There are metrics generated by your switch or other reporting platforms that you do not want to put in a contact center agent scorecard. Even if you don’t put them on the scorecards, you should still hide certain metrics from being revealed to contact center agents. It may seem strange that with all of the talk of transparency and building trust that you would do such a thing, and that instead you would want to promote all the contact center metrics that are being used to track agent performance.

Well, what I’m talking about is not an issue of trying to deceive or be deceptive. Instead, it’s is an issue of too much information (TMI) and agents perceiving they need to manage to the metric.

As for the TMI issue, we’ve all experienced this. There are only so many things that we can focus on at any given time. And the reality is, it’s only one thing that we can focus on at any given time. So for contact center agents, if they need to focus on their efficiency-based metrics as well as their effectiveness-based metrics, that in itself creates a problem. But wait, they also need to be technically savvy in regards to the products and services they are supposed to support and sell, and they have to be technically adept at navigating and utilizing the systems that are at their disposal to conduct their work. Wow, I’m getting mentally fatigued just thinking about all this.

In addition to the TMI-effect is the alternate side that says if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Unless contact center agents are totally disengaged, they actually want to be perceived as doing a good job and want to make people proud of them. These are very basic human needs that some may verbally deny yet in fact need to have as part of their work-life. So if agents perceive you’re tracking a contact center metric, even if it’s not on their report card, they are going to try to exceed the performance expectation. And if you do not communicate a goal, they will make up their own. So the saying could be rewritten, “You’re measuring it and I can help you manage it.”

So there are three common contact center metrics that just might not be delivering the impact that you intend when you reveal these to contact center agents, they are:

  1. Number of calls (#calls)
  2. Average Handle Time (AHT)
  3. Average Speed of Answer (ASA)

Number of calls is a pure efficiency-based metric. It is directly associated with speed and control. This metric may be perceived as giving agents a better sense of urgency and an evidence-based way to reveal call control abilities, but it most often brings out the dark-side of agent behavior. Many contact centers are unaware of agents hanging up on customers and transferring customers back into the queue in response to this metric. For organizations that are committed to delivering better customer experiences, number of calls is not reported to agents. They instead use it for scheduling and coaching purposes.

AHT tells you how long on average an agent spends on each call and often includes after-call work time. ACD’s calculate this metric differently. This is another efficiency-based metric that is related to number of calls. In essence, the more time you spend on calls and in after-call work, the fewer calls agents are able to handle within their scheduled work time.

The downside of this metric is also creating the intent that speed is more important than building relationships and connections with customers and supporting their needs. I have seen situations where agents have taken after-call work home and completed after-call work during their break time in order to keep their after-call work time low. For many organizations this creates a significant security risk in addition to the labor law issues due to people working while not being compensated. Contact centers would do better to utilize task management tools that keep their agents focused on customer care while providing adequate time intraday to handle these activities.

Average speed of answer measures how long the average caller waits on hold before his or her call is answered by an agent and is mistakenly interpreted as a quality metric. While it is true wait time does have an impact on how customers perceive the quality of service you deliver, ASA is not a good method to interpret it. ASA can vary widely throughout the day and contributes significantly to the fire-drill and queue-chasing mentality. ASA is better utilized as a diagnostic metric used for people responsible for workforce scheduling and capacity planning and is useful when used in conjunction with intraday staffing.

You may think I’m just picking on efficiency-based metrics. Unfortunately, it’s an easy thing to do because efficiency-based metrics have dominated scorecards in contact centers for decades. It appears that one of the main reasons they still remain is due to habit more than anything else. We all know that speed and quality only go together when we’re talking about a Ferrari. Other than that, you need to have a balance of metrics that you’re reporting. As for agents, it’s time to make these contact center metrics disappear.


Jim Rembach is a twenty-year contact center veteran, SVP for Customer Relationship Metrics and Principal for Beyond Morale. “…His past experience in operations builds the credibility that follows.” Jim is a Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, Certified Contact Center Auditor, and is a CX Expert panel member for the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). He is the author of nine books, introducing leading insights into contact center quality, analytics, surveys, employee engagement, customer experience, and leadership development. Jim helps his clients develop the fearless pursuit to engage customers and employees. You can connect with Jim via LinkedIn or Twitter.