Help Desk Performance: The Most Important KPIs to Measure

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The Help Desk function is one of the most critical elements of a business’ ecosystem, particularly in this digital era where support whether in-house or in the form of outsourced IT support services play such a fundamental role. It’s so important that according to a survey conducted by Nathan Furr, professor of strategy and Innovation at INSEAD, 58% of customers are willing to pay more for better customer service. Yet many businesses rarely invest in measuring help desk performance, leading to inefficiencies, customer dissatisfaction, and lost opportunities.

For the majority of enterprises though, the problem lies in what to measure. What exactly do you measure to determine the level of performance of your help desk? Because of the confusion, some end up measuring anything and everything. Others measure only a few, while others measure the wrong things.

This guide solves this challenge by providing the most important KPIs to measure when it comes to help desk performance. 

If you are just getting started, please make sure to go through this resource that explains the key differences between a help desk and a service desk.

What is the meaning of help desk performance?

Help desk performance refers to the effectiveness and efficiency of a help desk in providing support to customers or users.

Effective help desk performance means that the help desk is able to accurately resolve customer issues or inquiries in a timely manner, while also providing high levels of customer satisfaction.

Efficiency refers to the ability to handle a high volume of requests with minimal resources and without sacrificing quality.

Also Read: The Main Tiers of IT Support

What are help desk KPIs?

Help desk KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are metrics used to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of a help desk.

These KPIs can be quantitative or qualitative in nature. Quantitative metrics focus on the quantifiable side of performance of the help desk, such as the number of calls handled, tickets resolved, or the average time to respond to a request.

Qualitative metrics, on the other hand, are subjective and cannot be expressed numerically. These metrics focus on the quality of work performed, such as the level of customer satisfaction.

Why is it important to measure help desk performance?

A help desk is the primary point of contact between a business and its customers or users. Measuring its performance enables organizations to identify areas where customer satisfaction is low and take steps to improve service quality. This can help to increase customer loyalty and retention.

In addition, measuring help desk performance can help reduce costs associated with providing customer support. This is possible by identifying areas where resources are being wasted, such as excessive ticket handling time or high call volume.

Here is the full breadth of the benefits any business can realize by measuring help desk performance:

  • Improved customer satisfaction: Accurate help desk performance measurement enables organizations to identify and address areas of low customer satisfaction. This, in turn, leads to improved service quality, happier customers, increased loyalty, and a stronger reputation.
  • Reduced costs: The measured metrics allows organizations to identify areas where resources are being wasted and take steps to reduce them. We have previously discussed IT cost reduction at length. Check this guide to reducing IT costs.
  • Increased productivity: The measurement outcomes make it possible to identify and eliminate bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the support process. This then equips support staff to handle more requests in less time, increasing the overall productivity.
  • Data-driven decision-making: You get valuable data that can be used to make informed decisions about how to improve support. Data-driven decisions are the foundation for prudent resource utilization as you are able to focus on the areas that will have the biggest impact.
  • Setting goals and targets: Help desk performance metrics can be used to set targets and goals for the help desk. This can help to keep support staff focused on the right priorities.

The top 15 most important help desk KPIs to measure

As we mentioned at the beginning, it’s advisable to measure those KPIs that will deliver the greatest impact.

Measuring too many KPIs can lead to information overload, making it challenging to identify the most critical metrics to focus on. Moreover, it can be time-consuming, resource-intensive, and can result in a lack of focus on the most important metrics. Too many KPIs also make it difficult to identify trends, patterns, and insights that can inform effective decision-making.

With this background, here now are the most important helpdesk KPIs that you should measure:

1. Ticket volume

This is a top help desk metric, as it indicates the total number of tickets or requests that your support team receives over a particular period, whether they are new tickets or ongoing tickets that have been previously submitted. Ticket volume gives you a broader picture of the workload that your team is managing and the overall demand for your help desk.

Through this metric, you can identify trends and patterns in the types of issues and requests that your team receives. This information can help you optimize your support resources and prioritize certain issues over others. If you notice a significant increase in ticket volume but the number of support agents remains the same, it may be an indication that your team needs additional resources to handle the workload effectively.

You can also use this metric to predict the periods during which your business is likely to experience a surge in support tickets and take proactive measures to prepare for it.

2. New tickets

It is crucial to know the precise number of new complaints and requests that your help desk is handling.

This help desk metric provides valuable insights into the issues and requests that your help desk agents face on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

If your team is receiving more support requests than they can handle, you can use this metric to plan for expanding your team to meet the demand. Conversely, a decrease in the number of new tickets could indicate that your self-service initiatives are effective, and customers are resolving their issues on their own without submitting a ticket — congratulations!

3. Ticket cost

This refers to the average cost incurred for each ticket handled by the help desk team. It's calculated by dividing the total cost of operating the help desk by the total number of tickets handled during a specific period, such as a day, week, or month. The resulting figure provides insight into how much it costs the help desk to handle each ticket, allowing managers to assess whether their team is operating cost-effectively. For example, they may identify that the time taken to resolve tickets is higher than expected due to a lack of training, inefficient processes, or inadequate software. 

Another benefit of measuring the cost per ticket is that it can be used to compare the performance of the help desk against industry benchmarks. For instance, managers can compare their cost per ticket against that of other companies in the same industry or against industry standards. This can help identify areas where the help desk is underperforming and allow managers to take action to improve performance so as to enhance competitiveness.

There are several factors that contribute to the cost per ticket. One significant factor is the cost of labor. This includes the salaries and benefits of help desk staff, as well as any overhead costs associated with managing the help desk, such as training, software, and equipment.

4. Average resolution time

The average time it takes to resolve a ticket is measured by dividing the total time taken to resolve all tickets during a specific period by the total number of tickets resolved during that period. This metric provides insight into how quickly the help desk team is resolving customer issues and whether their performance is meeting service level agreements (SLAs) or not.

This is a crucial metric as customers expect their issues to be resolved as quickly as possible, and a prolonged resolution time can result in dissatisfaction and a negative perception.

For example, let's say a help desk team received 500 tickets during a week, and they were able to resolve 450 of them within the same week. The total time taken to resolve all 450 tickets was 750 hours. To calculate the average resolution time, we divide the total time taken (750 hours) by the total number of tickets resolved (450), resulting in an average resolution time of 1.67 hours per ticket.

This figure can be compared to industry benchmarks or previous performance to identify whether the help desk team is meeting SLAs and performance targets. If the average resolution time is higher than expected, it can be an indicator of issues that need urgent attention and managers can then take steps to address them.

5. Initial call resolution rate

This is a measure of the percentage of customer issues that are resolved on the first call or interaction with the help desk. It's measured by dividing the number of issues resolved on the first call by the total number of calls or interactions received during a specific period.

Example: A help desk team receives 500 calls in a week and they were able to resolve 400 of those issues on the first call. The first call resolution rate would be 80%, which means that 80% of customers' issues were resolved during their first interaction with the help desk team.

A high first call resolution rate is essential for customer satisfaction because it means that customers' issues are being resolved quickly, with minimal need for additional follow-up calls or interactions. Aresearch by FinanceOnline shows that 33% of the surveyed customers consider good service to be the ability to resolve their issues in a single call/interaction. Conversely, a low first call resolution rate can indicate inefficiencies or gaps in the help desk team's resourcefulness, which can lead to customer frustration.

Improving the first call resolution rate can have significant benefits for the help desk team and the overall business. It can reduce call volume and increase employee morale as they will no longer need to go through the embarrassment of having to deal with the same customer over and over again for the same issue.

6. Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a customer loyalty metric that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company's products or services to others. The NPS score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors (customers who rate the company 0-6 on a scale of 0-10) from the percentage of promoters (customers who rate the company 9 or 10). The result is a single number that indicates the overall level of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

For example, let's say a company conducts an NPS survey and receives 100 responses. Of those responses, 40 customers rated the company 9 or 10 (promoters), 50 customers rated the company 7 or 8 (passives), and 10 customers rated the company 0-6 (detractors). The NPS score for this company would be calculated as follows:

NPS = (40/100) x 100 — (10/100) x 100 NPS = 30

A positive NPS score indicates that a company has more promoters than detractors, indicating high customer satisfaction and loyalty. A negative score indicates that a company has more detractors than promoters, indicating low customer satisfaction and loyalty. A score of zero indicates that the company has an equal number of promoters and detractors.

Help desk managers can use the NPS score to identify areas where improvements can be made to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, such as improving response times, resolving issues on the first call, or providing better communication and support.

7. Customer retention rate

Customer retention rate measures the percentage of customers who continue to do business with a company over a specific period. It's an essential metric because it indicates the company's ability to retain its customers and build long-term relationships. According to Bain & Company,boosting customer retention by just 5% can result in a profit increase of over 25%.

To calculate the customer retention rate, you need to determine the number of customers who remain loyal to your business and divide that by the total number of customers at the beginning of a specific period, usually a month or a year. The resulting percentage reflects the percentage of customers who continue to do business with the company.

For example, let's say that at the beginning of the year, a company had 1,000 customers. By the end of the year, 800 of those customers were still doing business with the company. The customer retention rate for the year would be 80%.

A high customer retention rate can lead to increased revenue, as loyal customers are more likely to make repeat purchases and recommend the company to others. It's also a key driver of customer lifetime value, which is the total amount of revenue a customer generates for the company over the period of time they continue to do business with the company.

The customer retention rate is closely connected to the help desk because when customers have issues or concerns, the first place they knock is the help desk. The quality of support they receive can have a significant impact on their overall experience with the company and their likelihood of remaining a customer. A Salesforce Research found that 89% of customers are inclined to make a repeat purchase following a positive support experience.

8. Feedback score

The User feedback score (UFS) KPI measures the satisfaction level of customers based on their feedback. A study by Qualtrics XM Institute reveals that 90% of customers who rate a company as very good have very high trust for the company. And as you know, customer trust is indeed the ultimate “soul” of a business. It’s what we all want. 

To measure UFS, customers are asked to rate their experience on a scale, usually from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest rating. The scores are then averaged to provide an overall UFS. UFS can also be calculated for specific interactions, such as a help desk ticket, to gain more granular insight into individual customer satisfaction.

Let's say a customer submits a ticket to the help desk, and after the issue is resolved, they receive a feedback survey asking them to rate their experience. The customer rates their experience an 8 out of 10. This score is then added to the total UFS, which is calculated by averaging the scores of all feedback surveys received.

UFS can also help identify trends and patterns in customer feedback, enabling help desk managers to make data-driven decisions that can positively impact the customer experience. For example, if multiple customers provide feedback that the same issue is consistently not resolved, managers can take action to investigate the root cause of the problem and implement a solution.

9. Repeat incidents

The number of times a customer has to contact the help desk for the same issue is a critical metric. Let's say a customer contacts the help desk because they are experiencing issues with a particular feature of a product. The help desk agent provides a solution that resolves the issue, but the customer contacts the help desk again a week later with the same problem. This would count as a repeat incident and would be tracked as part of the KPI.

Repeat incidents can have several underlying causes. One common cause is that the help desk may not have fully resolved the underlying problem, leading to the issue recurring later. Another cause could be that the customer did not fully understand the solution provided by the help desk and was unable to implement it effectively.

Help desk managers can take several steps to address repeat incidents. First, they can analyze the data to identify patterns in the types of issues that are resulting in repeat incidents. This can help them to prioritize areas for improvement and identify potential solutions.

Second, they can work with their teams to ensure that agents are providing effective solutions that fully resolve customer issues. This may involve providing additional training or resources to help desk agents to improve their problem-solving skills.

Finally, help desk managers can work affected teams in the organization to identify and address underlying problems that may be leading to repeat incidents. For example, if customers are experiencing issues with a particular product feature, the help desk can work with the product development team to identify and resolve any underlying technical issues.

Also Read: The Most Common IT Challenges

10. Support tickets opened vs solved

This metric is calculated by dividing the number of support tickets solved by the number of tickets opened within a given time frame. Demonstrating the significance of this metric, Khoros indicates that83% of customers feel more loyal to brands that respond and resolve their complaints fully. So for every unresolved ticket, you’re losing some loyalty. 

If, say, a help desk team received 100 support tickets in a week, and was able to resolve and close 80 of those tickets within the same week, then the team's support tickets opened vs. solved KPI would be 80%.

A low percentage of support tickets opened vs. solved may indicate that the team is understaffed or not able to keep up with the volume of customer inquiries. Alternatively, a high percentage may indicate that the team is highly efficient and effective at resolving customer issues.

11. Transfer rate

The percentage of customer inquiries that are transferred from one help desk agent to another or to a different department is what is referred to as transfer rate.

To measure transfer rate, divide the number of transferred inquiries by the total number of inquiries received during a given time period. For example, if a help desk team received 200 inquiries in a day, and 40 of those inquiries were transferred to another agent or department, the transfer rate would be 20%.

A high transfer rate can indicate that the transferring help desk team is not equipped to handle certain types of inquiries, or that the agents lack the necessary training or knowledge to address all customer issues. This can result in longer wait times and frustrated customers.

To improve transfer rate, help desk managers can identify the types of inquiries that are most commonly transferred and work to provide agents with the necessary training and resources to handle these issues more effectively.

Second, they can review and optimize workflows to reduce the need for transfers. For example, they can implement self-service options or provide customers with more detailed information upfront to reduce the likelihood of inquiries being transferred. Zendesk reports that 69% of customers prefer to resolve as many issues as they can by themselves. So you might want to give serious consideration to self service solutions. 

Finally, help desk managers can work with other departments in the organization to address any underlying issues that may be contributing to high transfer rates. For example, if the sales team is frequently transferring inquiries related to product pricing or availability, the help desk team can work with sales to improve their processes and provide more detailed information to customers upfront.

Worth Noting: The higher the transfer rate,  the more you are creating room for customers to get frustrated as they have to repeat themselves to different agents. This is something many customers don’t fancy as revealed by a Zendesk survey, which found that 71% of customers hate repeating their issues

12. Number of social media tickets

Customers are increasingly using social media to interact with businesses, and they also expect companies to promptly respond to requests or complaints originating from social media. In fact, 18% of consumers globally expect companies to respond to social media questions or complaints immediately while 28% expect a response within one hour.

Measuring the number of social media tickets will give you actionable insights to help you allocate resources accordingly. If you notice that the help desk is receiving a growing number of social media tickets, you may decide to allocate dedicated social media agents. Besides allocating agents, the insights coming out of these tickets can help you personalize your services for the groups of customers who like to use social media to raise issues.

13. Ticket distribution

You need to make sure that all agents handle a fairly balanced number of tickets based on their abilities or level of experience.

You certainly do not want a situation where some agents are overwhelmed either by an unfairly high number of tickets or with tickets beyond their capabilities.

This metric essentially gives you visibility into which agents are handling how many tickets, and what type of tickets. If you notice that one agent, for example, is constantly handling a high number of tickets that can also be handled by other agents, then you can redistribute the tickets. In the absence of this metric, some agents can easily get overworked and this will eventually take a toll on them.

14. Individual agent performance

This metric measures the number of tickets or requests that each agent resolves successfully within a given time frame, such as a day, a week, or a month.

You can use this metric to identify your top performers and those who may need additional support or training. You can also evaluate how each agent is handling different types of customer issues and whether there are any areas where they may be struggling.

This metric is also useful for setting performance goals and targets for each agent, which can help motivate and incentivize them to improve their productivity and quality of work.

It's essential to keep in mind that individual agent performance metrics should not be used solely for evaluating an agent's effectiveness or as a basis for disciplinary action. Other factors, such as customer satisfaction and feedback, should also be taken into consideration when assessing agent performance.

15.  Help desk team satisfaction

This may have surprised you — rightly so because not many companies measure the satisfaction levels of their help desk agents. It's critical that you measure it as well.  You'll never achieve high customer satisfaction rates if your support agents are not satisfied themselves. Your team will never deliver what they don't have, they cannot make customers happy when they themselves are not happy.

You can measure agent satisfaction through surveys or other feedback mechanisms to collect data on how agents feel about their work environment, job responsibilities, and opportunities for growth.

If your agent satisfaction survey results show that your team members are feeling overwhelmed with the volume of support tickets, you may consider hiring additional agents to help distribute the workload. If the survey reveals that agents are dissatisfied with the lack of growth opportunities, you may consider offering training programs or career development opportunities to help them grow within the organization.

Best practices for effective help desk performance measurement

Implement these best practices to help you get the most out of your KPIs and optimize your team's operations: 

1. Choose helpdesk KPIs that align with business goals

The KPIs you select for measurement should align with the broader business goals, such as reducing costs, improving user satisfaction, or increasing efficiency. This helps ensure that the help desk's performance is contributing to the overall success of the organization.

For example, if the company's goal is to increase revenue, the help desk's KPIs could be focused on reducing resolution times and improving first call resolution rates. This can lead to more satisfied customers who are more likely to continue doing business with the company and potentially increase revenue.

On the other hand, if the company's goal is to reduce costs, the help desk's KPIs could be focused on reducing the number of support tickets or calls, and increasing self-service options.

Aligning the help desk's KPIs with the broader business goals gives the help desk an excellent platform to demonstrate the value it brings to the organization. This also helps ensure that the help desk's performance is contributing to the overall success of the company, rather than operating as a siloed function. This way, the help desk team can build stronger relationships with other departments, increasing the likelihood of being involved in strategic planning and decision making.

2. Use relevant data sources

Accurate and reliable data is essential for effective KPI measurement. As such, the team responsible for measurement should identify the most relevant data sources for their KPIs, such as ticketing systems, call logs, or customer feedback surveys.

For example, they should ensure that call logs are accurately recorded and that all relevant information is captured. This can include the caller's name, the reason for the call, and the resolution provided..

In addition to collecting the right data, it's also important to ensure that the data is being analyzed in the right way. For instance, if the help desk is analyzing customer feedback surveys to measure customer satisfaction, they may use sentiment analysis tools to identify the most common issues mentioned in the feedback.

3. Set realistic targets

Unrealistic targets can lead to demotivation and a lack of buy-in from help desk staff.

So, the targets should be challenging, but also achievable. Targets that are too high can demotivate your team, while targets that are too low won't provide any real improvement in performance.

For example, let's say the help desk's goal is to improve customer satisfaction rating from 70% to 90%. If the help desk is currently understaffed or under-resourced, it may be difficult to achieve this goal within a short timeframe. Setting a more realistic target of 75% within the next quarter and gradually increasing it to 90% over time would be more achievable and motivating for help desk staff.

Setting realistic targets also requires understanding the historical performance of the help desk. This means analyzing past performance data to determine what is achievable and what is not..

Effective communication with help desk staff is also crucial. It's important to explain why certain targets are being set and how they will benefit the organization. The staff should also be involved in setting targets where possible, as they are likely to have a better understanding of what is achievable and what is not.

4. Ensure data accuracy and integrity

There should be a solid data management system that ensures the accuracy and integrity of the data used to measure KPIs. The system should include procedures for data collection, validation, and analysis. For example, data should be checked for duplicates, missing values, and errors in data entry. 

This also includes clear guidelines for data collection, where the data that needs to be collected is clearly defined including how it should be collected, and who is responsible for collecting it.  

5. Communicate KPIs and their results

The help desk management should develop a communication strategy that outlines how KPIs will be communicated to stakeholders, including help desk staff, top management, and customers or users.

The communication strategy should also include mechanisms for soliciting feedback from stakeholders. Implement regular surveys and feedback mechanisms that allow stakeholders to provide input on the effectiveness of the help desk and its KPIs. This feedback should be used to improve the KPIs and ensure that they are aligned with the needs of stakeholders.

6. Implement a chatbot to provide quicker responses

A chatbot can handle simple and repetitive tasks, such as password reset requests or frequently asked questions, freeing up human agents to focus on more complex issues that require human intervention. 

A chatbot is typically integrated with the help desk software and is designed to engage with customers in a conversational manner. When a customer initiates a chat session with the help desk, the chatbot will use natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms to understand the customer's query and provide a relevant response.

One key benefit of using a chatbot in a help desk environment is that it can provide 24/7 support to customers, even outside of normal business hours. This can be particularly useful for customers in different time zones or for urgent queries that need to be addressed outside of regular business hours.

Also Read: IT Help Desk Best Practices

Key Takeaway

The KPIs should not be the only focus of your Help Desk performance strategy. Other factors, such as agent training and communication skills should also be considered.

Most importantly, the performance measurement should be continuous rather than a one-time event. It’s the only way you can best track trends over time, identify sudden changes in performance, and make data-driven decisions to drive improvement. 

Set regular intervals for KPI measurement, such as weekly or monthly, depending on the nature of your Help Desk and the KPIs being measured. This will help you identify any changes in performance quickly and take timely corrective action.

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