Richard Chambers, Area Vice President, Africa & MED
For customer-centric service leaders in South Africa, key performance indicators (KPIs) play a key role in maintaining excellent customer service. 

Redefined KPIs have become a fundamental part of a business’ ability to sustainably make money, both through reputation and customer retention. 

Service decision makers around the world had to earn a reputation for empathy, convenience, and speed. This also came at a time when everyone else was trying to do the same. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to double down on customer service. 

In a contracting economy, it’s never been more important (and harder) to keep hold of customers.

The risk of doing nothing is high. But the rewards of getting it right are even higher. After all, the strongest relationships are forged in the toughest times. 

Here are the three most pressing key performance indicators for service leaders to set themselves up for sustainable success

1. Customer-centric service lies at the heart of customer satisfaction
Customer satisfaction (CSAT) has long been a key metric in defining customer service effectiveness. For a long time, resolution lay in the heart of a strong CSAT score. 

Now, it’s taken on a new depth of meaning. The new measure of customer satisfaction is customer-centricity. And it’s vital for KPIs in South Africa to adapt to this evolved definition.

CSAT defines whether customers continue to buy – or increase how much – they buy from you, regardless of your product. How you interact with customers is just as important as what you sell them.

And the true marker of customer-centricity lies in empathy and flexibility. Considering that in Salesforce’s State of Service report, 71% of consumers say businesses that show empathy during the pandemic earned their loyalty.  

In the report, high performing survey respondents made up 74% of those who had clear guidelines of how flexible they could be with their customers. 

Successful service decision makers are codifying this from the top down. More than  70% of high performers train and actively encourage staff to be flexible with customers. 

Counterintuitively, setting clear parameters offers a set amount of ‘wiggle room’ for customer service agents. 

It’s vital to strike a balance. Too much rigidity can damage and frustrate a customer’s perception of your brand, while too much freedom leads to inconsistent experiences and lost revenue. 

In South Africa, 87% of surveyed service teams changed their policies to provide more flexibility from customers. 

2. Agents hold the keys to customer retention
In an economic crisis, it’s vital to keep customers on board to create reliable, predictable revenue in a time that’s anything but. 

That’s why, along with 85% of high performers, customer retention remains a priority KPI for service leaders. 

And the key to durable customer retention lies with customer service agents. Agent engagement and investment are key to keeping customers.

The people on the customer service line agree: 79% of surveyed agents believe that there’s a direct link between their work and business performance. As agents take on greater responsibility, and become more invested in their role, customer retention soars. 

Similarly, management became increasingly aware and appreciative of their service capabilities during the pandemic. 

High performing organisations hold service teams in high esteem – particularly as they increasingly function as new sales channels. In fact, high performers are 81% more likely than underperformers to incentivise agents to upsell. 

This mutual appreciation between management and agents directly influences companies’ capabilities to maintain customer-centric service. 

Appreciated and engaged service agents don’t just retain customers. They create new value, something that’s all the more valuable in an economic crisis.

3. Focus on improving your customer effort score
Customer effort is a key performance indicator based on the ease of service experience. How easy it is for a customer ‘to resolve an issue’. 

It’s a question being asked and answered by more and more customer service leaders. In fact, 71% of service professionals say they’ve changed or prioritised their KPIs during the pandemic. 

Customer effort scores stem from minimal touchpoints linked by logical steps and to-the-point service leading to a fast resolution. Unifying speed and quality is a key challenge for service teams. However, the two rarely go hand-in-hand. 

We found that 83% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately when they contact a company. And 82% expect to solve complex problems by talking to just one person. 

Yet, 63% of agents say it’s hard to balance speed with quality service. This is a major obstacle to meeting customer expectations and nurturing CSAT.

As a result, we’re now seeing a rise in digital initiatives to meet more customers in more convenient channels. In fact, 78% of surveyed decision makers in South Africa are investing in new service technologies. 

Service KPIs are evolving in South Africa 
Customers are looking to service leaders for empathy and easy experiences. And teams are rising to meet them quickly reevaluating traditional KPIs to align themselves with a new type of customer. 

Service leaders in South Africa that rise to the challenge stand to retain and win more loyal customers. They can emerge from the pandemic stronger than they went in.

By Richard Chambers, Area Vice President, Africa & MED, Salesforce