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Five ways to cut your customer service response times

You’ve heard it before – today’s customers are used to getting what they want fast. Food, hardware, clothes, music – there’s little that can’t be had within a matter of hours these days.

But here’s what you might not have heard before – 82% of today’s customers now expect that same level of immediacy when it comes to customer service communications[1]. ‘Immediate’ meaning getting replies to marketing and sales queries in less than ten minutes.

That’s a lot of pressure to deal with if you’re a small business with limited resources. But here’s the good news – cutting your customer response times isn’t nearly as hard as it’s made out to be. In fact, you’ll be surprised how much time you can save by making a few simple (and relatively inexpensive) changes. Let’s take a look at some.

1. Switch to mobile forms

Mobile forms will be a real game-changer for you if you’re still paper-based. For example, they’ll make it way harder for customers to input errors – especially if you use forms with error-detecting capabilities (like making sure all questions are answered and in the right format). They’ll also eliminate the problem of illegible handwriting. And they’ll give your teams the ability to record and report important information (like delivery signatures) from anywhere, through the devices they already use.

In short – no more paper trails, no more blurry scans, no more wrongly-entered data. It’s a simple, painless and relatively cheap change to make. And one that’s guaranteed to make life easier for your customers.

See more reasons why we love mobile forms.

2. Set targets, sort teams

Quick question: which of your employees responds fastest to your customers, and how do they get rewarded for doing so? If the answer to this question is ‘shrug’, think about setting proper (and public) targets, so your people are incentivized to act fast, and deterred from falling behind. Consider offering rewards for outstanding progress and consistency – and make sure everyone knows what the standards are.

It’s also a good idea to separate your people into ‘phone’ and ‘email’ response teams. This is because the phone often ends up taking priority over email when there aren’t designated teams in place, and that’s bad for two reasons: it means a large chunk of your customers get neglected, and it puts you out of sync with the increasing popularity of email as a query channel[2].

3. Build a library of best responses

It’s surprising how many businesses don’t have a designated library for query responses. What’s even more surprising is how cheap and easy it is to build one. Just get your people to start documenting how they’ve responded to specific queries, then once you’ve got enough entries, start ranking them for effectiveness. It means, down the line, you’ll be able to turn all this data into a searchable library – which may end up being as basic as a spreadsheet – so your teams don’t have to waste time researching how to address complex problems.

4. Map user journeys properly – that means including the bad

A lot of businesses map user journeys optimistically – neglecting the very real possibility of journeys being followed in totally different ways than expected, or journeys breaking down entirely. That’s a very bad idea – especially given the huge payoffs of proper user-journey mapping. For example, identifying the biggest pain points gives you a chance to fix them sooner (which will mean fewer customers getting in touch to complain), and for whichever pain points you can’t fix, you’ll at least be able to prepare helpful responses for customers in advance. All of this will cut heaps of time spent on the phone or typing out emails to frustrated customers about why they got lost trying to do business with you.

How do you map a bad user journey? Well, if you can’t reach out to a UX specialist, start by trying to put yourself in the shoes of any and all personas that might land on your site or in your store. Think about the things that may distract or confuse them between interacting with you and making a purchase. Consider things like accessibility issues or language barriers. Test journeys across a range of devices. Test journeys that involve a last-minute change of heart on what to purchase. Test until there’s nothing left to test, basically.

5. Rethink email

If your people are currently dealing with emails one by one, with no formal system in place, it’s time to change that. First you’ll want to categorize your emails. For example – user journeys could be a category, payment could be another, delivery another…you get the idea. You’ll also want to categorize your emails by level of urgency and anticipated time to fix. Next, set up email autoresponders, so even the customers with the most complex issues can get some kind of recognition in a short space of time. Seriously – you’d be surprised how much ‘we’re working on it’ gets appreciated.

Then, once you’re done with categorization, you’ll also want to set up email templates – this will make it super easy for people to jump in and fix problems without having to spend ages getting up to speed with an issue then typing out what they’ve learned to a customer. Finally, you’ll also want to use time-based email alerts, so any problems that are still unfixed after, say, 22 hours get flagged and prioritized immediately.

That’s it!

It’s amazing how just a few simple, inexpensive changes really can make a world of difference to your customer service response times. But there are loads more tricks we can show you – hit the button below and request a follow up with us so we can take you through them in detail.