As Peter Drucker famously wrote in The Practice of Management, “what gets measured, gets managed.”
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have begun to embrace the power of measurement in everything from marketing campaigns to recruitment initiatives in recent years. Leveraging tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Ads Manager or through CRMs, CMOs, CFOs, and HR heads can quantify how well they are doing at their job.
However, measuring the success of the customer service team can be challenging as no single metric clearly details the customer journey. Net promoter score can be helpful, but this score doesn’t provide a full picture of the many experiences a customer may have.
Fortunately, there are ways to measure customer service efforts and get an understanding of how the customer is being treated. First, start by clearly deciding what goals and metrics your organization will and will not measure, then track key performance indicators that support these overall goals. While this may seem like a straight forward process, many small businesses make key mistakes that prevent them from having the full picture of their customer service performance.
Here are seven major mistakes to avoid as you start to improve your company’s customer service skills:
Mistake #1 – They don’t measure performance
This is the big one. You can’t improve your customer service experience if you aren’t measuring your performance.
Understandably, many companies are reticent to measure customer service. In part, that’s because the practice is perceived as being largely qualitative versus quantitative. After all, whether a customer leaves a service encounter feeling satisfied isn’t always a black or white, yes or no answer.
If you’re currently making this mistake, you aren’t alone. The following sections will show you how to start putting your performance measurement plan together.
Mistake #2 – They don’t track specific KPIs
Many SMBs are surprised to find when they do commit to measuring customer service, that several aspects of customer experience are, indeed, quantifiable.
For example, a few of the key performance indicators (KPIs) your company could measure include:
- Average duration of service experiences
- Number of service engagements required to resolve an issue
- Average wait times or response times
- Number of escalations required to resolve service issues
- Overall Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT)
- Trends in revenue or other company-wide performance measures (for identifying correlations with other services KPIs)
- Trends in different types of service engagements (for example, usage questions versus true problems with your product)
Most SMBs are best served by measuring no more than 3-5 high-level customer service KPIs. Less than that, and you may miss out on the context provided by other signals. Any more than that, and you increase the reporting burden on team members without necessarily increasing the overall value of your reporting.
Choose your company’s KPIs based on the way your customer service program operates. If, for example, you have a highly complex product and you expect that new clients will contact customer service several times while onboarding, you may get more value out of monitoring overall CSATs or response times than you will from measuring total service engagements or their duration.
Mistake #3 – They don’t measure all channels
It’s also critical that your SMB takes the different channels across which you provide customer service into consideration. That’s because “customer service” no longer equals just phone calls. Though many clients still engage this way, they may also seek out support through a company’s social media profiles, email, live chat, knowledgebase, forum, or ticketing system.
For every channel where your company provides service, identify the data points that can be extracted. Business intelligence tools like ClicData that pull your data into a dashboard can help have a single version of the truth. If you do decide to use a central dashboard, look for one with the appropriate integrations to bring in data from your social media management tools, your VoIP service, your ticketing platform, or any other existing tools you use.
See some dashboard examples for your SMB and customer service performance monitoring.
Mistake #4 – They don’t establish customer service benchmark
Once you’ve identified the KPIs your company will monitor and how you’ll track information on each channel you’ll measure, be sure to take a snapshot of your metrics to establish a benchmark for future comparison. You won’t be able to determine whether the changes you make have had the desired impact if you don’t know where you started from.
That said, you may need to take several such snapshots to really understand your baseline customer service performance. Imagine, for example, that you start your new customer service measurement program the week after making major changes to your core offering. Of course, you’re going to see greater customer service engagement during these times, but that doesn’t mean the increased support volume is a problem that needs to be fixed.
Mistake #5 – They don’t set SMART performance goals
Your customer service baseline—whether based on a single snapshot or multiple measurements—gives you a starting point for improving performance. But it’s what you do with that starting point that really matters.
Look at the story being told by your numbers. Does it seem like your CSATs are lower overall than they should be? Does it seem as if your customer service representatives are spending too much time on the phone—especially if you’ve invested in self-service resources for resolving common issues?
There’s no “one size fits all” answer here. And it may not be clear whether your baseline numbers are “good” or “bad” if you don’t have anything to compare them to. But you can still use your gut feeling and intuition to set SMART goals intended to improve your performance against your KPIs.
Remember that “SMART” goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. “Improve our average wait times” isn’t a SMART goal; “improve average wait times by two minutes by the end of Q2” is. Other samples of SMART goals for improving customer service performance include:
- Respond to 95% or more of all Twitter support requests within 60 minutes by the end of the year.
- Improve our average CSAT score from 3.5 to 4.0 within three months.
- Decrease the average number of service engagements required to solve an issue from four to two by the end of 2020.
Mistake #6 – They don’t commit resources to improvement
Setting SMART goals is a huge achievement, but don’t assume they’ll be enough to solve any customer service challenges you’re facing on their own. Actually solving problems requires a commitment of resources.
Take the third SMART goal listed above: “Decrease the average number of service engagements required to solve an issue from four to two by the end of 2020.”
That’s a great goal, but how is your company going to achieve it? Cutting engagements in half requires some level of investment on your part, perhaps in the form of:
- Better onboarding training and tutorials that answer common questions.
- Better training of customer service representatives to anticipate common issues.
- A new self-service resource that customers can use to resolve problems on their own.
None of these solutions are free; there’s a cost in money or time for each of them. If you aren’t prepared to commit the resources necessary to achieve your goals, there’s no point in undertaking a performance monitoring campaign in the first place.
Mistake #7 – They don’t have buy-in at all levels
Finally, make sure to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”
Monitoring customer service performance, by its nature, means seeking out weaknesses that can be addressed. But when these weaknesses are tied to the job performance of those in customer service roles, calling out issues—even if you’re doing so in order to solve them—can be uncomfortable.
The best results come from securing buy-in at all levels. Bring all parties—from your front-line customer service workers through to the C-suite—onboard by continually emphasizing the benefits of a comprehensive performance measurement program.
About the author
Matt Shealy is the President of ChamberofCommerce.com. Chamber specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.