Marketing is responsible for helping the organization acquire and retain customers, and grow share of wallet. For most organizations, customer service and support is an integral part of a complete solution. When performed effectively it can provide competitive differentiation and advantage, and increase customer satisfaction rates. But if the organization does not service/support (hereafter referred to as customer service) customers effectively, the customers you have worked so hard to acquire may defect. Even worse they may share their bad brand experience with their extensive networks (including via social media), making it more difficult to acquire other new customers.
So, you have a large stake in ensuring that the organization’s customer service functions have a positive impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty. Recognizing this fact many organizations are creating and executing a comprehensive plan to create a link between corporate, marketing, and customer service operational strategies; and to address customer expectations. A key part of developing the plan is establishing success factors and key metrics.
What are the appropriate metrics for customer service and how can marketing leverage these for tactical and strategic decisions?
A study conducted by Service Excellence Research Group in cooperation with Supportindustry.com identified some of the most common metrics being used to measure service and support and some data points that can serve as a possible benchmark.
Service transaction volume. High volume support organizations often enjoy significant economies of scale from improvements in efficiency and effectiveness. It’s not uncommon for companies to manage 1,000 to 7,500 live support cases per month with nearly an equal number of transactions handled each month through self-services. Common metrics around support transaction volume include service level performance, the volume of support requests handled and the use of self-services. Each case is typically assigned a code indicating the type of issue. Reviewing the results may lead you to solution or packaging changes.
Service delivery channel. For many organizations, the phone is among the primary support delivery medium for all live support requests followed by online support requests. Therefore, hold times and abandon rates continue to be key metrics. Use the metrics below to benchmark your company:
Best in Class Hold Time: 56 Seconds
Best in Class Abandon Rate: 4% to 7%
Time to Resolution: First Phone Call (depending on the problem the phone call may be longer, but the problem should be solved in the first call.)
Delivery costs. Another important metric for service and support is cost. Even though many companies have established fees for service and support, phone support costs can become a big expense for businesses. This cost is dependent on the size of your company and the volume of calls you receive. Rather than thinking of phone support as a cost, explore how phone support provides your organization with another way to invest in creating a positive customer experience. For example, every month you could ask the service group to communicate a new marketing message, e.g. promoting your user conference, or ask a question, e.g. would a customer loyalty program mean anything to you?
Self-service. Research has found that two out of three customers prefer using self-service before requesting assistance. Measuring the effectiveness of self-service is therefore essential in determining success of the self-service strategy. Self-service typically happens on your website. High abandonment rates here may signal the need to simplify the service request form.
Customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is consistently one of the most important key indicators for a service/support organization. A highly satisfied customer is extremely valuable because of the greater likelihood of future product purchases, the willingness to be a reference account and the likelihood of renewing maintenance and support contracts. Almost every company questioned used some form of customer assessment, either formal or informal. Satisfaction surveys vary widely in both breadth and depth, but they narrow down to two types:
Transactional Satisfaction. This survey measures customer satisfaction across all types of interaction with your company – whether it’s a sales call, a support call or email, opening your invoice or using your product.
Image-Based Satisfaction. This survey measures the image your customers have about you, the likelihood of purchasing again and whether or not they would recommend your product/service to friends.
The top five topics covered in satisfaction surveys are overall experience, speed and completeness of resolution, and knowledge and professionalism of the representative.
Additionally, customer service functions can provide marketing with invaluable qualitative information about customers. During their interactions they may hear or develop ideas for content creation based on the most common issues or the way customers actually use or don’t use the solution, insight for persona development or revision if your market is changing with the adoption cycle or some new trend, solution description changes related to common misunderstandings, and new related solutions. Additionally, the customer service group knows which customers are happy and may be willing to participate as advocates in case study-related activities such as conference presentations, which customers would be ideal candidates for focus groups and which customers are not happy and may be ready to defect.
By partnering with the customer service group and understanding their metrics, marketing can gain tremendous insight into issues that need to be addressed and opportunities than can be exploited.
by Laura Patterson – VisionEdge Marketing