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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?

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.

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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