Tracking metrics, measures, and KPIs is critical to understanding how your support center is performing.

by Doug Tedder
Date Published August 22, 2017 - Last Updated December 6, 2017

Tracking metrics, measures, and KPIs is critical to understanding how your support center is performing. However, you need to avoid the common mistakes managers make in reporting metrics, understand how metrics relate to one another, know how to use metrics to motivate your support team, and conduct periodic reviews of the metrics you collect and share to be sure they align with your mission, vision, and goals. Doug Tedder continues his series covering frequently asked questions about metrics, measures, and KPIs.

For a look at specific metrics, read Jeff Rumburg’s Metric of the Month series.

What are some common mistakes that managers make in reporting metrics?

One of the most frequent mistakes that I find is that support center managers report only the metrics that their tools will produce rather than reporting on topics of interest to their customers. For example, while it is interesting for you as the support center manager to know the number of contacts coming into the support center, or the number of abandoned calls, what is it that your customer really cares about? Is it how quickly their issue is resolved? Is it the quality of the interaction with the support center? 

The bottom line: Don’t assume that what you’re reporting is interesting to your customer.  Here are three things you can do to avoid mistakes in reporting metrics:

  • Review service level agreements (SLAs). What is being promised to customers in your SLAs?  Your reports must support what is being promised in SLAs. 
  • Look at your mission, vision, and goals. You can never go wrong when your reports reflect the metrics that support your organization’s mission, vision, and goals.  (Read Deborah Monroe’s article about developing mission, vision, and goals.)
  • Ask your customers. What metrics would your customers like to see? What metrics would help your customers understand how you are performing as a support center? It never hurts to talk to your customers and reinforce good relationships by providing them with reports containing information that is relevant to them!
What metrics would help your customers understand how you are performing as a support center?
Tweet: What metrics would help your customers understand how you are performing as a support center? @dougtedder #metrics

How are metrics related to each other?  When there’s a change in one, can it change others as well?

If you think about it, all businesses operate in a delicate balance. Allow me to elaborate. For example, a reduction in consumer demand for our company’s goods and services means less revenue coming into the business. An increase in students means an increased need for instructors and classroom capabilities. An increase in sales may lead to an increase in the number of widgets being produced by our business, which, in turn, may lead to an increase in the number of employees at our business.  Everything that I just described can be (and likely is!) measured by the business. A change in one business metric will impact other metrics.

The same goes for the support center. For example, an increase in average handle time (AHT) could impact the volume of contacts that the support center can manage. An increase in support center agent utilization from 75% to 90% might result in a reduction of knowledge articles being written or reviewed.

A great framework for identifying and understanding how changes in metrics are related to each other is a balanced scorecard. To learn more about the balanced scorecard, have a look at this article.

How can I use measures, metrics, and KPIs to motivate my staff?

One of the best ways of using measures, metrics, and KPIs to motivate your staff is to have your staff identify and define measures, metrics, and KPIs that will be used to evaluate the performance of the team. This means that your staff will have to define a performance goal that they would like to meet, as well as the objectives for meeting that goal. My advice here is to keep this simple the first time you do this. Define a single goal having a nearer-term (90–180 days?) target completion date. Identify two or three objectives (at most!) that you and your staff will deliver to achieve that goal. Then, ask five questions:

  1. “What are one or two critical success factors (CSFs) for meeting this goal?”
  2. “What would be one or two key performance indicators (KPIs) that would indicate that we are achieving a CSF?”
  3. “How should each KPI be calculated?” What are the two or three measures that will be used to calculate the KPI?
  4. “What measures are needed to derive each KPI?”
  5. “Are we collecting the right data to enable those measures?”

The answers to these questions will help you and your team construct a well-defined goal with objectives having measurable targets. Develop and publish periodic reports so that every team member can monitor progress toward achieving the goal. Discuss progress during your staff or one-on-one meetings, and make course corrections along the way based on feedback and the monthly reports. Working through this exercise not only will help motivate the team, but can also be a great team-building exercise!

How often should I review what I’m measuring?

Great question! Too often support centers fall into the trap of defining measures one time and never conducting any formal reviews of those measures. Meanwhile, the business that you’re supporting is constantly changing and evolving. To be a progressive and valued support center, it is important that the services that you are delivering are in-sync with the ever-evolving needs of the business. To ensure that your support center is part of, and not omitted from, the natural evolution of your business, it is imperative to regularly and periodically review what you’re measuring. Here are some recommendations for the frequency of reviewing your measures:

  • Monthly. If you are a support center leader, monthly reviews of your measures are a must. Look for trends (both positive and negative) in your metrics and understand what is causing the trend. If you’re seeing some negative trends, work to identify and correct the issues causing the poor performance. If you’re seeing positive trends, share the good news with all of your stakeholders—your team, your boss, and your customers!  What a great way to market the successes of your support center!
  • Periodic customer reviews.  Setup some regular customer review meetings or focus groups to share your measures and reports and ask for feedback. Are the measures and reports meaningful and relevant? What measures and reports would they like to see, but you are currently not providing? What other measures could you provide that might be useful to customers? 
  • Annually. Has anything changed about your business mission, vision, and goals? Does your support center have updated goals and objectives? Are the measures you are capturing the right measures that enable you to derive the right metrics that demonstrate that you are actively supporting those goals and objectives? Do you have new customers, and if so, do they have new or different requirements? By doing annual reviews of your measures and comparing what you’re measuring with company and departmental mission, vision, and goals, you will ensure that your support center stays in-sync with the natural organizational changes that occur within your business and IT organization.

Doug Tedder is a strategic, innovative, and solutions-driven IT service management professional with more than twenty years of progressive experience across a variety of industries. He’s a resourceful and hands-on leader with track record of success implementing ITSM and IT governance processes. Doug is a certified ITIL Expert and ISO/IEC 20000 Consultant Manager and holds many other industry certifications. In addition, Doug is an accredited ITIL Foundation trainer and HDI Support Center Analyst and Support Center Manager instructor. Follow Doug on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Tag(s): supportworld, metrics and measurements, KPI


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