3 essential customer service metrics you need to measure in 2021

Published November 14, 2018
Last updated March 30, 2021

Tracking customer service metrics in 2021 is like monitoring your business' vital signs — its importance cannot be understated. The relationship you have with your customers, how you run your support center, and how your organization embodies the values of customer experience are crucial for your business' success and growth.

It can be difficult, however, to understand which metrics we need to track to ensure understanding and success. Our free guide can help you understand which metrics and data points are the most important, and you can read along for some background and context on why these matter, and how the customer support landscape has changed.

Jump down

  1. The evolution of customer service metrics
  2. How to measure them
  3. Which tools you'll need
  4. Improving your service strategy with data
  5. Skip all this and give me the free guide

The evolution of customer service metrics

Customer service metrics are full of acronyms and jargon — but you need to understand them in order to better your customer service strategy. Key performance indicators (KPIs) like CSAT, CES, and NPS™ are commonly used (and deeply important) metrics — the culmination of decades of study of marketing and customer experience.

Measuring customer satisfaction and associated metrics had as much of an appeal to businesses in the past as they do to modern marketers. Harold Ware, an alleged Soviet spy, wrote about customer satisfaction in the Soviet Union across industries in the 1950s. The Net Promoter Score™, which calculates how likely a customer is to recommend a service to another business, was developed more recently by Fred Reichheld. He introduced the concept in his iconic 2003 Harvard Business Review article, “The one number you need to grow,” pointing out that companies often spend money collecting customer data that cannot be tied to profits or outcomes.

Reichheld writes, “Most customer satisfaction surveys aren’t very useful. They tend to be long and complicated, yielding low response rates and ambiguous implications that are difficult for operating managers to act on. Furthermore, they are rarely challenged or audited because most senior executives, board members, and investors don’t take them very seriously. That’s because their results don’t correlate tightly with profits or growth.”

We know now that these metrics do correlate with profits and growth — but the approach has changed in the digital age. Ongoing tracking of customer service metrics and KPIs means less customer churn, improved customer loyalty, and a better bottom line. With the right tools, what was once nebulous, unattributable customer data can be better related to the bottom line.

Top three types of customer service metrics:

  1. Customer relationship metrics
  2. Agent performance and efficiency metrics
  3. Team performance and efficiency metrics

You can learn all about them in Customer Service Metrics That Matter, our guide to getting the most out of your customer service metrics.

A helpful tip:

Some customer analytics are harder to track than CSAT or CLV. Customer feedback can come from social media channels, third party reviewers, and proliferate online where businesses have no visibility. The customer journey is nebulous and changeable, and it can be difficult for scaling organizations to care for existing customers while attracting new ones. It’s important, however, to consider your customer retention rate — happy, loyal customers are better for your bottom line in the long run.

How to measure customer service metrics

A quick, no-hassle way for customers to provide feedback is with a customer satisfaction survey. Zendesk takes a simple and effective approach for measuring customer support: ask if the interaction was good or bad. They also have the option to add a comment about their customer experience if they want to give you more feedback.

After you’ve gathered satisfaction (CSAT) ratings, there’s a lot a customer support team can do with this data. In fact, it’s a metric you can look at from many angles. For example, you can track and measure the following:

  • A customer’s CSAT rating over time
  • CSAT ratings, by customer types
  • CSAT ratings, by channel
  • CSAT ratings, by product or service
  • Average CSAT ratings for agents and teams

Tracking these customer support metrics can shed light on the customer experience, which can inform everything from how your customer service team operates to the product roadmap your business uses to guide future development.

Other companies might use metrics called "Customer Effort Score" (CES). Companies that use the CES typically use it instead of CSAT ratings. Some companies move to CES after having used CSAT, feeling that they gathered all the useful customer service feedback they could from that survey. Either way, it's vital to gather a customer satisfaction score from as many customers as possible.

Whether you use CES or CSAT, the message is clear: focusing on effort reduction should be one of your team's primary goals to improve the customer experience and overall customer satisfaction, as a result.

To get to the bigger customer relationship story, beyond single support interactions, there's also Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS). The net promoter survey helps companies gauge customer loyalty, the likelihood of repeat business, and whether the level of service has led customers to become advocates for the brand to others. A promoter score asks how likely customers are to recommend a business to someone else.

Social Media Metrics
Using social media-monitoring tools, companies can easily collect and analyze feedback for their customer service. Using these kinds of support metrics help to determine the following:

  • How many comments appear to be written in a time of frustration, perhaps after a poor customer support experience in person or online?
  • How many are technical or account-specific questions?
  • How many comments provide feedback, positive or negative?
  • How many questions can be answered using links to existing help content in your knowledge base?
  • How many times would a brand mention benefit from a response?
  • What time of day are your customers most active on social media?

Churn Metrics
Another excellent way to collect feedback (especially for subscription-based business) is to prompt customers to say why they’re canceling their account. This will help your business measure its churn rate, and from this metric, you can create a report of your churn activity over time. The response rate will be much higher if this survey is embedded in the user interface.

What is a balanced scorecard?

A balanced scorecard is a metric used to identify and iterate various internal functions and their outcomes. Tracking customer service metrics is crucial for organizations in order to provide actionable insights and affect real change.

CSAT, a key performance indicator for understanding customer experience is often included as part of a balanced scorecard.

Tools and resources for tracking customer service metrics

The best tools to track customer service KPIs require software that connects to all of your customer conversations with easily accessible and visible dashboards. Don’t lose sight of the big picture.

In a 2018 Forbes op-ed, Brad Birnbaum argues that the KPIs we use to measure customer service are evolving. KPIs like First Response Time (FRT) and Average Handle Time (AHT) are “operational in nature,” and make sense for figuring out how cost-effective your service offerings are. CSAT and Net Promoter Score (NPS™) are only a piece of the puzzle as well — if the only customers filling out surveys are the ones opting in, and even then, after they’ve had an overwhelmingly positive or negative experience, results might be skewed. That’s why it’s important to use tools that give you a sense of the big picture.

Customer service data can tell you a lot about the state of your business. The key is to capture, process, and iterate on KPIs with good software. When support metrics are integrated with sales and customer data, you will be able to make better decisions for your organization across the board. Why? Because disparate systems reduce productivity and efficiency. Agile companies are using software that’s easily configurable and adaptable to visualize customer service data.

How to improve customer service metrics?

To gauge the success of each metric and note areas for improvement, measure both short-term and long-term customer satisfaction and happiness in the following areas:

  • Look at satisfaction scores for support interactions. Use your metrics to measure both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of delivering customer service, but always stay focused on improving your customer relationships.
  • Measure the level of customer effort required when contacting the support team. Use a robust set of reporting tools to continuously monitor your customer service team's performance against the baselines you’ve set for managing your ticket queue, average response time, and the health of your customer relationships. You can also see how customers utilize a knowledge base. Self-service options like a knowledge base are important for your business, since they enable customers to help themselves, something increasing numbers of consumers desire.
  • Survey customers about their overall experience with your company. Setting operational baselines helps you establish realistic performance goals for your teams and company over time. For example, are your loyal customers asking for a live chat option, does your support team need to work on factors such as resolution time, response time, and other factors that affect customer success?
  • Monitor all your metric channels and analytics. These include social media and the valuable metrics you get when your customers decide to stop doing business with you. Be sure to think about things like the average time it takes an agent to close a ticket, or whether the customer service team is lagging on ticket handle time.

Remember your ticket backlog as well. A ticket backlog is the total number of unsolved tickets. This is important to follow because it provides insight into incoming ticket volume and how well a company can keep up with its given resources. Sometimes, support issues take a longer time to solve than the customer expects or the performance targets you’ve set for your team. The longer it takes to solve a customer’s issue, the more likely customer satisfaction will suffer; as a result, customer loyalty will drop.

Download the full guide to learn how to track customer service metrics

The how-to's for tracking support metrics related to customer support can be found in our Customer Service Metrics That Matter guide. You can explore the various support metrics that indicate success in your customer service, including resolution effort, resolution rate, first-reply time, next issue avoidance, and many more.

Net Promoter and NPS are registered U.S. trademarks, and Net Promoter Score and Net Promoter System are service marks, of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc. and Fred Reichheld.