5 Tips For Leveraging Sensible Support Stats
Don't Muck Up Your Metrics!
To be a successful customer support or operations leader in today’s business environment we have to be comfortable leveraging numbers and metrics to measure our business, but we need to prioritize the critical few and ensure they do not stifle creativity, halt momentum or direct us where we don’t need to go. We should not trust a metric at face value. We must always understand the activities that are behind the metric. And, we have to balance common sense, gut feel (yup that still works) and opinions to see the entire picture.
Here are 5 tips for sensibly leveraging metrics to manage your business.
1) Metrics are Cool, But Only One Piece of the Pie
When faced with any business problem or goal, it is important that we pull the data and numbers associated with that problem, but that is just one piece of the pie. We must also use our judgment and experience, qualitative feedback (from customers/employees) and simple observation- and with all the info combined, come to a conclusion.
Numbers on their own can sometimes be dangerous and should not be taken at face value. A good example is the concept of “cases closed per analyst”. I often get asked if that is a good productivity metric for technical support and I reply that it is not. Why? As you all know, all cases are not created equal, the incoming case volume can impact the average, employees may be working on special projects etc. It is good to monitor that metric, as long as we combine it with other intelligence.
2) Customer Satisfaction is The Most Important Metric
Of all the metrics we track in support, I consider the Customer Satisfaction survey scores as the most important. This is the best barometer to know how we are really performing in the eyes of our customers. It is pure and I recommend that the stats are never adjusted. It is the best assessment of the case experience.
Yes, at times the customer gives us a bad score due to things that are outside of our direct control. But, in the majority of cases they are rating the support experience. And, we can learn from the feedback that pertains to other areas of the business.
3) You Gotta Track Activities And Outcomes
Think about the life of a marathon runner. Before he or she runs a marathon, they train with a set of activities that may include running shorter distances, weight lifting, yoga etc. By consistently completing these activities, they increase the chances of achieving their outcome, which is winning a marathon. The activities lead to the outcome.
If we think of Customer Satisfaction as our most important outcome, then our activities include things like consistently achieving our case speed resolution goals and keeping customers updated during the case management process. When the results of our activities look good, we significantly increase our likelihood of achieving the outcome of a full satisfied rating on a customer survey.
4) Perceptions About Too Many Stats Can Be Reality
I recently got feedback from a department leader that employees felt like we were focusing too much on metrics and stats. I then attended a team meeting, led by a manager in that organization and found one of the root causes- how that manager was presenting stats. As a higher level leadership organization, we had agreed on the critical few statistics. At the manager level, they were presenting many more stats than just the critical few and leveraging a material amount of time in the team meeting on this topic. As an attendee of the meeting, my perception was “stats stats stats”.
The takeaway here is HOW we communicate about stats makes a big difference. When I lead all hand’s meetings with front line team members, I make a point of ensuring that stats are only shown on 1-2 slides and that 70-80% of the content is focused elsewhere.
I also find that the higher level you are in the org, the higher your tolerance for stats. As a VP or SVP you are subject to an assortment of finance and stats pleasures from P&Ls, to expense exports to department results. You expect to have the tolerance.
As you get to the manager and then the front line level, their tolerance and interest goes down. So, we must gear our communication and exposure accordingly. We must buffer them from what they don’t need exposure to.
5) Understand The Cost Of Service
If we totally satisfy our customers, but don’t do it in a profitable way, then we are not as successful as we may seem. Whether you work for a private or public company, the company is in business to make a profit. So, we need to ensure we spend in such a way that allows us to effectively serve our employees, serve our customers, and serve the higher level business needs.
In most service organizations, employee costs represent the biggest portion of expense, likely 85% or greater. Therefore it is critical to have effective demand projections and capacity analyses in place so you have the right number of people, in the right place in the right time zone. (For more info on this topic, check out 5 Steps To Create a Tech Support Capacity Plan, on my earlier blog.)