Despite the generally accepted notion that it’s important to monitor performance metrics for your IT support staff, too many companies either don’t monitor any at all, are measuring the wrong things, or are way too casual about how they construct and monitor them. Making up a program as you go along is not a good strategy, nor is waiting until you have a problem and trying to reconstruct what happened. You need to have a solid program in place that is working for you, not against you.

To make the most of what you track, you must set up goals and metrics that are relevant to your organization and be sure your staff is involved from the beginning of the process. You need to give the staff a clear understanding of your expectations and keep them informed of their progress. Above all, you must be sure they understand that customer satisfaction is paramount.

Establishing metrics and standards
If you already have a program in place (or even if you’re just starting), be sure you’re measuring what’s important to the organization. The list below provides some of the most commonly used metrics in IT support call centers, but you’ll need to develop and tailor a list specific to your organization’s needs.

  • Number of rings until answered
  • Average queue time
  • Abandon rate of calls in queue
  • Average hold time
  • Talk time
  • Average speed of ticket completion
  • After-call work time
  • Calls per hour
  • Call history
  • Problem history

When you talk to your staff about what you’ll be measuring, you must be sure they understand that all the metrics are important. While prioritizing such items means that some are going to get more attention than others, make sure that nothing on the list goes unnoticed. They must also understand that the metrics will be considered in the context in which they’re measured.

For example, the IT department for a particular company has done such a great job on setting up and managing the network that the majority of calls to the help desk concern really complicated problems. Consequently, the talk time for each call is several minutes or longer because the staff person needs extra time to sort through complex problems. For the organization in this situation, it’s acceptable to have long talk times as long as the problems are solved satisfactorily. So help your staff understand that while talk times might be up, it may be acceptable as long as customer satisfaction is at a decent level.

Also, you should consult your staff when setting and prioritizing metrics. Their ideas should be considered when trying to meet the guidelines set by upper management. Listening to your staff will help you to be sure that you’ve assigned realistic performance goals with acceptable and exemplary targets.

However, you’ll need to set goals that will challenge the staff. When negotiating about where to set performance goals, try to get your employees to look at things from the customer or client perspective as well as their own. For example, waiting 60 seconds to speak to a tech might be acceptable to the harried help desk worker but might incense someone who’s on deadline and needs help in a hurry.

Make sure that when you’re discussing appropriate performance goals with your staff that they understand that you have the final say about where the standard is set and that their comments are valuable contributions, but contributions nonetheless. It’s awfully easy for someone to misunderstand the difference.

Communicate acceptable standards and the goals behind them
Once you’ve hashed out acceptable levels and goals and have begun to track the metrics, it’s important that the staff understands that it’s not just about hitting the numbers. One help desk manager told me that he had set a goal of 60 seconds to resolve a call ticket. His staff had resorted to talking very fast and hurrying the caller along so they could close the ticket in under 60 seconds. The manager had to then explain that the priority was in satisfying the customer, not beating speed records.

It’s important that the staff members keep their performance goals and their priority ranking in mind at all times. By including them in the discussions for setting these metrics, you will help the process along. You can further instill positive performance objectives in your staff by making sure everybody knows what the metrics are and how the group is performing as a whole.

Getting the word out
How you get the word out about ongoing performance stats based on the metrics is up to you and will probably be based a lot on how you like to manage your staff. You might choose group meetings to review goals vs. performance, or you might prefer smaller group meetings or one-on-one meetings. No matter how you like to interact, you need to regularly review the performance stats with the entire staff.

You may decide that a memo filled with stats will save time. It could, but you might be losing some valuable information by not having face time with your employees. You have statistics in hand, but you need to hear what the staff has to say about what’s really happening. That’s how the manager I mentioned found out that his staff was more worried about the clock than the customers. They thought they were meeting his expectations until he explained otherwise.

Don’t ignore the problem stats
Finally, it’s important that you and your staff not shy away from measuring stats that pinpoint areas of weakness. Avoid the temptation to have only stats that show how good of a job the department is doing. You really do want to know if there is a problem before it blows up in your face. Take your cues for these by reviewing customer complaints, listening to your gut, and talking to your staff.

What do you measure?

What kind of metrics does your support staff measure? Do you feel your goals and priorities are communicated effectively? Why or why not? Send us an e-mail or post to the discussion.