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Metrics: Why the Support Center Manager Looks Confused, and Why That Should Stop

Level 8

Metrics and measurements are incredibly important to businesses these days. Every second matters, and every dollar matters.  Metrics have always been a topic of discussion, debate, frustration and conversation in the world of IT and technical support, but now shifts in the worlds of technology and business are having effects on what to measure and how to measure.

For years, help desks and service desks measured themselves based on the historical method of contact: Phone. Metrics such as speed to answer, average handle time, time in queue, agent utilization rate, and abandon rate have been on the top of most support center managers’ lists for years.  Technology made these measures increasingly easy. Automatic call distributors logged the number of calls, the wait time, the number of abandoned calls, and the time agents/analysts spend ready to pick up the phone, and produced reports for managers to help them calculate the operational metrics they needed to properly staff and run support centers. First call resolution (FCR; resolving a ticket on the first call, even if there was a “warm transfer”) became king-of-the-hill. “One and done” has been spoken millions of times by thousands of support managers.  As HDI’s in-house subject matter expert, I’m asked about FCR more than any other single topic.

But there’s trouble here.

First of all, phone is slowly declining as a contact method as other channels have come into play. For the HDI 2014 Support Center Practices & Salary Report (due out in October, 2014), we asked about phone, chat, email, web request (tickets submitted directly be the end users), autologging (tickets created without human intervention), social media, walkup, text (SMS), mobile app and fax. (Yes, fax! It’s still supported as a channel in more than 8% of organizations.)

This channel explosion has created puzzles for support center managers. The ACD is no longer  providing enough information to them for staffing, and many of them are scrambling to fit channels like email into the old telephone mold: “What’s the email equivalent of first call resolution?”

From my vantage point, I can see their frustration, but also think that there needs to be some serious adjustment. Metrics that were very useful in the past are no longer the keys to effective, efficient support.

Instead of focusing metrics on ourselves, we need to be looking at our customers and determining what is valuable to them. In another recent report, HDI found that 85% of IT departments—and 87% of support centers—are feeling pressure from their businesses to show value, not just completion of work and efficiency.

Let’s take a look at that formerly paramount metric, first call resolution, and see what it tells us about business value.

  • Most commonly, “one and done” calls relate to issues that are known
    • User calls
    • Analyst checks knowledge base
    • Analyst tells user the solution
    • Incident is resolved
  • The most common FCR call is password reset
    • 30-35% of all calls to the support center are password-related
    • Putting in a self-service password reset tool may drive these calls up because the tool doesn’t work with all passwords users need

So here’s what the support industry has been hanging its hat on: Incidents that have known solutions and password resets that are required because the IT environment is too complex. It’s not really any wonder that many organizations are trying to figure out whether they need a support center at all. (They still do—in most cases—by the way.)


  1. Push as much repetitive work out to self-service as possible. Provide the solutions to common issues in a good, easy-to-understand self-service system. And yes, your customer will use it, and yes, they will thank you for getting them off the phone queue.
  2. Move more technical work to the front line. This is commonly called “Shift-Left” and it works. Use humans for problem solving and assistance, not reading answers to end users.
  3. Start measuring things that show value to your business, such as interrupted user minutes (IUM: number of minutes of interruption X number of users affected).
  4. Start using solutions that are as simple as possible. Software that does not integrate with your organization’s other tools—such as password reset—do not fit your basic requirements and should not be considered.
  5. Use good knowledge management practice. Share what you know and keep it up to date.  Everyone benefits.

You can help that confused support center manager by working together to cut complexity and provide solutions to the customer: Your business.

Level 13

Great insight, thank you. I love the concept of Interrupted User Minutes.

Level 15

Good article.

About the Author
Roy is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. He is a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board. His background is in both service desk and desktop support as well as small-business consulting. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager.