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Customer Retention Field Guide: 18 Tactics That Keep Customers & Keep Them Happy

Maggie Lin on 14 February, 2018

Knowing that in every industry the best firms have upwards of a 93% customer retention rate annually, you know that you need to revamp your customer retention strategy--stat.

Bad news: you’ve just finished crunching the numbers for the month and–to your horror–you’ve determined that your customer churn rate is a staggering 3% monthly.

If you don’t reverse the tide of losing customers, your customer retention rate will be 64% annually. This is not good. Nearly 40% of your customers will leave over the course of the year.

Knowing that in every industry the best firms have upwards of a 93% customer retention rate annually, you know that you need to revamp your customer retention strategy–stat.

Why Does Customer Retention Matter?

Simply put, customer retention is a company’s biggest source of profit.

 

According to one estimate, improving your customer retention rate by 5% increases revenues by at least 25% and may increase them by as much as 95%. Other estimates are similarly confident, suggesting that for every 1% of customers who purchase your product more than once, your revenues will increase by 10%.

The exact percentage of revenue increase per retained customer depends on the segment of customers that you’re the best at retaining. If you can improve the retention rate for the 20% of your customer base which produces 80% of your revenue, you’ll be golden.

But how can you change your customer retention rate without making major changes to your product and suffering through further customer attrition in the meantime?

Try out the tactics in this field guide to customer retention and you’ll be on your way to a lower churn rate and higher revenues by hanging onto more of your best customers.

Customer Retention Tactics

1. Survey Everyone

Before you can start retaining customers, you need information.

To gather information, you need to start surveying all of your customers as frequently as possible. This means that you need to incorporate these surveys into your website and your customer service infrastructure.

But which surveys are the right ones?

The Bain & Company favorite for customer surveys is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS asks how likely your customers are to recommend your company or product to someone else.

Unsurprisingly, customers who are very likely to refer someone else buy 25% more products.

There are other surveys which you can implement, but frequently surveying your customers’ likelihood to refer means that your customer retention efforts will be off to a running start.

2. Track Everything

If you aren’t already tracking information on critical business metrics, now is the time to start.

These metrics include basic metrics like customer satisfaction but also include derived metrics like:

  • Customer churn rate
  • Customer acquisition rate
  • Average customer lifetime value
  • Average customer relationship duration
  • Average number of customer interactions with the company
  • Average number of customer interactions with support

 

Your company probably has this data, so crunch the numbers and gain valuable insights into your customer base.

Tracking everything also includes tracking where customers are clicking on your website as well as where they’re lingering after clicking. All customer interactions with your website should be recorded so that you can easily tell which areas are drawing the most attention.

3. Automate Everything

Automating your customers’ interactions with your company will lead to an improvedexperience, which will lead to them being more satisfied–and thus more likely to buy from your company in the future.

A 2015 study found that automated customer service was 60% correlated with customer perceptions of convenience, which was highly correlated with their satisfaction.

The study also states that automated customer service systems increased customer retention.Customer perceptions about customizability were greater with automated systems.

In a different case study discussing Solvvy’s partnership with TaskRabbit, AI-based customer service allowed for faster issue resolution, a 28% self-service resolution rate, and resulted in 8% higher customer satisfaction.

Retaining customers via automation gives your customers the power to resolve their issues without the additional friction and time commitment of speaking with a customer support representative.

4. Segment Your Customers

Segmenting your customers will help to determine which customers are the most likely to leave, and which customers are the most likely to stay. Like customer service, you can automate market segmentation.

When looking at segments of your customers, the aim is to find which features of your product are the most important to the segments that buy from you most frequently. Then, you can adjust your customer retention strategy for that segment.

5. Show You’re A Credible Source

Your customers aren’t going to give your product a chance if they don’t feel like you understand their needs. Likewise, your company needs to display your understanding of your product and its issues.

To be a credible and trustworthy source, you need to show your customers that you are an expert when it comes to the problems that they’re trying to solve by buying from you.

The first step to displaying your expertise is to populate your website with a knowledge base and blog regarding your company and your product.

Having a reputation for credibility by giving your customers access to a strong knowledge base empowers your customers. A study by Loudhouse shows that 53% of customers would rather resolve their own issues, and 27% of customers turn toward self-help portals on company websites in an attempt to do so.

Showing off a strong knowledge base means that customers can trust you to help them help themselves when they have an issue. The self-help portal on your website needs to be organized so that the most common issues have their solutions at the forefront.

When customers believe you are an expert when it comes to your product and also an expert in the way your product gets used, they’re more likely to be loyal.

6. Use Social Proofs And Signals

The bandwagon effect is real, and it can help you retain customers if you utilize it correctly.

People like to buy things that their friends buy, and they trust the brands that their friends trust.

To better retain customers, you need to show off the good relationship that you have with other current customers.

Featuring testimonials from current customers on your website and offering other examples of satisfied customers who have used your product is easy to implement and effective at creating social proof.

If you have been neglecting your social media channels, it’s time to fire them up again. Social media channels are a great way to deliver the social signal of reciprocity. When one of your customers follows you or likes one of your posts, do the same for them and leave a comment.

Respectful exchanges show that you’re paying attention to the customer, and their contacts on social media will see that, too. Customers are more satisfied when they get more attention.

7. Calibrate Customer Expectations

If your customer’s expectations are a mismatch for your actual product, your customer retention rate will suffer.

As a result, you need to get ahead of your customer’s expectations and make sure that they are formed correctly. In practice, this means:

  • Producing accurate marketing material that accurately conveys your product’s effectiveness
  • Discussing expectations explicitly with customers before making a sale
  • Checking in with customers to make sure that they’re getting what they expected

When you set the bar for what to expect, your customers will be pleased when you exceed the standard, which leads to more satisfaction and customer retention.

8. Build Strong Relationships

Strong relationships are critical to customer retention, and the strongest customer relationships are forged by positive interactions during sales and service.

According to a study published by Columbia University, 91% of customers of Toyota who had both a positive sales experience and a positive service experience intended to buy from Toyota again. But the customer retention value of sales interactions is not equal to the customer retention value of service interactions.

 

The study found that positive service experiences were more valuable to customer intent to buy again than positive sales experiences. Positive sales experiences only increased their intent to buy by 8%, whereas positive service experiences increased their intent to buy by 42%.

Focus your efforts on building strong relationships with your customers by improving your customer service. With effective customer service, your customers will be satisfied and feel a stronger connection to your company.

Start reaching out to customers after a sale or after a service call to see how they are doing and if they are enjoying their experience.

9. Personalize Your Customer Service

Strong customer relationships are personalized customer relationships, and the only way to personalize customer relationships is to know your customers as individuals.

In a Teradata case study, 47% of marketers agreed that personalization improved customer experiences and customer satisfaction. The study also found that 51% of companies are focused on personalizing the customer lifecycle. Companies are incorporating personalization as a way to retain their customers.

Sending out emails to customers with details specific to their recent customer service interaction is one common tactic to increase personalization you can implement immediately.

Aside from tailoring your emails to your customers, suggesting product features to your customer that they may find helpful is another way to personalize service.

10. Listen To Your Customers

Listening to your customers means giving your customers a sounding platform where they can complain to you or compliment you.

Your website should have a place where customers can send suggestions, and your customer service system should survey customers to see what they think.

It’s not enough to just wait around for your customers to talk to you before you start listening to them, however. You need to proactively solicit your customers for their thoughts.

Reach out to customers and ask them about their customer experience so far.

Start the dialogue by focusing the conversation on a recent interaction that the customer had with your company, then let the customer do the talking.

But remember: Listening is more than a data-gathering activity. It’s a way of building a stronger relationship by building an emotional connection between the customer and your company.

Customers enjoy the feeling of being listened to.

11. Respond To Your Customers Quickly– But Not Too Quickly

Customers are more satisfied when they get a fast response from your customer service. But if your customer service is rushed and seems disorganized, the customer will pick up on it and be dissatisfied.

The above is doubly true when the customer is using a service channel that is typically slower than others, like email. This is where automation is your friend.

When your customer reaches out to you with an issue via email, implement an automated response that confirms their message was received and that your customer service team will get back in touch with them as soon as possible.

12. Rectify Your Mistakes

What if your customer service or your product doesn’t meet a customer’s expectations? You need to make things right with the customer immediately if you want to retain them.

According to a study of customer responses to service failures, rectifying your mistakes in a way that negates dissatisfaction and leads to customer retention requires more than a courteous “we’re sorry.”

Politeness only improved the emotional state of dissatisfied customers by 4.8%.

In instances where customer service made a mistake, customers wanted distributive justice– discounts, perks, or other freebies–which improved their emotional state by as much as 75.6%.

The takeaway is very clear. When you make a mistake, the customer needs to have their issue fixed and then some.

Apologizing and being polite to your customer after making a mistake is still essential. But, if your customer service has data on historical mistakes with customers, reaching out to them with a gift in hand is a good way to restore their trust–especially if it’s unexpected.

13. Communicate With Customers Carefully

Communicating with customers on any occasion is an opportunity to improve customersatisfaction. But there is always a risk of the opposite.

This means that if your company has not yet implemented policies restricting who is allowed to talk to customers, it may be time to do so. While your employees may have good intentions, communications with customers need to be controlled.

Aside from making sure that only a few people in your company can communicate with customers, be sensitive to your customers and choose your words carefully. Use positive communication tactics when talking with customers and you’ll have customers that are more satisfied and will want to maintain their relationships with your company longer.

Ensure that everyone the customer interacts with is on the same page regarding wording and positive communication practices. Make a cheat-sheet for employees to use when talking to customers.

14. Adopt Your Customers’ Values As Your Own

Customers prefer to buy from companies that share their values.

According to a ConeComm global study of customers’ opinions about companies and their customer service, 91% of consumers expect companies to address social and environmental issues which they value. 84% of consumers seek companies who share their values when buying a product.

As an example, if your customers highly value protecting the environment, your company should strive to be environmentally friendly and notify your customers of internal changes that you are making to achieve that goal.

Remember, your customers won’t know about your efforts unless you tell them. Make a section on your website which explains your values and periodically update it as you make progress.

15. Address Issues Before They Hit The Customer

If you know that there is going to be an issue that your customers will face, get in front of it rather than letting your customers stumble over it and come to you for support.

In practical terms, this means tracking the most common issues that your customer service deals with and addressing those issues by changing your product, your website’s knowledge base, or your marketing materials.

If things are going wrong for a large portion of your customer base, you should reach out to the unaffected customers and explain to them that other customers are encountering issues that you’re working hard to fix, and that they should feel free to use your customer service if they encounter the issue.

16. Go Out Of Your Way To Satisfy Customers

Customers will be particularly impressed when your company appears to be exerting a lot of effort on their behalf.

Your customer service needs to be flexible enough to look up answers to customer questions that they don’t know, and figure out solutions for customers with unique issues.

Going out of your way to satisfy customers may be expensive upfront, but it pays off with higher retention.

This also means that when your customers have an issue and reach out for support, you may want to throw them a freebie for their troubles. You should also be consistent about following up with your customers to see if there’s anything else you can help them with.

17. Make Your Customers’ Experience Easier

Your goal should be to make your customer experience as frictionless as possible.

A good way to measure friction is to implement Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys on your website and in your customer service funnel. CES scores help you identify areas in your service or in the use of your product that take a lot of effort for your customers.

You want your customer experience to be effortless, so when you have identified an aspect of your company that customers think requires a lot of effort, consider making it more streamlined.

Customers who have easy experiences are more likely to be satisfied and keep buying from your company.

18. Reward Your Loyal Customers

The capstone in your customer retention strategy should be rewarding your most loyal customers.

When you reward your customers, they get a nice reminder that you value them.

Here are a few ideas for customer rewards:

  • Discounts
  • Thank you notes
  • Small gifts through snail mail
  • Access to exclusive features
  • A positive mention on your website and social media channels

Take Action To Retain Your Customers

With this guide’s knowledge in hand, you can start implementing your new customer retention strategy with confidence.

Remember to gather as much data as you can. Use that data to find out what your customers care about, and prioritize your most valuable and most loyal customers by building strong relationships.

You can’t do everything at once, but you can take steps to improve customer retention and loyalty. Identify the most import opportunities and execute.

The most important part of customer retention is continuous improvement and with this guide in hand, you’re off to a great start.

 

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The Customer Experience Maturity Model : How to Assess and Prioritize CX Progress

Kaan Ersun on 13 February, 2018

We live in the Age of The Customer—an era where customer’s voices, opinions and desires matter more than ever. So what do customers want? Depending on your industry, that will always differ. But one desire is universal: customers want great experiences.

We live in the Age of The Customer—an era where customer’s voices, opinions and desires matter more than ever.

So what do customers want?

Depending on your industry, that will always differ. But one desire is universal: customers want great experiences.

We can see that from studies showing the connection between companies who excel in giving exceptional customer experiences and the level of loyalty from their customers.

Giving your customers the best experience in your industry means gaining the upper hand and having repeat, happy customers. But even if the desire to craft a better customer experience is there, the question of how to do it often remains.

In times past, many followed a Customer Experience Management (CXM) approach, but in this fast-paced, technology-centric world, this type of reactive approach to customer experience may not provide the experience you’re hoping to achieve.

Instead, a proactive approach would be to use a Customer Experience Maturity Model (CXMM) as a framework for understanding the current state of your customer experience and setting goals for how to improve.

Why The Customer Experience Maturity Model?

When it comes to customer experience (CX), what are your firm’s strengths and weaknesses?

More importantly, what does this mean in the larger context?

This is where CXMM comes into play.

The Customer Experience Maturity Model eliminates the guesswork and gives companies a clear view of where they excel and areas where they need improvement. It works by breaking down the customer experience into 5 practices every company should master.

It’s a system–a framework you can use to gain into the broader aspects of what impacts a customer’s experience.

Understanding The Areas Within The Customer Experience Maturity Model

As mentioned above, the CXMM framework is broken down into 5 distinct aspects:

1. Data

2. Design

3. Delivery

4. Measurement

5. Culture

Each of these areas of practice is broken down even further into statements and scores that help contextualize and score your overall customer experience maturity.

To understand how well you’re doing in customer experience, you will need to look into each practice area in the CXMM, the criteria, and then score your own efforts to manage the customer experience.

Each of these areas of practice is broken down even further into statements and scores that help contextualize and score your overall customer experience maturity.

To understand how well you’re doing in customer experience, you will need to look into each practice area in the CXMM, the criteria, and then score your own efforts to manage the customer experience.

 

Download the CXMM framework >>

These 5 areas of action are cyclical, meaning that a “set it and forget it” attitude doesn’t work. Customers change, businesses need to pivot, and industries shift. With that being the case, there is always a need to look at things more than once to make sure the experience is consistently being evaluated and improved.

The CXMM is meant as an actionable framework that gives you direction on how to both measure and evolve your customer experience programs.

Let’s dig into each of the sections.

Practice Area #1: Data (Customer Understanding)

To design a better customer experience, you must first thoroughly understand your customers. Their wants, needs, desires–what’s most important to them.

That’s not always easy, and even though companies often feel they know their customers well, most just have a surface understanding of what makes them tick.

To understand your customer, you need data. And the level of customer data that you have will set the stage for the maturity of your customer experience management.

There are many ways to gather customer data and make it useful and insightful.

Get feedback from your customers about their interactions with your company. Their feedback is vital and could be collected in a few methods like an email or phone survey or even through direct mail.

Depending on your industry what that looks like will vary, but here are some suggestions of what to ask:

  • How would they rate their experience? The service?
  • How old are they? Vocation? Annual income?
  • Have they ever had a bad experience with your company? If yes, please let us know. Was that issue resolved to your liking?
  • Why did they choose your company?

Look for more data outside of the “normal” places. Customer service and marketing teams often have a lot of data that’s just floating around but not being used in any meaningful way. With the the right approach, you can collect this data and put it to good use.

Things like support tickets, emails, engagement with social media posts, and transcripts are often filled with feedback, customer requests, and data.

Gathering this information is not always easy, but there are tools which help you gather data.

Make sure you have customer personas in reach for everyone in the company to understand. How can employees be a part of designing a better experience if they don’t know who they’re helping? Spending time to build customer personas based on the data and insights you’re collecting and then having them on hand for your team members will go a long way in building the experience your customers genuinely desire.

Use analytics to monitor behavior. As you’ve probably encountered, most people don’t have a full grasp on why they do things or why they want things, so it’s frivolous to ask them to fully explain their behavior. Instead, you should set up analytics or use the analytics available to you in every place a customer may have an interaction with your company such as:

  • Websites
  • Landing pages
  • Emails
  • Advertisements
  • Social media

Track the data and A/B test where you’re able to. This data can help you understand how your customers interact and what seems to trigger various actions.

Practice Area #2: Design

The first step towards implementing improvements to your customer experience is design. You need to have the capacity and ability to develop a clear vision for what your customer experience should look like in order to implement it successfully.

Design your customer experience vision. How you envision the experience versus how others in the company might see it can be miles apart. Instead of letting this be something that is up to interpretation, take the time to document and design the customer experience vision.

A great example of those who know how to visualize and execute on the experience they have envisioned is Disney. The Disney Institute site is full of industry-leading content regarding customer experience.

Get key teammates involved in the designing of your CX vision. You can’t design this vision alone, nor should you. Since you are going to need help from executives in your company to execute on this, you should also pull them into the design process.

Product managers, sales leads, customer service managers, dev team leaders, business advisors–all of them have key insights to customers, the business goals, and company brand.

Their help will be invaluable so be sure to incorporate them and their ideas.

Make sure your customer experience vision is clear and available to everyone in your company. While team leads and executives are sure to help in executing a better experience, the vision you’ve all worked hard to design shouldn’t be kept to a select few. Instead, the entire company should see and understand the vision so that you’re all on the same page with a universal focus.

Does your vision and experience stick true to your brand? When trying to give your customers what they want in terms of CX, a common danger is implementing customer feedback without considering its bigger impact on the brand or overall experience.

If you try to give customers everything they say they want, you can go off-brand and move away from your core vision as a business. This is obviously not ideal and can actually damage the customer experience in the long run.

The art of designing a customer experience shouldn’t just be a laundry list items. It should be viewed holistically and carefully evaluated from multiple viewpoints.

Practice Area #3: Delivery

At this point, the following sentences should be true:

You know your customers and the experience they want. You know which levels of the experience are more important and your entire company now understands the customer experience vision.

If you can confidently say this is the case, then now is the time for implementation and delivery.

Define the activities for each employee. Saying and doing are very different things and that’s true in this case too. Each person in your company plays some role in shaping the overall customer experience. If they are to improve that experience, they need clear direction on how to deliver.

Use tools where needed. Tools can make everyone’s job easier. If you notice that people within the company are struggling to do their part or adhere to the vision for your brand’s customer experience, consider asking if there are tools available that can help.

Figure out if training is needed, then give it to those who need it most. You’re embarking on possibly an entire shift in your company culture and processes. That can mean a lot of changes and cultivating new habits into an established work routine.

Instead of giving them a thumbs up and sending employees into this new world unprepared, take time to gather feedback from those in your company to see how they feel about their role in delivering a great customer experience and if they would benefit from training.

If there is a consensus to the latter, pull in team leaders and put together a training day or sessions with feedback loops to help your employees feel prepared.

Measure your customer feedback for flaws in the system; create a feedback loop. Once your organization has started to deliver on its vision, it’s time to see what your customers think.

Use a survey and listen to those other data sources outlined in the first practice area. What do your customers think about your change to the experience? Are there more complaints? Are certain team members struggling with executing their part?

Get feedback from your customers and take a closer look at that data. If the problem lies in the vision design or the follow through, consider changing or tweaking as needed.

Practice Area #4: Measurement

Measure how the various interactions your customers have with the company impact their perception of you. In the digital age, there are multiple channels for reaching customers and all of these touchpoints affect the view your customers take of your company. You can try to assess these touchpoints through short surveys.

Use a chat system or email for customer support? Have the option to rate their experience afterwards.

Use emails for cold email sales? Let them give feedback at the end of the email sequence or after they purchase.

Those are just a couple examples. The point here is that you should be constantly measuring and assessing each touchpoint and using that data to drive your overall customer experience efforts.

Make the data meaningful. You can show your numbers and pie charts from dawn ‘til dusk, but what do they mean? How does that data translate into action on the part of team members?

Once you’ve collected data and measured it, you need to make sure everyone understands what that means, where they are doing well, and where more work is needed.

Measure how the various interactions your customers have with the company impact their perception of you. In the digital age, there are multiple channels for reaching customers and all of these touchpoints affect the view your customers take of your company. You can try to assess these touchpoints through short surveys.

Use a chat system or email for customer support? Have the option to rate their experience afterwards.

Use emails for cold email sales? Let them give feedback at the end of the email sequence or after they purchase.

Those are just a couple examples. The point here is that you should be constantly measuring and assessing each touchpoint and using that data to drive your overall customer experience efforts.

Make the data meaningful. You can show your numbers and pie charts from dawn ‘til dusk, but what do they mean? How does that data translate into action on the part of team members?

Once you’ve collected data and measured it, you need to make sure everyone understands what that means, where they are doing well, and where more work is needed.

Practice Area #5: Culture

Finally, we have to consider company culture. Your team, from the executives on down, will define a company culture–its exuding personality. Company culture comes down to having a set of core values and beliefs and making sure that you stick to them.

But why talk about this?

Because your company culture affects the customer experience. If your culture makes employees unhappy or if your employee personalities don’t fit well into you culture, the customer experience suffers.

Culture matters–and it’s important to measure and understand its impact.

Hire the right people. Empathy is often a key component to customer experience and, in general, it’s something that provides for a positive experience. Having an empathetic culture and hiring people who have this trait can go a long way.

This is something that stems from the hiring process and permeates throughout your entire company culture. During the interview process, it would be good to include scenario questions that ask how an employee would react in the situation. Have them answer more than one of these questions to get a better understanding for their capacity for empathy.

After hiring someone, some companies like Buffer have assigned books as a part of the onboarding process. A frequently recommended book is How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Institute habits that help keep CX and customers at the fore. People are creatures of habit and sometimes those habits get in the way of the customer experience. Have your team leaders–especially those who are responsible for many customer touchpoints–keep an eye on personal habits and those of the ones they oversee.

While habits may not need to change, there could be room for integrating new habits and routines into day-to-day work that can help employees keep customer experience and their impact on it top of mind.

Perhaps it could be as simple as sharing the words from a customer about how thankful, happy, or excited they are with something that happened thanks to the company. Maybe it’s giving employees who don’t work in customer service the chance to answer calls or support emails for an hour a month to see how they can personally touch a customer’s day and see the business from a customer’s perspective.

Don’t be afraid to get creative or to make these habits fun.

Build rewards into your culture and incorporate internal acts of gratitude. When employees go above and beyond what is expected of them to make a customer’s experience great, they should be rewarded.

When team leaders and other employees notice someone going above and beyond, they shouldn’t hold back in giving commendation. More than that, there should be incentives (bonuses, earning more time off, donations made in their name, etc.) that people can work toward.

So How Mature Is Your Company’s Customer Experience?

If you’ve worked all the way through the scoring sections, then you likely have a better view of just where your company stands in the Customer Experience Maturity Model.

In most cases, companies that work through this model often find there are areas that need some development and planning for execution. If that’s the case with your company, take heart knowing that designing a better customer experience is possible.

With the effort and focus of the company in designing your customer experience vision and delivering that vision as a company, moving closer to a better experience and gaining a competitive edge is very possible.

Applying Findings from the CXMM

Understanding the state of your customer experience is only the first step.

The next step is to identify the points of weakness and create a plan for how to improve.

Using the CXMM as a roadmap, you can focus on the areas where your company is currently struggling. Prioritize the most important areas and create a plan for how improve those areas.

Since a customer’s experience is determined by every interaction your company and the individual has with a customer, you need buy-in at every level.

  • Set expectations and accountability. Every employee plays a part in the customer experience, but they need to know how to play their part and what’s expected of them. Make these actions clear. Incorporate a level of accountability..
  • Consistency. Be sure you schedule these practices into your workflows and be consistent with them. (The accountability part of things will help with being consistent.)
  • Balance and coordinate. It’s not enough to have everyone working on the principles they are assigned. There is a need for coordinating these processes so that things flow smoothly across the entire organization.

There’s no quick fix for overhauling your customer experience.

But if you’re able to break it down, understand the areas that are most lacking, and develop a clear plan for improvement, then you can take the steps needed to move forward.

Refer to the CXMM periodically as both a benchmark and a roadmap.

As you evolve your customer experience, your score will improve. And so will the experience your customers receive.

 

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The Top Customer Service Benchmarks Of 2018

Kaan Ersun on 8 February, 2018

Is customer experience a competitive differentiator your business is actively striving for? Is your company’s customer support team doing everything it can to surpass your competition when it comes to creating satisfied customers and a best-in-class customer experience?

Is customer experience a competitive differentiator your business is actively striving for? Is your company’s customer support team doing everything it can to surpass your competition when it comes to creating satisfied customers and a best-in-class customer experience?

If not, what goals should your company set to achieve customer satisfaction consistently? And what’s the most effective way to produce a satisfied group of customers via customer service practices?

To answer these questions, you’ll need to understand the benchmarks of your industry for customer service metrics and explore and define what makes the most sense for your business.Defining your own benchmarks sets your team up for success and is the best indicator of your improvement and consistency rather than spending time comparing yourself against other companies.

Benchmark To Set Your Team Goals, Not To Compare

Industry standards are helpful as a starting point when you’re setting this year’s customer service goals, but continuously comparing your company to industry standards isn’t the most accurate way of determining where you stand.

benchmark graphic

When setting your company benchmarks, remember that these are for your company to use for self-improvement and not for self-criticism.

Your company’s benchmarks are for comparison against itself in the past and chart your strides in creating a great customer support experience A history of benchmarks helps you and your company see where the team has been, where you are today, and where you are trying to get to.

To determine which benchmarks are most relevant to you, always remember to focus on your customers.

Listen to Your Customers First:

There’s no single pathway or benchmark that is the be-all and end-all, but there’s a truism: listening to your customers is essential.

Though it sounds obvious, most companies don’t effectively listen to their customers when it comes to customer service.

A recent study found that 99% of companies don’t follow up with their customers after providing customer service to see whether the customer was satisfied with the experience.

This explains the gap ofwhy 80% of companies believe they’re delivering superior quality customer service, yet only 8% of customers agree.

The same study also found that:

  • 41% of companies don’t answer customer service emails
  • Only 11% of companies are capable of first-reply resolution of customer service issues
  • The average handle time of a customer service request is longer than 15 hours

Unanswered queries, long wait times, and a feeling of being alone are surefire ways to create disengaged and unhappy customers.

Let’s take a look at which benchmarks help paint a better picture of your team’s performance.

Which Benchmarks Are The Most Important?

In one of our previous blog posts, we cover a number of helpful support metrics, but for benchmarking purposes, you will want to keep track of a few core benchmarks that provide a wide-ranging view of your support experience and make it easy to see changes in performance based on your focused interventions.

Customer satisfaction itself is the most important benchmark to stay aware of; each industry tends to have an average level of customer satisfaction, which you can use as the bar for your company to pass.

There’s a ton of different ways to measure customer satisfaction though–how do you pick which is the most relevant to your company’s ability to successfully grow its revenues?

What Benchmarks Should We Aim For To Satisfy Customers In Different Support Channels?

At a minimum, your company should try to meet or beat the following benchmarks when it comes to your email and social media customer support:

  • Acknowledgement rate: 100%
  • Time to first response: 60 minutes
  • Total handle time: 24 hours
  • Number of replies per ticket: less than two
  • Resolution without escalation rate: more than 68.8%
  • Customer satisfaction: 85%

If you’re already meeting these basic benchmarks, you’re outperforming most companies today.

For other traditional customer service channels like the phone, the benchmarks are different.

Metrics And Their Benchmarks For Phone Support

phone support benchmark

Though becoming less popular with younger generations, phone support is still a top customer service channel.

According to Talkdesk’s call center study and a report by the International Finance Corporation, aim to beat these averages with your telephone based support channel:

  • Customer waiting time: 3.4 seconds
  • Call resolution time: 4 minutes
  • First call resolution rate: 75%
  • Customer satisfaction: 90%
  • Call abandonment rate:12%

Similar to phone support, immediacy is key with live chat.

Metrics And Their Benchmarks For Live Chat

While a newcomer, live chat is becoming an increasingly important channel for customer service.

If your company offers live chat support, these are the benchmarks for North American companies that you’ll need to beat:

  • Time until first response: 58 seconds
  • Total handle time: 14 minutes
  • Number of replies: 28
  • Customer satisfaction: 92%
  • Time per response: 3.9 minutes
  • First contact resolution rate: 70.2%
  • Chat abandonment rate: 13.1%

These benchmarks are derived from a data set of 23,000 businesses’ live chat customer service practices, a study by ThinkHDI, and a report by Zendesk.

Keep wait times and handle times low, and remember that customers like to be replied to quickly when receiving live chat support.

Once you’ve mastered these basic benchmarks, try examining more complex metrics like the NPS.

NPS Holds the Key

While its importance varies by industry,  NPS is a great metric to use as a benchmark because of how tightly high NPS scores are linked to customer loyalty and higher revenue.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a metric that’s measured from 0 to 10, and its creators have a suggested list of benchmarks for industry averages which you should look at briefly. Citing a single average NPS isn’t helpful because of how much it varies across industries.

NPS is powerful because it asks whether a customer is likely to recommend your company’s product or service to a friend. By benchmarking your company’s NPS, you can:

  • Identify brand evangelists
  • See which of your products or services are creating more buzz than others
  • See which areas of your customer service operations are delighting customers
  • Preemptively reach out to customers who are actively unwilling to refer your brand to someone else

nps infographic

As mentioned earlier, you may want to peek at the industry average to get an idea whether your company is grossly behind your competitors or whether you’re killing it– but your goal should be to have a higher score than last year and to continue to compare yourself against your historical NPS.

If you’d like to read more on improving NPS, we’ve shared strategies on improving your score here.

Across all customer service benchmarks, it’s important to remember that the purpose of benchmarking is not to simply see where you sit among your competition, but to understand where you are now relative to where you were 6 months, 1 year, or whichever time frame is most relevant and what initiatives you can do to continue to improve your overall customer experience and drive retention and loyalty for your business.

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Detractors vs. Promoters: 5 Strategies to Improve Your Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Kay Lim on 6 February, 2018

Your Net Promoter Score is the customer service metric that predicts your customers’ loyalty and satisfaction by asking them how likely they are to recommend your product or service to a friend or colleague. Because of its power in predicting the customers most likely to refer a business to their friends, many view NPS as the most valuable customer service metric.

Your Net Promoter Score is the customer service metric that predicts your customers’ loyalty and satisfaction by asking them how likely they are to recommend your product or service to a friend or colleague.

Because of its power in predicting the customers most likely to refer a business to their friends, many view NPS as the most valuable customer service metric.

Measured on a scale from 0 to 10 (with 10 being the highest score and indicating that the customer is very likely to refer the business to their friends), NPS surveys can be sent at many touchpoints in your customers’ sales journeys or customer service journeys. 

For customers who report a 9 or 10, your company is all but guaranteed to have a customer evangelist in the wings, boosting revenues. These customers are also called promoters.

Customers who score 7 or 8 are neither promoters nor detractors. They are called passives in NPS terms. 

But for customers who report a 0 to 6, your company almost certainly has a detractor customer running loose and possibly damaging your company’s reputation. Your company needs to address the issues that caused these customers to have a poor experience to raise your NPS and improve your customer experience.

So, what do you do if your NPS is subpar? In this article, we’ll discuss 6 strategies that will help to raise your NPS and generate more revenues as a result of higher customer satisfaction.

What Are The Best Ways To Improve NPS?

1. Measure Consistently and Comprehensively

NPS is easy to measure on your website or via any of your customer service channels, which is why if you are worried that your NPS is low, your first action should be to check for measurement consistency.

Are you:

  • Always phrasing the NPS survey question exactly the same way and presenting the survey in the same way?
  • Always scoring your NPS from 0 to 10?
  • Getting enough customer engagement in answering your NPS survey to have a significant sample size?
  • Only surveying NPS in certain areas of your website or after certain customer service interactions rather than everywhere?
  • Ensuring that each customer can only answer each of your NPS surveys once per relevant interaction?
  • Tracking which customers provide what answers to your NPS surveys?

If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” your NPS measurement may be too broad or incomplete.

Fix your measurement methodology and then see if your NPS improves as a result. 

2. Find And Fix Problems

Assuming that you’re measuring NPS correctly and consistently but your NPS is still lower than you’d like, your next course of action is to find problems by looking at your biggest detractors.

Detractors have NPS scores of 6 or lower, which means that they have raised their hands to indicate they are having a negative experience. Often, these bad customer experiences have a common root cause which you can address.

To address your detractors’ problems, you should:

  1. Identify customers with low NPS scores
  2. Look for a unifying trend; do all of the customers with low NPS scores use a specific customer service channel, a specific product, or a specific portion of your site that customers with higher NPS scores don’t?
  3. If there is a trend that separates detractors from other customers, take actions to counteract the trend.
  4. Reach out to detractors to engage with them; ask about what they dislike, and inform them that you are taking changes to correct it already
  5. Monitor future engagements with detractors’ responses to NPS surveys to check for improvement

    The idea behind this tactic is that there are certain aspects of your company or customer service that are causing the majority of the problems that are generating detractors.

    The goal of the “find and fix” approach isn’t to turn your detractors into evangelists in one step, it’s to make changes in your operations or product and then notify the detractors and acknowledge that you understand they were let down but that you’ve taken steps to improve their experience. In the process, hopefully you can turn them into passives on the NPS scale.

    Turning a detractor into a passive with an NPS score of 7-8 means that the detractor isn’t actively damaging your prospects of picking up a new customer.

    3. Always Respond, Always Follow Up, And Always Ask For More

    If your NPS isn’t where you want it to be and you can’t identify a common trend among your detractors, there are still plenty of tricks to raise your score.

    To increase your NPS score, you should:

    • Always respond to customers who reach out to your customer service team and who respond to your NPS surveys
    • Always follow up with customer responses by thanking the customer and furthering engagement
    • Always ask the customer directly if there is anything that would have made their experience easier

    If you aren’t always responding to every customer inquiry in every customer service channel, doing so will provide a huge boost to your NPS. Likewise, if you aren’t following up with customers after their experience, you’re leaving valuable customer engagement on the table.

    Finally, if you aren’t collecting direct feedback from your customers who have already indicated that they’re willing to be engaged, you’re missing out on invaluable insights.

    4. Make Case Studies Out Of Promoters And Passives

    Customers who answer with scores between 9 and 10 are your evangelists.

    If you can figure out what was done correctly with these customers by making a case study out of their customer service journey or sales journey, you can replicate their satisfaction elsewhere and raise your NPS.

    In a case study of evangelists, remember to be as detailed as possible. What separated the customer experience of the customer who answered 10 when surveyed for NPS from the customer who answered 7?

The customer who answered 7 is a few nudges away from becoming an evangelist, which means that it’s important to flesh out the nuance between their case and the case of the evangelist.

5. Consider Data From Other Metrics

It’s also helpful to introduce data from other metrics to raise your NPS.

Specifically, the Customer Effort Score (CES) Survey is a metric which indicates how easy the customer’s experience was. If your NPS contains a lot of passives with scores between 7-8, see if you can follow up with these customers and have them rate how easy their experience was.

There’s a good chance that there are many areas of your customer service pipeline where things could be made slightly easier for the customer.

If you can pinpoint these areas with another metric like CES and make a few focused changes, you can raise your NPS as a result.

Like the other tactics we covered to raise your NPS, pulling in other metrics allows your company to identify its weak points and unhappy customers in order to implement changes. Metrics like CES work equally well at turning passives into promoters.

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White Paper: The Future of Customer Service with AI

By 2020, customer care is predicted to overtake product and price as the number one way for a business to differentiate itself. This report touches on the many ways AI is being integrated into customer service. It covers the essential buy vs build question and highlights the critical questions to ask of any potential AI vendor.

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Customer Experience is Not Always About Giving People What They Want

Kaan Ersun on 1 February, 2018

While the original intention may have been to convey that employees should do their best to give customers exceptional service, the customer is NOT always right and that should be acknowledged. In fact, challenging this saying is the beginning of delivering on your customer experience promise.

“The customer is always right.”

We’ve all heard this saying countless times before. Maybe we’ve even said it a time or two.

While the original intention may have been to convey that employees should do their best to give customers exceptional service, the customer is NOT always right and that should be acknowledged. In fact, challenging this saying is the beginning of delivering on your customer experience promise.

We’ve heard stories of tech and web based businesses who pride themselves on their exceptional service and support to customers and yet still find themselves in sticky positions. Even Apple has experienced this and has a few customer service horror stories to show for it.

Trying to please every single customer is challenging for many reasons and can hamper the innovation of companies aiming to bringing their product to market or continuing to scale their business.

Rather than trying to please every single customer and giving in to their strong demands, we should focus on the voice of the customer. Their feedback can assist in helping create better products and services and facilitate overall growth of your business.

The motto of “the customer is always right” perhaps could be better said as “listen to your customers and seek to understand the why” We want our customers to be happy and to be loyal. Rather than taking what they are asking for at face value, we should instead seek to understand why. We should try figure out the the root issue of why they are having a difficult experience or what they are trying to solve for.

Listening is key, but how do you make this actionable?

Often times customers don’t really know what they want and their immediate feedback can be limited. So how do you balance the feedback and asks they have with how this should influence your product and customer experience?

Rather than just listening to customers and acting reactively, we should be striving to push the boundaries and redefine what the solution to their problem is.

Henry Ford is a perfect example and to highlight one of his most well-known quotes, he said, “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Henry Ford did not just listen to people and try to breed a faster horse. He understood the “what” of people asking for a faster horse was to address the “why” of people wanting to get from Point A to Point B faster. The faster horse was a means to solve for getting to places faster, but Henry Ford had the vision and innovative spirit to redefine the way the world thought of transportation.

There are now over 1 billion automobiles on the road today thanks in large part to him.

Steve Jobs was another great example of someone who didn’t give customers simply what they asked for and believed that “a lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

When we reflect back on Apple’s success across their product lines, they often weren’t the first to market, but their products ended up being the market leader. Apple wasn’t the first company to create the MP3 player, and yet, they completely dominated the space when the iPod was introduced. Why?

Was it that the product was better? Partially. But that’s not the whole picture.

 

Apple products have done well because of the experience people have with said products.

The experience of having the first iPod, that amazing ability to have 1,000 songs in your pocket, the touch and feel of it (it was so shiny) was like holding a piece of some futuristic tech.

The first iPhone was the same type of experience.

Underneath all the asks and wants of our customers, we can still give them something better than they would have known to ask for. We can rethink how they engage with the product rather than just iterating on something that exists today as customers often base ideas off of improving something that is known. Their feedback informs our product but our expertise defines and drives our product forward.

Customers Want A Better Experience, They Just Don’t Know It

Today, people don’t just want good customer service, they expect it. But what powers good customer service and what customers are truly looking for is a great experience throughout their journey and in every interaction they have with your business.

The Temkin Group did a study around the connection between customer experience and customer loyalty. In their study they compared the loyalty levels of companies that had a track record of great customer experiences compared to competitors.

The results were that the customers of companies with better customer experiences were

  • More likely to recommend the company,
  • More likely to buy from them again and again, and
  • Less likely to switch

In other words, offering a better experience breeds customer loyalty.

Even with those sentiments floating around in the hearts of our customers, they’re not likely to say, “I want a better experience from you.”

And if they did, asking a follow up question such as, “what does that experience look like to you,” would probably end with them unable to explain it and the conversation dying right then and there.

Therefore, if the hidden desire of all customers is for a better overall experience, we should take it upon ourselves to learn what customer experience means and how to give them a better one.

Customer Experience (CX) Explained

Perhaps one of the best definitions of it is this one outlined by Toma Kulbyte:

“Customer experience is your customers’ perception of how the company treats them. These perceptions affect their behaviors and build memories and feelings and … drive their loyalty.”

Really then, it’s about how your company makes a customer feel—which can be either good or bad.

And your interactions from day one are what builds that perception and shape their opinion of you.

By honing in on providing better interactions with customers at all our various touchpoints with them (sales, customer service, email, marketing, social, etc) and helping them to feel valued and appreciated, we offer them something more than what they would have known to ask us for in the first place:

Customer Experience Isn’t Just Customer Service

Another important thing to note is that the duties of giving a great experience to customers do not fall solely into the hands of the customer service department.

It’s not something only one team or department is fully responsible for implementing.

Instead, a great customer experience comes from a collaborative effort to design what that experience should look and feel like. And then it should have all customer-facing members and those who support them working in lockstep towards that vision.

When a focus on customer experience is reinforced throughout the company, everyone comes together with a common goal mind. With that comes the added benefit of customer-facing employees feeling happier in their roles while supporting an important company initiative.

Getting started with creating a better customer experience can feel like a daunting task, but a great place to start would be taking a step back and asking yourself, “if I came into contact with my business, what would the experience be like for me?”

Remove the rose-colored glasses and consider what your current customer experience is like today and start to create the vision of where you want it to be a year from today and five years into the future.

A method that often helps to create this vision is to look at your business as a person with traits, core values and principles, and a personality. In that mindset, we can often frame our vision even better.

Whether we realize it or not, we already give customers an experience. But by taking time to listen and truly understand, we can design that experience and make sure that it really is one of the best around.

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Creating Happy Brand Experiences through Journey Mapping

Kerry Bodine on 30 January, 2018

Customer journey mapping is the key to understanding how your customers interact with your brand, their needs and aspirations and their pain points in order to create a seamless, consistent and enjoyable consumer experience.

Customer journey mapping is the key to understanding how your customers interact with your brand, their needs and aspirations and their pain points in order to create a seamless, consistent and enjoyable consumer experience. 

Team Solvvy caught up with author, speaker and coach, Kerry Bodine to talk about journey mapping and the evolving role of self-service in creating unforgettable customer experiences. A subject matter expert in the CX space, Bodine runs her own customer experience consultancy. Prior to venturing out on her own, she was a Vice President and Principal Analyst for Customer Experience at Forrester Research.

A nature enthusiast, Bodine enjoys hiking in the hidden Eucalyptus forests in her hometown of San Francisco and draws inspiration for her work from the natural world. Interested in pursuing a career in designing wearable technology long before there were any commercial wearables to design, her path to journey mapping followed some rather interesting twists and turns.

Journey mapping is the process of understanding and documenting the experiences that a customer has with your business through visual storytelling. The methodology stems from the discipline of human-centered design, which helps organizations build solutions that are simple, useful, engaging and lasting.

 

Example of a Journey Map

Here are excerpts from an interview…

What are the key benefits of customer journey mapping?

Customer journey mapping allows organizations to understand the relative priority of pain points in the customer experience so that they can take measures to address those issues. And an improved customer experience leads to business outcomes like increased revenue and reduced cost to serve.

Today’s large organizations are aligned in silos around different functions, different product lines and different channels. All of these silos create disjointed experiences for customers as they attempt to complete their tasks and goals. Mapping the journey can help you understand the process and communication gaps that exist between silos so that you can further streamline the customer experience—with the added benefit of improving internal collaboration.

Can you share some best practices around journey mapping?

We encourage our clients to start out with hypothesis mapping, which brings people from across the organization together to expose the internal knowledge and assumptions they have about what customers’ experience. The next step is to validate—or, more to the points, invalidate— those assumptions with real customers.

It’s also important to understand that the objective of a journey mapping initiative is not to create a journey map itself, but to understand customers’ viewpoints, change the way your organization works to improve their experience and in turn enhance your business metrics. So it’s important to have a plan around what you want to do with the journey maps once you have them. Root cause analysis is an important step in this plan so that you understand the underlying causes of customer pain points before you begin to design a solution.

What are some of the key challenges that customers experience while interacting with a brand?

While every single customer experience is different, a common challenge that customers face while interacting with a brand is inconsistent information. Often times, information served across different channels or by different functions varies—and customer doesn’t know what to believe or expect.

Another big challenge is a lack of transparency into the way that products operate or services are delivered—the fine print, so to speak. Many businesses are inherently complex, and organizations often find it challenging to communicate in a way that’s clear and simple. It’s not impossible to do this, but it does take effort and the right mindset.

What should organizations do to address these pain points? 

Fixing problems such as lack of consistency between channels or poor communication can be accomplished through a human-centered design process, such as those used by interaction designers and service designers. This typically involves broad ideation, developing inexpensive prototypes, testing those prototypes and quickly iterating to find that most useful and enjoyable experience for the customer.

This should never be a one-person exercise. When you identify a customer pain point, conduct root cause analysis with a cross-functional team. Making it a team sport helps people discover their and their team’s role, rather than feeling like someone’s pointing the finger at them. When you move on to designing solutions to those root causes, it’s best to do this collaboratively, as well, with cross-functional employees, partners and even your customers.

What’s your take on the evolving role of self-service and technology in the customer experience space?

As people try to pack more things into a day and get more out of their personal and professional lives, the role of technology to serve and assist them is growing in importance. People want the help they need to complete their tasks or accomplish their goals anytime, anywhere.

That’s why organizations need to support their customers wherever they are and across different channels, be it through intelligent self-service on their tablet while they’re riding the train to work or via text while they’re at a ball game. If organizations tried to support customers around the globe, at all times through a fully staffed human solution, it would incredibly inefficient and expensive—and quality of service would certainly vary. So the answer lies in effortless self-service. As consumer expectations for speed and convenience continue to increase, self-service technology will become more and more important.

What is the future of journey mapping in the self-service context?

I see journey mapping being used across the entire organization—not just by people with “customer experience” in their titles. As journey mapping uncovers peoples’ needs and expectations, it also uncovers potential areas where self-service might have the biggest impact for both the organization and customers. Journey mapping can help businesses gain a deep understanding of where self-service technology can be applied most effectively within the journey to improve the experience for customers.

Join Kerry Bodine and Mahesh Ram, founding CEO of Solvvy in an exclusive webinar on Feb 8, 2018 as they explore the best practices around the usage of journey maps and the evolving role of self-service.

Register

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AI is the New CX Frontier but it comes with a Unique Set of Challenges

Mehdi Samadi on 23 January, 2018

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the new competitive battleground for delivering superior Customer Experience (CX). AI seamlessly integrates into the customer service value chain with self-service tools, virtual assistants, content search and discovery, and sentiment analysis.

Organizations that offer conversational interfaces, integrated omni-channel experiences, automated transactions and intelligent self-service will win both market share and mindshare in the future. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the new competitive battleground for delivering superior Customer Experience (CX). AI seamlessly integrates into the customer service value chain with self-service tools, virtual assistants, content search and discovery, and sentiment analysis.

At Solvvy, we enjoy building cutting edge technology that has practical applications in an omni-channel world. We’re putting together a world class team of machine learning engineers and data scientists to deliver on our mission of providing intelligent self-service to customers. Designed for the modern enterprise, our platform makes use of advanced AI, Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies to unlock the power of enterprise knowledge.

We hope to transform how businesses interact with customers through AI but the implementation of AI comes with its own unique set of challenges.

The first challenge is to build sophisticated machine learning algorithms that can parse noisy data from relevant data. Low signal-to-noise ratios indicative of a high level of false or irrelevant information in a conversation or an exchange often poses an engineering challenge. In a support context this translates to confusing ticket histories, inconsistent data across different support channels or incoming tickets with a bunch of redundant information or misleading language.

The other problem is having inconsistent data across your client portfolio. Different companies often use diverse configurations, alternate CRM platforms and distinct environments. In a support context, one of your customer could be using Salesforce while another might have its own in-house solution; one could be using email as the primary support channel while another might have heavy dependence on chat and so on. Incorporating these disparate form factors to build generalizable models that make accurate predictions also forms an integral part of building a scalable model.

Finally, when these factors combine with the lack of data, it further complicates the equation. Traditionally, machine learning algorithms are trained to work with huge data sets. They continuously learn and improve with every customer interaction. But when the data is sparse, it becomes tricky to train complex ML algorithms to deliver in a manner that they quickly update to provide a speedy resolution and maintain a smooth conversational flow.

The secret sauce to countering these many challenges lies in navigating both classical machine learning algorithms, and more modern deep learning architectures. When should we use classical approaches? When do deep neural networks make more sense? How can we benefit from both of these trends? How can we successfully apply machine learning to achieve these goals? We answer these fundamental questions in our upcoming talk at ReWork Conference (AI Assistant Summit), and our future white paper. We will explain how these approaches can be used to build conversational agents which are capable of helping users to solve their problems.

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eBook: The Art of Saying No to Customers

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The 33 Essential Customer Service Metrics: The Complete Guide to Measuring Customer Support

Kaan Ersun on 18 January, 2018

Your business is growing and you’re looking to keep up the momentum this year--what’s your next move? Boosting customer experience is one of the surest ways that a business can expand its customer base as well as its revenue in 2018.

Your business is growing and you’re looking to keep up the momentum this year–what’s your next move? Boosting customer experience is one of the surest ways that a business can expand its customer base as well as its revenue in 2018.

But how can you know whether your customers are satisfied? And how can you know whether your customer service efforts are working at maximum capacity to increase revenue?

The answer lies in tracking essential customer service metrics. Customer service KPIs are the tools that you can use to beat out the competition by providing a better customer experience.

The most successful companies track their customer service metrics obsessively, and make plans to increase the ease of customer interaction with the company as well as increase the quality of each interaction.

Knowing where to start down this road can be quite difficult, though: how are high performance companies understanding what makes their customers come back for more?

Once you understand these 33 essential customer service metrics, your business will be in a better position to maximize customer satisfaction and increase your revenue per customer.

Ticket Volume Metrics

These metrics will help you track the number of tickets that you’re generating. You may find these helpful both in planning/forecasting support needs and serving as a secondary measure of customer experience (e.g., a large spike in ticket volumes likely indicates an acute problem or issue).

1. Average Tickets Per Customer

Definition: The number of tickets that each customer generates over a given period of time.

Measurement: Define a period of time, then divide the number of tickets created during that time by the number of customers that were active then.

Goal: Have as few tickets per customer as possible. 

2. Overall Support Volume

Definition: The number of tickets that your support team fielded over a period of time. Typically, one day or one week are good periods to examine.

Measurement: Define a period of time, then count the number of support requests or tickets created during that time.

Goal: Scale processes and the support team to meet demand.

Ticket Generation Metrics

Use these metrics to define and understand the tickets that are being generated within the context of the user’s experience.

3. Support Funnel

Definition: The collection of the customer’s access to knowledge base opportunities for self-assistance, customer support ticket assistance,  escalated support assistance, and issue resolution.

Measurement: CES scores at points of customer self-service and after interactions with customer service.

Goal: Make the customer’s experience as easy as possible; CES should be greater than 6.

4. Service Activities

Definition: The types of services that your support structure addresses for customers.

Measurement: Quantify the different issues that users access customer service to address.

Goal: Minimize the number of different types of issues that your customers are having.

5. Most Common New User Issue

Definition: The type of ticket generated most frequently by newly onboarded users or customers.

Measurement: Compare the types of tickets generated with the age of relationship with the customer; sort by newest customers.

Goal: Improve processes that new customers struggle with.

6. Most Common Experienced User Issue

Definition: The type of ticket generated most frequently by customers who are not new in the context of the expected customer lifetime.

Measurement: Compare the types of tickets generated with the age of relationship with the customer; sort by oldest customers.

Goal: Improve processes that any customer might struggle with.

Timing Metrics

How quickly is your team resolving the issues that do arise? Timing metrics are all about measuring the amount of time spent with each ticket. Wait time should be low, but handling time metrics will depend on the types and complexity of tickets that reach the service team.

7. Average Handle Time

Definition: The period of time that each of your agents spends working with a user to resolve an issue, whether the issue is resolved or escalated.

Measurement: Divide the number of tickets of each type by the amount of time it took your agents to resolve or escalate the issue. Can be measured on a per-agent basis or on a per-issue basis.

Goal: Find how much time it takes for your support system to deliver a good customer experience.

8. Average Wait Time

Definition: The period of time that the customer must wait before the start of the issue resolution process.

Measurement: Divide the total number of tickets by the total waiting time before starting to work with an agent.

Goal: Zero.

9. Average Time To Resolution

Definition: The average period of time that a customer must wait from making a request for support to having that request fulfilled successfully by resolving the issue.

Measurement: Divide the total number of resolved tickets by the total time spent by the customer attempting to resolve that issue.

Goal: As close to zero as possible.

Efficiency Metrics

The crux of any support strategy is to quickly and painlessly resolve issues. Efficiency metrics allow you gauge both how well your operations are working and how smoothly the process is flowing from intake to resolution.

10. Number of Resolutions

Definition: The number of tickets successfully resolved by the support process.

Measurement: Subtract unresolved tickets from the total of all tickets.

Goal: The number of resolutions should equal the number of opened tickets.

11. Resolution Rate

Definition: The percentage of issues which your support team resolves.

Measurement: Divide the number of resolved tickets by the total number of tickets. Can be measured on a per-agent or per-issue basis.

Goal: 100%.

12. First Contact Resolution Rate

Definition: The percentage of customer issues that are solved at the first line of support and do not require any escalation.

Measurement: Subtract the total number of issues that required escalation from the total number of tickets, then divide by the total number of tickets. Can be measured on a per-agent or per-issue basis.

Goal: 100%.

13. Open Case Rate

Definition: The rate of open tickets in your customer support system at any given time.

Measurement: Divide the number of open tickets by the total number of tickets.

Goal: Zero, though consider that every open ticket is an opportunity to provide an excellent customer experience that will set you up for future business.

14. Average Backlog

Definition: The open tickets that aren’t yet being resolved by your support team.

Measurement: The number of open tickets that aren’t being actively addressed divided by the

number of tickets that are presently being resolved at a given moment in time.

Goal: Zero.

15. Conversations Per Agent

Definition: How many different customers each of your agents interacts with over a period of time.

Measurement: Number of tickets handled by a particular agent over a given time.

Goal: Identify your most and least effective agents; more effective agents will resolve more issues and have more conversations.

16. Escalation Percentage

Definition: The percentage of issues which can’t be solved by the first line of support and have to be escalated.

Measurement: Divide the number of issues that are escalated beyond the first line by the total number of issues.

Goal: Zero.

Quality Metrics

17. Average Replies Per Ticket

Definition: The number of replies that your agent provides to the customer during issue resolution.

Measurement: Take the total number of replies per ticket and divide it by the number of tickets. Can be measured per agent or per issue.

Goal: Customers like it when they are replied to more frequently by your agents, but don’t overdo it.

18.  Giveaway Rate

Definition: The rate that one of your agents gives free services or items to a customer as a result of a difficult customer service experience in an attempt to increase customer satisfaction.

Measurement: Divide the number of tickets in which an agent disbursed a giveaway by the total number of tickets.

Goal: Depends; customers tend to have their mood reversed extremely quickly when they get a giveaway after a difficult customer service experience, but it can get expensive to maintain as a policy.

19. Positive Mentions On Social Media

Definition: The number of customers that mention your company in a positive light on a social media platform.

Measurement: Check each of your social media platform and judge the positivity of the comments there.

Goal: 100% positive mentions.

20. Post-Closure Engagement

Definition: How frequently the customer responds to your follow up inquiry after they have had a support experience; implies a more in depth engagement than simply answering a survey.

Measurement: Divide the number of successful post closure engagements by the total number of attempted engagements.

Goal: 100%. Higher post-closure engagement means that your customers are willing to stick around to provide you with more information about their customer experience.

21. CSA Complaints

Definition: The number of complaints to management that customers report regarding agents while attempting to resolve their issue.

Measurement: Count the number of complaints; can be measured per agent, per customer, or per issue.

Goal: Zero.

22. Self Service Rate

Definition: How frequently your customers experience an issue that they are able to address on their own solely by engaging with your knowledge base and other users.

Measurement: Divide the number of hits on your knowledgebase by the number of new tickets generated on topics that are covered in the knowledgebase.

Goal: Depends; having a strong knowledge base that allows for strong customer self-service lightens the load on your support team, but may prevent forging strong relationships and providing excellent customer support experiences.

Customer Satisfaction Metrics

Customer satisfaction measurements give you a big-picture look at how the customer service numbers are rolling up into actual business results. At the end of the day, the role of customer service is to keep customers–and keep them happy.

23. Churn Rate

Definition: The churn rate is the rate at which customers stop buying from or subscribing to your brand relative to the number of new customers gained in the same period of time.

Measurement: Divide the number of lost customers by the remaining total customers, including new customers.

Goal: Zero. Ideally, your customers remain your customers forever.

24. Customer Retention Rate

Definition: The rate of customers that remain your customers over a given period of time.

Measurement: Divide the number of customers that you had at the start of the time period by your total remaining number of customers at the end of the time period–a year is a good starting point.

Goal: 100%.

25. Average Customer Satisfaction Score (Average CSAT Score)

Definition: The satisfaction score reported by your customers after they answer a customer satisfaction survey after receiving support.

Measurement: Divide the total reported satisfaction value by all customers who took the survey by the number of customers who took the survey.

Goal: Higher is better, but the exact numbers will vary depending on how many questions your customer satisfaction survey has.

26. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Definition: The NPS is a question posed to customers after any interaction that they have with customer support or an aspect of your company’s website and is scored from 0-10. The customer rates whether they’d suggest your company to someone they knew from 0 to 10.

Measurement: Customers who register a 9 or 10 on their NPS are likely to be brand evangelists.

Goal: 100% of customers registering a 10.

27. Customer Effort Score (CES)

Definition: The CES is a question posed to customers after any interaction with your customer support or website, and is scored from 1-7. CES indicates how easy a customer found their experience and is correlated with customer loyalty.

Measurement: Higher values indicate that the customer had an easier time resolving their issue or performing their task on your website. Customers that register a 7 on their CES are likely to be brand evangelists, whereas customers that rate a 1 or 2 struggled and are likely displeased.

Goal: 100% of customers registering a 7 or higher.

28. Customer Abort Rate

Definition: The percentage of customers who become so discouraged with a support attempt that they break off communication and resign from their attempt to solve the issue.

Measurement: Divide the number of customers who canceled their ticket before resolution by the total number of tickets.

Goal: Zero. Having a high customer abort rate means that customers are getting too frustrated by the support process to get the help they need.

Support Channel Metrics

These figures help you understand and track where and how customers are interacting with your support team.

29. Contact Volume By Channel

Definition: The number of support requests per support channel (chat, phone, email, social media, etc).

Measurement: Sort the total number of tickets by the support channel they came from.

Goal: Depends. If your company has excellent customer service representatives, you may want to encourage customers into phone support. If your agents are overloaded, promoting email may help to buy time.

30. Rating Response Rate

Definition: How frequently customers opt to answer your CSAT, CES, NPS, or other survey after they interact with your customer support or your website.

Measurement: Divide the total number of responses by the total number of elicited responses.

Goal: 100%.

Finance And Logistics

Tying support to the bottom-line can sometimes be difficult, but these metrics help you understand how customers are spending and what effect support has on the overall value of each individual.

31. Account Summary

Definition: The value of each customer account relative to the number of support requests that the customer requires to continue being in business with you.

Measurement: Compare the customer’s account value with the amount of support time they use and with the amount of revenue that they bring in.

Goal: Varies. Ideally, all of your customers bring in large amounts of revenue while requiring no support. In practice, this metric shows you where support volume of a particular customer is decreasing your profit margin.

32. Customer Lifecycle

Definition: The average length of time that a customer spends in a relationship with your company.

Measurement: Divide the total number of customers by the total amount of time spend with your company by all customers.

Goal: Depends. Many companies prefer to maximize the length of the relationship with their customers.

33. Average Lifetime Customer Value

Definition: The amount of profit that an average customer renders to the company in light of the costs of supporting that customer.

Measurement: Subtract the sum of all customers’ support costs from the sum of all customers revenues, then divide by the total number of customers.

Goal: Higher customer lifetime value is better.

Picking Focus Metrics

There’s no single metric that will give you a comprehensive view of your customer service performance, but there are a few that you should consider with more weight than the others.

NPS is an excellent metric which cuts right to the core of your customer experience overall goal: increasing revenue. NPS scores are tightly linked to customer loyalty, which means that they’re tightly linked to revenue.

Aside from NPS, pay special attention to your:

  • Churn Rate
  • Resolution Rate
  • Most Common New User Issue

Your churn rate is an indicator that lets you know as a percentage how much you can stand to improve your customer experience and retain customers as a result.

Likewise, your resolution rate is critical because your support system needs to be able to address user issues reliably if you’re banking on it to provide a good customer experience.

Finally, the most common new user issue is a metric to track carefully because it can help you make onboarding new users a smoother experience by ironing out the problems.

Remember to adapt your company’s industry and specific situation to these metrics, because they tend to vary from sector to sector. No matter the business, if you keep a tight handle on these metrics, your revenues will grow with your customers’ satisfaction.

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CSAT, NPS, CES And Beyond: Turning Customer Experience into Customer Success

Kaan Ersun on 16 January, 2018

When you’re aiming to create a stellar customer experience, it’s no secret that you need to get quantitative. What you may not know is that there’s more than one channel you can use to listen to your customers.

CSAT, NPS, CES And Beyond: Turning Customer Experience into Customer Success

When you’re aiming to create a stellar customer experience, it’s no secret that you need to get quantitative. What you may not know is that there’s more than one channel you can use to listen to your customers.

Getting quantitative goes way beyond surveying your customers after their interactions with customer support; there are a handful of metrics you can use to objectively assess how your customers felt during their interaction with your support system.

In this post, we’ll explain the different customer satisfaction measures and how you can interpret those measures to improve your customer experience.

Making the most out of these tools requires a tectonic change in the way your company views customer experience — simply satisfying your customer in a reactionary way won’t increase your revenue.

To turn great customer experience into revenue, you’ll need to aim for customer success.

Customer Satisfaction Versus Customer Success

Everyone is familiar with the traditional factors that lead to higher customer satisfaction:

  • Fast response times
  • High issue resolution speed and efficacy
  • High level of first-call resolution

Similarly, the effects of high customer satisfaction contain no surprises:

  • Low churn
  • More repeat business
  • Higher customer lifetime value

But there’s a lot more to getting the most out of customer satisfaction. The concept of customer satisfaction is reactive. It’s your company responding to the customer’s needs — even if your support team resolves it quickly, your customer was in a state of need.

If your customer is in a state of need, this indicates that there’s room for improvement in your customer experience. Once you’ve resolved your customer’s needs and produced customer satisfaction, there’s still room to improve and that next level of improvement is called customer success.

Understanding Customer Success

Customer success is a different concept from customer satisfaction.

Success with a customer is not a metric so much as an ideal to aspire towards in your customer relationships.

When you’ve achieved customer success, you’ve created a customer who is satisfied because you have resolved issues before they occurred. Customer success is the process of understanding how to satisfy your customers support needs before they reach out for help in the first place.

In comparison to creating customer satisfaction, creating customer success:

  • Is proactive rather than reactive
  • Preemptively addresses the customer’s needs
  • Increases the lifetime expected revenue of each customer
  • Forges stronger and longer relationships with customers
  • Has a higher chance of creating a customer advocate out of a customer

Compared to customer support, your relationship with your customer in the paradigm of customer success is redefined; you are actively seeking ways to give your customer a one-up over their competition rather than passively waiting for your customer to come to you for help.

Customer success is the path to higher revenues and higher customer retention, with one director estimating that customer success was responsible for 90% of long term revenues.

If you’re going to aim for customer success, you’re going to need to employ metrics which track their satisfaction and give you an abundance of actionable information.

How Can My Company Reach Customer Success By Measuring Customer Satisfaction?

There are a few quantitative metrics for measuring customer satisfaction that are generally agreed upon as valid measures.

These measures are:

  • CSAT
  • NPS
  • CES

We’ll discuss each in turn, starting with CSAT, which is the simplest method.

CSAT – Customer Satisfaction Surveys

The CSAT Score is the value derived from customer satisfaction surveys (CSAT).

The gist of CSAT is that after a customer receives support, they take a survey that asks questions like “How satisfied are you with this customer support experience?” after which the customer can answer from 1 (irate) to 5 (very satisfied).

Customers answer CSAT surveys after they’ve had an interaction with your customer support team, meaning this metric has the opportunity to provide extremely specific feedback from your customers. It’s up to you to decide what questions to ask, what rating scale to use, and how much of your customer’s time you’re willing to use after you’ve solved their support issue.

 

Once you have a large enough data set of CSAT results from customers interacting with your support team about a specific issue, you can simply average the values of the CSAT scores to see how your support is performing relative to that issue.

You can also use CSAT to measure customer satisfaction in:

  • Their onboarding process
  • Your product
  • Your website’s ease of navigation
  • The resources provided by your sales team

The trick to CSAT is that they are extremely dependent on the way that you word the questions of the survey.

Though there are standardized CSAT surveys that can be applied across many businesses, your company will get the most customer success if you are laser-focused with your CSAT questions and provide your customers with enough options to express their level of satisfaction.

Pros:

  • Most common method
  • Can iterate on number of surveys so that every interaction with a customer can be surveyed
  • Can provide very specific feedback about where your strengths and weaknesses as a customer-centric company are

Cons:

  • Requires careful phrasing of survey questions
  • Standardized CSAT surveys may not yield helpful information
  • Requires customer to agree to prolonging the length of their interaction

NPS – Net Promoter Scores

NPS stands for the “Net Promoter Score,” and the entire metric consists of customers’ numerical answer to one simple question: how likely are you to recommend this service to a friend?

NPS is typically surveyed immediately after a customer interaction and broadly measures the loyalty of the customer to the product.

NPS is measured on a scale of 0 to 10, which means that NPS values are perfectly comparable between companies.

If a user checks off “10” on their NPS, it’s an extremely strong signal that the customer is loyal to your company. If you track customer data, you also get a very clear picture of who you customer evangelists are– as well as potential detractors that you need to get ahead of as quickly as possible.

You can use NPS in any context that you would use CSAT, but because of how quick and easy NPS can be to measure, it’s safer and less intrusive to your customer to administer NPS more frequently.

Interpreting NPS data is a matter of debate, with some companies considering any score lower than a 9 or 10 to be customers in need of a better experience.

For customer success, this interpretation makes sense; customers who report low NPS scores are customers that your customer experience or product is failing, and measuring their NPS lets your company take action to get back on their good side.

This brings up one of the weaknesses of NPS; it’s much more effective in B2C contexts than in B2B because there are generally more B2C interactions at internet-facing companies. 

Nonetheless, maximizing your NPS is critical to maximizing the new revenue that your current customers will bring by recommending you to their peers. Some claim that the NPS score explains between 20% to 60% of company growth rates within an industry.

Pros:

  • Uses very little customer time so it can be deployed everywhere
  • High predictive value of which customers are likely to bring you more customers
  • Gives clear picture of which customers need to have their issues addressed

Cons:

  • Can’t provide any data beyond which customers are likely to suggest your company to others
  • Works better with more data, meaning that it works better in a B2C context
  • Most effective in small niches with few high impact individuals

CES – Customer Effort Score

Rounding out the customer satisfaction metrics is the Customer Effort Score (CES).

CES, like NPS, is one simple question posed to your customers after an interaction: “how easy was it for you to resolve your issue?” Like NPS, CES only requires that your customer provide a numerical response.

CES is measured on a scale of 1 (very hard) to 7 (extremely easy), and is referenced as 1.8x more predictive of customer loyalty than typical CSATs. The idea behind CES is similar to NPS; customers who have an easier time interacting with your company are more likely to buy from your company again.

CES isn’t as common as NPS but could be deployed in many of the same situations as NPS and CSAT.

CES may be more suited for the B2B environment than NPS as it’s specifically focused toward issue resolution and is a better predictor of B2C customer lifetime sales value.

Remember, if you’re trying to create customer success, you want customer interactions with your support to be effortless, every time. More difficult interactions drive away customers.

Where CES might have an edge over NPS is in its ability to suss out friction points that might not be significant enough to prevent a customer from suggesting your company to others.

Furthermore, in complex cases of issue resolution, you could use CES multiple times to figure out exactly which steps of the issue resolution process your customers are struggling with the most. This would give your company ample opportunity to proactively fix those areas of friction whereas a metric like NPS wouldn’t leave you with enough clues.

Pros:

  • Better predictor of loyalty of existing customers than NPS; better for B2B than B2C
  • Can provide more granular information during the customer issue resolution process than NPS or traditional CSATs
  • Just as quick to answer as NPS and interpretation is very easy

Cons:

  • Less popular metric than NPS
  • Loyalty may not be a good predictor of which customers become evangelists
  • The scale and posing of CES is not uniformly agreed upon

Surveying For Customer Success

The beauty of these three methods for surveying your customers is that you can use them in conjunction or in isolation.

Use NPS early and often to get an idea about which customers think of you as one of their favorites; use CES to find out where even your most satisfied customers think you could make their experience easier.

For general support, CSAT surveys your company comes up with on its own can provide the most granular information after customers have their issues resolved.

Using these three methods in conjunction with each other and in their proper places within your customer experience ecosystem and journey will give your company insight and an opportunity to increase customer loyalty as well as your revenue.

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Tips for Making your Help Center Smarter – Part 2

Chitra Rakesh on 7 December, 2017

This blog focuses on the importance of ensuring consistency across multiple support touch points and the role of intelligent self-service. Today, technological advancements are allowing companies to employ AI and machine learning algorithms to learn from customer interactions and feedback in order to improve search results, predict relevant content and build phenomenal help centers. Further, it will also explore metrics such as customer effort score, ticket volume and average resolution time, that are great indicators of help center effectiveness.

This is second in a two part series of ‘How to Create a Thriving Help Center’. You may download our eBook here. 

With key industry metrics and trends skewing in favor of self-service, support  driven organizations are making their help centers more current, robust and smarter. We examined the role of relevant content and its delivery in Part I. While fresh content and an intuitive UI lay the foundation for a thriving help center, there are other factors that must be kept in mind.

This part will focus on the importance of ensuring consistency across multiple support touchpoints and the role of intelligent self-service. Today, technological advancements are allowing companies to employ AI and machine learning algorithms to learn from customer interactions and feedback in order to improve search results, predict relevant content and build phenomenal help centers. Further, it will also explore metrics such as customer effort score, ticket volume and average resolution time, that are great indicators of help center effectiveness.

Ensure Consistency

Customer support has evolved from individual silos to more holistic and omnichannel. Today support driven organizations are proactively where their customers are – be it the web, mobile, chat or even social. According to Mahesh Ram, CEO of Solvvy, “Companies that WIN deliver both consistency and speed across all support channels.”

 

 

In the Help Center context, this would translate to ensuring consistency in the way FAQs and self-service articles are delivered across different support channels. Furthermore, delivery should be optimized for different devices like desktop, laptop, mobile and tablet, as well.

Track Key Metrics

It is important to measure the effectiveness of your help center and see how it is impacting the key support metrics such as such as customer effort score (CES), ticket volume and average resolution time.

CES is a powerful metric that relates closely to customer satisfaction or CSAT ratings. Organizations that are able to reduce customer effort through their help centers and intelligent self-service score substantially higher than others. According to Yael McCue, support leader at TaskRabbit, the best KPI that leads to lower customer effort scores and increased customer satisfaction ratings is “First Contact Resolution”. First Contact Resolution, as the name suggests, refers to solving customer issues the first time they contact the support team.

Ticket Volume is defined as the total number of support tickets logged in any given period of time. One of the key objectives of a thriving help center should be to minimize ticket volume. Additionally, frequent, recurring tickets should become a part of the help center to cut down on support tickets.

Average resolution times are considerably lowered when users are able to find answers to their questions using self-service since they don’t have to wait for responses from agents. Tracking knowledge base traffic and the kinds of content that are being utilized by them provide helpful cues to keep help centers current, relevant and updated.

Use Intelligent Self-Service

Customers are the true drivers of the evolution of self-service. With digital interactions on the rise, the advent of technologies like AI and ML, and so many great tools and techniques out there, the support community is living in magical times. Machine learning capabilities are being employed to learn from customer interactions and feedback to improve search results, predict relevant content and build phenomenal help centers.

 

In a recent Forrester study, 73% of customers said that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with great customer service. As per McKinsey, support experience is an integral part of the customer’s decision-making process. Having relevant help centers are transforming from “nice-to-haves” to a “necessity”.

Organizations are working on optimizing the results of frequent searches, agent interactions, surveys and social media conversations and presenting them in the most concise, relevant and accurate manner, be it in form of FAQ’s, featured content or using intelligent self-service solutions such as Solvvy. Solvvy approaches intelligent self-service in a unique way with automated question-answering. Its Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning engine provides immediate self-service resolutions to complex end-user questions, by learning from prior successful agent resolutions as well as a company’s knowledge base and FAQs.

“Self-service is the way to go,” says Sarah Hatter, founder of CoSupport. “If you can answer people’s questions without getting a human involved then you’ve already won the game!”

Our eBook on “Tips for Making your Help Center Smarter and More Relevant” is available for download. Get it now.

 

Download eBook

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Case Study: Rover Decreases Ticket Volume by 24% Overnight

Rover began looking for solutions to scale its support strategy without hiring additional agents. They turned to Solvvy to deliver an exceptional self-service experience to their customers. In this case study, you will discover how Rover used Solvvy to achieve incredible results including decreasing ticket volume by 24% on the first day.

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