KPI 101: Metrics every call center should know

Get started to measure performance and create a dashboard

Metrics are used by customer care teams to measure performance and signal when changes are needed to make improvements. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are displayed on a dashboard that allows customer service managers to assess performance and to determine needed changes, such as increasing or decreasing staffing.

Call center KPIs are chosen to measure progress toward the goals of each brand, and selection is customized to fit each unique set of objectives.  They should be timely and actionable. There are KPIs that may be considered basic to the contact center. But each account customizes the metrics to its specific situation, which may differ by product category, industry, sales strategy or any number of factors.

An account with social media support, for instance, may rely on a metric such as average response time, while social media monitoring might use one such as number of brand mentions. A luxury brand may choose to emphasize first contact resolution or customer satisfaction metrics, rather than handle time. Each brand chooses KPIs by prioritizing what’s important to them.

The set of KPIs can also change depending on what they’re being used to measure – for instance, for staff efficiency or quality, or for Workforce Management forecasting and scheduling.

Basic KPIs

There are many KPIs, but some of the most commonly used customer service metrics follow.

Abandon rate. The percentage of callers who hang up before a Brand Specialist answers, or before they make a selection in an interactive voice response (IVR) unit. The inverse of answer rate. Abandon rate = calls abandoned ÷ (calls abandoned + calls answered).

Agent status. The functional state of a Brand Specialist, be it available, on call, after-contact work or other designation.

Average handle time (AHT) measures the average length of an interaction, including hold time, talk time and after-call work.

Average speed of answer (ASA) is used to calculate the average time a call remains in the queue until a Brand Specialist has picked it up. This is sometimes called average delay.

Contacts per hour. This represents the number of calls or contacts over a specified amount of time – either an hour, or another specified unit of time.

Contact quality or Quality score measures each individual Brand Specialist on how well the characteristics of their contacts match predetermined criteria. For instance, if a quality scorecard includes 20 criteria and a Brand Specialist’s contact meets 18 of them, their score as a percentage would be 90. Contact quality = monitored contact score ÷ total criteria x 100.

Calls in queue. A real-time report on the number of calls received by the automatic call distribution (ACD) system but not yet connected to a Brand Specialist. Also contacts in queue.

Customer satisfaction (CSAT) is the degree to which a customer feels their expectations have been fulfilled by a company’s products and services, usually expressed as a percentage. Customer satisfaction = satisfied customers ÷ all customers x 100.

First contact resolution (FCR) refers to properly diagnosing and resolving the customer’s issues on the initial point of contact. This customer relationship metric, expressed as a percentage, illustrates the quality of service customers are receiving by measuring how often their issues are resolved on the first point of contact. First contact resolution = contacts resolved on first contact ÷ all contacts x 100.

Longest in queue. The longest time a caller waits in queue before they are connected and speak with a Brand Specialist.

Net promoter score (NPS) is a leading growth indicator based on a survey that asks customers how likely they are to recommend a brand to friends and colleagues, on a scale of 0 to 10. The respondents are divided into three categories: promoters, who score 9-10 and are loyal enthusiasts; passives, who score 7-8 and are satisfied but unenthusiastic; and detractors, who score 0-6 and are unhappy customers who can damage reputation and growth with negativity. NPS = % of promoters – % of detractors. The score can range from -100 to 100.

Occupancy. The percentage of time a Brand Specialist is logged in and available to accept incoming calls, email, chat, social media and SMS inquiries or other tasks versus the time that they are logged in and idle, waiting for the next interaction. This calculation can be obtained by dividing workload hours by staff hours. Also known as utilization.

Schedule adherence refers to how well an employee complies with their scheduled work times, including start, stop, break and time off.

Service level (SLA) sets benchmarks for future performance. They can be characterized in call center terms such as 80/20, which means 80 percent of calls answered within 20 seconds. 

Shrinkage. The paid time that Brand Specialists are not available to handle customer contacts, expressed as a percentage. Factored into staffing requirements, shrinkage accounts for breaks, meetings, training, off-phone activities and paid leave, among other things, allowing sufficient staff to be scheduled to meet service goals.

Variance to forecast. The difference between the forecasted number of contacts and the actual number of contacts.

Work time required. The expected time necessary to answer calls and/or other contacts. Work time required = AHT x contact volume.

Tips for choosing, using and dashboarding KPIs

  • Choose metrics that can serve as decision points to drive performance at account and Brand Specialist levels.
  • Use actionable KPIs that can be measured often.
  • Create easy-to-view dashboards with KPIs displayed so they’re easy to see and act on.
  • Create an uncluttered dashboard by displaying only key metrics
    • If more metrics are needed for deeper analysis, include them in a separate report or tab.
  • Compare KPIs to historic performance or goals for context.
  • Make dashboards visible to Brand Specialists and account managers to enable them to focus on achieving the metric goals.
  • Educate everyone on KPIs, including new employees.


Creating a dashboard

A dashboard is a display of data indicating an overview of KPIs – a collection of statistics measuring performance aggregated for viewing to identify insights. Timely and actionable KPIs enable analysis for the effective management of resources. They are essential for account performance.

A dashboard gives account managers a snapshot of performance. By monitoring the group of metrics on a dashboard, a manager analyzes changes in performance and makes adjustments designed to achieve an optimal level. Among changes a manager might make are increasing or decreasing staff.

Creating a dashboard involves selecting the most relevant KPIs, providing information that’s meaningful and actionable, and feeding the data to a software program where it will prepare the report.

Two perspectives for creating a dashboard include a real-time dashboard and a daily dashboard reporting month-to-date data.

Real time:

A dashboard measured in real-time essentially means that as the day goes along, adjustments are being made in categories such as who the system is skilling, to the number of people on break. It allows management of the volume with the load by balancing staff. KPIs useful for a real-time dashboard might include:

  • Contacts per hour.
  • Average handle time.
  • Variance to forecast.
  • Cumulative service level.
  • Contacts in queue.
  • Longest in queue.
  • Status of logged-in agents.

These allow management of workload and ensure the team is working efficiently.


A second dashboard perspective is daily reporting month-to-date. This dashboard might share some common KPIs with the real-time version, including volume; average handle time; variance to forecast and service level. But it adds different KPIs that might include abandon rate and average speed of answer.

Workforce Management

Viewing the KPIs from a Workforce Management perspective – how efficiently the account is operating, the core KPIs that may be used are:

  • Volume
  • Average handle time
  • Variance to forecast
  • Shrinkage percentage, including
    • Adherence to schedule
    • Absenteeism rate
    • Vacation or PTO percentage
  • Occupancy
  • Work time required


Use metrics to create a schedule

The point of Workforce Management is to put people where you need them. Using metrics to create a schedule involves using an arrival pattern for historic inbound contacts, so that they can be understood from an interval-by-interval basis over a historical period and averaged out. The analysis identifies patterns such as when contact volume spikes or drops. WFM will then use work time required (contact volume multiplied by the handle time), an estimated shrinkage, an estimated occupancy and possibly an Erlang calculation to figure out what service levels to expect. With this information, WFM can put together a schedule to fit as best as possible the expected service level.

Create a KPI action plan

When KPIs are not met, the data must be analyzed to determine the root cause of the discrepancy with the forecast. Call dispositions may be reviewed to determine why, for instance, calls may have been longer than usual. Could they reflect delayed shipments caused by weather? After determining the root cause, a solution can be found for the current situation or for a future occurrence.

Celebrate wins

Achieving KPIs is a necessary part of the call center job. But wins are an opportunity to celebrate the individual and team. Consistently exceeding a quality metric might result in a celebratory lunch or product giveaway, for instance. Celebrations are often in the form of monetary rewards, gift cards, team luncheons and recognition on a Wall of Fame. “It’s all about motivation and keeping the Brand Specialists engaged,” said one Global Response vice president.

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