As I outlined this article, the first thing I typed was the title: “3 steps to measure your support team’s success”. Just that. You want to know how to do it, and here are the answers.
Well, I have something of a confession to make right up front. This article probably raises more questions than it answers for you. It certainly did for me, and I wrote it (though I have drawn some supporting wisdoms from my Customer Support Leaders interview series). Nonetheless, this was a topic that came up in a meeting this week, and so I wanted to offer this diffuse exploration of the “success” of a customer support team.
Just to seemingly lighten the load, let’s break this down into three steps, as promised:
- Define “success”
- Figure out if you can measure it
- Seek out ongoing adjustments
First – define “success”
The first thing a lot of new leaders do when they try and figure out how to measure their team is: open up their support ticket management system and see what default dashboards they can use.
Take. A. Step. Back.
It’s just too early to do that. You need to figure out what you are trying to measure, first. You need to figure out the ‘what’ and the ‘why’.
Measuring new processes and teams, I always ask myself these four questions:
1.What is success in this scenario?
Step back from metrics to answer this question. Here, you are trying to look at the outcome itself. It’s practically part of a mission statement for your team. Is it that your customers are served in a timely manner? Is it that you increase product engagement? Is it that you provide more accurate, independent support within the team?
How are the individuals on the team feeling? It’s more subjective, but a really important part of support team health. – Matt Dale
For a customer service team of any sort, whether it’s highly technical, or highly end-consumer, I always ask about these outcomes from the customer perspective. What is the customer perspective of ’timely’? How does the customer benefit from this greater product engagement? How does the customer benefit if I grow skills in the team? How can I build customer empathy in the team? And so on.
Unless you know what a successful outcome looks like, you can’t begin to measure progress towards it.
We aim to have every customer that connects with us feel as though they were assisted with a sense of urgency (immediacy), in a human way (empathy), and with all of the information they need (knowledgable). – Meredith Molloy
2.Which question are we trying to answer?
Here, you need to map the successful outcomes you have identified to a real question.
Let’s say you have identified your outcome as ‘we provide timely support to our customers, in the moment they experience the problem’. Now, you need to understand what that means. At this point, it’s a good idea to actually talk to your customers. Get a sense of where and how they expect support, where and how capable they are of reporting issues, and how you can aim to streamline that process.
We have a variety of metrics that we use, but the core questions we ask are: Are our students happy with our support? Are *we* happy with our support? Are we contributing to the growth of the company? – Hannah Baker
3.Who are we reporting it to?
A really key question, since this will frame how you tell the story. Your direct leader might appreciate the data behind First Response Times, but you will need to present a different story to the board, or at an All Hands meeting, or at a Service Review with a customer.
Each audience will have a different set of priorities. That means they will each have their own different measures of success. They will be most interested in how your story supports their own objectives.
They will view your story through their own business lens. That’s the story you need to think about. How does what you are reporting on relate to their business view? The supporting data needed for each scenario might share some foundations, but you’ll need to consider if there are additional parts of the story you can, and should, tell.
Metrics are great – they can add so much clarity and help support accountability that ultimately feeds into the health and growth of the business. – Alyssa Percell
4.Why are we reporting it?
Beyond the basic is-it-worth-it check, do be sure you want to report, the right thing for the right reason, to the right people. This shouldn’t be a point scoring exercise, or bombast, or broadcasting in hope. You need to define success and the mechanics supporting that, because it demonstrates value, and prompts conversations.
Measure and report on demonstrable value-add. Value to the business. Value to the customers. Value to the market. Value to the team.
Prompt conversations, internally and externally. Build bridges to other parts of the organisation. Build workable processes. Break down silos. Engage customers.
That’s what success looks like.
My team is successful if they feel they are part of a team, they are engaged and are happy to be working with you/others in the team – Pooja Mahtani
Second – how does your “why” translate to what you can measure?
Now you’ve done the easy part, you have to figure out how you make it happen.
I’m not here to choose your tools for you, but take a look around at what you have already. Does your CRM provide the data you need to get going? Measure what you can. Find gaps in the tools where there are holes in the story you want to tell, and then try to fill those gaps.
I think as support people sometimes we have this natural instinct to report on something, …articulating the value of support, without truly knowing the metric or even understanding if it’s relevant to us. – Chris Taylor
First, look internally. Remember, definitions of success vary wildly across your organisation – some folks measure happiness, or revenue, or engagement, or quality, or bug fixes. That’s all data you can feed from and to. No support team operates (or should operate) as an island, feeding only on metrics that are set elsewhere in the organisation.
Use this opportunity to have internal conversations, and build links to other business functions. As a support team, you are most often at the front line of the customer relationship. Everything you do has an impact. Find collaborations that build towards your desired outcomes, and build paths of measurement between the two.
To start, measure what you can. Pay constant attention to the story, not the metrics as a standalone entity. Then find gaps in tools and fill them over time to answer questions. It’s a cycle you’ll be forever iterating.
Choosing the right metrics, and wrapping them in the right mission, is the way we can win. – Michael Redbord
Third – adjust the measures, the tools and build for outcomes
If those gaps are big, this is not a simple exercise. I’ll be honest, if you’re building a team, this first set of baselining can take months.
I once made the mistake of trying to get the whole story in place in one go, and the value perception of the exercise dwindled significantly as time went by. So, measure and report on what you can. Some metrics are better than no metrics. Just don’t use them as a target in the early days. There will be too much flux. But those early days are great for conversations about growth and sustainability. They are great for tools and process alignment. The very purpose of those early days is to build for longer-term outcomes.
For me, it’s the softer stuff that counts, too: did we smile and laugh during stand-up? Do people actively want to work together? Do we compliment each other? Do we feel comfortable enough to criticize? Do other teams think we’re performing well? – Kristina King
Be prepared to review the definitions of success, and the metrics of success as you progress. Periodically ask yourself if they are still relevant, or if better data or even better ideals are now possible.
It is always important to know who the metrics are going to and also to acknowledge that not all success can be measured in numbers. Knowing the end goal of what you are going to do with the metrics you’re pulling is essential as well. – Kaylin Bailey
Success isn’t a destination. It’s a story. A process. A mindset. A set of ideals. And it’s highly individual. One size does not fit all. Figure out what works for you and your team.