Contact Centre metrics – the basics

Contact Centre metrics are vital for any contact centre operation.  Some metrics are operation specific but many are generic.  Are you reading the right metrics?

This article examines the common and area specific metrics you should be able to review and analyse in your operation.

  • Generic Contact Centre metrics
  • What can I check for so far?
  • Operation specific metrics
  • Final thought for a busy manager
  • My background in this area

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Generic Contact Centre metrics

Why bother with metrics?

All n One - Ballymount
All n One – Ballymount in 2006

I’ve covered this topic in another article but suffice to say if you don’t have metrics you can’t manage your centre. 

Without Contact Centre metrics the best you can say is “you think” or “I guess we are”.

As mentioned before when discussing metrics if people have to manually record information their habit will be not to.

That which is not measured is not managed as Peter Drucker is famous for saying.

So what systems can give us metrics automatically?

  • A contact centre will more than like have a phone system so we start there.  Then we start looking around the business for other tools which might be able to help.
  • A good data management / CRM system such as bxp will provide the rest and more with no extra work from agents required.

More importantly these solutions do not need teams to “pull together” reports.  They should all be available instantly from the systems.

Even if you outsource your contact centre you should be reviewing the Contact Centre metrics of your outsource provider even if they’re not offered initially.


Average Handling Time (AHT) metric

AHT for Calls

N.B. If you’re an experienced contact centre person and believe AHT to be dead please read “Industry common arguments” below first.  Thanks.

Regardless of the contact centre there is an amount of type an operation takes with regard to contact.  If it is a sale or a customer care query it takes an amount of time to handle that interaction.  Whilst your interactions may vary greatly in duration depending on the type of interaction you have an overall average handling time and then you have handling time by different activity types.

The easiest system previously for getting these metrics was a phone system.  From the more historic Nortel Option 11C through to today’s modern Genesys cloud platforms it is very easy to measure the duration of a phone call.

Hey presto your first metric.

As it may not be possible to tell from generic reporting which activity each call was most phone systems support disposition codes.  The agent during the call or at the end of the call enters onto the key pad of the phone or onto the app they use a code number to classify the call.  This data is “attached” to the call and can be reported on.  Now you can report on AHT by disposition code.


AHT for everything else

As soon as you move away from the phone you are faced with a greater challenge.  When you try to measure AHT for emails, social media interactions or white mail it can seem daunting.

Modern unified communications / omnichannel platforms can provide Contact Centre metrics on these types of work and simultaneously manage these types of work but for the majority of mature businesses this becomes a very dark and unreportable area.

There is a solution not just upgrading to the latest and greatest omnichannel platform.


Outcome based reporting

bxp Case Activity Reporting
Image from

As call centres have evolved into contact centres solutions the issue of mixed mediums has become a greater challenge for systems.


bxp software was built such that, when a record is displayed on screen the clock starts.  When the agent chooses an outcome to signify the end of the interaction the clock stops.  You have your AHT from the clock and you have the interaction type thanks to the outcome.

It doesn’t matter if a call, email, white mail or even face to face interaction is used you have an activity time with the level of reporting you would expect from a phone system.

bxp integrates with any phone system that can “pop” or open a screen when the call is made or comes in.  In this way the timing of the call and the activity on screen can be linked.


Comparing the activity time with the phone system has become an incredibly interesting metric for every contact centre manager I’ve worked with.  There is a worked and well explained article available here which goes into the detail of the image opposite.


Clocking in and out

Staff might have a clock in / clock out system on the wall.  For security reasons such as ISO 27001 and PCI compliance centres this is a good idea.

As a contact centre manager you have another system which you can compare this data to.  Phone systems can provide log in and log out time.

Phone systems also support activity codes which allow information such as meetings, training, illness or exceptional unavailability to be recorded.  This can form the basis of time sheets as well as the clock in / out system.

Another win for the helpful phone system.


Not Ready Time

One of the biggest activity codes used is “Not Read” time.  If an agent has after call work to do like writing an email to another department or filling out a quality control sheet then your not read time adds up.  Not ready is the biggest indicator of wasted time.

Wasted is a very strong word.  It is possible to optimise processes to properly classify not ready time into activity time so you can accurately see where your teams time is being spent.  Not ready can often represent a sprint to the bathroom as much as calculating a person’s next bill in after call work.

When reading a contact centre report not ready time should be minimal.

You should now have some more key metrics

  • Log in / log out report
  • Illness report
  • Not ready times
  • Activity report
  • Post contact work time


Lost contacts and response times

A frequent mistake is to only look at the activity reports.  This is the actual work that was completed.

In a centre, you have 10 agents.  20 phone calls come in.  Only 10 calls can be deal with simultaneously the rest have to wait in some fashion.  How many of those interactions do customer’s give up on and just hang up?  These are called dropped calls and the phone system can report on them.

Response times are how long it takes to get around to a customer.  Whether the customer emails in or phones and waits in a queue till an agent is free, how long before we actually get to speak to the customer?




Wrap Up

Post contact work metrics can be difficult to attain but should have a target of 0 seconds.

Regardless of the business there are often times I have heard, “As agents, we can’t do that whilst chatting to the customer.”  If there is a process which requires you to do after call work it needs to be very closely examined.

There are always good reasons for process improvement but not always a willingness to push that agenda.

When I met the challenge of wrap up times I required a tool that would allow me to automate some of the simpler after call work.

  • Send an email or text message
  • Transfer the work to a different departments work queue
  • Provide the information to another system in real time

bxp outcomes meant we could remove over 90% of wrap up time with a goal of 0 wrap up time in our weekly reports.

Being limited to only call time reporting instead of activity time reporting can also contribute to the challenge.


Bureau Services

Nick Wheeler
Nick Wheeler from

Nick Wheeler, a titan of the contact centre industry in Ireland, was the first with Telephone Marketing Services to set up bureau services in Ireland in the 80s.  He has been a friend, mentor and business partner for over a decade.


A bureau service is where you have a team of agents skill in answering different calls for different clients whereto letting the phone system manage the call distribution.  In a bureau service an agent can perform services for different departments or even companies from the same desk.

When you have non-geographic numbers set up (1800 type numbers) they are usually mapped to a land line number.  This allow reporting by phone line.  Not only is this reporting used by operations but also by marketing to help plan on how to better direct customer contact.

Reporting is usually broken up by phone line so accurate reporting of time is challenging and vital.

Contact Centre metrics haven given Nick key insight into the hundreds of people he has managed over the year.  It is an important metric to see the split of time when operating bureau solutions.


Operation specific metrics


Marketing and Media Schedules

Marketing require information from sales to identify where marketing campaigns are successfully working or not.

Communication between sales and marketing can be challenging at times with one of the biggest challenges being being media schedules.  An ad going out on the radio at 18:00 will generate X calls but we also have a television ad running at the same time.  Is there enough staff?  Will there be a glut of calls where we will drop / miss potential sales?

Marketing can provide the media schedule to sales and with a good CRM / data system the media schedule should be always available.

Omni-channel media tracking is challenging for a lot of solutions but vital in helping to determine marketing spend.


Customer Care


NPS Iconography
Image from

Net Promoter Score is an approach suggested by Satmetrix.  Essential give the customer a survey at the end of an interaction so they can rate the interaction.

Customer Effectiveness Score (CES) is very similar in it’s delivery.  The difference in the system is in the focus of the questions with the two approaches differing in their focus.

As Contact Centre metrics these two metrics provide a qualitative review of the operation.




What Contact Centre metrics can I check for so far?

If the above is in place there is a sequence of reports I would look for.  Based on the basic 5 Ws and a H of questions. (Who, What, Where, Why, When, How)

How busy are we?

The response times will show how quickly we are getting back to customers.  Every customer loves an instant response.  Happy customers = repeat / retained business.

Where are we busy?

Viewing the time by disposition / outcome is the next important metric as it explains where the business focus is.

Using the clock in / out and comparing it to the actual activity time is there any waste.

Why are we busy?

What’s generating the need for people to get in contact

Who’s busy?

Reviewing the operation by comparing the input and output of agents over a period to ensure comparisons are apples with apples.

What makes us busy?

Wrap up times, not ready times or having to be away from the ability to contact customers reporting.

When are we busy?

When are our peaks and troughs of contact?  Are we appropriately staffed for those periods?


Industry common arguments

AHT is dead

As one of the fundamental Contact Centre metrics AHT is going nowhere but the prominence as the only metric has definitely passed.

I feel it’s important to address some of the most common metric discussions in the industry for seasoned professionals and set a position for this article.

Some acronyms

  • AHT : Average Handling Time.  Described below.
  • NPS : Net Promoter Score.  A survey given to a customer to ask “What do you think of our service?” Systems vary but score it 1 to 10 basically.
  • FCR : First Call Resolution.  The interaction completes in one event, i.e. the customer doesn’t have to be contacted more than once.

“AHT is irrelevant, we are only interested in NPS or FCR!” 

Whilst having a happy customer is far more important than having good paper statistics both should be considered.

  • How long does it take on average to achieve FCR?
  • For the highest NPS scores achieved how long did we spend chatting to them?

Without the Contact Centre metrics analysis and improvement is guess work and gut feeling rather than structured based on fact.

People are not assests, not should they ever be treated as such.  A manager does have to manage and basing that approach on facts rather than feelings is an eminently better approach.


Contact Centres only

CCMA logo from             

Previously a call centre was so named as it dealt predominantly with phone calls and back office processes.

With the growth in email and social media as preferred methods of communication, the evolution to contact centre as a title is sensible.

In May 2015, Dorothy O’Byrne led the CCMA (Customer Contact Management Association) to upgrade it’s brand to better reflect that industry movement.

A contact centre or call centre is a team that acts as a department, usually sales or customer care.  When considering a contact centre the challenge is to see them as a department on their own or as per the functions they provide.

Seeing a contact centre as just a contact centre does not help the performance of the department they support.  What works for Sales may not be practical for Customer Care.

For these discussions whilst there are generic metrics that apply across the contact centre, they should be viewed from the specific perspective of Sales, or from Customer Care, or whichever department.  There may be an overall metric but metric reporting focus should be function specific.


Final thought for a busy manager

When generating all of the above Contact Centre metrics it should take 0 time for your team to generate reports for you.

Either by team, area or for the entire centre there should be 0 time in generating reports.


My background in this area

Philip Lacey in Gateway Technical support June 1999
Me in Gateway in June 1999. Senior Technican and New Product Introduction Trainer at the time.

I worked in Gateway Technical Support where I first experienced AHT and accounting for every second of my operational day.

I went on to build the Onecall call centre from the ground up, including the construction of desk, chairs, PCs, networks and everything in between.

In the business All n One I built and delivered the IT solutions to run the center whilst initially developing the bxp platform. An image of the centre is at the top of this article.

I’ve facilitated, built and consulted on the integration of numerous phone system and software based solutions with a list of integrations available here:



If I can help you with your operation in any way please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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