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How to Improve Your Customer Service Metrics

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Turn any support metric around with these tips.

A few weeks ago we wrote a post about the 10 customer service metrics you should be measuring.

However, deciding which metrics you should be looking at regularly is just the first step towards really improving your customer service through hard numbers.

Once you’ve picked the indicators you need, the monitoring begins. Benchmarking can be tricky when it comes to any metrics, and the safest way to evaluate your performance is to do it against your own numbers.

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

However, what if some of them are looking a little worse for wear over an extended period of time, or just staying at a “meh” level instead of getting better?

Today, we’re going to walk you through all the measurable indicators we discussed in our previous customer service metrics post, and suggest some questions to ask yourself and your team when your customer service numbers are trending down or getting stale.

Let’s get crackin’!

1. Ticket Volume

The Issue

Ticket volume can be a tricky metric, because it might feel like more support tickets is a good thing.

However, if you think about it, support tickets are usually an indicator of your product falling short, being confusing, or even worse—broken.

So, when your ticket numbers go up abruptly or keep going up over an extended period of time, you might want to take a look at why it’s happening.

The Solution

The first thing to consider when you see your ticket numbers going up—even before finding out why—is if your support reps can deal with it at that point. Overwhelming your support team never ends well, regardless of what the underlying issue actually is.

From there, there are several things to keep your eye on:

Actionable items:

Sometimes, ticket volumes go up just because your user base is growing or because you’ve recently added a lot of new features that people are asking about.

Regardless of whether there’s a real issue behind your growing ticket volumes or not, make sure your team can deal with it efficiently and encourage open communication between departments.

2. Ticket Backlog

The Issue

Ticket backlog refers to unresolved customer support requests in a particular time frame—the tickets that stay open beyond your usual response time.

If your ticket backlog seems to be too cramped or even worse—is growing over time, it’s a surefire way to tell that there’s something is off with your customer service process—and tons of unresolved tickets are a slippery slope to customer dissatisfaction.

The Solution

First of all, we’d like to say that speed doesn’t matter in customer service, but that’s not necessarily true in every case.

If you’ve got a growing ticket backlog and a lot to handle at once, focus on just responding first rather than immediately resolving—this way you’re letting your customers know that they have been acknowledged and there’s less risk of anyone feeling ignored or not taken seriously.

As far as things to investigate go, the questions here are similar to a too high ticket volume:

Actionable items:

If your ticket backlog is swamped because of a temporary issue and you don’t want to hire more reps to deal with it, see if you can get someone else in the team to help clear it out. This is also a good exercise for cultivating an “everyone does support” culture in your company.

3. Resolution Rate

The Issue

Resolution rate represents the percentage of issues your reps actually resolve from the number of total tickets received.

A rising resolution rate is a good indication of the efficiency levels of your customer service team.

A dropping rate means that there might be issues that are hindering your team from being efficient enough, and it’s time to find out what they are.

The Solution

A low resolution rate can stem for several issues in your company and processes. Here are some things to consider:

Actionable items:

4. Average Reply Time

The Issue

Average reply time helps you see whether your customers are getting followed up with in a timely manner.

The “best practices” for average reply times vary greatly from company to company, but in general, nobody likes promised a quick response and then being left hanging.

Generally, the longer a customer is kept waiting for a response regardless of whether it’s first contact or a follow up, the more likely they are to feel irritated, so it’s best to try and keep your reply times as short as possible.

The Solution

Any reply time issue generally tends to be a workload problem (either not enough reps or too many extremely complex issues), an organizational issue or lagging communication between departments.

Here are some things to consider:

Actionable items:

5. Average First Response Time

The Issue

Average first response time tells you how long it takes for a customer to receive an initial reply to their support request—basically how long a customer has to wait before being helped.

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.

Sometimes people just need a quick initial answer, even if it doesn’t include an immediate solution—it lets them know their issue is being dealt with and they’ve been acknowledged.

The Solution

Questions to ask yourself when it comes to first reply time, similarly to any time related indicators, include:

Actionable items:

6. Customer Satisfaction

The Issue

Customer satisfaction is usually based on a short survey customers fill out, typically after a conversation or ticket is resolved. Either way, at its core, it asks the customer to rate their experience on a scale ranging from good/great to bad—something like this:

This is actually one of the most important metrics you can measure because it’s as direct as measuring your customers’ happiness gets for you.

There’s no assumptions—everything is brutally honest, straight from the people who have put their faith in you and your company—and if they’re not happy, you’re in trouble.

You might also find useful:

The Solution

Here are some things to consider when your customer satisfaction ratings are going down:

Actionable items:

The most important thing to do when you’re facing a lot of low satisfaction ratings from your customers is to own up to it and ask for honest feedback about why they gave you a low rating.

It’s a growth opportunity for you and lets them know you’re taking their feedback seriously and trying to genuinely improve their experience.

7. Average Handle Time

The Issue

Average handle time shows you how long it takes your team to resolve a case.

Everyone likes their issues to be completely resolved as fast as possible without dragging things along, so it makes sense to try and keep your handle times as low as possible without affecting the quality of your support experience.

Very long handle times mean unhappy customers—if issues or questions take too long to resolve, your customers might not be able to get on with their everyday activities.

The Solution

Average handle time, again, has very similar thinking points to other time-related metrics:

Actionable items:

8. First Contact Resolution Rate (FCRR)

FCRR is resolving a customer’s issue in a single interaction, eliminating the need for them to contact you again about the issue.

FCRR is also one of the few metrics that has been directly correlated to real customer satisfaction.

Service Quality Measurement Group’s data suggests that a 1 percent improvement in FCR yields a 1 percent improvement in customer satisfaction.

The tie to customer satisfaction makes FCRR an important metric to keep your eye on.

The Solution

There can be various different reasons for a low FCRR, but the most important thing to consider is clarity of communication—not asking the right questions or being unclear in directions can cause more support exchanges than are actually necessary.

Ask yourself these things:

Actionable items:

We’ve written more in depth about FCRR and how to improve it before, so if you’re interested in how to improve on it, go check that post out.

9. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The Issue

NPS is a measure of how likely your customers are to recommend your product or service to other people.

Basically, it tells you how satisfied customers are with your business as a whole.

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.

A low NPS, similarly to a low direct customer satisfaction score, tells you that your customers are unhappy and you need to find out why.

The Solution

The things that you should think about when it comes to fixing a low NPS are very similar to what we discussed in regards to customer satisfaction:

Actionable items:

10. Replies Per Ticket

The Issue

A survey by Forrester found that 73% of customers find first contact resolution to be hugely important for customer satisfaction.

That’s where replies per ticket comes in handy, along with FCRR.

Too many interactions per one ticket can often mean that your support staff is not asking the right questions, or the customer is not being directed to the right people.

The Solution

Similarly to FCRR, the first things to think of when your replies per ticket are a little too high are related mostly to communication issues between your support team and customers:

Actionable items:

Hypothesize and Test for Optimal Results

Once you’ve done the work to figure out which customer service metrics aren’t doing as great as you’d want them to, you can start running small, measurable experiments based on hypotheses to get on the right track for improving your numbers.

When testing action items, start out by structuring your hypotheses like this:

This is the state right now. If we do …, it will …, which we expect will…

For example:

All of our customer service reps are in the US, but our product/service is used globally. If we add another service rep in Europe, it will bring the first response time down to an hour. We expect a better first response time to improve our customer satisfaction score, which is tied to customer retention.

Once you’ve made your hypotheses, you can start testing them, and reporting back on the results. If a strategy isn’t working for you, kill it and try another one.

We’ve written a lot about hypothesis and testing support strategies in our customer service ROI post, so if want extra pointers in that area, head over to read that.

Focus on Communication to Improve Customer Service Metrics

Getting your numbers in order is a tough thing to start doing from scratch to begin with, and it gets even worse if they don’t reflect what you want to see.

However, think of seeing “red lights” as potential—you have your hand on the pulse—from there you can quickly react when things start getting worse, or celebrate when the trends go up.

Either way, the key here is to make sure that communication is open and trusted between your customer support team members as well as the whole company.

Which customer service metrics do you look at regularly and how do you make sure they’re trending upwards? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Elen Veenpere is part of the marketing team at Groove. She’s passionate about writing and building marketing strategies based on in-depth analytics and lots of coffee.

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