Calls Per Hour Is Fading

Traditionally, calls per hour have been an almost universal productivity measurement. In fact, many call center managers have viewed calls per hour as virtually synonymous with “productivity”. Sure, there have always been concerns about sacrificing quality for quantity. But, in practice, calls per hour has been the preferred benchmark for establishing productivity standards, comparing performance among reps and groups, and assessing the impact of changes and improvements to the call center.

Measure of Calls Per Hour Is Problematic

However, as a measure of performance, calls per hour is (and always has been) problematic. Many of the variables that impact calls per hour are out of the rep’s control: call arrival rate, type of calls, knowledge of callers, communication ability of callers, accuracy of the forecast and schedule, adherence to schedule (of others in the group) and absenteeism, to name a few.

There are also mathematical realities at work that are not within the control of an individual. For example, smaller groups are less efficient (have lower occupancy) than larger groups, at a given service level. Since the number of calls is changing throughout the day, so does average calls per hour for a group or an individual in the group.

Calls Per Hour Is Over Emphasized

And, as is often pointed out, if calls per hour are over-emphasized, quality can suffer. Reps may even “trick” the system to increase their call count and achieve a standard. (Many call center managers get a sheepish smile when this point comes up in discussion. One could surmise that more than a few, once upon a time, have “accidentally” clicked off or erroneously transferred a call or two).

Some call center managers convert raw calls per hour into an adjusted measurement that is more fair and meaningful. For example, occupancy, which is not within the control of an individual, can be “neutralized” by dividing call handled by percent occupancy. Others go a step further, and develop statistical control charts to determine whether the process is in control, what it’s producing, and which reps, if any, are outside of “statistical control.”

Calls Per Hour Losing Meaning

But even with further analysis, calls per hour begins to lose meaning as technologies such as computer-telephony-integration (CTI), skills based routing, and web integration, which enable increasingly sophisticated and varied call handling routines, proliferate.

For many who have depended on calls per hour, this has left a vacuum: How can we measure productivity in an increasingly varied and complex environment? Enter adherence and qualitative measurements, which continue to gain acceptance.

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