What you need to know about Customer Contact Index
Tracking Customer Contact Index helps support teams understand where their volume is coming from, and where they should be focusing their resources to be more effective.
How many times do your customers need to contact you each month?
Do they need to pick up the phone every time they have a simple question? Is your product so confusing to use that they basically live on chat with you? Are your customers frequently facing bugs that require support team intervention?
I hate to break it to you, but the more often customers have to contact your support team, the more likely they are to churn. In The Effortless Experience, Matt Dixon reports that “96 percent of customers who have high-effort experiences report being disloyal in the future”. It’s a stat we keep coming back to on this blog, partly because it feels so relatable, being customers ourselves.
Contacting customer service is never something customers look forward to.
Even if support is amazing and quick, customers will remember that they had to contact support in the first place, maybe multiple times. That extra effort causes customers to become disloyal, meaning they will churn in the future.
Instead of providing great support every time our customer talk to us, we should be working to ensure our customers rarely need to talk to us. We can do this by preventing problems, and making it easy for customers to help themselves.
Measuring how often customers need to talk to us helps us focus our attention. Customer Contact Index tells us how often customers need our help, on average. Tracking it consistently helps us understand how well we’re empowering our customers to help themselves.
In this post, we’ll show you how to calculate your Customer Contact Index, what that number means and why you should start caring about it.
How to measure your Customer Contact Index
Customer Contact Index is defined over a period of time, usually a month.
To calculate Customer Contact Index calculate the number of support cases received in the month and divide that by the total number of active users that month.
Customer Contact Index = Total Number of Support Cases in a Month / Total Number of Active Users that Month
Active might mean different things for your company. If you’re a mobile app, it might be any users that logged in during the month. If you’re an ecommerce platform, it might be any customers that made a purchase that month. Subscription companies are easy — it’s simply any customers that paid you that month.
The number you get is the number of times an average customer will contact you during the month. For example, if your CCI is 4.5, the average customer contacted you 4.5 times that month.
What CCI says about your support
Now that you have a number, what does that mean?
If you’re working to make your customers more self sufficient, you’ll want to keep your CCI as low as possible. The fewer times customers run into issues or questions, the less they need to contact you.
This is better for two reasons. First of all, if fewer customers need help, it means you have more time to spend on proactive support, community building and success projects. Customer support is more effective when customers can help themselves or don’t run into questions at all!
Secondly, customers don’t want to be interrupted with questions and problems. They just want your product to work as expected. And if they do run into problems, they want to be able to answer their own question, without needing to pick up the phone. Mat Dixon in The Effortless Experience states that, on average, “nearly 58 percent of a company’s inbound call volume comes from customers who first were on the company’s web site but, for some reason or another, still ended up calling the contact center.” Usually they pick up the phone because they couldn’t find the information they were looking for. But the stat really underlines how frequently customers turn to a website to find their own solution.
There’s two ways customer support can reduce the need for customers to call for help:
- Reduce the number of problems they run into
- Offer ways to help themselves through self service.
Campaign Monitor used CCI (or Support Contact Index) to help measure the effectiveness of a Help Center relaunch. Being able to distill the value of customer helping themselves with an easy to understand metric was very important to them. “With SCI in mind, we could converse with Business Operations, Marketing, and other teams about the hours of support person time saved, revenue implications, and more.“
Finding the users who need the most help
Tracking CCI can also help highlight the needs of different segments of users. Mercer Smith-Looper, Manager of Support at Trello began tracking Customer Contact Index after they were acquired by Atlassian. “The thing that it really helped to showcase for us,” Mercer shared with us, “was the difference in ratio between the number of free user tickets we had coming in versus paid.” She discovered that free users were sending in a lot more tickets than Trello’s paid users. That’s important to know for two reasons.
First, supporting free users is expensive to the business. While they might upgrade later on, they aren’t paying you money right now. Spending time and money supporting free users might not have a big effect on your bottom line. Secondly, paid and VIP users should be receiving a better support experience than free users. If free users are writing in way more often, that distracts the team’s focus from paid users.
Mercer and the Trello support team addressed this difference in two ways. “[We realized] we should be trying to focus our efforts on both paid customer support differentiation, and self-service to try to drop the amount of free customer tickets we had coming through.” explains Mercer. Tracking CCI helps support teams understand where their volume is coming from, and where they should be focussing their resources to be more effective.
Besides segmenting CCI by plan or pricing tiers you can also do it by product or age of customer. Do newer customers contact you more often than long time customers? Probably, but you won’t know until you dig into the numbers.
CCI helps you plan for future growth
If you add 100 new customers this quarter, how many new support agents do you need to hire? CCI is the magic metric that helps you answer this question. You know how many times each customer is likely to contact you, and you know how many tickets each agent can handle.
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Number of Customers 100 150 200 250 CCI 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 Number of tickets expected 150 225 300 375 Tickets per agent per month 70 70 70 70 Agents Needed 2.14 3.21 4.29 5.36
Don’t like the numbers you see? Start planning to improve efficiency. Lowering your CCI through self service and product improvements will lower the total expected tickets and reduce the number of agents you need to hire to handle the volume. This is the beauty of scaling — small improvements early on will have a big effect on a larger number of customers.
PS: Wondering how you find 0.14 of an agent? You’ll need to round up your headcount. If you have 2 full time agents handling the workload of 2.14 agents, you’ll quickly find yourself drowning in backlog. That 0.14 could also be covered by a part-timer, or a manager that spends part of their time in the queue.
When your CCI is too low
Is it possible to have a CCI that’s too low? Sure! If your customers find it difficult to get in touch with you, you’ll see a very low CCI. It’s important to find a balance between letting your customers help themselves, and forcing your customers to help themselves.
Burying your contact number, putting contact forms behind login pages and generally putting up walls between your customers and your support team might prevent contacts, but it’s also going to annoy customers.
CCI works well when it’s balanced with other metrics that ensure a high level of quality. If your CCI is low, but your Customer Effort Score is high, it means your customers find it too difficult to get help. Alternatively, if your CCI is low and your churn rate is high, it means customers aren’t able to communicate effectively with your team.
Getting Started with Customer Contact Index
Looking into your Customer Contact Index is easy because it uses metrics you probably already have. But with all metrics, it will often raise more questions than it answers.
When you start tracking CCI, don’t forget about the Why behind the metric. Do you want to reduce customer contacts at any cost? Simply focussing on reducing your CCI can drive the wrong actions.
We don’t want to stop customers from talking to us. We want to prevent customers from needing to talk to us in the first place! CCI, done right, can help us measure the impact of our efforts. By focussing on removing obstacles, improving self service and empowering users we can keep our CCI low, scale more effectively and help our users be successful — without us!
About the author:
Sarah Chambers is a Customer Support Consultant and Content Creator from Vancouver, Canada. When she’s not arguing about customer service, she’s usually outdoors rock climbing or snowboarding. Follow her on Twitter @sarahleeyoga to keep up with her adventures.