Customer Service Benchmarking and Metrics
Is customer experience a competitive differentiator your business actively strives for? Is your company’s customer support team doing everything it can to surpass your competition when it comes to creating satisfied customers and a best-in-class customer experience? Customer service benchmarking helps you answer these questions.
What is customer service benchmarking?
Customer service benchmarking gives you a quantitative way to compare your team’s performance with other customer service teams. You can benchmark customer service using a customer satisfaction (CSAT) score or other metrics to understand how to set goals to achieve customer satisfaction consistently. You can also use customer service benchmarking to guide decisions about the policies and processes you need to put in place to enhance customer service.
However, before you can benchmark customer service and reap the benefits, you’ll need to understand the benchmarks of your industry for customer service metrics and explore and define what makes the most sense for your business. Defining your own benchmarks sets your team up for success and is the best indicator of your improvement and consistency rather than spending time comparing yourself against other companies.
Why is customer service benchmarking important?
Benchmarks are standards or reference points you can use to draw a comparison to your customer service department’s performance to industry standards or to past achievements. You can use baseline statistics as a benchmark, for example, using the first results of a CSAT or Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey as the basis for comparing future scores. Or you can use industry benchmarks, such as average NPS scores for your industry as a benchmark for your team.
Without a point of reference, you won’t be able to measure progress or quickly recognize a decline in scores that you need to investigate and take action to correct. When you benchmark customer service, you can more easily keep your customer service department on track and aligned with your overall business goals.
Benchmark customer service to set your team goals, not to compare
Industry standards are helpful as a starting point when you’re setting this year’s customer service goals, but continuously comparing your company to industry standards isn’t the most accurate way of determining where you stand.
When you benchmark customer service for your company, remember that the metrics you track are to use for self-improvement and not for self-criticism.
Your company’s benchmarks are for comparison against itself in the past and chart your strides in creating a great customer support experience. A history of benchmarks helps you and your company see where the team has been, where you are today, and where you are trying to get to.
To determine which benchmarks are most relevant to you, always remember to focus on your customers.
Listen to your customers first
There’s no single pathway or benchmark that is the be-all and end-all, but there’s a truism: listening to your customers is essential.
Though it sounds obvious, most companies don’t effectively listen to their customers when it comes to customer service.
A recent study found that 99% of companies don’t follow up with their customers after providing customer service to see whether the customer was satisfied with the experience. This explains the gap of why 80% of companies believe they’re delivering superior quality customer service, yet only 8% of customers agree.
The same study also found that:
- 41% of companies don’t answer customer service emails
- Only 11% of companies are capable of first-reply resolution of customer service issues
- The average handle time of a customer service request is longer than 15 hours
To further illustrate the disconnect between what companies think they’re delivering and what their customers think, a new study from Morning Consult shows that businesses most fail to meet consumer expectations for short wait times, fast resolutions, 24/7 availability, and ease of contact.
Unanswered queries, long wait times, and a feeling of being alone are surefire ways to create disengaged and unhappy customers.
Let’s take a look at which benchmarks help paint a better picture of your team’s performance.
Which customer service benchmarks are the most important?
To benchmark customer service, you’ll want to keep track of a few core metrics that provide a wide-ranging view of your support experience and make it easy to see changes in performance based on your focused interventions.
Customer satisfaction itself is the most important benchmark to stay aware of, which you can achieve by monitoring your customer satisfaction (CSAT) score. Each industry tends to have an average level of customer satisfaction, which you can use as the bar for your company to pass. You can also measure customer effort score (CES), which gives you an indication of the difficulty or ease your customers perceive when they interact with your business.
There are several different ways to measure customer satisfaction. So, how do you pick which is the most relevant to your company’s ability to successfully grow its revenues?
What benchmarks should we aim for to satisfy customers in different support channels?
At a minimum, your company should try to meet or beat the following benchmarks when it comes to your email and social media customer support:
- Acknowledgment rate: 100%
- Time to first response: 60 minutes
- Total handle time: 24 hours
- Number of replies per ticket: less than two
- Resolution without escalation rate: more than 68.8%
- Customer satisfaction: 85%
If you’re already meeting these basic benchmarks, you’re outperforming most companies today.
Metrics and their benchmarks for live chat
While a newcomer, live chat is becoming an increasingly important channel for customer service.
To benchmark customer service for live chat support, use these benchmarks for North American companies:
- Time until first response: 58 seconds
- Total handle time: 14 minutes
- Number of replies: 28
- Customer satisfaction: 92%
- Time per response: 3.9 minutes
- First contact resolution rate: 70.2%
- Chat abandonment rate: 13.1%
Keep wait times and handle times low, and remember that customers like to be replied to quickly when receiving live chat support.
Once you’ve mastered these basic benchmarks, try examining more complex metrics like the NPS.
NPS holds the key
While its importance varies by industry, Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a great metric to use as a benchmark because of how tightly high NPS scores are linked to customer loyalty and higher revenue.
NPS is a metric that’s measured from -100 to 100, and its creators have a suggested list of benchmarks for industry averages which you should look at briefly. Citing a single average NPS isn’t helpful to benchmark customer service because of how much it varies across industries.
NPS is powerful because it asks whether a customer is likely to recommend your company’s product or service to a friend. By benchmarking your company’s NPS, you can:
- Identify brand evangelists
- See which of your products or services are creating more buzz than others
- See which areas of your customer service operations are delighting customers
- Preemptively reach out to customers who are actively unwilling to refer your brand to someone else
As mentioned earlier, you may want to peek at the industry average to get an idea whether your company is grossly behind your competitors or whether you’re killing it –– but your goal should be to have a higher score than last year and to continue to compare yourself against your historical NPS.
Next steps to benchmark customer service
Across all customer service benchmarks, it’s important to remember that the purpose of benchmarking is not to simply see where you sit among your competition, but to understand where you are now relative to where you were 6 months, 1 year, or whichever time frame is most relevant. Also, take a look at your CX initiatives to continue to improve your overall customer experience and drive retention and loyalty for your business.
There’s no time like the present to help your customer service team set a baseline, identify goals, and prepare to celebrate your progress against those benchmarks in the future.