Customer service metrics are MUCH more than a number, they’re the key to tell your people where they’ve been, where they are, and where they can go in their quest to deliver an exceptional customer service experience.

A Harvard Business Review article warned business leaders of “Vanity Metrics”, or numbers that look good on paper but don’t give any insight into action that needs to be taken. We’re not talking about that. Too often we use metrics as the whip to keep our people in line. We punish our customer service teams with the metrics whip until we start seeing the results we think we should have. Because of this, customer service team members generally HATE metrics. And that’s a problem if you want to deliver fantastic customer service on a consistent basis.

Martin Klubeck wrote the book “Metrics: How to Improve Key Business Results” which gives a fantastic insight into how to REALLY use metrics effectively in business, especially in customer service. The problem with how metrics are used today is that we destroy employee morale by beating them with metrics. For example, “Conversion rate is at .98%, let’s make it a 2% by end of the year.” We then slave drive our teams into working harder, longer, and cut incentives and rewards until the desired metrics number is increased. The result? Your metrics number may go up, but it may also go down. You haven’t outlined any actionable plan that will help drive that statistic. The greater the pressure to achieve, the greater the incentive for your people to cut corners and cheat on quality in order to get the result.

Properly used, though, metrics should be an exiting component of a customer service strategy. If you’re using metrics correctly, your customer service team members should LOVE them, celebrate them, and constantly be thinking about and asking about metrics because of what it represents to them and their team.

1. Metrics tell a complete customer service story

A metric tells a complete story using data, measures, information, and other metrics to answer a root question.” – Martin Klubeck

You and your team should LOVE customer service metrics. Metrics are the best indication of the level of service you are delivering to your customers today. Metrics give you data, which is the raw number of value of actions completed. Metrics can be used to measure or show the differentiation of service between different periods of time. Metrics are useful information and can help you make your case for why your service is better than a competitor.

2. Metrics are customer service indicators

Metrics are a tool, an indicator – they are not the answer and may have multiple interpretations.” – Martin Klubeck

Customer service metrics not only give you an accurate picture of what’s happened, but these same metrics set the standard for what can become of the future. Metrics can be used as indicators of customer service goals and service level improvements by customer service departments. Your previous metrics are the starting point. Your future metrics will be the indicator of whether your customer service plans are working.

Metrics should always be the starting point for implementing a customer service plan. “Last month we processed X number of phone calls”. Is that good? Bad? How can you tell? What is your goal? What do your customers expect? If you make a plan for improving on that number, metrics will tell you if you’re getting it right, or if there’s something going wrong.

Just having a number is not enough. You have to know what that number represents and have a plan of action for what to do with that number.

3. Customer service metric numbers represent real customers

In order to make metrics most effective with your customer service teams it’s absolutely necessary that these metrics don’t just become a number. Metrics represent people, they are REAL customers you’re working with. What is an extra 2%? What does X number more REALLY mean? Help your customer service team members remember that it’s not about the number, but about the people behind the number. The number is just a representation of actions taken in behalf of customers.

Average handle time, average talk time, average whole time, agent productivity, rework, number of escalations, agent turnover, schedule adherence, case management time, first call resolution rate, time to resolution, or Net Promoter Score. Whatever the number your organization wants to focus on, whatever you want to use to measure performance, remember that it’s not just a number, it’s about the person behind the number.

What’s next?

What are your thoughts on customer service metrics? Have you found a way to best use metrics within your organization? How do you motivate your team members to review and get excite about their individual and team metrics? I’d love to hear what you’re doing to make customer service metrics more effective.