Customer Service: the Metrics You Should Be Addicted to

If you're going to become addicted, make sure it's to something healthy

By Pete Slease

Customer service teams have their fair share of “metric-holics”; people who understandably become addicted to the office’s big electronic notice boards, where they watch the service level flash, followed by the scrolling metrics of the moment. More often than not, these are average handle time (AHT), average speed of answer (ASA), and cost per call.

The worst addicts might well check those stats from first thing in the morning until the moment they walk out of the door. But, despite the close attention statistics receive in a call center; most managers don’t watch the right ones.

Measures like AHT and ASA encourage the wrong behaviors in both staff and customers, and can often cost the company money too. All of these measures encourage staff to prioritize speed over quality, which often results in rushed service interactions, leading to more callbacks and less-than-ideal customer experiences.

The right metrics

To help staff reprioritize, use these three metrics instead.

  1. First contact resolution (FCR) and Next Issue Avoidance (NIA): This is the most important metric for service organizations, and firms are constantly looking for the “right way” to evaluate FCR.

Truth be told, there is no silver bullet for measuring FCR (or NIA), but there are some fundamental measures that managers should follow:

o    Measure call backs (ideally by account number, but phone number tracking will suffice)

o    Evaluate it through quality assurance (listening for utterances of “I just called about this” or “I just want to double-check”, etc.)

o    Evaluate it through voice of the customer (asking the customer how many times s/he had to contact service to resolve the issue).

  1. Customer effort (or some other customer experience metric): Of course, here at CEB, we strongly recommend using customer effort scores to evaluate customer experience, but we recognize that some organizations use other metrics (like customer satisfaction scores or net promoter scores) to evaluate success.

Regardless of what metric(s) you use, make sure you’re evaluating it all the way down to the individual rep level so that you can identify successes and areas of opportunity more clearly.

  1. Cost-to-resolution: This is a fairly new concept but one that is eminently sensible. Instead of evaluating cost-per-call - which looks at the total number of calls divided by the cost to handle those calls - organizations should instead measure the cost-per-call and multiply that by the average number of contacts to resolve an issue.  So:

Cost-per-call x average number of calls-to-resolve = cost-to-resolution

This is a much more accurate measure of cost-to-serve and will more precisely reflect the cost of doing business.

Pete Slease is a Senior Director at CEB, where he provides support to member executives identifying and applying insight to address their most critical customer-facing challenges. Pete is also a key contributor of The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty(Penguin/Portfolio, 2013) and a frequent contributor on CEB’s sales and customer service blog.

A version of this post originally appeared on CEB’s sales and customer service blog


CEB is the world’s leading member-based advisory company. It has a unique view into what matters — and what works — when capitalizing on drivers of business performance. With 30 years' experience working with top companies to share, analyze and apply proven practices, CEB begins with great outcomes and reverse engineers to help businesses unlock their full potential. Find out more at

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