Customer Service KPIs: Calibrate Your Team for Improved Productivity

Customer Service KPIs (key performance indicators) are just like the dashboard of your old ‘76 convertible.  

Have you ever owned a car that every time you went to start it you said a small prayer? You’d turn the key and hear it click and spurt and sputter, unsure if the engine would turn over. Slowly you developed odd superstitious rituals thinking they were key to getting the car to start, all the while never asking yourself, “when was the last time I got the oil changed or went in for a tune-up?”

It’s easy to forget that anything you want to perform at a high-level requires maintenance. The car – probably – didn’t always have issues. They happened over time. Had you changed the oil regularly, or cleaned the air filter more frequently, those issues may never have cropped up. (Hint: It’s time to call your service department).

The same is true with your customer experience. It can seem like everything is running smoothly, then, out of nowhere, it feels like the wheels came off. Though that may be how we experience it, much like the car, there were probably early signs that something was breaking down and we just didn’t see them. The only way you can is if you’re paying attention. 

In this article, we cover four customer service KPIs to calibrate to improve your team’s productivity. Depending on your industry and specific team goals, you may have some other customer service metrics you’ll want to include, but we think these four serve as a great baseline for any team. 

First Reply Time

First reply time, or FRT, is a measure of how long it takes for an agent to send an initial reply to an inquiry. It probably comes as no surprise that customers value speed for customer service inquiries. What is surprising is that research by Salesforce found customers actually prefer a quick response – even if it’s lacking – as opposed to a delayed response that’s more complete.

That may seem shocking, but research by Columbia University confirms the same. The customer feels a level of satisfaction because there is progress. There are limits, obviously, but it is an interesting insight. Perhaps you and your team could consider setting up some sort of AI bot to provide an initial response, or build out more canned responses to help improve your FRT. 

When measuring FRT, measure it separately for each channel. Getting an email response within 30 minutes may be a great experience, but waiting for 10 minutes on chat is a terrible one. 

If you do notice a decline in FRT, it may be a signal that your team is overwhelmed and experiencing some level of burnout, or that you need more support agents. FRT may not give the whole story, but could signal the need to investigate further. 

Employee Engagement

In order to serve customers well, your team needs to be healthy. One way to measure how your team is doing is to look at their level of engagement. According to research by the Harvard Business Review, long-term employees improve customer service performance by being more effective and more productive. When employees are more engaged, they’re less likely to leave. 

Employee turnover is very costly to your team. Not only is there the monetary cost of having to hire a new employee, but there is also the training period where a new team member isn’t fully up-to-speed and able to support customers. So, it’s worth investing extra resources to retain employees in the first place.

You can start this by simply asking your team how they’re doing. Be direct when asking questions and take time to do so regularly. An employee becoming disengaged typically doesn’t happen with one event but rather a collection of events. So, offering regular opportunities for feedback is a great first step. 

From there, make sure you’re using the feedback you’re getting in a meaningful way. Apathy is the enemy of engagement. While venting can feel great to start, it becomes an empty exercise if changes are never made. 

Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is probably the most common customer service KPI. It makes sense. It’s a direct measure of how satisfied your customers are with the service they’ve received in their interaction with your support team. Depending on how sophisticated your reporting is, you can probably even break it down to see each agent’s specific CSAT score. 

All that said, CSAT can also be a little dangerous. For example, it’s not uncommon for a customer to give a poor CSAT score for an interaction in which they simply got an answer they didn’t like. That may not be the fault of the agent, but without further context, it’s hard to know that. 

So, whereas CSAT is a very important metric, there are also a few things to keep in mind:

  1. When reviewing CSATs, be sure you’re getting as much context as possible. Read comments, or through a ticket if it’s there. 
  2. Make sure the questions on your CSAT are very clear. As mentioned above, it’s not uncommon for a customer to give feedback unrelated to the customer service they received.
  3. Use CSAT as a starting point, not an ending point. If you notice an agent is struggling with this metric, use it as an opportunity to find out if they need additional coaching, or other training to help them be as effective as possible. 
  4. Consider the audience. According to research, customers in more individualistic countries are more likely to rate on the extremes (i.e. incredible/ terrible) where collectivist countries tend to be more neutral in their ratings. 

Average Resolution Time

The final customer service KPI we will talk about is average resolution time. ART is the measure of time between a ticket being opened by a customer to when it is marked as solved by an agent. This is an important metric to understand the efficiency of your team. 

As we noted earlier, getting responses to customers quickly is important, but it will be all-for-naught if those issues are never resolved in some way. Poor performance on this metric could also signal that there are knowledge gaps on your team. The gaps could be in general knowledge, or there could be confusion on who to escalate to in the event that the agent doesn’t have the required skill to solve a certain issue. 

As with most of the metrics in this article, it should really serve as a jumping-off point. If you see resolution times increasing, use that as an opportunity to dive deeper into interactions so you can better understand what may be going on. It may also be a great opportunity to discover inefficiencies in your day-to-day processes. 

Conclusion

The only way to know if you’re doing a good job is to measure performance. KPIs offer insights you can use to help improve your customer service, and to find where maintenance needs to be done. There are many different customer service KPIs you could look at, but to avoid getting caught in the minutia we suggest focusing on a few key areas.  

You can start by seeing how quickly your agents are responding to customer inquiries. If times are slow, or slowing, maybe you need to rethink your approach, or even hire more staff. Next, consider the health of your team. Engaged employees have higher outputs and are less likely to leave. 

From there, look at what your customers are telling you directly. CSAT is a great tool, but one you need to approach with caution. Dig deeper for more context, consider your audience, and use it as a starting point, not an ending. Finally, see how long it’s taking to close cases. Customers come to your team for solutions and if you’re taking too long to offer them, they may start looking elsewhere.

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