What Is the Most Misused Metric in the Contact Center?

Customer Service
Customer Service
Taking Issue

What is the most misused metric in the contact center? Experts offer their opinion.

Esteban Kolsky

Research Director


Customer satisfaction is a potentially dangerous misused metric. Measuring satisfaction is a very complicated thing since the organization is trying to measure a sentiment or feeling in a quantitative manner. Many external variables affect a customer satisfaction survey, including other experiences (e.g. previous bad experiences with the same providers), state of mind at the time of the call (e.g. you just got fired from your job or you just finished a heated discussion with your spouse), as well as environmental and societal variables at the time of the survey (e.g. it is very hot today).

The problem arises when organizations try to tie customer satisfaction scores to customer loyalty. In one example, the American Customer Satisfaction Index computed by the University of Michigan for a specific company was approximately 80 percent, meaning that 80 percent of customers were satisfied with the specific organization. However, their customer churn ratio was in excess of 30 percent. How is it possible that a company with only 20 percent dissatisfied customers was losing 30 percent of them?

Sandy Bailey

Senior Coordinator of Customer Service


It boils down to individual preferences and the type of call center you have, but I find that average handle time (AHT) is often one of the most misused statistics. A lot of centers that I have seen misuse it will have a hard-and-fast rule where the average handle time target is a threshold-if you're below it, no matter how far, it's fantastic, and if you're above it, it becomes an issue immediately. When it's used as a hard-and-fast rule instead of seeing gray areas and seeing that a rep [with a higher AHT] may have higher quality, it can be a problem. And on the other hand those reps who are well below the target AHT can identify coaching issues as well, because it can mean the same sorts of issues-they aren't answering calls correctly, or don't have enough knowledge so are quickly passing calls on to others. Significant overage and underage are opportunities for coaching.

Jim McCarthy

Vice President, Client Operations

Carlson Marketing

Average handle time (AHT) is a dangerous metric when used out of context.AHT can vary widely across centers. Consider a travel agency with two contact centers. One center could service complex travel calls with an AHT of 15 minutes or more, while a second center could handle information requests with an AHT of four minutes.AHT can also be misleading if you make productivity improvements.For example, if the distribution within a center is as follows-50 percent of calls are simple queries with an AHT of three minutes, and 50 percent of calls are more complex with an AHT of six minutes. That center's AHT is 4.5 minutes.If you enhance speech recognition capability such that all simple calls are satisfied in the IVR, and no longer require a live agent, the AHT for the center is now 6 minutes, since only the complex calls remain.The center's overallperformance has improved, the total cost to serve has been reduced, but AHT increased.

Bob Furniss


Touchpoint Associates

It's the lack of a metric-that is, a clear understanding of quality. If there is a measure of quality, it's along the lines of a scorecard that gives an average quality rating, and you say the average agent is an "87 out of 100." In some cases the center is not even managing to [improve] the quality score.

A better measure of quality are satisfaction scores from the people we are talking to. We tie what the agent does to the opinion of the customer. If the customer gives a 50 and I score an 87 for the agent, the agent may be mechanically doing everything I asked him to do, but the customer may still be dissatisfied.

Grant Sainsbury
Practice Director

Dimension Data North America

The answer depends. It depends whom the metric is used on and exposed to, on the nature of the contact center, and on the approach to segmentation that the business has. Calls-in-queue is not the right thing to be forcing on agents if what we want them to do is deliver good customer service. It depends on the maturity of the agent their ability to decide the importance of what they're delivering.