The One Number That Matters in Customer Support

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.