Generally speaking, in Support we measure our operations: time to resolve and backlog, for example. But in Marketing, they measure customer behavior, like click-through rates and conversion rates. In this case, I think Marketing has it right. And from what I’m seeing, more Support leaders think so, too.
The days of passively waiting for customers to open a case are over. Dissatisfied B2B customers may just grumble to a colleague at an industry event, and consumers will share a derisive tweet…if you’re lucky. In many cases the switching costs to a competitor are so low that they’ll just leave. And the fact that you could have resolved their issue, if only they’d asked you, will do you exactly no good at all.
I often say that Support is in the customer success business—so that’s what we should measure, as best we can. We have to watch our customers to see if they’re being successful, or at least if they’re acting as other successful customers do. And we need to be proactive about helping them if they’re not.
I’m seeing great examples of this. For consumers, Intuit’s support measures itself based on how frequently customers are able to successfully complete their tax returns. And Yahoo! looks for customers who are sharing their concerns in social media forums—in some cases, they’ll jump in and help. Yahoo! also measures user behavior to identify which features make customers more active and loyal; the Help team focuses attention on making it easier for customers to adopt these features.
For businesses, configuration health checks are becoming commonplace, as Support measures, in effect, how prepared for success their customers are. And Salesforce.com has implemented what they describe as an Early Warning System—really, a customer success dashboard—that shows how fully customers are taking advantage of the capability they’ve licensed. This lets Customer Success Managers (isn’t that a great title?) guide lagging customers to more deeply engage and get more value from Salesforce—and, in turn, they hope to reduce defections.
These programs all have a few things in common:
- They measure the customer, not support operations
- They’re focused on success and value, not simple uptime
- They’re more impactful and practical in SaaS—yet another reason support executives should want to advocate for the cloud whenever possible
In Support, we love measuring things. Let’s make sure we measure the things that matter to our customers.
(HT to Patsy Nations, Brad Smith, Neil Deluca, and Mehmet Goker.)
brad smith says
Thanks for the shout out David: Love the comment about “Measuring things that Matter… to our Customers”. Excellent point.
We’ve got a highly optimized high volume/velocity – low tech support model here at Yahoo! and it’s easy to optimize around efficiency while sacrificing customer impacting effectiveness & engagement. Listing for customers in distress and observing their behaviors as they track to loyalty or to churn is a great way we keep ourselves honest. If ‘all’ we look at is things like EPH (emails/hr)/CPH (calls/hr) or AHT (ave handling time) without these other customer based observation points it’s easy to live in an ivory tower of high efficiency and loose touch with those things that matter most…
Haim Toeg says
David – I think these are excellent points. I would only add that measuring the customer and their success (or lack of it) is not a substitute to measuring the internal operation in the well known ways.
David Kay says
@Haim – thanks for the comment! (Those of you who aren’t following http://haimtoeg.wordpress.com/ should be, as well as his many astute comments in the ASP LinkedIn group.)
It’s true that measuring one’s internal operations is still important. But I’d love to start from the perspective of, what do customers really care about? And then look at my internal measures in that context. Brad put it well in his comment above, and you’ve done the same in several of your blog posts: “it’s easy to live in an ivory tower of high efficiency.”
David Kay says
By the way, there’s a fascinating discussion on the topic of “what do we measure” on the ASP LinkedIn Group: http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=2748808&type=member&item=57304433
One highly experienced leader just posted that, as long as well answer customer issues quickly and knowledgeably, our customers will be happy to pay us. I’m not so sure.