Modern customers have high expectations when it comes to customer service. One survey showed that nearly half of customers expected an email response from businesses in less than four hours. If your average response time is much higher than this, you could be losing out on a lot of business.
Of course, meeting customer expectations regarding response time is often easier said than done. If your customer support team is struggling to keep up, the good news is that there are some effective ways to shorten your response times without having to hire a team of new employees.
In this blog, we'll discuss why a fast response time is such a vital component of great customer service and go over seven proven methods you can use to achieve a faster response to customer service emails and messages.
What is a good customer service response time?
When a customer reaches out to you, you should aim for a first response time of one hour for emails, 15 minutes for social media messages, 40 seconds for SMS messages, and even less than that for live chat messages.
Why response times are important for customer service teams
No matter what product or service you happen to be selling, creating a positive customer experience is an essential ingredient in the recipe for long-term success. While there is a lot that goes into creating a great experience for your customers, prompt customer service goes a long way.
Here are a few of the reasons why achieving fast response times is such an important goal for your customer service department:
1) Customers continue to demand faster responses
More and more customers have come to expect near real-time access to companies across multiple channels. One Hubspot survey showed that 90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as important or very important when they have a customer service question.
Furthermore, 60% of people who needed support defined "immediate" as 10 minutes or less. If your company isn’t responding to customer queries at least this fast, you risk falling short of expectations your competitors may be meeting.
2) Poor response times reflect negatively on your company
Fair or not, poor response times can hurt your brand image. Encouraging brand loyalty and return customers is a vital goal for any business, and poor response times can make this goal all the more difficult to reach.
Keep in mind that customers expect fast response times since so many companies today can meet those expectations. If your company isn't keeping up with the customer service offered by the competition, it could damage your brand reputation among existing customers.
3) Faster responses that lead to quicker resolutions can increase revenue
There are plenty of scenarios where responding to a customer query within a short time frame can lead to your business making more money. If a customer has a question about your product, for example, responding quickly before they move on to another product could lead to a sale you might not otherwise make.
If a customer needs to return a product, prompt customer service could encourage them to exchange the product for another product or store credit rather than becoming frustrated and demanding a cash return. In instances such as these, fast response times that lead to quick resolutions can directly translate to more or retained revenue.
4) Quick responses can boost customer satisfaction
Good customer service doesn't mean that you always have to solve a customer's issue on the first response. In many cases, simply acknowledging their email and letting them know that you’re working on a solution is enough to keep customers temporarily satisfied and buy your customer service team some time.
Unless the issue is immediately resolvable, your goal in an initial response should be to acknowledge the customer's problem, let them know that you’ve assigned their ticket to a representative, and provide them with a time frame for when they can expect a resolution.
Sending out an initial response that covers these bases can keep customers satisfied and patient while your team members work on their follow-up.
5) Slow response times might increase your workload
Achieving fast response times may seem like a lot of work. Many times, though, slow responses can end up increasing the workload of your customer support team. If you don't respond quickly enough to a customer that needs assistance, they may end up contacting your company multiple times through multiple channels.
This can lead to numerous support tickets being created for a single issue, bogging down your team and creating unnecessary confusion that could have otherwise been avoided if you had responded to the customer's initial query promptly. This is another reason it’s helpful to keep your average first response time as low as possible.
How to reduce customer service response times
For all of the reasons listed above, responding to customer service emails in the shortest amount of time possible is ideal. Thankfully, there are many different methods you can use to speed up your response times across all your support channels that don't require huge investments or shifts.
1) Make sure you're measuring first response times
Before you can test out solutions, determine what your average response time currently is (if you don’t already know). First response time is a crucial customer service metric to evaluate your team's impact because it affects revenue-related metrics like churn and retention rates.
To calculate the average first response time, all you have to do is add up all of your first response times for a given period then divide that number by the number of resolved tickets during that time.
Once you've determined what your average first response time is, you can then set goals for improvement and continue to measure your progress. Gorgias provides you with many analytic tools that allow you to track key customer service metrics, including average response time. By leveraging tools such as these, you can easily analyze your customer support team's efforts and set achievable benchmarks for more improvement.
2) Take advantage of customer service software
Responding to every customer email manually is a monumental task. If you’re still solely relying on traditional methods of responding to customer queries, achieving fast response times is going to be nearly impossible. Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of customer service software on the market today that can take a lot of the heavy lifting out of your workflows.
For example, help desk software allows your team members to see and reply to customer queries from any channel — like social media, ecommerce stores, WhatsApp, and SMS — from a single centralized dashboard. You can organize them based on factors such as the date and time received, priority, subject matter, and some other categories.
Customer service software also automates time-consuming tasks, like sending initial responses to customer emails. This is just a snapshot of the ways these platforms can help your team reduce your response times. We highly recommend leveraging software to optimize your customer support process.
3) Utilize customer service automation for 24/7 service
We touched on it briefly, but customer service automation can free up your customer support team significantly during business hours. It provides customers with immediate, automated responses that you can personalize to make sound as friendly as a manual response. These small measures free up your team to focus on more complicated and pressing tasks.
That’s not all. Setting up an auto-responder allows you to send customers an all-important first response any time you like. There’s no need for a live representative, and a quick response could prevent another ticket or message from piling up to deal with in the morning. Most software lets you automate responses and send them via email, chatbot, app notification, text and more.
Recommended reading: Ecommerce Customer Support Best Practices
4) Use scripts and email templates
Having your customer service team type out a custom response to every new email they receive from a customer is inefficient. In addition to using an auto-responder to send out an automated first response, one simple way to speed up your reply time is to make use of scripts and email templates.
To build your scripts, start by identifying common questions and issues that your support team encounters most frequently. You can then create helpful boilerplate answers with blank spots to plug in customer details using your software or other tools.
One pro tip is to look back at positive customer feedback or five-star interactions to get ideas. See which answers made customers feel heard and satisfied while also solving their issues quickly. For live customer support channels such as phone calls or live chat, you can create scripts for each FAQ that representatives can follow.
Leveraging scripts and email templates ensures that your team members aren't having to type out the same response over and over again to commonly asked questions, enabling them to provide service in a more efficient and timely manner.
5) Create a system to categorize and segment priority tickets
Some customer support tickets should take higher priority than others. A customer that’s reporting a fraudulent purchase with their debit card needs a quicker response than someone who’s asking if there are any discounts they can use.
- Start by prioritizing tickets that have been open the longest. These are the customers who may be growing impatient, or even angry enough not to shop or work with your business again.
- From there, you’ll want to prioritize the most complicated or resource-intensive tickets. This helps your team get a head start on the tickets that could end up taking a lot of time to resolve.
Beyond prioritizing tickets, it’s also helpful to categorize them if they share similarities. Grouping similar tickets together boost efficiency. For example, your team can come up with one main solution (create a new discount code because the previous one is buggy) and easily resolve the entire group of tickets in a single pass.
If you’re making use of email templates, a single rep may be able to clear an entire batch of tickets in seconds or minutes.
6) Offer multichannel customer support options
Every channel where you communicate with customers — from your main phone line and website to messaging platforms like social media and live chat support — should include customer support options. Having multichannel customer support options offers a couple of advantages.
For one, it makes it easy for customers to reach out and engage with your company wherever they are. You may be serving customers across demographics, from Generation Z to baby boomers, all of whom have different communication preferences. The customer’s initial outreach is their first interaction with your customer service experience, and it’s great to start on a note of convenience and ease no matter who the customer is.
Setting up multichannel customer support options can also give your response teams quicker access to the requests that they receive, allowing them to organize by priority no matter where the request originates.
Recommended reading: Customer Support Metrics
7) Leverage self-service to reduce tickets
Any time a customer can resolve their issue on their own is a success for your business. Customer self-service support keeps your team’s hands-free and prevents one more support ticket from entering the queue. Here are some useful resources you can provide customers:
- Company blog
- Product instructions, how-tos, and video tutorials
- FAQ page
- Community forum
- Dictionaries or glossaries
- Case studies
- Knowledge base or help center
Equipped with this information, many customers will be able to answer their questions — and perhaps discover or try something new with your product. As you’re putting these resources together, think about how tech-savvy your audience is and how long they want to spend reading about their issue.
With Gorgias's automation add-on, you can improve your live chat widget with a self-service flows that let your customers track and manage their orders without any agent interaction. You can also enable a chatbot. Customers can type in their question or comments and the chatbot will pull up your content that matches those keywords.
All of these tools combine to reduce the number of tickets your support team receives in the first place, which can ultimately result in faster response times for the tickets that do appear.
Recommended reading on live chat:
- 9 Live Chat Support Metrics You Should Follow to Satisfy More Online Shoppers
- The Impact of Live Chat on Sales
Gorgias helps support teams reduce response times
We’ve covered a variety of ways to roll back your response times, but that’s not all these best practices accomplish. They also optimize your customer service workflow overall, ensuring your customer service interactions are positive and helpful and your team isn’t overloaded or losing time to repetitive, manual tasks.
At Gorgias, we’re proud to offer a number of different customer service software solutions, from live-chat solutions to chatbot solutions, to email auto-responders. To learn more about how Gorgias can help you speed up your response times in a way that is affordable and hassle-free, book a demo today.