Moving from an email inbox to a dedicated help desk can feel like a big step, but it’s only half the battle.
After you've implemented the tool, the right metrics enable you to understand how the help desk performs and how your team is meeting your customers’ needs.
Let's look at 19 actionable help desk metrics that you might choose to measure.
1. Email conversations
This metric counts all of the conversations created within your help desk. Email conversations are an excellent metric for understanding how much volume your team is dealing with.
While this metric is useful overall, it's especially telling when you segment the data. Many companies choose to segment cases in a few different ways: over specific periods, by the user who handled them, or even by issues related to a particular tag. Here are a few examples:
Time frame: Looking at metrics through the lens of time frame helps you identify times when your customers are most active and helps you set better staffing levels to match demand.
Tags or topics: If you use tags or custom fields to label conversations, you can quickly spot changes in volume that might indicate a problem in your product or the effectiveness of an improvement. For example, has that new redesign reduced questions about how to update a password?
Location: This metric helps you quickly understand where you have the most customers needing help so you can support them appropriately or perhaps consider adding options like localization or support in other time zones.
What you learn by segmenting this sometimes unwieldy metric can be valuable for modifying your support strategy.
2. Volume via channel
Another subset of ticket volume is volume via specific channels, which is helpful in telling you where your requests are primarily coming through. For instance, do you have more conversations coming through chat or email? Phone or social media?
Understanding which channels your customers use most frequently helps you know how to staff and even gives you some direction on how you may change your support strategy moving forward.
For example, if tons of conversations are coming through your live chat widget, you may need to spend some time working on your knowledge base.
It's also good to understand what types of conversations your team is having over each channel. If you're having simple conversations over email that could easily be deflected via chat, finding a way to shift them over frees up your email team to work on more valuable conversations.
In essence, understanding your channel volume will help you prioritize.
3. Emails created
A help desk will often track whether an email came in from a customer or whether a user created it within the help desk. Any email conversations that users create within your help desk count toward this metric.
The metric of emails created can be helpful to understand whether a large number of your email volume is internal or external. It can also point to troubles within your processes or patterns with specific customer types.
For instance, it’s good to know if enterprise customers often need to have separate emails sent to other account members or if your team is creating individual conversations when they could just be reassigning or escalating tickets.
4. Open versus resolved conversations
Understanding how many tickets you have open versus how many conversations have been closed can be a good check on the pulse of your support team. Beyond understanding what you have open right now, you can also identify your trends week over week.
Are your opened and solved numbers remaining the same? If you notice that your solved numbers start to dwindle, especially in comparison to the number of open tickets, you may need to add staff or increase your team’s efficiency.
On the flip side, if you see a sudden spike in conversations, it may mean a disruption in service or a problem in your product that needs your attention.
5. Conversations per agent
It is critical to identify how many conversations each of your agents currently handle and their maximum capacity. Finding this balance and staffing to achieve it means that your customers will get efficient, helpful responses while your team remains productive and free from burnout.
If you use ticket assignment rules or any automation, this metric can be helpful as a barometer. You know how many tickets each team member can handle and how many should be automatically assigned per day.
It can also be beneficial during the onboarding period to know exactly how many tickets a fully onboarded team member should be able to handle.
6. Messages received
Rather than "conversations," this refers to the actual number of messages customers send to your team (messages being the individual emails sent back and forth between your team and the customer). For every message in a thread, this help desk metric will go up.
While it can be helpful as a stand-alone metric, it's more useful when compared with the overall conversation volume.
For instance, if you notice that your messages received are significantly higher than your overall conversations metrics, it may suggest that your support reps are not resolving conversations as efficiently as they could and customers are required to email back for more information.
This, in tandem with your resolved on first reply metric (more on this below), is a great way to understand the nature of conversations that your team is having and how you might improve them.
These metrics can be even more deeply segmented using data around the tags applied to exchanges. For instance, you may notice that conversations about billing include many more messages received than those about account closure.
7. Replies sent
Replies sent, like messages received, count a level of data down from the overall conversation metrics. This metric includes any responses from users within your help desk to customers, including new conversation email threads.
As with messages received, this metric can be helpful to compare against your overall "conversation" metric.
Suppose you see this number grow significantly higher than your overall conversation metric. In that case, it may mean that your customer support reps are sending responses without all the necessary information and need to follow up afterward to clarify. It can also suggest that they need to loop in extra contacts on the email conversation.
To discern more of what may be the cause behind the spike in replies sent, take a look at your tags. You may notice that for enterprise conversations or bug reports, the responses sent are significantly higher than those around routine information requests.
Certain types of conversations require much more follow-up than others.
8. Response time
Response time tracks the average amount of time a customer waits for a response from your team. This includes both first response time and subsequent response times.
In many help desks, response time only counts if/when a team member replies to the customer; if there are no replies to a conversation, your help desk probably won't track response time. Similarly, assigning and updating tags or adding notes to the conversation should not affect your response time metric.
Response time is a great leading indicator of customer loyalty and health and can give you a deeper understanding of how your team is performing in the queue.
As response times start to lag, customer happiness and loyalty dwindles. It may also mean that your team is having difficulty maintaining performance and may be slower responding overall.
The longer your response time is, the more at-risk your customer and employee satisfaction becomes. After all, even if you're still looking into why a bug is happening, acknowledging that you are looking can be meaningful.
9. First response time
Unlike response time, first response time refers just to the amount of time a customer waits for the first reply from your team.
First response time is a great metric to use and track month over month to see your team's habits. For instance, did your team rock and keep the response times down, or did an issue cause problems that wrought havoc on your inbox?
Say you notice that your first response time is going way up, but you can't staff or make any changes to adjust it right away. It may be a good idea to assign specific team members to send actual, human responses that manage expectations for your customers.
Many companies send an automatic "receipt" response to customers submitting tickets, but a human reaching out can go a long way — no one likes to be kept waiting.
Looking at tags to determine the types of conversations where this happens most is a great way to prioritize the work.
The resolved metric tracks the number of conversations your team has resolved in a specific period. In most help desks, a conversation is only marked as resolved if it has at least one user reply and has been marked as closed.
You can only resolve an exchange once. If a customer replies to a conversation that has been closed, it will not be labeled "resolved" again until it has been closed by a user within your help desk.
If you notice that your conversations are going up but your number of resolved tickets is going down, that's an indicator that you may have more complex tickets coming through. For instance, a bug report takes more time to resolve than an easily-answered question about billing.
11. Resolution time
Resolution time, like response time, is an excellent way to understand how your team is performing overall. It consists of the amount of time it takes from a conversation's creation to when your team resolves it.
Among other reasons, resolution time will start to go up if your team becomes overburdened. It can also begin to indicate customer unhappiness.
Conversations with long resolution times may imply that your team doesn't give enough information with each reply. It may also suggest that the discussions are growing more complex, causing your team to take longer to respond.
To dive deeper into what is causing an uptick in resolution time, it can be helpful to look at your tags or the content of the messages your team is sending.
On the flip side, a low resolution time could signify that your team provides comprehensive answers on the first try. That's great!
12. Resolved on first reply
The number of tickets your team resolves on the first reply is a great help desk metric to correlate with customer happiness scores. You can calculate this metric by measuring the percentage of conversations resolved after just a single reply, rather than the ones that need multiple responses.
In general, the fewer interactions a customer needs to have to get their issue resolved, the happier they will be. However, your number of tickets resolved on the first reply can be an indicator of a few things beyond the performance of your support team.
For instance, it may mean that more complex tickets or bugs are coming through to your inbox than normal, requiring more back and forth than simple queries. It can also indicate a shift in the types of customers reaching out to your support team.
Try to evaluate the root cause of any changes in these metrics, and always assume positive intent.
13. Handle time
Handle time is the amount of time it takes from when a help desk user opens the conversation to read it to when they press the "send" button with a reply.
There are tons of ways to interpret handle time. Some companies read it as users writing long replies, while others interpret it as a lack of resources or knowledge on the part of the support rep.
Unfortunately, there aren't any definitive ways to interpret this help desk metric, and its cause often differs on a ticket-by-ticket basis.
That said, if you notice that you can correlate a high handle time with negative customer satisfaction ratings, you may want to make shifts in your support strategy to address it. You can start to drive down this metric by creating more saved replies or even adding to your internal knowledge base.
Review the tags that have the highest response times and see what you can do to increase internal knowledge around them.
Try not to use handle time as a stand-alone metric. It can be misleading when used on its own, though understanding the trends around it is still essential for assessing your help desk's health.
14. Tag tallies
Most help desk software will have the option to add tags to conversations. Tags help your team identify particular topics or types of questions that generate more (or fewer) tickets than others.
When a support team is looking to improve or change strategy, one of the best things they can do is first understand the distribution of tickets. For example, they can see which channel they come from, which area of the product they are related to, and whether they come from existing customers or from prospects.
You can also use tags to track other metrics, like how many conversations your team is escalating, whether they are related to specific bugs or new features, and even which part of your site the conversation came through.
Understanding your most frequently and least frequently used tags gives your team a direction in which to shift your attention to things like adding new staff, offering a new channel, or writing new documentation. It may also show where your current efforts are performing exceptionally well.
While it can be great to know what's happening with the tickets you are actively working on, some teams may also have a backlog of tickets they are working through.
Knowing the status of your backlog, or even if a backlog is starting to build up, is essential. After all, if you are receiving more tickets than your team can handle in a week, it's time to understand why that is and how you might be able to change it.
For instance, it may be that you need to hire additional support team members, or perhaps you just had a significant product push that required more of your team temporarily.
By identifying a backlog, you can figure out ways to empower your team and get them out from under it. You can also use data to identify future potential backlogs and staff accordingly.
For instance, if you know how many tickets each support team member can handle and you know that you usually see a 20% increase in tickets over the holiday season, you can calculate whether you will just be at maximum capacity or if you'll need to hire to cover the inbox.
16. Customer survey responses
At the end of a conversation with a customer, your team may offer them the opportunity to rate the interaction. Typically, these are in the form of surveys that measure customer satisfaction (CSAT), Customer Effort Score (CES), or Net Promoter Score (NPS).
CSAT and CES are usually used after support interactions. In contrast, your product or marketing team traditionally uses NPS to understand the customer's relationship specifically with your product.
These scores can occasionally be related directly to the interaction with your support rep, but they’re just as often associated with how the customer perceives your product.
So while the individual ratings on conversations might not be the most meaningful, an average of scores across your team or a score over a specific period can be very helpful for understanding how the shifts in your support strategy have affected your customers.
Keep an eye on changes in your team-wide satisfaction rates. This shift indicates the success (or otherwise) of improvements in the products and services and customer support itself.
17. Customer contact rate
Customer contact rate can be an essential help desk metric to understand how your support is scaling. It measures the percentage of your active customers asking you for help over a specific period.
The thought here is that the metric should decrease over time as you develop a support strategy. If you notice that the number is growing, it may mean that you should spend some energy improving self-service, working on bug fixes, creating new blog posts, or even pushing for product redesigns.
This number should either stay steady or decrease. A trending growth indicates that something needs to be improved or adjusted.
18. Utilization rate
One of the best things that you can do for your team is ensure that every single team member is functioning at their full potential. That means giving them enough time to work on personal development and growth, contribute in the queue, and accomplish any other tasks on their plate.
This helps keep your team engaged and motivated and saves them from teetering over the brink of burnout.
Also known as occupancy rate, this help desk metric helps you understand how much time your support reps are using. You can calculate the amount of time your team reported as being on calls or performing specific tasks, then divide it by the total time on the clock. From there, multiply it by 100. There's your utilization rate.
Knowing this number gives you a view into the percentage of time your team spends on support-centric tasks and where else their time might be going. It also helps you spot and correct issues quickly, either through training, staffing, or redistributing hours.
19. Agent satisfaction
While we don't often talk about this metric, it may be the most important one of all. Agent satisfaction is the measurement of how satisfied your employees are in their day-to-day work. It's just as important as customer satisfaction, because without happy employees, you probably won't have satisfied customers.
Support reps who are overworked and underappreciated won't perform at their highest level and definitely won't be equipped to provide an excellent experience to your customers. Who wants to be kind when they're feeling crummy?
Track agent satisfaction regularly, just as you would with regular NPS. Many companies choose to do this quarterly and then follow up in regular one-on-ones. As with customer satisfaction, this can be measured via survey.
Measure better so you can manage better
Picking the right help desk metrics for your team can effectively propel your support strategy toward a successful future. Not every metric is suitable for every team, so work to understand where you are in your journey.
If you're just getting started, metrics like backlogs or utilization rates might not be helpful for you. Conversely, if you’re working on a multi-tiered, omnichannel support strategy, metrics like handle time might not be that telling for your specific needs.
Measuring the metrics that make sense for your team gives you the best tools to manage and strategize moving forward.