I saw a post from a Customer Experience expert on LinkedIn last week, and they were calling out the relevance of KPIs in this day and age and the problem with them. And here’s little except what they said;

“The problem with KPIs is that they tend to be implemented on what the business thinks the customer wants rather than what they actually do want.

Example – Answer calls within 30 seconds, (Percentage Calls Answered, (PCA)), designed to reduce the amount of time a customer waits but in reality results in calls answered then terminated within a few seconds.”

Now that sounds like a really plausible example of what this person is trying to articulate. The problem is, it’s simply not true. I’ve worked in a call centre for years, and I’ve seen hundreds of different contact centres, and it’s not true for a couple of key reasons.

The first is customer service agents. Like employees in any field are there to do that particular job. And the overwhelming majority of those people do that job as best they can. They don’t just hang up on customers. That’s a really, really rare thing for it to happen. Especially after a couple of seconds just to hit some vague KPI that’s not even their KPI.

An individual agent can’t achieve a percentage of calls answered within 30 seconds. All they could do is answer the next call. So why they would hang up on customers so that a manager or a Head of a department achieves a KPI is beyond me.

And the second reason is that there are checks in place to stop it from happening. There’s something called a Short Calls Report, which almost every call centre has, and they’re on periodically to find out if there are any agents who were trying to game the system. Because, of course, it has happened, but it’s really, really infrequent. And this example here makes it sound like, well, the moment you put that caper in place, that’s gonna be a rife, and it’s just not a better question to ask would have been, why are the most common SLA and KPI in a contact centre and 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds. Who decided 80% of people? What about the other 20% of people? Do they just get a crap experience and why 20 seconds? I personally would be happy to wait one minute, maybe even two minutes before my dissatisfaction starts to kick in.

Obviously, the longer I wait, the more unhappy I’m gonna be. But I don’t become immediately unhappy after 21 seconds. That’s probably a minute or two before I’m starting to get a little bit annoyed or frustrated. The longer you make me wait, the more annoyed I’ll be. So if you make me wait an hour some banks recently have had to do, I’m gonna be more annoyed.

So the real question about KPIs and using this example of a call centre is, why is it 80% and why’s that 20 seconds? And that is the most common KPI for Service Level Performance in a call centre and when I go into a call centre and I asked them, why do you have that KPI? The answer is, it’s an industry standard. That is one of the really weird things. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s an industry-standard because everyone believes it to be. There is no paper that I’ve ever seen or read or study or analysis done that shows that 80% of course, will be answered in 20 seconds, is a good relevant metric into the contact centre. So once I agree with what the CX expert is saying here around a problem with KPIs example decided not so much.