There is no single metric against which to benchmark the performance of your customer service operations. It’s like flying a plane—you can’t do it by just looking at your altitude settings without also considering speed. What this means is that most organizations use a balanced scorecard measurement approach, which is comprised of a set of competing metrics that balance the cost of operations against customer satisfaction measures. For industries with strict policy regulations, like healthcare, insurance, or financial services, adherence to regulatory compliance is yet another metric that is often added to the list.
The set of metrics that you choose also depends on your audience. Customer service managers need real-time, granular operational data, while your executive management need high-level data about key performance indicators (KPIs) that track outcomes of customer service programs on a periodic basis.
So where should you begin when choosing metrics? It’s best to start by understanding the brand proposition of your company. For example, does your company differentiate itself on the quality of the customer experience delivered, where satisfaction measures are of primary importance, or does your company compete on cost, where efficiency and productivity measures are most important? It is important to formulate high-level business outcomes for your customer service operations in a way that supports your brand proposition.
Once you understand the brand proposition of your company, you should choose the high-level KPIs that support your company’s business outcomes. These metrics are the ones that you will report to executive management, and include overall cost, revenue, compliance, and satisfaction measures. Next, choose the operational metrics for your organization that link to each of these KPIs and that support your brand. For example, if you compete on cost, handle time and speed of answer will become your primary metrics. However, if you are focused on maximizing customer lifetime value, first contact resolution will rise to the top.
When measuring metrics, follow these tips:
- Don’t try to track too many metrics, as the volume of data that you gather does not correlate to better performance.
- Ask yourself whether all metrics that you are measuring map back to a KPI. If some metrics do not, they are most probably of secondary importance.
- Don’t use standard, “out-of-the box” metrics from your vendor solutions, as these are their best guesses and tend not to include any focus on industry, geography, and organizational culture. Use these metrics as starting points to help guide the definition of metrics that are meaningful to you.
- Analyze metrics against varying time frames. Sometimes, overall metrics look good while actual metrics over shorter time intervals tell a different story. For example, daily handle-time metrics may be aligned with operational goals but can hide large hourly fluctuations that point to staffing challenges. Ensure that you measure metrics over a short enough time frame that they don't hide the details of your operations.
- Report metrics by communication channel. Phone metrics, email metrics, IVR metrics, social media metrics, and Web self-service metrics are not the same. Choose metrics that makes sense for the communication channels you support. Expect to see a high-level correlation between metrics and outcomes from different communication channels. For example, see if customers have the same satisfaction ratings or first-handle rates in each communication channel. When differences surface, dig deep to find and fix the underlying root cause, which is often the result of broken processes within the supported channel.
Good KPIs help executive management understand the value of customer service operations, and associated activity metrics help managers make decisions about hiring, scheduling, and operational processes that are ultimately aligned with the company’s business goals. Make sure that your staff understands why you are focused on certain metrics, and explain to them how they are aligned with business outcomes in order to eliminate confusion over conflicting goals and priorities.