Every new business owner knows the pain of spending time and money on ad campaign, only to see a meager handful of sales. Growing a business, especially on a tight budget, can be a rocky road.
But consider this: you may already be sitting on an extremely valuable and often overlooked resource for helping your business grow and thrive—your current customers. If your current customers are happy, they’ll spread the word about your company to their friends.
On average, a happy customer will tell nine friends about their positive experience. That’s nine potential new customers. And since they’re being referred by a friend, they’re more likely to buy from you: four times more likely, to be exact. When your products, service, and experience make your customers happy, they’ll do your selling for you.
To make more sales while spending less money, focus on taking care of the customers you already have. One of the most important touch points you have with a customer is their support experience, so support must be outstanding.
Like any other business function, tracking the right metrics is essential. Let’s start there.
Metrics to measure customer happiness
Happy customers are repeat customers. So, how do you know if you’re making your customers happy?
A great place to start is by looking at the quality of the experience you provide. Ask customers how they feel after they purchase your products, or when they speak with your company. Are your products living up to the promises made in your marketing copy? Is your support measuring up to your customers’ expectations?
With all of the different customer service metrics and acronyms (CSAT! NPS! CES!), measurement can be murky water to navigate. Which metrics are most useful? Where should you begin?
Avoid analysis paralysis and recall another popular acronym, KISS: Keep it short and simple (or it’s meaner variant, Keep it simple, stupid)! Though the list of potential measurements is long, you only need a few to get started.
Most support metrics belong to one of three main categories: quality, speed, or volume. With just one or two from each category, you can keep your finger on the pulse of support, ensure that your customers are happy, and drive loyalty that will help your business thrive.
What metrics to start with
Let’s start by explaining a few those acronyms: CSAT, NPS, and CES. These are all quality metrics that measure how customers feel about their experiences with your business. Quality is arguably the most important factor in support.
One Gallup survey showed that customers who interacted with bank tellers whom they felt provided quality service through their courtesy and willingness to help were nine times more likely to be emotionally engaged with the company. Customers who felt the service was exceptionally fast were only six times as likely to be emotionally engaged. Bottom line, quality matters—a lot.
Many new teams begin tracking quality by measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT). Using a number of tools, you can send customers a satisfaction survey at the end of each support interaction, giving them an easy way to share feedback and provide commentary on what they did and didn’t like. CSAT surveys should be kept short so that people actually reply; asking just one additional question can prevent customers from responding.
Even simple CSAT surveys provide you with insights on what you can keep doing and what you can improve in order to keep customers happy.
It’s also possible to embed customer satisfaction surveys at the bottom of every email you send to customers. This way, you get immediate feedback on how customers are feeling and can take corrective action to continually improve their experience.
To make more sales while spending less money, take care of the customers you already have.
Keep in mind most CSAT tools will bias toward showing your average score. Statistics and averages mean little to the customer who had a really poor experience, so be sure not to lose sight of personal feedback and anecdotes. Every customer counts. Keep track of low ratings so you can follow up to make things right and learn from what went wrong.
CSAT is helpful for evaluating customer sentiment, but it’s limited to a single moment in time and it’s fairly broad. This is where additional quality metrics can help fill in the gaps in your understanding.
Example CSAT survey from Freshdesk.
Another shortcoming of CSAT, and all surveys, is survey bias. You’ll get the most responses from customers who are either really satisfied or really unsatisfied, leaving you with a bit of a blind spot for customers in the middle. To help bring light to that blind spot, go back and review your interactions with customers who don’t complete your CSAT survey. This way, you can evaluate your responses and try to identify ways to start turning neutral experiences into excellent ones.
CSAT can also be tricky in the sense that it’s sometimes difficult to parse out the real reason for dissatisfaction. It may have been your tone, your policy, or even the product itself. That’s why it’s important to read the commentary that comes along with your ratings. That way, you can uncover specifics for the rating and develop ways to improve.
Customer Effort Score
Customer Effort Score (CES) is a measure of the amount of work a customer felt they had to do to get their issue solved. Customers who have to write in several times, repeat their requests, or search for hours trying to find a way to contact you would all report a “high effort experience.”
Tracking reported customer effort and finding ways to reduce hurdles is a growing trend in support. Gartner, who originated the idea of measuring customer effort, has shared data that suggests CES is 1.8x better at predicting loyalty than CSAT. Customers want to buy from businesses that make shopping easy.
But because CES measures a specific aspect of the customer experience, it’s a good idea to send it in addition to a CSAT survey as opposed to as a replacement. This will help ensure you solicit a broad spectrum of feedback and maintain a rounded picture of your customer experience.
Be sure to send your CSAT and/or CES survey soon after closing a support conversation. This way, you’ll get customer feedback while the experience is still fresh in their minds.
Net Promoter Score
Another quality metric is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures loyalty by asking customers how likely they are to recommend your product to others. Customers are then separated into three categories, based on their response: promoters, passives, and detractors.
Promoters are loyal advocates who will keep purchasing and referring others. Passives are generally satisfied but unenthusiastic, and they may be vulnerable to competitors. Detractors are actively unhappy customers.
NPS graphic by Help Scout.
Advocates can be leveraged to help you grow your brand. Passives can be swayed into becoming advocates if you make an effort to connect with them and improve their experience. And detractors should be contacted in an effort to fix any issues they’ve had and improve their perception of your brand.
Like CSAT and CES, your NPS score can be measured by sending a survey. Unlike CSAT and CES, however, the NPS survey shouldn’t directly follow a customer support interaction. Instead, it should be sent at a regular interval to a random sample of your customers, usually through email.
Some companies send monthly NPS surveys, and others do it every six months to a year. You don’t want to survey the same customers too often, so you need to have enough unique customers to send the survey to new people each time. If you have a very large customer base, opt for monthly sending; otherwise, stick to a less frequent schedule. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re sending they survey to people who have already received your product and can therefore provide an informed answer.
To calculate your NPS score, take the percent of responses that identified as promoters, and subtract the percentage of customers that identified as detractors. This will give you a number between -100 (all detractors) and +100 (all promoters).
As compared to CSAT and CES, the Net Promoter Score is more of an indicator of a customer’s long-term relationship with you versus a point-in-time experience following a support request. In this way, NPS helps you get a broader viewpoint on your customer experience. But it’s a double-edged sword: because it asks customers sum up their general feelings, it can be less specific and actionable.
Despite this drawback, NPS helps round out the picture of your customer experience by soliciting broad feedback about your product and service, whereas CSAT and CES are limited to just one interaction. While these are important, it’s the sum of a customer’s experiences that informs their overall perception of your product and service.
Tracking your support metrics
Starting to measure CSAT, CES or NPS is as simple as asking your customer what they think. But, there are several ways to make this an automated process.
Most help desks—products to help manage incoming customer support requests—will be able to send a simple satisfaction survey. Turn it on, and the software will email customers after each interaction to see what they think.
Quality is arguably the most important factor in support.
If you want to measure CES or NPS, there are other useful tools available that will automatically send a follow up survey. These can either standalone, or plug into software you already use. For example, Customer Guru integrates with your Shopify store to follow up after each order with an NPS survey.
Here are some other great tools to check out that offer customer satisfaction, customer effort, and NPS surveys:
If all of this seems a little overwhelming, start small by embedding a simple satisfaction survey into the bottom of your emails. Customers can tell you what they think with one click. Even a little bit of feedback will help you understand what you can improve
The need for speed
According to a study by Arise that surveyed 1,500 U.S. consumers, 80% of customers now expect a response within 24 hours and 37% expect a response within an hour. There’s no doubt that speed is important when it comes to great support.
There are many ways to measure speed, but one of the most common is average time to first response. Time to first response is essentially the length of time the customer has to wait from the time they submit their inquiry to the time you send your first response.
Every help desk tool will measure the average time to first response by default. Start by tracking this average. Later, you can track nuances in the data that may be hidden by averages. If a six hour response time is your goal, for example, then what percentage of your volume is answered within six hours? What’s the longest time a customer has to wait for a reply?
Customers want to hear back from you fast and know you’re on the case, so tracking first response time is important. But, so is fixing the problem. Another metric, average time to full resolution, can help round out your view on speed by telling you how long a customer has to wait until their problem is fully resolved. By looking at both first response time and time to full resolution, you’ll ensure you’re both replying and resolving quickly.
Incoming support volume
How often do customers need to contact you for help? A strong indicator of the state of your customer experience is the ratio between the number of orders (or customers) and the resulting support volume. Presumably, the less often customers have to contact you, the easier and better a time they’ve having doing business with you. This ratio is called the Customer Contact Index.
Calculate either the percentage of orders that result in a support request, or what percentage of customers ask for help after a purchase. Then divide the number of support requests by the number of orders (or customers) in any given time-frame. A month is usually a good standard to follow. Over time, try to drive this ratio down by using the feedback you get to remove confusion and reduce the number of problems customers run into.
Speed is important, but so is solving the customer's problem.
When combined with tracking your daily inbound volume, this ratio can help you plan your hiring and staffing to meet demand. If you find customers are contacting you so often that the speed and quality of your replies are suffering, it’s time to hire an extra set of hands; even part-time help can make a big difference.
Bringing it all together
In reality, all of the metrics we’ve discussed are interconnected. Focusing on speed will impact quality because customers will naturally be happier when they receive a faster reply. Focusing on quality will impact volume, since you’ll likely see fewer customers who need to follow up in order to get all the answers to their questions.
That’s why it’s okay if you’re not measuring every little detail of your customer service. It’s far more important to begin tracking a few core metrics that will act as guideposts to providing great support.
As you track the metrics you’ve chosen, be vigilant about the connections between them. For example, you may notice that as time to first response goes down, then CSAT goes up, but only to a certain point—perhaps there is a threshold where speed begins to hurt the quality of your responses. Or, maybe your CSAT plummeted after you changed your return policy. In both instances, the declining scores are indicative of a larger problem that has simply surfaced in your support inbox.
Measuring customer happiness doesn’t have to be rocket science. Using a small but balanced set of support measurements will help you stay informed. That way, you can gauge how well you’re taking care of customers and spot opportunities to make their shopping experience even better—inspiring loyalty, encouraging future purchases, and, ultimately, helping your business grow.