The One Customer Service Metric That Matters Most

The One Customer Service Metric That Matters Most
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There’s no shortage of things to measure in customer support. Here’s the one that rises above the rest.

Len note: this is a guest post from Christine James of HissingKitty, a community built to give customers a voice. Christine has first-hand experience on a number of support fronts, and I love her perspective on metrics here. I learned a lot from her post, and I think you will, too.


Remember your first “big” meeting? I do. You know, the first time you find yourself sitting in an executive conference room with some big company execs.

This was the case for me at AT&T a few years ago. As one of the top customer services employees of the year, I was flown to the corporate headquarters in Dallas for our annual meeting.

I was overwhelmed by the size of the office, and the sheer size of the company. We are talking about 240,000+ employees worldwide here. Needless to say, the first day when my cab pulled up outside I took a picture like a tourist. I was giddy.

But you could care less about my trip. What you mind find interesting, however, is what Randall L. Stephenson (our CEO) said on the first day of the meeting. After a few minutes of welcoming us, and telling a few jokes, he said something that made me stop and think for a minute…

“At the end of the day only one thing matters, do our customers love us or hate us?”

It was strange hearing him say those words. Maybe it’s because I had never heard the words “hate” and “love” used at AT&T before. As customer service reps, we were measured on volume, support tickets, and customer feedback.

The culture during that time was challenging. And looking at the Glassdoor reviews now it’s clear that not much has changed since then. So, sitting there in the audience, those extreme emotions resonated with me. I had been living in a world of closing out support tickets as fast as possible. I finally saw the light!

Over the next few weeks I began thinking more and more about the extreme emotions involved in dealing with customers. I read many articles about how successful marketing teams leverage the power of emotional campaigns.

This experience started me down a path I could not change. Fast forward a few years later, and I see examples of love and hate every single day as a moderator and community manager of a rapidly growing website. Each month we receive roughly 4,000 complaints and reviews from more than 50 countries.

Let me let you in a little secret. 90% of those complaints fall into what I would call an “extremely emotional” category. I read customer feedback every day that is wrought with emotions and frustrations. So, it was all curious to me on the outside looking in at most support tools on the market today. Was there something missing?

If you have worked around customers for any length of time, you know that they do not deal well when they have to deal with phone tree’s, 1-5 feedback rating systems, and poor automation. How do I know this? Because RipOffReport, Consumer Affairs, and the rest of the complaint websites out there combine to generate more than 10,000,000 unique visitors per month. And that’s being conservative.

When you deal only in scaled metrics, you miss the entire point of customer service – happiness! And, the feedback you do receive ends up divorced from emotion. I see examples of this every day, and here’s the perfect one. It’s a screenshot of a review from an AT&T wireless customer from Ohio who said she would “give AT&T customer service negative 20 stars.”

Negative 20 stars? Is she a lost cause? Nope. Kara is exactly the kind of customer you have to help. She is angry because she loved, she is at a negative with the brand because she had such high expectations of it before as a loyal customer.

After working with more than 100,000 customers in the last ten years (yes I did the math), I can tell you that customer service is a polar opposites world. And oddly enough, that day at AT&T, my CEO knew that.

That’s why the customer service metric that matters most is the number of customers that love your product.

Ultimately, the job of a customer service team is to carry out the company’s vision and overcome customer challenges before it’s too late.

There is no better crystal ball to see your company’s future than your happiest customers. And if you can leverage your champion customers properly, it opens up a world of growth for your company.

Here are a few examples:

The enterprise customer that is such a big fan they are OK with you putting their logo and success story on your website. Generally speaking, companies do not endorse products they like. They endorse products they love!

What about the SMB customer that enjoys your product so much they constantly tweet about you on social media? Or the Forbes journalist that read one of your blog posts and decided to write an entire article about how great your corporate culture is? Or even the analyst group that rated you a perfect score and positioned your product the industry leader in their latest white paper?

You have seen love before, you just weren’t paying attention.

So here’s a challenge to you: For the next 30 days track the number of customers you come across that absolutely love your product.

Call them champions, advocates, it really does not matter as long as you start tracking them as you would sales, cancellations, response time, or any other primary metric.

I have seen this system implemented at several companies with great success. And when you do start recognizing your champion customers internally, it will change the way you look at your product.

At the end of the day there are dozens of different types of metrics you can measure. And I am not saying that most of them aren’t helpful. But I have always been a person who tries to simplify things down as much as possible.

So, the next time a customer tells you how much they love your product, make a note of it. You will be glad you did.

Christine James
Christine James Christine James is the Community Manager at HissingKitty and believes that every customer deserves a voice. She has been featured in Huffington Post, Inc., and Thought Catalog. Follow her on Twitter