One of the cardinal rules of good customer service is responding to customers as fast as possible. It sets the tone for the rest of the conversation and can boost the overall productivity of your customer support team. No wonder, response time is a metric that is closely tracked by business owners. Slow response time can be a symptom of inefficient call/chat routing or that you do not have enough people manning your helpdesk. It can also be a sign of a disengaged workforce. Either way, it is critical that you find answers to the problem…and fast!
A survey by SuperOffice revealed that 88% of customers expect a response within an hour of contacting a business. Average response times varied widely – from an excruciatingly slow 8 days to a lightning-fast 1 minute – across 1000 companies, the survey showed. Response time can trigger a chain of events that can be felt across the average customer journey. For starters, it is closely linked to another important customer service metric: abandon rate or the average number of customers that choose to hang up rather than waiting for an agent to answer.
It directly impacts the average length of time that a ticket remains open, all of which can dent the all-important C-Sat score for your team. And as we’ve discussed before, C-SAT can have a major impact on a company’s bottom line.
Poor response time is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why brands find themselves on the defensive when it comes to social media reviews. This is because a dissatisfied customer is more likely to spread the word among friends and colleagues about their less than satisfactory experience than a happy one. If it takes your team longer than 24 hours to respond to a negative social media review, it could have a negative impact on sales.
How to Improve Your Customer Service Response Time
Faster response time equals better closing rates which in turn influences revenues and customer engagement. Wondering how to take control of your customer service response time?
Here are a few proven strategies that can help you get the job done:
Analyze your performance
If your average customer service response time has been higher than the goal, it may be time to review the process followed by your agents to resolve customer queries. The problem may be the scheduling of workflow structure you are following. Leverage multi-channel data analytics to segment inbound volumes and prioritize them by order of importance.
If your helpdesk software allows you to tag or categorize individual tickets as ‘refund requests’ or ‘product question’, get your agents into the habit of categorizing them and then analyze which tickets take the longest to resolve.
Perform a root cause analysis and ask your agents for feedback on the processes that need to change. Do a dry run to see if the goal is being met. Depending on the outcome, you can:
- Update the FAQ page with information regarding returns or refunds
- Identify training needs across the team and do a process refresher if required.
- Align scorecard metrics with the most critical customer contact drivers.
- Check agent adherence and talk to the outliers.
- Analyze whether you need more staff for peak hours and whether outsourcing will be an effective alternative.
So, if you use Zendesk as your help-desk solution and Shopify for managing your orders, it is a complete no-brainer to enable your agents with a Zendesk-Shopify integration. Why? If an agent has to juggle between Zendesk and Shopify every time a request comes in, it not only leads to significantly slower resolution times but can also lead to significant agent fatigue, slowing down your entire queue management.
Most companies require agents to use multiple software and even if an integration does not exist, it can be very useful to get one built for your team. This will lead to a massive positive ROI in the long run.
Enable Your Agents To Take Decisions
Tickets resolution times can go up considerably if a certain category of cases requires escalation to a manager or another team. Try to resolve as many requests at the first tier as possible. If you cannot trust your agents with simple decisions like refunds or arranging free returns, then you seriously need to work on training them. They should be trained on not just what your brand stands for but also on your unit economics. If they have a good idea on how much it costs you to produce, store and ship, they will be able to keep your margins in mind while taking that decision on that exchange request.
Setup Quality Software Systems for Agent Knowledge Base
This is especially important if you have a technical product line or a SaaS offering. An agent can receive 100s or even 1000s of kinds of requests and sometimes, no amount of training can make them technical experts on your product line. The aim here is to reduce the number of escalations to you or your technical team. So, whenever you come across an escalation request from the agent, simply add it to your knowledge base. This will not just make it easier for your current team to find the answer when such a question appears next time, it will also help when training fresh recruits.
Setup Specialized Workflows
Customers hate it when a request gets escalated and if they have to wait for a response or if they have to talk to someone entirely new, and explain their situation all over again. To avoid longer handle times and boost your first contact resolution rate, enable real time collaboration between your tier-2 team (for example, your engineering team) and your front line/Tier-1 agents. Your agents should be able to reach out to your back-end/Tier-2 team on a real time basis over tools like Slack and at least make an attempt to provide a quick response to a customer. Even if the engineering team is able to respond to 30% of the escalation requests in real time, it will significantly boost your C-SAT and might help you meet your.
Using the insights from your review, you can optimize existing workflows by integrating multiple support tools such as chat and email. This will make it easier for your team to prioritize tasks and to get a better view of customers’ problems without having to ask them too many annoying questions. Research suggests that one of the pet peeves of customers calling a service provider is being transferred multiple times between departments – and having to explain their situation all over again.
If requests have to be sent to a gatekeeper on the back-end, customer support agents need to know the status on a real-time basis or they risk upsetting customers. Integration with internal communication platforms like Slack or Google Hangout can help your agents give customers the latest status updates without having to access multiple platforms and second-guessing themselves.
When customers know when to expect a response from your team, especially after a long weekend or holiday, they are more likely to be patient. All they need is a confirmation that their request is being worked on. There may be instances when a particular issue cannot be resolved immediately. A heads-up to the customer can take the pressure off your agents and make for better customer experience. Use tools like email autoresponders to:
- Respond to incoming messages immediately and let customers’ know their request has been received.
- Include useful information like your hours of operation, FAQ page links, and other ‘how-to’ content.
- Alert customers about scheduled downtime
- Provide payment confirmation, estimated arrival time and order tracking reference number
This is a simple but highly effective way to keep up with customer emails. For the most common queries, using email templates saves time and enables agents to provide better service. For example, if a customer abandons a purchase, an automatic follow up email can make it easier for the customer service agent doing a call back to close the sale. Automatic email templates are a great way to help your agents respond faster to customer requests without feeling burnt out.
Route All Ticket Creation Through a Request Form
This is common sense but a lot many companies still give out their customer service email instead of routing their customers through a basic form. It takes very little time for a customer to answer a couple of basic questions before submitting their request, and it can be a lifesaver for your agents. Because of the form, the tickets within the helpdesk will automatically be categorized and your agents will be able to resolve certain urgent tickets on priority. For example, order modification tickets can be fairly urgent and if tickets reach your helpdesk automatically categorized, your agents can focus on the most urgent tickets first, boosting response times on tickets that actually deserve rapid responses (if a customer reaches out to you after placing their order, asking you to ship a different product instead of what they chose). Prioritizing open tickets is not just more efficient, it can make it easier for agents to stay focussed.
Hire More People
Ultimately, don’t shy away from hiring people. If you don’t have the bandwidth to hire remote staff on your own, hire a company like Helplama to do it for you. Even if a remote agent can get started with one kind of ticket and slowly scales up to the other ticket categories over weeks and months, it can significantly add to improved response times and an enhanced C-SAT. The best part is it will make a difference to the bottom line in more ways than one. Firstly, customers are likely to spend more with you and secondly, your operating costs can reduce significantly, allowing you to scale up operations sustainably.
From delayed deliveries to refunds, customers need their questions answered quickly. If you have a small team, you could do with some outsourced help. Helplama specializes in helping online stores build and scale their customer support without breaking the bank. What’s more, we do not believe in restrictive long term contracts. Instead, we offer tailored solutions that suit every need and budget.
If you need a proven strategy to 10X or even 100X your customer support operation, don’t hesitate to call us.