Customer Service KPIs for Your Subscription Business

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help us understand and evaluate operations. Explore useful customer service KPIs, how to measure them, and what they mean for your subscription business.

Key Performance Indicators, abbreviated as “KPI”, are core metrics that help you determine the success and progress of your efforts. We’ve talked about core KPIs for your subscription business before – you may recall such metrics as CoCA, LTV, and churn rate –  and we know how useful they are in planning and understanding your business. Not only do they give us a metric to reflect on and attempt to improve, but when determining them, they provide a set of understandings around an operation or element of your business. That is to say, to define Lifetime Value, you must determine how to measure and track the life cycles of customers.

This can be enlightening work, and you may ask yourself, “Can there be separate KPIs, dedicated to specific departments?”

The answer is yes, and one such department that benefits from regularly thinking about KPIs is customer service. So what metrics should we be looking at?

A Note: How to Measure these KPIs

Before we jump into specific metrics, it’s important to understand just how you’re actually measuring these key performance indicators. Like with the KPIs of financial modeling, you need to have direct access into clear, attributable, and defining data points. While it’s entirely possible to get these from almost any customer service platform (even if you just use email), it is highly recommended you use something with a powerful data integration. I suggest Zendesk, who’s partnered with Good Data. After working through standard and highly customized metrics in this platform for years, I’ve found it to be highly accurate, easy to use, and (perhaps most importantly) backed up by a great support team on both Zendesk and Good Data’s sides.

For the purpose of this guide, you may see formulas that specifically relate to the ZenDesk-Good Data platform, but even if you use something else, you will be able to use the logic, just in a different format.

1. Average Reply Time

Reply time has been researched exhaustively (check out Sprout Social’s findings, for example). Decisively, and as one would expect, these findings almost always support one underlying hypothesis: the faster you reply, the happier your customers. That makes the metric of Average Reply Time uniquely important for you to understand.

Average Reply Time is self-defined. This the average time it takes for you to reply to a ticket. A ticket is simply a request, in any form, that appears in your customer service portal. To get a handle on the customer experience of this, simply ask reflect on the the last time you emailed, tweeted, or Facebook messaged a business. How long did it take them?

While averages can range from industry to industry and from business to business, in subscription businesses (especially of the startup size), you should almost always have your reply time under 24 hours. This simply improves customer experience, and they greatly appreciate it. Make the time!

To decrease your average reply time, consider these strategies:

  • Make use of Macros, Filters, and Automations whenever possible. These are huge time savers.
  • Tier tickets to different customer service agents. One example would be channeling simpler emails to less trained employees during rushes to maintain speed across your employees.
  • Make use of apps. One great app with Zendesk is called “Five Most Recent” – this shows the last five tickets (or tickets that could be duplicates) in the same screen, helping you consolidate and merge tickets faster.

2. Average Total Time Spent/Average Time Spent Per Update

Directly related to the Average Reply Time of tickets is your Time Spent on tickets metrics. Total Time Spent is the total amount of time your agent spent on the ticket. The Time Spent Per Update is  the amount of time your agents are spending on each “touch” or “update” of the ticket. For example, if you spend a total of 5 minutes solving a request, over 3 tickets, your total time spent is 5 minutes, and your average time spent per update is 1 minute and 40 seconds.

This helps you understand who your fastest employees are, and when tied to other metrics like Satisfaction Rating (below), you can get a much better picture on which strategies are working better.

First, if you don’t plan on using stopwatches around the office, you’ll need to install an app in your platform. This means you’ll almost certainly need to be using a customer service platform with a data partner and be able to create custom metrics. There are likely a few options, but for my Zendesk, I use “Time Tracking.” This appears directly in your ticket view, and actively counts while you’re in the screen – talk about a motivator!

By installing this app, it creates new metrics for you to access in Good Data. Luckily, Zendesk provides super simple, fast instructions on how to create these metrics. When properly using macros and filters (as mentioned above), you shouldn’t see higher Average Total Time Spent than 3-4 minutes (at most), and 1-2 minutes Average Time Spent Per Update.

3. Agent Satisfaction Rating

Agent Satisfaction Rating is an important metrics for both internal and external purposes. First, it provides both an impression of your customer service team and its members to you: What is the overall rate? Who has the highest? Who has the lowest? Why? Next, it also provides a snapshot of what your customers think of your customer service. While you can provide good customer service and still have a negative ticket rating (perhaps the customer was upset with the solution, though it was the best you could do), this rating is a great indicator of success in the department. This is arguably closely tied with your overall retention rate: customer satisfaction directly drives customer loyalty.

(Note: This is debated being the most important thing, and remember that in this context, we’re talking about Agent Satisfaction Rating – isolated to customer service experiences. Satisfaction Rating in general is often compared with Net Promoter Score, which we will cover separately. This metric, while indicative of the whole, is most useful when it comes to evaluating employee-customer interactions.)

So how do you garnish this information?

There are two methods, basically divided by time:

  1. Poll customers, en masse
  2. Set up automatic emails to be sent after a ticket has been closed

Both can, and should be used,  though I would encourage you to focus more on grabbing a multitude of data across the spectrum of time vs. polling all at once (other experiences may come to customers’ minds). Not only does this help you capture a more even flow of data, but you may be able to glean other information from fluctuations in Agent Satisfaction Rates. For example, if satisfaction dropped significantly one month without any major changes internally, perhaps that’s more evidence that your box that month wasn’t spot on. This provides a call to action for you to get with your team and evaluate what’s going on.

In Zendesk, this feature is simple to set up, and uses an automation. It is then directly reported into your Good Data platform. In general, you should always seek a higher satisfaction rating. Anything less than 95% satisfaction over a 60 day average may be cause for concern or investigation. If it often slips below this, ask yourself if you’re providing your agents with the tools they need to succeed, or if the data is being skewed for another reason.

4. Retention By Agent(s)

A big part of any customer service operation is retention. Retention is the rate at which you keep customers. For example, if you have 10 cancellation emails and 2 people decide to stay on board after you’ve provided an offer – say 10% off – then your retention rate is 20% by agents. This can fluctuate, especially depending on the offers you’re making to customers and the customer’s last experience with the product (so it isn’t always in the agent’s hands).

To track this, I suggest using a simple but intuitive tagging systems in your tickets. For example, when crafting your macros or manually filling out a ticket, include a phrase like “cancelrequest” (you can also use a tag for the type of offer, like “10offer” when providing 10% off). If the customer is saved, tag the ticket with the phrase “saved” the name time you update the ticket. If they are lost, use the phrase “cancelconfirm.” You can then use a formula like the one below to determine the % of time your “cancelrequest” tickets end up with the tag “saved”:

SELECT # of Saved / # of Cancel Confirms

If you’re diligent with tagging, no cancellation request should go untagged, and this means you’ll be given a fairly accurate picture of how well your team is doing at retaining customers.

Always Revisit Customer Service KPIs

Similar to your business’s financial KPIs, revisit your customer service KPIs as much as possible. Likewise, keep in mind that there are a multitude of KPIs to track – not just the one’s mentioned above. Dive deeply into your reporting dashboard and try to pry out the figures that seem to be the most useful for you. As always, don’t be afraid to come back to Subscription School to ask questions!

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About Jesse Richardson

Jesse Richardson is an author, educator and co-founder of several successful subscription businesses. He focuses on building engaging communities and has been described as "insanely customer centric." Find him in the Subscription School group or at his blog.

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