Creating Motivating KPIs That are Meaningful to Your Support Team

Goal setting is a crucial activity for any successful team, and many today are leveraging Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as part of the process. 

Before jumping on the bandwagon, keep in mind that when done poorly, KPIs can do more harm than good. Managers can become mired in numbers that don’t matter. Individuals can be incentivized to focus on things that undermine long-term success. And amidst all the noise, teams can lose sight of their real goals. 

When KPIs are done right, they’re a valuable tool that can help teams objectively assess their performance, understand how different activities impact their goals, and identify ways to improve. But, there is an art to creating the right KPIs.

What is a KPI?

In essence, a KPI is a measurement that can point to how well a team is tracking toward its targets. A KPI is a metric, but it differs from a regular metric in the sense that it shows progress towards a key business goal. If a metric doesn’t directly affect progress toward a business goal, then it’s just a metric, not a KPI. For example, a business goal or objective might be to decrease customer churn. A KPI related to this goal could be customer satisfaction following service interactions, or the number of issues resolved in the first contact. 

Setting Meaningful KPIs

In the world of customer support, there are a myriad of options to choose from including, but not limited to:

  • Time to first response
  • Time to resolution
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort (CES)
  • First Contact Resolution
  • Handle time

With so many options, it’s important to choose wisely. KPIs that move a team forward must be tied to meaningful goals. This means starting by defining what’s important, then using team values and goals to define the KPIs. Ultimately, what a team measures reflects what’s important to them. 

For example, for a team with a goal of responsiveness, a KPI around time to first response would be fitting. For a team more focused on quality, a KPI around customer satisfaction or an internal quality score would work well. Or, for a team aimed at providing an effortless experience, then a customer effort score would be a great guiding KPI. 

While others might be tracking first contact resolution or handle time, if these don’t relate to a team’s support philosophy or goals in a meaningful way, then it’s best not to make them into KPIs. 

Six Tips for Effective KPIs

Along with being meaningful and relating to a team’s values and goals, KPIs must be selected and structured in ways that make them effective. 

#1 Make them Measurable

Perhaps first and foremost, all KPIs should be tangible metrics that can be analyzed to show positive and negative changes toward a goal. That doesn’t mean that a KPI always has to be inherently quantitative, for example, “reduce response time.” Qualitative concepts can be made quantitative. For example, a more abstract concept like employee satisfaction can be made quantitative by surveying employees and codifying the results. But, KPIs can’t be conceptual. They need to be clear and measurable. 

#2 Be Realistic

KPIs need to be realistic to keep a team engaged. Unrealistic goals are one of the biggest demotivators for employees. For instance, imaging setting a goal of 100% customer satisfaction. Not only is that essentially unachievable, but as soon as one customer responds negatively, the goal is no longer possible. It’s better to start with challenging, but small goals that ladder into a larger goal over time. As they say, it’s best to eat the elephant one bite at a time.

#3 Involve the Team

Team members have a wealth of knowledge that can be tapped to understand what’s important to customers and what’s achievable. And for KPIs to be effective motivators, there needs to be widespread buy-in to their relevancy. Involving a team from the start increases the likelihood of buy-in. 

#4  Stay Focused

Choosing too many KPIs that will fracture a team’s focus and cohesion. Limiting the number of KPIs on the board at any given time keeps everyone on track and increases the likelihood of success. The Rockefeller Framework for management suggests having one main priority for each quarter, along with 3-5 “rocks” or KPIs that support the main goal. Any more than that, says Rockefeller, and your focus is too divided to make any real progress. 

#5 Stay Balanced

Using a suite of KPIs helps teams keep a holistic perspective, avoid over-indexing on any one metric, and ensure level performance reviews. Any team, or individual’s, performance is more nuanced than one number and should be assessed accordingly. 

Sharing Progress

To keep KPIs top of mind for teams, they should be communicated and updated on a regular basis. Visibility will increase employee engagement and inspire accountability. In fact, over 50% of employees say that more company information and data sharing had a significant positive impact on their productivity and performance. 

Take care to consider the audience. Some KPIs will mostly be meaningful to one department, while others will be more relevant to the rest of the business, notably, those ones that tie in most directly with overall company KPIs.  

An easy way to share KPIs in a digestible format is through dashboards. Visualization can help make complex data more accessible for everyone, and good customer support tools will include these in their reporting features

Making the Most of KPIs

To really make KPIs count, the data must be used to assess performance and drive action. As such, they should be reviewed on a regular cadence. 

Timing matters. If evaluated too infrequently, any variance in the KPI may be hard to explain because it may be difficult to remember the context. Furthermore, the window for taking corrective action may be long past. On the other hand, reporting too frequently can lead to missing larger, longer-term trends and can be a waste of time. 

It’s hard to set hard-and-fast rules since KPIs will be different for every business, but some things to consider in determining how often to review any given KPI are as follows:

  • Sensitivity: If it would take quite some time to see an impact on a KPI, for example, determining the impact of a policy change on annual renewal rates, then it’s better to measure less often. 
  • Urgency: If there’s a strong need to make a fast improvement, then it’s best to measure more regularly. 
  • Cost: Some KPIs take more work to measure than others. Some may be included out-of-the-box as part of your software. Freshdesk makes it easy to measure many common customer support KPIs, so these can be reported on relatively frequently. Other metrics are highly customized or require crossing data from different sources, so those will take more time and be more expensive. In those cases, it may be more prudent to check in on those less often. 

KPIs can be assessed alongside one another to identify important dependencies. For example, a decrease in response time might result in an increase in customer satisfaction, in which case a team could narrow in on making gains in both satisfaction and responsiveness goals by focusing heavily on response time. 

All in all, simply looking at the numbers isn’t enough. Data is most valuable when it can be used to identify trends that tell a story and give insight into how to proceed. Any variance in KPIs overtime should be connected to a cause, some activity or event that caused the number to shift. In that way, teams can continue things that move the KPI closer to the desired state and avoid the ones that move them further away from the desired state. 

After all, the real power of KPIs, the ones that matter, is their ability to provide insight that informs a team’s strategy and moves them toward success.