How to Calculate Productivity in the Contact Centre
In this article, we look at how to measure productivity in the contact centre – looking beyond the traditional efficiency-based definition.
The Traditional Definition of Productivity
On the face of it, a simple method of calculating productivity is to calculate the percentage of time that the team spend interacting with customers. In other words, productivity = occupancy.
However, there is a possibility that advisors who spend a long time talking to one customer will be classed as more productive than those who have dealt with three customers – equally well – in a shorter space of time, for example. Therefore, productivity needs to balance efficiency with effectiveness.
Bearing this in mind, it becomes clear that separate metrics for both of these areas are required. While many sales contact centres use the metric of Sales Volumes per Customer – which can be a good measure, as long as leads can be distinguished in terms of quality – there is no single metric for productivity in customer service.
To measure productivity, contact centres must look to create a set of metrics based on efficiency and effectiveness. So, let’s first take a look at how to calculate efficiency and effectiveness in the contact centre.
As opposed to just calculating occupancy, some contact centres instead measure the number of calls answered by an advisor over a certain time period.
So, these contact centres will class an advisor who answers 48 calls in a day to be twice as productive as an advisor who only answers 24. However, the advisor who answered 48 calls may have been rushing through their calls, especially if they are made aware that this will improve how their productivity levels are viewed.
To calculate efficiency, the number of calls that an advisor handles should be measured in tandem with occupancy.
So, to calculate efficiency, the number of calls that an advisor handles should be measured in tandem with occupancy.
However, contact centres must remember to avoid scheduling staff to an occupancy rate of over 85% and pressurising staff by targeting them on the number of calls that they answer.
This is according to Dave Appleby, a Resource Planning Expert, who says: “Supervisors can be seen as draconian rule enforcers whose only job is to make staff work as hard as possible. This often results in management pressuring teams on productivity.”
“Senior Management come down on the Team Managers, the Team Managers will in turn come down on the Supervisors, forcing Supervisors to target Advisors on efficiency. This sends a message to staff that they’re not working hard enough (even if they are).”
“The next thing that happens is attrition goes through the roof. You’ve got a sweatshop reputation that will be hard to shake and a recruitment problem for the same reasons.”
A contact centre is not a factory, so productivity cannot just be measured by efficiency.
Jonty Pearce, Editor of Call Centre Helper
So, when you calculate efficiency, it is best that occupancy is between 80 and 85%.
Also, there should not be a great difference from one advisor to the next in terms of the number of calls they take throughout the day.
By measuring occupancy and the number of calls that an advisor answers across the day, contact centres can assess whether advisors are spending an appropriate amount of time with customers. But how can you assess that the team are being “productive” in that time?
One way is to have a look at your contact centre’s quality scores. While this is already a key metric in most contact centres, low quality scores are an indicator that advisors are not making the most of their time with the customer.
In terms of calculating quality scores, it is important that scorecards are created with consideration of what is important to the customer and the business.
If created correctly, quality scorecards will correlate with customer satisfaction. So, by incorporating quality scores into effectiveness calculations, and thereby productivity calculations, you can ensure that advisors are being productive in terms of what matters to the business, while making customers happy at the same time.
First Contact Resolution (FCR) is also a key indication of call quality.
However, calculating effectiveness, does not end with just calculating quality scores, as First Contact Resolution (FCR) is also a key indication of call quality.
While an advisor’s effectiveness is underlined by quality scores, we found that during busy periods, most contact centres measure four or fewer calls per advisor, every month – as highlighted below.
So, calculating FCR is important to take into account every single interaction that enters the contact centre into account.
But it is not only for this reason that calculating FCR is important. Up until now, we have only highlighted how productive advisors are. Yet FCR also indicates how productive your contact centre is as a whole, i.e. how effective your processes and technology are.
An advisor can do everything right during a contact centre interaction, but poor self-service design, for example, can let the contact centre down later in the customer journey.
Productivity does not start and end with advisors. It is up to management to provide them with the right tools to do the job.
Remember, productivity does not start and end with advisors. It is up to management to provide them with the right tools to do the job and try to make the customer journey as smooth as possible. Customer journey mapping is a useful tool for doing this.
The Set of Metrics Used to Calculate Productivity
In order to measure productivity, you need to combine the following four metrics:
- The number of calls answered over a certain time period
- Quality Scores
- First Contact Resolution (FCR)
- Customer Satisfaction (CSat) – if quality scores do not already correlate with the metric
If the following happens to the five metrics, your contact centre can be considered to be unproductive.
- Occupancy falls below 80%
- There is a great variance between the number of contacts advisors handle
- Quality scores are low
- FCR is decreasing
- CSat is decreasing
Yet, if these four metrics do the opposite – as shown below, your contact centre can be deemed to be productive.
- Occupancy lies between 80 and 85%)
- There is little variance between the number of contacts advisors handle
- Quality scores are high
- FCR is increasing
- CSat is increasing
While these four can be considered crucial, there are other metrics that can be added to the set which can also be an indicator of productivity.
For example, customer effort can be a good indicator of productivity. This is because if the contact centre and the advisor can lower effort on behalf on the customer, it can be considered a sign of both proactivity and productivity.
To find out the industry standards for occupancy, quality scores and FCR, read our article: What Are the Industry Standards for Call Centre Metrics?
What to Watch Out for
When we asked our readers and other industry experts for their thoughts on this topic, and some of them replied with useful tips which should be considered when measuring productivity in the contact centre.
Here are three tips which will help you to avoid the pitfalls calculating productivity.
Shrinkage Should Not Be Included in Productivity Calculations
If shrinkage activities are included in efficiency measures (your occupancy and calls answered metrics), the calculations will indicate that the team are being a lot less productive than they actually are.
To be clear, shrinkage includes any scheduled/unscheduled contact centre activities that take advisors away from the phone. This means that shrinkage can include holidays, absence and lateness, as well as coaching, team meetings and one-to-one time.
So, shrinkage should be removed from productivity calculations altogether. As Nerys Corfield, the Director of Injection Consulting, says: “The determination of what is productive should be broader than just talk and wrap, as who would classify training or coaching as a waste of time/unproductive?”
Nerys also stresses the importance of measuring both efficiency and effectiveness, to calculate productivity. She says: “Efficient and effective should not be mutually exclusive, but, with efficient being a metric that is easier to measure, it’s common to just look at the advisor activity and separately look at indicators which flag training needs.”
Don’t Add Complex Metrics Straight Away – Make Sure the Team Can Understand Your Measures
Paul, one of our readers, suggests measuring productivity by “starting with the basic KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in relation to efficiency and effectiveness, all of which are within a controlled environment.”
Ensure the staff embrace the rationale behind the metrics and get a commitment from all involved.
“Once you have the basic principles in place, start adding additional metrics like conversion rates, customer verbatim, Calls Per Hour, etc.”
But Paul also stresses that it is important to “ensure the staff embrace the rationale behind the metrics and get a commitment from all involved.”
This is important, because if the team believe that their productivity is being measured simply through efficiency, they could rush through calls or even, in extreme cases, play tricks to end calls quickly.
These tricks could include advisors pretending not to hear the caller, so the customer hangs up and calls back. The customer then gets put through to a different advisor and the “trick playing” advisor gets sent to the “back on the pack”, having already “handled” their call.
To find out what other tricks your advisors might be playing, read our article: 7 Tricks That Call Centre Employees Play
Generic Quality Scorecards May Harm Productivity Calculations
Jack, another of our readers, recommends taking quality scores into consideration when calculating productivity, as we did earlier.
Jack says: “Everyone’s scorecard from organisation to organisation would be different, but they’re a great way to ensure balance.”
“They take into account key metrics, as well as external indicators such as customer satisfaction, to produce a weighted average of an advisor’s performance.”
However, quality scorecards will only reflect customer happiness if the contact centre surveyed customers when creating them, to ensure that criteria “matched” the customer’s best interests.
Regression analysis, to ensure quality scores correlate to customer satisfaction, should also take place. Otherwise, quality scores may not be a valid indication of effectiveness.
If your contact centre did neither of these things when creating quality scores, it may be a good idea to include Customer Satisfaction scores or Net Promoter Scores in your productivity calculations.
To gain a good view of your contact centre’s productivity, it is important to have a look for signs of efficiency and effectiveness.
The two key metrics to measure efficiency are occupancy and calls answered per hour (or another different time period).
The two key metrics to measure effectiveness are quality scores and FCR. But, if your quality scorecards do not reflect customer satisfaction, it is important to add another metric that is based on customer happiness into your calculations.
If your quality scorecards do not reflect customer satisfaction, it is important to add another metric that is based on customer happiness into your calculations.
While these four (or maybe five) metrics are key, you can consider other metrics, like customer effort, to add to your set also.
But first it is important that advisors understand the metrics that you are already using to measure productivity. It is important that the team know that you consider productivity to equal efficiency and effectiveness and not just efficiency, so they don’t rush through calls and feel free to go the extra mile for the customer.
So, while there is no exact formula that you can use to calculate productivity, you can track productivity by following the progress of these four (or five) metrics over time. This can be done either at an individual level or as a contact-centre-wide activity.