What is productivity in customer service? Why is it critical for your company? How can you measure customer service productivity, and what can you do to improve it? If you’ve ever asked yourself any of those questions then you’ve landed on the right article.
What is Customer Service Productivity?
Customer service productivity refers to the efficiency with which your company can handle customer service interactions. It’s measured by several productivity metrics, such as Net Promoter® Score, First Contact Resolution, and ticket volume, etc. We’ll discuss these in more depth later.
Customer service productivity has a direct effect on your company’s bottom line.
By improving the efficiency of your support, you can offer better customer interactions. When you provide better support quality, customer satisfaction and retention improve. Positive customer experiences lead to better word-of-mouth marketing.
Beyond improving your service, boosting customer service productivity can mean lower costs. When you run a tight ship, you can get higher productivity levels out of your contact center staff. So, improved customer service productivity means better sales and reduced costs.
How to Improve Customer Service Productivity
How do you improve customer service productivity as a whole? At the macro level, you can offer customers better options while improving the efficiency of your operation. By considering your entire customer service apparatus as one, you can make sweeping changes that drastically improve productivity. Here are some of the best ways to re-shape your customer service:
Offer Proactive Support
You can reduce support costs by anticipating why customers may want to contact your customer service channels. By offering them guidance and support before they run into greater difficulties, you can shave off a lot of time spent dealing with common complaints. This is what proactive support is all about.
You can, for example, monitor customer accounts for potential issues such as error messages and reach out to them proactively to offer advice on resolving the problem before they need to contact your team.
Offering better training and educational resources and making customers aware of them when they purchase your products is proactive support. By identifying the most common stumbling blocks customers often face, you might decide to rewrite manuals or offer a drip-fed email course, for instance.
Beyond reducing the strain on your customer support team, proactive support makes customers feel better about using your products, increasing customer satisfaction.
Build a Self-Service Portal
Any time a customer can resolve their issues without requiring your agents’ time is a huge win for customer service productivity.
Self-service options include:
- Customer portals for accessing account information, viewing order histories, and managing subscriptions
- Well-laid-out FAQ sections on your website so customers can quickly find answers to common queries
- Comprehensive knowledge bases filled with more detailed information about your product and service
- Chatbots that can answer basic customer queries and automate simple tasks
- A community forum where your customers can discuss your offering together
- Interactive voice response systems, where customers can offer information on what their call is regarding or perform simple tasks with voice commands over the phone
Increase Customer Service Speed
Increasing customer service speed is always a priority when improving your team’s productivity. Concentrate on two things here:
- Customer Wait Time—How long customers must wait before talking to a customer service representative, and
- Average Time to Resolution—How long it takes for issues to be resolved entirely
By analyzing customer wait time and average time to resolution over a certain period, paired with ticket data, you can:
- Identify the requests that could be redirected to your self-service portal,
- Push certain customer service interactions to the agents(s) best equipped to handle them, and
- Create conversational flows that expedite the most common customer issues you’ve identified.
Ensure Service Consistency
Service consistency is highly important to customers. They expect the same level of service quality each time they reach out to you, regardless of the channel, time of day, or customer service representative they speak to.
To ensure service consistency, you must streamline processes and tasks. This ensures fewer moving parts and that everyone works from the same basic set of rules.
Train customer service staff based on their individual needs. Some staff will require more product training and others will need more soft-skills training, for instance. Individualized training ensures everyone’s blind spots get ironed out, providing a more consistent level of service across teams.
Give customer service agents easy access to all the information they need. Instead of everyone keeping their own binders full of product and process notes, use an internal knowledge base with up-to-date and easily accessible information.
This not only ensures every agent can answer any question a customer throws at them, but it also makes sure that the given answers are consistent across agents and other support channels. Beyond this, it’s useful for training new staff.
Facilitate contextual collaboration between agents. Each time customers use a support channel, they expect the agent they’re discussing the issue with to have a complete picture of all previous discussions. You can do this by using contact center software that records each customer service transaction and makes all information available on agents’ screens.
By giving agents no-nonsense, user-friendly contact center software, you make their job easier to perform. Average resolution times will drop, and customer satisfaction scores will rise. Agents will also feel more motivated to perform well, as they no longer have unwieldy software getting in the way of them performing their job.
Focus on Customers’ Preferred Communication Channels
Customers are more likely to be satisfied with your service if they can communicate using their preferred support channels (e.g., email, phone, live chat, social media).
For example, 52% of customers stated in a poll they found it frustrating they couldn’t talk to a human during an interaction, with 18% of them outright angry about it.
By communicating through the customers’ preferred channels, there’s also more scope for learning about the customer as they feel more comfortable using that channel.
Because customers are already used to using their preferred channels, there are fewer technical hurdles to overcome, too. They don’t have to learn how to use social media messaging if you offer support via email, for example. This can result in faster resolution times.
By limiting the time and effort spent on channels less popular with your clients, you can spend more on the communication channels they do use, improving productivity and efficiency.
Combine Ticket Data with Text Analysis to Get the Whole Picture
The correct data is critical to improving customer service productivity, but it’s sometimes difficult to see the woods for the trees. Measuring levels of customer satisfaction isn’t too difficult, but isolating the reasons behind high and poor customer satisfaction is more challenging because there can be many factors at play.
Text analysis is a powerful tool here. It summarizes and classifies vast swathes of text data, so you don’t have to wade through it yourself. You can get clarity and a deeper understanding by performing text analysis on customer feedback left for specific tickets or even on the whole conversation between your pre and the customer. The text analysis adds useful sentiment details to a ticket while highlighting the likely reasons for the low or high ratings. This saves a lot of time while eliminating guesswork.
How to Boost Customer Service Agent Productivity
No matter how good your team is, they’ll not be able to perform well without the right processes and tools in place. There are many things you can tweak to most off of your staff. Here are some of the first things to consider to improve customer service agent productivity:
Automate Mundane Tasks
Eliminating simple tasks that take up a lot of customer service agent time is a great way to improve efficiency. Customer service agents can perform their essential duties more productively without having to perform mundane, repetitive takes.
Look for some frequently asked questions that plague customer service and offer answers to these questions on your website. Customers who didn’t find these answers can be sent the details by customer service agents, limiting the time spent on these tasks.
Automate data entry, such as account numbers, so agents don’t have to do it. Intelligent interactive voice response systems can collect this data from customers directly over the phone without human interaction.
You can automate other tasks, too, such as sending follow-up emails to customers. Continually examine the processes your agents must follow, looking for parts that can be automated, so they no longer have to perform them.
Enable Skills-Based Routing
Skills-based routing, where customers are automatically transferred to the agents best capable of handling their queries, can boost productivity.
By immediately connecting customers to agents with the skills and experience to resolve their issues, problems can be resolved faster.
First-call resolution rates vastly improve, as there’s rarely a need for transfers or callbacks. The handling time of each call will be reduced, as a knowledgeable agent can solve issues without researching further. And skills-based routing allows agents to make efficient use of their skillset.
Allow Agents to Provide Feedback and Suggestions for Improvement
No one knows the challenges and frustrations of delivering customer support in your company more than the agents themselves, so make the best use of this vital source of information. By asking agents to identify areas for improvement, you can implement faster processes that help them perform their job even better.
Asking agents for feedback and putting some of their ideas into place is also empowering. They feel they have more agency, that the company cares about their input, and that their experience is valuable. This results in higher motivation and reduced employee churn, making for better overall efficiency and productivity.
Allow Agents to Handle Interactions on Multiple Channels from the Same Screen
Most companies recognize the value of offering multi-channel support. Customers can use the communication channels they prefer, and you can prioritize channels based on urgency.
However, when you allow customers to interact with your company through multiple different channels, they still expect you to be able to offer a consistent service.
When they can handle interactions on multiple channels from the same screen, agents can move between appropriate channels at will. For instance, a customer may initially phone for support, but the agent can email them software or documents, all from one screen.
Importantly, having all the interactions customers have had through all communication channels in one place means customer service agents get the full context of the interaction. They can make informed decisions based on your company’s history with the customer.
Teams that use tools to improve communications, knowledge sharing, and collaboration can enhance productivity by up to 25%
Even if the customer uses a different communication channel in the future or speaks to another agent, all of the information available to the agent will be accurate and up to date.
With everything managed from one screen, it’s easier for multi-skilled agents to multitask. Agents can be put on high priority for calls but respond to emails in their downtime, for instance. Once again, this improves productivity as their time is used better.
Understand How Busy Your Agents Are
To measure performance on a micro or macro level, you need to know how busy each of your agents is. A strong metric here is occupancy rates, the percentage of time that customer service representatives are handling interactions with customers.
By measuring the occupancy rates of each team member and the team as a whole, you can calculate your team’s potential bandwidth. It can help you shift workload and responsibilities between team members to make the best use of their time.
Remember that everyone has a limit to how much work they can perform without burnout. Constantly pushing agents to give 110% will have detrimental effects on morale, motivation, and agent retention.
Most Relevant Customer Service Productivity Metrics to Monitor
Data is one of your most vital assets for improving customer service productivity. You can use metrics to find problem spots to work on and then further use metrics to find what works and what doesn’t. Here are some of the most useful metrics you can use to build better productivity in your customer service:
1. Net Promoter® Score
Net Promoter® Score (NPS) measures how likely a customer would be to recommend your products or services to friends or family. By asking customers to rank this likelihood as a score between 0 and 10 and grouping responses into three categories—detractors, passives, and promoters—you can compare average NPS scores from different customer groups.
By tracking NPS over time, you can identify the areas of customer service that are most dissatisfying to customers. By improving these areas, customers can be satisfied in fewer interactions, boosting customer service productivity.
2. Customer Effort Score
Customer Effort Score (CES) is a metric that rates how easy a customer finds using your products, services, or processes. A higher customer effort score calculation means the customer found the process required less effort.
By identifying processes with a low CES, you find areas that require improvement. You can streamline these processes, ultimately boosting customer satisfaction and advocacy. By reducing customer effort, you can also reduce the number of customer interactions required, saving costs.
3. First Contact Resolution
First Contact Resolution (FCR) measures the percentage of customer support queries resolved the first time a customer contacts you. Customers frequently say that FCR is important to them, and improving FCR rates leads to better customer satisfaction.
High FCR rates typically go hand in hand with efficient working processes. Each extra time a customer is required to contact customer support or needs a callback eats away at your call center productivity.
Wherever you find low FCR rates, look for why the customer’s issue couldn’t be resolved on the first call. Did they get routed to the correct department? Did the agent have the information available to them to respond correctly to the interaction? Were there enough skilled agents available at the time to manage the call?
By finding the reason for a low FCR, you can fix the issue so that the next time a customer has the same problem, their query will be resolved the first time.
4. Average Handle Time
Average Handle Time (AHT) measures how long, on average, it takes to resolve customer requests. It’s an excellent metric for comparing the efficiency of different communication channels and testing new approaches in the contact center.
A low AHT means your customer service team can resolve issues quickly, so they have more bandwidth to help more customers, improving efficiency. Identifying high ART areas helps find elements slowing your customer service efforts.
5. Ticket Volume
Ticket volume, or case volume, measures the number of requests your customer service team receives. By accurately measuring ticket volume across multiple channels, you get a strong picture of how much demand for support there is.
You can delineate ticket volume by time of day and weekday to better ensure staff is available at the right time. Checking the ticket volume by communication channel allows you to designate the correct number of staff to cover each of them.
By cross-referencing ticket volume with particular issues, you find common problems that customers constantly contact customer support about. From there, you can build better proactive support or self-service options, reducing the volume of those issues.
6. Customer Satisfaction Score
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is a metric that measures the satisfaction a customer expresses about a product or service. In our case, we’re typically most interested in how customers perceive the customer support they’ve received.
Brands have struggled recently with customer satisfaction, with 19% of US brands seeing a drop in customer experience scores in 2022.
Customer satisfaction at different customer journey stages can be measured and compared to find points where the process falls short. You can compare customer satisfaction rates across communication channels, teams, or individual agents. With this, you can find problem areas to focus improvement efforts on.
7. Customer Churn Rate
Customer churn rate represents the percentage of customers that stop doing business with your company. Every company will have some customer churn, but a high customer churn rate indicates a severe problem with your products or customer service.
Measure customer churn rate in tandem with other metrics to ascertain now only how many customers you’re losing but why you’re losing them. By identifying where and why you’re losing customers, you can make improvements to retain more customers.
A 5% increase in customer retention can result in a 25% increase in profits. If there are customer service reasons you have a high customer churn rate, you must make resolving these issues a priority or risk bleeding more valuable customers.
The Final Word
Boosting customer service productivity, the efficiency at which your business can handle customer service queries, is crucial to reducing costs while improving customer satisfaction rates.
You can improve customer service productivity by offering proactive support and building ways for customers to resolve their issues independently, such as a self-service portal. By increasing customer service speed and ensuring a consistent level of service, you can better serve the customer.
Customer service agents must be supported if you want their individual and team productivity to improve. Consistently ask agents for feedback on processes and carefully consider how to make their job easier. Automate mundane tasks and use skills-based routing to deliver customer queries to people best capable of resolving them the first time.
As with everything in customer service, data and metrics are key to finding and eliminating productivity drains. We’ve outlined some of the best customer service productivity metrics to monitor above so that you can get the absolute best out of your trained, experienced, and motivated agents.