Call Center Metrics: Is Your IVR Contributing to a Better Customer Experience?

When your customers contact you for support, sales or other purposes, what’s their experience like? Do you have a system in place for measuring your customer experience? Tracking contact center metrics is critical to delivering positive, brand-reinforcing customer service with every call. However, many companies lack the proper system to track and measure their data. Are you aware of what IVR capabilities you may be missing out on?

One area that can often create drastic improvements for your overall caller experience is your Interactive Voice Response (IVR). We’ve talked about the power of an IVR tune-up or overhaul in delivering superior (or negative) CX. But how do you determine if your system even needs help in the first place? By knowing and understanding your call metrics to identify areas of lagging performance.

Here are just a few of the call center metrics directly impacted by your IVR system.

Average Handling Time (AHT)

AHT is the average duration of a call starting from initiation through to call completion. While some metrics only consider time with the agent, AHT typically includes IVR navigation, IVR hold time and agent interaction. It’s important to understand that AHT will vary significantly by industry and call type. For example, a simple bill-pay transaction should be of much shorter duration than a support call (and if it’s not, you already know you have a problem).

Why It Matters
A high AHT may indicate issues with the IVR, agent training or agent performance. AHT is an indicator of IVR efficiency and performance. However, AHT is not necessarily a strong call center agent performance metric, as it measures agent efficiency but not agent effectiveness. Your agent could be speeding through calls quickly, but not resolving the issues indicated, or taking far too long to resolve calls.

IVR’s Impact on Average Handling Time
The IVR system can either help customers resolve their issues (self-service), route them to the right agent or frustrate them. The last scenario can be affected by a number of potential issues resulting in the dreaded IVR hell. This may include lengthy or confusing instructions, too many options, complex IVR routing strategies, confusing or poor navigation, unhappy callers that vent to an agent, or a poorly tuned IVR speech grammar.

Call Abandon Rate

Call abandon rate is the percentage of inbound calls made to a contact center that is abandoned by the caller before reaching an agent. It is calculated as total abandoned calls divided by total inbound calls.

Why It Matters
While higher abandon rates typically have a direct relationship to wait times, IVR performance can also have a dramatic impact on this metric. Generally, target call abandon rates for inbound call centers range from 5% – 8%. According to Help Desk Institute and MetricNet, the average call abandonment rate for service desks is 8.7 percent. A high call abandon rate is often an indicator of frustrated, irritated customers.

IVR’s Impact on the Call Abandon Rate
IVR system performance has a direct correlation with abandoned calls. Lengthy wait times, confusing menus, and poorly tuned speech grammars all contribute to caller frustration and abandoned calls.

Call Containment Rate

The call containment rate is the percentage of inbound calls completely handled by the IVR, divided by the number of total incoming calls. It is a measure of the self-service provided by the IVR.

Why It Matters
Call containment is a measurement of caller self-service as provided by the IVR. A poor call containment rate indicates that the IVR system is poorly configured, has confusing prompts or is mishandling caller requests. The optimal rate can vary significantly depending on the type of service required by the caller. For example, a contact center supporting diverse and complex customer issues would expect to have a low containment rate.

IVR’s Impact on the Call Containment Rate
Call containment performance can have a direct impact on call center operations costs. If callers have the capability, but yet are not successfully obtaining self-service, there is a direct impact on agent call load. That leaves agents diverting efforts to tasks that are not as important or not centered on income-producing activities.

“Zero Out” Rate

Some callers will “zero out” to bypass the IVR and contact an agent when delayed or frustrated by the IVR system.

Why It Matters
An excessive zero out rate indicates that callers are bypassing IVR self-service and routing features resulting in an increased agent load and greater frustration with the brand. If your system has pushed your customer to this point (accounting for those who do it automatically), you’ve already done damage to your brand and the relationship.

IVR’s Impact on the Zero Out Rate
A caller’s tendency to zero out of the system is a key indicator of poor or unoptimized IVR performance. It’s especially common if customer needs have changed while the IVR design remains static. If callers are unable to quickly locate the option they want, they drop or zero out to an agent.

The Importance of Your Call Center Metrics

It’s critical to know your call center metrics and understand your target numbers. For example, an extremely low call abandon rate may not only be cost-prohibitive to achieve but may also be unrealistic, depending on call type. The better choice is to set a realistic, achievable rate that balances caller needs with agent services. Inevitably, these metrics will impact the business in two critical areas.

Improved Customer Satisfaction
Just as with agent performance, IVR performance may have a significant impact on a customer’s perception of your brand and services. The financial impact of poor customer service is staggering. In a recent survey, 49% of respondents reported switching providers due to poor customer service, and of those, 67% switched more than once.

Lower Call Center Operations Costs
Poor IVR performance can increase operations costs. Agent call load increases with a poor call containment rate or a high zero out rate. Callers frustrated by confusing prompts, hard to find options or long wait times are more difficult to support.

Where do you start?

It’s important to consider your call center as a key component of your overall brand experience. When your customers reach out, you want them to receive fast, efficient and productive service whether by agent or self-service. While companies can spend excessively to deliver amazing customer experience, that’s not a viable alternative for many. A more efficient strategy is to set acceptable KPI targets, benchmarked against the competition and similar industries, and then work to meet those goals.

By understanding key metrics such as call handling time, containment, abandonment and more, you can begin to develop a picture of the overall success of your call center CX. These areas are easier to fix (and more cost-effective) than mass retraining or complete system overhaul. And they can have a huge impact on overall call center performance, and through that, customer service and overall brand experience.

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