What KPIs matter most for B2B customer service?

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Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are variables used to measure a business’ success. They vary according to industry and department, meaning business-to-business KPIs are different than those of a business-to-consumer organization. Similarly, a sales team has different KPIs than those of customer support in the same company. Below are the most important KPIs for B2B customer service:

“Many reps are forced to solve repetitive, almost tedious issues.”

Cost per ticket
Support desks are plagued by methods that do not make good use of their agent’s time. Instead of focusing on complex tickets that require human input, many reps are forced to solve repetitive, almost tedious issues. In some cases, agents lack the knowledge to handle incoming questions and must hand the customer off to a more experienced employee. The best approach to increasing agent efficiency is to use collaborative, integrated software for support. This allows reps to consult with each other quickly and share knowledge, leading to faster answers for customers.

To understand the efficiency of your support organization, consider the cost per ticket – that is, the total cost of running customer support divided by the number of tickets. The more efficient your team is, the lower your cost per ticket will be. Each business must determine for itself the appropriate cost per ticket, especially in relation to the quality of support agents provide. Customer satisfaction is also a factor in revenue, so you should never sacrifice customer satisfaction for a lower cost-per-ticket average.

Volume of tickets
Handling an excessive number of tickets not only uses a lot of agent time, but it also serves as a costly expense for businesses. There are many simple questions customers can answer themselves through self-service support alternatives such as knowledge base and FAQ sections. These must be easily located and clearly advertised so customers know contacting the support desk is not their only option. In addition, self-service support must provide clear instructions customers can understand. Otherwise, they’re more likely to send an email or pick up the phone. When customers do contact customer support directly, keywords in their query should prompt a recommendation of existing self-service resources. This way, customers can choose whether they’d like to explore these options or continue through direct contact with an agent.

KPIs vary across businesses and industries.

Businesses can simply measure the overall volume of tickets they receive, but it’s more valuable to track the number of tickets per customer and number of tickets per agent. These metrics give businesses a better idea of the workload reps handle, not just the amount of tickets processed overall. Two different companies with the same number of customers and support reps can have vastly different workloads based on the types of issues agents have to solve. Those handling quick and easy questions make their way through more tickets, while reps tackling tougher issues will address fewer tickets. If your agents are handling more tickets on average, this shows an increase in efficiency. Alternatively, if they’re getting fewer customer service issues on average over time, this is a sign customers are using your self-service support options.

Response and resolution times
To gain an understanding of how efficient your reps are, look at average response times. Are customers receiving a response within an hour, a day, a week? Remember that most customers expect a response within one hour. Resolution time is also important – that is, how long does the average customer wait between the time they first open a ticket and the time it’s resolved? While a shorter resolution time isn’t always better, you need to understand average response times as well as ticket resolution times so that you can set a benchmark for your KPI. Look closely at causes and processes, which can cause many customers to suffer from unnecessary delays. Often, they’re shuffled between numerous agents until they’re finally given one with the appropriate experience to help them. Other times, their question is simply lost in a chaotic, disconnected computer system. Collaborative customer support software that can redirect information and customer correspondence from multiple channels is the key to solving this issue. The best solutions allow agents to chat with one another directly and add notes to customer profiles, ensuring anyone who accesses that data has the same information. Great software also collects customer messages from email, social media and more, automatically generates tickets, and collates all correspondence into one source every representative can access.

Customer satisfaction
The most important aspect of B2B customer support is the customers themselves. Their satisfaction is key to a business’s growth, making this the most important KPI of all. While emotional states are difficult to quantify, there are various metrics businesses can use to get an understanding of how their clients feel. Retention or churn is the major one. Customers leaving in large numbers is a definite warning that something is wrong.

KPIs measure the success of a business’s customer support methods.

Businesses can also determine customer satisfaction by looking at “live agent” ratios. When customers do speak directly to representatives on the phone, businesses should measure the amount of time the agents and customers actually speak to each other versus the amount of time the customer is put on hold. Long wait times are frustrating and decrease satisfaction tremendously.

Of course the best way to measure customer satisfaction by looking at “live agent” ratios is to ask your customers. You can do this through annual customer satisfaction surveys, or NPS (Net Promoter Score), or by our preferred method of transactional surveys. Transactional surveys ask your customers how satisfied they are after every interaction with your company. By measuring satisfaction rates consistently over time you will get the most accurate measurement and will also be able to set benchmarks for your unique organization. This will allow you to make the most of your KPIs by identifying upward or downward trends quickly so that you can make adjustments as needed.

Customer satisfaction is the result of various influences, including operational efficiency, ease of access and interactions with agents. Support reps must be friendly and personable with all the tools and information they need at their disposal. This allows them to put the customer and their needs first. While individual businesses have their own specific goals, these KPIs reflect the priorities of any support team. They’re best addressed with B2B customer support software that provides for a collaborative, integrated working environment. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Laura Ballam
Laura Ballam leads TeamSupport's marketing and sales development functions. Laura's passion for the customer experience guides her marketing decisions and fits perfectly with TeamSupport's customer-focused culture. Prior to joining the team at TeamSupport, Laura held multiple positions in marketing and sales support, including managing marketing and CRM for a global manufacturing company where she was responsible for developing and implementing the company's traditional and online marketing strategies in North and South America.

7 COMMENTS

  1. This is all functional and tangible stuff, fine as far as it goes; but, these KPIs will have little bearing on customer experience emotional response, memory, and downstream behavior. Satisfaction has little connection to behavior, whether transactional (unless it is highly negative) or relationship. To isolate on one approach to satisfaction, NPS has multiple, and significant granular application challenges. And, because we have done it for years, I’d argue that emotional states can be measured, and quite effectively and successfully. Respectfully, I’d refer you to my blog post on the subject from earlier this year: http://customerthink.com/are-your-customer-experience-kpis-really-key-do-they-include-the-impact-of-employees/

  2. This may be too simplistic of an approach – but once we rely too heavily on “indicators” to judge how well a business is doing we can surely know that we have gotten away from the direct, hands-on approach to building a business.

    First hand customer interaction by the people directly responsible for the decisions leading to growth, service, SOP’s, and anything that comes in direct contact with the customer is the only indicator we really need.

    The customer’s smile, demeanor, questions and responses are the KPI’s we need to judge how well, or how poorly, we are doing.

    Get the suits out of the office and “on the front lines” of the business.

  3. Michael thanks for the feedback – I find it interesting that you would say NPS (which is a single number metric) can help measure emotional states. A customer’s willingness to recommend your company to a colleague can absolutely be an emotional response, and that’s part of the issue with only using one limited metric. If they are in a bad mood, or good, or just had a good/bad experience with your support team that will significantly skew their responses. This is why it’s important to look at various metrics, to get a holistic understanding of your customer service as a function. Customer satisfaction is of course the most important, but as a manager I would be concerned that my team is also efficient and that my processes aren’t slowing the response rates or adding unnecessary cost.

  4. Steve, I agree – the customer is always your best measure of satisfaction, but keep in mind that in the digital world we live in today not every business gets to see their customers face to face, especially when it comes to customer service. So for those who only interact via phone, email, etc. it’s still important to understand how to measure customer service success.

  5. NPS is a weak indicator of emotion. Some years ago, my Harris Poll study on this showed that frequency of positive and negative informal offline/online brand-related word-of-mouth was a much stronger indicator of emotion. When brand favorability is added, to create an advocacy metric, it is stronger still. Further, the way that NPS is calculated gives little insight into the strength of a brand’s franchise within the consideration set.

  6. Our clients , along with their financial scores report Customer Value Added for each division. You can then compare different divisions and also see your own progression. Since the scores are comparative scores and not just yours, the results reflect your progress versus competition’s

  7. I’d highly recommend the Deep-Insight methodology (http://www.deep-insight.com/customer/), which is B2B-specific and incorporates all these (including NPS but also vital ingredients such as innovation and joint solving of business problems) into a Customer Relationship Quality (CRQ) score that predicts long-term relationship commitment. B2B needs a counterbalance to quarterly sales numbers (are they at the expense of long-term value) and CRQ works at account manager/team level.

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