Why Response Times are Crucial + How to Reduce Them

Why response times are crucial + How to reduce them

Prompt responses to customer queries are one of the most effective ways for your brand to show its best face to the public. However the messages reach you, getting back to the customer with fast, accurate answers to their questions sends the signal that your brand is engaged and really cares about their experience with your company. A slow response time does the opposite, often leaving the customer with unanswered questions and a lot of frustration associated with your brand. Finding ways to develop a faster response across all customer channels might be one of the most cost-effective solutions to keep your brand image positive and develop a great rapport with the customers who reach out to you with an issue. 

Why Response Times Matter

Customers rarely contact a brand for no reason, and when they have a customer support issue, it's often because there's a problem they'd like to resolve. From the moment they first touch base with you, you're operating under a loose set of customer expectations for handling the response. Every minute their query goes unanswered has the potential to build anxiety and resentment at the time you're taking to address their issue. Even if you have an average response time, slow message responses from the individual customer's point of view are a poor way to retain goodwill with the brand's base.

Faster message responses can flip that dynamic. Brands with a dynamic, faster-than-expected response time can impress their customers with how engaged and eager to please they are, which promotes further engagement and referrals for other customers. Looking at rapid responses as a selling tool is potentially a very productive approach to lowering the average time to reply, encouraging a solid customer-first mentality among support staff and building your brand's reputation for high-quality customer support. 

Typical Response Times Across Various Channels

Average response times vary considerably across companies, industries and even the time of day they're logged. Which platforms you use is also a major factor in how responsive your customer support can be. For example, replies to social media messages tend to go out quicker than email responses. As a rule, the faster response channels tend to be shorter and offer less opportunity to handle elaborate replies, while more involved responses become possible in slower and more deliberative communications channels.

How you structure your customer support network depends on the balance you're trying to strike between these two poles. Ideally, your brand should be interacting with the public across various channels, allowing you to develop a mix of fast, simple responses and slower, more complex answers to customer questions. 

Phone Calls

Phone contact happens in real-time, as customers call in to speak directly to your customer service agents. This is a live support option that works as fast as a normal conversation tends to. This can be a resource-intensive approach, however, since agents need to be recruited and trained in company policy, usually given a script or other guidelines to follow and scheduled in advance to handle anticipated surges in call volume. 

Social Media Contacts

In many ways, social media support works a lot like phone support. It can also be fast, with something close to real-time responses and two-way interaction between your support team and the public. The need for human management comes with the same drawbacks with a phone center. As with the call center, you may have to hire extra staff and have them available during peak hours. Unlike phone service, however, you have a lot more flexibility to outsource the work or to partially automate the process of handling simple inquiries.

Online Inquiries

Your website might be the simplest and most direct way for the public to contact your brand. Adding live chat or a contact form to your brand's site encourages customer queries over routine matters, and developing a solid troubleshooting tree on the back end helps direct queries to the appropriate department at your company. 

Some of these contacts can be done in real-time. Live chat works really well for this, though it's not your only option. A contact form encourages customers to go into more detail about what the issue is, though the average response time to these inquiries tends to be slower than a chat window.

Email Responses

Email responses are generally slower than other venues. Incoming emails can be routed to a dedicated email support team to work on the issue, which could take any amount of time. Replies via email can generally get more involved and convey more information than brief social media messages do. One way to get around this time issue and prevent customer frustration is to set up an automated response system that acknowledges the customer's email has been received, along with a promise to get in touch as soon as possible.

How to Reduce Response Times

These contact channels have advantages and drawbacks, but there's almost always a premium to getting faster response times. There are several ways to do this, which you might be able to combine across channels to get an overall reduction in your average response times.

Automate Email Responses

You might already have automated the initial response to customer emails, but you can go one step further to stay engaged with your customers. Consider building an automated email processing and response system to handle complex inquiries. Even relatively simple AI models can recognize the meaning of most customer inquiries, access your company policies and deliver an appropriate response in just a few minutes. This can go a long way toward handling the bulk of email contacts, with very few presenting issues complex enough to mandate human intervention.

Set Up a Call Center

Setting up a call center can be a significant investment, but the faster responses it allows may be worth it. If you're dealing with a large enough call volume, hiring permanent customer support staff could be the most cost-effective option for you. If you have a lower or less constant call volume, consider contracting with an outside call center that can scale up or down with your needs.

Monitor Live Chat

Live chat can be an extremely efficient way to speed up response times. Customers get real-time responses to their inquiries, often from an automated system pre-programmed with solutions to the most common issues customers bring to your attention. Consider setting up a human agent to monitor these chat communications, which generally takes less staff than a full customer support center but puts a human in a position to handle the more complex and time-consuming customer queries.

Building Faster Response Times for Your Customers

No matter what channels your brand uses or how high or low your support volume happens to be, there's probably space in your workflows to develop a faster response and improve retention among your customer base. Blazeo (formerly ApexChat) is a highly capable live chat system you can plug into your brand's web presence to process customer queries and become a more agile, responsive brand. Contact our team for a free demo today.