3 Ways to Measure Customer Service Activity

Customer service is a very reactive function, so it’s important to understand the amount of work being done by the team. If you want to improve the team’s performance, you need a baseline to compare against, right? Typically, ticketing systems give you three metrics for measuring service activity: cases, replies, and handle times. Which one is the right one for your team to focus on? Let’s have a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each:

Cases

If you ask a customer service manager how much work her team is doing, chances are her answer will come in the form of a case count. “We’ve closed 400 cases so far this month,” or “We’ve received over 100 new cases today.” Since service is about addressing customer issues, it’s understandable that Zendesk, Service Cloud, and others make it easy to count the number of issues you’re handling. Cases are the atomic unit of service. Looking at case count helps you identify themes among your customer issues to pass along to the development team. It’s also a good way to assess your account relationships – “Associated Strategies had 20 cases last quarter compared to the customer average of 6. We should try and sell them on our Gold Service package.”

A few case ratios also give you a proxy for efficiency. What percentage of the cases submitted last month were resolved? Did they all get a response? What time of day do most of your cases come in? Knowing that helps you staff your service shifts and tells you when is a good a time to prune the backlog or write new documentation.

Replies

If cases are the atoms of service, replies are the protons and electrons. The back-and-forth interactions of customer and service agent are what make a case. The total number of replies is a good proxy for the effort exerted by your team. For example, if you typically close 1,200 cases a month, and in November you only close 1,000, you might think the team wasn’t working as much. But how many replies did it take to close that 1,000? They may have actually worked harder to close 1,000 than they normally do to close 1,200. In fact, if the close rate goes down without a change in headcount, that’s very likely the case.

The ratio of replies per case gives you a sense of the complexity of the issue, and it’s a good place to focus if you’re trying to get more efficient. If your first contact resolution rate (the percentage of tickets closed with one service interaction) is rising, you’re doing something right—unless reopens are also going up.

Handle Time

Replies may be a proxy for effort, but time spent per case is the truest measure of productivity and cost. Solving a customer’s problem often takes more than just a few emails from service. It may require a visit to the engineering department, a few hours of troubleshooting and debugging, a phone call to a channel partner, or shipping replacement parts. All of these impact the time-to-close, but not all of them require time on the part of a service rep. Similarly, a higher number of replies doesn’t necessarily mean a more costly case. A rep could send 5 replies in one hour for a single case, and in the next hour get 5 cases that can be handled in a single reply each.

There are downsides to handle time, however. Depending on your ticketing system, it may require extra configuration to implement. It may also mean adding a step to the service rep’s process. If the rep has to clock in or out of a ticket manually, that opens up the possibility of human error or stat manipulation.

service analytics dashboard

The best way to look at the activity across your service team, then, is to include a range of different metrics. By cross-referencing them, you give yourself a “checks and balances” system to make sure you’re not overemphasizing or misinterpreting a single metric. Setting up a dashboard of your top KPIs is a great way to keep an eye on team performance without wasting hours building spreadsheets or one-off reports.

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