The wrong KPI. Dangers of the ‘obvious’ measure


One of my favourite examples of the wrong KPI is a measure used in call centres. Most of us have experienced a call centre agent who is clearly dying to get us off the line (even if they are scripted to hurriedly ask you ‘Is there anything else I can help you with today, Mr Smith?’). The reason you can hear every sinew of their body pleading for you to get off the line is AHT. AHT, or ‘Average Handling Time’, is a measure that shows how long a call takes an agent to handle – on average. Note that it doesn’t talk about whether the caller’s objectives have been met, for example by resolving their problem or making sure it won’t recur. AHT seems to make sense if you are running a big call-centre environment.

The logic goes ‘I have lots of calls, so the quicker I can get through those calls the lower my wage bill will be and the shorter the queues will be.’ Wrong. Pushing AHT reduction can rapidly increase call volumes. Agents become fixated with getting you off the phone at all costs. This leads to a decrease in ‘first touch resolution’ (the problem being sorted out, there and then, by the person who answers the phone) – as they will get you off the phone or pass you on to a colleague without resolving your problem themselves.

Using the wrong KPI gives you a nice warm feeling even when it’s all going pear-shaped

It’s possible (even common) to see AHTs come down, but call volumes being driven up and customer satisfaction plummeting. The chances are that you have been fobbed off and passed around in call centres in the past and it may well be down to an ‘apparently sensible’ measure creating unexpected side effects.

For step-by-step instructions on how to avoid this trap, check out my series of KPI Tree articles or the Amazon link to my book below.