Two of the most common metrics I recommend you track are response times and handle times.
Overall and first response time
Response time is a metric that you’ll find in every support platform and one of the most valuable metrics you can monitor. No one likes a slow response. Consumers have resoundingly said that response time matters. In fact, in a 2020 study, a third of respondents said they expected a company to respond to their emails in less than an hour.
If you’re not tracking your response times, how will you know if you measure up?
While you should absolutely look at both your overall response times and your first response times, it’s the latter that makes an initial impression on your customers. If you can only work on one, make first response time the priority.
If you’re tracking your first response times, and see that customers are waiting hours or even days for a response, this is the first metric you should seek to improve. On the other hand, if your best response times are already tracked in minutes or your team supports synchronous live options (such as live chat or phone support), give yourself a round of applause. Since you’re already a step ahead, you could start looking at decreasing wait times or improving your overall response quality.
Median handle time
Median handle time is a tricky metric. It’s meant to tell you how long team members are working on each individual customer query, which is valuable to know when calculating customer costs.
While most platforms track this metric, an important thing to keep in mind is that how reliable it is varies based on the support channel. If you’re offering live chat or phone support, measuring how long it takes to handle the question is fairly straightforward for your platform. However, an asynchronous channel like email can be skewed by individual processes and is typically tracked by how long a browser tab with the customer question remains open until it’s resolved.
The key to tracking this metric is to only focus on the specific number if you’re using it to measure performance for live channels in a call center. Otherwise, it makes more sense to use this metric to compare performance across the agents on your team.
If everyone on your team has roughly the same handle times, that means you can look at improvements for your team overall. Your different team members are well balanced and likely taking similar questions. Different processes or improved training could reduce that overall handle time, which generally feeds back into that first response time metric.
However, if one agent has a median handle time of 5 minutes, while a second agent has a median handle time of 17 minutes, you know there is likely something to be improved. It could mean that the second agent needs more product training or that they’re picking up the hardest questions because the first agent is avoiding them. This metric doesn’t give you all the answers, but it can highlight issues and help you to better optimize your service.
Other indicators to track
Apart from the basic metrics, your support platform contains a lot of other useful information that can help you improve service. Using categories, custom fields, or tagging (or whatever the equivalent is on your platform), you can track different types of data within your tickets.
What you’re tracking and how you track it is completely up to you. You could manually track items or set up automations to help you track them automatically. Because this type of tracking is so configurable, it can get messy and complicated fast. So, make sure you have a clear plan of what you want to track and how you will use the information. If you’re not tracking this type of data at all, you need to start. My advice is to start with some simple data and don’t go too deep too quickly.
The source of support issues
Two main areas to track are question type and product details. Each of these will help you identify where the support issues are coming from so you know where to focus your attention.
- Question type. Create a category or tag to track the type of question being asked. For example, if you’re a software company, question types might include Bug Report, Feature Request, Billing Question, Product Question, and Sales Question. Understanding the types of questions being asked lets you know what percentage of your support is directed toward different areas. If 75 percent of questions are bug reports, that’s an indication that the product has some defects that should be addressed. On the flip side, if 75 percent are product questions, that’s an indication that you might need to develop better user education.
- Product details. Create a field for product details. The type of information tracked in this field will vary depending on your product or service. For example, for physical products, it might be the actual product sold or a category of it. For software products, it might be a version or a specific feature. The main point is to identify the main source of questions about the product. If most of your questions are about one specific thing, this is what you should improve first.
Note that we’ll look at these indicators more closely in future posts.
Most used macros or saved replies
Not every support platform includes macros or saved replies, but if yours does, looking at the ones used most frequently is a great way to identify areas you could solve with improvements to the product or your education materials.
These pre-written responses speed up your response time to common questions. But they’re also a great source of information about where you might need to make product fixes or where you could improve your self-service options, so that customers have the answers they need without having to submit a ticket.
If you’re not using macros, another way to gain similar insights is to look at your ticket subjects. Some platforms, like Zendesk, have a feature where you can create a word cloud of the terms used in your ticket subjects. The largest words are the most common and could be a clue into needed changes.
Customer satisfaction scores
This last metric is probably the most obvious, for good reason. It comes in two forms:
- CSAT. You can access this customer satisfaction score, either from within your support platform (it’s a built-in feature in some platforms) or through a third-party service (after you have resolved a ticket, you ask your customer how happy they were with their service).
- CES. This score is similar to the CSAT, but asks customers to rate how difficult it was to get help with their issue.
Both scores are an indication of what your customers think of your service. You can survey for one or even both, depending on your company’s needs. The key is that you’re hearing directly from your customers what they think.
If your support volumes are low or you already have a high level of service, the customer support score may not be very illuminating. But if you’re just starting to think about improving the quality of your support service, customer satisfaction is a great baseline metric, and a visible sign as you make improvements.
I strongly suggest you monitor your CSAT or CES. You don’t have to track the score continuously. My team, for example, does a CSAT survey for one-month windows a few times a year. That way we’re getting a snapshot of customer satisfaction, but we’re limiting how many surveys our customers have to complete. Survey fatigue is a real thing!
That’s a wrap
All these metrics offer valuable insights that can help you improve your service so I hope these tips have given you something to think about. If you want to dive deeper into some of these topics keep an eye on our blog for future posts on this subject. And if there’s something you’d really like to know more about, comment on LinkedIn.