Monitoring your staff's correspondence with your customers is vital to the success of your customer service department. Weekly postmortems provide the opportunity for the staff to discuss challenges and strategies for dealing with problematic situations. Finally, asking for feedback from customers -- either on a specific call or in general -- is perhaps the best way to assess the performance of your staff.

Regulate Customer Service Attitudes
Watch out for the introduction of attitudes among your customer service reps that paint the customer in a negative light. What starts out as seemingly harmless talk about your customers can wind up becoming a company culture that pits your reps against your customers and ultimately causes your customers to leave.

Monitor Your Staff's Quantitative Performance
Here are some metrics you can use to evaluate each representative. If you have only one rep, you can use these metrics to establish a baseline for future customer service employees.

Situations handled per time period. This metric gives you a relative base for comparing two or more customer service representatives. Here's how to calculate it: For any given day, week, or month, count how many individual situations each representative handled.

Percentage of situations resolved to the company's benefit. This metric will help you determine the effectiveness of each customer service representative. To calculate it, total up the number of situations handled by the rep. Then make judgments about the success of the outcome. Divide the number of successful resolutions by the total number of situations and multiply by 100 to get a percentage.

Time per situation. Use this metric to determine if a rep spends his or her time wisely. You can also use it to determine whether a rep is more effective in one medium versus another. Here's how to calculate it: Divide the number of situations handled by the number of hours worked. Then break these down by media -- e-mail, phone, and letter. This will give you an estimate of the time it takes each customer service rep to resolve a situation. Remember, the time it takes to resolve an issue via e-mail will differ greatly from the time it takes to resolve the same issue via phone.

Dollar value per situation. This metric requires more active bookkeeping, but it can help you determine the cost-effectiveness of your customer service staff. You can also use it to develop guidelines about how much time a representative should take to resolve situations related to low-cost products. To calculate it, add up the dollar value of the products in dispute in each situation. Divide that number by the total number of situations.

Response time. This metric, which allows you to measure how quickly a customer service representative answers a customer inquiry, requires you to collect a significant amount of data; you must decide if it's worth your while to do so. To calculate it you must track the times of incoming calls and e-mail messages and match them up with your outgoing call logs and e-mail time stamps. Once you've paired the messages, find the response time for each correspondence by subtracting the outgoing message's time from the incoming message's time. Finally, average the response times by medium -- e-mail, phone, and letter.

Monitor Your Staff's Qualitative Performance
Quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Here are three ways you can determine the quality of your service representatives' customer relations:

Review e-mail for consistency and core values. Gather all the e-mail and written correspondence from your customer service representative(s). Review it for the obvious: grammar, misspellings, effectiveness of presentation, and politeness. Also scan it for common words and decide if those are truly the ones you'd choose to describe your company.

Monitor customer service calls. Listen in unobtrusively on your customer service calls. Pay attention to the tone and manner your representative uses to discuss the situation with the customer.

Call customers for satisfaction reports. Check up on each representative by contacting a random sample of customers who have been served by him or her. Ask them about their satisfaction with the company and with the service they received.

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