they’ll be 6 minutes out of adherence. 6 divided by 450 times 100 is 1.33%, which, inverted, is 98.67% in adherence.

It’s important to note that you’ll need to have some tolerance in your targets, and this will need to be explained to your staff. If they’re late to lunch because they’re stuck on a customer call, you don’t want them to be stressed about being out of adherence, as this will affect their engagement, morale, and performance.

The number and type of updates that are made to your schedule to reflect these unexpected occurrences will significantly impact the validity of this metric. If you update your schedule to reflect that someone went to lunch 3 minutes late because they were on a call, then your schedule adherence becomes a measure of how well you update your schedule – not how well your team adhered to their schedule.  It is important that your intraday team have clear guidelines to dictate what changes should and shouldn’t be made to schedules to ensure that these are done consistently and fairly.  Set your target tolerance for this metric with these guidelines in mind.

This is a metric that should be set as a shared KPI for team leaders, workforce managers, and individual staff. While it should be reported on daily basis, it is often most effective to measure staff on their performance on a monthly level, as the real value in this target is to address poor adherence trends rather than one off occasions.

Occupancy and Availability

Occupancy compares the time your staff members were involved in productive activities to the time they were scheduled to be doing a work related activity. Availability is the opposite – that is, the downtime they had in between each productive task.

Occupancy is calculated by determining the percentage of the “work” time that was actually spent being productive. If, in a 450 minute day, staff members have 60 minutes’ worth of breaks, then their potential productive time is 390 minutes. “Work” activities that may fill this time include phone calls, administrative duties, emails, meetings, training, etc. If they’re productive for 330 of these minutes, their occupancy is 84.6%.

In a multi- or omni-channel environment, contact centre tracking tools may be required to effectively measure occupancy and availability.  If you don’t have these tools available, you may choose to only measure occupancy for the activities that you can record – i.e. when scheduled to handle phone calls, but not emails or other system generated activities.

When setting your occupancy targets, it’s important to remember that your agents are human, not robots. They cannot be productive 100% of the time.

Your target occupancy rate will also be determined by your resourcing targets. If you want shorter answer times, you’ll need a lower occupancy and higher availability to achieve this. An occupancy rate of around 75% is a good ballpark. If you’re happy with longer answer times, you might target 80-85% occupancy.

Strategies for increasing your occupancy rates may include investing in blended channels so that your agents can engage in more productive activities when they’re not on the phone. If you want to decrease your occupancy rates, review your staffing levels or apply strategies to reduce handling times.

This measure should be set as a KPI for your team leaders and contact centre manager. It’s important to be aware of the impact that occupancy and availability results have on non-efficiency based metrics, such as employee and customer satisfaction, or attendance and attrition targets. Review the results of this metric in conjunction with other metrics to ensure you set the right targets for your workforce.

Get Measuring

So there you have it – the four key efficiency metrics for contact centres. From forecast accuracy to occupancy and availability, these four measures will show you how your contact centre is really performing.

If you’re not already measuring the right efficiency metrics in your contact centre, then today is a great day to start. Remember: what gets measured gets done. So get measuring today by downloading our FREE Efficiency Metrics Calculator.