The 4 Most Important Help Desk Metrics—and Why You Should Watch Them
This article is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of Zapier’s new free eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Customer Support.
No one wants to just be another number in the queue, customer #5179 who had to wait 1.24 hours to get help. Numbers make customers feel abstracted, like they don’t matter to your company. And yet, it’s numbers that can help you offer the very best customer support.
Great customer support requires personal interactions. Talk to people, figure out their problems, and help them out with a smile—that’s what leads to satisfied customers and a shorter support queue. But behind each interaction, there’s numbers you should still pay attention to, numbers that can guide your work and help make your support team more efficient.
Stats aren’t everything, and sometimes it’s better to look away from the numbers and back into your customers faces. But as Zapier has grown from a hackathon project into a integrations tool that connects over 500 apps—and a team with 8 full-time support team members—we’ve learned the most important help desk metrics to watch.
Here are the four you should focus on most—and what you can do to improve each.
More is usually better—unless it’s your ticket volume. When your business is just starting out, you’ll likely be excited to see more support tickets coming in. But over time, you’ll hope your products will be easy enough to use that people won’t have as many questions for your team.
Ticket volume can tell your team a lot about your products. Ticket growth over time that tracks your customer growth is mostly a good thing—it just means your business is growing. But if you suddenly have far more tickets than before, something may be wrong. You may have something you need to fix in your app—or you may be getting more bounced emails and auto-replies that fill up your queue with “fake” tickets.
Then, there’s the Reply Volume, an even more troublesome stat. It can show you how hard your support team is working—the more the replies, the more your team is doing. It’s not always a good indicator, though: a ticket that takes 5 replies to close will increase your reply volume, but a ticket that only took 1 reply means your team is far more efficient.
At Zapier, we focus on total replies over total conversations, since it gives us a clearer picture of our team’s workload. And, we keep an eye on the total ticket volume by hours, as it helps us see which timezones might need more help.
You’ll need to look at your ticket volume stats, and decide which part of the total volume metric makes the most sense to watch. And then, as it goes up or down, try to spot what’s making that happen—it could be either good or bad, and you can’t find that out just from the number itself.
Everyone hates waiting for an answer, and your customers are no different. There’s almost no way to make a customer’s day better than to respond quickly after they email you with a problem.
There’s a number of ways to track your response time:
– average response time averages how long it takes you to respond to requests,
– time to first response shows how long your customers have to wait for the first reply on average,
– response time bands give you a percentage of tickets that are replied to within certain time frames.
Each metric has its own good and bad sides, just like ticket volume. While the average response time is a great way to get an overview of your support team’s performance—but one outlier can vastly change your stats. If you answer most tickets within 10 minutes, but take 5 hours to answer another, your averages will be vastly different. Time to first response has the same potential benefits and problems—and it can even make your team more likely to reply with a quick answer instead of really solving issues.
Response time bands are what the Zapier team focuses on the most. We love to use this because it lets us analyze the response times in greater depth. For example, we’ll know if 20% of tickets are answered in the first 10 minutes, 15% in the first half hour and that only 5% wait more than 6 hours for a reply.
Although, you shouldn’t game your response time with an automated reply.
Fast, helpful support should lead to happy customers. Don’t just assume that, though—instead, ask your customers what they think about your support.
All it takes is a simple question at the bottom of your email that asks if your support was helpful. You could include a survey with a 1 to 10 scale as a NPS—or —survey, to get a more precise look at how customers feel. Or, you could just add a quick thumbs up or down button to the bottom of your emails, for a quick way for customers to say if they liked your support or not.
At Zapier, we include a “How did I do?” question at the end of each support reply, with Yay, Ok, or Boo options to rate our response. Customers can then add an additional note, to let us know why they rated us that way. It’s not perfectly reliable—sometimes, customers are upset when we can’t fix their problems, while other times they give us a good rating for trying. But all said and done, it’s an easy way to get a feel for what people think about our support.
Is your pricing page confusing? Do more people have questions about product X, or product Y? Is there one feature everyone is asking for?
Ticket trends are one of the most actionable metrics, since they tell you what tickets are about. Just add tags to your tickets, to mark the customer’s product, feature request, bug report, or the spot on your site they got confused. This way, you can see how many tickets about each item you’ve received over time for each time.
It’s the perfect way to figure out what to fix, or to decide which feature to work on next.
Customer support isn’t just a numbers game. It’s actually about solving your customers’ problems, and giving your company a personal face.
Numbers can help you do that better. When you figure out which ticket volume stat to watch, work on improving your response time and happiness score, and track the trends your team needs to know about, customer support can help your team make better products at the same time you’re making your customers happy.