Be careful what you wish for: How call centre KPIs directly influence behaviour

Aug 29

Be careful what you wish for: How call centre KPIs directly influence behaviour

Call centre KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are more than just something you put down on paper. They are like your Christmas wish list. Your vision for the future. Your call centre Nirvana.

When it comes to developing KPIs we could all learn a lot from King Midas. His personal KPIs were around obtaining as much gold as possible. Everything he touched turned to gold. Which sounds awesome. Until it wasn’t. Midas soon found that getting what he wished for meant he couldn’t eat (his food turned to gold), he couldn’t drink (his wine turned to gold) and he couldn’t hold his daughter without turning her to gold as well.

While your call centre KPIs may not push you to the point of starvation, the lesson is relevant – be careful what you wish for.

The KPIs you implement will have a direct affect on your culture and staff behaviour. Before setting your KPIs in stone consider what behaviours you’d like to see more of, which you’d like to see less of and how the KPIs will influence that.

If your business is solely focused on sales targets you might be making a tonne of cash, but are your customers happy and how are your staff retention rates?  Cash bonuses for meeting targets may keep your staff in the short term but if they are don’t feel valued, safe, supported and have a sense of purpose you will see your staff numbers churn.

It’s the same with your customers. Your staff may make a sale, but if they aren’t committed to providing amazing, ongoing customer service then your customers will bounce as well.

You want your staff to work harder


A high performing team doesn’t necessarily mean a team that is working longer hours or taking less breaks. Here are some key KPIs that encourage more productivity from your agents…

For Outbound Calls:

  • Conversion rate
    How many sales are you making?
  • First call close
    How quickly are those sales happening?
  • Calls per agent
    How many calls are your agents making, could they be making more?
  • List penetration
    How much of the list do you expect them to call?
  • Average hold time
    How much time are they wasting?
  • Average call length
    Are calls taking too long?
  • Abandon call ratio
    Are agents wasting their time, is there a better script, offer, or is it the agent’s skills at fault?


For Inbound Calls:

  • Conversion rate
    How many sales are you making?
  • Average time in queue
    Are your agents working fast enough?
  • Queue abandonment
    Are your agents working hard enough?
  • Average speed of answer
    Are your agents working hard enough?
  • First call resolution
    How quickly are sales happening?

The problem with monitoring just these metrics is that they tell you how much work your team is doing but, apart from conversion rates, not how good the work is.

You want your staff to have a customer-first mentality

To encourage long-term loyalty, upselling and advocacy from your customers we know that customer experience management is key. Your agents, as the frontline of your business, are key to this. Customer Experience KPIs can include…


  • Queue time
    How long to customers have to wait?
  • Call time
    Are the calls effective? Or are customers being rushed?
  • Abandon rates
    How many customers are fed up?
  • First Call Resolution
    Are the calls effective?
  • Customer complaints
    How happy are your customers?
  • Customer effort scores
    How hard was it for your customers to get the result they wanted?

Efficiency is important, but don’t confuse efficiency with speed. It’s important to understand the amount of time a call should take. If your agents are finishing their calls considerably faster than this there is a good chance your customers are not receiving the experience they expect.


You want your staff to be happy


Call centres have notoriously high staff turnover rates. And that is, quite frankly, costing you money. It takes time and money to hire and train staff and a high turnover will also affect morale. Happier staff are generally more loyal, productive and effective in their work.

KPIs you can use to measure staff satisfaction include:


  • Average after call work time
    How much paperwork is clogging up their hours?
  • Agent Idle time
    Is there enough work to keep them occupied?
  • Agents absenteeism
    Are they disengaged from their work?
  • Agent turnover
    Are you providing the best work environment?
  • Calls per agent
    How much pressure are they under?


Still unsure about how happy your staff are? Ask them. Regular staff surveys are a good way to measure staff satisfaction. Do they feel valued? Do they feel like they have development opportunities? Do they have a friend in the business?


You want your staff to make lots of sales


Of course this is the ultimate goal of any business. Lots of sales, lots of money. But like Midas you need to be careful what you wish for. While you may get lots of sales in the short term a pure sales focus is conducive to customer and staff churn which can be costly. It can also damage your brand reputation making it harder to get the customers and the staff you want.


Sale KPIs are well known my most call centres. Here are the most common:

  • Monthly sales targets
    How much money are we making?
  • % growth month on month
    Are we making more money?
  • Average deal size
    How much is each customer/sale worth?
  • Opportunity win rate
    How many opportunities are converting to sales?
  • Sales per agent
    How is each agent performing?


Remember King Midas? He learnt the hard way about focusing just on the gold. There is a lot to lose if you only focus on the sales KPIs. The good news is that these other, broad areas of call centre KPIs do not exclude each other. In fact, if you look at our KPI lists you will see there is overlap between them.

It is possible to have hard working agents that provide excellent customer service and are happy in their role. And if you can achieve those three things the odds are your sales KPIs will be smashed.