Customer Care Metrics: If You’re Not Measuring It, You Can’t Address It
How long does it take for someone in your office to reply to an email? If I arrived for a scheduled appointment at your office how long would I wait in the lobby? The most common answer I hear when asking questions like these is: “that depends…” That depends on how many emails come in that day. That depends on how busy I am. That depends on who you’re asking. That depends on how close we are to Carnival.
The problem with “that depends” is that it’s not reliable or consistent, two things that are needed in order to provide high quality customer care. Many organizations don’t have answers to these questions because they haven’t set agency standards around these questions.
Why Set Standards?
It sends the message that this important to us as a company.
Setting established benchmarks around your key customer care activities establishes an acceptable minimum standard for employees. This eliminates the “that depends” mantra and makes each person accountable to uphold the same behaviour.
It sends a message to your clients, that you put action behind your words. Consider how many office buildings you have entered that have a customer service pledge hanging in the reception area, yet the phone rings out when you call. Customers, clients, suppliers and guests will believe your actions over your words every time.
Another reason we set standards is so that we can measure our progress. Think about how silly it would be for a person with diabetes to set a goal of lowering her blood sugar levels without taking readings. Or a teacher who aims to have all of his students pass a final exam, but hasn’t assessed their abilities. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?
How It Works
I’ve seen customer care standards work firsthand with incredible results. While leading a team of intake counsellors at a private residential addiction centre, we set goals for how quickly phone calls and emails were returned. We were careful to set standards that were realistic and made sense for our type of business and the people we were serving. We also established contingency plans for times when we expected higher than normal call/email volume.
People who were looking for addiction services for themselves or their loved ones were quite often reaching out in times of crisis. Time was of the essence and the window of opportunity could quickly close if they didn’t receive a quick response.
As a result of the standards we set and achieved, clients and family members frequently commented on how responsive the admissions team had been compared to other treatment centres they had contacted. As the first impression for the centre, this spoke volumes to our clients about the kind of treatment and attention they could expect to receive if they chose to attend our facility.
What occurred within the team was equally impressive. Because there were actual goals that were being measured, team members could see the impact of their responsiveness through client surveys and interviews. We maintained a consistent dialogue on our progress, which created an energy and excitement within the team and staff was eager to exceed the standards.
One area that we consistently tracked was the length of time it took a person to be admitted from first call to admission. Through analyzing the data we were able to establish that approximately 70% of clients admitted to treatment did so within seven days of their first call. We also learned that clients who had taken an extended period of time to enter treatment, had a higher likelihood of leaving treatment prematurely.
In this respect, the customer service metrics not only helped us to excel in our service, it also helped us to design intervention strategies for those individuals who were at risk of not getting the help they needed. We wouldn’t have had this crucial information had we not established, measured and analyzed these customer care standards.
What Could This Mean For Your Business?
If you haven’t already established standards, think about which customer touch points have the most impact on your business. Chances are you’re not going to want to miss out on those important first impressions, so think about some of the following areas as well as any areas that your customers consider a priority:
- Phone and Email answering times
- Returning phone and email times
- Waiting times
- Delivery times
- Follow –up times after you have provided the product or service
- Complaint resolution times
Measure and Evaluate the Standards
Keep data on your standards. You can do this by tracking it yourself, as well as by asking customers for feedback via informal or formal surveys. Collate the data and look for trends. Ask yourself, what does this mean to our business? Is this where we want to be, how for example, can we reduce the time that people are waiting?
In some cases, in order to improve performance, you may need to change aspects of your process systems to make them more efficient and customer centric. You may need to create contingency plans to address unexpected scenarios. Do this with your team in advance so that everyone can contribute to the development of the standards and be sure to share the resulting data as it becomes available. Providing regular feedback and continuing the dialogue with your team will help establish the standards as part of your company culture. Why not share this article with your team and start a dialogue?
What customer care standards do you track in your organization and how have you used this information to improve your business? Leave a comment below.