Good customer service is always a part of a brand’s promise to its consumers, whether assumed implicit or stated explicitly in a Service Level Agreement (SLA).
This makes sense: Consumers’ experience with customer service is going to have a huge impact on their perception of the brand—and on the chances of them doing business again. Likewise, many businesses have gotten a black eye from a customer that had a negative customer service experience and then took his or her grievances to social media.
So how can companies stay competitive when it comes to customer service? As the popular business proverb goes, “What gets measured, gets done.” Providing customers with a positive service experience starts with having the right metrics in place, with data collected in real time and accurate reports generated as needed.
So what metrics should form the core of these reports?
- Time to first response. This is the average amount of time it takes to respond to a case after it’s submitted by a customer. Customers expect companies to respond to their issues in a timely manner; companies that are delayed in their response only provoke customer anger.
Keep metrics separately for each of your customer service channels: telephone, email, web form, social media, etc. Expectations often differ depending on channel. For example:
- Roughly 53% of customers report that 3 minutes is a “reasonable” response time while waiting for a customer service representative on the phone.
- Most companies are now promising an email response time of four to eight hours—sometimes even less.
- 42% of consumers complaining on social media expect a 60-minute response time.
Needless to say, one cannot tell if a company is living up to consumer expectations if response time is not being tracked.
- Time to resolution. This is the average amount of time it takes the service team to resolve a case. If you can, it helps to break this metric down into the average time to resolve specific types of cases, product lines, regions, and so on. Past a certain point, the longer it takes to resolve a case, the less satisfied a customer will be. Sometimes, bringing down time to resolution can be a simple fix—for example, by providing a customer faq for common (but easily solved) issues.
- Number of interactions to solution. Speed is not the only factor, however. Customers are willing to tolerate a longer time to resolution if they feel progress is being made by a competent individual. On the other hand, customers will be dissatisfied even with a comparatively short time to resolution if they feel their time is being wasted.
Waiting on hold or being transferred to multiple agents across the organization are guaranteed ways to make customers feel that way. Thus, it is important to track both how many interactions occur between a customer and an agent, and how many transfers occur within a single case. The higher these numbers, the less efficient your service and the more likely you are to frustrate your customers.
- Backlog. This is simply the ratio of the number of cases opened to the number of cases closed over a period of time. For example, a backlog of 2/month means twice as many cases opened than closed over the course of a month, or two cases opened for every one closed.
Backlog is important for measuring your service effectiveness and efficiency. You might feel that your time to resolution metric is great, but if you’re creating a backlog of cases, you need to do more. Either cases need to be closed more quickly, or steps need to be taken to bring down the number of cases opened (for example, better quality control, better installation and care instructions, more easily accessible faq, etc.).
- Customer experience feedback and ratings. One of your best metrics comes from asking customers directly how satisfied they were with your service. Find a way to automate this feedback, collect responses, and view the data over time. Not only can you gather hard numbers in the form of ratings, you can ask for insights that might help improve service in the future.
How Do These Metrics Tie in with Fulfillment?
Our own area of expertise lies within the area of cloud-based solutions and software for fulfillment and warehouse management. Why, then, are we concerning ourselves with customer service?
The answer is simple: The rapid growth of eCommerce has changed the playing field. Many customer complaints center around issues of backorders, damaged goods, and delivery errors. And they tend to be errors that take up a lot of time and resources in your customer service department if your operations are not set up to give customer service the information they need to follow up.
Indeed, we have found time and again that, when eCommerce companies zero in on their customer service metrics, fulfillment issues are a large part of their traffic. (A quick glance at Amazon’s reviews can confirm this!) Having access to real-time data, using the right software, is an easy way to reduce the number and impact of these.
We are so sure of this, we challenge any eCommerce merchant to track their metrics and see that this is borne out. If you do, contact us.