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Perran is a Mathematics graduate from Queen Mary University London and is a seasoned support manager with over a decade of experience working in the support industry. Following are Perran’s top tips on how to use KPIs in customer service and what to keep in mind when applying them to team management.
“My first impression of customer support was that no one understands the numbers”
How to use customer service KPIs effectively
- Building a list of KPIs for a customer service department can be daunting. Perran shares his advice on how to approach building the list, how/when to alter it and how to build a team culture around the achievement of the targets set.
Focus on the story, not the numbers
- The first tip is not to get too caught up in the numbers themselves. You should focus on what the numbers say: what is the overall story the list of KPIs is telling you? The KPIs are just a tool to start a conversation about performance.
- The goal is to be able to explain performance in 5 sentences either to an executive team or the department themselves. Communicating performance in numbers doesn’t translate well to people but explaining a short and coherent story does.
- A good starting point in building the story from the numbers is describing each KPI’s performance as red, amber or green. If they’re all green, the story is positive. If all are green but one, the root cause of that metric being red/amber should be the focus of the story and will indicate the next steps.
Which customer service metrics should be KPIs? And how many?
“If you have too many KPIs, you’re just throwing numbers at people. It’s too complicated”
- As such, Perran suggests limiting the number of KPIs to 3-5. Any more than this and the story becomes too complicated to communicate simply.
- The three metrics Perran suggests always including are: service level (SLA), customer satisfaction (CSAT) and handling time. Together these metrics can paint a story of a support department’s performance.
- In addition to these three core metrics, KPIs such as employee satisfaction can be added as another guide for the department’s strategy.
Don’t change KPIs too often
“Personally, I wouldn’t recommend changing KPIs more than once a quarter”
- It’s very important to allow the team to adjust to a scheme of KPIs. In Perran’s experience, it usually takes a month for the team to be comfortable with a KPI change.
- If it takes a month for the team to be comfortable, you want to leave some time to gather reliable data and feedback before another change. Hence, do not change KPIs more than once a quarter.
How to make customer service KPIs fair
- Firstly, be transparent about expectations. Agents have different roles. For example, some may specialise in technical troubleshooting and solve far fewer tickets than another agent working on Tier 1 issues. The tickets solved per hour and handling time of these agents shouldn’t be compared.
- A manager may already know not to compare these agents on those metrics. However, this should also be communicated to the agents themselves. Agents evaluate their performance relative to their peers; you don’t want agents setting unachievable expectations for themselves.
- Secondly, publish team metrics to all agents so that they can see the performance of the department themselves. The KPIs are intended to steer the team, the more they engage and understand the KPIs, the more effective and fair they will be. At MURAL, agents are also able to view their own performance metrics and that of their colleagues through their CRM.
Keep a consistent presentation style
- When presenting KPIs to the team or to those outside the department, keeping a consistent presentation style will make the story easier to understand. It will also make presentations about performance more efficient to present, prepare and interpret.
How to build a culture to support the achievement of customer service KPIs
Make people comfortable with mistakes and shortcomings
“Create a relaxed environment where your team feel they’re in a safe space”
- Managers can create such an environment by showing vulnerability and openly admitting mistakes and weaknesses. This is a clear indication to junior employees that they can also do the same. Communicating weaknesses and mistakes openly will make people feel comfortable and less afraid of being unfairly penalized.
- Similarly, it’s important to ask for help when needed. Managers can again lead by example by asking for help and doing so openly. Another tip is making sure people know there are no ‘bad or ‘silly’ questions to ask. We elaborated on how to do this in our previous episode.
- Finally, make it clear that employees aren’t being judged all the time. While working on tickets, of course, their performance will be monitored. However, outside of their duties, it’s important to encourage employees to not be too serious, to make jokes with one another and enjoy each other’s company outside of work-related things.
Initiate social events
- It’s nearly impossible to emulate the normal office environment while working remotely. Coffee dates and water cooler chats just don’t happen as often over Zoom or Slack. Obligatory or open calls rarely encourage the same sort of social interaction. To counteract this, the team at MURAL run events to make an occasion of getting together as a team.
- Despite having employees in the Philippines, Europe, the US and Argentina, Perran and his team make time to order food, eat together, talk and play online party games for a few hours. The event itself does not have to be innovative. The emphasis is to have fun and engage with one another outside of work.