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The One Number That Matters in Customer Support

Written by on March 11, 2014

Customer support has evolved a lot over the years. We know we say this a lot, but it really has! Customer support has come all the way from just a phone and an email address to include “Social Media Managers” who ensure that Twitter, Facebook and its ilk are satisfied as well. Businesses are no longer satisfied with just helping customers. Heck, even your customers are no longer satisfied with just being satisfied.  

Today, the world conspires around so many proactive methods of support, and the bar is set so high, that helping customers isn’t just up to one support rep anymore.  So somewhere along the way, to make ends meet properly, the means to measure success in a support center have also changed. And everyday, we look at more metrics to track the state of our support than NASA does on a mission to Mars. 

Between the hundred various metrics that have to be maintained and angry customers calling every 30 seconds, agents have a hard time focusing on ensuring that customers are happy.

However, there is one metric that solves everybody’s problem. One metric which customers really care about, the one metric that ensures agents stay fresh enough to deal with all incoming complaints throughout the day, AND the one metric that keeps all the other metrics in line as well. One metric, in short, to rule them all.

“Time To Resolve”

A short “Time to resolve” means your helpdesk will always have space to deal with new problems. It tackles all three segments of a support center:

1. Your customers are happy because they don’t have to put up with hold music, or keep checking back for an update.
2. Your managers are happy because it keeps metrics like “Average Handle Times” “Cost Per Call” and “Incident Handling Times” low.
3. Your agents are happy because it keeps “Customer Satisfaction”,  “Total Calls Handled” and “Motivation to work” high.

The simplest ways of reigning in the One Metric That Matters is by going back to the very basics:

1. Strength in Numbers (pun not intended):

Everybody wants high customer satisfaction and low handle times.

While dealing with all your customers with just a handful of support agents is in fact possible, ensuring that your performance metrics will always be at peak level is not. If you truly want to keep resolution times low (and number of happy customers high), you might want to hire and train some more agents.

2. Support ninjas are made. Not born.

Make sure your agents are trained well in the art of customer support. From tasks as simple as answering an email to setting up automation rules in the helpdesk, your agents should know how to get things done with the least amount of mouse clicks.

Or, you could get a helpdesk with a simple interface – one with intuitive design. The shallow learning curve will remove the need for much of the training part. Either way, your resolution times will stay low.

3. Rig the Helpdesk

Deal tickets to agents the way a dealer at a crooked table would deal Aces – the right ticket to the correct agent.

No matter how many agents you have or how well trained they are, bouncing a ticket around will neither make that customer happy nor the agent who gets stuck with the wrong ticket.

Identify each agent’s strength and assign the relevant problems to him. Poor ticket assignment is a far greater enemy than agents’ inefficiency.

 4. Divert their questions

There are some questions that keep returning; like zombies, or movie villains, or IRS agents. No matter how many times you solve them, they keep coming back.

In such cases, pull a Google. Maintain an extensive knowledge base. Make it so thorough that people never even search for your support phone number. This way, your customers will be helping you in keeping resolution times low as well by letting your agents focus on the more complicated problems.

 5. Deal out points and cookies.

Customer support does get repetitive sometimes and looking at the metrics table will motivate agents only so far. To really get the boredom out, introduce game elements. Award agents with points for a job well done – be it resolution on first call or adding a solution to the knowledge base.

Offer rewards for keeping resolution times low and keep track of the best performer across board.  Let your agents compete with each other in solving the problems fastest.

If you are still not convinced that “Time to Resolve” is the most important metric of them all, a famous author from South Africa once wrote:

“Three Metrics for the Managers with their Ties,
Seven for the Supervisors in their Halls of Groan,
Nine for the Mortal Agents doomed to smile,
One for the Angry Customer on his phone
In the Land of Customer Support, where problems lie
One metric to rule them all, One metric to find them,
One metric to bring them all and in conflict, bind them.”

Well, those may not have been his precise words. But the verses are true. Focus on resolution times and the others will take care of themselves.

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  • I Don’t agree with the point that shortest time to resolve the current issue, I would say completion of the work is important after finding the root cause with proper direction. I receive lot of calls every day at the same time call third-party support desk too. They are all in hurry to close the ticket because of the matrix you said. as per the matrix the ticket is closed in short time and costumer is opening another ticket with stage 2 or 3 of the same issue. so its important to resolve the issue in order to have costumer satisfaction no matter how many calls are attended or you were able to handle many tickets. Don’t cook many dishes of food, but one or two delicious.
    Raj.

    • germio

      In a more traditional IT helpdesk setting, the role of the support agent is simple – get the issue resolved, and get it resolved asap. If it means offering a hack or a work around, that works too. Of course, it’s then upto the problem technician to jump into the root cause, and solve the problem once and for all.

      I remember reading an awesome quote from a previous blog here: User’s don’t care about your ability to build out the most elegant solution there is. All they care for is something that solves their problem right now.

      Of course, a company could have a bunch of agents who short-close their timer and end up with repeated reopens. But that means they need to seriously look into their hiring strategy, not the support dashboard 🙂

    • True. Customer Sat results is the most important. Check this number first and then analyse and see if time to close is the main problem. It could be many other factors, Unpleasant cusrep, slow time to solve, lack of follow up on open cases….

  • Robert Schneidler

    this would be a nice subject to bring up in one of my support classes at MATC

  • Dr Muralidhara S K

    I feel customer satisfaction is a grey area but hard to achieve a 100 percent. Here the mtch between matrix and the intended metrics is pretty hard to achieve. I am an ISO Auditor and I have not come across exceptional VOC to any of my clients during external audits in the US also.
    I feel there is no fixed formula or equation to achieve the magic metric regarding customer satisfaction.
    Dr Muralidhara S K
    Lead Auditor ISO quality management services.

  • We are still trying to resolve customer delight environments that combine time to resolve with customer wow factors, I once had a metric of three (3) minutes, my deflection rate was very low, but my return numbers went up.

    When I increased the call time, and allowed for personal resolution, my deflection time stayed the same, and return numbers went down, actually reversed themselves and that number became profit from the ability to upsell and cross sell with the additional time.

    That company still sells P90X today.

  • CP_sME

    Angel007 was ervan overtuigd dat haar broer niet de regisseur was van de 3e SpinozaGolf. De zus heeft tot 04.00 uur ‘s nachts op het politiebureau gezeten, de dag voor de begrafenis van HennY Derks om een verklaring af te geven.

    Ze heeft de betrokken personen op naam aangewezen, ze had niet alle kaartcodes, maar wel zo dat er uit te rechercheren was wie het waren.

  • Hé broer, op de verjaardag van BerIT kwam FrankM nog met de mededeling dat SchoppenBoer intiem contact heeft gehad met Ruiten4 ?!?!? Dat mocht toch niet, of is ….