Response time measures how quickly you respond or deal with your customer queries on an average. And while hypothetically all companies would like to think that ‘as soon as possible’ is their standard response time, it needs to be measured and evaluated regularly.
The lower your response times, the better and faster your service, and the more satisfied your customers. One measure of responsiveness is your first response time(FRT).
It is one of the more widely used reports to understand the effectiveness of your customer services. FRT measures not just one-off responses but an average for your entire team or department.
FRT must be a priority for all businesses. To provide optimum customer experience, you need to work on reducing your average FRT.
How to calculate FRT?
You need two pieces of data to calculate this information:
- The total time your team took to respond to emails within a time period
- Total number of responses sent within that time period
Ensure that the time-frame matches for the above metrics. You can take a week, a month, or even a quarter to get the bigger picture.
Now divide the first metric by the second. That is, divide the total time taken to send responses by total number of responses. This will give you the average FRT.
So if your target is to have an average response time of 4 hours and the reports suggest you are currently at 10 hours on average in your first response, you need to evaluate the reason for delays. Work with the team and amp up your work to improve the rate and keep customers satisfied.
What are some reasons that cause poor responsiveness?
Lack of resources
Sometimes, you simply don’t have enough manpower to deal with all the requests/queries/complaints that come through in a day. Think of an eCommerce website during the festive season, when the support team is drowning in work. You can hire more people but that may not be a long-term strategy or solution as the workflow may not be consistent.
Time management/productivity tools
There is a wide range of productivity tools available now that help you organize and mange the time/work balance. Ranging from Google Calendar to task management tools like Asana or plain old Excel sheet, if you are not making use of technology effectively, you are losing out on valuable time.
Standard Operating Procedures
Have you set up a workflow and seamless connectivity to ensure you are always update of clients’ messages? Do you get notified when customers fill up your online contact form? Are there alerts set up for when customers are trying to call you? The internet and uber-connected world have raised customers’ expectations on how soon you should respond to multiple contact scenarios.
How can you improve your response rates?
1. Using automation
In certain, scenarios you can use automated services and software to deal with some of the repetitive conversational tasks that don’t require much human input. Using email auto-responders is a simple but effective technique to let a customer know that their email has been received and what the next steps are. An autoresponder can use some of the following techniques to make the interaction more useful:
- Thanking the customer and assuring them that the request will be dealt with promptly
- Information on the working hours for the customer service team
- Average response times
- Links to further resources, manuals or Help/FAQs pages.
2. Using response software
Customer service software is increasingly becoming the norm in the virtual world. It helps improve the workflow, stores all the information and makes data more accessible. Response software stores information, sorts, tracks and backs everything up and can also be linked to your email to send the autoresponder emails or to your social media pages. Since it is centralized, you can set up permissions and access to it.
3. Using chatbots
Chatbots are accessible 24/7. You can gain a remarkable edge in the FRT by deploying a BOT to front your customer service. Using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, chatbots can deal with massive amounts of requests that have similar responses. This is ideal for those pesky frequently asked questions which nobody looks up on the FAQs page.
Thanks to cognitive technology, bots make fewer errors while responding to enquiries. What’s more, chatbots have unlimited memory and you can set up a range of permutation/combinations of question and answers as the enquiries grow.
Managing customer expectations
“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They DO expect you to fix things when they go wrong,” says Donald Porter, V.P. of British Airways. Managing customer expectations well, listening and responding are a huge part of the customer satisfaction puzzle. Are you listening to these conversations and saving the insights from them? Needless to say, faster is not always better. The quality of your responses and your ability to learn from the customers, also matter. Keep in mind, if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will.