If there’s one thing that customers hate, it’s being put on hold. In fact, long wait times are usually top of the list of things that ruin the customer experience when dealing with a business. In an age of instant communication, people don’t want to sit on hold for half an hour before they are able to speak to somebody. They don’t want to wait days for a reply to their email either. That’s why response times are one of the most important aspects of your customer service strategy.
If your response times are slow, it suggests a few things about your business. Firstly, the customer will assume that you are unprofessional and unorganized because you cannot handle the workload and everything is running at a snail’s pace. If you can’t be trusted to get back to your customers in a timely manner, should they really trust the quality of your products or services?
The second thing that it might suggest to customers is that you don’t prioritize them. A business that values its customers above all else will get back to them and answer their queries as soon as possible. If you aren’t doing that, people will begin to question whether you value them or whether you simply see them as another sale and forget all about them once you have their money. Even if these assumptions about your business are false, that is the impression you give if you have slow response times, so it’s vital that you fix them.
If you think that you might have an issue with slow customer service response times, here are a few things you can do to improve the experience for customers.
Measure Response Times
You can’t tackle the problem of response times unless you know where you stand, so measuring your current response times is the first step. This includes looking at the average time a customer is on hold as well as the average time it takes to respond to an email. You should also consider the total length of time between first contact and resolution of the issue to ensure that customer queries are being dealt with efficiently and the outcome is acceptable to the customer. If you don’t already have software in place to measure these metrics, it’s vital that you invest in some. This isn’t something that you should just check once, it’s something that you should consistently monitor so you can maintain quality of service and if there is a problem, you can pick up on it and rectify it right away. As your business grows, your customer service needs will change accordingly, so you need to be prepared for that.
Tracking a customer’s journey through the resolution process will also stop issues from escalating and improve the overall satisfaction rating. Your employees will be able to identify which cases have been open the longest and which issues are most severe, so they can be prioritized and dealt with before they escalate.
Streamline Your Phone System
Being passed around different departments on the phone and waiting on hold for ages is so frustrating for customers, and it’s not an efficient use of your employees’ time either. If you want to improve the experience all round, you should spend some time streamlining your phone system. There are some great companies like Zintel that provide phone solutions for businesses to do exactly that. You will be provided with a simple 1800 number that all of your customers can use and this will then be redirected to the relevant phone. Customers can get through to the right person a lot faster and you don’t need to worry about managing multiple phone numbers. If you relocate your business or expand into new locations, you can still keep the same number, making life easier for everybody. Using a phone system like this also allows you to track your calls more effectively.
Organize Your Emails
Email is a great tool that allows customers to contact you easily, even if they don’t have time to call you. But many people are disappointed at slow response times to emails, which are usually caused by email overload and lack of organization. If all of your employees use a single, shared inbox, it’s going to be chaos. You’ve got thousands of emails in one place and everybody is searching through, trying to find multiple customers that they’ve been in contact with. It’s so easy for people to slip through the net and be forgotten about until they are forced to send another email chasing you up because they got no response.
If you’re going to make email work for you, organization is key. Most modern email software allows you to easily categorize incoming emails and put things in folders. You can also invest in specific customer service email software. So, instead of searching through a huge shared inbox to work out what is happening with a particular query, your customer service agents can simply look at a folder with every email from that customer and work out exactly what needs to be done.
Emails can also be flagged and categorized based on their urgency so certain things can be prioritized. For example, if somebody has a general question about your product, that can go in the less urgent category and your agents can focus on dealing with serious complaints first.
Implement Automatic Emails
When customers contact your business, they don’t expect a resolution to their issue immediately and they (usually) understand that these things take time. However, they will be frustrated if they do not even get an acknowledgment from you and they don’t know whether their email has even been opened yet. Automatic email responses are a good way to get around this and keep customers in the loop without overloading customer service staff with too much work.
When an email has been received, send out an automatic response to say that the query has been logged, somebody is looking at it and they will be in contact soon. This puts the customer’s mind at rest as they know that the process has started and they can expect some progress in the near future. You should also create separate automated responses to use outside of business hours to help manage customer expectations. If they understand that they have emailed while nobody is in the office, they won’t be sitting at the computer waiting for an immediate response.
Automated responses can also be used to suggest potential self-service options that customers can use to resolve common issues. You can also give a general time frame in which they should expect a response, just make sure that you are realistic about this so you can meet your promise.
Automated emails are fine for initial responses but later on in the customer service journey, employees will have to write manual email responses. This is very time consuming and when they have lots of different queries to deal with at once, it often leads to slow response times. But you can speed things along if you use email templates to fill out most of the information. Often, customer service agents find that they spend a big chunk of their time answering the same questions over and over, which is not efficient if they are typing out a new response each time. But if they have a template with all of the relevant information and they just need to add the name and a few other details, they can get those emails sent out in a fraction of the time.
Use Live Chat Software
Live chat is becoming more and more common and you see it on so many websites these days. It’s so much easier for the customer because they don’t have to mess around with emails and they can get a faster response. It’s also a lot easier on your end because customer service staff can manage multiple queries at once. This direct communication makes the customer feel more in control of the situation because they are in the loop instead of sitting there waiting for an email.
Live chat operated by a customer service representation allows for a quicker response time but during busy periods, it won’t be instant. However, if you use chatbot software, you can give an instant response to the majority of customers. Using advanced artificial intelligence, a chatbot can mimic a real person and answer a number of basic questions. Those questions that customers ask over and over no longer need to be answered by a real person, they can be answered immediately by a chatbot. That means customers get the information they need straight away and it also frees up time for customer service representatives to deal with more complex problems that the chatbot can’t solve, so response times drop across the board.
The other big benefit of using live chat and chatbots is that you don’t need to hire anywhere near as many customer service staff, meaning that you make huge savings on your overheads.
Slow response times leave customers with a terrible impression of your business and it’s unlikely that they will deal with you again in the future. However, if you implement these simple changes, you can speed up your response times and improve your overall customer experience.