Good news spreads fast, bad news spreads faster. That’s what Dimensional Research discovered when studying the business impact of bad customer service. Specifically, 54 percent of consumers reported sharing bad news about a customer service experience with five or more people.
Disappointing one customer no longer means that you only lose one customer. Now you lose one customer AND all their Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Your support reputation is impacted by every customer interaction. That’s why your business needs processes that reduce customer service response time and increase service quality.
Bad businesses want to be good at customer service, great businesses build processes and feedback loops so that they are good at customer service.
Here are five process improvements for customer support that you can implement TODAY for your own business…
#1: Centralize customer support requests Online
It’s easy to get in a hurry and not store support requests online, especially when the requests come in via phone calls. I still have co-workers who take phone calls when I’m unavailable and then leave me sticky notes at my desk instead of logging them as a ticket in our online system. And which support requests end up falling through the cracks? The ones on those dang sticky notes because they get mixed in with all my other sticky notes.
At minimum, you should save these requests in your Gmail inbox, in a Google Doc, a shared folder in Dropbox, and/or in a file on your company intranet.
The best solution is get some hosted help desk software set up for yourself and spend the $50 a month so that you don’t lose track of a request or miss a follow-up and end up losing a client. Help desk software pays for itself in one saved customer relationship.
- Support requests won’t get tossed in the shredder or buried underneath that paperwork on your desk.
- Co-workers can see incoming requests without having to stand over your shoulder.
- Support requests are accessible anytime, from anywhere. If you want to work from home and need to see what requests you have to get done for the day, you don’t have to call someone in the office to read them off to you.
- Easier to delegate. If you’re sick and need to delegate to someone else, you can point them to an online file location, or website, and they can cover for you (when you’re really hungover.)
#2: Assign customer requests to ONE person
Each request that comes into the organization should be assigned to one owner (and only one owner,) preferably an expert who is most qualified to respond to and resolve the issue. The request owner can still enlist the help of others, but will be the key contact person and retain ultimate responsibility for solving the request quickly and competently.
- Prevents bystander effect which is a proven social phenomenon where no one takes responsibility for a task that’s assigned to multiple people.
- Creates accountability loops where staff can be coached on how to solve requests more quickly and clearly.
#3: Add priority labels to customer support requests
For our business, if we receive a support ticket that suggests our application is running slowly, we label it as “Emergency” and start working on it immediately because intermittent slowness is a huge risk to our business.
If we receive a password retrieval request from an Enterprise Plus account owner we place an “Urgent” label on the ticket and send it to the top of queue, because their dissatisfaction is a huge risk to our bottom line.
If an internal employee needs a new Moleskin notepad, we attach a low priority to the ticket and accuse the employee of being a wannabe hipster.
Inefficient support teams don’t prioritize. Instead, they typically use the first-in, first-out method (FIFO), where support requests are solved based on the order received. FIFO prioritization creates problems when urgent requests or VIP requests are received. Support systems are not supposed be designed to be fair and democratic like FIFO.
In customer support, the advantage goes to the stronger, and the stronger are those who pay the most money for your product or service, and hold the most long-term value. Thus, support requests should be prioritized based on the risk associated with non-resolution. In other words, if a ticket doesn’t get solved what’s the impact to your business?
Certain kinds of unsolved support requests pose large business risks than other and should be given “urgent” or “emergency” status.
#4: Give requests a Due Date
For any support request that cannot be immediately resolved on the phone or via a quick email, give it an estimated due date for completion that takes into account its priority.
- MIT research proves that deadlines are effective at improving task performance. (source: boring research)
- Other researches proves that due dates increase the pace at which tasks are completed. (source: more boring research)
- Meeting due dates is an important metric for measuring staff performance and coaching their improvement.
#5: Save solved requests
My wife has warned me many times to save all my receipts and I never listen. Sure enough, this ends up causing much frustration when I need to return something or I need to tally up expenses for work/taxes, can’t find my receipts, and end up frantically scrambling to check my credit card statements for the proof. So I’m writing this note for myself:
Saving receipts has no short-term payout, but it’s a VERY wise investment in your long-term sanity.
In a similar way, I’m going to tell you right now that you need to save all your support requests and document how they were solved. In the short term, this will offer very little tangible benefit, but saving support requests is a long term investment in the efficiency of your support team and the happiness of your customers.
- Support staff can search old tickets to more quickly resolve issues that come up over and over again; this means less wait time for your customers.
- Issues that come up frequently will be resolved in a more consistent manner.
- Lays the groundwork for installing an FAQ page or knowledge base where customers can actually help themselves (i.e. customer support nirvana.)
If you’re looking to reduce response times and improve the quality of service delivered to your customers immediately, then follow this simple five-step process:
Centralize support requests online (you’ll never lose them)
- Assign support requests to only one person (ownership & accountability)
- Prioritize support requests (normal, urgent, emergency, etc)
- Give support requests a due date (science says it works!)
- Save solved support requests (invest in the future)
You can do these steps in sequence using different tools and resources, or you can have it all done for you by trying our hosted helpdesk software.