Measuring Customer Service Success More Broadly
Illustration by Erik Blad

In Ask Help Scout, long-time customer service professional Mat “Patto” Patterson answers readers' most challenging customer support delivery, leadership, and career questions.

Dear Patto,

In the world of customer service/support, KPIs carry a lot of weight when it comes to measuring success (resolution time, customer replies, happiness score, etc.). But while these numbers are important, they don’t tell the whole story.

How do you go about painting a broader picture and telling more of that success story to celebrate wins and find areas of improvement?

Thanks, Michael

Hey Michael,

What a great question! Some people clearly thrive on a data-filled diet, but I’m not personally inspired by graphs or spreadsheets even though I fully acknowledge their decision-making value. Whenever I produced a report for my customer service team in the past, I felt like it was such a limited perspective on what my team was doing, why, and how they could do better.

Where is the team member who spent hours helping colleagues by answering their questions? Or the person who took the time to really understand a customer’s issue and gave them not what they asked for but what they needed? Or the person who took time out of the queue to dig into a tricky issue and report it back to the product team with steps to replicate?

How do we hold a more holistic view of the role of customer service, the people working in it, and the quality of the work they do? For me, it begins with knowing your company’s values. What matters most to your company? To be direct: What would your company do even if it cost money, and what would it not do even if it was profitable? That’s where you can see values in action.

I cover vision and values in the first class of my Foundations of Customer Service course. Using those values, you can define what truly excellent customer service experiences should look like. When a customer comes to you, how are they treated? How is it different from the most generic “fast and correct” interaction that every other team aims for?

By answering those questions, you can start to identify what actions your team should take that will lead to creating those experiences most often. This might look like:

  • Asking smart questions or proactively providing answers for the questions they will likely have next.

  • Advocating for product improvements to prevent issues before they create customer service interactions.

  • Engaging regularly with the rest of the company to influence the development of better policies and products.

Whatever list you come up with, you can then begin asking “Is each team member making their best contribution to the team’s success, beyond their ticket volume and CSAT?” Create a quality measurement system that assesses those contributions in addition to your standard metrics.

With this data, you’ll have a broader list of ways to understand the performance of each individual and of the team, and if you share that broader picture of what “good service” means, team members can judge their own performances more effectively.

That leaves you with how to share those stories with the company so they, too, get a more rounded picture of your team’s work. I used to combine my numbers-based reporting with individual customer quotes and stories of interesting interactions. A high CSAT on the report looks good, but a photo of a customer with the quote “Your product and support is so good I want to marry it” will hit differently.

It sounds like a bunch of extra work — and it is — but once it’s set up you can make it part of your onboarding and review processes, and the ongoing workload will be small. Your team and your company will appreciate the more nuanced and realistic picture, and your customers will reap the benefits.

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