How to perform call center benchmarking (step-by-step guide)

by Andy Nguyen
Call center benchmarking

If you want to know how your call center is really performing compared to your competitors, call center benchmarking can help. 

Benchmarking involves measuring your call center against global standards to analyze its performance. You’ll be able to identify what areas you need to improve on and take the required steps to boost performance. 

In this article, we’ll explain what call center benchmarking is and provide a step-by-step guide for it. We’ll also highlight five popular call center metrics to track and go over how benchmarking can help call centers. 

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Let’s get started. 

What is call center benchmarking?

Call center benchmarking is the process of comparing a call center’s practices and metrics to those of competitors or similar organizations. 

In other words, companies with a call center evaluate their operations against global standards. They can then see whether their call center operations are keeping up with international call center standards, also known as benchmarks. 

Why is benchmarking important?

It allows you to determine whether your call center performance aligns with best practices and standards for the call center industry. You can also evaluate the performance of your agents compared to competitors to see whether your company is on par with its counterparts.

You can then use this data to improve your call center metrics to stand out from your competitors (more on the benefits of benchmarking later in the article).

Now, there are two types of benchmarking you can choose from: 

1. Competitive benchmarking

Competitive benchmarking involves measuring your call center’s performance against your industry peers — other call centers in your industry. 

For example, if you want to conduct customer service benchmarking and you’re in the banking industry. Then you could compare your customer support call center to another customer support call center in the banking industry. 

This lets you see if your performance is up to par, where your team needs to improve, and where they’re excelling. Most importantly, you’ll gain insights into how you can help your business stand out from its competitors

2. Process benchmarking

This type of benchmarking measures the performance of one of your call center’s business processes across industries. 

For example, let’s say you’re in the financial services industry. You could then compare the handling of your incoming calls to that of a call center in the hospitality industry. 

In this case, you’re comparing your inbound call center with inbound call centers’ from any industry. What usually matters here is the process being benchmarked and not the industry. 

A step-by-step guide to call center benchmarking

Here’s a step-by-step guide that outlines the process for successful benchmarking:

Step 1: Identify processes for benchmarking

First, you’ll need to identify your company’s end goals and identify which processes within the organization you’ll be scrutinizing.

Step 2: Distinguish between competitive or process benchmarking 

Identify whether you want to benchmark your company processes against your direct competitors (competitive benchmarking) or call centers from any industry (process benchmarking).

Step 3: Gather benchmarking data

Next, you’ll need to collect the data you’ll need for benchmarking. 

Gather the information from within your organization’s various departments first. Then, gather the data you’ll be comparing it to from outside the organization. 

Step 4: Analyze the data

Now, you’ll need to convert the data into a similar format to analyze it. 

For example, if you’re comparing calls that convert to sales, you could convert this into a percentage to compare against industry standards. 

Step 5: Benchmark 

You can then compare the collected data about your company with industry standards or competitors’ performance. The industry standards are available online, compiled by leading call center service providers like Talkdesk

Step 6: Communicate the results

Let all stakeholders, including employees, understand how well they are doing compared to their competitors or industry standards.

Step 7: Outline objectives and plans

Once you’re aware of the performance gaps between your company’s performance and that of your competitors or the industry average, you can define your objectives or what you want to achieve. 

You can then create a plan to achieve these objectives and bring those processes up to industry standards for service. You could also include these plans in your call center policy and procedures guidelines document.

Step 8: Monitor implementation of plans

Simply identifying gaps and creating plans is not enough. 

You’ll also need to oversee the process improvement to ensure your team implements plans correctly and achieves the desired results. 

Step 9: Assess results

Once you’ve implemented plans to improve in the problem areas, you can again assess the result against industry standards and competitors. This will help you see if the improvements were successful.

Now, before you can begin the benchmarking process, you’ll need to determine the relevant metrics you should track.

5 key call center metrics to track

Here are the five most popular metrics for benchmarking along with their global standards:

1. Service level

The service level for your call center is usually the percentage of inbound calls answered within a set limit.

The service level metric is a key metric that indicates the percentage of incoming calls that your agents answer below the target threshold. The target threshold is the time limit you set. 

A. Why you should track service level

It indicates how fast your agents answer customer calls. This is an essential metric because it’s directly related to customer service quality.

It’s also important to note that this metric is a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) because it directly aligns with a call center’s business goals. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are metrics that demonstrate how effectively a company is achieving its key business objectives. 

B. The global metric for service level

The global metric for service level in a call center is 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds.

You could set your service level target at answering 90% of total calls within 20 seconds or less. 

C. How to take action

If your service levels are not up to standard and you need to improve your service levels, you could hire more agents. You could also adjust agent shifts so you have more agents working during peak times. 

2. Average abandonment rate 

The average abandonment rate indicates the percentage of callers that hang up before speaking to a person. 

For example, if the call center receives 100 calls per day and ten calls are abandoned, your abandonment rate is 10%. 

A. Why you should track the average abandonment rate

This metric is related to the speed at which your call center agents answer calls — the faster they answer calls, the lower the abandonment rate. 

A high abandonment rate may indicate poor customer service, which may cost your business. 

B. The global metric for abandonment rate

The global metric for abandonment rate in call centers is between 5% and 8%.

C. How to rake action

If you realize that your abandonment rate is too high, here are a few things you can do:

  • Announce an estimated wait time so callers know what to expect. 
  • Dial abandoned calls when agents have free time. 
  • Offer self-service or live chat if you aren’t already doing so. 
  • Play engaging announcements or music. 

3. Average speed to answer

One of the most critical customer service metrics is the average speed to answer. It indicates the pace at which your agents answer incoming calls. 

Usually, you calculate this metric from the time the phone rings until the agent answers — excluding the time it takes customers to navigate through the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) menu. 

A. Why you should track the average speed to answer

It’s vital because it contributes to the overall satisfaction of your customers. Additionally, the quicker your agents answer calls; the more calls your call center can process. 

B. The global metric for average answer speed

The global metric for average speed to answer in the call center is approximately 28 seconds.

C. How to take action

You can begin by accurately estimating the volume of incoming calls and having sufficient agents on duty to facilitate them. 

If you notice incoming calls peak at a particular time, you could recruit part-time agents to assist with calls during these hours only. 

You could also allocate a maximum number of pending calls to a particular agent. Callers that don’t fall within the maximum number of pending calls will be automatically redirected to voicemail to minimize wait times.

4. First call resolution (FCR)

FCR measures the percentage of calls during which the agent resolved the customer request on the first attempt — without transferring the call to another agent or having to contact the customer again to gather more information. 

A. Why you should track FCR

It’s a reflection of the efficiency of your agents and indicates customer satisfaction. It can also have an impact on customer loyalty. 

Today, whenever there’s an important issue to resolve, many customers still prefer to have a phone conversation and ask for assistance immediately. 

Call center managers should aim to make their service as client-centric as possible by minimizing customer effort. The FCR customer service benchmark can help you do this. 

B. The global metric for first call resolution

The global metric for first call resolution is between 70 and 75%.

C. How to take action

Start by analyzing the calls that agents didn’t resolve on the first call. 

For this, you could use call recording software to listen in on conversations and assess what went wrong. 

By listening to calls, you could pick up any problematic patterns to address. 

You could also consider implementing intelligent call routing to accelerate the resolution process and improve customer satisfaction. The system will direct callers to the most suitable agents for their particular query.

5. Average call duration

The average call duration or average handle time indicates the time an agent speaks to a caller, from the time they answer the phone until the call ends.

This metric doesn’t include the pre-call preparation or post-call wrap-up. 

A. Why you should track the average call duration

The shorter the average call duration for this metric, the better it is for your call center because shorter calls mean that both callers and operators don’t have to waste time. 

This also benefits the company because “faster” call center agents help increase the overall performance of your call center.

But you’d have to be sure that most calls end in a resolution for the customer.

B. The global metric for average call duration

The global metric for average call duration in call centers is 4 minutes per call.

C. How to take action

You should ensure your agents have easy access to customer information. 

You can do this by adopting CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools, like Zendesk, Freshdesk, etc. These tools let you store customer information, record service issues, etc., all in one central location, making it readily available to your agents. 

Agents can also ask customers fewer questions, so your customers won’t become frustrated. All experienced customer support professionals know that a short conversation makes for a happy customer as long as you’ve resolved their query. 

Ádditionally, shorter conversations benefit agent productivity and lead to satisfied customers.

Want to explore more metrics?

Here’s a comprehensive list of 15 Essential Call Center Metrics To Track

3 key benefits of call center benchmarking

Benchmarking can help you skyrocket your customer service and increase revenue. 

Here are some other reasons why it should form part of your quality assurance efforts: 

1. Helps you identify areas for improvement

With benchmarking, you can evaluate your company’s operational efficiency and identify areas that need improvement. Moreover, you can assess these processes impartially. 

And because you’ll be comparing your call center with others in the industry, the comparison is bias-free. 

Some of the things you can review and improve on include:

  • Percentage of “first-time-final” calls, in other words, first calls that result in a resolution. 
  • Percentage of calls that result in a complaint.
  • Percentage of calls that result in a sale.
  • Average sale value of a call.
  • Agent attrition rates (i.e., agent turnover).
  • Agent productivity, like the average sales value generated per agent per year.
  • Increasing customer satisfaction score.
  • Percentage of calls that give rise to up-sell or cross-sell opportunities.

2. You can accelerate your improvement efforts

If you evaluate successful and unsuccessful launches within your industry, you can speed up your call center’s improvement by learning from what others did.

This way, you don’t have to implement a strategy yourself to learn whether it will succeed. You can capitalize on the experiences of others in your industry instead, saving you time and money and speeding up the process considerably. 

Moreover, you can implement ideas that have been successful for other companies into your own call center, accelerating improvement. 

3. Results can motivate your team 

You can motivate your team by showing them factual data that identifies gaps between your call center’s performance and your competitor’s performance.

If your team outperforms their counterparts in other companies, the data will encourage them to keep striving to excel. 

If your team isn’t performing as well as their counterparts, the data can encourage them to do better. This way, you’re not just telling your employees that they need to improve; you can show them evidence.

Want more information on managing a call center? 

Read this article on the 10 Best Practices to Manage Call Center Operations

Final thoughts

The ultimate goal for any call center is to provide the best customer experience possible. 

To do this, you first need to determine your call center’s performance metrics, and that’s where benchmarking comes in.
You could follow the steps we’ve outlined here and use the metrics we’ve suggested to compare your call center’s performance with that of your competitors. Once you do, you’ll be able to give your call center a competitive edge and exceed customer expectations.

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