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Know Your Response Times

Response times make a big difference, and there’s real data to back that up. Every customer that reaches out for service wants their issue solved fast.

What’s the response time solution?

As a business owner seeking a customer service solution, you may be thinking: “How can I fully predict customers’ expected response times?”

Here’s the bad news: you can’t. Not down to the second, at least. Each customer has their own individual expectations for appropriate response times, regardless of the severity of the issue. However, you can never tell a customer that his or her issue is simply less important.

“I’m sorry sir, but your call is #109 in the queue.”

That wouldn’t go over well. And it certainly wouldn’t bode well for customer loyalty and retention.

Fortunately, there are general guidelines for response times, and they are based on channels of support. Your company can come close to achieving excellent response times by taking a look at three channels of support: chat, email and phone. In the customer’s mind, each one should have a different response time, and striving to meet that expectation will boost your overall CRM. It’s important to note that many customers will utilize all three. Offering chat does not automatically lower your call or email rate. This goes back to our Help Desk blog post, where we stress the importance of an integrated ticket system. What it does accomplish is convenience for the customer, allowing them to find a solution with far less work.

Response priority by channel

1. Chat

There’s no way to eliminate hold times, especially for the phones. Companies know this, as do their customers. So if a customer decides to use chat, they do so because they expect a quicker, if not instant, response. In a U.S. and U.K. based study, 79% of customers used live chat purely for the expectation of instant service.

Furthermore, based on research with hundreds of companies, BoldChat determined that 90% of those businesses attributed live chat to the increased speeds of their own services.

A good chat interface will take the initiative by engaging the customer via a chat window. Alternatively, when a customer uses chat to reach a rep, every second that passes makes you look less professional. Chat needs to be responded to in mere seconds. Again, ensure that your Help Desk has an integrated ticket system so you can prioritize customer concerns correctly. For example, a customer contact regarding a compromised account absolutely needs to be answered quickly, while concerns about upcoming sales are lower on the response list. Note that email and chat will obviously demand less time and resources than callbacks. That’s something to factor into your CRM, as time is a resource. Finally, circling back to our last post, we reiterate that CSR’s can use chat to aid many customers simultaneously.

2. Email

Email responses across the board are slower than expected. Worse, companies often set their own response time parameters, and miss the mark.

Email inquiries often get buried or lost in the priority queue, resulting in longer waits for the customer. The nature of emails lead them to be pushed aside for later, as they differentiate from the immediate demands of chat and phone interaction. Poor management of your email ticketing system is dangerous for this reason. Response time varies by urgency and industry, but a general deadline of 24 hours for email is a good go-to.

So whatever your response time parameter, be sure that you are keeping your emails in the loop via integration.

3. Phone

Here’s where the lion’s share of your tickets will be. For issues that aren’t resolved on the first call, expected response times for scheduled callbacks need to be put into place.

QA’s or supervisors typically monitor calls of CSR’s, ensuring compliance with company protocol and general customer service etiquette. A smart strategy used by successful companies is measuring follow-up times in the case of callbacks. Similar to emails, voicemails can get lost in the background and forgetting even a single callback will lead to a former customer.

The clock is ticking, and once significant time passes, you start to risk customer churn.

What does it all mean?

Many customers vent their poor experiences on social media. While that’s damaging to your reputation, you can take the best from it. More often than not, the ails will be related to poor response times, or the above cases of forgotten follow-ups. Similar to automated surveys, you can use this “data” to gauge where and why customers felt dismissed, and fix your response times accordingly. When evaluating your response times, be sure to set standards. Even if you miss that mark, you begin by aiming high. Secondly, organize your response times depending on channel. The key takeaway here is that response times matter, and if you are not keeping up, your customer loyalty will wane.


Nicolas Mcauliff

Nicholas has a background in SaaS and customer service solutions. As a member of our writing team, he informs and educates others about a variety of smart contact center solutions and strategies.