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Understanding Customer Service Metrics: The Numbers That Matter Most

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There are dozens of support metrics
you can track. Which ones actually
help grow your business?

Is there anything sexier in the world of online business right now than being data-driven?

Or at least saying that you’re data-driven?

Today, you can track more data more accurately than ever.

Great, right?

Not necessarily. Many businesses are tracking hundreds of different metrics, and yet they’re so bogged down in data that they don’t know what to actually do with it.

Nearly every part of your business will have a small handful — sometimes even one or two — of metrics that actually makes a difference to your bottom line, and customer service is no different.

But Google “Customer Service Metrics” and you’ll see long, overwhelming lists of performance indicators that give you little to no insight into how your support team is actually performing at the most important task of all: making your customers happy.

Today, I’m going to share the small handful of metrics that are not only simple to track, but that will help you grow your business without getting bogged down in the numbers.

A Note on Benchmarking

In each section below, I include “benchmarks” to help you get a sense for how your metrics stack up against others’.

DO NOT TAKE THESE AS GOSPEL.

As with any performance indicators, the definition of “good” customer service metrics varies immensely across industries, customer demographics and geographic regions. Sometimes those variances can be as high as 100–200%.

The most effective way to benchmark your performance is to do it against your own numbers.

Are your metrics better than they were last week? Fantastic.

Are they worse? That’s okay too, but it’s time to start figuring out why.

No two companies are alike, and chasing someone else’s metrics — rather than focusing on improving your own — is a dangerous slippery slope.

With that PSA out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff…

The Single Most Important
Customer Service Metric

If there’s a single customer support metric that every single business needs to focus on, it’s this one.

It gives you deep insight into the health of your business.

It tells you how you’re doing on every front, from support to sales, product development, marketing and even HR.

That metric is customer satisfaction.

As Bill Price, Amazon’s first VP of Global Customer Service, told OpenView Partners, “customer satisfaction is everything.”

We’ve found incredible correlations between customer satisfaction trends and the revenue growth rate at Groove, far more than with any other support metric.

We measure satisfaction in two different ways: after each customer service interaction, and once every quarter.

Every support email we send contains the following prompt in the footer:

We track these ratings within Groove:

Depending on how ratings are trending, we can see whether our customer service performance is improving (good), declining (bad) or not moving at all (also bad).

Then, every three months, we send all of our customers a Net Promoter Score survey.

The survey asks two simple questions:

This tells us how satisfied customers are with our business as a whole.

Results from the first question tell us how many of our customers are promoters (those who respond with a 9 or 10), passives (7 or 8) and detractors (0 to 6) of Groove. Results from the second question tell us why.

Together, these two customer satisfaction measures — daily and quarterly — serve as our business’ most valuable “vital sign.”

Conversion rates, revenue growth, signups — these can fluctuate dramatically depending on tests we may be running or changes we may be making, and they don’t always give us insight into the health of our business.

But if our customers are happy and getting happier, then we know we’re moving in the right direction.

Benchmarking: For post-interaction customer satisfaction scores, keep “Bad Replies” below 10%. For Net Promoter Scores, according to Satmetrix, creators of NPS, the average score is around 5, but the most efficient growth occurs for companies whose NPS is in the 50–80 range.

Secondary Customer Service Metrics,
and How to Use Them

While customer satisfaction is the ultimate metrics, it’s not the only helpful metric.

There are a handful of secondary metrics that can be incredibly useful to your business.

Think of it this way: in support, customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal. You want your satisfaction meter to go as high as possible.

Unlike customer satisfaction, secondary metrics are not a north star for your business, but they can give you more tangible “mini-goals” to achieve that can help drive your customer satisfaction meter higher.

As you’ll see below, secondary metrics can also help you pinpoint specific areas for improvement, both at the team and employee level.

Average First Reply Time and Average Reply Time

Average First Reply Time tells you how long it takes for a customer to receive an initial reply to their support request, while Average Reply Time indicates the reply time across all tickets, not just first responses.

We already know that good support is more important than fast support, but Average First Reply Time helps you ensure that your customers are getting responded to within an appropriate window.

Meanwhile, Average Reply Time helps you see whether your customers are getting followed up with in a timely manner; nobody likes being promised a quick response and then being left hanging.

Benchmarking: For email support, most customers expect a reply within 24 hours. For social channels, try to keep response time under 60 minutes.

Average Handle Time

You can measure the efficiency of your support operation with Average Handle Time.

Again, this is not an ultimate success metric — using Average Handle Time to drive your business could lead to agents focusing on closing tickets rather than making customers happy — but it can help you benchmark efficiency across your team, and it can help you make sure that your customers aren’t being left waiting too long.

Benchmarking: For tickets that don’t get resolved on the first reply, try to keep your average handle time under 48 hours.

Replies Per Ticket

One Forrester survey found that 73% of customers find “first contact resolution” — that is, when their issue gets handled with only a single response — to be hugely important for customer satisfaction.

That’s where Replies per Ticket comes in handy.

Replies per ticket tells you how much effort your customers have to put in to get their issue solved; that is, how many times do they have to go back and forth with your team?

Reducing customer effort is the biggest factor in increasing customer loyalty, and keeping your Replies per Ticket as low as you can will help you make life easier for your customers.

Benchmarking: Try to keep this metric below 2.

Don’t Just Focus on Averages

One mistake that many of us make when we try to look at metrics is something that we’re taught to do in our very first statistics class: remove the outliers.

The thinking is that outliers are statistical anomalies, and don’t tell us real insights about our data.

And while that may be true from a theoretical statistics standpoint, it couldn’t be more wrong from a human perspective.

Those outliers in your customer service metrics — the customer who had to wait five days to get a response because something slipped through the cracks, or the ticket that took nine emails to resolve — are your biggest opportunities to improve your business.

Do not ignore the outliers.

Every customer whose ticket takes far longer to resolve should be getting an apology, an explanation and a heartfelt commitment to make things right.

Every anomaly should be looked at to understand why it occurred, and how you can put systems in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Every off-the-charts screwup is an opportunity to get better.

Seek perfection, settle for excellence. Remove any personal guilt and examine the processes related to the service failure. Returning customers will appreciate your efforts to improve the experience.
The Disney Institute

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Support metrics are a great way to benchmark your business and team.

They help you set goals and continue to get better, and they’re a valuable part of performance reviews.

Just remember not to get bogged down optimizing for secondary metrics. Improve those metrics to drive customer satisfaction higher, but don’t build your support strategy around them.

By focusing on customer satisfaction as your ultimate goal, your whole team will be working to move the metric that has the biggest impact on your business.

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About the Author

Len Markidan heads up marketing at Groove. He’s focused on helping startups and small businesses build better relationships with their customers.

Read his latest posts or follow him on Twitter

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