When we set out in 2014 to get the secret sauce series rolling, we wanted to interview support agents from across the globe. The idea was to pick their brains, learn how they create amazing customer experience time and again, and how we can use those lessons to reinvent support.
To be honest, we were a little skeptical at the start but boy we were so wrong! 54 interviews later, we realized that there is no one way to wow customers. With each interview, we heard new stories and learned newer lessons on customer support. Every company including Zapier, Basecamp, Product Hunt, Trello, Mozilla, and Automattic, had unique ways of managing support. And we are not done yet! With plenty more interviews lined up, a lot of secret ingredients to unravel, our journey to discover the best way to do customer support continues.
Who would have thought that an internet giant such as Mozilla would leverage its community to build great products and up its customer service game? That being authentic is Animoto’s way to go? Or that for some companies email still rules? While each of them kept surprising us with their interesting support stories, we noticed that they all shared a common ingredient to customer success. Each of these companies didn’t stop at just delivering great customer experience, they also made it a point to measure their success.
When you report, analyze, and use the information in the right way, it can have a transformational impact on your business and support teams. Within support alone, there are plenty of metrics to report on, such as ticket volume, average replies to resolution, first response time, agent productivity — the list can go on. This brings us to our very first question —
What is the Most Important Metric to Measure Customer Success?
Without a Doubt, It’s Customer Happiness
If you want your business to grow, you need to keep your support team close and your customers closer. The cornerstone of any successful business is customer happiness. While it’s easy for your support team to focus on metrics such as productivity, time, and performance, these metrics do not tell much about what your customers think about you.
Michael Cheng, the CEO and founder of Snip.ly shares a similar opinion with us. He said, “I think a support rep should aim for customer happiness over these relatively robotic metrics.
“What I care about is how the users feel. Are they happy talking to a support rep? Is it an enjoyable experience? Are they using exclamation marks (in a good way) and smiley faces?
“I don’t think support should feel like submitting a ticket and waiting for a resolution. It should be like asking your friendly neighbor for a can opener. At Snip.ly, there is no agent tone or CEO tone. It’s all just a natural tone.”
By the end of our conversation with him, we were convinced that customer happiness is the way to go. We had that one metric to focus on. But now what?
Back in our management class, we were told that if you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it. This is an important piece of wisdom that companies have not shied away from applying in their customer support processes even today. However, focusing on what your support team is delivering and not what your customer is experiencing is the biggest mistake that most companies make. Before we tackle that problem, we asked ourselves, is it even possible to measure something intangible like customer happiness? And we directed this question to the customer support stars from other companies —
How Do You Measure Customer Happiness?
Keep it Simple
Liz from Shopify’s customer support team brimmed when we asked her the question. They put up a customer happiness report that is generated based on the feedback that customers give and is updated in real time.
In her opinion, “We make it public for the world to see. It holds us accountable and encourages us to be the best we can be! We default to open and we’ve always been that way. There isn’t much point in hiding metrics within a team.”
We like the open approach that Shopify has towards showcasing their customer happiness score. But getting that feedback from customers is no easy task. Customers want to move on with their lives once the issue or query is solved. Hence, it is highly important for you to keep your customer survey or feedback process fairly simple just like how Shopify does. They make it effortless for the customer to leave feedback.
Liz added, “It’s really simple, the merchant rates their experience with us with 3 options. A green smiley, a yellow straight face, or a red frowny. They have the option to leave a comment, but it isn’t mandatory. It’s not all telling, but it is a fantastic way to measure if someone was happy with their experience with us.”
Find a Balance Between Quality and Quantity
We hopped over to Automattic where we (e)met Andrea Badgley who is the Happiness Engineer at WordPress. We asked her how they reported customer happiness and she said, “I don’t think there is a single metric.
“The goal is a balance of quality and quantity. That’s where the true professionalism of customer support comes in, isn’t it? That scale will tip towards one or the other under certain circumstances.”
We pressed her to tell us some more about the act of balancing quality and quantity. She said, “When the support team is underwater due to the volume of support requests, and tickets in the queue are getting old enough that massive numbers of customers are going to have a poor experience due to long response times, we’re going to go into efficiency mode and focus on the number of tickets closed. When the queue is under control, and we have breathing room to take a little more time with each customer, quality becomes a focus.”
“We use CSAT scores more to identify areas for improvement rather than as a metric for success,” she finished.
Each Support Channel Needs a Different Metric
That was easy so far, right? But let’s not forget that there are multiple channels through which you can support your customer, one of which is social. Chasing metrics for an elusive channel like social is a tough nut to crack.
Whitney Klinkner, the Marketing Manager of Content and Community at Lose it! gave us insights into handling customers over social media and the customer happiness metrics they aim for. “Our customers rely on our quick responses to their tickets. We find that this builds trust in a way that other product features cannot.
“It also helps to humanize the company a little bit – it lets members know there are caring, hardworking people behind an app that’s helping them change their lives.”
We saw why first response time can be a deal breaker for Lose it! When support happens in real-time, like it does on social or in online communities, speed is the key. If you are not fast enough, you can be knocked out of the support game. However, when you are aiming for speed, you may risk sounding robotic or impersonal. And you will have your competitors hounding those missed opportunities.
So, our last take away had us thinking about how not to be impersonal in customer support if we were to ace our customer happiness scores. In the following interview, we asked —
How to Ace Your Customer Happiness Metrics
The Magic of Being Authentic and Accurate
When we talked to Brittany Bishop, the senior customer success manager at Animoto about how to go about creating a more humanized customer support, she said,
“Customers can see right through excuses or half attempts to solve a problem. I usually tell my agents — Be real. Be human. Have emotions and be comfortable with our customers having them too. We don’t have to sound professional all the time (because our company is a little silly) we can have fun and let our customers know we love our jobs. That authenticity is what makes us, us!”
We think this makes for a great point and it’s amazing to know that there are companies out there who take this quite seriously. Imagine this — customers have plenty of options to choose from for any given product or service. As a company, the only differentiator you have against your competition is great customer experience. It is essential for you to put all your efforts into identifying different ways in which you can delight your customers. And one of the important ways to do that is by humanizing the customer’s experience — making them feel that they are doing business with real human beings and not just a brand.
Scott from Coffee Cup also had something to add to this.
He said, “(Your support team should have) Accuracy and clarity. Customers are reaching out to us either because they are frustrated that they cannot accomplish a task or just need help using the product. A support rep should aim for a response that helps them clearly address their issues.”
Empower Customers with Self-Service Tools
Though customers come to you with a broken product or a buggy software, they also prefer resolving issues themselves. One study showed that companies that have well-built customer self-service tools set up, enjoy 85% year-on-year increase in customer retention rates.
Stephen Eaton and Robert Sutherland from Toast tab commented, “Maintain a good knowledge base and we look for all our support reps to contribute to it. There is a record of how many knowledge base articles each rep pushes out every quarter and we expect our employees to fulfill a minimum requirement with respect to that.”
Apart from empowering your customers with the right tools and information, there are other benefits that self-service holds. Our Freshdesk data shows that you can deflect up to 10% of your support tickets with the help of self-service tools such as knowledge base, forums, and online communities. On the other hand, your support agents will have more time on their hands to solve more critical customer issues.
A Quick Recap
If there’s one thing we’ve learned back home at Freshdesk and from all our secret sauce interviews is that your customer is the one that sits behind the wheels and drives your business. It is highly essential that you never lose sight of your customer and their happiness. To do that, you need to measure, manage, and find ways to make your customer support the best in class. If you are already using a customer support software, you will have the right tools inbuilt to measure customer happiness and satisfaction. We will follow this up with a post on actionable ways to measure customer happiness.
And with that, we come to the end of this post not the end of our journey to discover more brilliant customer support best practices. We look forward to adding more such stories to our secret sauce series and lots of exciting learning along the way. Meanwhile, if you know of a great support agent you’d like featured on our blog, drop us a line in the comments or shoot an email to email@example.com