A customer service rep shows up every day on time. They work steadily for their entire shift. They leave a clean workspace and complete any of the reports they were asked to file.
Does any of this mean the rep is doing a great job — or simply what’s expected?
Excellence in customer service takes some effort to quantify, because just keeping busy doesn’t necessarily translate into positive outcomes for the business.
A service rep could be spending more time on the phones than any of their coworkers, but perhaps too long with each customer, which means the number of issues left to resolve isn’t going down fast enough.
There might also be a number of customers who are waiting to hear back via email, social media post or text message. A rep who spends all their time focused on a single channel may be neglecting those who prefer interacting via others.
Even if a rep is keeping their handling time down and are working across multiple channels, that doesn’t mean the customers are any less frustrated or disappointed by the time the interaction is over.
This should help clarify the need for a solid set of metrics to track the overall performance of your customer service operation, and even the performance of individual reps.
You may provide standardized training for reps and have a consistent set of policies, for example, but there are always going to be situations where reps need to make a judgement call or interpret a policy a little differently than normal.
If customer service is the chain that connects a business’s sales and marketing efforts to long-term profitability, that means it will only be as strong as its weakest link.
Besides using customer service metrics to assess the department as a whole, in other words, you should think about how you can apply them in coaching sessions to build each rep’s capabilities.
There are all kinds of metrics that could be applied, but these are some that might not normally be part of those check-ins:
The customer may reach out to a contact centre because they don’t know how to do something, but in an ideal world they could figure things out on their own.
The best reps know this intuitively. Instead of taking up the customer’s time explaining the answer, they point them to resources that could let them take the lead. These could be online knowledge centres with articles that break down a troubleshooting process, how-to videos or downloadable eBooks.
Some companies also have self-service portals or online customer communities, but not every customer realizes they exist.
Track the number of times a rep directs customers to these alternatives and note what it means in terms of reduced handle time or even customer satisfaction scores.
You can include it in a script, but not every rep will ask whether there was anything the company could have done to improve the customer’s experience beyond fixing their immediate problem.
The more ideas or recommendations you can cull from real-life customers, though, the more likely you’ll gather some the most actionable data imaginable.
Some companies try to accomplish this through surveys. Reps can sometimes capture richer suggestions, though, because they can ask follow-up questions or dig for more details beyond what the customer immediately suggests.
People place enormous trust in the feedback from customers about a company. That’s why, no matter what kind of business you’re in, getting high ratings or warm words on review sites can help drive new leads and revenue.
When a rep successfully resolves a customer and they’re not only satisfied but happy, they are in a perfect position to ask customers to write a quick review or testimonial. This can be as simple as sending them a unique URL that can be traced back to the rep who handled their issue.
Reviews and referrals speak to the same kind of value that companies have often put around other metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), which gives them a number but not necessarily actual endorsements from customers. It will help your rep see the impact they can have on the firm’s overall brand.
As many companies have already discovered, automated tools like chatbots can be a fantastic way to address some of the most frequently asked questions that would have normally taken up a service rep’s time. It’s a self-service tool that’s easy to put on your website or app and run on a 24/7 basis.
Sometimes, though, customers may have a question or problem that a chatbot hasn’t been programmed to address.
That’s when it’s particularly important to have a timely and efficient handoff to a live rep. Their ability to resolve an issue that will go a long way to creating a strong impression in the customer’s mind.
You may not want to see a lot of these issues escalated to a rep, but even if it’s a small number, you’ll learn more about how much of a “human element’ needs to remain part of your customer service department. It will help your reps learn the same thing.
This may still be a new practice within some companies, but there is a growing recognition that reps don’t have to end interaction with a customer by simply saying goodbye.
Instead, they can suggest additional products, or premium versions of a product or service. These can be seen as more of a value-add than a hard sell when they come from a rep. It’s why some firms are even beginning to let service reps earn commissions on what they encourage customers to buy.