The Customer Service Metrics used by the Best-in-Class Contact and Call Center Leaders


  • Good contact and call center dashboards are built on good customer service metrics, and good metrics are built on three progressive levels of stakeholder objectives.
  • Most metrics are not the end goal. They are mileposts to show progress toward end goals. Management gain both visibility and predictability when key performance indicators align to show how lower level activities impact higher level business outcomes.
  • When customer service metrics are not categorized and prioritized, the staff's time management and productivity suffer.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Key performance indicators are not equal in importance. We know from findings published in the Customer Service Excellence Report that the Best-in-Class contact centers emphasize different performance metrics than their lower performing peers. More specifically, they put much more weight on strategic measures while Medians and Laggards are more limited to departmental and activity measures.

Improving customer support starts with customer service analytics built with the right metrics and getting the right metrics starts by identifying what is most important to each stakeholder group. Johnny Grow categorizes stakeholder objectives and call center measures in a role-based hierarchy.

Customer Service Dashboard Metrics Hierarchy

Effective contact center metrics are neither standalone nor exist in a vacuum. They are integrated and roll up from staff level activities to company business outcomes. Only with this value chain can contact center managers see how agent activities impact the contact center and the company. The value chain is essential to design, measure and achieve objectives that are the result of end to end business processes.

The framework we use to create the role-based metrics hierarchy and value chain integration starts by categorizing key performance indicators (KPI) into three segments.

See how the most effective contact and call center metrics are illustrated in a hierarchy that shows how activities roll up to the most important customer and company business outcomes.

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Headline Metrics

These are your strategic measures. They align customer support to the company's top priorities – things like revenue or profit growth. When the support organization aligns with the measures most important to the company, it becomes essential to the company. Otherwise, not so much.

What the C-Suite finds important is revenue. They want to know how the contact center contributes to the company's revenue goals. They also want to know what's the ROI for their investment. And they want hard evidence to support these figures. No wishy washy, indirect or soft figures.

Here are several strategic key performance indicators that directly impact business outcomes.

  • Revenue and profit contribution. This is often demonstrated by increases in customer purchases, customer lifetime value and customer retention. Contact and call center operations that are profit centers generally report their profit contribution while cost centers report either revenue contribution or simply total costs.
  • Customer service ROI. This shows the financial return for the annual contact center budget. The C-suite wants to know what they are getting for their investment. If customer support cannot show a positive ROI, it shows the organization is not strategic and alters the budget thinking from revenue maximization to cost minimalization.
  • Customer affinity. Customer relationships are influential in growing and retaining customers. The challenge for most is calculating and objective value to show the strength of the relationship, or any increases or decreases in the relationship value. Account health scores are a good measure.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS). This is an enterprise-wide measure. Pretty much every department contributes to NPS in some way. But customer support often has more customer contact than any other department so it's in a better position to deliver more influence. But to be credible it must show how it directly impacts NPS.
  • Forecasting and velocity. When the contact center can use customer service predictive analytics to forecast changes in customer behaviors or company financial performance it gets the C-suite's attention.

Sometimes clients comment that we put revenue and profit measures ahead of customer measures. That's not an accident. It's not that we are not customer-centric, we are. It's that no customer support program is sustainable unless it can show a profit.

Strategic KPIs are displayed in executive dashboards but share some differences from other contact and call center dashboards. First, they usually include an Early Warning System. C-suite executives do not like surprises. Second, the bulk of the display is usually exception-based or variance reporting. And third, they use visualizations such as Heat Maps which provide a comprehensive view for quick analysis and drill-down where needed.

Causes of Customer Churn
Causes of Customer Churn Heat Map

Secondary Metrics

These are tactical measures, and the drivers that heavily impact the strategic measures. They are more agile, more frequently changed and may be short-term. The top three categories of tactical measures are customers, agents and costs.

  • Customer performance measures include customer satisfaction (CSAT), customer purchases (RFM), customer profitability, customer lifetime value (CLV), customer retention, customer loyalty and referrals. Certain of these figures will roll up to the headline KPIs for revenue and profit. Some of them will also impact others. For example, you will want to review your data to see how increases to CSAT increase customer share and retention – by customer segment, geography and other dimensions.

Many organizations will use an Account Health Score to measure customer affinity or customer relationship value and to send alert notifications for downward movements or variances that need quick resolutions. Sometimes, the Account Health Score is a combination of satisfaction (CSAT, NPS), engagement (AES) and purchases/sales (RFM).

While customer support often has the most direct impact to CSAT, depending on the company there may be other contributors. For example, marketing may apply brand factors such as being truthful, reliable, innovative or social (i.e., corporate social responsibility, environmentally friendly, sustainable production.) Or R&D may apply product factors such as customer effort, product utility, benefits, performance and value that create an impact the CSAT score.

While customer satisfaction scores are normally numeric values, they can also be more generally characterized into values such as Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Neutral, Dissatisfied and Flight Risk. And while CSAT is calculated for each customer, the results roll up to customer segments and are reported at an aggregate level.

Employee advocates create customer advocates. Several agent KPIs for consideration include Agent Experience Score, Employee NPS (eNPS), Employee Satisfaction Index (ESI), Gallup employee engagement score, Average Tenure, Average (voluntary and involuntary) Turnover, and Agent Utilization.

Call Center Agent Experience Dashboard
  • Cost management measures include cost per contact, cost per case and total customer support costs. Transactional cost measures such as cost per contact and case are further calculated by channel, work shift and customer type. Cost measures tend to also include trends and budget variance analysis.

Tertiary Metrics

These are your operational measures. They are usually activity-based performance indicators that measure business process outcomes such as case management resolution or Service Level Agreement (SLA) compliance. The top three operational categories are case management, customer satisfaction and agent performance.

  • Case management measures include IVR completion rate, Abandonment rate, Average Handle Time (AHT), Speed of Answer (SoA) (sometimes referred to as Average Speed of Answer (ASA)), First Contact Resolution (FCR) and Customer Effort Score (CES). For omnichannel customer support the measures are calculated per channel and supplemented with measures such as Call Deflection rate or customer self-service utilization.
  • Customer satisfaction measures include CSAT and SLA compliance. Some organizations include additional factors such as Customer Sentiment and NPS scores, although these types of calculations tend to be influenced by factors outside the call center.
  • Staff performance measures include Agent Utilization, Incidents per Agent, Closed Cases per Shift/Hour/Period, Cost per Contact per Agent, Quality of Service compliance and Average CSAT.

Operational measures tend to be focused on efficiency. They identify opportunities for coaching, process improvements, workforce management (i.e., calculate optimal staffing levels) and cost savings.

Certain calculations are adjusted with changes in service delivery. For example, when implementing omnichannel support, the Speed of Answer target shifts as answers move from real-time (voice calls) to asynchronous methods (webchat, social support). Similarly, as customer self-service channels become effective, they absorb the high volume of simple and repetitive cases, leaving more complex and time-consuming cases for agents.