Despite being one of the oldest forms of customer support, phone calls are still the most popular channel among customers. In fact, 76% of consumers prefer to contact a brand via phone, according to a study by CFI Group.
Offering phone support can reduce customer effort but also add costs you might be overlooking. If you want a clear idea of how your spending correlates with productivity in your call center, step one is calculating your cost per call.
Cost per call is a popular contact center KPI that measures how much money it costs a company to handle a single customer support call. This metric is essential to understanding your ROI on call center technology and the cost-effectiveness of your operations.
This article covers everything CX teams need to know about cost per call, including how to calculate it and reduce it (without sacrificing quality.)
5 Inputs You Need to Calculate Cost Per CallBefore you can calculate cost per call, you need to tally every expense for your call center. Here are five factors to consider:
Labor is usually the biggest expense for customer support teams. This includes the cost of employing agents, supervisors, quality assurance managers, and directors.
To ensure you don’t overlook anything like employment taxes, it’s best to work with your CFO or accountant to get this information.
Factor in all expenses allocated to recruiting, hiring, training, and onboarding agents.
The biggest chunk of overhead comes from the cost of real estate for your call center. But even if your team is fully remote, don’t forget to factor in one-time setup costs such as hardware and servers.
This includes the fixed or per-agent license fees for customer relationship management (CRM) software, quality assurance software, learning management systems, helpdesk software, data warehousing, and phone systems.
Determine how many customer support calls your agents handled during a given time period. You can break this number down into calls per week, month, year, etc.
Organizing your expenses may take a while, but calculating cost per call is simple. Here’s the formula:
Total Call Center Costs ÷ Total Calls Answered = Average Cost Per Call
So, if your company incurred $75,000 worth of call center expenses last quarter and answered 22,000 calls, your formula looks like this:
75,000 ÷ 22,000 = $3.40 average cost per call
According to an analysis of 18 large companies with call volumes between 900,000 and 9 million, the industry benchmark for cost per call is between $2.70 and $5.60. However, that benchmark fluctuates depending on your industry.
For example, a brand with a small but loyal customer base that hires highly specialized agents might have a cost per call that exceeds the average. On the other hand, a retail company that handles relatively simple support calls with less experienced agents could have a lower-than-average cost per call.
If your cost per call is higher than average (or higher than what your budget allows), the issue usually boils down to two factors:
Here are five strategies to tackle both of those issues (without cutting corners in terms of quality).
Cost per call tells you if your agent interactions are cost-efficient, but it doesn’t tell you why. That’s where a customer service quality assurance (QA) program comes in.
Customer service QA is the process of reviewing agent interactions to see how well they follow your approved internal processes to resolve customer issues. During QA reviews, a QA manager listens to customer support calls and grades the agent using a scorecard (also called a rubric).
The grader assigns points for questions on the scorecard, such as, “Did the agent follow the approved escalation process?” Here’s an example of what a QA scorecard looks like:
Conducting regular QA audits helps you pinpoint what causes long call times or frustrated customers. In fact, when monday.com increased their volume of quality audits, their average ticket handle time dropped from 24 minutes to 16.9 minutes.
Overstaffing during slow times or understaffing during busy times can drive up cost per call. Call center staffing is normally left to guesswork. But machine learning uses historical data to forecast future call volumes.
For example, you might discover that February and March are your slowest months, so you can reduce your staffing and therefore reduce your cost per call during that time period.
Sometimes QA data alone isn’t enough to help agents overcome roadblocks—you need to step into your agents’ shoes to see exactly what they see during customer interactions. That’s where screen capture technology comes in.
Take tails.com, the pet food subscription company, for example. Their CX team noticed agents struggled to track down information to resolve support issues, leading to high Average Handle Times (AHT).
tails.com used MaestroQA’s Screen Capture feature to identify opportunities for improvement during phone calls, such as keyboard shortcuts, monitor configuration, and support ticket navigation. These small tweaks helped one agent reduce her AHT by 50%.
“We’re able to see what goes on in a typical agent’s day in a big, new way,” said Daniel Jensen, quality and training team leader at tails.com. “Every second adds up when multiplied across the course of a day, week, month, and year...It could be the difference of thousands of tickets.”
Routing calls to the agents with the right expertise keeps your call center operations as efficient as possible. For example, agents who specialize in product demos shouldn’t field questions about return policies. However, manually routing calls is time-consuming and prone to human error.
To streamline your call center workflow, implement Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology. This allows customers to connect to a specific support department via voice prompts, e.g., “Press 2 for account services.”
Ideally, when customers call, they should only be one degree of separation away from the agent who can answer their questions.
When agents are bogged down with tedious tasks, it creates a bottleneck in your support queue. Putting those tasks on autopilot gives agents more breathing room and reduces your cost per call.
For example, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, ClassPass noticed their agents spent way too much time chatting with customers who wanted to cancel their subscriptions. ClassPass fully automated their cancellation process, saving them more than 6,000 days’ worth of chat time.
Cost per call is one of the oldest and most popular call center metrics, but don’t make it your CX team’s sole focus. Exceptional customer experiences require a balance of efficiency and high-touch service.
Think of it like a restaurant: rushing customers through their meals might get you more people in the door, but they won’t come back (or advocate for you) if the experience was sub-par.
Ready to get 360-degree insights into your call center’s interactions? Request your demo of MaestroQA today.