The 13 Customer Support Metrics that Matter for Your Brand
Most brands, when they talk about customer service, they talk about it as if it were a touchy-feely concept to engage with the customers.
They look at it as an intangible and qualitative aspect of their business that is experienced but is hard to measure.
Well, maybe that's true to an extent.
But it would be a colossal mistake to say that you can't crunch numbers to measure the success of your customer service.
The most successful business I know set very high standards for their brand's customer service metrics and do everything in their capacity to exceed these quantifiable benchmarks.
In this post, we will discuss the most important customer service metrics that are of essence to your brand's success.
But first, a few facts on why that is important.
The pivotal role of customer service metrics
In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, customer service is pivotal to the success of any business.
In any industry, there are at least a handful of businesses trying to sell the same solutions.
They have similar products, a similar set of features, and a pricing range that mimics one another.
The true demarcation of what makes a business stand out from its competition is the extra oomph that a company puts in its customer service.
But if you deliver customer service without measuring the metrics, it runs the risk of being a fool’s errand.
Tracking customer service metrics helps you optimize your support operations. You can’t improve what you can’t measure
So tracking customer service metrics can help you move the needle on your service quality.
Take customer happiness for example. How can you determine how happy your customers are with your brand if you don’t have metrics to measure it?
When it comes to offering great customer service, you can’t just throw spaghetti on the wall and expect it to stick.
You have to set some hard standards for yourself, train your support team, and measure your performance against the set benchmarks.
Customer service is not just an operational requirement for businesses today, it’s imperative that they deliver service that meets and/or exceeds customer expectations. And customers demand that businesses do it with speed, consistency, and TLC (tender loving care).
When I used to work as the content marketer for Freshchat—a live chat tool to help the marketing and sales team engage better with customers—we paid a lot of attention to the trends in customer service and the popular metrics used to measure it.
We used Ahrefs to keep a tab on what people are searching for online when it comes to customer service.
Here is a snapshot of what popped up in one of my research in 2018:
When I typed the term “customer service” in Ahrefs, I found an alarming number of online queries where customers are scrambling to contact the customer service teams in leading businesses.
These business domains are sundry, ranging from email providers to gaming apps or dating websites to software behemoths. What does that tell you about the state of customer service across all industries?
With a global monthly keyword search volume that’s north of 3,92,000, it seems that customers are writhing in pain trying to contact customer service for help. And that’s a crying shame. If you notice closely, you won’t find the likes of Amazon, Apple, or Zappos in the list, because these companies are obsessed about delivering an A-class customer service.
These companies are praised for their great customer service because they hold themselves up to rigorous standards. But what are these customer service metrics? And how do you measure them? Let’s find out.
The customer service metrics that matter
The customer service standards might differ from one company to another, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to setting service metrics.
Customer service metrics such as first response time, the average time to resolution, and customer satisfaction are extremely important to measure for all businesses across industries; they are like the Universal Truth of the service metrics world. However, businesses don’t have the same kind of agreement for prioritizing other service metrics because it varies according to their organizational goals. For instance, Zappos is revered for its world-class service offerings. While its support metrics such as call handling time and personal emotional connect are unique to the company and marketing-friendly, they are not scalable.
Therefore, other businesses such as Amazon or Apple can’t replicate the service metrics of an online shoe store because, for them, the first response time is above every other metric. Today, we will focus on some of the most important and easy-to-track metrics that will help you improve your customer service, but it’s up to you to decide which matters the most for you.
Customer request volume
Keeping track of how many customer queries you get on an average day/week/month gives you an overview of your customer service traffic to your business.
It also goes by the moniker of daily/weekly/monthly average ticket count. Studying this metric will help you understand and plan peak hour traffic, shift roster, hiring requirements, and frequent customer pain points.
You can also dig deeper to understand what percentage of the customer queries are one-off as opposed to how many of them are raised as customer tickets.
Average number of replies per request
If your customers are waiting too long to get their queries resolved, it’s a red flag for your business.
The number of interactions per ticket speaks volumes about the average number of replies that you, or customers, spend on a single issue.
The average number of replies per request measures the number of responses that both parties—customers and agents—exchange before resolving a query.
Imagine a ticket that a disgruntled customer has raised in order to exchange an item, which ping-pongs as follow-up emails, screenshots, policy clarifications, and so on.
The goal of this metric is to find the average number of interactions a customer has to go through in order to get her problems resolved. It can help you identify anomalies in your support by tracking down the issues that take a longer time to resolve.
The resolution rate or issue resolution rate measures the percentage of queries that your support team resolves on the first interaction with customers.
The resolution rate of your team depends on a customer’s preferred channel of contact. For instance, customers who email you for support might not be looking for an instant resolution compared to the ones who use the live chat on your website to type in their questions.
First contact resolution or FCR is a slightly different variation of resolution rate which measures the percentage of queries resolved at the first instance of customer interaction.
A customer’s choice of a support channel influences the FCR.
For example, the resolution time is usually instant with live chat whereas the same queries can take longer through phone or email.
Alternatively, you can measure the resolution rate by studying the number of backlogs (open cases) versus resolved cases.
Average first response time
Average first response time, aka FRT aka first contact resolution aka FCT, is one of the strong pillars that buttresses good customer service.
First response time is the number of seconds, minutes, or hours it takes for a support agent to respond to a new ticket.
But it’s mostly calculated in business hours, so your support team’s offline hours are not factored in when measuring average first reply time.
First response time is considered a must-have metric by support teams across the board because it measures how fast your customer service is. It tells the world how seriously you take your customers.
Maintaining a good first response time makes your brand more marketable, more efficient, and personable; it adds the “wow” factor to your customer service.
Average ticket resolution time
This metric goes by different aliases, such as average time to resolution or mean time to resolution (MTTR).
They all mean the same thing, i.e., the average time that it takes for your service team to solve a query from the time it was reported. It is measured in business hours; so in theory, your non-business hours don’t affect your metrics.
Average handle time
Many businesses like to measure the time that their support teams take to handle customer cases using metrics such as call handle time, email handle time, chat handle time, and so on.
You can zero down this metric to know the average man-hours does it take for a support agent to work on a case or the average amount of time your team takes to solve queries through a particular channel.
Zappos is well-known for not monitoring its call handling time because the business wants to establish a personal connection with every customer that calls them.
They even had a record-breaking 10-hour-long customer call which has led the company to earn a huge positive PR over the years.
Customer satisfaction (CSAT) is one of the most important customer service metrics to track and measure because it’s a telltale sign of how happy your customers are with your brand.
Customer satisfaction applies to all aspects of your business—be in marketing, sales, onboarding, user experience, or support. But mostly, CSAT is one of the important key performance indicators (KPIs) operationally aligned with customer service.
It can feel a little hazy for you to track customer satisfaction because it measures happiness—a subjective metric to quantify.
That’s the reason why many brands, such as Freshworks, don’t settle for customer satisfaction—it feels like a threshold goal. Instead, we shoot for delighting our customers.
While the jury remains divided on what exactly constitutes customer happiness, there are some great techniques to accurately feel the pulse of your customers.
For instance, you can measure customer satisfaction, customer effort score (CES), and even net promoter score (NPS) to gauge the happiness level of your customers in relation to your brand.
We will discuss CES and NPS later in the post, but for now, let’s understand how to measure CSAT ratings and CSAT surveys.
CSAT rating is easily quantifiable and can be inferred through a simple formula:
CSAT survey, on the other hand, is ideally more descriptive and gives you more in-depth insights about your customers’ opinions about your brand.
You can drill down your CSAT rating and survey data to find answers to the following questions:
What’s your CSAT rating over a certain period of time?
Which segments of your customers are most happy/unhappy with your brand?
Which products, channels, services, teams, or individuals are they most happy/unhappy about?
The feedback to these questions can help you improve your support delivery and stay ahead of the curve.
Image courtesy: HubSpot Blog
Net promoter score
If you had to recommend this article on a scale of 1–10 to your friends or colleagues, you would effectively be using a form of net promoter score (NPS).
It is a metric widely used to identify customers who are most likely to advocate your brand to a larger target audience or identify the reasons why a segment of customers doesn’t think highly of you.
Besides CSAT, NPS is another great metric to measure customer satisfaction and happiness.
Net promoter score uses an index range that can vary from business to business, but the questions are mostly phrased as “How likely are you to recommend our brand/product to a friend or colleague?”
Businesses take the feedback to divide customers into three groups; for example, if you are using a scale from 1–10, you can segment customers into:
Promoters, who rated your service or business with a score of 9 or 10.
Passive, who rated your service or business with a score of 7 or 8.
Detractors, who rated your service or business with a score of 6 or less.
You can improve your customer happiness by leveraging your NPS to elicit qualitative responses from your customers. Instead of stopping at asking customers to pick a number on a scale, for instance, you can prompt them to answer descriptively why did they vote with that score.
But you can’t improve your CSAT and NPS ratings unless your customers are happy. Here are three simple tips to improve customer happiness.
Customer experience rating
Customer experience rating can get into the nuanced details such as your service agent’s expertise on a given matter, their tone or voice, or their willingness to resolve queries.
A more famous survey to measure customer experience is the customer effort score or CES; it allows businesses to measure how well your customers favor interaction with your brand.
These things can be highly subjective, but averaging the customer feedback can give you a fair idea on how they rate their experience with your brand.
It can level up your efforts to offer “wow” customer experiences, improve customer retention, and help you cross-sell/upsell more frequently.
Effort is also often the strongest driver to brand loyalty.
Customer retention rate
You should measure and improve your customer retention rate because it’s not only great feedback about your brand loyalty, it’s also 5X easier to retain existing customers than acquiring new customers.
For customer service, a higher retention rate means customers are happy to stick around with your brand.
For sales, the same metrics mean that existing customers are 70% more likely to buy from your brand again as opposed to 15% likelihood of new customers buying from you.
Churn is on the flip side of customer retention because it shows you what percentage of customers are turning away from your brand after a few successful interactions.
While it’s normal for all businesses to have a churn rate, it’s an important metric to understand why and how customers are dropping off.
Churn is especially critical for SaaS businesses because they rely on subscription models and incremental churn rate means a slow, painful death.
Preferred communication channel
When we discussed the resolution rate as a customer service metric, we mentioned how a customer’s preferred communication channel directly impacts the issue resolution time.
When it comes to the response rate, speed, and quality—the medium is the message. It gives you an understanding of which channels do the majority of your customers find more convenient to communicate with your brand.
Going back to the Zappos example, the company puts a high emphasis on phone support because they believe it’s personal and in-depth.
This varies based on the kind of business you have, the industry you belong to, your target market demography, which geographies you cater to, etc.
All things equal, the trend is more favorable towards live chat since the majority of online customers want instant gratification.
A J.D. Power’s research found this to be true in one of their recent surveys where they found 42% of American customers preferred live chat over 23% of customers who used email and 16% of users who chose social media platforms to contact customer service.
A growing number of customers find it easy to post their complaints, anger, and frustration than calling or emailing your customer service.
You can use social media mention tools to monitor and analyze the general customer mood.
Measure what matters the most
The customer service metrics discussed above are crucial for most support teams to look inside and reflect what works best for them and improve on areas that they are weak at.
Use this article as a guide to training your customer service staff better on the significance of these metrics.
Better yet, let me know in the comments which metrics matter the most for your support team and how do you plan to start measuring them.
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A version of this article appeared originally in www.freshworks.com