Choosing the right metrics for your customer service operations


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Measuing the success of your customer service by using a single metric is impossible. Its like flying a plane by just looking at speed, and not taking into account altitude. You need to measure a set of competing metrics that make up a balanced scorecard which include the cost of doing business and customer satisfaction. For service operations that have sales responsibilities, revenue generated is another metric to track. And, for industries with strict policy regulations, like healthcare, insurance or financial services, compliance to these requirements is yet another set of metrics to track.

Choosing the right set of metrics to measure also depends on the stakeholders that use this information. For example:

  • Service managers need operational data that track activities, while executives want strategic KPIs that track outcomes of customer service programs.
  • Service managers need real-time and granular data of their operations, while executives need to see only a small number of key performance indicators on a periodic basis.

I always think of it as a two step process to pinpoint the right metrics for all your stakeholders. First, be sure to understand the strategic objectives of your company, and choose the high-level KPIs for your contact center that support your company’s objectives. These are the metrics that you will report to your executives

Next, choose right operational activity metrics for your contact center that map to these KPIs and that the customer service manager uses on a daily basis to manage operations. Here’s an example of this mapping:

KPIs measuring service outcomes

Operational Metrics measuring activities

  • Average handle time
  • Average talk time
  • Average hold time
  • Agent productivity
  • Rework
  • Number of escalations to 2nd tier support
  • Agent turnover and training
  • Schedule adherence
  • etc…

So how do you choose the right metrics? We all know that there are lots of predefined metrics that you can use – and we also know that tracking lots of metrics doesn’t mean that you are performing any better than if you only tracked a couple of metrics. My tips include:

  • Align activities to outcomes: If you are measuring and optimizing an activity metric that cannot be mapped directly to a KPI it is probably of lesser importance to the success of your business.
  • Customize metrics that are right for your business: Predefined activity metrics provided by customer service software tools are vendors’ best guesses at the measures that will be needed. Use these metrics as starting points to help guide the definition of metrics that are valuable for you to track. For example, don’t only track handle time, but also track hold time to understand your customer’s experience when waiting in a queue. Likewise, don’t rely on predefined KPIs. Use these to calculate the right KPIs for your organization, pulling data from several different applications and systems.
  • Analyze metrics by varying timeframes. Sometimes overall metrics look good, while actual metrics over shorter time intervals don’t. For example, daily handle time metrics may be aligned to operational goals, which hide large hourly fluctuations and point to staffing challenges.
  • Look at metrics for the different communication channels that you use: See if there are discrepencies, and do a root cause anaytsis to understand why differences exist.
  • Use the right set of metrics for your audience. Executives speak in the language of KPIs and service managers speak in the language of activity metrics. What is important to do is to create a language bridge between these groups of metrics. For example, consider the request of a service manager customer to add headcount to a knowledge management program. This request can be framed as “we need to evolve our knowledge management solution to provide a better quality of knowledge to our agents. This will ultimately lead to a quantitative, measurable increase in our net promoter score, an increased first time fix rate, and lower operating costs.”

Metrics is an art as well as a science, and you may have to go through several iterations to pick the right ones that really measure business success.

And, don’t forget that good customer service is the result of good technology, good customer service processes, and most importantly, a well managed organization that values its employees. Pay attention to the human factors such how you measure your agents, how you compensate them and how you empower them to make decisions to ensure that they deliver to expectation. After all, your agents are the key to your success.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Leggett
Kate serves Business Process Professionals. She is a leading expert on customer service strategies. Her research focuses on helping organizations establish and validate customer service strategies strategies, prioritize and focus customer service projects, facilitate customer service vendor selection, and plan for project success.


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