In a viral blog post, Kristin Aardsma, Head of Support at Basecamp, rants about the commoditization of customer support. “We’re a society that’s obsessed with technology and profit and the intersections therein,” she suggests, which has resulted in fewer human-to-human connections. And that has a lasting impact on the way customers feel when they get help.
Much of this focus on efficiency and cost-reduction shows up in the way we measure success. As you’ve likely heard before, “what gets measured gets managed”. So when you’re fanatically tracking efficiency metrics like average handle time, that is where your team’s attention will go.
What behaviors do your metrics encourage?
The metrics that you track for your team can often encourage agents to act a little differently. At one support team meeting, I remember mentioning offhandedly how important it was for customers to fill out customer satisfaction surveys. Later that week I started to notice that many of the email responses from our agents included a PS: “If you enjoyed our service, please respond to the customer survey that is coming your way tomorrow.” Agents want to get good results – and their behaviors will match this.
This impact is magnified if you base agent performance reviews around these metrics. Agents that want to achieve high marks will focus on hitting their KPI goals over providing support to customers. While, hopefully, those KPIs should align with helping customers, that’s not always the case.
How do you align your team around the question: “Did we help this person?” Below, we list three metrics that can cause your team to prioritize speed over quality, along with some tips on how to bring your team back to their primary objective: helping customers.
Three metrics that can lead you astray
Time to First Response
Focusing too much on the time to first response can cause agents to rush through tickets and send updates that aren’t helpful. Most people have experienced a first unhelpful reply from technical support asking for more information they should already have.
TextExpander’s own customer support team uses Time to First Response as one of their key metrics. Christiane Cost, Support Specialist says that planning ahead can help keep response times low and deliver helpful responses. “Even when the traffic is so high it’s dizzying, if we want to delight our customers, we can plan ahead to do that.” Christiane recommends making a few of your own TextExpander snippets that convey your individual caring and concern. Then you can deploy them as it is appropriate.
First Contact Resolution
First Contact Resolution (or the % of contacts that are resolved with one reply) is a great metric to encourage agents to take the time, investigate, and provide thorough answers to customers right from the start.
But you know what one question and a reply is not? A conversation.
Christa Collins, formerly Squarespace’s VP of Customer Care, found that First Contact Resolution strategies didn’t always result in the happiest, most engaged customers. “Taken with the qualitative data, we found that a quick correspondence — even if we solved the problem — felt transactional or didn’t provide a long enough runway to show our value-add,” says Collins. “Between 5-9 interactions, customers felt that they were engaged in an experience that was informative and conversational. We could demonstrate that weren’t robots or outsourced support — we were real humans taking time to help.”
Of course, dragging out the conversation unnecessarily isn’t helpful, but there is a sweet spot between 5-9 interactions that allow customers to feel cared for and heard.
To ensure your team isn’t rushing customers out the door:
- Look at your own metrics. Does FCR correlate with high satisfaction? Are customers who experience FCR just coming back later with more questions? FCR may not be the right metric for you.
- Make sure your snippets end with an open invitation to continue the conversation. Customers shouldn’t feel like the door is shut in their face.
Average Handle Time
Average Handle Time (AHT) is a classic call-center metric that brings to mind images of timers counting down, urging agents to wrap up the call faster and get the customer off the phone. And at first glance, this metric seems customer-focused. Your customers don’t want to waste time. But the danger with AHT is that the focus can be on wrapping up the call as fast as possible and not actually solving the customer’s problem. Rather than hurrying customers off the phone, agents should be empowered to spend as long as necessary (and no longer) helping customers.
Speed is great. It makes your team more efficient and customers spend less time waiting. Measuring AHT is important to know where your team is spending their time, and where you have opportunities to be more efficient.
To keep this metric helpful, not harmful:
- Find ways to reduce AHT without sacrificing quality
- Incentivize agents on quality, not reducing AHT
- Balance AHT with a quality metric, such as CSAT or quality assurance
Two metrics to encourage connection
Customers will often tell you if they aren’t happy with the service they’re receiving. Measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT) through surveys sent at the end of each conversation provides an opportunity for customers to give feedback.
Other customer feedback metrics to track:
- Personal shout-outs: if customers take the time to personally recognize an agent, it’s a good sign that a connection was made.
- Comments left: since many CSAT surveys are moving towards one-click responses, receiving comments from customers is an indication of how engaged they are. If customers take the time to leave a comment in the survey, it’s likely that you’ve created a connection with them.
- CSAT response rate: customers will frequently only respond to surveys if their experience was very good or very bad. Measuring the percentage of responses you get back can show how engaged your customers are. If more customers are responding, your customer support team is doing a better job of creating meaningful conversations.
Quality Assurance Metrics
Customers aren’t always the best judge of your customer support quality. Since most customers have low expectations when they talk to support, they don’t hold you to the same standard you have internally.
Instead of relying solely on customer satisfaction metrics, use quality assurance to ensure your responses are consistently excellent. Quality assurance in customer service can be done many ways, either through manager or peer reviews. To start, create a list of what you want each conversation to include. That might be “accurate product information”, “conversational tone”, “created connection” or any other aspect. Then, select a random number of conversations to review each week. Provide feedback to your agents and get their ideas on how they can improve each customer experience.
Create balance with your customer support metrics
No metrics are a silver bullet to providing a great customer experience. Each of them has pitfalls to watch out for along the way. Start by deciding what behaviors you want to encourage on your team. Then, choose balanced support metrics that encourage those actions. Speed and quality and customer connection can all live in harmony together.