How do you know your customers are satisfied if you don’t track the right service desk metrics? The truth: you don’t. You’re left guessing.
Service desk metrics let you assess your teams’ service quality and efficiency so you can make improvements to deliver better service and keep customers happy. E.g., by tracking ticket volumes around a specific topic like your product, you may discover that volumes are excessively high. This may suggest there’s a product issue that needs fixing.
Deciding what metrics to track, though, can be hard. To help, here’s a list of the 13 top service desk metrics, plus a few tips for improving them.
Top service desk metrics to track
Average resolution time
Average resolution time, average reply time, or time to resolve—whatever you choose to call it, this metric is the average time it takes a rep to resolve a customer complaint from when a ticket is opened.
Your time to resolve will be affected by factors like whether you have enough agents to handle the issue, how effective your support software is, and the complexity of the problem.
For instance, more complex problems typically require more input and questions, which leads to longer resolution times. Longer resolution times generally contribute to unhappy customers.
It’s therefore essential to track this metric and identify areas you can optimize to reduce resolution time. For instance, you could make a simple tweak within your support software, like tagging messages with specific keywords, so they get delivered to the right people.
Average first reply time
Also known as average first response time, first reply time measures how fast a rep responds to a support ticket from when the customer logs an issue. Autoresponders are typically excluded.
But what is a suitable reply time?
Faster response times are generally always preferred as long as it’s not at the expense of response quality. Avoid generic, cookie-cutter responses and instead include some personality and personalization.
Take note: The first reply time varies depending on the support channel. For email, respond within 24 hours. For social media support, aim for 2 hours or less.
The resolution rate measures the percentage of tickets resolved versus those assigned to an agent or support team. It’s a good measure of how effective a team or agent is at resolving issues, and you can use it to determine if you’re meeting your SLAs.
You can calculate the resolution rate with this formula:
Solved Tickets / Received Tickets x 100
For example, if Sue resolved 40 tickets during the month and was assigned 100, her resolution rate is 40%.
Note: On its own resolution rate doesn’t tell you the entire story. For instance, someone with a high resolution rate could later reopen many of those closed tickets. So, reopened tickets should also be considered.
First contact resolution rate
First contact resolution rate measures the percentage of support tickets resolved during the first interaction with a customer, whether over email, social media, or phone. Solving more tickets during the first contact is a good measure of your agents’ overall competency. It also frees up time for agents to focus on other more complex requests.
Calculate the first contact resolution rate with this formula:
Number of Tickets Resolved on First Contact / Total Tickets x 100
Don’t confuse reaction and response time.
Sometimes agents need to do a little digging before responding to a customer. Reaction time accounts for this, measuring the time it takes a rep to take any action on a message, whether tagging, reassigning, or escalating it.
The reaction time varies depending on several factors, including
How many tickets an agent is handling. An agent may become overwhelmed when handling too many tickets, and reaction time can suffer.
The software you’re using to manage customer requests. The better the system for handling and routing support requests, the faster your reaction time will be. Look for a system that lets you prioritize, group, and assign emails based on certain keywords, e.g., tagging emails with words like “high priority” to convey a sense of urgency.
Agent skills. Agents who are well trained on how to use your systems and communicate with customers will normally react faster.
Ticket volume, total tickets, or total conversations is the total tickets received in your support inbox for a specific period. Use it to pinpoint current demand placed on your team, trends, and other issues.
For instance, if there’s a general upward trend in the number of tickets over several months, it may be time to hire more agents. Similarly, high ticket volumes around a certain keyword like a product may indicate a product glitch that needs fixing.
Finally, fluctuating ticket volumes by time, day, and specific times of the year can help you pinpoint peak and slower periods so you can adjust your teams’ work schedules accordingly.
Escalation rate measures the percentage of support tickets escalated to someone (or a team) higher up like a senior manager or new support tier. It’s a good measure of the number of tickets that couldn’t be resolved by the first support tier. You ideally want to aim for an escalation rate of 0.
You can calculate the escalation rate with this formula:
Tickets Escalated from the First support Tier / Total Tickets
Conversations handled by an agent
Conversations handled by an agent are the number of interactions a rep handles within a particular time. Tracking this metric helps determine the workload of your agents so you can reassign support tickets as needed. For instance, you can reassign tickets from those who are overwhelmed to those who have more capacity.
Average replies to resolve
Replies to resolve measures the average amount of replies it takes your team to resolve and close a ticket. The lower the number, the more efficient your team is at resolving customer complaints. More complex customer problems will take longer to resolve with more questions, input, and back-and-forth emails required.
You can calculate replies to resolve using this formula:
Total Replies on Resolved Tickets / Total Resolved Tickets
Total breaches is a service desk metric that tells you how many support tickets didn’t meet SLAs. For example, if it’s company policy to reply to all tickets within 24 hours, but you only do this for 55 complaints out of 100, then you’re not meeting your SLAs 45% of the time.
Your backlog is simply the number of tickets in the support queue that haven’t been resolved. The backlog gets larger as more tickets are received than your team can process.
This can happen for various reasons, including:
Not having enough agents available
Not having suitable systems to support your agents. One solution is to automate workflows to move support tickets through the queue faster (discussed next)
Experiencing a major issue with your product that causes a sudden influx of support tickets
Customer satisfaction (CSAT)
CSAT is a measure of customer satisfaction with your products. Most organizations will send surveys after a customer interaction to determine the CSAT score. These surveys typically include several questions asking customers to rate their experience, usually via a Likert scale.
For instance, you can use a five-point scale to get customers to rate how efficient a rep was at solving their issue (1 = very poor, 2 = poor, 3 = neutral, 4 = good, and 5 = very good).
Keep tabs on low scores, especially if it’s a recurring theme, and follow up to see why customers are unhappy.
Customer effort score (CES)
Your CES score tells you how much effort a customer puts into getting their issue resolved.
This score is influenced by numerous factors, including:
The time a customer spent trying to resolve their problem. Was the customer transferred between departments? Did they have to repeatedly explain their problem?
The ease at which the customer could find any information and answers. Did the customer struggle to find answers on FAQ pages? Were your support numbers available online?
The number of emails and interactions required to resolve the issue.
Determine your CES score by sending a survey to customers asking them to rate how easy your organization made it to resolve their problem. For instance, ask customers whether they agree or disagree with this statement on a five-point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4=agree, and 5 = strongly agree):
[Your organization name] made it easy to fix my issue
Tips for improving service desk metrics
With an understanding of some of the top service desk metrics, let’s look at four tips to improve them:
Train your support agents
Reps need to be trained to communicate professionally and use your customer support software. For example, they should know how to use the software to escalate complex requests they cannot resolve and route messages to the right people.
Related reading: The 4 most important elements of excellent customer service.
Use reports to track service desk metrics
Reports allow you to view your important service desk data at a glance so you can make better and faster decisions that will improve your help desk metrics.
For instance, a tool like Front lets you easily track metrics like resolution time, email volume, CSAT, response time, and other trends and provides this data in analytics reports.
Use this information to make decisions that will improve your metrics: whether or not to hire more agents, invest in more training, adjust support shifts, and so on.
Automation removes manual work and improves efficiency. A few automated support workflows you can implement include:
Routing emails to the right people and departments for better and faster responses. For instance, you can set up rules that ensure emails tagged with a particular keyword get sent to a team member who can best handle the request.
Creating SLAs to limit breaches. For example, you can apply a suitable tag like “SLA breach” to emails approaching breach to let teammates know they must prioritize them.
Implement a shared inbox
A shared inbox is an inbox that provides a shared view of emails among teammates. This means that multiple agents can access the inbox simultaneously to read, send and collaborate on emails. The crucial traits or benefits of a shared inbox are:
Visibility: Everyone in your team can access the same inbox and a complete history of client information. Agents can keep tabs on the support queue and jump in when needed. Each agent also has the context to handle support requests without searching for information or contacting another agent who may have initially handled the request.
Accountability: You can assign an owner to every email, so there’s no confusion about who’s responsible for handling a ticket. Clear ownership prevents:
Multiple replies—happens when people assume no one has responded
No replies—occurs when people think someone else has responded
Collaboration: Agents can work together on a support ticket to close it faster. For instance, Front lets teams comment on messages, @mention agents to keep everyone informed and collaborate on messages for better customer replies.
Related reading: The collaborative customer support model vs. tiered: why not both?
Use service desk metrics to deliver quality service today
Service desk metrics are crucial for assessing the efficiency and quality of your service so you can make adjustments that will keep your customers happy.
Just make sure you’re choosing the right metrics from the start and actively taking steps to improve them—from training support agents and using reports to automating workflows and implementing a shared inbox.
Do that, and you’ll be able to take advantage of service desk metrics to deliver customer service that truly “wows” customers.
Written by Nick Darlington