What is the difference between call center metrics and KPIs?

What is the difference between call center metrics and KPIs?

May 28, 2014

Did you know that call center metrics are not necessarily KPIs? Let’s take a closer look at the difference between the two terms to help you choose the right KPI for your business.

business team studying outsourcing metrics

The terms metric and KPI (key performance indicator) are commonly used by people and companies in the call center outsourcing services industry. These are sometimes interchanged and given the same meaning, but doing so is actually wrong because metrics and KPIs are different in several ways.

Call center metrics measure anything about the business—from the time spent by each agent on the phone, to the number of customers dialing during a certain hour. KPIs, on the other hand, measure something more significant, which is the company’s success and progress. In a sense, KPIs are considered metrics, but not all metrics are necessarily KPIs.

How does a metric qualify as a KPI?

An organization can have many metrics, but only a few of those can be used as KPIs. Key performance indicators are metrics that matter most. They are actionable metrics that help you achieve your business goals. In other words, a metric can qualify as a KPI if you can modify it with specific actions.

Here are other characteristics of a metric that can make it a KPI:

  • Outcome-oriented
    Totals and averages such as the number of available agents and the number of customers on hold can be KPIs if they are tied to an objective. Merely counting them gives you metrics, but if they are measured so that you can reach an outcome, like determining the right staff size for each shift, then the counter numbers are KPIs.

    call center team leader helping customer support agent
  • Target-based
    If a metric has a time-sensitive target, then it can be a KPI. A good example is the average answer time, as call centers aim to keep this number at the lowest to pass customer service standards.

  • Rated or graded
    A metric can be a KPI if it is graded based on the difference between the target and the actual value. For instance, if a contact center’s average hold time is one minute (target), and some agents are able to get back to the customer in 40 seconds (actual value), then this metric can indicate the performance level of agents.

Businesses and their workforce can’t perform to their maximum without metrics and KPIs. You can measure a multitude of activities and resources, but only those that indicate your level of performance can truly be used as vehicles for success. Thus, evaluate your metrics wisely to choose which among them could truly guide you to your goals.



As one of Open Access BPO's content writers, Julie Pearl shares her BPO knowledge through her blog posts, research papers, and other resources. She writes about outsourcing news and call center management tips and insights.

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