Are Your Call Center Metrics Lying? 4 Questions To Ask About Call Center Analytics

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[Estimated read time: 5 minutes]

In the world of customer service call centers, first contact resolution (FCR) measures how many customers had their issue resolved after just one communication touchpoint with a service agent. The related metric of talk time, or how long an agent spends communicating with a customer, is often examined in conjunction with first call resolution rates. However, when analyzed in a vacuum, these two numbers can lead to a dangerous misinterpretation of call center metrics.

Many customer care and marketing leaders view high first contact resolution rates and short talk times as the hallmarks of call center success. And it makes sense that they should. As Justin Robbins, training and development manager at the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), explains: “From a common-sense perspective FCR is all about getting it right the first time; that’s why so many people care.” What’s more, first contact resolution has a direct impact on customer loyalty: Studies have consistently shown that whenever customers must contact a company a second time, satisfaction is reduced by at least 10%. So are high FCR rates and low talk times a cause for celebration? What could be lurking just beneath the surface of these seemingly impressive metrics might surprise you. Here are four questions you should be asking about your contact center metrics:

1. Why is our first contact resolution rate so high?

Is it because customers are getting what they need the first time, or because they aren’t calling back? Leadership frequently fails to consider if the customer was satisfied with the resolution, and if not, what action they may have taken, such as sending an angry tweet or simply switching to a competitor. Without a 360-degree view of the customer (often obtained through a CRM), it can be impossible to measure the impact of first contact dissatisfaction. 

This analysis can be further complicated by the organization’s definition of “first contact.” Is it the first time a customer calls you? From your perspective, the first call may be considered the first contact. But what about from the perspective of your customer? More likely, a customer’s first service touchpoint is self-service on your website or mobile app. In fact, 70% of consumers prefer to use web self-service as a starting point for their service interactions. Many companies neglect to measure the success of their self-service interactions, which should be held to the same quality and accuracy standards as live agents. 

2. Why is our talk time so short?

Is it because agents are providing quick, knowledgeable resolutions, or because they’re so afraid of getting in trouble for a long talk time that they’ll say anything to get the customer off the phone? When agents are recognized and rewarded for how quickly they can handle a phone call or chat interaction, they may sacrifice customer satisfaction in order to hit their numbers — it’s just human nature. Incentivizing agents based on accuracy and satisfaction instead of speed is a more effective way to reward the right behaviors.

3. What is the true nature of the resolutions our customers receive?

To have the biggest positive impact on customer satisfaction, responses should be personalized, accurate, and relevant to each customer — regardless of whether they come from a virtual agent or a live customer service rep. The all-important goal of accuracy is driven by having a single repository of answers, often in the form of a knowledgebase, from where customers, agents, and bots can all retrieve the most up-to-date information. Personalization and relevancy can be achieved by providing agents, both live and virtual, with in-context customer information. For example, when a customer asks about a return policy, the agent is able to provide the exact return policy for the product they were just researching on your website, instead of a generic webpage listing all the return policies.

4. How many calls are we preventing?

Leaders should add this important metric to their analysis: call center contacts prevented by self-service. Companies with exceptional customer experience (CX) view their call centers as one of the last stops on a customer’s escalation path, and not only because phone calls are the most expensive of contact methods. Instead, smart technology occupies the front lines, addressing the bulk of customer concerns.

Sophisticated self-service tech that uses machine learning and natural language processing can accurately and competently resolve even complex customer issues, escalating only the most challenging cases to call center agents. While this scenario may cause a dreaded increase in talk time, it’s actually a good thing: when more cases are being handled by machines, fewer cases require the finesse that only a human agent can provide, giving that agent more time and energy to devote to each customer. Agents are then empowered not only to resolve the customer’s issue, but to proactively educate them on the product and even up-sell or cross-sell if appropriate. All of this contributes to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, even if your talk time metric increases.


The answers to these four questions will provide you with deeper insight into how well your call center and other key components of your CX are truly performing. To understand how smart technology plays a leading role in delivering exceptional customer engagement, learn more about Astute Solutions’ CRMsocial media management, and knowledge management software.


Source: “Customer Experience 3.0: High-Profit Strategies in the Age of Techno Service” by John A. Goodman