How to Benchmark the Performance of your Customer Service Department
When a company is interested in attaining superior performance in customer service, sometimes it’s useful to peak into other companies’ “kitchen,” so that they can get an idea on where they stand in comparison to them. Benchmarking with the companies who provide exceptional customer service will offer insights about best practices in this field and nurture ideas for innovation.
The process of benchmarking is a complex one, and it implies multiple resources. Therefore, a company must clearly trace the goals of such a study. There are several steps to be taken in order to benefit from the best results offered by benchmarking with other organizations.
The main phase when deciding to compare with other professionals in customer service would be to choose what will be benchmarked – the processes, the competencies or the performance.
Afterwards, the decision must focus on what will the customer service department be benchmarked against – against other functional departments from successful companies, or against standards – e.g International Standard ISO 10002:2014. Finally, how will the results of benchmarking be used? To evaluate the current state of the CS department, or to improve and innovate it?
Let’s suppose we are interested in comparing the performance of our customer service department with the one of another company. The following recommendations are intended to help you design a plan on how to make the comparison and gather useful data for the activity of your company:
- Analyze the internal state of the customer service department and define the encountered problems. For example, after performing the annual customer satisfaction survey, it becomes obvious that customers are dissatisfied with the support they get from the customer service representatives.
- After deciding to benchmark the performance of one team with that of others, a selection of the benchmarking partners must be done. It is recommended to establish some criteria against which the comparison will be made, and then find some organizations who proved to be outstanding in their activity.
- In the preparation phase, the members of the benchmarking team must be designated as well. There are some aspects to be taken into consideration when composing the team, such as: the team size, the skills, and accountability of each team member. A benchmarking team should be formed out of :
- A program coordinator who will be responsible for monitoring and tracking the project;
- A process owner who will have knowledge about current processes and can identify opportunities for improvement;
- Data collectors and data analysts who will be in charge of designing the questionnaires, gathering and analyzing data;
- Support staff who will assist the team in research, legal or technical issues;
- Facilitators who will facilitate the achievement of project’s tasks and ensure the objectives are met.
- In the following phase, the decision must follow the processes and KPIs that should be compared in order to get an overview of the performance gap between the current status of the customer service department, and a performant department from a successful company.
Examples of customer service processes that can be compared are:
- Complaints handling process;
- Inquiry Responses process;
- Orders processing workflow.
Examples of KPIs in customer service that worth being benchmarked are:
- % Customer complaints due to poor service or product quality
- # Call handling time
- % First contact resolution rate
- % Complaints resolved
- # Longest call hold
- % Customer satisfaction with service levels
- % Call abandon rate
- # Complaints received
- # Longest delay in queue
- % Customer calls answered in the first minute
- % Timeliness of issues resolution
- # Speed of answer (SA)
- # Orders processed
- % Resolution of queries the same day
- % Calls answered within service level time
- After deciding what to compare, a research must be performed and data must be collected. Information can be accessed directly by conducting interviews with the benchmarking partners, or by making site visits at the benchmarked companies, or indirectly by getting feedback from the competitors’ customers, or by performing mystery client interactions with the customer service department.
- Once the data is collected, the benchmarking team should analyze the processes and strategy and be able to identify the best practices of a performant customer service department.
- The next phase would be to conceive some improvement measures for the customer service department that are aligned to the processes of the company and its strategy.
- The implementation of the improvement measures may be the most challenging from the whole benchmarking project. Usually, employees are resistant to organizational changes, and managers should be able to coach people and help teams overcome the obstacles that appear due to improvement measures. Employees’ engagement can be acquired by organizing meetings with the involved staff, a transparent communication, and sometimes a reward program for the efforts of adapting to the new strategy.
- The final phase refers to the monitoring process of the project’s progress. There are some tools which can facilitate monitoring, such as: dashboards, scorecards, portfolio of initiatives and review meetings.
It is worth investing resources in performing comparisons with successful organizations, even if they are activating in totally different industries, because their methodologies can prove to be fruitful for your company, if applied appropriately. A customer service benchmarking will offer an overview on the current level of customer service and encourage the improvement of customer experiences provided by your company.