How contact centre KPIs have evolved in a helpline remit

How contact centre KPIs have evolved in a helpline remit

20th October 2022

By Connect Assist

What’s your mental image of a call centre? If you don’t work in one, you might conjure up an image of agents in booths, endlessly answering impersonal phone calls. 

Well, for big call centres, there’s some truth in that. The calls they handle tend to be transactional, and agents have strict targets to meet.

But for contact centres which operate helplines, those key performance indicators (KPIs) are evolving. Changing customer expectations, and the ever-increasing number of channels, are prompting a rethink of what’s important to measure.

At Connect Assist, we’ve been running helplines for many, many years. Here’s how we’re seeing KPIs evolve – for the better. 

Focus on the organisation

Call and contact centres have more data at their fingertips than they can analyse! So KPIs are a way of narrowing that data down to what’s really pertinent, and using it to set targets for improvement.

Traditionally, KPIs have been focused on the organisation’s needs. The goal has long been to get customers off the phone ASAP!

Traditional call centres KPIs include:

  • Average handle time. The faster, the better!

  • Contact volume. How many calls, emails or other queries were answered in a day?

  • Active call waiting. How many customers are waiting for an answer at any given moment?

  • Call abandonment rate. When customers give up waiting, they may take their custom elsewhere.

  • Hold times. What’s the average length of time that customers have to wait for their call to be answered? Longest hold time can also be measured. 

  • Customer satisfaction. This has always been measured, but has taken a lower priority.


All the above can still be measured. They still give useful insights. 

But most of them are very process-oriented. The pressure is on to churn through customers, regardless of whether the call is helpful or not. That can lead to dissatisfied customers, and burnt-out advisers.

And increasingly, those of us in the contact centre sector are realising they tell only a very small part of the real story. 

Focus on the customer

So what’s changed? Essentially, there’s been a shift of focus: from the organisation to the customer.

So now, it’s all about outcomes rather than inputs. That might mean fewer impressive numbers in the graphs you present to your trustees or directors – but much better results for your service users. 

Of course, if you run a non-profit helpline, you might claim – with some justification – that this has always been your focus. Why else would you exist?

But even for charities, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals and get bogged down in operational matters. Done wrong, KPIs can actually hinder rather than help.

The importance of customer experience

It’s not just charity and public sector helplines who are placing the focus on the customer. The private sector has also wised up to the fact there are sound business reasons for improving the customer experience.

Management consultancy PwC surveyed people around the globe, including the UK, for its Experience is Everything report. It found that:

So improving the customer experience boosts loyalty, sales, and profits. The customer is happy to return – and tell all their friends about the brand. 

KPIs for helplines

So what does this customer focus look like in practice?

In modern contact centres, KPIs are now built around how the customer wants to contact you, and how they wish to be treated. And it’s no surprise to anyone to learn that they’re not keen on waiting for hours, only to be fobbed off as quickly as possible!

Hold time

Hold time remains an important metric – perhaps even more so than previously. For around 60% of customers, waiting on hold for even one minute is too long.And for people in distress, who’ve perhaps had to pluck up their courage to make the call, this wait can be hugely off-putting. 

Fortunately, tech is here to help: the Five9 software we use at Connect Assist has AI-enabled Interactive Voice Response and Intelligent Routing to get customers to the right advisor, faster. 

Now, some 85% of calls are answered within just 30 seconds. So contact centres remain fast-paced places – but now, it’s the customer who benefits.

Live chat

Another reason why KPIs are changing is down to the growing number of channels that contact centres serve. You simply can’t judge live chat by the same metrics as phone calls.For example, one KPI for call centres is average handle time. But with live chat, you’re waiting for the customer to type. They might be slow typists, or embarrassed by their spelling. They might even have popped to the kitchen for a cup of tea!

So that metric goes out of the window. In its place, we might put what we call a “soft remit”. That means that advisers have a loose structure to follow, but no strict time limits. 

And increasingly, phone calls are following suit: the focus is on customer needs. 

First point of contact resolution

We’ve saved the best till last. At Connect Assist, we think that probably the most important metric is first point of contact resolution (FPOC or FCR). 

That means that callers’ queries or issues are resolved the very first time they call. No being passed from pillar to post, or waiting around for a promised call-back that never comes. They get the support they need, when they need it.We’re not alone in our faith in this metric. Research into complaints handling found that 80% of customers will stay with a business if their issue is resolved within two days: after that point, they start to drop away. 

While we’re relieved to say that we don’t handle many complaints at Connect Assist, 70-80% is also roughly our KPI for FCR. On the helpline we run for the Royal British Legion, for example, we’re able to close 70% of calls at the FPOC. 

One simple metric – but it gives insights into so much.

It shows that advisers have excellent knowledge bases to hand. That they’ve got great tech to help them. That they’re well trained. That they feel empowered to handle a range of queries. That they’re listening to customers actively, and getting to the root of their problems.

And that’s what we think contact centres should be all about.

Contact Connect Assist today

At Connect Assist, we run outsourced contact centre services on behalf of numerous public sector and charity clients. We love what we do, and we’re always eager to find ways to do it even better.

To discuss how we could run a brilliant helpline for your organisation, give us a call or drop us a line today. We’d love to hear from you.


If you need our help in developing more effective, meaningful connections with customers, get in touch today.