07.18.201713 min read

Choosing the Right Customer Service Metrics for Support Initiatives

There’s no denying that modern consumers expect a lot in return for their hard-earned cash. Not only do they expect to receive a product or service that accomplishes whatever the company promised it would accomplish, but today’s customers also have come to expect top-notch customer service from the company, as well.

In fact, the level of customer service a company provides has been proven to affect the modern consumer’s buying decision. According to data collected by HelpScout:

  • 78 percent of consumers don’t go through with a purchase due to poor customer service
  • 60 percent of American consumers say they would try a different brand while in search of better customer service
  • 70 percent of American consumers are willing to spend more to purchase a similar product from a company that offers better customer service

In other words, if your company doesn’t provide exemplary customer service, you’re most likely missing out on a ton of business.

As if that’s not scary enough, the article mentioned above provides another incredibly frightening statistic:

Although 80 percent of companies believe they provide “superior” customer service, only 8 percent of their customers agree.

It’s easy to say your company prides itself on the service it provides its customers. But, to be blunt, priding yourself on your service and actually providing top-notch service are two different things.

So, how can you know for sure that you’re giving your customers what they want?

6 customer service metrics to help you gauge your support initiatives

The following article will discuss six important metrics that can help you gain a better understanding of whether or not you’re providing your customers with the service and support they desire.

These metrics, for the most part, revolve around your company’s ability to efficiently react to and deal with issues that your customers come to you with. As such, we’ll break the following section into three parts:

  • Metrics dealing with the intake of complaints or comments
  • Metrics dealing with the process of mitigating issues
  • Metrics relating to the outcome of said mitigation

Let’s get started.

Intake metrics

First things first, we need to get an idea of what your customer service “inbox” looks like, as well as how you deal with the tickets inside of it.

Ticket volume

Ticket volume is, essentially, the number of engagements you’ve had with customers with regard to customer service or support within a given period of time

Whether your ticket inbox is overflowing or completely empty, it’s essential that you dig deeper into the reason your ticket volume is currently what it is.

While you might at first assume that a high ticket volume is a bad sign (i.e., you might think it’s a sign of a massive influx of complaints). That’s not necessarily always the case. Sure, it may mean that a bunch of your customers are facing the same problem with a newly-released product. But a recent uptick in ticket volume might also be caused by questions regarding a recent announcement your company has made, too.

On the flip side, a low ticket volume isn’t necessarily a “no news is good news” situation. On the one hand, it could very well be that your customers are incredibly happy with your product or service, and have no reason to open up a support ticket. On the other hand, it might be that your customers have become so frustrated with your product that they’ve simply given up and taken their business elsewhere.

In any case, you should revisit your ticket volume at regular intervals (monthly, quarterly, and yearly) in order to spot trends and irregularities. Once you’ve pinpointed these moments, you can look back at the changes you had made to your products or services around those times that may have been the cause for the increase or decrease in customer support engagements.

Time to first response

In our ever-connected world where instant gratification is the norm, the modern consumer expects to receive immediate support—no matter when they ask for it.

Needless to say, then, you should aim to keep your average time to first response to a minimum.

The good news, though, is that customers don’t expect your first response to immediately solve their problem; they just want to be acknowledged as soon as humanly possible.

Note, however, the word humanly. While customers do expect an automated response once they open a support ticket, they also expect to engage with a human fairly soon after. According to Kayako, this translates into 8 or fewer hours via email or 30 minutes or fewer via social media or chat.

A high time to first response can be pretty damaging. At best, you run the risk of losing the customers who are tired of waiting around. At worst, they tell everyone in their network that your company clearly doesn’t care about its customers.

Before we move on, though, it’s important to point out that a low time to a first response doesn’t necessarily mean that your company is efficiently solving your customers’ problems. We’ll get more into that in the next two sections.

Service metrics

Your next step when assessing your support initiatives is to analyze metrics related to your ability to actually provide said support.

Interactions per ticket

The interactions per ticket metric showcase the amount of back-and-forth your customers and your support employees have before an issue is marked as resolved.

What this metric tells you, of course, is whether your support staff is equipped to handle any and all customer-facing issues that come their way.

However, as with the other metrics, we’ve discussed so far, interactions per ticket aren't meant to be taken at face value.

There will definitely be times when an issue simply can’t be solved in one fell swoop and may call for multiple engagements between customer and representative (or multiple representatives, at that). On the other hand, if it took your staff two instances of engagement to remedy an issue that should have only taken one, even that might be cause for concern.

Overall, though, your company’s average interactions per ticket will give you a good idea of your support staff’s ability to help your customers when they’re in a jam.

Time to resolution

Along with interactions per ticket, you also want to measure average time to resolution.

As the name implies, this metric measures the average time it takes your support staff to bring a customer issue from intake to closure.

This probably goes without saying, but the longer it takes for a customer’s problem to be solved, the less satisfied they’ll be.

 

customer satisfaction graph.png

(Source)

While average time to resolution will give you a pretty good overview regarding your support team’s quickness and efficiency, it may be more beneficial to check out how long it took to resolve individual instances rather than grouping them all together.

As mentioned in the previous section, a small-ticket issue shouldn’t take very long to resolve, while a bigger issue will most likely take a decent amount of time to fix.

However, a dilemma arises here: Assuming you receive both complaints at the same time, do you make the customer with a small, rather inconsequential problem wait while you focus on fixing another customer’s huge problem? Or do you put the larger issue on hold while you quickly take care of the minor one?

If you choose to tackle the big problem first, the smaller problem is technically still “on the clock,” which would certainly skew your average time to resolution.

So, while time to resolution is definitely an important metric to keep track of, you need to analyze it through the lens of your support team’s modus operandi to get an accurate understanding of what the metric actually means.

(One last note: When calculating the time to resolution, make sure to only consider operational hours. In other words, if your support team is “on” from 9-to-5, and it takes 48 real-time hours to resolve an issue, you’d report that it took 16 operational hours to resolve.)

Outcome metrics

The final piece of the puzzle will fall into place once you take stock of resolution or outcome metrics. Analyzed in conjunction with the previously-mentioned measurements, support initiative outcome metrics will paint a complete picture of your company’s ability to help your customers when they're in need.

Resolution rate

Realistically, you won’t be able to resolve all of the tickets that come your way. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to do so.

In other words, you want your resolution rate to be as close to 100 percent as possible.

Before you can mark a case as “resolved,” though, you need to define what “resolved” actually means.

There are two ways to look at these cases:

  • From your customer’s perspective
  • From your organization’s perspective

Obviously, your customer has the ultimate say of whether or not their issue was resolved. “The customer is always right,” after all.

What this means is, you need to align your definition of “resolution” with that of your customers. You can do so by creating a checklist or rubric that defines not just whether or not an issue has been resolved, but the degree to which your team was able to help your customer.

There will definitely be times when you’re faced with customers who are near-impossible to please. While you should certainly still attempt to do so, by documenting your ticket resolution process, you’ll be able to see what your team did do for said customer—as well as what they could do better in the future.

Customer effort score

The customer effort score (CES) metric is used to determine how much friction a customer faced when going through a certain process with your company.

For our purposes, CES allows customers to explain how easy (or difficult) it was to go from support ticket to resolution.

CES is determined by typically using a Likert scale to assess how much a customer agrees or disagrees with the following statement:

“The organization made it easy for me to handle my issue.”

Respondents will be asked to choose an answer from one (Strongly Disagree) to seven (Strongly Agree). Note: While you could use a five-point Likert scale, a seven-point scale may be preferable to diminish the impact of acquiescence response bias.

Responses can be analyzed on an individual basis or as an entire cohort.

On an individual basis, you can track specific responses to their original ticketed issue, and analyze the process that led to the response given (whether it be positive or negative).

To discern an overall CES:

  • Calculate the percentage of respondents who “agreed” or “strongly agreed,” as well as those who “disagreed” and “strongly disagreed” (Leave out neutral responses, at least for this purpose)
  • Subtract the percentage of “disagreers” from the percentage of “agreers”

The closer this final score ends up being to 100, the more likely it is that your support staff is capable of efficiently solving any customer-related issue that comes their way.

Conclusion

No matter what industry your company operates in, there are likely many others who offer a product or service that’s quite similar to yours.

That being the case, your company’s ability to offer customer support can often be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors.

By offering support to your customers even after they’ve already paid you, you send the message loud and clear that you truly care about them, and want to see them succeed.

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Josh Brown is the Content and Community Manager at Fieldboom, a provider that allows people to create and publish beautiful online surveys and feedback forms in minutes. You can follow Fieldboom and Josh on Twitter to receive in-depth business and marketing advice and tips.

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