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Multichannel customer service: Choose the most effective metrics to measure

What metrics should you use to measure the quality of multichannel customer service? This tip by Denis Pombriant explores multichannel CRM metrics.

In the good old days, a call center manager's greatest concern was getting his agents to take as many calls as...

possible. People called, they waited in the queue and eventually got answers to their questions. Then, customers got tired of long hold times.

Social media has been a mixed blessing for customer service. It gives customers new ways to communicate with one another and to contact businesses. The good news is that some of these conversations give customers the information they need faster than they can get it via a contact center. The bad news is that customers have less need to contact businesses, which reduces companies' opportunities to cross-sell or upsell.

Automation provides answers to the easy questions and can reduce the number of incoming calls by as much as 25% in many contact centers. The calls that make it to the contact center often need human interaction or expert help. Ironically, for them the average call handle time has crept back up.

Today, customers can access the businesses they patronize across numerous channels. In addition to the phone, which Pew Research finds more than two-thirds of us still use as a default, channels include email, ever multiplying social channels like Twitter and Facebook and communities -- all of which can be reached via mobile devices. We are living in a world of true multichannel customer service.

A business needn't have all these bases covered, but there is an increasing expectation that it meet the customer using his preferred channel. But how do you know if you are being effective in the channels you choose to use?

Cracking the customer's code

Start with the idea that everything you do should improve your Net Promoter Score (NPS). Professionals can disagree about the value of NPS, but it's now a standard metric and a good first step.

Next, ask the basic question: Which channels do our customers use? If they aren't members of Twitter Nation, don't spend a lot of effort there. I know that sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people ignore this simple detail. If they like email or Facebook, reach them there. The channel you use will shape your metrics. These days, metrics have to match the medium -- and your customers choose the medium.

For more on multichannel customer service

Why security matters in a multichannel environment

Multichannel CRM: Ready or not, it's coming

Use metrics to create context to judge the true quality of customer service. The downside is that constructing your multichannel metrics can be tricky.

In some cases, digitally analyzing customer activity in a channel will be enough; in other cases, you'll need to use more invasive techniques, such as a survey or polling a community.

If you're going to use a survey, don't just stick to the basic aspects of products or services. If you run a pizza shop, it's not enough to ask if the pie was hot. How did it taste? How long did you wait? Would you recommend the parlor to your friends? By doing so, you can tailor metrics to the criteria your customers say are important, which can improve products you offer in the future.

The only thing worse than too much traffic is not enough; it could be an early signal that your customers just aren't that into you. So track traffic volume to get an indication of audience attrition. This means understanding seasonal variations and establishing tolerable highs and lows.

Tailoring metrics to your program

Email and chat

If you are providing customer care through email, did your interaction result in a solution and a happy customer? Did the issue escalate? How? Did it take multiple email messages to resolve the issue? Some of these metrics also bleed over into chat as a channel. With chat, you'll also want to understand resource use -- agent involvement time, research time, number of issues dealt with and the number that were escalated. Also, tracking drop-offs can indicate whether you have too few agents assigned to too many chat sessions.

Social media platforms

Many of the approaches for email and chat can be applied to social media, especially by tallying up resources used. But with social, you can also branch out to customer attitudes and sentiment. In some ways sentiment maybe a stand-in for NPS, but there's nothing like asking the NPS question. After the interaction, did the customer share the experience in social media and give you kudos? What's the customer's propensity to make a purchase? All this data is traceable and easily converted into metrics.

Also, how many segments should you separate the social stream into? You should have categories for praise, complaints, business issues that don't involve a technical resource, how-to technical issues, product enhancement requests and even nefarious activities. You should also filter by product names and brands for cross-tabulating.

Keep in mind that while social channel membership size is important, as is participation, happy customers rarely participate unless they're ecstatic about their experience. More often, they'll just stand by passively or volunteer help if an issue matches their experience. So don't get discouraged by what the metrics reveal. You will soon discover that a combination of metrics is the best to give a true picture of a business and its customers.

POTS (aka plain old telephone service)

Early metrics focused on the rudiments of utilization and customer satisfaction. But there's an extra dimension of customer delight that goes beyond providing the right answer the first time, and quickly. Customers increasingly purchase goods online without human contact, so today many vendors look to enhance understanding of the experience. Post-engagement surveys can help you understand a customer's attitude toward a business. It's necessary to sort the results by agent as well as by factors such as brand. You may be able to track post-engagement sentiment through social channels as well.

Today the customer is in control, and it is incumbent on a vendor to adjust business practices to suit the customer. You can't manage what you don't measure, but you've got to measure the right things. It's surprising how often customers are happy to provide guidance -- you just have to ask.

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