Home Contact Center Productivity

Contact Center Productivity

I think our Reports Person has lost the plot

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

When you’re not sure why the reports you generate matter, or wonder if they even make sense, it’s time to take a step back.

“I think our Reports Person has lost the plot.”

That’s what one of our Participants said to the group after we had finished working through the Contact Centre metrics topic in a recent workshop.

“They generate these complex reports that no one really understands. It’s a big relief to know I don’t have to just accept them simply because we’ve always done it this way.”

That share prompted another Participant in the course to display a report that was being used in their Centre.

As we all stared at the screen trying to figure out what the report was meant to achieve, here is what she said:

“My predecessor who created this report had been in the role a long time.

So our big bosses and everyone in the team assumed that they were an ‘expert’. And that this report was industry standard or at least ‘right’ in some way. 

Based on what I’ve learned in this course so far I’ve already emailed our CEO and told them that we’re going to redefine some of the terms we use and present our performance to them in a better report.

I got a very positive response to that!”


I had my own story to share

I shared the story of how, after delivering a global workshop on-site with a Client, the reports person for that company spent nearly two hours explaining one metric that they created and used to track performance in their Centre.

That explanation was so confusing that even to this day, with half a dozen photos of the whiteboard in my phone, I still can’t quite make heads or tails of it.

And as it turned out – as I met others in that same company – nobody else could understand it either.

The calculations presented may have been highly accurate.  And may have served a higher level purpose.

But complexity in place of clarity is never a good idea.

If you’re running a Contact Centre or Customer Experience group and your folks need a PhD to understand a metric that’s supposed to guide their behaviour, you’ve already got a problem.

Because the very people who are supposed to make it ‘happen’ can’t explain it.Which means they can’t understand it either.


Sometimes people who are new to the role have an advantage over those with years of experience

I sometimes find that people who are new to the industry have an easier time to stand up and ask, “Why do we do this? What is this report supposed to help us with? Is it actually helping?”

Experience is great.

But be cautious about assuming that years of experience – and doing the same thing over and over – is a reliable indicator that we’re doing the right thing.


Reports are more than just reports

It’s easy to say they’re just reports. But that’s a big oversimplification.

Reports – and especially what’s on them – tell people in a formal and structured way what matters around here.  If we measure it, then it must be important.

Which guides people’s behaviour. And people’s behaviour informs the work culture.

Challenge yourself from time to time to be really clear on which reports matter and which ones, perhaps, don’t.

Because it’s so worth it to get it right.


Thank you for reading!

Thank you for the time you took to read this today.  I appreciate it!

If you’d like to be kept updated on new articles and information just share your email address directly with my by email or on the contact form on our website.

Daniel Ord

[email protected]



10 Contact Center Operations Management questions – how well do you do?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this post, I share 10 Contact Center Operations Management questions for Contact Center leaders who want to gauge their mastery of specific Contact Center know how required for successful operations management.

Because while passion and experience are helpful, Contact Center know how matters too.

A bit of background on the Contact Center Operations Management questions

Managing a Contact Center is a business discipline.  It requires very specific know-how. And when I teach Contact Center operations management I cover four modules:

  1. Managing Wait Time
  2. Creating Efficiency
  3. Forecasting the Workload
  4. Contact Center University

The questions presented below are in multiple choice format and are drawn from the Contact Center management workshops I’ve run around the world for over 20 years.

Read through each question and choose the answer that you think is correct – that’s either a, b, c or d.  There is only one correct answer for each question.



The 10 Contact Center Management Questions

1.  Which accessibility metric gives management the clearest indication of the wait time a typical caller experiences?

a) Average Speed of Answer

b) Service Level

c) Percent Abandoned

d) Percent Answered


2.  Which of the following is the industry standard Service Level?

a) 80% answered in 20 seconds

b) 90% answered in 30 seconds

c) Industry standards only exist by industry (finance, hospitality, healthcare, etc.)

d) There is no industry standard


3.  When managing the queue in real-time, which of the following real-time reports should you look at first?

a) Agent status

b) Longest current wait

c) Number of calls in queue

d) Average time to abandonment


4.  Which of the following statements is/are TRUE?

I. Occupancy is the percentage of time agents spend talking to customers or completing After Call Work.

II. Occupancy is a result of random call arrival.

III. When Service Level increases, Occupancy increases.

IV. When Occupancy is extremely high for extended periods of time, Agents tend to work harder to clear out the queue.


a) II only

b) I and II only

c) II and IV only

d) I, III and IV only


5.  Which one of the following statements is true about Adherence to Schedule?

a) Adherence to Schedule measures the actual login time of an Agent compared with the scheduled login time.

b) The percentage of time Agents spend waiting for calls to arrive is the inverse of Adherence to Schedule.

c) When Adherence to Schedule increases, Utilization increases as well.

d) Within the context of Adherence to Schedule, login time does not include time Agents spend in After Call Work.


6.  If an Agent arrives 30 minutes late to work at a Contact Center, which of the following actions would benefit the Center the most? Assume the Agent is unable to consult with his/her Team Leader on the most appropriate action.

a)Stay 30 minutes extra at the end of his/her shift.

b) Skip his/her morning and afternoon breaks, each of which is 15 minutes.

c) Come back from his/her hour lunch break 30 minutes early.

d) Take his/her breaks and lunch as normal and leave at his/her scheduled time.


7.  Which one of the following statements is FALSE?

a) Measuring the number of calls handled by Agent is a good productivity standard.

b) Adherence to Schedule is typically an important productivity measure for a Contact Centre Agent handling Service Level-based contacts.

c) When Adherence to Schedule improves Service Level improves as well.

d) Most of what drives the Average Handling Time lies outside the control of the Agent


8.  The best definition of Time Series forecasting is:

a) A method where the past is a good basis for predicting the future

b) A method which is only used in rare circumstances

c) A method that covers the qualitative side of forecasting

d) A method that does not require judgement


9.  Your Call Centre supports email and is expecting 200 email messages to arrive between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. The Average Handling Time of email messages is 8 minutes.  Your promised response time is 4 hours.  Assuming the Agents can work uninterrupted on these email messages only, which of the following staffing scenarios would meet your response time objective for these email messages?

I. 4 Agents working from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

II. 9 Agents working from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

III. 14 Agents working from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

IV. 40 Agents who each spend at least an hour working on email from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.


a) II only

b) III and IV only

c) II, III and IV only

d) I, II, III and IV


10.  Which of the following are ‘factors’ you need to incorporate in a monthly Agent labor budget?

I. Is my Agent in the building?

II. What is the monthly weighted average Occupancy rate?

III. Is my Agent on a break?

IV. Is my Agent on leave?


a) III only

b) I and II only

c) I, II and III only

d) I, II, III and IV


Would you like to know how you did?


If you’d like to know if your answers are correct I’m happy to help.

I’ve intentionally gone ‘low-tech’ here.  There’s no need to register anywhere, set-up an account or pay to access answers.  Your name won’t be added to a mailing list unless you give specific permission for it to be added.

Once you’ve answered all the questions just drop me an email to [email protected]

Let me know the question # and the answer that you chose (either a,b,c or d).  Remember there is only one correct answer for each question.

You can use the following format in your email to me:

  1. a
  2. d
  3. c
  4. c (and so on for all the questions)

I always do my best to answer quickly and let you know which ones you got right and what the right answers are for the one(s) you got wrong.

Of course taking a few specific know-how questions won’t fully reflect the experience and effort that have gone into your Contact Center management work.

But it helps to know that it takes more than passion and experience to succeed in the industry.

And it’s the folks who have that know how, combined with their passion & experience, who create great outcomes for their Center.  And that’s good for everyone.

Good luck with the questions!

Daniel Ord

[email protected]




What I learned from Thoreau about CX, Customer Service & Contact Centers

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

What I learned from Thoreau came from stumbling across his quote in a science fiction book I was reading –

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”

There’s so much wisdom packed into these few words. And for someone like me who teaches, it resonates. Because I think great teaching helps people ‘see’ more clearly.

In the domains of Customer Experience, Customer Service & Contact Centers, folks look at and see a lot of different things.

Let’s have a look.

Here are some examples of the difference between looking and ‘seeing’

Interpreting Quality

– When you listened to that call recording or read that email reply from Customer Service, what did you ‘see’ (hear)?  

Quality opinions tend to be all over the place – even amongst folks who’ve worked together for years. Was that a good email or a not so good email? What was great about that call? What could be improved in that call?

Getting people to ‘see’ Quality and align around a common understanding for Quality makes Customer lives better (yeah – predictablity & consistency!).

And it makes Employee lives better too (yeah, we know what we’re supposed to deliver and we get quality help from our company to deliver that).

What a great Quality Assurance professional can do

Interpreting Metric results

–  When you look at those 32 Contact Center metrics you report every week – what do you ‘see’?

Because I work inside so many Centers around the world, I see the level of variation in the ‘what’ people select and look at in their Contact Center KPIs.

So many Contact Center metrics are either unnecessary, secondary at best, interpreted incorrectly, are weighted too much (or too little) or are interpreted in different ways amongst the Team.

And because a Center is an ‘interrelated system of causes’, it’s important to understand the interrelationships and trade-offs that exist between metrics – not just metric performance in isolation.

Looking at a dashboard of metrics, and having the entire Team accurately interpret what they see – unlocks a world of potential.

What I learned from Thoreau?  Don’t just look at dashboards – see and understand what they’re telling you.

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

Interpreting how Customers behave

– When that Customer scolded you while you were serving at the Counter what did you ‘see’?

Don’t be surprised when some Frontline folks – after being scolded by a Customer – say they saw a ‘jerk’. Or that they were being ‘abused’.

Some discussion on how to better manage difficult Customer situations can change the way folks ‘see’ some of these situations.

Because there is a distinction between Customer behaviour that is indeed ‘abusive’ vs. Customer behaviour that we just happen not to like.

Helping your folks see that – and manage those situations better – is an important leadership responsibility.


And for those in leadership roles, our job is to help others see things too

In management workshops Participants ask the following questions:

– How can I get my bosses to ‘see’ that our Contact Center is a profit center, not a cost center?

– How can I get my Employees to ‘see’ that the values we’ve chosen for culture change really matter?

–  How can I get other departments to ‘see’ how important CX is?

The cool thing is that when people see better, they do better.

They make better decisions. They align & unite around common language & goals. They improve their ability to influence & persuade others.

Not once in the 21 years I’ve been training has a single Client said, “Dan, we’d like to fly you halfway around the world and pay you some money to stand up and share your opinions with the Team for 1 or 2 days.”

Even writing that sentence makes me wince.

The way Clients put it sounds like this. “Dan, we have a challenge or an opportunity we’d like some help with.”

“Can you help our people see how to run our Center better? See what CX means and how to bring it to life. See how to be a better boss. See how to improve coaching outcomes. See how to communicate better with Customers.”


Not just look. But see

I like what I learned from Thoreau.  And I came across his quote purely by accident – in a science fiction book I was reading.

But it helped me reflect on what I do in my own work. And see it more clearly.


I hope in some way it is helpful to you too.  Thank you for reading!


No alt text provided for this image


What Conway Twitty taught me about Agent resilience

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments


In this short article I share how the popular country music Artist, Conway Twitty, taught me a life-long lesson about Agent resilience in the Contact Center.


What do I mean by Agent resilience?

Here’s a useful definition of resilience –

the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness.

Because given what’s going on in the world now, Contact Center folks at the Frontline are going through a lot.  Changes in work environments, work from home protocols, stressed Customers, stressed Bosses.

So while the topic of resilience is always relevant, it has a special resonance right now.


The background

Early in my career in the 90s, I was Vice President of Call Centre & Distribution Operations for Heartland Music.  Based in Los Angeles, it was the job that got me into the Contact Center & Customer Experience industry.

Heartland ran TV commercials and mailed out catalogues to millions of Customers across the US.

TV commercials and catalogues that featured titles like ‘All the Elvis Presley’ hits you need to own or the ‘Top 100 Love Songs’ of all time.

Customers then called into our Contact Centers to place orders which we packaged and shipped from our own warehouses.  And of course we provided Customer Service as well – anything from suggestions on what titles we should stock to ‘where is my order ‘enquiries.

It was a big and growing business.


So how does Conway Twitty fit into Agent resilience (and who was he?)

Country music was a big part of our offerings.  And country music fans were generally sweet, loyal and supportive.

And though it sounds a bit macabre, whenever a popular Artist that we carried passed away, there would always be a marked and sudden upsurge in sales for their work.

That’s still the same case today – though it’s reflected these days by increases in streaming figures vs. how many ‘units’ were sold.

And an Artist passing way was an event that a Workforce Manager couldn’t really plan for.

We relied on our own internal back-up plans and a strong committed Agent workforce to get through most of our unexpected surges.

But Conway Twitty was the surge to end all surges.

An American country music singer, he also recorded rock and roll, R&B and pop music. And he received several Country Music Association awards for duets with Loretta Lynn – another beloved country music star.

I don’t remember which day of the week it was, but when I entered the office, our Operations Manager made a beeline straight for me.

‘Dan, Conway Twitty died.’

That’s all Frank had to say.  We’d both been around enough years to shorthand the conversation.

The volume of calls in the Center had already picked up and we knew we were only at the beginning.

CX lessons we can learn from the Contact Centre industry

Six weeks later

I’m not exactly sure why Conway Twitty was different.  But we were now six weeks into the surge and his sales were still going up.

Great for business but not so great for our Agents.

Occupancy was through the roof, hours got longer, and admittedly a few people started to get edgy.

And while we were dealing with normally sweet country music lovers, long wait times and out of stock situations put them on edge too.  Meaning even more frustration for our Agents to deal with.

It ended up being about a 3-month period overall.  Much longer than the normal two or three week ‘lift’ that we had seen before.


And here’s what I learned about Agent resilience

My Operations Manager said it to me first.

‘Dan, they’ll be ok. Do you know why?  Because they know there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

What to look for when you hire a new Contact Centre Manager

The light at the end of the tunnel

If you’ve been a fair boss,  you communicate honestly, and you have a management team that’s aligned to the purpose – it’s amazing what your people will give back to you.

And I’ve seen them give back for a year and even more (in some cases).

But the real caveat for Agent resilience is that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  You must be very open & honest about what you’re doing to bring things back to ‘normal’.

Even if what normal looks like coming out doesn’t look exactly like the way it did when going in.


Thank you for reading!


[email protected]

How to use the True Calls per Hour Calculation in the Contact Centre

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article I share how to use the True Calls per Hour calculation in the Contact Centre.

We get into a bit of advanced operations here.  But it’s something that Contact Centre leaders should know and be able to use.


When you hear folks talk about Contact Centre productivity they’re usually talking about the Agents

Usually when we hear people talk about productivity they have their finger pointed firmly at their Agents.

“How can we get our Agents to be more productive?” they ask.

When we ask “What do you mean by productivity?” the most common answer is –

“How can we get the Agents to handle more calls or live chats per hour (day/week)?”

But Quantity Handled per Agent is and always has been a problematic measure

Productivity in a Contact Centre is not about how many calls or chats are handled.

This measure – when directed at Service Level based contacts – has always been problematic.

There are very real mathematical realities at work that put the number of calls or chats handled outside the direct control of the Agent.

When you stop and look at it, the key factors that drive contact quantity up or down per Agent include:

  • The Service Level set and its resulting Occupancy rate
  • The health of the Forecasting, Staffing, Scheduling & Real Time Management process at the interval level
  • The size of the Queue at any given time (known as the Pooling Principle)
  • The undeniable mathematics of random contact arrival (which is why we have Erlang C)

What you need to know about the Pooling Principle in Contact Centers

For Centres that have sorted this out and no longer target Agents on quantity handled – congratulations.

You’re well on the way to enhancing Agent and Customer Experience.

But let’s pause a moment.

Ok Dan (you might say).  Got it.  We don’t (or won’t) target Agents on Quantity Handled for Service level based contacts.  

But for planning, comparative and high level management purposes is there some way we can analyze the quantity handled across different shifts, cities and even countries?

Well I’m glad you asked.

Let me show you how.


The True Calls per Hour calculation

When I teach this in workshops, I like to use the example of making pizzas in a Pizza outlet.

See if you can answer the question posed in the picture below for our fictional Pizza Palace company.


What makes this difficult to answer is that our Delhi outlet is busier than our Chennai outlet.

Perhaps our Delhi outlet is located on the ground level of a busy mall while our Chennai outlet is off the beaten track in a low traffic area.

But we can’t possibly hold Prachi or Sangeetha accountable for how busy (or not) their outlets were – they’re not in the Sales & Marketing Team.

They were hired to make pizzas.

Got your answer?

Ok – let me show you how we normalize the figures so that we can compare them fairly.


In order to correctly compare both Prachi and Sangeetha, you take what they actually ‘did’ (in this case how many pizzas they made) and divide that by the Occupancy rate they experienced during that time.

Once you normalize the data as you see above, we can calculate the ‘rate’ at which both of these people are working.

The use of the word rate is important.

Prachi is working at the rate/speed of 25.3 pizzas per hour.  In other words if her Occupancy rate had been 100% this is how many she would have made.

Sangeetha is working at the rate/speed of 28.3 pizzas per hour. In other words if her Occupancy rate had been 100% this is how many she would have made.

So we can now compare both of our pizza chefs on the same basis because we have factored out the impact of the different Occupancy rates.

That’s how the True Calls per Hour calculation works.

Just substitue calls for pizzas.


But could we have a problem?


Typically at this point in the discussion the topic of Quality comes into the picture.  How good (or not) the pizza looks & tastes.

What we don’t know (or haven’t figured out) yet

What we don’t know in this exercise (at least so far) is the appropriate or best rate at which we should be making pizzas.

Because we want Customers to come back again. And if we don’t give Quality – then what we’re doing is pointless.  We’ll never run a sustainable pizza business.

Studies must be done

Fast food companies are well known for conducting very scientific time & motion studies on how many can be ‘done’ and still deliver the required level of quality.

Contact Centres could learn from their example.

It is very likely that Pizza Palace has conducted in depth time and motion studies.

For purposes of this article let’s assume that they discovered that a pizza chef operating at the rate of 22 – 25 pizzas per hour was ideal.

The required quality standards were achieved without any obvious pick up or loss in productivity.

Now that we have a viable quality range to look at, we can draw some conclusions about the pizza chefs in this story.

Prachi is probably ‘doing fine’.  She’s operating at the upper end of the range and is within range.  But we should still taste her pizza now and then for quality assurance purposes.

On the other hand, Sangeetha is operating outside of the range – and on the high side.  We’d better go taste her pizza to ensure quality hasn’t been compromised.

Of course, if someone looks like they’re operating outside the range and on the high side it could be either:

a) they are in fact working too fast (and thus Quality falls – such as the taste of the pizza)

b) they’ve discovered some kind of process or quality innovation that should be studied and replicated across our other chefs

The best Contact Centres

The best Contact Centres don’t target Agents individually on the quantity of contacts handled (for Service Level based contacts – that caveat must always be there).

But when they want to conduct comparative quantity analyses they use the same normalization technique we used in this story for pizzas.

Some of the conclusions I’ve seen Clients come up with using this technqiue include:

  • For Ireland/Germany/Singapore (name your market or city) we know that on a Saturday afternoon shift the right rate of call handling that delivers on quality is about 12 – 15 calls per hour
  • Our night shift Team calls per hour achievement will always be lower than our day shift Team calls per hour achievement
  • The true calls per hour rate for Japan will always be lower than our calls per hour rate for IndiaWe know that if we see variations in the rate we need to explore the underlying reasons (conduct root cause analysis) and not just blame Agents or push them to go faster

Notice that none of these learnings had to do with targeting individual Agent calls handled.


Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

In conclusion for True Calls per Hour

If you seek to compare the rate of contact handling for different times of day, for different shifts, for different cities or countries or across a time period – an educated implementation and use of True Calls per Hour calculation can help.

It’s an advanced operations technique – for advanced Centres – but very powerful.

Thanks for reading!


[email protected]

Public Programs

Implementing appropriate Contact Centre Wait Time Metrics

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I talk about implementing appropriate Contact Centre Wait Time Metrics and strategies.

It’s not about the know-how – it’s about implementing that know-how

I’ve been teaching advanced Contact Centre operations for nearly 20 years.  And there’s a lot of knowledge to pick up.

So I thought it might be helpful to share some implementation tips to help Contact Centres take their know-how and bring it to life.  Because at the end of the day it’s not the know-how – it’s the implementation.

In this short article I’ll address Contact Centre Wait Time metrics and strategies.

In future articles I’ll address other aspects of operational implementation including KPI selection, forecasting and quality.  I can envision a mini-series here.

One other note – this article is written for those who’ve been through a rigorous operations course.  So I’m speaking directly to those equipped with the know-how.  If you’ve not been through a rigorous operations course I hope you find this article helpful to some degree.

And if you find yourself saying you don’t agree, or you don’t understand – that’s usually because of a lack of know-how, not a lack of intelligence, passion or desire.

In this industry we simply don’t know what we don’t know if we don’t make a concerted effort to fill the gaps in our know-how.

Now on we go.

Wait Time Metrics

For Customer contacts that you’ll handle in 60 minutes or less you’ll use Service Level.

For Customer contacts that you’ll handle after 60 minutes you’ll use Response Time.

Because of the confusion around Service Level and related Wait Time metrics let’s hold off on Response Time measurements for a future article.

As operations experts know – the way you define, measure and plan for performance between Service Level & Response Time contacts is completely different and it doesn’t do either justice to ‘mix them together’.


Service Level

1. Ok first things first – set your Service Level

You’ve got to set a Service Level for your Centre.  No Service Level?  Then it’s time to set one.  Because you can’t plan and staff to a moving or non-existent target.

If you’re using an ACD you’ve got to be using Service Level – it’s that simple.

Remember there is not an industry standard for Service Level.

What works for Organization A is not going to work for Organization B.

Even within a single organization you may find up to a dozen different Service Level objectives depending on the nature of that Customer queue and the types of Contacts handled.

Because Service Level is a major driver of your labor budget, it is typically reviewed annually – at the normal annual budget cycle.  Avoid changing your Service Level frequently – that will make life difficult for everyone.

Annual reviews – with the right mix of senior Participants – works well.


2. Ok – now decide what interval you’re going to use for measurement

Service Level performance is always measured on an interval basis.

Typically at 30 minute intervals but if your contacts are long then at the 60 minute interval basis.

If you have a very small Centre or Queue – with just a few Agents – an hourly or even shift basis may be enough for you.

But if you have a larger Centre or Queue  you should be measuring to the 30 minute interval. Very large Centres and those that pursue a significant cost efficient strategy measure down to the 15 minute interval.

If you’re only reporting a daily or weekly average – for example to give to the bosses – you’re going to have to add an additional set of internal measurements & reporting around intervals.

Because the Customer Wait Time experience, the Agent Occupancy experience and your best bet for cost efficiency live within interval management – not with daily or weekly (or heaven forbid) monthly averages.

Some Centres use a green/amber/red system to indicate interval performance across a day.

For example, you have run a 24 hour operation and you measure down to the half hourly interval you have 48 intervals to ‘get right’.

So define what a green interval looks like.  For example Service Level performance of 90% or above = green.  And carry on that logic for amber and red intervals.

Imagine how easy it is to look at a color coded representation of your Service Level performance that day by interval.  How many greens?  Ambers?  Reds?  Where do patterns emerge?  Because you can only fix what you can find.

And use cool graphical representations of Service Level performance to share with everybody in the Centre. It takes everyone in the boat, rowing in the same direction, to achieve Service Level.

It shouldn’t be a secret – it should be displayed everywhere.


3.  Choose a Service Level calculation formula

A lot of folks don’t realize that there are at least 4 different formulas out there to calculate your actual Service Level performance.

And that this formula has been input into your ACD.

So the question is always this.  Do you know what your formula is?  Are you happy with it?  Is it consistent across the organization to allow for some level of apples to apples comparison?

It’s an important decision.

Average Speed of Answer

Are you using Average Speed of Answer?  If so, why?

If you have an ACD, Service Level is the best and key metric to measure the Customer Wait Time experience.

Leading Centres don’t use ASA because it is an outcome of Service Level performance.  If Service Level goes down where does ASA go?  It goes up!

Learn to chase drivers – not outcomes.  Fix a driver and you automatically fix an outcome.

Where does ASA come into play?

Well it’s in the Erlang B calculation to calculate how many trunk lines you need for your Centre.  But that’s automatic.

And admittedly it’s easier to graph using ASA vs. Service Level.  Simply run Erlang C for your desired Service Level, identify the outcome ASA figure (let’s say 12.7 seconds) and use that for graphing.  It’s ‘equivalent’.

But if you have an ACD and you’re using ASA as a target or important metric stop, pause and ask yourself why.

It’s very ‘Jurassic Park’ and was in use in the days before ACDs were commonly installed.


Longest Wait Time

One Customer is going to experience a ‘Longest Wait Time’ even when you’re achieving your interval based Service Level.

Firstly – everyone should know what that is.  Because even if you’re achieving your 80/20 or 90/10 or 50/40 someone is going to wait a long time.

There are often widely different wait time experiences for Customers within a single half hour interval.  It’s good to be aware of that.  Particularly if you survey Customers on their wait time experience.

Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – whoever is reading your Readerboard and making decisions based on that data MUST know the Longest Wait Time for that interval.

The Longest Wait Time is an important piece of data for interpreting your Readerboard and making smart Service Level recovery decisions.

Fortunately Erlang C helps us calculate that piece of data for each and every interval.

And just like ASA, Longest Wait Time is an outcome of Service Level.  If your Service Level goes down your Longest Wait Time goes up.

But as I mentioned before – don’t chase outcomes, find and fix the driver(s) – in this case Service Level.


Abandonment Rate

There’s a lot of confusion around this metric.

Clearly, Centres that generate revenue – such as food orders or hotel reservations – care a lot their Abandonment Rate.  But they address that ‘care’ by setting very high Service Level objectives.  That means that Customers get answered so quickly they hardly have time to abandon – though of course an Abandonment Rate still exists.

For non-revenue generating Centres – and that’s most of them – Abandonment Rate is an outcome.  An outcome of Service Level.

If Service Level goes down, it is likely (though not assured) that Abandonment Rate will go up.  Or when Service Level goes up, it is likely (though not assured) that Abandonment Rate will go down.

Smart Centres see Abandonment Rate as an outcome.

So rather than targeting it they examine it.  When do most people abandon?  What intervals experience higher or lower Abandonment Rate?  When do we play our delay announcements?  Should we move our announcements around?

Because Abandonment Rate is a human behaviour – not a mathematical behaviour.  It lies in the hands of the Customer.

We’re in control of (drum roll please) Service Level.  When we’re achieving Service Level by interval we’re accomplishing our mission. We’re delivering a consistent Customer Wait Time, Agent Occupancy and Organizational promise experience.

Trying to chase abandoned calls is like trying to catch a greased pig at the county fair.

Getting a handle on Abandonment Rate in the Contact Centre


Service Level (again)

I like to say that Service Level has a Driving License and the other metrics are all passengers in the car.

So if Service Level turns left – they all turn left.  If Service Level turns right – they all turn right.

You get the idea.

And if it helps remember that there are only 3 drivers of Service Level for any interval.  They are:

  • Contact Volume
  • Average Handling Time
  • Agent Capacity

If you’re struggling to achieve Service Level for any interval or set of intervals your root cause lies within one of more of these 3 variables.

More articles on Operations soon and thank you for reading!










Contact Centre KPIs & The Green Jaguar

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I share the true story of my former boss, her green Jaguar automobile and how they taught me lessons about Contact Centre KPIs.

The background

Back in the early 90s I landed my first VP Operations role running Call Centre & Warehouse operations for an American entertainment company.

I had not come up through the ranks.

I was the VP Finance and I was offered the VP Operations job after the existing VP Operations resigned.

So I went straight from numbers, financials & analyses to operations.

At that time we didn’t have easy access to reliable Call Centre training – especially in operations domain.

The entire management team, including my boss the Executive VP, had to figure out how to run a large and growing Call Centre without any formal education or background in the industry.

Call Centres are very unique environments and cannot be understood purely from an intuitive or gut level.

There are some very real and complex mathematical realities which need to be mastered to perform well.

But I didn’t know those lessons and my boss at the time most certainly did not either.

We built our Los Angeles-based Call Centre from the ground 

One of the milestones of my career was watching a brand new Call Centre being built from the ground up.

Engineers were consulted, building crews were brought in, technology folks began to install, people began to be hired and it was all very exciting.

The Centre was located in a small beach town about 20 miles from the company’s chic and shiny Santa Monica based headquarters.

That gave our pioneer team a sense of independence and also some welcome distance from corporate ‘politics’.

My boss – the Executive VP

My direct boss was a life-long record company executive.

She stood about 6’1” (186 cm), wore big statement jewellery and could do multiple currency calculations in her head.

I loved her but feared her just ‘enough’ – others feared her more.

Every year she also got a new company car – and in the year our Centre went live it was a shiny green Jaguar sedan.  Gosh I loved that car.

Our new Centre was a single story building with glass windows all around.  That allowed us to see cars pulling in and out of the driveway.

And soon you will see how important this was to this story.

When the Centre opened

Our formal launch day was set.

And about 3 days beforehand my boss called me and asked if she could drop by on opening day to see the live operations.

She wanted to see people taking calls and experience what she and the Board had ‘gotten’ after spending so much money.

My answer was of course – yes, come on over.

Was there really a choice?

This is when things got a bit messy

One of the lessons I share now in my training is never let your boss walk unescorted through your Call Centre.

It’s too easy to draw incorrect conclusions based on what you see – a lot of what goes in a Centre is actually invisible!

But I let her go unaccompanied out into the Centre and here is what happened.

Armed with a little notebook, she walked around and observed each and every one of the 60 or so Agents we had in place at launch.

If the Agent was talking on their headsets or typing on their keyboards she was pleased and walked on by.   If they weren’t doing anything she wrote down their name on the notebook.

When her 6+ foot frame appeared in my doorway, she wasn’t very happy.

“Daaaaan” she drawled in her Southern accent, “You’ve got a big problem.

“You’ve got a lot of lazy people out there not doing anything.  So your interviewing skills must not be all that great.  And I’d say you’re also overstaffed.

“If you don’t fix this we are going to have a serious problem – do you really think we’re made of money?”

With that, she turned, went out, got into her car and drove back to Santa Monica.

A surprise visit

A week later, at about 10:00AM, the Receptionist ran into my office and blurted out “She’s here, she’s here!”

She had spotted the green Jaguar pulling into the front drive through the windows.

So I did what any fast thinking VP Operations would do.

I ran out to the floor, grabbed the first 3 Agents I could reach and said “You, you and you, sign off and go hide in the pantry!”

As they ran around the corner in walks my boss.

She looked at me for a moment and then strode right into the Call Centre floor.

And what did she see?

Here’s what she saw

As any good Call Centre person knows, when I pulled through 3 folks off the phone, the Occupancy rate for all the remaining folks immediately shot up.

Welcome to the Power of One.  Everyone was either talking or typing.

She wandered around the Centre for about 20 minutes in total and this time I made sure I went with her.

As she headed back to the front lobby she turned to me and said “Good”.  She then walked out, got into the car and drove off.

Here’s what was really happening 

You need to know more than just the individual definition and purpose of each KPI.

The most interesting part about Contact Centre KPIs is how they interrelate and interact with each other.

Contact Centre KPIs aren’t just dials on a dashboard to be monitored and tracked in isolation.

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

So I came up with what I call ‘The Chicken Dance’ – based directly on the story of my boss and her green Jaguar.

And this has always been one of my favourite teaching moments.

To do the Chicken Dance, you start by raising your arms up so that they are parallel to the floor.

Ok here goes –

When I pulled the 3 folks off the phone – the Service level went down (flap down).

That means the Occupancy went up (flap up).

– Quality potentially began going down as the call queue grew (flap down).

– Abandonment rate likely went up as the call queue grew (flap up).

– Available time for the Agents went down (flap down).

– In the short run AHT might go down but as time goes by AHT goes up (flap up).

– Customer Satisfaction with wait time goes down (flap down).

-and # of Calls Handled per Agent went up (flap up) – but not because they were more productive!  Because we were understaffed at that time.

I dedicate The Chicken Dance to my former boss in Los Angeles

Since I introduced the Chicken Dance in my classes way back in 2003, thousands of people have sat in a training room or hotel conference room and watched me perform the dance.

I think that this has been a fun and useful way to convey the complexity inherent in Call Centre operations.

Operations training doesn’t need to be dry and boring.

It should be interesting and useful and be easily linked to the Employee experience and the Customer experience as well.

People should be able to ‘speak’ its unique language with ease.

So in closing, I dedicate the Chicken Dance to my boss with the green Jaguar.

And I thank her for the wonderful 8 years I had working with her and gaining such wonderful experience that I share with students to this day.

Thank you for reading!



Dear Contact Centre – please stop tai chi’ing your Customers

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I warn against tai chi’ing your Contact Centre Customers when they need your help.

There are many odd approaches to achieving productivity in the Contact Centre industry

There’s a long list of odd approaches to achieving productivity in the Contact Centre.

One of my least favorites is what I call tai chi’ing the Customer.

If you’re familiar with the formal practice of Tai Chi it originated in ancient China and is one of the most effective exercises for health of mind and body.

When I lived in Los Angeles I practiced tai chi to manage my own personal stress and reduce blood pressure.

But in the Contact Centre it’s not a good thing and here’s what it sounds like –

Good morning this is Andrew, how may I help you?

Hi Andrew, Siti here. Can I ask how to apply for the scholarship?

Sure Siti.   It’s all on the website.  Just visit abc.com and you’ll find everything there.

 Short, sweet , unhelpful.

But it kept the call short!

It’s tai chi’ing when you push someone to self-help without offering to help first.

Designed journeys have exception handling too

Sure – perhaps a particular Customer journey was designed in such a way that the Customer would have ideally gone to the website first.

But when you offer multiple channels, you’ve made an implicit promise to honor the Customer regardless of which channel(s) they decide to use.

When I work with students in Customer Experience courses I explain it this way –

“When your Customer wakes up in the morning they have a choice.  A choice in how they interact with you.

They could call, email, text, or drop in on your Service Centre as they’ll be in town running errands anyway.

No matter what choice they make, we honor them and help get the job done.”

Journey mapping practitioners recognize that some percentage of voice calls come in after Customers tried self-service first.

And that happens when the self-service option failed to deliver the desired information or required too much effort.

Referred to as containment this is a measure of the percentage of enquiries  fully resolved within a particular channel.

And it’s never 100%.

So for a Customer to be tai chi’ed on a voice call – right back to the self-service channel that had failed in the first place – is clearly not an award winning strategy.

The danger of measuring service through compliance measures

We worked with a large educational institution on their Contact Centre Mystery Shopper program.

To allow for trending,  the compliance standards used for measurement had not been refreshed or updated for years.

And sure enough, all the greetings, closings and using the Customer’s name ‘two times’ were achieved and generated high percentage scores for the program.

They were all happy.

But during our analysis of the conversations, we picked up on the extensive use of Tai Chi by the Agents.

Though we reported it in our findings the management wasn’t that interested.

Later on when we checked, we learned that the Tai Chi approach was a directive from Contact Centre management to keep the calls short.

Ah ok.  We had simply picked up on what the Agents had been asked to do.

Another weird way that productivity rears its head in the industry while damaging the Customer Experience.

How about a version like this?

Good morning this is Andrew, how may I help you?

Hi Andrew, Siti here. Can I ask how to apply for the scholarship?

Sure Siti. Happy to help with that!

(A bit of to and fro to address Siti’s needs)

Ok Siti – have you viewed our website before? 

Ah ok – no worries – let me show you where, in future, you can easily reference what we’ve been taking about on this call.

What if Customers fed back that the website did not provide an easy reference?

No problem.

Because this becomes business intelligence to be funneled to the CX Team for action so the website can better meet its purpose.

Thank you for reading (and please – no more Tai Chi!),


How to help your Contact Centre Agents improve their Performance

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this post I share how to help improve your Contact Centre Agent performance.

What is the job of a Contact Centre Agent?

When we hire a Contact Centre Agent, we’re responsible for helping them succeed in their job.

To help improve Contact Centre Agent performance.

So a fundamental understanding of the job is the right place to start.

For the Contact Centre Agent job, this definition helps:

The job of a Contact Centre Agent is to do the right things at the right time.

 Doing the right things corresponds to Quality, while at the right times corresponds to Productivity.

So let’s look at some choices you can make to improve performance in Quality and in Productivity.

At the end of the article we’ll close out with a look at the role of Attitude(s).

Doing the right things = Quality

Here are some choices you can make to help your Contact Centre Agent performance in Quality.

1.  Develop a compelling Service Delivery Vision  

When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

That’s a powerful statement and important when you’re looking to deliver Customer-pleasing quality.

Every organisation has its own purpose, its own set of Customers and its own style and brand.  So by design, it should have its own kind of service too.

A well-crafted Service Delivery Vision helps everyone understand what kind of service we deliver around here.

Even better, ask Agents their opinion of what kind of Service we deliver around here and incorporate their voice into the Service Delivery Vision.

Wouldn’t be great if every Agent could say –

I know exactly what kind of Service we deliver around here, how to explain it to others and how to bring it to life in my job role.

2.  Select the right Performance Standards by channel and train them well 

Every channel –  Live Chat, Email, Voice – has its own set of behavioural practices that separate a great interaction from an average one.

upside down pyramidFor example, in Email it’s important to write the way you speak and to use inverted pyramid writing when sharing content.

First – understand those behavioural practices by channel.  If your internal Trainers don’t have this know-how then go to the outside word and get help.

Second – filter those practices through your Service Delivery Vision.

The behaviours you choose should reflect the kind of Service you deliver ‘around here’.

Agents shouldn’t have to learn how to deliver a ‘different kind of service’ across different channels. That’s not only confusing – it’s a mess.  Align to the Service Delivery Vision and then bring out those behavioural practices inherent in each channel that supporst the Vision.

Third – choose and document meaningful Performance Standards for your Agents to learn and practice – for each channel they’re asked to handle.

And be sure that anyone involved in coaching understands these Performance Standards inside and out.

3.  Don’t ask Agents to practice on Customers

I regularly come across Centres that ask their Agents to practice on Customers.

For example:

  • Email Agents who have never been formally trained in email writing practices.
  • Live Chat Agents who are told to start handling Live Chats without a background or understanding of what separates an average chat from a great chat.
  • Voice Agents who may have received orientation training or product knowledge training – but that’s about it.

It’s hard to be an Agent who is asked to practice on Customers.

And don’t buy-in to the idea that Agents who have good ‘hearts’ know how to give good service.

That’s not just untrue, it’s unfair.

There’s a lot to human communication.

If you have any doubts about that just google ‘human communication’ and see what I mean.

No one goes to work to be mediocre.  So when our Agents struggle to deliver on Quality it can be demotivating.

Quality Assurance (QA) should be an enabler – not a barrier.  And yet so many QA folks spend most of their time marking people down for things.

Wouldn’t be great if each Agent could say –

I know the ‘why’ behind the Performance Standards my organization chose to measure quality and I appreciate that there are mechanisms in place to continuously equip me to do well in quality – across every channel I handle.

4.  Implement proper Interaction Coaching practices

Talking to someone about a ‘bottom box’ satisfaction rating from a Customer is not coaching.

Telling someone they failed a critical error is not coaching.

You should call it what it really is.  A poor performance conversation.

The goal of a poor performance conversation is to help the Employee understand what was poorly done and the consequences.

But a poor performance conversation is not the same as a transaction coaching conversation.

It’s not enough to just help Agents avoid ‘being bad’.  Learning & growth don’t live here.

Whoever came up with the term ‘fatal error’ should resign from the industry because that term – and the approach that goes along with it – promotes fear-based interactions between Agents and their leadership.

Interaction coaching is developmental in nature.  And it’s always about both sides of the interaction.transaction coach

What went well and what can be improved.

Agents who only hear what they did wrong, understandably disengage, dislike ‘coaching sessions’.  They become mistake-avoiders.

Effective interaction coaching is at the heart of Contact Centre Agent performance in Quality.

For some lucky Agents it happens nearly every day – not now and then or crammed in at the end of the month like a quota system.

Wouldn’t it be great if each Agent could say –

My boss has high standards and believes in my potential. I receive regular and helpful feedback about my quality performance which helps me understand where I do well and where I can improve. 

At the right time = Productivity

Let’s look at some choices you can make to help your Agents improve their Productivity.

1.  Stop measuring the wrong things

More than anything else, the key to Agent productivity is to understand what Agent productivity is – and what it isn’t.

Let’s start with what it isn’t:

2.  It isn’t Average Handling Time (AHT)

The significant drivers of AHT don’t lie in the control of Agents.

They lie in processes, technologues and the rational & emotional complexity of the enquiries posed by Customers.

Leading Centres measure individual AHT to identify outliers for root cause analysis and correction.  But they don’t consider AHT to be a major productivity metric at the Agent level.

AHT is important for forecasting & staff planning.  It’s not a matter of ignoring it at all.  It’s simply a matter of where it is best applied as a measure of success.

For Centres that still want some aspect of AHT in their Agent performance scorecard, they simply assign it a low weightage in the overall basket of productivity KPIs.

That approach is perfectly acceptable as long as the weightage placed on AHT is not too high.


3.  It isn’t Number of Calls Handled

The mathematical realities of Service Level based contacts like calls and live chats mean that Agents don’t control the number of interactions handled.

factoryOnly Response Time contacts, such as Correspondence & Email, can have appropriate volume-based targets.

If you still think that Agents should be measured on quantity for Service Level based contacts you need to urgently sign up for some solid Operations training.

This mistake in thinking # of calls is a valid productivity metric is among the most damaging in the industry.

4.  It isn’t Occupancy

Agents don’t control how ‘busy’ they are when they are signed in handling Service Level based contacts.

Management is the ultimate driver of Occupancy through activities that include setting Service Level objectives, Forecasting & Staffing and Managing Service Level in Real Time.

If you believe Agents somehow control their Occupancy rate, you need to urgently sign up for some solid Operations training.

We’re talking here about how to help your Agents improve their performance – and Occupancy isn’t in their control.

Mathematical realities such as the Pooling Principle further highlight how wrong it is to target Agents on personal Occupancy rates.

What you need to know about the Pooling Principle in Contact Centers

5.  Setting the wrong productivity KPIs will earn you Agent confusion and a host of unwanted outcomes

It’s not so great when your Agent says –

I work in a Centre that asks me to achieve both productivity & quality but then sets KPIs that compete with each other. 

I never know if they want me to be fast or if they want me to be good. They can’t really explain it to me either.

Something feels wrong here.

6.  Start measuring the right things

We turn back to our definition of the job of a Contact Centre Agent.

The job of a Contact Centre Agent is to do the right things at the right time.

At the right time is best expressed through ‘Adherence to Schedule’.

Simply put, when your Agent adheres to the schedule they’re given –  at an interval basis – your Centre Service Level improves and stabilises.

That’s a great thing.

Adherence to Schedule is at the heart of Contact Centre Agent performance for Productivity.  And it makes intuitive sense.

When you’re short by even a small number of Agents, your Service Level goes down and all sorts of important KPIs go awry.

When you’re overstaffed by any number of Agents, your Service Level barely improves.

That means you’re wasting organisational resources.

Putting the right people, in the right place at the right time is not just a mantra.  It’s a way to manage your Frontline resources efficiently.

At a management level, you need to marry effective interval-based forecasting, staffing & scheduling with great Adherence to Schedule behaviour across all individual Agents.

You can’t wing this part.

And don’t think that Agent performance cannot make up for weak forecasting practices.

You need both.

When it comes to Agents, choose the right measures for productivity – with a heavy emphasis on Adherence to Schedule – and combine them in an appropriate basket of KPIs to measure their performance.

The weight of each item in that basket depends on the degree of control the Agent has over that item.

Wouldn’t it be great if your Agent could say –

I work in a Centre that has defined Productivity very clearly for me. 

And they’ve explained the rationale behind it. 

I understand how my individual contribution has a big impact on our Centre’s overall performance and why I need to be in the right place at the right time. 

Best of all – the Productivity standards set do not compete with Quality.  I’m in a position to deliver both.

Summing up Productivity & Quality (P & Q)

One of the powerful aspects of this Productivity (P) and Quality (Q) approach is that P & Q don’t contradict each other.

You can ask for both and you can help your Agent achieve both. They should never be in contradiction.

see saw balanceAnd there’s no such thing as ‘balance’ here.

Seeking a balance that doesn’t exist is the wrong question – and trying to achieve it is a dangerous myth that costs many Centres either their Quality or their Productivity – sometimes both.

There’s one more dimension I’d like to look at before closing this article.

That’s the power of attitude.

Nobody has an attitude problem

It’s quite normal to hear a Manager say, “I think my Contact Centre Agent has an attitude problem.”

But is this a fair assessment?  I don’t think so.

There’s really no such thing as an ‘attitude problem’ because there are so many different attitudes at play to succeed in a job role.

In my former VP Operations days, if a Manager came into my office and said their Agent had an attitude problem, I’d ask them to tell me specifically which attitude was the problem.

If they couldn’t, I’d recommend that they figure it out and then come back and see me.

Was I being overly strict?  I don’t think so.

Every job, from the top on down, requires a certain set of specific attitudes to succeed.

And it’s our job to know the attitude requirements for any job role we manage – in this case the Contact Centre Agent.

Some common attitudes I come across for Contact Centre Agents include –

  • Adaptability
  • Ownership
  • Positive Attitude

But I’d recommend you work through the selection and definition of the attitudes that make the most sense for your Centre and for your Agents.

Then be ready to explain what those attitudes really ‘look like’ at work.

What it helps to know about Attitude(s)

Nobody is a superstar at every attitude.

Some attitudes were inculcated in us through how we were raised, some we learned from trusted teachers and mentors.

Attitudes evolve and develop over time , especially with the right guidance.

For me, I’ve found the following two thoughts about attitude to be helpful-

  1. An attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about something
  2. Attitudes are choices – people can choose and/or change their attitudes over time

When helping someone develop a specific attitude, my goal is that they end up making a conscious and personal choice to adopt the attitude for their success.

So that means that in addition to talking about Quality and Productivity, I need to also talk about Attitudes with my Agents as well.


When you’re able to help your Agent improve their quality, productivity & attitudes, their P, Q & A, life is good – for everyone.

Thank you for reading!

I appreciate the time you took to read this today!

If you’d like to keep up with our articles and other information just leave your email address in the contact form on our website or just send it to me by email and we will add you to our mailing list!

Daniel Ord

[email protected]



Getting a handle on Abandonment Rate in the Contact Centre

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

Recently, a Call Centre benchmarking report made the rounds, stating that the industry standard  average abandonment rate was 12%.

It could have said 22%, 2% or even 82% and the report still wouldn’t have been that helpful.

But it was the long thread of comments that struck me.

The tone ranged from mild annoyance – “This just can’t be…The sample size is too small…How do they calculate…” – through to the kind of responses you’d expect from an extinction level event and return of the dinosaurs.

“They should all lose their jobs!…You have to be where your Customers are!…Off with their heads!”  (ok that last one was mine).

If your Centre generates revenue – you can stop reading now

Clearly, if you’re in the revenue generation business – abandonment rate matters – a lot.

We had a Client in the hospitality business that calculated that every 1% increase in abandonment rate represented a potential US$1,000,000 in lost hotel bookings worldwide.

So if you’re DHL, a major hotel chain or even McDonalds delivery – and your Customers still call you to place orders – you have to care.

But if you’re in Technical Support or Customer Care, the importance of Abandonment Rate on the overall performance dashboard is secondary at best.

You are invited to read on.

The best & primary metric to measure the Customer’s wait time experience?  Service Level

Mastery of interval based Service Level performance is where your control lies.

The process for planning and managing Frontline resources to ensure consistent wait time experiences for Customers is well understood and well documented.

Whether you’re 90/10, 80/30 or 70/160, having the right number of people in the right place at the right time is the objective.

That’s how organizations plan for and manage labor cost as well as deliver a consistent Customer experience for wait time.

Intervals matter

Most mid to larger Centres plan, staff and manage down to hourly, half-hourly and even 15 minute intervals.

If the Service Level goes down during any interval – let’s say from 10:00 – 10:30 in the example shown here – the Customer wait time during that interval increases.

And as Customer wait time increases – that’s likely to have an impact on the Abandonment Rate for that interval.

Makes sense doesn’t it.

If I don’t perform to my Service Level objectives then my Customer Wait time goes up, and my Abandonment Rate will likely go up too.

In this situation, you don’t have an Abandonment Rate issue – you have a Service Level issue.

When your Service Level life is good

Operations professionals know that when interval-based Service Level is well managed, there are significant positive impacts across Quality, Engagement and the Customer Experience.

And when your Service Level objectives are being met – interval after interval – then my inner operations guru reminds me that Abandonment Rate will be what it will be.  

Abandonment Rate flows from a combination of your Service Level performance – which is in your control – and your Customer behaviour – which is not.

Let’s make one point very clear.

An accurate discussion on Abandonment – whether yours or that of others – has to be predicated on the understanding that interval-based Service Level objectives are being met.

If they’re not being met, then you need to have an entirely different conversation.

I’m not sure that any of these ‘benchmarking’ studies makes that prerequisite clear.  And that limits their effectiveness.

Back to revenue generating Centres for a moment

If you’re in revenue generation you have to care.  Abandonment costs potential revenue.

But what the smart folks in revenue generation do is set very high Service Level objectives.

Then they work hard to meet them interval after interval.

95/5, 90/10, 100/15 – this level of Service Level objectives is typically associated with revenue generating Centres – or those that deal with life & death or mission critical issues.

Sure – more Staff will be required.

Through the use of ‘incremental revenue analysis’, the additional cost of labor is calculated and measured against revenue gained through the reduction in Abandonment Rate (via quicker answering times).

That was a mouthful.

Customers & Abandonment rate

For non-revenue generating Centres we need to consider – what are the drivers of Customers hanging up before reaching the Agent?

Here are some common drivers:

  • Degree of importance – how important is it for me to get this done ‘right now’?
  • Time available to waitam I calling from work where my time is limited?  Or am I calling from the comfort of my easy chair when I’m home?
  • What other options do I have?can I get what I want from the website?  Perhaps the mobile app?  Did you share an alternative method on your delay announcement?  
  • What kind of mood am I in?Relaxed? Impatient?  Calm? Anxious?
  • What are my expectations?  – Am I a VIP?  Is this a premiere line?  Do I hold some special status?

When I work with Contact Centre management in classes I ask – “Is Abandonment Rate a mathematical behavior?  Or is it a human behaviour?”

Invariably, they answer correctly.

Abandonment Rate is a human behaviour.

It lies in the hands of the Customer – what they want or need at that moment, their mood, their options, their expectations.

What I can control is how well I plan, staff and manage to meet my Service Level objective interval after interval.

What I can’t control is their mood, their unique expectations, what options we offer for digital self-care.

But you do have a viable option

If you are still unhappy about the ‘level’ or number of abandoned calls you receive – you can choose to raise your Service Level objective.

Go from 80/20 to 90/20.

Do the delay profile analysis against abandonment rate patterns to see how many abandons you can possibly do away with.

I’ve even seen Centres proactively raise their Service Level objective for certain intervals across the day.

You just have to ask yourself a classic trade-off question.

Is the increased cost of my labor pool justified by the reduction in Abandonment Rate? 

Or more generically:  Does the benefit exceed the cost?

Not a simple question to answer – but absolutely the right question to ask.

Let’s get formal about it

There are a lot of metrics in a Centre – and some great ways to look at how to classify them and understand their inter-relationships.

Formally, Abandonment Rate is best classified as a secondary measure of Wait Time.

Wait Time:  Because along with metrics like Service Level, Response Time, Longest Wait Time and Average Speed of Answer, Abandonment Rate reflects wait time.

Secondary:  Some metrics are drivers, some metrics are outcomes.   Abandonment Rate is an outcome of the ‘driver’ of Service Level.

You can’t achieve a Service Level objective and an Abandonment Rate objective at the same time – simply because one is a driver and the other is an outcome.

You tell me you can?  That you are?   That you have been for some time?

Then you’re just lucky.

The targets set just happened to work out.  There’s nothing scientific going on here.

What interests me more

The most mature organizations – again in Customer Care & Technical Support – look at Abandonment Rate this way.

They say things like:

  • Wee don’t target Abandonment Rate – but we study it.
  • We look for and find patterns to Abandonment Rate – we know which intervals across the day tend to experience higher or lower rates of abandonment when achieving Service Level.
  • We don’t just study how many abandons we get, nor even the percentage – we like to study the distribution.  Do most hang up in the first 15 seconds or so?  What percentage of abandonment comes after 3 minutes (for example) vs. less than 3 minutes?
  • We’re experimenting with our messaging to understand if our messages contribute to abandonment (which can be good!) or if we need to change the timing or positioning of such messages to try and influence abandonment.

Agents & Abandonment rate

No – your Agents don’t control Abandonment rate – sorry but that’s just silly.

When you use accepted practices to calculate and schedule the number of Agent you need in place to achieve a predetermined Service Level and those Agents are actually there, logged in and part of Capacity – they’re contributing to Service Level performance. 

I met a Client some years back, that intentionally managed their Centre based on Abandonment Rate as a primary metric – not Service Level.

But focus groups with Middle Management and the Frontline revealed the level of extreme stress these folks experienced.

Because you can’t plan and staff to Abandonment Rate – it’s driven by Customer/human behavior.  And that behaviour that fluctuates from interval to interval, day to day.

So they operated like a fire-fighting outfit – chasing constant flare-ups in abandoned calls.

How stressful.  And ultimately not the right way to achieve Customer Experience.

In closing

One of the most important tenets of Customer Experience is to deliver a consistent experience.

In the Contact Centre, Service Level (and Response Time) are the best measures of delivering a consistent wait time experience.

Smart operations folks know not to chase outcomes – but to work on the drivers.

Abandonment Rate is a secondary measure of Wait Time.  It flows from Service Level performance.

And when you’re meeting what you can control –  the Service Level performance – the abandoned calls you get are reflections of Customer/human behaviour.

They change from interval to interval, day to day, month to month and year to year.

If you’re not happy with the level of abandoned calls you receive, you can raise your Service Level completely – or just select certain interval where abandonment happens most often.

Not all abandoned calls are bad.

If a Customer chooses to hang up and use one of my self-care or digital options that can reflect success in my digital uptake strategy.

As long as I’m not ‘pushing’ the Customer to digital self-care by providing a poor Wait Time experience (Service Level).  That’s clearly not ok.

Lastly, the Frontline job is hard enough, and getting harder.  Don’t layer on an abandoned calls objective or target on your Frontline.

It’s not only inappropriate from an operations standpoint – it makes the job of human to human service unnecessarily more stressful.

Thank you for reading!


[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com