After years of working with clients, you start to notice trends. One in particular caught my attention. When it comes to customer support services, clients often fixate on performance metrics or Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that contribute to an idea of success - whether that means cutting operational costs, increasing profit margins or retaining a greater percentage of customers than the year before.

There's no doubt that metrics are important, but recently one of one of TaskUs' clients said something that really resonated with me: "It's not just about meeting a benchmark, because in the end, a number can be just that: a number. It's more important to consider quality, and to ask yourself: am I delivering value?"

I couldn't agree more - too often we characterize success in customer support with the following metrics:

Agent Response Times (ART) and First Call Resolution (FCR)
Both ART and FCR focus on how quickly your agents solve customers' issues. Both metrics can be applied across multiple channels (email, phone or chat support), but they essentially focus on how long it took for your customers to receive a response to their issue. FCR adds a bit more depth by providing data on how often your agents can resolve an issue in one interaction.

Overall customer satisfaction metrics & customer satisfaction by interaction
From Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) surveys to QBRs, there are a multitude of ways to gauge how happy their customers are with the execution of customer support services. That eventually leads to a Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures how likely it is that your customer recommends working with your company to their network.

Contact volume by channel
Customer support requests can fluctuate daily or annually and even spike based on time of day or year. Stepping back to pay attention to these times allows you to assess what the heart of the issue might be.

We address the issues that might pop up with some of these metrics in an earlier post - because as important as numbers might be, they don't paint a holistic picture of your customer experience on their own. Metrics portray a lot of great information on where certain gaps in your customer experience might live - but leave gaps in terms of how to address those issues.

In today's connected world a customer experience can be an extremely complex, uneven and non-linear map of interactions. Where metrics address the issue at the point of interaction, an overall process or experience addresses the real issue embedded in a business process or system.

That brings us back to our client, who made an argument for developing value versus meeting metrics -- because being invaluable means eliminating as much friction as possible from the experience and relationship you're developing with your customer, in order to provide a really simple and efficient service.

A famous example of an amazing customer experience is Nordstrom, who literally wrote a book on their unique approach to customer service. Nordstrom's legendary return policy eliminates all the hassles of returning something. No receipt? Damaged? Years old? No worries: Nordstrom will accept your return. And then there's their 1:1 sales rep to customer ratio, which keeps service personal and intimate. In each of these instances, the metrics may actually show ‘failure' from the point of view of productivity or efficiency -- but the results speak for themselves.

So as you consider your customer experience, consider asking yourself: "In what ways can I take my understanding of my audience and develop an interaction that makes me invaluable to them?"

Here's an example of how TaskUs approaches the question.

One of the services TaskUs offers is customer acquisition. A client working in cloud software sales might come up to us and say, "I need 100 leads delivered per day." We could, of course, assign a team to that project, and ensure that we're maximizing output per individual, while minimizing our client's overhead spend. At the end of the day, we could deliver those 100 leads -- that's the easy part. But what if we went beyond that? What if we sought to secure leads that identified new growth opportunities in new markets that the client hasn't been able to penetrate themselves? At this point we have moved away from the pure focus on metrics that characterizes a process-obsessed, buyer-seller relationship and placed ourselves squarely in a partnership that emphasizes helping our customer succeed.

As you move forward, ask yourself how you can take your customer support beyond the realm of pure process-oriented metrics, so that you can adopt an approach of putting your customer first.

Michael Buenaventura

February 27, 2015