Customer support teams need to regularly measure their service level agreements (SLAs) if they want to accurately gauge performance levels across the team. Businesses have agreed to abide by a certain level of service and it’s to their benefit if they can accurately manage their metrics to understand whether they are on target.
Customer service quality is a key component of any business. It’s what customers look for when evaluating service providers and deciding where to take their business. But can your business definitively say they are delivering an outstanding level of customer service?
What businesses need is to make their customer service efforts quantifiable. It may be daunting, but companies need to know one way or another whether they are fulfilling the terms of their help desk SLAs. That’s where service level agreement metrics come into play.
What are service level agreement metrics?
Service level agreement metrics are a way of measuring whether your business or service provider is meeting the standards you have set for yourself. SLA metrics are internal metrics used by customer support teams to set baselines for the number of customers who will be delivered a baseline level of service.
Without measuring your SLAs, your business has no idea whether it is on target for providing customer support. SLAs are a guideline for businesses who want to know whether they are meeting customer needs, and metrics are a means to help you track success.
Measuring your SLA metrics means your business can state without a doubt that it is upholding the service level agreement it has made with its customers. You have reliable data to show customers that the business is meeting its obligations in terms of service provide.
KPI vs SLA metrics
Both KPIs and SLA metrics can provide businesses with valuable insight into how their service desk is performing. While SLA metrics measure how a business is performing at a certain point in time, KPIs measure the business’s progress towards a particular goal. For example, you might want to improve customer response rates by 10%, in which case you would look to a nominated KPI to tell you whether you have been successful.
SLA metrics tells the business what it has achieved while KPIs track what the business would like to achieve.
SLA metrics are used to ensure that service levels don’t fall below certain standards, while KPIs track specific performance improvements that the business wishes to meet. KPIs measure how the business changes over time and guide the actions the business needs to take with respect to its stated goals.
SLA metrics tells the business what it has achieved while KPIs track what the business would like to achieve. You need both to gain an accurate picture of your business’s performance and whether it is on track to meeting its goals.
6 SLA metrics
We’ve got some metrics to share with you that your business can start measuring right away in order to benchmark SLA performance.
1. Time to first response (or response sla)
Do you know how quickly your business is getting back to customers after they submit a support request? It’s not a good idea to keep customers waiting if you want to uphold your SLAs. This is often called a response sla.
One of the key performance metrics for your SLAs should be time to first response. Customers want to know that you will respond to their tickets as quickly as possible so they can receive an acknowledgement that their request is being handled. Time to first response is measured from when the customer first opens the ticket to the time they receive their first response from an agent.
A customer should be notified that their ticket is in progress and that someone is working on it. They should be kept updated on the status of the ticket at all times so they know the business is on track to providing a resolution.
Time to first response is a good measure of your agents’ speed at acknowledging customer queries as they come into the help desk.
2. Average handle time
As important as it is to respond to customers quickly, they also want their issue to be resolved in a timely manner. The average handle time of a ticket is an important metric to measure, which begins from the time when the customer first opened the ticket to when the ticket has been marked “closed”. It’s a measure of how efficient your agents are at solving your customer’s problems and shows that they can close a ticket in the shortest amount of time possible.
It’s important to consider whether you want to include time spent waiting for a customer response in your average handle time. It doesn’t seem fair to your agents if they spend two days waiting for a customer to supply further information, and for this to raise your average handle time beyond a reasonable amount.
When measuring your SLA, consider whether you should “stop the clock” while agents are waiting for replies from customers. Your agents have no control over how long customers take to reply so maybe it shouldn’t count towards average handle time.
The faster you can resolve customer tickets that arrive in your service desk, the happier customers will be with your customer service team.
3. Number of customers who use self-service
Part of providing outstanding customer service is enabling customers to help themselves. The vast majority of support requests could be resolved with self-service content if it was available.
This metric tracks the number of customers who use your self-service knowledge base instead of submitting a request to support. You could track this metric by looking at the number of unique visitors to your knowledge base who didn’t then go on to open the link to your support page.
It’s useful to track the correlation between self-service usage and deflected support tickets because it tells you you’re delivering a high standard of service by giving customers a choice over how they resolve issues. Customers are often more satisfied with self-service because they are able to solve their problems immediately and don’t have to bother contacting support.
Number of customers who use self-service is important because each of these customers represent someone who didn’t have to contact your help desk.
4. Number of tickets resolved
Another help desk SLA metric to track is how many tickets you’ve resolved over a particular time period. This gives you an idea of how your team is performing in terms of helping customers.
A high volume of support tickets resolved tells you your team is very productive but it might also indicate a problem with your service. To help give context to the number of tickets you resolve, consider adding tags that label your tickets with the type of issue. Then you can drill down and track the different sorts of issues that customers are reporting and address underlying concerns.
You can see whether the number of tickets you resolve fluctuates over time and if the number is increasing. If so, that could mean that your support team is becoming more proficient at solving customer queries.
Number of tickets resolved is an important metric that can tell you whether you might need to hire extra support agents to cope with the volume. It can be broken down into number of tickets resolved by each individual agent so you can tell who your high performers are.
5. Ticket escalation
Your business can track a ticket escalation metric to see how many tickets have been escalated to higher-level support team member or manager. It will give you an idea of how many complex queries you are receiving in your inbox that require someone more senior than a ground-level agent to handle them.
Keeping track of ticket escalations are a good way of finding out whether you need more senior members of your team to handle the influx of enquiries. A high volume of ticket escalations may also point to a wider problem with your products or service which will need to be addressed.
Fewer ticket escalations tells you that your customer service team is successfully handling tickets without requiring additional help to resolve them. This will have a positive impact on customer satisfaction because they are not being passed to multiple team members.
Your customer service policies also have an impact on whether tickets need to be escalated or not. Consider making it easier for reps to help customers by allowing them to make minor decisions on their own.
6. First time resolution rate
Another good SLA metric to track is first time resolution rate, which refers to how many customer tickets are resolved within the first interaction with an agent. Customers want you to resolve their issues in the most efficient way possible and they will be satisfied if your agent gets it right on the first try. This can be coupled with a resolution sla to better know how long it takes to solve your customer’s problem.
In the best case scenario, the ticket is resolved by the tier 1 agent on their first interaction with the customer and doesn’t require any follow-up or extra support. This kind of prompt and effective support is exactly what will have your business meeting its SLAs.
Solving the problem in the first interaction is only desirable if the solution offered is effective for the customer. Agents must not close the ticket until the customer has confirmed that the fix was successful.
When agents solve the customer’s problem in the first interaction, this results in a happy and satisfied customer.
Implementing service level agreements is necessary if you want to accurately find out whether your business is meeting the targets it has set for itself in terms of customer service. SLA metrics are the way to verify whether the business is on the right track and can be used to report back to customers that the business is fulfilling its promise.
SLA metrics alone can’t tell you whether your customers are truly satisfied but they are a good baseline from which to work. If the business is on track for its SLA metrics then the company can justify the pricing it is charging its customers because it is meeting a minimum standard of service.
Metrics like time to first response and first time resolution rate can give you a good understanding of whether the company is hitting its customer service SLA targets. They’re a snapshot of your business’s performance that tells both you and your customers if the business is delivering successful customer service.